Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tunes appear on albums released yesterday (January 20). Let’s get to it!

The Heavy Hours/Days Since You’re Gone

My first pick this week are The Heavy Hours, an alternative rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio I first featured in a Best of What’s New installment last February. From their AllMusic bio: The Heavy Hours emerged at the beginning of the 2020s with an organic blend of alt-rock punch and thoughtful folk-driven storytelling. The Cincinnati band’s Wildfire EP helped them earn a label deal in advance of their 2022 debut full-length Gardens. Taking their name from a line by Irish poet William Butler Yeats, the Heavy Hours formed in 2018, though their friendship dates back to their high school years. Inspired as much by folk music as by soaring post-rock, the band’s sound is a rich amalgam of guitar-based rock led by the yearning vocals of frontman Michael Marcagi. This brings me to Days Since You’re Gone, a nice tune from the group’s self-titled sophomore album.

Katatonia/Atrium

Swedish rock band Katatonia were formed in Stockholm in 1991. Starting out as a death metal studio-only project of Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström, Katatonia have since not only become a full-fledged group with different line-ups but also embraced a more melodic form of metal and progressive rock – it’s safe to assume I wouldn’t have picked a death metal outfit! Katatonia’s ninth studio album Dead End Kings became their highest-charting to date in Sweden (no. 12) and Finland (no. 4), respectively, and also entered the charts on a broader international scale, including the U.S. (no. 138) and UK (no. 142). In addition to Renkse (lead vocals) and Nyström (guitar), the group’s current members include Roger Öjersson (guitar), Niklas Sandin (bass) and Daniel Moilanen (drums). Atrium, written by Renske, is a track from their 12th and latest studio album Sky Void of Stars. Yes, the music is on the heavier side, but pretty melodic!

The Murder Capital/Return My Head

The Murder Capital are an Irish post-punk band from Dublin, who began performing in 2015. After setting up their own label Human Season Records in 2018, they released a series of singles the following year, leading up to their debut album When I Have Fears, which came out in August 2019. Their music has been compared to several UK post- and art punk bands, including Idles, Slaves, Shame and Fontaines D.C. The Murder Capital are James McGovern (vocals), Damien Tuit (guitar), Cathal Roper (guitar), Gabriel Pascal Blake (bass) and Diarmuid Brennan (drums). Here’s Return My Head, a tune from their new sophomore album Gigi’s Recovery. Not quite sure what it is about this song that drew me in. It’s slightly weird but kind of catchy at the same time!

The Bad Ends/Mile Marker 29

Wrapping up this week’s new music post are The Bad Ends, an alternative rock band from Athens, Ga. According to their website, the group catalyzed when Mike Mantione (vocals, guitar), who gained initial prominence as frontman of popular Athens band Five Eight in the ’90s, had a chance encounter with Bill Berry (drums, guitar, electric sitar), former drummer of R.E.M. The group also features Christian Lopez (guitars, mandolin, banjo), Geoff Melkonian (keyboards, piano, guitars, vocals) and Dave Domizi (bass, vocals). Mantione and Domizi had been friends since 1991, while Melkonian produced one of Five Eight’s previous albums. The Bad Ends “quietly recorded, produced, and mastered what would become The Power and The Glory at Mike Albanese’s Espresso Machine Studio in Athens,” their great debut album that is now out. Here’s the opener Mile Marker 29 – not a bad end at all! And, yep, this band can definitely not deny their hometown!

Last but not least, following is a Spotify playlist of all the above tunes and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; The Bad Ends website; YouTube; Spotify

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Up-And-Comer Myron Elkins Shines On Debut Album

Young singer-songwriter from Michigan small town sounds like an old soul who has seen and done it all

Welcome to my second full-album review of 2023. Not only is it music by another contemporary artist, but it’s also brand new – a promising start of the year, which makes me very happy!

When I first came across Myron Elkins last Friday while doing research for my most recent Best of What’s New installment, I simply couldn’t believe I was listening to a 21-year-old artist. Based on his sound and especially his gritty vocals, you could picture this young singer-songwriter from Otsego, Mich. jam with the likes of The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top and Tom Petty back in the ’70s!

Photo: Jimmy Fontaine via Sacks & Co

Before getting to some music from Elkins’ debut album Factories, Farms & Amphetamines, released on January 13, I’d like to touch on his background story. According to his website, while being exposed to music as a kid, taught by his grandfather how to play guitar and starting to write his own songs at 14 or 15, Elkins did not set out to become a professional singer-songwriter. Instead, after high school graduation, the then-17-year-old became a welder in a local factory. Then his trajectory changed.

Three years ago, a relative signed Elkins up for a local battle of the bands competition, even though his music performance experience had been limited to the church and a few gigs at local bars. Elkins also had no band at the time, so he quickly gathered three cousins and a friend to join him. They had three weeks to rehearse. While Elkins’ band “only” came in second, the experience started to change his path.

Photo: Anna Sink

For the next three years, Elkins and his band members continued to practice nearly every day while working regular jobs. Recording in a studio was a big step forward for the nascent group, according to his website. Luckily, Elkins and his band were already fans of [producer] Dave Cobb’s live-band production style before signing with Elektra/Low Country Sound, and so they relished the chance to record with him at his studio, Nashville RCA Studio A. Cobb has worked with the likes of Chris StapletonBrandi CarlileJohn PrineSturgill SimpsonJason IsbellThe Highwomen and Rival Sons.

Time for some music. Here’s the album’s opener Sugartooth. To me, it sounds a bit like Tom Petty channeling Chuck Berry’s Memphis Tennessee. Check this out!

Since I highlighted the album’s title track in my aforementioned Best of What’s New installment, I’m skipping it here to go right to Hands To Myself. The groovy and soulful tune addresses the touchy subject of domestic use…You can hope you can pray that maybe someday/Someone will love someone will help and put you on some kind of shelf/Oh I swear ill never learn to keep my hands to myself…“I’m writing about where I come from,” Elkins explains on his website. “Things I’ve seen and things I’ve heard. I had only been out of Michigan one time—to Graceland—before I started the band, so that little part of Michigan is all I really knew when writing this album.”

Wrong Side Of The River has a country rock flavor. Elkins’ website notes the tune encourages embracing where you’re from, because a supportive home life can make all the difference even if you’re not living on the so-called right side of town.

On Nashville Money, a nice bluesy rocker, Elkins muses about life as a professional music artist…With that Nashville money/gonna take care of my hopes and dreams/With that Nashville money/Gonna make a big star out of me

Let’s take a look at one more tune: Machine, a funky rock tune with a cool bass line.

As briefly noted above, Factories, Farms & Amphetamines was recorded live in studio at the storied RCA Studio A in Nashville. In early 2016, Dave Cobb took over the historic landmark for his Low Country Sound record label imprint. Apart from Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, some of the other artists who worked there include The Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, Waylon Jennings, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, The Monkees, Dolly Parton, Leon Russell and George Strait.

In addition to Elkins (guitar, vocals), the album also features the members of his touring band: Caleb Stamphler (guitar), Avery Whitaker (guitar), Nathan Johnson (bass) and Jake Bartlett (drums). Here’s a Spotify link to the entire album:

Reflecting on working with producer Dave Cobb, Elkins states on his website: “I came in with probably 30 songs that we had widdled down from 50-60. Dave would just sit down with us and say ‘ok, let’s hear what you got.’ He knew pretty quickly which ones he wanted to dive into, and from there, it was just kind of a Dave Cobb crash course. We’d only been in the studio one time before that, so there might have been a thing or two that we needed to learn.”

Encouraged by the experience, apparently, Elkins is already looking forward to recording more music. “Now when I’m writing songs, I have all these Dave-isms in my head—like, ‘Oh, yeah, there we go. All right, throw this here.’”, he notes. “Before we recorded Factories, Farms & Amphetamines, I thought maybe you had to be a superhero to make a record. Next time, it’s going be a little easier.”

Elkins is off to a great start as a recording artist, and he’s only 21 years old. I think we can look forward to more great music from this talented young artist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Myron Elkins website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Hard to believe it’s Saturday and another week just flew by. This also means it’s time again to take a fresh look at new music releases. All featured tunes appear on albums that were released yesterday (January 13).

Margo Price/Been to the Mountain

Kicking off this new music revue is Nashville-based country singer-songwriter Margo Price. While growing up in the small town of Aledo, Ill., Price picked up the piano and sang in the church choir. She later started studying dance and theater at Northern Illinois University but decided to drop out at the age of 20 and moved to Nashville. While doing various odd jobs there, Price began developing a music career. After meeting her future husband, bassist Jeremy Ivy, they formed the group Buffalo Clover and subsequently Margo and the Pricetags. In March 2016, Price released her debut studio album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. It was very well-received by music critics, topped the UK country charts and climbed to no. 10 on the U.S. country charts. Been to the Mountain is the opener of Price’s fourth and latest studio album Strays. Written by Price, the tune first appeared as the lead single in August 2022. I dig her rock-oriented sound, not what you may typically associate with country music!

Blessing Offor/Won’t Be Long Now

Blessing Offor is a Nigerian-born singer-songwriter who blends pop, R&B, gospel and soul. From his AllMusic bio: The youngest of six siblings, Offor was born with congenital glaucoma, which caused blindness in one eye. Sent by his parents to the United States with his uncle to receive medical care, he later lost sight in his other eye after injuring his retina in an accident involving a powerful water gun. He spent his formative years in Connecticut listening to Motown, jazz, and pop and began playing piano at the age of nine. As a teenager, Offor started writing his own songs, and he honed those skills further at Belmont University in Nashville. While Music City afforded him plenty of opportunities, his soulful pop style was an outlier, so he relocated to New York City. In 2014 he appeared on season seven of The Voice…He moved back to Nashville the following year with plenty of wind in his sails…In February 2022, Offor released his debut EP Brighter Days. Now he’s out with his first full-length album My Tribe. Here’s the soulful Won’t Be Long Now, co-written by Offor, Hank Bentley and Jessie Parker-Early. This beautiful tune first appeared on December 9.

Belle and Sebastian/So in the Moment

Scottish indie pop group Belle and Sebastian started out as a project in Glasgow in 1994 by Stuart Murdoch (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Stuart David (bass). They had both enrolled in a program for unemployed musicians at Stow College where together with their music professor they recorded some demos. This resulted in the release of their first full-length album Tigermilk on the college’s label Electric Honey. The album’s positive reception led Murdoch and David to recruit additional musicians and turn Belle and Sebastian into a full-time band. In August 1996, they signed with Jeepster Records and released their sophomore album If You’re Feeling Sinister in November of the same year. Today, the group consists of Murdoch, Stevie Jackson (guitar, vocals, piano), Sarah Martin (vocals, violin, guitar, flute, keyboards, recorder, percussion), Chris Geddes (keyboards, piano, percussion), Bobby Kildea (guitar, bass), Dave McGowan (bass, keyboards, guitar) and Richard Colburn (drums, percussion). So in the Moment, credited to all members of the group, is a track from their twelfth and new album Late Developers – a pleasant pop song!

Myron Elkins/Factories, Farms & Amphetamines

My final pick for this week is Myron Elkins, a compelling 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Otsego, Mich., whose music combines elements of classic rock, country and blues. According to his web bio, Elkins started working as a welder at the age of 17 after high school graduation and never intended to become a professional musician. His trajectory changed when a relative signed him up for a local battle of the bands competition. Even though Elkins had very limited live experience and put together a group only three weeks prior to the event, they came in second. More importantly, it made him realize music is what he wanted to do. Fast-forward four years to Elkins’ debut album Factories, Farms & Amphetamines. It was produced by Dave Cobb who has worked with the likes of Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, The Highwomen and Rival Sons. Let’s check out the impressive title track. Unless you knew, you’d never guess you’re listening to a 21-year-old artist. He sounds like an “old soul” you could picture in the ’70s!

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list of the above and a few additional tunes by each featured artist.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Myron Elkins website; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to the first 2023 installment of Best of What’s New, a weekly feature looking at newly released music. For first-time visitors, my picks typically fall outside the current mainstream pop charts, where I tend to find much more music that speaks to me. All featured tunes in this post are on albums that appeared yesterday (January 6), except for the last track.

Brandon Ratcliff/Tale of Two Towns

Kicking off things is Brandon Ratcliff, a young singer-songwriter who combines country, pop and R&B. From his website: From the day he was born, and even before, he was on stages, on tour buses, and in writing rooms across America, watching his family sing the music they love as the celebrated Bluegrass band, The Cox Family. Born in Cotton Valley, LA (population 962), Brandon saw first-hand how universal the stories born in small towns are. The son of Suzanne Cox, one third of the family band, Brandon watched as his mother and her siblings won Grammy Awards telling those stories to the world…After deciding to leave Cotton Valley for Nashville, Brandon’s talents quickly attracted the music business machine in town. He was offered a publishing deal at the age of 20 but decided to turn it down to develop his sound...In 2018 Brandon was signed to Monument Records, and in 2019 burst onto the scene with his debut single, “Rules Of Breaking Up,” accumulating more than 50 million streams. This brings me to Tales of Two Towns, the title track of Ratcliff’s ambitious debut double album. He wrote the tune together with Josh Jenkins and Peter Good. I like it!

Allen Epley/Thousand Yard Stare

Allen Epley was born in Louisville, Ky. and grew up in a musical family. After playing in a college band, he co-founded Orchid in 1992, which soon became Shiner, a post-hardcore/alternative rock band. After four studio albums and their split, Epley formed indie rock band The Life and Times in 2002, who remain active to this day. Since 2012, Shiner have played reunion shows and in 2020 released another album. Apart from Epley’s continued engagements with both groups, he frequently collaborates with other bands. And he also managed to record his solo debut album Everything. Let’s check out the great-sounding Thousand Yard Stare.

Anti-Flag/Nvrevr

Anti-Flag are a punk rock band from Pittsburgh, Pa., who have been around since 1988. Their current line-up includes co-founding members Justin Sane (vocals, guitar) and Pat Thetic (drums), along with Chris Head (guitar) and Chris No. 2 (vocals, bass). Anti-Flag who are known for their extensive political activism, released their debut album Die For the Government in August 1996. Since then, 12 additional albums have come out including their latest Lies They Tell Our Children. According to AllMusic, Anti-Flag have gained a “reputation for recapturing the old-school ethics of punk: fast, loud, obnoxious, and anti-everything that ends with an “ism.”” Frankly, “fast” and “loud” don’t sound like particularly attractive musical attributes to me, but when combined with a good melody can still work. Here’s Nvrever featuring Stacey Dee, guitarist and vocalist of pop punk group Bad Cop/Bad Cop. Credited to all members of Anti-Flag, the rocker first appeared as a single last November.

Iggy Pop/Strung Out Johnny

Frankly, Iggy Pop wasn’t exactly on my radar screen, so I was surprised to see a new album by the now 75-year-old “Godfather of Punk.” That said, I know his name much better than his music. Pop, born James Newell Osterberg Jr., started his music career as a drummer in various high school bands in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the mid-’60s. In 1967, he formed the Psychedelic Stooges who became The Stooges the following year. After three albums and a short break-up in between, they split a second time in 1974. Three years later, Pop began a volatile yet ultimately successful solo career, which has yielded 19 studio albums to date. Between 2003 and 2019, Pop played with different versions of The Stooges who released two additional albums during that period. Pop’s new solo album, titled Every Loser, features guest appearances from Duff McKagan (ex Guns N’ Roses bassist), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction guitarist) and the late Taylor Hawkins (former Foo Fighters drummer), among others. Here’s Strung Out Johnny, co-written by Andrew Watt, Chad Smith, Pop and Josh Klinghoffer – cool rocker!

The Hold Steady/Sideways Skull

My final pick for this week is Sideways Skull, the great new single by New York indie rock band The Hold Steady. Formed in 2003, their current lineup includes co-founders Craig Finn (lead vocals, guitar), Tad Kubler (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Galen Polivka (bass), along with Steve Selvidge (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Franz Nicolay (piano, keyboards, accordion, harmonica, backing vocals) and Bobby Drake (drums, percussion). Wikipedia notes the band is known for their “lyrically dense storytelling”, “classic rock influences” and “narrative-based songs [that] frequently address themes, such as drug addiction, religion and redemption, and often feature recurring characters within the city of Minneapolis.” Since their 2004 debut Almost Killed Me, The Hold Steady have released seven additional studio albums. Their new single, co-written by Finn, Nicolay and Kubler, is from their upcoming ninth studio album The Price of Progress, scheduled for March 31.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list of the above and a few additional tunes by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Brandon Ratcliff website; Allen Epley website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

What I’ve Been Listening to: Dawes/Misadventures of Doomscroller

I’m thrilled my first full-fledged album review of 2023 is music by a contemporary band. While I featured Dawes and their song Ghost In The Machine in a Best of What’s New installment last July and also highlighted the great tune again in part 1 of my 2022 year-end feature, it wasn’t until this past Saturday that I finally listened to Misadventures of Doomscroller, their latest album released in July 2022, which includes this track. It was pretty much instant love – something that rarely happens to me, especially when it comes to contemporary artists!

Dawes emerged in 2009 from rock band Simon Dawes after that group’s co-songwriter Blake Mills had departed. This led them to both shorten their name to Dawes and change from a post-punk to a folk rock-oriented sound. AllMusic describes it as “influenced by the gentle acoustic style and rich vocal harmonies of the Laurel Canyon sound (Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell) as well as the shambling, romanticized Americana of the Band.” That’s a great characterization. For this album, I would add a pretty sophisticated, progressive rock-like complexity to their music.

The current line-up of Dawes features brothers Taylor Goldsmith (guitars, vocals) and Griffin Goldsmith (drums), along with Wylie Gelber (bass) and Lee Pardini (keyboards). Misadventures of Doomscroller is their eighth studio album. According to this review by Entertainment Focus, it was produced by the Los Angeles band’s longtime collaborator Jonathan Wilson, who has also worked with Angel Olsen, Benmont Tench, Jackson Browne, Margo Price and Father John Misty, among others.

Dawes (from left): Griffin Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber, Taylor Goldsmith and Lee Pardini

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being minimalists. With this record we set out on being MAXIMALISTS,” the band’s main songwriter Taylor Goldsmith told Entertainment Focus. “Still a quartet. Still not letting these songs hide behind any tricks or effects. But really letting the songs breathe and stretch and live however they want to. We decided to stop having any regard for short attention spans. Our ambitions go beyond the musical with this one.”

I’d say it’s time to take a closer look at some of the goodies. Opening the album is the impressive medley Someone Else’s Cafe/Doomscroller Tries to Relax. Like all other tracks except for one, it was penned by Taylor Goldsmith. The two tunes are connected by a middle section, creating a feel of a song suite. “The first half of this song could be about tyrants,” Goldsmith explained to Entertainment Focus. “But it could also be about anyone who thinks that a little more control is gonna make everything ok. The second half is a response to that developing reality of the first half. The world might be a scary place sometimes but, to some degree, I want to believe I can decide how I respond to it.” Check out this neat sound and cool groove – so good, all of its 10-plus minutes!

The next track I’d like to call out is Comes In Waves. In a news post on the group’s website, Goldsmith notes: I had this riff and one of the verses for a while. Griffin, Wylie and Mike Viola came over to my backyard (this was peak covid) to just play music together for one of the first times since lockdown. I started sharing the song and Griffin and Mike started singing their background parts you hear on the choruses on the record immediately. It inspired me to finish writing it. The lyric is about the arbitrary demands I make on myself. I want to perceive me or my life a certain way but I make no exceptions for an off day or a misstep. Whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s all transient, and only when I can live in some version of that awareness (which is itself transient) am I able to bat away any fears or anxieties or the consequences of an over indulged ego.

Since I already covered the excellent Ghost In The Machine twice, I’m skipping it in this review. Instead, the last tune I’d like to highlight is titled Everything Is Permanent, the only track on the album Goldsmith co-wrote, with Jimmy Joliff. Evidently quoting Goldsmith again, the above news post notes it’s a song (about how everything about us is tracked, documented, recorded, filed, mined, bought, sold, etc. etc. on some level) that is wrapped around a molten core of a breakdown/ freakout/majorminorinterweave that is probably the moment I’m most proud of on the whole record. After showing you the blood and guts, we gently sew the song back together again and end with what could be the tagline for all of social media and the screen-life-culture that we subscribe to these days to varying degrees: “Did you really need to cry? Or be seen crying?”

Misadventures of Doomscroller is an album I can highly recommend. To start with, Dawes are really fine musicians. If I would have to call out anybody in particular, I would pay close attention to drummer Griffin Goldsmith. I also love Wylie Gelber’s melodic bass playing. The other thing that stands out to me is the group’s neat harmony singing. The comparisons to CSN and The Band are not off-base!

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify link to the album. In case you don’t know it already, hope you will further check it out and dig it as much as I do!

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Entertainment Focus; Dawes website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and hope your weekend is off to a great start! It’s been a busy week on my end, which is also why this Best of What’s New installment is coming out later than usual. The first two selections are on albums released yesterday (December 9), while for the final two picks, I went back to December 2.

River Tiber/In Between

First up this week is River Tiber, the moniker of Canadian singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tommy Paxton-Beesley. Born and raised in Toronto, Paxton-Beesley also lived in Italy for a year near to the Tiber River, presumably the inspiration for this moniker. His AllMusic bio notes he is classically trained and picked up the cello at a young age before learning the drums, trombone and guitar. Prior to launching his solo career in 2013 with the debut EP The Star Falls, Paxton-Beesley wrote for hip-hop artists. Over the years, he has co-written charting songs, such as No Tellin’ by Drake, Broken Clocks by SZA, AstroThunder by Travis Scott and I Keep Calling by James Blake – frankly not the type of music that grabs me. By now you may be wondering why I decided to feature Paxton-Beesley. Well, his latest album Dreaming Eyes sounds different from the aforementioned music. By the time I got to the third track In Between, a co-write by Paxton-Beesley and Johnathan Mavrogiannis, I felt sufficiently intrigued.

Sam Ryder/Deep Blue Doubt

Sam Ryder is a British singer-songwriter who first rose to prominence with music covers he posted on TikTok in March 2020 during the first COVID lockdown period. Here’s more from his Apple Music profile: After years of playing in rock and metal bands and trying to break into the songwriting game in Nashville, Ryder took to posting cover songs to the internet during the 2020 pandemic lockdowns, and quickly caught the attention of stars like Sia and Justin Bieber. In short order, he skyrocketed to social media stardom. In 2021, he released his debut EP The Sun’s Gonna Rise, which has received over 100 million global streams. He also represented the UK at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Space Man and finished second overall. Ryder has cited David Bowie, Elton John, and Queen as his artistic influences. He’s now out with his debut album There’s Nothing But Space, Man! Ryder’s high vocals remind me a bit of Sam Smith. His music, which I guess could be characterized as contemporary power pop, is a bit of a stretch to me. Let’s listen to the album’s opener Deep Blue Doubt, credited to Ryder, Ben Kohn, James Napier, Peter Kelleher and Tom Barnes.

Sophie Jamieson/Addition

Next up is Sophie Jamieson, a British singer-songwriter based in London. Here’s more from her AllMusic bio: Jamieson started writing songs as a teen and cites Elena Tonra, Sharon Van Etten, and Scott Hutchison among her later songwriting inspirations. She started playing live while living in Cambridge and taking in the university music scene. A Ben Walker-produced EP titled Where appeared in 2013 and led to an inclusion on Folkroom Records’ Anthology Two compilation. The double A-side “Stain/Other” followed in 2014. In the meantime, a bad recording session and mental breakdown ultimately resulted in a six-year break from music. The first of a pair of self-released EPs, hammer EP, appeared in March 2020 featuring hazy electric guitar and keyboard songs, usually with a rhythm section. Arriving in December of the same year, the four-song release EP, if slightly sparer, followed suit. This brings me to Jamieson’s full-length debut album Choosing. Apparently, it was written during a period in which the artist was struggling with alcohol. Here’s the powerful opener Addition, which drew me in.

Mthunzi Mvubu/Mom vs the Bad Man

Closing out this week’s new music revue is Mthunzi Mvubu, a South African-based saxophonist, flute player and composer. While I frequently feature jazz in my Sunday Six weekly feature, I rarely include it in Best of What’s New – frankly, I really don’t know why, especially when the music is as great as Mvubu’s! From his AllMusic bio: Possessed of a reedy yet smooth, nearly mellifluous tone on the horn, his playing style draws on the North American and African jazz traditions; he also has an extensive post-bop vocabulary. Playing professionally since he was 14, Mvubu has traveled globally with jazz luminaries since he was 18. He is also a member of Londoner Shabaka Hutchings’ Shabaka & the Ancestors. Mvubu is a founding member of the Amandla Freedom Ensemble and, for a decade, has played in drummer Tumi Mogorosi’s band, appearing on 2014’s Project Elo and 2022’s Group Theory: Black Music. While I admittedly know nothing about these albums and other artists, this sounds like a pretty impressive resume to me! Now, Mvubu can add his debut as a leader to his credits: The 1st Gospel, recorded with five other jazz musicians from South Africa. Check out Mom vs the Bad Man – love this!

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above picks and a few additional tunes by each of the artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Neil Young Celebrates “Harvest” With 50th Anniversary Edition and Documentary

On February 1, 1972, Neil Young released Harvest, his fourth studio album, which is near and dear to most of his fans including yours truly. Last Friday, a long-awaited 50th-anniversary reissue came out. Back in February, on its actual anniversary date, I already wrote about the record, covering the background and popular songs, including Out On the Weekend, A Man Needs a Maid, Heart of Gold, Old Man, Alabama and The Needle and the Damage Done. I’m not going to repeat what I already wrote about. Before getting to the meat of this post, let me say upfront what perhaps is obvious when it comes to most anniversary reissues: They are predominantly made for fans and oftentimes not the ideal introduction to an artist if you are new to them. The beautiful Harvest 50th Anniversary Edition is no exception.

The anniversary edition isn’t the first reissue of this album. This poses the question of what is new about it. It comes down to an unreleased solo live performance of Young at the BBC in 1971, which features songs from Harvest obviously before the record was released. Also new is a 2-hour documentary that premiered worldwide in movie theaters on December 1, 2022, with select encores yesterday (December 4). I caught the latter at a movie theater in my area. In addition to a 2009 remastered edition of the actual album, the reissue includes three outtakes from the Harvest sessions. Everything is beautifully packaged in what appears to be a high-quality box set. This clip of Neil Young unboxing the 50th-anniversary edition gives you a good idea of what’s in the box and also provides a nice intro to the album.

Of course, the above-mentioned 1971 BBC solo concert isn’t the first such early Neil Young live set that features songs from Harvest prior to the album’s release. The one that comes to my mind first is Young’s legendary Massey Hall show captured on Live at Massey Hall 1971, which was released in March 2007 as part of his Archives Performance Series. Another great set I recall is Young Shakespeare, an archives release from March 2021, which I covered here. Given how prolific Young has been about unearthing material from his archives, there’s a good chance there are other such early solo live performances he has released. Frankly, it’s almost impossible to keep up with him!

Let’s take a look at a few clips from the live set included in the Harvest 50th Anniversary Edition. This performance feels very intimate, which is nice. I recommend listening to it with headphones. Apparently, this must have been a small venue. Here’s Journey Through the Past, a nice piano ballad that also appears separately as one of the aforementioned studio outtakes. If I see this correctly, the first released version of this tune appeared on Live at Massey Hall 1971.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down is a tune Young first recorded for his third album After the Gold Rush, which appeared in September 1970. I really dig his vocals here.

Love in Mind is another tune featuring Young on piano. He first released the ballad on Time Fades Away, a live album captured during the supporting tour for Harvest, which Young conducted with The Stray Gators, the band he used to record Harvest.

The BBC live set once again reminded me how great Neil Young is as a live artist by himself with acoustic guitar, harmonica and piano. While I also dig his “electric performances” backed by a band like Crazy Horse or The Stray Gators, oftentimes, I find his solo live performances even more compelling.

Previously, I mentioned three outtakes from the Harvest sessions. These outtakes aren’t new, but I haven’t covered them before. I’m skipping the already above-featured Journey Through the Past. Bad Fog of Loneliness is another tune Young didn’t release until 2007 as part of Live at Massey Hall 1971.

Dance Dance Dance was first recorded in 1969 by Young with Crazy Horse and intended for a county rock album that didn’t come to fruition – sounds like typical Neil to me! Instead, it ended up on the February 1971 eponymous debut album by Crazy Horse, the band’s only record to feature Danny Whitten. Notably, it did not include Young.

Let me also say a few words about the documentary Harvest Time. Filmed between January and September 1971, the film includes non-narrated footage of Young and The Stray Gators during their “barn sessions” at Young’s Broken Arrow ranch in Northern California, scenes of his work with the London Symphony Orchestra for A Man Needs a Maid and There’s a World, as well as footage from a studio in Nashville where further tracking and overdubbing was done. Overall, the film has a fly-on-the-wall feel, which is kind of fascinating. At times, it comes across as a bit disorganized. Clocking in at just over two hours, the documentary is also a bit on the long side.

I think the most compelling footage is seeing Young and The Stray Gators in action during the barn sessions, as well as the scenes at the studio in Nashville where Young is working on harmony vocals with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash for Words (Between the Lines of Age) – man, do they sound great together! Also noteworthy are scenes of Young’s then-wife (soon-to-be ex-wife) Carrie Snodgress and the caretaker of Young’s ranch – the one he sang about in Old Man. Here’s a clip from the film.

Neil Young stated the following about the documentary on this website: Many unseen performances from the era’s session appear in Harvest Time. As I watched the Nashville sessions, London symphony sessions, Harvest Barn sessions, rare never heard or seen performances, I was transported back to those days.

Jack Nitzsche, Kenny Buttrey, Ben Keith, Tim Drummond (members of The GatorsCMM), John Harris (piano on HarvestCMM), Elliot Mazer (producer – CMM), are all there with me making Harvest. It’s beautiful and a bit lonely. They are all gone now, these old friends, musicians, except for their unforgettable music and our collective memories together. So great to see all of them at their peak.

Soon after Harvest was released for the first time and Neil Young scored the biggest hit of his career, Heart of Gold, he started to become alienated by the success, feeling he had gone too far to the middle of the road, so should steer “to the ditch” instead. Eventually, this would lead to what became known as his “Ditch trilogy” of albums, Time Fades Away, On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night. While their chart performance and sales didn’t match Harvest, ironically, these records became classics nevertheless.

Looking at Young’s above words and his filmed intro to the documentary, it becomes clear that time has changed his perspective. Now, he seems to be at peace with himself about Harvest, acknowledging the great accomplishment this album represents. There are also clear sentimental feelings when he points out that the members of The Gators and producer Elliott Mazer who were instrumental in making the record have all passed away.

In Young’s intro to the documentary, he suggests he “always” likes to document things he does. With so much material he has released via his archives series over the years, there’s no doubt about it. I wonder how much additional film footage remains in Young’s archives, which hasn’t been released yet, not to speak of recordings. Time may tell!

Sources: Wikipedia; Neil Young Archives website; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday again, and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All featured tunes came out yesterday (December 2). Without further ado, let’s get to it.

NOFX/Darby Crashing Your Party

Kicking off this post are punk rock band NOFX who were founded in Los Angeles in 1983. Following numerous personnel changes in the group’s early days, their current line-up has been in place since 1991 and includes founding members Fat Mike (vocals, bass), Eric Melvin (guitar) and Erik Sandin (drums), along with El Hefe (lead guitar, trumpet). After a demo, Thalidomide Child, in 1984, NOFX released a self-titled EP in 1985. Their first full-length studio album Liberal Animation came out in 1988. This brings me to Double Album, the band’s 15th and latest album and the opener Darby Crashing Your Party. Unlike other punk I’ve heard, NOFX’s music is pretty easy on the ears. Lyrically, these guys don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.

Brendan Benson/I Missed the Plane

Next up is new music by American singer-songwriter Brendan Benson. From his AllMusic bio: A Michigan-bred singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who occupies the more rock-driven end of the power pop spectrum, Brendan Benson earned critical acclaim during the front half of the 2000s with albums like Lapalco and The Alternative to Love. Benson’s profile was significantly raised when he and fellow Michigander Jack White formed the rock & roll supergroup the Raconteurs, cracking the Top Ten in the U.K. and America with a pair of highly regarded albums in 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers and 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely. Benson remains a member of The Raconteurs and has also continued to release solo albums, including Low Key, his eighth and latest one. Let’s check out I Missed the Plane, written by Benson. I really like this!

White Lung/Mountain

I believe this is the first Best of What’s New installment featuring two punk bands. I also don’t recall having had a punk group from Canada. White Lung were formed in Vancouver in 2006. From their Apple Music profile: White Lung coalesce influence of riot grrrl, post-punk, and hardcore punk into their own dynamic, take-no-prisoners sound. They first grabbed audiences’ attention as part of the Vancouver Emergency Room art space scene of the 2000s with albums like 2010’s It’s the Evil and 2012’s Sorry. While the raw intensity of punk remains a core aesthetic, they’ve honed their approach, tackling issues of feminism, body dysmorphioa, and sexual assault – issues that drove 2014’s Deep Fantasy and 2016’s Paradise. White LungMish Barber-Way (vocals), Kenneth William (guitar) and Anne-Marie Vassiliou (drums) – are now out with Premonition, their first album in more than five years. The band’s website describes it as chaotic, bold, and hook-driven,…a whirlwind of driving drums, intricate guitar work, and no-holds-barred lyrics about motherhood, pregnancy, and growth – couldn’t have said it any better! Here’s Mountain credited to all three members of the group, as well as producer Jesse Gandner. Similar to NOFX, my pop ear is receptive to this melodic type of punk.

Adeem the Artist/Redneck, Unread Hicks

Adeem the Artist (born Adem Bingham), aka Adeem Maria, is a country singer-songwriter. The non-binary and pansexual artist began performing on cruise ships in their 20s. After moving to Knoxville, Tenn., they began to record music. In 2021, following several independent albums put out via Bandcamp, they released Cast-Iron Pansexual, an album largely funded through Patreon. Now they’re back with White Trash Revelry. Here’s Redneck, Unread Hicks, which Adeem told Apple Music they wrote to draw a more refined picture of the South. “It becomes really easy to, I don’t know, kind of view the South through a very myopic lens,” he said. Pointing to Martin Luther, Jr., a local founder of Black Lives Matters and “a lot of queer folks who have fought hard”, he added, “There’s a lot more diversity here and a lot more nuance than people want to give it credit for.” I feel stereotypes about folks from the South are quite common, even in music (think of Neil Young’s Southern Man). Adeem is to be commended for addressing this topic.

The Rolling Stones/Happy (Live)

My last pick for this week are The Rolling Stones with Happy. ‘Wait a moment,’ you may think, ‘that song is 50 years old, how can it be new?’ Well, yeah, but it’s my friggin’ blog, isn’t it? On a more serious note, yes, the Stones first included the tune on their May 1972 gem Exile on Main St. It also appeared separately as a single in July of the same year. But they also just newly released a live version as the first track of their upcoming album and concert film GRRR Live!, and that’s good enough for me. Slated for February 10, 2023, it comes less than one year after El Mocambo 1977, which appeared in May this year and was just covered by fellow blogger Jim, aka. the Music Enthusiast. GRRR Live! includes 24 tracks captured in December 2012 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. during the Stones’ 50th-anniversary tour. It features guest appearances by The Black Keys (Who Do You Love?), Gary Clark Jr. & John Mayer (Going Down), Lady Gaga (Gimme Shelter), Mick Taylor (Midnight Rambler) and Bruce Springsteen (Tumbling Dice). While I don’t know yet whether it will be as great as El Mocambo 1977, it certainly looks like fun and the version of Happy makes this Stones fan, well, pretty happy. Here’s a teaser clip about the album and film the Stones tweeted out. BTW, we’re now 10 years down the road from that gig, which means the Stones have now been together for 60 years – mind-boggling!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes!

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Apple Music; White Lung website; YouTube; Spotify

New Live Box by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Is Triumphant Celebration of Rock & Roll

Live at The Fillmore (1997) is packed with covers and original tunes captured during 20-show run at storied San Francisco venue

In 1997, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers played 20 shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Now Live at the Fillmore (1997), a long-anticipated box set that appeared on November 25, captures highlights from the band’s residency in the city by the bay. And what a truly amazing celebration of rock & roll it is!

“We’re musicians and we want to play,” Tom Petty told the San Francisco Chronicle ahead of the 20-show run, as noted in a statement on Petty’s website, which announced the box set back in September. “We’ve made so many records in the past five years, I think the best thing for us to do is just go out and play and it will lead us to our next place, wherever that may be.”

Six-LP format of the box set, which is also available in various other vinyl, CD and streaming configurations

Here’s more from the above press release: The shows at the Fillmore ended up being some of the most joyful, honest, inspirational and prolific experiences of the band’s career, creating a unique bond between the group and their fans. This album features more covers than originals, paying tribute to the artists and songs that shaped Petty’s love of music as he was growing up—before he became a legendary songwriter and performer in his own right.

Highlights include Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” J.J. Cale’s “Crazy Mama,” The Rolling Stones’ “Time is On My Side” and more from The Kinks, Everly Brothers, Bill Withers, The Byrds, Chuck Berry and Booker T. & the M.G.’s. The collection also features special performances with The Byrds’ front man Roger McGuinn and blues legend John Lee Hooker. Other standouts include extended versions of original tracks “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “It’s Good To Be King.”

The Fillmore was a laboratory for the band. The captivating sold out performances were such a hit, the Heartbreakers were even nicknamed the “Fillmore House Band.” At the final show, Petty noted as he took the stage: “We all feel this might be the highpoint of our time together as a group… It’s going to be hard to get us off this stage tonight.”

Added Mike Campbell: “Playing the Fillmore in 1997 for a month was one of my favorite experiences as a musician in my whole life. The band was on fire and we changed the set list every night. The room and the crowd was spiritual… AND… we got to play with some amazing guests. I will always remember those nights with joy and inspiration.” Here’s a nice short film about the residency.

You can find a lot more background on the residency in the liner notes here, which were written by San Francisco-based music critic and author Joel Selvin. I’m also including a Spotify link to the box set at the end of the post. Now I’d say it’s time to take a look at some of the goodies.

Kicking it off is a great cover of a tune by the man about who John Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry'”. Around and Around first appeared as the B-side to Chuck Berry’s March 1958 single Johnny B. Goode. It was also included on his third studio album Chuck Berry Is on Top, released in July 1959 – an album that in my book you could title the greatest hits of classic rock & roll.

I’ve always loved J.J. Cale’s Call Me the Breeze. Evidently, so did Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Call Me the Breeze first appeared on Cale’s debut album Naturally, which came out in October 1971. Check out this great cover. Man, this is swinging! Here’s the neat official video.

Did I mention The Rolling Stones previously? Let’s check out Time is on My Side. Written by Jerry Ragovoy under the pseudonym Norman Meade, the tune was first recorded by jazz trombonist Kai Winding and his orchestra in 1963. The Stones recorded two versions of the tune in 1964. The first, which is a looser arrangement featuring a briefer, organ-only intro, appeared as a U.S. single in September of the same year and was also included on their second American album 12 X 5, released in October 1964. The second version, a tighter arrangement with a guitar intro, was included on The Rolling Stones No. 2, their second UK album from January 1965.

After three tracks into this review, you might wonder about originals. Frankly, I could easily focus on covers only, since there are so many excellent renditions. But of course, this box set also features plenty of Tom Petty songs. Here’s a nice take of I Won’t Back Down, the lead single of his first solo album Full Moon Fever, released in April 1989.

Let’s throw in a cool instrumental – a great rendition of Green Onions, a tune by Booker T. & the M.G.’s I’ve always loved. The group served as the house band of Stax Records. Green Onions was mostly written by keyboarder Booker T. Jones when he was 17 years old. Also credited to the other three members of the MG’s, Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg (bass) and Al Jackson Jr. (drums), the tune first appeared as a single in 1962 and also became the title track of the group’s debut album that came out in October of the same year. Heartbreakers keyboarder Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell do a great job with it.

The last track I’d like to call out features a cool guest appearance by John Lee Hooker. Here’s Boogie Chillen, which Hooker wrote and first recorded in 1948. Buddy Guy has cited the tune as a key reason why he picked up the guitar and became a blues guitarist. Prompted by Hooker, this sizzling close to 8-minute version features neat harp and keyboard solos by Petty and Tench, respectively.

I easily could go on and on featuring additional tunes. Instead, I leave you with a Spotify link to the entire collection. If you dig Tom Petty and The Live Anthology, a November 2009 box set with a similar concept combining live renditions of covers and originals, I have no doubt you’re going to like Live at the Fillmore (1997).

Live at the Fillmore (1997), which appears on Warner Records, is available in 3-LP, 6-LP and 6-LP Uber Deluxe formats (exclusively via Tom Petty web store), 2 and 4-CD sets, and on major streaming platforms. The compilation was meticulously curated by producers Ryan Ulyate and Mike Campbell. Serving as executive producers were Benmont Tench, as well as Adria Petty, Annakim Petty and Dana Petty, Tom’s daughters and wife, respectively, who manage the Tom Petty estate.

Sources: Wikipedia; Tom Petty website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday! If you’re in the U.S. and celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope you had a great time. Of course, Saturday also means taking a fresh look at newly released music. Perhaps not surprisingly given the holiday, this week looked lighter, so finding four tracks that sufficiently spoke to me was more challenging than usual. The first two songs are on albums that came out yesterday (November 25), while the last two tracks appeared as singles last Friday (November 18).

Chase Ceglie/Tonight

My first pick this week is Chase Ceglie, a 26-year-old pop-oriented artist and multi-instrumentalist from Newport, Rhode Island. From his website: In his youth, Chase became involved in the RI music community. While at Rogers High School, Chase was twice awarded the Heritage Music Festival Maestro Award for distinguished individual performances. From 2007 to 2013, Chase was annually selected for Rhode Island’s All-State ensembles as a saxophonist. Performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2012 and 2013, Chase was awarded the 2013 George Wein Jazz Ambassador Scholarship. He is a 2017 graduate of Berklee College of Music where he received a B.M. in Professional Music with a focus in Composition and Saxophone Performance. Ceglie’s debut album Onion, which he performed, recorded and produced while still being a student at Berklee, appeared in 2016. He has since released three additional albums including the latest titled Chaseland. Let’s check out the opener Tonight, written by Ceglie who in addition to providing vocals played acoustic piano, electric guitar and Moog synthesizer. Acoustic guitar, bass, drums and percussion were provided by Jonathan Elyashiv. Quite a pleasant pop tune!

Elder/Endless Return

Nine out of 10 bands Apple Music tags as “metal” don’t speak to me, since to my ears their music is primarily loud and the vocals resemble screaming. As such, I was a bit skeptical when I saw that same tag for Elder. It turned out this group, which blends progressive rock with metal, is different. From their Apple Music profile: Elder formed in Massachusetts in 2005 behind singer and main songwriter Nick DiSalvo; bass player Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Cuoto completed their lineup. The trio released their self-titled debut on Meteor Records in 2008. Their second album, Dead Roots Stirring, followed two years later on Meteor Records and Headspin Productions, with the EP Spires Burn/Release arriving via Armageddon in 2012. Fast-forward 10 years to Innate Passage, Edler’s new album. In traditional prog-rock fashion all of the five tracks are long, ranging from eight and half to more than 14 minutes. Here’s the perhaps appropriately titled close to 10 minutes Endless Return. Joking aside, I think it’s actually a pretty good tune.

The Dirty Nil/Bye Bye Big Bear

The Dirty Nil are a Canadian rock band from Hamilton, Ontario, who I first featured in a Best of What’s New installment in early January 2021. They were formed in 2006 after their members Luke Bentham (vocals, guitar), Ross Miller (bass) and Kyle Fisher (drums) had started playing together in high school. The band’s debut single Fuckin’ Up Young in 2011 was followed by a series of additional singles and EPs before they released their first full-length studio album High Power in 2016. In 2017, The Dirty Nil, who blend hard rock with punk, won the Canadian Juno Award for Breakthrough Group of the Year. Following the release of their third studio album Fuck Art in January 2021, Sam Tomlinson replaced Miller on bass. Bye Bye Big Bear, co-written by Fisher and Bentham, is the group’s latest single. Their combination of grungy rock with a catchy melody is a bit reminiscent of Green Day.

Winterland/Set Me Free

Rounding out this week’s new music revue is Winterland, a Swedish rock solo project by Fredrik Nilsson. Here’s more from his Spotify profile: Reminiscing about 70’s yacht rock bands like Fleetwood Mac, he has discovered music as a therapeutic experience. [He] describes this experience. “I started writing for therapeutic purposes, and then there were a lot of songs all for a sudden. It has never been obvious that I should be on stage, be a front figure. I’ve just been keeping on really.” A music enthusiast from an early age, Frederik has played with several bands over the years, allowing him to develop a mature sound, which permeated his previous project, the band Waterhill. Here is Winterland’s latest single Set Me Free, a nice pop-rock tune credited to him and Björn Engelmann.

Following is a Spotify playlist of the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Chase Ceglie website; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify