Robert Vincent has a few things to say. In This Town You’re Owned is an expansive meditation that finds the Liverpool-based songwriter reflecting on religion, war, relationships, and struggles in a way that is both simple and profound.
Album opener “This Town” is ostensibly a tale of small town life, yet has a perspective that equally applies to the largest of cities. Vincent describes the desire to find one’s own place as he recognizes that we are defined by our environment.
Chase the light of day with your fantasies
Don’t take this as a joke or even parody
In this town you’re owned
He takes a more proactive and positive stance on the rockabilly “My Neighbor’s Ghost”, advising “Life will take you if you like it or don’t, so you must live it.”
Vincent laments a perceived loss of faith in “The Kids Don’t Dig God Anymore”. A sanctuary organ opens the song before giving way to a somber gospel accompaniment as he asks, “So what have we done to deserve neglect that has hit such a nerve.”
He plumbs the depths of relationships on poignant tracks like “The Ending”, “I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now”, and “Cuckoo”. Vincent’s voice, accompanied by a barely audible guitar, opens the haunting “I Was Hurt Today But I’m Alright Now”. The song finds him professing his love, “I will take a perfect sunset, Paint it on your wall”, while pleading, “Just please don’t leave me, when I’m not around.”
Vincent asks for forgiveness for breaking a heart on the gospel-laced “Cuckoo”. “Cos without forgiveness we all feel the pain it creates,” he sings. The accordion-laced gentle sway of “The Ending” offers some optimism while acknowledging uncertainty:
Love has a way, Love has way
Nobody knows the ending
In This Town You’re Owned is a provocative musical statement. “There’s a weakness in the lack of knowledge we’ve consumed,” he sings on “Conundrum” before counselling, “You’re born this world alone try to leave it better off when you go.” Amen.
The title track for the Mastersons latest album is the anthem we need for 2020. I suppose there’s a certain irony that the song that bemoans love songs while it calls for more love in the world. But isn’t that a statement for these times? “I love you so much, but it’s no time for love songs, sing Chris Masterson and Bonnie Whitmore as the song opens, “we’re starting to unravel at the seams.”
What follows is a thoughtful reflection on the state of the world and a gentle plea for change:
And this world is hard enough
How come everybody’s gotta be so mean?
I want to sing a song
That will make you stop and think
Instead of turning a blind eye to all that’s wrong
Bonus points for adding in periodic touches of humor, to wit: “The world doesn’t need another broken hearted outlaw belting out another whisky drinkin’ song.”
I’m convinced that there isn’t a genre that Miss Tess can’t master. Jazz, country, folk, blues, ragtime, rockbilly, American standards – you name it – it’s got a place in her repertoire. The Moon Is an Ashtray, her first album in more than 6 years, touches on all these genres and wonderfully showcases the breadth of her talent.
So when do we get the metal album, Tess?
Sadler Vaden has earned his guitar chops as guitarist for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Drivin’ N Cryin’, not to mention the countess other musicians who have sought him out for studio sessions. Left to his own devices, however, Vaden has been known to craft some mighty tasty rock and roll.
Even when he’s seemingly angry, as on the title track of his latest solo album, you’ll still be smiling as his guitar melts your face. As for me, I’m partial to the good time rock of album opener “Next to You”.
Close your eyes as you listen to The Third Mind, a super group of sorts, and you’ll be transported back to the jammy 1960’s. The musical encyclopedia known as Dave Alvin gathered some musical accomplices – Victor Krummenacher (bass, vocals), David Immergluck (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Michael Jerome (drums, percussion), with guests Jesse Sykes (guitar, vocals), and DJ Bonebrake (vibes) and Jack Rudy (harmonica) – for an unrehearsed studio jam. They emerged with an adventurous six song collection – five covers and one original.
I’m perpetually drawn to this four minute blast – the group’s fiery take on Roky Erickson & the 13th Floor Elevators’ “Reverberation”.
The Stone Foxes sure know how to write a rock anthem. Their latest EP shows how they can serve them up in various ways, from the 1980’s sheen of “Can’t Go Back” to the moody cinematic vibe of the title track. Lead singer Shannon Koehler throws himself into every song, most notably on this bruising rocker.
Back in the mid-1990s, Ry Cooder traveled to Cuba and returned with the acclaimed The Buena Vista Social Club. Two decades later, Raul Malo of the Mavericks journeyed to Cuba to explore his ancestral homeland’s music scene and stumbled across Sweet Lizzy Project. Whereas Buena Vista Social Club celebrated Cuba’s rich musical heritage, Sweet Lizzy Project demonstrate that the country has a rock and roll future.
Technicolor showcases the band’s musical range. Sure, there are moments where Cuban rhythmic traditions peek through (“Turn Up the Radio”), but the album overall reflects the group’s desire to rock. The opening title track veers into prog rock territory while “Ain’t Nobody to Call” pulses with frenetic energy. The Mavericks appear and lend their music style to the uplifting “The Flower’s in the Seed”. Technicolor, driven by the band’s infectious energy, is one fun listen.
Bad For You further cements the Steeldrivers twin reputations. First, the group’s standing as mighty bluegrass pickers. Second, the irresistible charm to their songwriting.
The quintet’s latest isn’t as much a bluegrass album as it is a pop album packaged in bluegrass arrangements. Kelvin Damrell, the band’s new vocalist, picks up right where Gary Nichols left off, and Chris Stapleton before him. He brings a soulful and rock edge to the songs, adding to the album’s allure.
It’s clear from the moment that she opens her mouth that Tami Neilson is a musical force. While she occasionally lets it loose, as she does on the bluesy “You Were Mine”, she more often sings with restraint. Yet even then, the power of her instrument still makes its presence gloriously known.
Neilson’s songs echo her voice – raw and feisty. She transports the listener back to the 1950’s heyday of rockabilly with songs that are propelled by rhythmic grooves.
There’s something special about watching a musician committed to his or her journey. Dave Simonett is perhaps best known as a part of bluegrass-oriented Trampled By Turtles and has also released a fine pair of electric guitar-laced albums as Dead Man Winter.
On this, his first album released under his own name, he leans into his singer-songwriter persona. The album flows with a relaxed and freewheeling attitude, even as he sings about topics that are personal and introspective.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.