Leon Russell

Life Journey


russellAfter Russell’s successful 2010 duet album with Elton John (“The Union”), big labels were suddenly knocking again on the Oklahoma-born singer/songwriter/pianist’s door. But they wanted him to do something he’d never done: use a producer.

So Russell recruited Tommy LiPuma, one-time principal at Blue Thumb Records, the late 1960s/early ’70s album-oriented independent rock ‘n’ roll label whose roster included Captain Beefheart, Albert Collins, Earl Hooker, Dave Mason, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and the Crusaders. The two had never worked together, but LiPuma had produced George Benson’s 1976 cover of Russell’s “This Masquerade” (No. 3, Billboard R&B singles; No. 6, adult contemporary;  No. 10, Hot 100).

LiPuma granted Russell carte blanche to play whatever he liked. As the album progressed, Russell realized it was shaping up as standards he’d either done in session or solo work, or had always wanted to do — “a record of my musical journey through this life,” as he relates in the liner notes.

Rod Stewart’s “Great American Songbook” it ain’t. From the down-to-earth reading of Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen” (featuring former band member Chris Simmons’ rollicking slide-guitar work) to the simmered-in-strings slow blues/jazz of “The Masquerade Is Over,” Russell is clearly having a ball jumping from genre to genre.

A pair of unexpected tunes turn out to be worthy: Paul Anka’s “I Really Miss You,” first heard as an Anka-Russell collaboration on Anka’s 2013 “Duets,” here featuring pedal-steel player extraordinaire Greg Leisz; and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” one of three tunes with L.A.’s Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

Only two songs are Russell compositions: “Big Lips” and “Down in Dixieland,” earlier versions of which are found on his 2008 “In Your Dreams.”

Especially noteworthy:

• ”Georgia on My Mind,” a reciprocation of Ray Charles’ cover of Russell’s “A Song for You.”

• ”Fever,” tweaked into a jump-gospel version and again featuring Simmons’ exquisite slide.

• “That Lucky Old Sun,”  a prior rendition of which appeared on Russell’s 2002 “Moonlight & Love Songs,” but here showcasing the heavenly sound of pedal steel (Leisz) and Hammond B3 organ (sideman supreme Larry Goldings) in tandem.gnm_end_bug

1. Come On In My Kitchen
2. Big Lips
3. Georgia On My Mind
4. That Lucky Old Sun
5. Fever
6. Think Of Me
7. I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good
8. The Masquerade Is Over
9. I Really Miss You
10. New York State Of Mind
11. Fool’s Paradise
12. Down In Dixieland

Total time: 47:34

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Steve Dawson

Rattlesnake Cage

Black Hen

dawsonThis is Canadian guitarist/producer/record-label head Dawson’s second instrumental release, the first being 2008′s “Telescope,” which was the result of a grant to study pedal steel guitar under L.A. session man Greg Leisz. “Rattlesnake,” however, is strictly acoustic.

The album was recorded between tours and production work during the latter half of 2013. There were no overdubs or effects: just some fingers, slides and four guitars (a Larrivée Jumbo, Michael Dunn-built Weissenborn, National Tricone and Taylor 12-string) stuck in front of a Neuman M49 mic rescued after 50 years from a Detroit church.

There are shades of Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, John Fahey, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Leo Kottke, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Rose in the 11 original compositions. Ragtime, fingerstyle, slide, gospel, resophonic, country — all manner of old-time guitar is here, recorded and mastered oh so well for optimum enjoyment.

A few of the tunes even have that authentic speed-up/slow-down thing, where the music sounds like a 33⅓ LP perfectly sped up to 45 or 78 rpm and then brought back to normal.

Slide fans will take special note of “Flophouse Oratory,” the title cut, “Butterfly Stunt,”  the interestingly titled “While the West Was Won, the Earth Didn’t Know It” and “Chunky.”gnm_end_bug

1. Blind Thomas At The Crime Scene
2. Flophouse Oratory
3. The Medicine Show Comes To Avalon
4. Rattlesnake Cage
5. Lighthouse Avenue
6. Butterfly Stunt
7. While The West Was Won, The Earth Didn’t Know It
8. J.R. Lockley’s Dilemna
9. The Flagpole Skater Laughs From Above
10. Chunky
11. The Altar At Center Raven

Total time: 41:26

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Life, Love & Hope


In the Myspace/YouTube/Facebook era, it’s not uncommon to find unknown singers suddenly and unexpectedly filling the shoes of the lead singer of their favorite ’70s band (see Journey or Yes). Such is the case with the new Boston album, which features three lead vocalists — including the group’s late original singer, Brad Delp — taking their turns in the spotlight.

The average listener might have trouble discerning between Delp (who committed suicide in 2007) and his two ringers, David Victor and Tommy DeCarlo. Victor previously was in a Boston tribute band, and DeCarlo was a Home Depot credit manager who drew attention after posting himself singing Boston songs on Myspace. The album at first sounds like it’s all one singer, until “If You Were in Love” and “Love Got Away,” featuring lead vocals by touring bassist Kimberley Dahme and founder-leader-guitarist Tom Scholz, respectively.

“Someone (2.0)” and “You Gave Up on Love (2.0)” are rearrangements of songs from  predecessor album “Corporate America” (2002), while “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” is a remastered track from the same record. Subtract those songs and the two mentioned above, and that leaves six great classic-sounding fresh Boston tunes (minor rap portions of “Sail Away” notwithstanding).

Their sixth album in 37 years, the idea of “Life, Love & Hope” was to have “a completely different sound, just like the other one,” Scholz jokingly told Bob Coburn on syndicated radio show “Rockline.” The excellent “LL&H” accomplishes those seemingly opposite goals, and only could have been improved by a few more new and/or old-school numbers and additional musicians (Scholz plays virtually every instrument).gnm_end_bug

1. Heaven On Earth
2. Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love
3. Last Day Of School (instrumental)
4. Sail Away
5. Life, Love & Hope
6. If You Were In Love
7. Someday
8. Love Got Away
9. Someone (2.0)
10. You Gave Up On Love (2.0)
11. The Way You Look Tonight

Total time: 42:52

External links
artist website
iTunes Store


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The Record Company

Feels So Good


recordcoGood New Music doesn’t review EPs unless the circumstances are extenuating — say, for instance, when an occasional blues-rock band comes along that makes the listener prick up his or her ears. Such is the case with the Record Company, an independent Los Angeles-based trio whose output now consists of three extended-play albums and a few stray singles.

The band’s guitarist, bass player and drummer grew up, respectively, in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and upstate New York. Perhaps this geographical diversity contributed to their well-traveled sound, sporting influences from Muddy Waters to the Stooges to Morphine. Not since Treat Her Right has a group sounded so smart, passionate and original in their approach to the blues.

Their songs have already been placed in in numerous ads and TV series, and the title track — a swampy rave-up that sounds like CCR jamming with the Yardbirds — was used in the theatrical trailer for “Last Vegas.” Not too shabby considering they formed less than two years ago.

“Roll Bones” recalls Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, with the added attraction of a mix that puts the bass upfront and a less-is-more slide solo smack dab in the middle. “Hard Day Coming Down” has a revivalist feel, complete with heavy acoustic strumming, group-vocal refrains and a taste of harmonica. “Baby I’m Broken” features mouth harp throughout, a pseudomilitary drum shuffle, and lets the bass have a mini-workout without interrupting the vocals.

Ending with “Darlin’ Jane,” the album veers into West Coast country-rock à la “Workingman’s Dead,” perhaps not all that surprising considering the group included a laid-back cover of the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie”on its 2012 “Covers EP” (which, by the way, is available as a free download on the Record Company’s website).gnm_end_bug

1. Feels So Good
2. Roll Bones
3. Hard Day Coming Down
4. Baby I’m Broken
5. Darlin’ Jane

Total time: 18:46

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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The Fleshtones ♦ Southern Culture on the Skids ♦ Los Straitjackets

Mondo Zombie Boogaloo

Yep Roc

mondoGathering up three like-minded purveyors of ’60s-style garage/surf/rockabilly artists from its roster, Yep Roc pulls off an A1 celebration of a musically overlooked time of year: Halloween. Amid the parade of  Christmas albums that seemingly starts earlier each year, “Mondo Zombie Boogaloo” is a refreshing jolt of originals and standards that’ll bring anyone’s monster to life.

Perhaps because of Jack Marshall’s theme song for mid-’60s TV comedy “The Munsters,” guitar-driven rock in a twang/surf vein has always been easily associated with creepy goings-on. Six of the tracks on “Mondo” are instrumentals that admirably follow in the large footsteps of that show’s catchy theme, and five of  those are by Lucha Libre-masked instrumentalists Los Straitjackets — including the themes from “Young Frankenstein” and “Halloween.” But Southern Culture on the Skids give the Straitjackets a run for their money with “La Marcha de los Cabarones,” a SCOTS original.

Other highlights are “Tingler Blues,” a tribute by SCOTS to that great 1959 Vincent Price flick; “Que Monstruos Son,” a Spanish-language version of “The Monster Mash” by all three bands; and the Fleshtones’ “Haunted Hipster,” complete with with understated slide guitar and harmonica.gnm_end_bug

1. It’s Monster Surfing Time – Los Straitjackets
2. Ghoulman Confidential – The Fleshtones
3. Goo Goo Muck – Southern Culture On The Skids
4. Que Monstruos Son – Los Straitjackets featuring The Fleshtones and Southern Culture On The Skids
5. Haunted Hipster – The Fleshtones
6. The Loneliest Ghost In Town – Southern Culture On The Skids
7. Theme From Young Frankenstein – Los Straitjackets
8. (Sock It To Me Baby) In The House Of Shock – The Fleshtones
9. Theme From Halloween – Los Straitjackets
10. Tingler Blues – Southern Culture on the Skids
11. Ghoul On A Hill – Los Straitjackets
12. La Marcha De Los Cabarones – Southern Culture On The Skids
13. Ghostbusters – Los Straitjackets
14. Dracula A GoGo – The Fleshtones
15. Demon Death – Southern Culture On The Skids

Total time: 44:48

External links
Yep Roc’s Fleshtones page
Southern Culture on the Skids’ site
Los Straitjackets’ site
iTunes Store

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