Although The Lovell Sisters hail from Georgia and now live in Nashville, their latest album is mostly steeped in Mississippi blues. And by that I mean some down-home, dirty blues.
They make an immediate – and powerful – musical statement with opener “Something”. Handclaps give way to pounding percussion and fervent horns, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”.
From there they slip into a more traditional blues on “Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues.” That song, along with “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” are an especially potent showcases of the sisters’ guitar prowess, Rebecca on electric and Megan on lap steel.
As the album progresses, they stretch out their sound. “Blue Ridge Mountains” is a loving, albeit raucous, hoedown that pays tribute to their Southern roots. “Fly Like an Eagle” and “Ain’t Gonna Cry” are both dark and mysterious, the former propelled by electrified percussion while the latter smolders with a gospel feel.
Venom & Faith is as exhilarating as it is visceral, establishing Larkin Poe as one of the more compelling artists making music today.
One never knows what will happen when you gather together a bunch of songwriters to create some music. The Glorietta story is far from Nashville’s Music Row “throw ‘em in a room” philosophy. In this case, the collection of musicians who make up Glorietta – Matthew Logan Vasquez, Noah Gundersen, Kelsey Wilson, David Ramirez, Jason Robert Blum, and Adrian Quesada – decamped to a house in New Mexico and brought plenty of tequila with them. Over the course of 8 days, the group collaborated on songs that morphed their individual personalities into a cohesive collection.
Gundersen’s “Golden Lonesome” and “Lincoln Creek” are among the album’s standouts. The former was written about a recent bitter break-up, the singer lamenting “God damn this cold and lonesome feeling.” The latter is a tender ballad, punctuated by brilliant harmonies, that chronicles life as a touring musician. Gundersen sings:
Somewhere, someone is singing for free
A tab and a couple of twenties is all they need
Somewhere, someone is singing for free
Thank god it ain’t me
There are a handful of fun rockers that compliment the ballads. Blum’s “Loser’s Lament” opens the album, complete with a bit of chatter that captures the spirit of the recording sessions. Vasquez, no stranger to feisty guitar blasts, partners with Wilson on the bruising “Mindy”. Ramirez fans will undoubtedly be delighted to hear a full band take on “Hard Way”, a song that he has performed live for several years.
Glorietta is a refreshing collection from start to finish, no doubt a reflection of the camaraderie and mutual respect among the artists who brought it to life.
Brian Henneman sets out something of a recurring theme with the title track of the latest from the Bottle Rockets. “This ain’t no high tech train wreck, don’t think that’s the deal,” he sings, “No this science ain’t no fiction, it’s the new way of keepin’ it real.” Technology rears its head at several points across Bit Logic, the singer acknowledging it’s impact today and in the future, even as he tries to come to grips with it.
He puts it in a music context on the fun “Lo-Fi”, reminiscing about AM radios and record players before wryly admitting “Now I’m happy hearin’ music on my telephone.” It comes up in-directly in “Knotty Pine”, his ode to the quiet room at home where he goes to find solitude.
Bit Logic also add a few more to the list of driving songs that pepper the band’s earlier catalog (“Radar Gun”, “Indianapolis”). “Way Down South” chronicles a touring musician missing his wife while ‘Highway 70 Blues” laments bad drivers, a topic to which many can undoubtedly relate.
Every big rig bus and Kia
Everybody’s got their own idea
Of what’s fast or slow
So you never know
What lane’s gonna stop, what lane’s gonna go
Album standout “Human Perfection” is a wonderful reminder that there are glories to be found in the simple things. In its own way, it ties back to the title track in which Henneman declares, “You best be lookin’ out the windshield not the mirror to figure out the way to go from here.” Looking forward and keeping a positive outlook ain’t bad things.
There’s something to be said for aging gracefully. Exhibit A is John Hiatt. 23(!) albums into his career, he still wields his guitar and pen like a master craftsman.
The songs on The Eclipse Sessions are enticingly relaxed and uncluttered, letting the strength of Hiatt’s writing shine bright. Simple melodies and repeated lyrics make them immediately accessible and reinforce Hiatt’s lyrical message.
“Nothing In My Heart” chronicles the numbness, coupled with a tinge of sorrow, that can come from a failed relationship. “Hide Your Tears” picks up on the theme, albeit with a bit more distance and perspective. “Said everything I shouldn’t say,” he confesses before adding, “would different matter anyway.”
As he is wont to do, Hiatt unleashes a stunner with “Aces Up Your Sleeve.” His genteel guitar and scruffy voice combine to lend an air of elegance to a somber tale of heartbreak. “I still turn down the boulevard thinking I’m coming home to you,” he sings, continuing:
I don’t know if our love
Means anything anymore
But it used to make you breathe
And it was fair to keep a pair
Of aces up your sleeve
It is a breathtaking song and a remarkable album from an artist who continues to set a high standard for songwriting.
The title of Antonio Lulic’s new EP provides the first clue of the wanderlust to be found within it. Departures flows with an infectious fervor as Lulic lets his voice, guitar and songs meander and soar. Whether he is clamoring for a night out (“Boozehound”) or mourning a tragic police shooting (“False Positives”), he infuses his songs with tremendous passion.
I’m partial to this particular track from the EP – an understated anthem that reminds us of what really matters.
Will Hoge is angry. Over the past year he has released a couple of impromptu singles in response to social and political turmoil in the US. Apparently his rage continues to burn as My American Dream unleashes a furious invective that is far from dreamlike.
His opening salvo is “Gilded Walls”, where ferocious guitars set the stage for a thinly veiled condemnation of the current US President.
Well another group of kids in a high school, dead
But you’re still at your golf course teein’ off at nine
People marchin’ in the streets tryin’ to find a little peace
You sit around spoutin’ more bullshit online
He continues on through a litany of current issues, including gun violence (“Thoughts and Prayers”), the Confederate flag legacy (“Still a Southern Man”), immigration (“The Illegal Line”) and economic disparity and homelessness (“My American Dream”). His frustration and aggravation rings out with every note.
He does offer some hope, however, in “Stupid Kids”. He takes swipes at out of touch elders, for sure, but places his hope on the younger generation to lead the path to change.
Oh stupid kids, don’t listen to what the old folks say
You’re the only ones that are ever gonna make things change
Keep your feet marching, raise up your voice, don’t quit
Keep doing what you’re doing, keep being stupid kids
Music is meant to challenge us to think. Whether one agrees with Hoge’s views or whether one doesn’t, it’s hard to argue that he has achieved this goal.
Darkness and despair ooze from every part of Adam Faucett’s It Took the Shape of a Bird. The album finds Faucett ruminating on death and anguish, broken relationships and faded memories. Lighthearted it is not; powerful it is.
Angst and a sense of foreboding reign on songs like “King Snake” and “Ancient Chord”. The former opens the album with the pained tale of an orphan. Following the loss of both parents, she’s sent to live with cousins who “need some little girl like I need hard lessons learned.” The sense of resignation continues on the latter as Faucett reflects, “Your old words of wisdom say that tomorrow’s another day, but that just sounds like the blues.”
Faucett lashes out on “Axe,” raw guitars slashing their way through his words. “Time won’t heal all wounds, I promise you that,” he declares/proclaims, “it will rip all the meat from all bones, that’s a fact.”
Many of the songs start with just Faucett’s voice and guitar, building in volume and intensity as the songs progress. From a whisper to a scream… and then some.
It’s hard to escape comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel when considering the Brother Brothers. Twin brothers Adam and David Moss fill their debut album with brilliant harmonies set against genteel songs in a way that recalls their talented predecessors. Heck, they even conjure up Simon’s “America” on their own enthralling “Frankie.”
Yet, as with Simon and Garfunkel, the intoxicating splendor of the music can be deceiving. The songs on Some People I Know convey warmth but overflow with dramatic melancholy.
“I Will Be With You” finds the he brothers quietly harmonizing against a simple backdrop of gently strummed electric guitar. They sing longingly of an absent lover, leaving it ambiguous as to whether it is infatuation, unrequited love or something else.
They follow with “Colorado”, which paints images of a lustrous mountain landscape, complete with brilliant sunrises and sunsets. The beauty, however, is overshadowed by the singer’s sense of foreboding about the future of a romantic relationship.
Tucked amongst the refined folk that dominate the album are the rousing Appalachian dance hall jam “In the Nighttime”, led by Adam’s fiddle, and the orchestral “Angel Island”, in which David’s cello and Adam’s fiddle intertwine to dramatic effect.
Some People I Know is a wondrous debut, inviting you to close your eyes and get lost in the music.
The late 1960’s and the 1970’s were a golden era for power pop. The melodies were sublime, the vocals honeyed and the arrangements impeccable.
Nashville by way of Dallas singer-songwriter Philip Creamer channels the best of the era on his self-titled solo debut. It’s hard to not be captivated by Creamer’s voice, a silken and often operatic instrument that breathes incredible life into his songs. He couples it with a tremendous melodic sensibility, not to mention a dash of R&B feistiness.
It’s sometimes challenging to listen to an artist’s early recordings. In many cases they’re still trying to find their voice, both figuratively and literally. That’s what makes Adam’s House Cat – the predecessor to the Drive-By Truckers – such a welcome surprise.
Though the album was recorded in 1990 – several years before the Drive-By Truckers emerged – one can clearly recognize the electrifying energy that has carried Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley through their careers. DBT completists will appreciate the early takes on “Lookout Mountain” and “Buttholeville” while songs like “Cemeteries” and “Shot Rang Out” are welcome new additions to the Hood and Cooley canon.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.