Here is the latest installment in our periodic series highlighting Boston and New England artists. (View the complete series here.)
Girls Guns and Glory’s annual Hank Williams tribute shows have rapidly become a New Year’s tradition. With the help of special friends and guests, the group romps through the Williams catalog as singer Ward Hayden shares tidbits from his encyclopedic knowledge of the legend’s life and songs.
While the quartet doesn’t stray too far from the original arrangements, they still manage to give the songs a bit of rock punch. The party roars to life – and through the speakers – when the band wheels through Williams classics like “Jambalaya” and “I Saw the Light.” Ballads like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” sparkle with Hayden’s mournful drawl echoing William’s mournful cries. The band’s clear joy in playing these classics is readily apparent.
Lest anyone think otherwise, the band have built their reputation on the strength of their original music. It’s great, however, to have something new to tide us over until their next studio release. All the better that it’s a heartfelt tribute to a country music legend.
Considered together, Halstead’s last two releases might seem a bit eclectic. The rootsy Hollow Bones and the electronica-laced Raised By Wolves showcase two different sides of the singer, both appealing in their own ways. Edge of the World, Halstead’s latest ep, brings together the best qualities of these earlier releases to set a new high water mark for her music.
The opening tracks – “Shovel” and “Taste Me” – make for a potent, albeit contrasting, one-two punch. The percussive former track graduates from brooding to ferocious as Halstead takes a lover to task. “I only wanna see nothing where you used to be,” she declares. The soaring latter track finds her professing her love, singing “Lover you can take me, pierce my heart, and make me your own.”
“Wisps and Watercolors” may be the closing track on Blacker’s latest release but in title and sound it sets the tone for the entire 13 song collection. In Waves is rooted in pop but Blacker stretches the genre from dreamy waltzes (“Hotel Halls”) to brisk rock (“Way Like Water”). The consistent thread is the wistfulness of her songs, which conjure up rich landscapes and cinematic scenes. The textured production adds additional depth and provide a fitting foundation for Blacker’s beautiful voice.
This Boston-based trio shine on their debut release. The group will lull you in with their simple acoustic arrangements, most centered on acoustic guitar, cello and gentle percussion. Don’t be surprised, however, when they knock you back with their impassioned vocals and potent harmonies.
This song is just a taste of the glorious sounds to be found on A Wolf in the Doorway.
Bostonian Overbaugh huddled with his Nashville pal (and former bandmate) Shawn Byrne to craft his long-awaited new release. Few do melancholy like Overbaugh and he is in fine form here. He is in a reflective mood, exploring life from a middle-aged point of view. “Bill Stares at the T.V.” finds his protagonist sitting in a bar and reflecting on a stalled life while “End of the Decade” sees him grappling with a relationship gone cold.
Lest anyone think that Overbaugh wallows in the melancholy, his knack for writing catchy hooks give the songs an earnest sweetness. Here’s a favorite from the release.
“Follow your muse” is sage advice for any musician. Amy Black has taken that to heart, finding musical inspiration in her childhood home of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I’m sure that many are familiar with the sweet soul music that has long emanated from the area.
Black ventured to legendary FAME Studios to record what is essentially a Shoals musical history tour. Backed by a crack band that included guitarist Will Kimbrough, vocalists the McCrary Sisters and original Swamper Spooner Oldham, she cascades through covers ranging from Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” to Bob Dylan’s “You Gotta Serve Somebody” to the Black Key’s “Tighten Up.” While she stays spiritually true to the original versions, she finds a way to make the songs her own. Her funkified version of the Sam Cooke classic “Bring It On Home” is a fine example.
Black recently relocated to Nashville but we’ll still call her a Bostonian ‘round these parts.
This Boston-based group teased us earlier this year with a debut ep filled with catchy and colorful pop. Well, their debut full-length has now arrived to prove that they’ve got plenty more great songs in their canon.
Songwriters Chris Toppin and Jefferson Davis Riordan each bring a distinctive character to the group. Toppin serving up more pristine pop while Riordan adds an eccentric flair with songs like “I Like You Weird.” The combination makes for some mighty fine music.
I first got to know Sevey as the drummer for Smith And Weeden. With shades of another drummer turned front-man, it turns out that Sevey is a fine singer-songwriter in his own rite. His latest release is filled with plenty of pop melodies packaged in rock arrangements, with the occasional angular melody thrown in for some added flair.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.