ALBUMS OF THE MONTH
Alexandria, by Chris Mills
I have wandered in the wild places,” sings Mills in the opening track of his latest release. It is a fitting line for a musician whose music continues to evolve in exquisite fashion.
Mills has always impressed on many levels. His songwriting has always had a romantic pop classicism and Alexandria, his first release of new music in six years, builds on this trend. “Rubicon” is a prime example, a mournful love song that somehow manages to musically straddle the line between starkness and density.
Mills sings with an earnestness that adds to the intensity of his music. His voice brims with passion on the up-tempo “Castaways” and it wrings every drop of emotion from the gentle piano ballad “The Sweet Hereafter.” There is little doubt of the authenticity with which he performs.
I’d go so far as to say that it is Mills’s voice, both figuratively and literally, that makes his music so special. The combination of purity and sentiment that he conveys with it is simply magnificent.
Audio Download: Chris Mills, “Castaways”
Howlin’ at the Moon, by Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons
It’s hard to believe that this is the Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons debut full-length release. Despite this fact, they display an unwavering confidence across the album’s ten tracks. Better yet, let’s call it brash and confident.
The group will lull you in with a gentle introduction to album opener “Athens” but don’t be fooled. The electric guitars soon kick in and give the song a nice Allman Brother’s vibe.
On “George Stone,” Perley takes a gentleman friend to task against what can best be described as a jubilant rock melody. “Bad Reputation,” while not a cover of the Joan Jett classic, hits with an intensity that would undoubtedly make Jett proud.
The group takes a break from the rockfest to show their country side on the romping “Roll On Over” and the acoustic “Down and Drunk.”
There’s plenty more to like on this release. More to the point, however, it sets the stage for plenty of great music to come from this quartet of up-and-comers.
Audio Download: Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons, “George Stone”
Where No One Knows My Name, Rod Picott (from the Welding Rod Music release Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail)
There’s a down-home quality to Picott’s music that is imminently likeable. His songs are filled with a restrained escapism, full of blue-collar characters who fantasize about greener pastures yet are resigned to their current situation. “Dreams are for keeping but some things are best kept hid,” he sings on this stand-out from his latest release.
Audio Stream: Rod Picott, “Where No One Knows My Name”
I consider Paisley to be part of the new traditional country movement. Alongside folks like Sturgill Simpson, these artists hearken back to the classic country era when artists like George Jones and Merle Haggard ruled the radio. More power to ‘em, I say.
Here’s a favorite from Paisley’s latest release. While it leans heavily on the traditional country ethic, I also hear shades of Jimmy Buffett in the mix.
Damn if Blinn doesn’t know her way around a pop hook. The fact that this song begins with the chorus only drives the point home. Throw in some tasty organ and boogie-woogie piano riffs and you’ve got a keeper. Even better? There are ten more hook-laden gems to be found on her latest release.
Audio Download: Erica Blinn, “Whiskey Kisses”
High on the Plains, Leland Sundries (from the self-released Live at the Creamery)
This is one of those songs that clawed its way into my head and just won’t let go. It’s got a cool Velvet Underground vibe, musically loose and freewheeling with lyrics that are raw and vivid.
Like what you hear? Download the band’s entire live session here.
See Part 1 of the January Playlist here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.