Several of Mark Erelli’s longtime friends and collaborators join him for a special song written in response to the tragic gun violence in America. While the artists are an impressive group – Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Lori McKenna, Anais Mitchell, and Josh Ritter – it’s the song that speaks the loudest.
I’ve seen sadness seep into my heart, each day a little more
This darkness growing so familiar, I can’t recall what came before
My children’s faces filled with questions, looking up expectantly
And I don’t know what to tell them
I can’t bring myself to tell them
That you can learn to live with anything
when it happens by degrees
We’re pretty unabashed Borges fans here at Twangville. And for good reason – she packs one hell of a musical punch. And damn if she doesn’t throw one hell of a haymaker with Love’s Middle Name
She makes a statement right out of the gate with “Houses on a Hill,” the bruising opening track. The song chronicles a broken relationship and the feelings – both good and bad – that remain. “I have grown and I don’t know how to go back to what we have been,” she sings against a wailing backdrop of electric guitars.
The rock assault – and songwriter’s perspective on relationships – continues on tracks like “Lucky Rocks” and “Let Me Try It”. Both find her with a more optimistic and spirited outlook. “I’ve been putting lucky rocks in my pocket to make you fall for me whole-hearted” she declares on the former; “If anything is good for me, I don’t like it; as long as it’s good for you I want to try it.”
Borges slows things down, at least a bit, and takes a more personal tone on “Oh Victoria” and a cover of Frankie Miller’s confessional “I Can’t Change It.” The songs offer more than just a respite from the album’s guitar fury, they showcase Borges’ ability to convey emotion and vulnerability.
Love’s Middle Name is as rewarding as it is ragged, exactly what we’ve come to expect and love from Borges.
Ladies Love Thunder is a wonderful celebration of Boston music. Bluesy rocker Gillis gathered up some friends – some of the area’s finest players – to record songs mostly written by area songwriters.
The songs are an eclectic lot, from the disco sound of Marc Pinansky‘s “Champagne and Neon Lights” to the rousing power chords of Tim Gearan’s “Land on Me” to the gently-building sheen of Dennis Brennan’s “Going Down Gracefully.” She digs into the Boston music archives for a take on 1980’s local combo the Titanics’ “Stayin’ on the Right Side of Satan” and steps outside the region for a feisty version of Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” and the 1960’s R&B gem “Voodoo Voodoo” (originally recorded by LaVern Baker).
Gillis’ voice leads the charge from start to finish – a forceful instrument that shifts effortlessly across the song collection’s diverse styles. A host of local musical luminaries join Gillis for this musical joyride, each bringing their distinctive styles. They include Duke Levine and Mike Castellana on guitar, James Rohr and Phil Aiken on piano, Paul Ahlstrand on saxophone and Ed Valauskas on bass guitar. Not a bad bunch, indeed.
Part of what made legendary group The Band so special was the group’s ability to convey tales of the South that were evocative and compelling. It’s a quality that infuses Cahoon Hollow, the latest release from The Wolff Sisters and Last Cavalry. Their album flows with a rustic charm that is made all the more captivating by an organic musical feel.
Music aside, there’s an interesting geographical focus in lyrics. In some cases the songs are about a specific location such as “South Dakota” or “Up in Wellfleet”, in others it’s a more general locale as with “Down By the Lake” and “The Hollow”. The approach sets a cohesive frame for the songs, whether they are about the specific location or as the setting for pensive ruminations on troubled relationships.
The three sisters share vocals across the album’s nine tracks. There are mostly nuanced differences across their respective lead vocals. When they come together in harmony, however, things get ethereal. The Wolff sisters offer more proof that familial harmonies are unlike any other.
The arrangements lean heavily on the sisters’ respective instruments: Rebecca’s acoustic guitar, Rachael’s electric guitar and Kat’s piano and organ. Much like their vocals, the musical interplay adds to the album’s allure.
Tad Overbaugh has been a longtime Boston favorite, from his early days in the late, great Kickbacks through to his current outfit The Arrivals. His heartland rock leans as much on his strong melodies as it does on its guitar crunch.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that his latest 3-song EP recalls the early days of the Kickbacks: both guitarist Shawn Byrne and bassist Matt Arnold from that band are along for this ride. They crank up the guitars on the opening “Hey Lonely,” an insistent ode to making friends. “Open Road and Blue Sky” is, as the title suggests, a hearty driving tune fueled by electric guitar and simmering organ. The group then has some fun with “Other Side of the Sixpack,” a country song that is, not surprisingly, a freewheeling drinking song.
It’s kinda funny to discover some fine New England-sourced country music in Texas but sometimes that’s just what happens. Emerging Rhode Island singer-songwriter Charlie Marie took her show on the road, passing through my new-ish home base in Dallas. Accompanied by guitarist Brian McKinnon, she previewed songs that are appearing on her ongoing Chucktown Takes: Live from St. Philip series. The stripped-down arrangements of just voice and guitar are the perfect showcase for her talent. Marie has a classic country voice – think Patsy Cline – that she wraps around songs that alternate between sass and vulnerability.
Boston quartet Honey Talk serve up a fun amalgam of jam, rock and Americana on their latest EP. The glue that holds it all together is the group’s songwriting chops and rich harmonies, not to mention tasty organ and keyboards that flavor the songs. They groove from the country styling of “Drinking Song” to the simmering jam of “I’m Not Alone”, with plenty of rock and roll in-between. A fun listen from start to finish.
AB Sides, the name of Abbie Barrett’s latest release, has multiple meanings. Sure, it’s a descriptive title for a 2 track digital single, hearkening back to the days of the “A” and “B” sides on 45 inch records. It also appropriately reflects the stylistic diversity of the songs themselves – one a bombastic guitar-fueled rocker (“Better Machine”) and the other a dark and intense ballad (“The Light”). The connecting thread is the angst that underpins both tracks.
Of course, there’s a clever 3rd meaning of the title – a riff on the artist’s name. Well-played.
The Bean Pickers Union are a hidden gem on the Boston music scene. Led by singer-songwriter Chuck Melchin, the collective puts out music on its own relaxed terms. When they do, however, the songs are immaculately crafted yet still feel well-worn. One can imagine the group sitting on a back porch pickin’ at their instruments; not surprisingly it is also an appropriate setting in which to listen to the songs. The wistfulness is intoxicating.
Boston by way of Ireland singer-songwriter Bob Bradshaw follows up his 2017 release with a series of digital singles in 2018. He is taking the opportunity to explore a variety of styles across the Americana spectrum. This particular track pays homage to the relaxed 1960’s sound that Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell perfected. All the better that he is joined by some of Boston’s most talented session players – Andy Santospago on lap-steel and guitar, Ed Lucie on stand-up bass and James Rohr on piano and Hammond organ.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.