E.G. Kight – A New Day

E.G. Kight’s is a unique voice in contemporary music.  Her heartfelt, gospel and country-tinged blues blend American traditions into a toe-tapping good time.  Her latest album, A New Day, demonstrates what her dedicated following has known since the late 90s – that she is a special talent.

Though Georgia native Kight grew up listening to old time country music like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline and singing gospel in church, it is said she discovered her true calling upon listening to “queen of the blues” Koko Taylor as a teen.  Since the 1990s, the guitarist and vocalist has been writing and playing the blues, and she survived a serious illness to continue on making music.

A New Day is the eighth album to be released by Kight.  Kight wrote or co-wrote all the songs, with co-writing credits for five tunes going to Tom Horner and one each to the late Ann Rabson (Uppity Blues Women) and Lisa Biales.  Album highlights include “Holdin’ On,” “Graveyard Dead Blues,” “Don’t Give Up,” “Bad Times” (a duet with Greg Nagy), and “Low Mileage Woman.”  For the album Kight was joined by Gary Porter on drums, Johnny Fountain on bass, Ken Wynn on guitar and Mike Harrell on keyboards along with guest appearances by album producer Paul Hornsby on keyboards, Tommy Talton on guitar and Nagy. 

Audio Stream: E.G. Kight, “Don’t Give Up”

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Mayer’s Playlist for Sept 2014, Part 2

ALBUMS OF THE MONTH

Swimmin’ Time, by Shovels and Rope

Shovels and Rope

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent — aka Shovels and Rope — just keep getting better and better. Swimmin’ Time takes their customary percussive guitar and drums and expands their musical palette with piano, horns and a host of other instruments. The result is something special.

The duo push at genre classifications across this thirteen-song collection. “Bridge on Fire,” while still grounded in Americana, is a perfect pop confection. A prominent piano joins their brilliant harmonies to give the song an extra sugary crunch. That combination continues on “Coping Mechanism,” which has a fun 1950’s feel.

Surly guitars give “Evil” a dark edge while “Ohio” has a heavy New Orleans vibe, right down the mid-song Bourbon Street brass horn interlude.

“After the Storm” has an epic quality to it. The song opens gently but soon explodes with Hearst and Trent’s emotionally charged vocals. The lyrics describe a quest for redemption from past wrongs despite the recognition that these same failures still stand in the way.

Like the widest river // Like the brightest morn // There is hope where you can’t see it // There is a light after the storm

But won’t you help me to get through it // I’ve been flailing like a child // My mistakes they are so many // For my weary heart is wild

The duo round out the album with “Mary Ann and One-Eyed Dan” and “Save the World,” a pair of stripped-down songs that hearken back to the group’s rootsy early days. All the better to enjoy the charm of their singing and songwriting.


THE PLAYLIST


I’m In Love with Everything, The Fauntleroys (from the Plowboy Records release Below the Pink Pony)

In this case, the album title is as real as it is descriptive. Four musicians – friends and admirers of one another’s work – gathered in a room below a former NYC restaurant called the Pink Pony to bash out their debut release. The results are at once cohesive yet reflective of each artist’s individual personality. Alejandro Escovedo brings an appreciation for 1970’s British blues-based rock, Ivan Julian lends his punk pedigree, Nicholas Tremulis contributes his eccentric pop-rock feel (“Suck My Heart Out with a Straw” is one of his contributions) and Linda Pitmon adds her powerhouse drumming.

Audio Download: The Fauntleroys, “I’m In Love with Everything”

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All That We Have Is Now, Jesse Winchester (from the Appleseed Recordings release A Reasonable Amount of Trouble)

Although we lost Jesse Winchester earlier this year, he left us with a new album that was completed just prior to his passing. Winchester possessed a genuine and gentle spirit as well as an insightful lyrical eye, both of which are sharply evident here. The twelve tracks on A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, nine originals and three covers, are a reminder of his musical allure.


The Archivist, American Gun (from the Jangly Records release Promised Youth)

In the interest of full disclosure, American Gun’s Todd Mathis is a long-time contributor to Twangville. Don’t hold that against him, though. Mathis also happens to be a talented songwriter. After releasing the rootsy Please… Don’t Tread On Me (recorded with Whiskey Tango Revue) last year, Mathis rejoins his American Gun compatriots for the bruising Promised Youth.

As is the group’s style, they let their electric guitars lead the charge. This go-around, however, finds them adding some synthesizers and strings to give the music added density. The result is a rock record with a dark and brooding vibe. Here, for your listening enjoyment, is the tale of a woman who has given up on love.

Audio Stream: American Gun, “The Archivist”

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Love Song #9, Scruffy the Cat (from the Omnivore Records release The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990)

I shared a vintage video of the late, great Scruffy the Cat a few weeks ago (here). It was either a great introduction or a welcome reminder of the band’s infectious energy.

This new collection of previously unreleased tracks offers a fun glimpse into the band’s creative arc. Starting with their rough early recordings through to their late era sessions at legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, it showcases the charm in their songwriting and the unbridled enthusiasm in their performances. Give a listen to early tracks like the boisterous “Big Fat Monkey’s Hat” and the more slickly produced but no less spirited later output like “Love Song #9″ and you’ll hear what I mean.


Sure Thing, Sam Morrow (from the Forty Below Records release Ephemeral)
My introduction to this LA by way of Texas singer was his somber cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that was released earlier this year. His debut album proves that Morrow stands tall in his own rite, thank you. There is both warmth and world-weariness in his music, all the more impressive given that Morrow is still in his early 20s. Restrained arrangements, often infused with subtle strings, give the songs additional depth.


Got Caught Up, Pete Donnelly (from the self-released Face the Bird)

I’m a sucker for a good pop song. Fortunately for me (and maybe you, too), Pete Donnelly’s got a catalog that is filled with ‘em. Donnelly has an impressive resume — he is founding member of the Figgs and has also logged more than a few miles with the Candy Butchers and NRBQ. As if that weren’t enough, he has also released a couple of mighty fine solo albums. Check out this gem, co-written with Shelby Lynne, from his most recent release. Man, those horns!

Rob Stone – Gotta Keep Rollin’

Rob Stone plays good, honest blues.  A Boston native, harpist Stone followed a straight-forward style in the Chicago electric blues tradition on Gotta Keep Rollin’.  Stone’s tight band his has put together a first-class seRob Stonelection of rollicking tunes that is sure to enhance their growing reputation in the blues world.

Stone has been leading his own outfit – once called the “C-Notes” – since the late 1990s.  Previous offerings included No Worries in 1998, Just My Luck in 2003 and Back Around Here in 2010.  The group has played styles ranging from jazzy jump blues to the Chicago electric blues of Gotta Keep Rollin’.  The song selection on Gotta Keep Rollin’ is solid top to bottom, but highlights include “Lucky 13,” “Anything Can Happen,” “Move Baby Move,” “Strolling with Sasquatch” and the rousing closer “Not No Mo.”

To accomplish the polished electric blues sound on Gotta Keep Rollin’, Stone was joined by longtime bandmates guitarist Chris James and bassist Patrick Rynn, both of whom played with Stone in former Paul Butterfield Blues Band drummer Sam Lay’s band in the 1990s.  More than just sidemen, James and Rynn co-wrote all the originals on the album.  Stone also had some help from Boston-area pianist David Maxwell, a former sideman to James Cotton and Otis Rush whose own back catalogue of critically acclaimed work includes 2012’s inspired Blues In Other Colors, and slide-guitar ace John Primer, a former Muddy Waters and Magic Slim sideman who came into his own in the 1990s. 

Audio Stream: Rob Stone, “Anything Can Happen”

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Photos that ROCK! Mark Erelli & “Milltowns”

Back in March, Mark Erelli contacted me and asked if I could do a photo shoot with him for his next album. He explained that it was a tribute to one of his favorite musicians (Bill Morrissey) and that the photos should include birch trees and a fall New England landscape. Not only do I admire Mark as a musician and a person, but I was incredibly honored that he liked my work enough to use it for his next album.

So we trudged through some woods in Stoneham, MA and took photos for an hour or two. Mark played the lovely song “Birches” from the album and I was somehow bitten by a tick! A quick trip to the ER later and I was fine- it was worth it to see my photo inside of the CD cover! “Milltowns” is a beautiful album by Mark with contributions from many of his talented friends (including Charlie Rose, Zack Hickman, Sam Kassirer, Rose Cousins, etc) and I’m happy to have contributed a small part to it. You can get it here: http://markerelli.bandcamp.com/album/milltowns

Here are some additional photos from our shoot!

All photos by Suzanne Davis Photography (www.facebook.com/suzannedavisphotography & www.suzannedavisphotography.com)

Front Country – Sake Of the Sound

Six one, half dozen another.  That old saying is supposed to be all about things being the same, but I think there’s a perspective difference that gets lost.  As an example, many bands have a wide range of genres on an album in part because they’re still looking to find their sound.  A few, relatively few in my experience, do it because they’re so adept at such a wide range of styles they’re just looking to keep things fresh and open it up a bit.  Clearly the latter situation applies on the debut album from San Francisco Bay-area band Front Country,  Sake Of the Sound.

The band started as an impromptu gathering of acquaintances to play a few sets at a local club.  They didn’t officially form until last year, when they took the Colorado high country by storm, winning best band competitions at both Telluride and Rockygrass.  That high country sound really comes out on the aptly named Colorado, and Glacier Song, featuring banjoist Jordan Klein on vocals.  One Kind Word and Like A River, a Kate Wolf tune, also have a classic bluegrass sound.  There are a couple of really nice instrumental numbers, including Daysleeper, that starts out a bit like bluegrass chamber music.  And guitartist Jacob Groopman takes vocal lead on a speedgrass verison of an obscure Dylan song, Long Ago, Far Away.

When the album really kicks into high gear, though, is when you add lead vocalist Melody Walker’s voice to the pickin’ and shuckin’.   The title song just soars over the instruments and sets Front Country apart from mere mortal bluegrass bands.  Rock Salt & Nails lays out an emotional charge and a steely determination that original author Utah Phillips couldn’t possibly have imagined, as talented a songwriter as he was.

W169~PrntOption And then there’s the opening cut, Gospel Train.  My description is going to be mundane–it starts out with an a Capella gospel chorus, and then kicks into a traditional bluegrass arrangement.  But it is so well executed, when you listen to it again after hearing the full album, it’s like the band is just showing off.  Because they can.  You should go listen to Front Country.