Over the past few months, I’ve gone on a bit of a Girls Guns & Glory binge. I saw them first at the Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, then at a Church coffeehouse in Franklin, then at an arts center in Natick, all in a fairly short amount of time. These boys are always on the move and I’m happy to catch them whenever they are in range. It’s always awesome when you go to a show and are completely blown away by a band you’ve never seen, which doesn’t happen to me often. I felt like I was hit head-on by GGG and I was addicted. The catchy retro-country-rock songs, Ward Hayden’s dreamy and crooning vocals, and the snappy outfits on each band member- damn, good stuff. If you haven’t seen or heard them yet, please check them out and you’ll be “shakin’ like jello” in no time! They are very fun to photograph and I’m looking forward to more opportunities!
It’s always a treat to stumble across a band that, quite simply, sounds like they are having fun. Such is the case with the Providence-based quartet* Smith and Weeden, whose songs run the gamut from harmony-laced country to guitar-fueled rock.
In the country category are ambling tunes like “Drinking” and “Wondering.” Singer Jesse Emmanuel Smith has a voice perfectly suited for these songs, ably buoyed by the band’s tasteful harmonies.
“Drinking” is a ready-made country classic, bringing together a honky-tonk melody, a woeful tale of heartbreak and, well, alcohol. “Well you don’t get answers fast from a bottle or a flask,“ sings Smith, “I’ve got some time to kill so I’ll have another glass.”
How many songs of heartache do you know that include a snippet of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic?” Well, “Grace and Glory” does, along with some acoustic guitar traces of “Amazing Grace.” It makes for an interesting combination and a mighty fine song.
In the rock category are “Aim to Please,” “Boys in Bands” and “Playing a Part.” Guitarist Seamus Weeden shines on these songs, shifting from bruising power chords to nuanced solos with ease. His playing is full of character yet never loud and gratuitous.
They are a regional band for now, but hopefully they’ll hit the road and bring some of their rock and roll fun to a town near you.
Ten years! That’s how long it has been since Tardy’s last release. We could blame the delay on a lot of things, including a failed record deal, but let’s not fixate on the negative. Rather, let’s celebrate a sublime collection of (mostly) classics from the American songbook.
Tardy, with help from her friend (and talented mandolin player) Sean Staples, kept the arrangements simple. The restrained accompaniment puts the emphasis where it should be: on the songs and Tardy’s captivating voice.
Her take on “Love Me Tender” is a great example. Where others would be tempted to tackle it as an overwrought ballad, Tardy takes a different path. A mid-tempo swing and some exquisite harmonies give the song a fun 1940’s Andrews Sisters feel.
Other gems to be found on Sky City Lullaby include Tardy’s take on Ernest Tubbs’ “Waltz Across Texas,” Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone” and her own “City of Gold.”
Audio Stream: Jess Tardy, “Love Me Tender”
Easy to Love, Old Jack (from the forthcoming What Is Home to You)
One might be tempted to label Old Jack as happy-go-lucky. Their sound would certainly support that description. The have a big band rock feel that is steeped in soul, overflowing with an assertive pop attitude and plenty of wonderful harmonies.
Listen closely to their forthcoming release, however, and the lyrics reveal a darker side. These are songs of considered reflection, expressing doubts and questioning life decisions. The result is something special, a collection that is lyrically dense and musically satisfying.
Audio Download: Old Jack, “Easy to Love”
I love my twang but sometimes, especially on those first warm days of spring, I want to crank up the guitars and some full-on power pop. Lucky for me, the latest release from Boston quartet Aloud arrived at just the right time to satisfy my craving.
The group gets right to the point with their music, with nary a track over 3 minutes in length. Even better, the songs on It’s Got to Be Now are high energy blasts filled with tight guitar hooks and vocal harmonies. Most of the songs, including this one, recall classic late 1960′s pop yet with brim with a crisp 2014 freshness that is perfect for sunny afternoon listening.
Former Rudds singer-songwriter Powhida makes his return with John Powhida International Airport. The group took top honors at the 2011 Boston Rock and Roll Rumble and has spent the last few years meticulously crafting their debut release.
The resulting 15-song opus is a pop record of sophistication and eccentricity. It comes across as a smooth and sinewy mix of Prince and Hall & Oates with some jazz flourishes thrown in for good measure. Heck, even the song titles — “John Mayer Dines with Taylor Swift” and “Cover Me I’m Going for Milk” for example — give an indication of the humor and creativity in Powhida’s songwriting.
The Greenfield, MA-based Kaback has clearly studied at the Al Green school of music. His songs are sweet and soulful in just the right way. Message of Love saunters along with plenty of tasty horns, graceful guitars and luscious keyboards. Front and center, though, are Kaback’s soothingly smooth vocals.
Consider this track just a taste of what you’ll find across the full release.
Audio Download: Russell Kaback, “Woman of Mine”
Carroll has quickly established himself as a presence on the Boston roots scene. Calling him a dabbler isn’t quite right, although he has spread his tentacles far and wide. Carroll hosts regular gigs that range from singer-songwriter showcases to picker’s extravaganzas and even found time to spearhead a forthcoming compilation of area songwriters covering one-another’s songs. If that weren’t enough, he just released a satisfying 7-song EP of his own mandolin-driven compositions.
Audio Download: Brian Carroll, “Let Me In”
*Yes, I know several of these artists aren’t quite from Boston proper, but since when has Twangville been proper?
Sometimes the music we listen to, and write about, here on Twangville is a little light on the twang. That would not be the case with the debut album from Maine duo North Of Nashville. From the opening chord of the opening song, The Lady And the Outlaw, this is the music that propelled country to the #1 spot on the charts and the first million-selling country album when Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser released Wanted: The Outlaws in 1976. Back then, country music with a raw edge and some rock ‘n’ roll sensibilities was new. That’s not true anymore, but duo members Jay Basiner and Andrew Martelle (with guest Cartwright Thompson on pedal steel) do a great job of paying homage to that idea, whether it was their direct intention or not.
I liked the uptempo numbers on this disc a little more than some of the ballads. The Best Of What’s Around is all about living in the moment, “when I saw you weren’t around, I ordered 3 more rounds.” Dreams Come True (For Awhile) is escapist dance music (2-step, not any of those fancy or modern things). Same with The Working Man. For those folks more into wallowing in the pedal steel and fiddle, I recommend Remember These Days and Isabella.
If you’re allergic to beer drinkin’, shit kickin’ music, best take a Claritin before you hit play on North Of Nashville. If not, give this album a spin and listen to the kind of music that had a huge impact on how country, and Americana, sounds today.
We’ll start this week off right with a bit of classic country from new traditionalist Sturgill Simpson. The song is “Could You Love Me One More Time” and it was recorded at the Pickathon Music Festival in Portland, Oregon last year.
When I first ran across Katie Glassman a couple of years ago (review here), I noted her album was exploring a lot of genres. Her latest release, Dream A Little Dream, hit the streets earlier this week featuring her now-permanent band, Snapshot. She’s taken a significant step forward as a recording artist with this project. While still dipping into all kinds of music that touch jazz and country, there’s a cohesion to the album that keeps things flowing from one song to the next and lights up the overall effort.
Glassman is perhaps the queen of modern fiddle players, having won just about every fiddle playing championship west of the Mississippi worth winning. With Snapshot, she’s surrounding herself with musicians of like skill and, perhaps more importantly, mindset. It just seems the whole band is bent on cutting a new swathe down the western swing musical prairie. The opening number, Liza Jane, sets the mood appropriately with piano, bass, and fiddle combining with Glassman’s vocals to take the piece to a place Bob Wills never even dreamed of reaching. My Window Faces the South pursues this as well with some sweet accordion parts and guest Tim O’Brien on vocals. In case you think a youngster doesn’t realize where their roots come from, there’s a super take on the Duke Ellington number, Jubilee Stomp.
Glassman’s vocals carry some of the other songs on the album, where the sound is a little more traditional. I could totally hear Patsy Cline in Good Times Gone By, and Sweet Lies is a nice country ballad with just a touch of blues to color it. Little Dream Of MIne is an accordion accented country waltz. As you would expect, there are also a few instrumental pieces that showcase the musicianship of all the band members, including Rutland’s Reel and Pampas Envy.
With spring finally just around the corner, it’s time to think about what’s going to be on your playlist for those first warm nights in the backyard. You’d be hard pressed to find something more in line with that elevated mood than Dream A Little Dream.