There’s something special about that old-school soul sound. It’s all the more impressive when it is created by a young whippersnapper like Anderson East. The Nashville by way of Alabama singer-songwriter serves up an exhilarating debut album that is steeped in Muscle Shoals mud, relaxed yet fueled by an infectious groove.
East and producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson) clearly took great pains to give the songs authentic old-school arrangements, filled with plenty of horns and some greasy piano and organ. Their success can be judged by the seemingly ease at which the album flows.
East’s songwriting is perhaps the most enjoyable surprise here. He masterfully embraces the quality that makes the 1960’s soul classics so powerful – using simple language to explore the complexity of love and relationships good and bad. This doesn’t mean that the songs are pedestrian and uninspired. Rather it lets the listener focus on the authenticity and raw emotion and meaning of the song. And isn’t that what good music is supposed to do?
Best is probably no stranger to many Twangville readers, an artist long admired for his work with Slobberbone and the Drams. He’s also revered by many of his peers, a songwriter’s songwriter of the finest quality.
This, his first solo effort and first release in nearly ten years, is stripped down affair. All the better, I say. As much as I love the bombastic band years, the acoustic arrangements heighten the emphasis on Best’s storytelling.
He doesn’t disappoint in that regard, weaving tales that look back on childhood innocence and reflect on the speed at which life progresses. Songs like “Career Day” and “Robert Cole,” among the stand-outs here, are moving character studies that bristle with grace and melancholy.
The former song finds the song’s protagonist reflecting on the overwhelmed volume of life choices and lamenting some decisions made. “So I just sit back and take stock over this world that I’ve created,” he sings, “I count away the days like a calendar and I feel so jaded.”
“Robert Cole” is a moving account of a young boy who faces the sudden loss of his father. “My name is Robert Cole and tomorrow I am nine years old,” Best sings against a moving backdrop of strings and gently picked acoustic guitar, “but I, I will not walk this road again.” It is a song as potent and it is poignant.
Welcome back, Brent. We’ve missed you.
Here comes Daniel Romano to remind us that Americans don’t have a lock on authentic country music. The Ontario native channels the Nashville greats like George Jones (whose “Learning to Do Without Me” is covered here) on his latest release. If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is chock full of tear-jerkers of both the romantic and heartbreak kind. What Romano lacks in terms of Southern drawl, he more than makes up for in authenticity of spirit and song.
There’s a lot to appreciate in a band that can be adventurous without losing any of its melodic charm. Such is the way with Austin’s Uncle Lucius. They bring the listener along on a journey with lyrics inspired by the likes of Carl Jung and rock-based arrangements filled with jazz elements and angular melodies. The results are quite impressive. Heck, they even manage to brilliantly drop a bit of the Beatle’s “Eleanor Rigby” into this album stand-out.
Although they originally hail from Alabama, this now Nashville-based sextet would have been right at home in 1960s San Francisco. Their sound recalls the finer qualities of Big Brother and the Holding Company, a free-wheeling style with plenty of foot-stomping boogie. This song, a stand-out from their debut release, is ripe for any summer soundtrack, right? Grab a six-pack (or two) and see if you don’t agree.
Good Luck Heart, Greg Trooper (from the 52 Shakes release Live at the Rock Room)
There’s a reason that artists like Steve Earle and Billy Bragg cover Trooper’s songs. ’cause they’re damn good. Trooper has a knack for brilliant storytelling, spinning seemingly simple tales that are rich in color, meaning and charm.
Trooper takes a tour through some of his finer songwriting moments on this new live album. Recorded in Austin, it is a mostly acoustic affair with the occasional flourishes of accordion, keyboard and harmonica for extra flair. The simple arrangements keep the focus right where they belong – on Trooper’s stellar songs.
Audio Download: Greg Trooper, “Good Luck Heart (live)”
Some bands just radiate fun. Put Low Cut Connie on that list. Their music hearkens back to an age when music moved with a fun-loving groove, a time when musicians took their roles as entertainers seriously. The objective was to help people forget everything else and just have a good time.
Now the album doesn’t quite match the energy of their live shows but, that said, I’m not sure that it ever could as their live shows are often full-on parties. It comes pretty darn close, though, as the interplay between pianist Adam Weiner and guitarist Dan Finnemore give the songs some funky punch.
So let’s get our summer party started with this raucous number. Also check out “Danny’s Outta Money” and “The Royal Screw,” among others, for more good times.
I’ve become quite smitten with this song. Singer Molly Rankin makes her request in a somewhat matter-of-fact manner yet the evocative wall-of-sound accompaniment gives the song a captivating sonic quality.
View Summer Playlist, Part 1 here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.