Feels So Good
Good 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).
1. Feels So Good
2. Roll Bones
3. Hard Day Coming Down
4. Baby I’m Broken
5. Darlin’ Jane
Total time: 18:46
Posted November 19th, 2013
Tags: blues, country, rockNo Comments »
Mondo Zombie Boogaloo
Gathering 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.
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
Posted October 28th, 2013
Yep Roc’s Fleshtones page
Southern Culture on the Skids’ site
Los Straitjackets’ site
Tags: rock, rockabilly, surfNo Comments »
Sparkle and Shine
Jonny Kaplan has toiled in obscurity stateside since independently releasing his 1997 debut, “California Heart” — arguably one of the best latter-day country-rock albums to come out of Los Angeles.
He’s worked with Kings of Leon, the Wallflowers, Lucinda Williams, Keith Richards and Wilco. He plays to sell-out crowds in Europe, where his last two albums were released before they were available domestically. He was a member of the Sin City All Stars, a revolving collective of LA-based musicians that served as house band for the “Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons” concerts in 2004.
“Sparkle and Shine” is the Philadelphia-born musician and songwriter’s fourth effort and first to receive a proper U.S. release. On it, he broadens his palette with an array of sounds and styles, beginning with the full-steam-ahead, Stones-like title track. Kaplan’s voice is very much in tune, but it’s no stretch to imagine Keith Richards covering it, and Kaplan and Dan Wistrom’s slide guitars clinch the deal.
Also featuring twin slide noises is the bluesy “Annalee Meets the Scorpion,” with Kaplan and Wistrom on resonator and slide guitars, respectively, bolstered by Adam MacDougall’s (Black Crowes) B-3 organ.
“The Child Is Gone,” the album’s longest cut at eight minutes, is one of three songs featuring Chris Lawrence on pedal steel. The waltz gradually builds in intensity, finishing with two minutes of instrumental interplay between Wistrom and Lawrence, whose ethereal playing undoubtedly has Jerry Garcia smiling down from above.
Fans of electric 12-string will dig “I’ll Be Around,” which recalls the Byrds but has more of a sunshine-pop vibe than a jingle-jangle feel, thanks to Kaplan’s smooth multitracked vocals. And “Garage Cleaner” boasts some of the best Fender Rhodes this side of the Youngbloods circa “Elephant Mountain,” courtesy the Wallflowers’ Rami Jaffee, whose Fonogenic Studios served as the spawning ground for “Sparkle.”
Taking the album out on a poignant note is the lustful “Pretty Little Nose,” an acoustic-guitar-flavored tale of a man who craves forbidden fruit. Making things even more bittersweet are the violin embellishments by Jessy Greene (Wilco, the Jayhawks, Golden Smog) and Lawrence’s pedal steel.
1. Sparkle And Shine
2. Annalee Meets The Scorpion
3. Helena’s Afraid
4. When You’re Down
5. The Child Is Gone
6. I’ll Be Around
7. Sweet Magnolia Flower
8. Billings Blues
9. Garage Cleaner
11. Pretty Little Nose
Total time: 48:09
Posted October 7th, 2013
Tags: americana, blues, country, folk, rock1 Comment »
Rick Shea ranks alongside Dave Alvin and the late Chris Gaffney in the Southern California roots-rock movement, which morphed out of the Los Angeles country-rock movement in the 1980s by taking on a Southwestern folk edge. Over the years, in fact, the three have played on each other’s albums and toured together intermittently as Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men.
Tres Pescadores is a small Anaheim-based label formed to reissue Gaffney’s 1986 debut, “The Road to Indio” — which itself morphed into 1999′s “Live and Then Some” when the principals found themselves unable to add just a few bonus live tracks. The label evolved into a multiartist affair with releases by $1000 Wedding, Shea, Brantley Kearns, Patty Booker and the Missiles of October.
Shea’s sixth solo shot is mostly a mix of acoustic Southwestern folk, with a few ballads and country covers. But the best songs are those on which he breaks out the Telecaster: ”Shake It Little Sugaree,” a twangy, midtempo tale of desire; Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues,” whose slowed-down jazz shuffle is belied by Shea’s affected drawl; and the autobiographical title cut, a country-rock paean to San Bernardino, the old railroad town the singer/songwriter grew up in.
Worthy of special mention: “Time to Say Goodbye,” a melancholy number in which Shea shows off his pedal steel skills.
1. Mexicali Train
2. Mariachi Hotel
3. Gregory Ray DeFord
4. Shake It Little Sugaree
5. My Darling Lives In Darlington
6. John Shea From Kenmare
7. Honky Tonk Blues
8. Sweet Bernardine
9. Time To Say Goodbye
10. Streamline Cannonball
Total time: 43:42
Posted September 17th, 2013
Tags: country, folk, rockNo Comments »
The Big E:
A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons
Buddy Emmons backed up singers and recorded his own instrumental pedal steel guitar albums, so it’s logical for this excellent tribute — funded via Kickstarter and the production school Music Producers Institute — to contain nine vocal and nearly seven instrumental numbers (Greg Leisz’s 5½-minute take on “Wild Mountain Thyme” features a minute-long vocal passage toward the end).
The 16 tracks, 11 of which were produced by steeler Steve Fishell, are songs written or recorded by Emmons throughout his career and weave a thread from his breakthrough with Little Jimmy Dickens in 1955 at age 18 through pivotal stages he pioneered in the pedal steel’s development. All the profits from the album will be donated at the request of Emmons — who did not participate in and does not promote the project — to the Country Music Hall of Fame in the name of his late wife, Peggy. Emmons, 76, retired from playing the day Peggy passed away in December of 2007.
A few unexpected delights: two twangy instrumentals featuring Duane Eddy; a Ray Charles cover featuring sacred steeler Roosevelt Collier (the Lee Boys) and singer Chris Stapleton (SteelDrivers, Jompson Brothers); and a stripped-down, steel-less version of Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure” with just Nelson himself on vocals and acoustic guitar and longtime colleague Mickey Raphael on harmonica.
Two vocal numbers boast two steelers each: “Country Boy” (Paul Franklin and Tommy White) and the above-mentioned Charles cover “Feel So Bad” (Collier and Fishell). Other highlights among songs with singers are John Anderson’s interpretation of Ernest Tubb’s “Half a Mind”; a cover of John B. Sebastian’s “Rainbows All Over Your Blues” (which Emmons originally played on in 1970) by Albert Lee, who shared many years on the road with Emmons backing up the Everly Brothers; and Raul Malo’s typically powerful appropriation of Nelson’s “Night Life.”
Among the balance of the instrumentals, JayDee Maness shines on “This Cold War With You,” the Floyd Tillman classic originally recorded by Ray Price with Emmons in 1963; and Norm Hamlet (of Merle Haggard’s longtime backup band The Strangers) rips into Roger Miller’s “Invitation to the Blues.”
Tracks (steelers in bold)
1. Country Boy (Vince Gill featuring Paul Franklin and Tommy White)
2. That’s All It Took (Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell featuring Steve Fishell)
3. Blue Jade (Duane Eddy featuring Dan Dugmore)
4. Are You Sure (Willie Nelson)
5. This Cold War With You (JayDee Maness)
6. Half A Mind (John Anderson featuring Buck Reid)
7. Wild Mountain Thyme (Greg Leisz)
8. Rainbows All Over Your Blues (Albert Lee featuring JayDee Maness)
9. Buddy’s Boogie (Doug Jernigan)
10. Night Life (Raul Malo featuring Randle Currie)
11. Feel So Bad (Chris Stapleton featuring Roosevelt Collier and Steve Fishell)
12. Someday Soon (Joanie Keller Johnson featuring Mike Johnson)
13. Invitation To The Blues (Norm Hamlet)
14. When Your House Is Not A Home (Little Jimmy Dickens featuring Dan Dugmore and Duane Eddy)
15. Shenandoah (Gary Carter)
16. Mansion On The Hill (Duane Eddy featuring Dan Dugmore)
Total time: 56:49
Posted August 25th, 2013
Tags: countryNo Comments »