Harry Nilsson

Losst and Founnd

Omnivore

A quarter-century after his death and nearly 40 years after his last album, Harry Nilsson still can do no wrong.

This archive release might not be the exact “comeback album” he had in mind when he began sessions for the tentatively titled “Papa’s Got a Brown New Robe” prior to his demise, but at least some of the songs from those sessions are finally getting the treatment they deserve.

“Losst and Founnd,” as realized by friend Mark Hudson (whom the singer-songwriter initially tapped as producer), is more cohesive than latter-day Nilsson efforts such as “Sandman” and “…That’s the Way It Is.” It’s also a slap in the face of naysaying online-forum commenters who spouted off before hearing it.

As anyone who’s heard the original demos that have circulated on the internet can attest,”Lost” could not have been easy to produce. Hudson’s work to smooth out Nilsson’s voice—which had been dealt a permanent blow when he continued to sing after suffering vocal-cord damage during the recording of the “Pussy Cats” LP—is impressive. But also remarkable is his judicious inclusion of only the cream of the “Robe” crop, rounding out the album with a Jimmy Webb and a Yoko Ono cover (“What Does a Woman See in a Man” and “Listen, the Snow Is Falling,” respectively) as well as a song from Nilsson’s stage musical, “Zapata” (“Love Is the Answer”).

All of the songs were rebuilt to varying degrees, with several reportedly having been recorded to four-track cassette in the home studio of another Nilsson friend, Andy Cahan. At least one cut was stripped down to just Nilsson’s vocal before instruments were added back.

Webb, Van Dyke Parks and Jim Keltner, as well as Nilsson’s bass-playing son Kiefo Nilsson, are among those who helped modernize the tracks. But it’s guitar slingers Ricky Z and Paul Santo who really added some sparkle, collectively laying down some well-placed slide on five of the selections.

Tracks
1. Lost And Found
2. Woman Oh Woman
3. U.C.L.A.
4. Hi-Heel Sneakers/Rescue Boy Medley
5. Lullaby
6. Animal Farm
7. Listen, The Snow Is Falling
8. Try
9. Love Is The Answer
10. Yo Dodger Blue
11. What Does A Woman See In A Man

Total time: 43:00

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Sugarfoot

In the Clearing

Crispin Glover

Sugarfoot’s latest represents a branching out: Unlike the Norwegian band’s earlier releases, the overall feel of the music has become “country prog” (for lack of a better term) more than simply “country rock.”

No doubt this has something to do with the fact that bassist Bent Sæther also is in Motorpsycho (not to be confused with Motorhead, although the former group did start out in kind of a prog-inspired hard rock vein before incorporating psychedelic, pop and avant-jazz elements).

Of course, founding members and guitarists Øyvind Holm and Hogne Galåen, who were in psych-pop outfit Deleted Waveform Gatherings, obviously are not ones to be tied to a mainstream musical genre either.

But perhaps the man most responsible for Sugarfoot’s evolutionary quantum leap is producer Lars Horntveth, himself a musician and composer with experimental jazz group Jaga Jazzist.

Galåen, when asked by email, was kind enough to tell Good New Music the story of how Sugarfoot ended up with such a strong producer:

“Lars Horntveth had collaborated with Motorpsycho earlier … and we needed to think fresh after two albums recorded at Rancho de la Luna, Joshua Tree,” Galåen explained. “We knew that Lars would have a different approach to this album just by knowing who he is as a producer, but also as a musician. We spent some days together before going to France and Black Box Studio and we hit it off right away. It’s fair to say that all the songwriters in Sugarfoot present songs to the band, which then either will be formed in style by every member or it will die there and then as an SF song, but this time we let Lars make all decisions regarding what songs to record. We ended up with 11 songs recorded in this amazing studio in rural France, two of which did not end up on the album, but were released as a bonus 7” with the (500-copy, sold-out) first edition of ‘In the Clearing.’ …

“After the week in the studio, we took a break from it, knowing that Lars would still be working on this from his hometown Oslo, and after a while the sessions started to reappear and we all knew that this was going to be something different. The rest of the backing vocals and percussion were finished and Lars took it to (Blanca Studio in Bergen, Norway) and mixed it together with Matias Tellez, who also did a fantastic job.

“You know, one special thing about this album is that the sound it has, is so big in the way that every tiny little detail is so clear. I’m absolutely stunned by how it came out. And the reception from the fans has been overwhelming. It is good to be in Sugarfoot at the moment and we’re gonna play as much as we can for the fans, but Norway is not the best country (in which) to be a touring band—cold snowy winters and long distances between the big cities combined with roads over big mountains. It’s surely not the best and pretty expensive but hey, in the long run it is worth it!”

Comprising another major factor in the album’s excellence are the pedal-steel stylings of member Roar Øien, whose playing sounds decidedly more non-country, perhaps even jazzy, this time around. GNM posited this perception to Galåen, who responded:

“Roar is the best pedal steel player I’ve ever heard! He can adapt to anything, whether it’s pure country or in (more of a Daniel) Lanois landscape.

“The first time we met Roar was when (Deleted Waveform Gatherings) still had some momentum. We were finishing a double album and he put down a few tracks on it. We fell in love with his playing right there and then, and he’s not just a fantastic player but also one of the best guys you’ll ever meet.

“On ‘In the Clearing’ he’s amazing. I believe Lars made an impact on him as well as all of the other members—like if our mantra was to really try to do something different, something we’d never done before. … This was really different for all of us.”

Opening track “Changing Times” is a perfect example of the newfound “country prog” motif—Jon Anderson-like vocal refrains, Chris Squire-ish bass runs, Tony Kaye-style organ riffs and even a mini acoustic guitar solo à la Steve Howe, all with the added delight of pedal-steel embellishments poking their little heads out like eels from their hiding places!

The title track’s structure and arrangement are mind-blowing and allow it to fluctuate in spirit between Poco in its finest spaced-out pedal steel hour (think “Driving Wheel” from 1974’s “Seven”) and Led Zeppelin during its Middle Eastern infatuation phase (i.e. “Kashmir” on 1975’s “Physical Graffiti”).

The pedal steel takes center stage for “Ladybug Fly,” serving as lead guitar on a light and airy song that also boasts impressive harmony vocals, acoustic strumming and a nearly military drum beat. A unique closing passage sees all the instruments except pedal steel slow to nearly a stop and then gradually resume their previous tempo, all while the vocals and pedal steel continue unabated.

Lead singer Holm hands the reins over to Sæther for the “The House on the Hill,” a Sæther composition that despite featuring a Clavinet in stark contrast to other, pseudo-electronica passages manages to overall have the feel of “Countdown to Ecstasy”-era Steely Dan!

Closing out the album is by far the proggiest track, “Foggy Town, Pt. 2—Noyant-La-Gravoyère,” named after the municipality in western France where Black Box Studio is located. It begins in earnest as a ballad, but after about four minutes the tempo shifts as the song becomes an instrumental and the keyboards morph into the sound of Tony Banks on early Genesis LPs such as “Nursery Cryme” and “Foxtrot.”

At the end of the day, Sugarfoot’s fifth effort is a fine updating of classic country rock, lending new meaning to the term “Cosmic American Music” in a way that genre pioneer Gram Parsons surely would have appreciated.

Tracks
1. Changing Times
2. Cotton Candy Clouds
3. In The Clearing
4. Ladybug
5. Just A Dream
6. The House On The Hill
7. Little Miss Darkness
8. Original Sin
9. Foggy Town, Pt. 2—Noyant-La-Gravoyère

Total time: 45:00

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Crispin Glover Records (vinyl)

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Simon Flory

Radioville

self-released

More than just an outstanding, no-frills sophomore album from a down-to-earth Texas singer/songwriter with serious backwoods cred, “Radioville” represents can-do spirit and DIY philosophy — not unlike the sustainable farming and light industry found on some communes back in the ’70s!

And speaking of the ’70s: According to the back cover, Simon Flory’s new release was recorded on a 1970s Neve console using low-wattage tube amps and vintage microphones, live to a rescued tape machine, without click tracks or post-production corrections.

And in true communal fashion, Flory’s friends helped him out: Marshall Terry (son of Eric Clapton guitarist George Terry) engineered and co-produced. The recording was done at the Shaman Shack, a former reefer truck turned NBC remote-feed truck that Terry converted into a studio parked in a warehouse on the east side of Austin.

Jody Suarez, Matt Roth and Dan Patrevito served as the core backup group (drums, bass and Wurlitzer, respectively) on the album’s five full-band tracks.

From Flory’s liner notes:

“The full band tracks were cut June of ’17 in the midst of a central Texas heat wave. We couldn’t all fit in the truck, so we ran a snake out to the back corner of the stagnant warehouse lit with a few floodlamps, but no talkback mic to the truck. We’d holler after takes, reviewing before we rewound over the track or kept it. We only had six inches of tape left over at the end.”

Among the other friends chipping in for Flory’s all-original set of tunes were roots music singer/guitarist/songwriter Charley Crockett; blues singer/guitarist Dylan Bishop; country songstress Summer Dean; Guy Clark protégé Noel McKay; and multi-stringed-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Brennen Leigh.

The songs on “Radioville” are like short stories, and that’s the point. In an interview with Voyage Dallas magazine, Flory says: “I don’t want to be a living museum piece of ‘roots’ music, I want to shed a little light on the struggle of real human lives, not caricature them. My goal is to tell stories that find a home and make an impact of positive change in someone’s life.”

Kickoff track “American Ancients,” according to Flory’s Facebook page, is “a song based on conversations with the homeless citizens of Texas.” Channeling one such citizen, he sings, “My touch is radiation on your fingertips. When you hand me spare change, I feel it.”

An inmate and his wife exchange letters in “County Fair,” a stripped-down duet with Dean. “I never meant to hurt nobody. But for $27, I will miss you always,” the convict tells her, as a mournful pedal steel provides an acoustic guitar’s sole accompaniment.

In the title song, a narrator with an intentionally exaggerated drawl sets the scene (“There’s an old bowling alley just wasting away, where I played my only 100-point game”) before launching into a progressively plaintive talking-blues dirge about being stuck in Radioville.

Perhaps the best case for listening to the album can be found in the liner notes’ foreword by Taylor W. Rushing, who did the cover art: “Introducing the world to the first proletariat, hillbilly, folk-art honest person’s concept album that transcends commodity!”

Tracks
1. American Ancients
2. Radioville
3. Hard Luck Kid
4. Station Agent
5. Appalachian Sky
6. First Gear
7. Barefoot Mule
8. County Fair
9. Just Like That
10. Soft Gravel Stone

Total time: 39:26

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Adam Carroll

I Walked in Them Shoes

Gypsy Shuffler

The “less is more” philosophy isn’t lost on singer-songwriter Adam Carroll and his new album, “I Walked in Them Shoes.”

The instrumentation alternates between solo acoustic guitar and plus-one accompaniment — supplied via overdubs by either Carroll himself (who also plays harmonica and keyboards) or by producer Lloyd Maines (who provides rhythm, slide and well-traveled pedal steel guitar).

Carroll’s twangy and inviting tenor (picture a Venn diagram showing the overlap between Michael Murphey, Jerry Jeff Walker and Mike Nesmith) could warm the coldest heart, and is a perfect fit for his friendly songs about rambling, weather, women, garages and shirts. Furthermore, the Texas troubadour spins his tales in a literary yet down-to-earth and sometimes humorous fashion, like a musical Mark Twain.

In the middle of the album are two particularly resonant tunes. The first, “Iris and the Lonesome Stranger,” relates the life of a former Las Vegas rodeo rider whose best friend is a bottle of cheap fortified wine. Having once only nearly won a golden buckle, her hangouts in the years since have morphed from Barstow nightclubs to L.A. truckstops to a Northern California bar called the Dew Drop Inn up in Grass Valley.

“The Drew Drop Inn that you remember and the one that I refer to in ‘Iris’ are one and the same,” Carroll told Good New Music by email when this reviewer (who used to live in Grass Valley) inquired. “My wife and I played there. … It has a kind of rough-and-tumble charm. … I wrote that song, with my wife’s help as a ‘scribe,’ when we were driving through your fine state last year. Chris noticed a sign by the side of the highway that said ‘Wild Iris’ somewhere, I think it was along Highway 101, and we started talking about making a song out of that highway sign. The words came to me as we drove back toward Texas. I tried to give Chris a co-writer credit, but she wouldn’t take it.”

The sad tale of “Iris” ends on a happy note when a stranger in town pulls up to the Dew Drop Inn and announces, “I got nobody, but I’ve got a lot of land.” Iris pours him some of her Irish Rose, holds his hand and then takes him by the hand.

The next track, “This Old Garage,” is sort of a sentimental piece Carroll wrote as a tribute to fellow Texas singer-songwriter Mark Jungers — but from Jungers’ point of view. Anyone who’s spent hours on end in a garage listening to music can relate, but the protagonist and the person to whom he’s speaking took it even further by writing songs and recording demos of them on a cassette recorder in their hallowed spot.

“(Mark) is kind of a jack of all trades,” Carroll shared with GNM, “and were you to visit his garage, you’d likely see his old tractor parked in there, in addition to lots of greasy engine parts and electrical stuff that I don’t have the slightest idea how to use. Mark liked to play records in there, and he and I have started and finished many a song in ‘The Garajamahal,’ as some folks have taken to calling it. … I guess you could say that I was imagining Mark giving a tour to an aspiring young songwriter, of what had gone on in his garage; as though it were a museum to his musician buddies.”

The rest of “Shoes” is full of tunes equally as creative and memorable, and Carroll meets Maines’ high bar for musicianship throughout. Pat Manske’s recording, mixing and mastering at The Zone takes the whole affair to the pinnacle of perfection.

Tracks
1. Walked In Them Shoes
2. Caroline
3. Storms
4. Crescent City Angels
5. Iris And The Lonesome Stranger
6. This Old Garage
7. Cordelia
8. My Only Good Shirt
9. The Last Word
10. Night At The Show

Total time: 32:34

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Roine Stolt’s The Flower King

Manifesto of an Alchemist

Inside Out

Relatively fresh off his amazing 2016 collaborative album with Jon Anderson (“Invention of Knowledge,” under the moniker Anderson-Stolt), Swedish prog vet Roine Stolt perhaps takes a cue from his experience of reassembling bits of unfinished Anderson songs that had accumulated over the years — this time applying it to his own odds and ends dating back 15 years or so.

With his Flower Kings outfit inactive and FK keyboardist Tomas Bodin waylaid by tinnitus, Stolt enlisted bandmates Jonas Reingold and Hasse Froberg, along with a few other musical cohorts, to form “Roine Stolt’s The Flower King” and realize his latest creation.

The cognoscenti will recall that Stolt’s 1994 solo album, “The Flower King,” is considered to be essentially the first Flower Kings album. This new group’s name, therefore, accurately signals that this is neither a Flower Kings proper nor a Stolt solo record.

Stolt has said in interviews that the recording process was relatively quick, compared with his old band’s modus operandi, and that the music benefited from this.

“A lot of the guitar work is actually my spontaneous ‘demo’ guitars and that goes for much of the synth work, too,” he says in the album’s press release. ‘I didn’t want to ‘process’ ideas too much as there is much power in the initial creation — I wanted to keep it that way.”

As always there are obvious influences from prog heroes past, as in the opening two tracks (“Rainsong” and “Lost America”) comprising a 10-minute opus, impressively calling to mind the stylings of guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin — simultaneously.

There are plenty of keyboards to enjoy on “Ze Pawns,” a jazzy guitar ballad boasting some nice synth-Rhodes-organ touches, as well as dynamic (and dynamically recorded) drumming by madman Marco Minnemann of supergroup instrumental power trio The Aristocrats.

“High Road,” clocking in at more than 12 minutes, pays tribute to not one but two classic groups: It starts out a tad “Topographic,” gives way to shades of ELP midway and then comes full circle by revisiting the initial theme — with an added tip of the hat to gone-but-not-forgotten Chris Squire via Stolt’s workout on Rickenbacker bass.

Other highlights include the three instrumentals: “Rio Grande,” a Genesis-like number in the vein of “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos” only less intense; “The Alchemist,” an instrumental bit of sax-laden funky jazz fusion that would do The Headhunters, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever proud; and “Six Thirty Wake-Up,” a dreamy affair complete with flute.

Tracks
1. Rainsong
2. Lost America
3. Ze Pawns
4. High Road
5. Rio Grande
6. Next To A Hurricane
7. The Alchemist
8. Baby Angels
9. Six Thirty Wake-Up
10. The Spell Of Money

Total time: 69:41

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