Including Miles and Miles by The Heavy Heavy in my most recent Sunday Sixfeature made me listen to Life and Life Only, the June 2022 EP, on which the tune by the UK band initially appeared. After starting to check it out, I quickly realized their retro-inspired rock sound is right up my alley.
Led by Will Turner and Georgie Fuller, the five-piece group from the seaside resort town of Brighton in Southern England create what their Bandcamppage describes as “unfettered rock-and-roll that warps time and space, sitting at the reverb-drenched collision of psychedelia and blues, acid rock and sunshine pop.” Their website name-checks Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, British Invasion pop acts like The Hollies and folk-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. I would add The Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane.
I noticed there’s another recent release by The Heavy Heavy, which is also titled Life and Life Only. This album, which came out in March, combines the songs of the EP with four additional tracks, including covers of tunes by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Father John Misty and Jonathan Wilson, as well as a live and an acoustic version of two original songs.
Apparently, The Heavy Heavy are pretty prolific. Their website refers to “hundreds of songs” they have written and recorded in just the past two years. They have also toured “relentlessly” in the United States and Europe and appeared on U.S. national television, including CBS Saturday Morning, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That certainly ain’t no joke!
Let’s get to some music from the album version of Life and Life Only. Here’s the cool opener All My Dreams. The gorgeous multipart harmony vocals and the retro organ sound are a total turn-on. Immediately, it feels like traveling back to the late ’60s!
Go Down River is the first track Fuller and Turner recorded as The Heavy Heavy. “I’d had this song a while and couldn’t quite finish it, but then once Georgie added her vocals it all came together,” Turner recalls on their website. “The male-female harmonies gave it this whole new sound; it just felt like lying in the green grass on a hot sunny day.” Another outstanding tune!
Man of the Hills is “a groove-heavy homage to Turner’s otherworldly hometown” of Malvern, notes the group’s website. While I’m not familiar with the spa town in the English countryside of Worcestershire, I know this: This song certainly rocks!
Since I just covered Miles and Miles I’m skipping it here and go the catchy Why Don’t You Call, which features more seductive harmony singing.
Frankly, I could highlight any of the album’s remaining tunes. I’d like to leave you with one more track, which is one of the aforementioned covers: Real Love Baby, written by Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty, who recorded and released it first as a non-album single in 2016.
Life and Life Only is beautiful with a seductive late ’60s flower power vibe. It’s perfectly timed for summer. Here’s a Spotify link to the album.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Heavy Heavy website; The Heavy Heavy Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
Lately, I’ve been finding lots of great new music. But despite spending more time than ever on this task I still miss many releases. That’s why several weeks ago, I decided to launch a feature to capture some of what I overlooked as short takes. Initially titled The Follow-up, going forward it will be known as Catching Up, a more appropriate title, in my view. Today, I’d like to highlight two albums that dropped on May 19.
Luke Enyeart – Phases
Luke Enyeart (pronounced N-Yurt) is a guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer who is based in Minneapolis, Minn. I first came across his name in April 2020 as one of the co-writers of Waiting On…, a song by R&B artist Jessy Wilson from her May 2019 album Phase, which I reviewed here. In addition to writing for other artists and touring as a lead guitarist with the likes of Ryan Bingham, Katie Pruitt and Yola, Enyeart has been penning his own tunes and in 2018 released his debut EP Happier Now. Now he’s out with his first album, Phases.
Enyeart’s Spotifyprofile characterizes his original music as “drawing from his influences of ’70s yacht rock, funk, folk, R&B, blues, and contemporary low-fi indie. ” While that’s quite a stew of different genres, the profile adds, “there is a common denominator of soulful groove and catchy guitar riffs with straightforward-earnest lyrics.”
Except for the funky opener Still Tryin’, which Enyeart co-wrote with Jacob Peter and Kosta Galanopoulos, the remaining eight tracks are solely credited to him. One of the tunes that particularly spoke to me is Turn It Around. In addition to vocals by Enyeart, who also plays most of the instruments, the mellow song features nice alto saxophone action by Steve Frieder.
Other tracks I’d like to call out include Changes and Pillow Talk and the groovy Need, which each feature neat slide guitar, as well as the acoustic-oriented jazzy Green. Overall, this album has a pleasant laid-back feel – the kind of music I can picture hearing while laying in a hammock in the shade on a hot summer day. Phases was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Enyeart in his own home studio. This young artist is a true multi-talent!
The Milk Carton Kids – I Only See the Moon
The Milk Carton Kids are an indie folk duo from Eagle Rock, Calif., featuring singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who have been around for 12 years. Their compelling harmony singing reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers. Pattengale and Ryan are also mighty fine acoustic guitarists.
Before getting to their sixth and latest studio album I Only See the Moon, here’s a bit more background from their AllMusicbio: A Grammy Award-nominated neo-traditional folk duo from Los Angeles, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan formed the Milk Carton Kids in early 2011, shelving their solo careers in favor of a collaborative project that focused on harmonized vocals, entwined acoustic guitars, and rootsy songwriting. They released their first two albums — the live Retrospect and studio LP Prologue — later in 2011, at which time they also began a pattern of persistent touring.
Known on the road for their adversarial, Smothers Brothers-evoking comedic banter as well as their virtuosic guitar skills (Pattengale’s intricate picking and Ryan’s airtight rhythm guitar), they added a backing band to the project for the first time in 2018 with their fourth studio album, All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do. The duo pared things down for subsequent releases including 2023’s I Only See the Moon.
Off I Only See the Moon, here’s Body & Soul. Like all except one of the other nine tracks, the song was solely written by Pattengale and Ryan. It’s the most invigorated tune on the album, which otherwise has a more melancholic feel. As such, one could argue the song doesn’t represent the album; however, it’s the song I latched on the most!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and, if you’re living in the U.S., Happy Memorial Day weekend, and hopefully a three-day stretch off work. It’s that time of the week again when I take a fresh look at newly released music. All featured tracks are on albums that dropped yesterday (May 26), except for the final pick (May 25).
Les Lullies/Mauvaise Foi
When I came across new music by French rock band Les Lullies, I was quite excited, since this may be my first time featuring a French language song. Then I thought their name somehow sounded familiar. Surely enough, fellow blogger Angie Moon from The Diversity of Classic Rock recently featured a Q&A with the group from Montpellier, who have been around since 2016. Their Bandcamppage notes those four cheese eating attack monkeys are here to kick your ass. Raw, simple, straight rock’n’roll music. How about some proof? Here’s Mauvaise Foi (bad faith), the title track of their second and latest album. There’s a nice punk rawness in their tunes.
AJJ/Candles of Love
AJJ are a folk punk band from Phoenix, AZ, formed in 2004 as Andrew Jackson Jihad by Sean Bonnette (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ben Gallaty (bass, backing vocals) who remain their core members. Since their 2005 debut Candy Cigarettes & Cap Guns, AJJ, among others, have released seven additional studio albums including their latest Disposable Everything. Here’s the mellow-sounding Candles of Love, credited to all five members of the band and producer David Jerkovich
Joe Perry/Fortunate One (feat. Chris Robinson)
My next pick comes from the seventh studio album by Joe Perry, who of course is best known as a co-founder and the lead guitarist of longtime Boston rockers Aerosmith. Sweetzerland Manifesto MKII combines different versions of four tracks that first appeared on Perry’s previous solo effort Sweetzerland Manifesto with six all-new tracks, notedUltimate Classic Rock. Among the latter is the great opener Fortunate One featuring Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes on lead vocals and Stone Temple Pilots’ bassist Robert DeLeo. The Black Crowes will join Aerosmith on what is billed as the Boston band’s Peace Out farewell tour that kicks off in September.
Radiator Hospital/Sweet Punisher
Wrapping up this week’s new music review are Radiator Hospital, a Philly-based group around power pop and pop punk-oriented songwriter Sam Cook-Parrott (vocals, guitar). According to their AllMusicbio, Cook-Parrott started Radiator Hospital after his graduation from high school. To date, seven Radiator Hospital albums in different formats have been issued. From their latest, Can’t Make Any Promise, which came out on May 25, here’s Sweet Punisher, penned by Cook-Parrott.
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist featuring the above and a few additional tracks.
First new album in seven years tackles life, love and politics
Let me get to the point right away. Graham Nash sounds absolutely amazing on Now, his seventh solo album and first in seven years, which came out last Friday (May 19). Prior to Now, sadly, I only knew Nash as a brilliant member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, sometimes enhanced by Neil Young, as well The Hollies. Unlike Young and to some extent Crosby, I didn’t follow Nash’s solo career, which he launched in 1971. That will change now – no pun intended!
“I find myself in between totally in love and totally pissed off,” Nash toldBillboard in what could be called a perfect summary of the album. The feelings of love refer to artist and photographer Amy Grantham who Nash married in April 2019 after leaving his second wife, American voice actress Susan Sennett in 2016. The “pissed” aspect reflects Nash’s activist side, which is still burning in his belly, 50-plus years after he wrote Chicago to support the so-called “Chicago Eight” who were charged with conspiracy over anti-Vietnam War protests disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the windy city.
Let’s take a closer look at Nash’s new set of songs. He kicks it off with what essentially is the album’s title track Right Now. The nice mid-tempo rocker also became the lead single on February 21. In a press release record label BMG issed at the time, Nash said, “I believe that my new album Now is the most personal one I have ever made.” I particularly love the guitar action by Shane Fontayne and Thad DeBrock, as well as the work by Todd Caldwell, Nash’s longtime keyboardist who also produced the album.
On A Better Life, Nash asks parents to leave a better life for their children. The inter-generational message is somewhat reminiscent of Teach Your Children, a song Nash wrote in 1968 while still being a member of The Hollies. It first appeared in March 1970 on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’sDéjà Vu album. Nash’s vocals sound sweet, especially when he harmonizes with himself!
On the country-flavored Stars & Stripes, a tune with a CSN vibe and beautiful pedal steel work by DeBrock, Nash muses about the seemingly never-ending conflict and division among people. At the same time, he’s not entirely pessimistic. “Thank God that I do live in America – a very beautiful country with many faults, and so much more going for it.” Nash toldVariety. “I know that here that I have the right to speak my mind, even if people don’t agree with me.” Let’s hope that will always continue to be the case!
Stand Up, a second single that appeared ahead of the album, is another tune revealing Nash’s activist side by asking people to play an active role in society, not sit on the sidelines: Stand up for what you believe/Stand up for those you love/Stand up for what you want/Stand up for what you need/stand up, take a stand/ lend a hand, if you can.
Buddy’s Back is a beautiful tribute to the amazing Buddy Holly. Appropriately, the tune features vocals by Allan Clarke, who together with Nash co-founded a duo in the late 1950s, which in 1962 evolved into The Deltas, a band that in December of the same year renamed themselves as The Hollies. The name reflected their admiration for Hollie. Obviously, the tune’s Buddy Holly vibe isn’t a coincidence. Man, I love this!
The last track I’d like to call out is I Watched It All Come Down. According to Billboard, the album’s oldest track addresses Nash’s “occasionally turbulent relationships with Crosby, Stills and Young.” Nash explained, “Basically, it’s about my delight with the music that we made all these years and dissatisfaction because we could’ve done more.” The pretty string quintet arranged by Cladwell gives the tune a chamber pop feel.
“I just want people to know you can still rock at 81,” Nash said to Billboard. “I’m 81 now, for f–k’s sake! Holy sh-t! And I’m very happy in my life. I’ve been around a long time, as you know. I’ve made some fine music in my life, with my fantastic musical partners. And I feel there’s still more of it coming.” Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
And, btw, Nash doesn’t keep it to new music only. Since mid-April, he has been on the road for the Sixty Years of Songs & Stories Tour. I completely missed it, including the recent opportunity to see him in New York City where he played City Winery for three consecutive nights! Upcoming dates in June include gigs in California, Arizona and Colorado. The current schedule is here.
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Evidently, yesterday (May 19) was a popular day for new music releases. I also found more than 10 songs I could have highlighted in this latest installment of my weekly new music revue, to which I’d like to welcome you. Let’s get to it!
Kicking things off is country singer-songwriter Brandy Clark. To date, she has released three albums starting with her 2013 debut 12 Stories. Her songs have also been recorded by Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry, Reba McEntire and Kacey Musgraves, among others. Off her latest self-titled album here’s Ain’t Enough Rocks, co-written by Clack, Jessie Jo Dillon and Jimmy Robbins – a great tune featuring cool slide guitar action by the amazing Derek Trucks!
Leftover Salmon/Fire and Brimstone (feat. Oliver Wood)
Leftover Salmon are a bluegrass and country-oriented jam band from Boulder, Colo. Since their formation in 1989, they have released eight studio albums, including their new one, Grass Roots. Here’s their cover of Fire and Brimstone, a tune penned by guitarist Link Wray who also first recorded it for his 1971 self-titled studio album. In 1958, Wray’s instrumental Rumble became one of the earliest songs in rock to utilize distortion and tremolo. Leftover Salmon’s rendition features Oliver Wood, of roots band The Wood Brothers. I can hear some Leon Russell in here!
GracieHorse/If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt
Other than she’s an indie artist who evidently has written for at least a decade and who just released a country-flavored debut album, it’s not clear to me who exactly GracieHorse is. From her Bandcamppage: Gracie Horse weaves stories into her songs. On L.A. Shit, her debut record with Wharf Cat, she takes us into the past half a decade of her life…It’s a record of immaculate country music…It’s also a vulnerable record, full of lyrics about the intensity of being alive, all told with a sense of humor and self-awareness. Here’s a cool-sounding tune with an impossibly long title: If You’re Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It’s Only Gonna Hurt.
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives/Sitting Alone
American country and bluegrass singer Marty Stuart has been active since the late 1960s. Initially working as a touring musician with Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, Stuart launched his recording career in 1978 with Marty (With A Little Help From My Friends). He has since released 18 additional albums, including his latest, Altitude, appearing as Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. Let’s check out Sitting Alone, penned by Stuart, which has a bit of a Tom Petty vibe – love it!
PONY are a grungy power pop group from Toronto, Canada, led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Sam Bielanski. According to their AllMusicbio, their melodic strain of guitar pop is rooted in early-’90s grunge and classic indie pop. After a series of singles and EPs, they released their full-length debut album TV Baby in April 2021. PONY are now out with their sophomore album Velveteen and here’s the catchy Très Jolie.
Graham Nash/Golden Idols
My last pick for this week is by an artist I trust needs no introduction. Graham Nash who in February turned 81 just released Now, his first new solo album in seven years. It’s also the most personal he has ever made, according to a couple of reviews I’ve seen, for example, this one in Ultimate Classic Rock. Boy, does he sound great, both vocally and musically! And he also has a lot to say, about life, love and politics. I think these won’t be my final words about what looks like a late-career gem. For now, here’s Golden Idols, showing Nash still has some activist fire in the belly!
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tracks.
The name Bruce Cockburn first entered my radar screen a few years ago when my longtime music buddy from Germany mentioned the Canadian singer-songwriter. He did so again when I saw him last in December, recommending that I check him out. Subsequently, I started some listening and featured one of Cockburn’s tunes in a Sunday Sixinstallment in January. But I’m still at the very beginning of exploring this artist, which makes a review of his new album O Sun O Moon, out May 12, a bit tricky. But after having listened to the 12 tracks a few times, I’m confident to say that would this be Cockburn’s debut album, I sure as heck would already look forward to his sophomore release!
O Sun O Moon is Cockburn’s 35th album and, according to this Glide Magazinereview, “his first vocal album since 2017’s Bone on Bone.” At 77 years and soon to turn 78 on May 27, Cockburn sounds in amazing shape to me, both as a guitarist and as a vocalist. Sometimes, he reminds me a tiny bit of fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago at the age of 84. Unlike Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn has pretty much been absent from U.S. charts since he started his recording career in 1970. That seems to be a real shame!
Before getting to some music, I’d like to provide a bit of additional background on Cockburn. I’m doing this by borrowing from his bio written by AllMusic. Most of the time, I feel they do an outstanding job I couldn’t beat. One of Canada’s greatest singer/songwriters, Bruce Cockburn has won international acclaim for his insightful songs of emotional honesty and social significance in a career that’s lasted well over five decades. While usually lumped in with the contemporary folk and singer/songwriter communities, Cockburn’s sound encompassed elements of blues and world music on early efforts like 1971’s High Winds White Sky and 1973’s Night Vision, and the gentle blend of folk and jazz on Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws won him his first significant audience outside his homeland.
Cockburn’s progressive politics came to the fore on 1984’s Stealing Fire with songs like “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” as well as a stronger rock influence, and these themes would become a major part of his work, extending to 2003’s You’ve Never Seen Everything and 2011’s Small Source of Comfort. Cockburn is also celebrated for his skill as a guitarist, and he’s matured into an éminence grise of Canadian music. 2023’s O Sun O Moon shows that he hasn’t stopped writing graceful, challenging songs of the heart, the soul, and the conscience.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the new album’s tracks. And where better to begin than with the opener On a Roll. The tune has a nice bluesy vibe and features The McCrary Sisters, Ann McCrary and Regina McCrary (of American gospel quartet The McCrary Sisters) on backing vocals. I love the resonator guitar sound! “The adventure continues,” Cockburn said in an interview with Innerviews posted on his website. “I don’t take any of it for granted. I do think that it’s going to hit the wall at some point. The hands are going to stop working or something else will happen, but for now, I’m able to keep doing this stuff.”
On Orders, Cockburn reflects on how religion keeps getting hijacked to serve political agendas. “I do hope that people will be encouraged by “Orders” and what it has to say,” Cockburn stated during the above interview. “It’s one thing to sit there and say, “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to love thy neighbor,” but Christians have been failing to live up to that for 2,000 years. And there’s no reason to think we won’t keep on failing at that. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded every now and then, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”
To Keep the World We Know is another socially-conscious song. In this tune, Cockburn sings about environmental degradation, referencing more recent wildfires in California where he lives near San Francisco, as well as other countries like France, Greece, Spain and Australia. “The actual song came about because Susan Aglukark (a fellow Canadian singer-songwriter – CMM) called up and wanted to write a song together, and I thought it seemed like a good idea,” Cockburn explained. “We had a good time working together on it. The title was mine, but the idea of the world being in flames was hers. We’re seeing all this drought and wildfires all around the world, and it just seemed like something worth writing about.”
In addition to being a socially-conscious songwriter, Bruce Cockburn is also known as a talented guitarist. He gives us a nice flavor of his skills on the beautiful instrumental Haiku. “I’ve always felt like there was a sense of space that went with instrumental music that doesn’t typically happen with songs with lyrics,” Cockburn told Innerviews. “If I listen to Bob Dylan, I’m thinking about what he’s saying, as well as savoring the music and whoever’s playing on the record. But if I listen to Japanese flute music or Bach, I’m not doing that. Rather, I’m allowing myself to be transported to wherever that music takes me.”
The final track I’d like to highlight is O Sun by Day O Moon by Night, in which Cockburn reflects on death but does so in a peaceful way. “I think the manner of going is the part that scares us and the part that is too often tragic, and sometimes horribly inflicted on us,” Cockburn mused. “But the result of the departure I think can be approached with joy, or at least with kind of joyful anticipation. Not that I’m in a hurry or anything, but I think since it’s inevitable, death is as much a part of life as birth.”
Before wrapping up this review, a few words are in order about the other musicians on the album. First, there’s Cockburn’s longtime collaborator Colin Linden (guitar) who also produced O Sun O Moon. Other musicians include Janice Powers (keyboards), who is also Linden’s wife; Jeff Taylor (accordion); Jenny Scheinman (violin); multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke; Viktor Krauss (bass); as well as Gary Craig and Chris Brown (both drums). In addition to Colvin and Ann and Regina McCrary, guests include Buddy Miller, Allison Russell and Sarah Jarosz.
Here’s Spotify link to the album:
With O Sun O Moon, Bruce Cockburn has delivered an impressive album, which not only demonstrates top-notch musicianship and great vitality but also a singer-songwriter who after more than 50 years still has a lot to say. If you like what you’ve heard and want to experience Cockburn live, he’s scheduled to embark on an extended North American and UK tour. It kicks off on June 1st in Plymouth, N.H. and wraps up on December 2nd in Berkeley, Calif. The current schedule is here.
Sources: Wikipedia; Glide Magazine; Innerviews; Bruce Cockburn website; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
It’s Saturday, which means time to take a fresh look at new music releases. This week, I decided to highlight five new tunes. The first four are included on albums, while the final pick is a single. All tracks came out yesterday (May 12).
Alfie Firmin/Lost On Me
Starting us off today is Alfie Firmin, a British singer-songwriter based in Southend-on-Sea, a coastal town about 40 miles east of London. Firmin just released his latest album Absentee. From his Bandcamppage: Containing 10 new original songs, ‘Absentee’ is Alfie’s 4th full-length album since 2018 (three as a solo artist and a fantastic album he did as part of the band Vestiges in 2018) and follows on from and expands upon the laid-back folk-rock sound hinted at on Alfie’s 2020 release ‘Waiting On’ (Self Released).‘Absentee’ is Alfie’s most accomplished album to date. From the McCartney-esque piano balladry of ‘Lost on Me’ to the horn-laden folk-rock of ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ alongside the Laurel Canyon country-shuffle of ‘December Third’ it is an album that is well-versed in the traditions of classic singer-songwriter pop filtered through the lens of Alfie’s distinctive croon. In my book, Firmin’s music is nice power pop. Here’s the above-noted Lost On Me, which indeed has a Macca vibe. I also can hear a dose of Gilbert O’Sullivan in here – lovely tune!
Bailey Zimmerman is a country-oriented singer-songwriter who already scores two multi-Plantinum no. 1 singles in the U.S. on Billboard’sCountry Airplay chart since he emerged 2.5 years ago. Zimmerman, who was born in Louisville, Ill. and worked in the meat-packing industry and for a union gas pipeline before launching his current career, first started posting original music to his TikTok account in December 2020. In January 2021, he released his debut single Never Comin’ Home, followed by Fall in Love the next month, which became one of the above-mentioned no. 1 singles on the Country Airplay chart. He’s now out with his first full-length album Religiously. The Album. Here’s the opener and title track, which appeared as one of several singles. The tune was co-written by Zimmerman, Alex Palmer, Austin Shawn, Frank Romano and Marty James. This young artist certainly if off to an impressive start!
Parker Millsap/Wilderness Within You (feat. Gillian Welch)
Parker Millsap is an American singer-songwriter from Purcell, OK I first included in a Best of What’s Newinstallment two years ago. According to his AllMusicbio, Millsap brings a maverick intensity to his brand of Americana. Ranging from the spare acoustic tone of his early-2010s output to the more nuanced structure of 2018’s rock-driven Other Arrangements, the singer and songwriter continued to hone the layers of his sound heading into the next decade. His fifth album, 2021’s Be Here Instead, was recorded live in the studio with a full band, and he fused acoustic and electronic instruments for 2023’s Wilderness Within You. Here’s the title track of his sixth and latest album, co-written by Millsap and Ryan McFadden. It features Americana artist Gillian Welch on harmony vocals – beautiful!
Nighthawk are a fairly new rock band from Copenhagen, Denmark, blending classic arena rock and hard rock. From their Bandcamppage: Nighthawk started out as a solo project by Robert Majd (bass player in Metalite & Captain Black Beard). The idea was just to have some fun, play guitar and write some energetic rock’n’roll. The debut album featured a bunch of different singers. After that first album release in the summer of 2021 Robert got an itch to do more. This time the stakes would be higher. With the world famous Abbey Road Studios booked, a band and a collection of songs needed to match the caliber of the studio. Björn Strid (The Night Flight Orchestra, Soilwork & Donna Cannone) joined on lead vocals, Magnus Ulfstedt (Ginevra) on drums, John Lönnmyr (The Night Flight Orchestra) on keyboards and Christan Ek (Captain Black Beard) on bass. Nine original tunes together with two covers (of Kiss and Bruce Springsteen classics!) were recorded live in the studio in just two days. Here’s Highest Score, the opener of Nighthawk’s new album Prowler. Their melodic hard rock sounds pretty accessible.
John Mellencamp/The Eyes of Portland
The Eyes of Portland is the second lead single from John Mellencamp’s upcoming 25th studio album Orpheus Descending, scheduled for June 25. Fans who caught the heartland-turned-roots rocker on his current tour already heard the tune, since Mellencamp has included it in his setlist. This follows the first single Hey God, which came out on April 20 and which I covered here. Like that tune, The Eyes of Portland is an outspoken socially conscious song. It’s classic Mellencamp delivered in his distinct vocals roughened by decades of cigarette chain-smoking. I love the man and I’m really looking forward to the album!
So how about a Spotify playlist of the above and a few extra goodies? Ask and you shall receive!
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and welcome to the latest installment of my weekly new music revue. The first two picks are on albums that came out yesterday (May 5), while the two final tracks are from April 28 releases.
The Lemon Twigs/Every Day Is the Worst Day of My Life
Kicking things off are The Lemon Twigs, who I first featured in an August 2020 Best of What’s Newinstallment. They were formed by brothers and multi-instrumentalists Brian D’Addario and Michael D’Addario in 2014 when they were still high school students on Long Island, N.Y. The brothers come from an artistic family. Their father is power pop songwriter Ronnie D’Addario, who also plays various instruments. Their mother Susan Hall pursued acting and entertainment in her younger years before becoming a neuropsychologist. At first, Brian and Michael stepped into their mothers feet with a series of theater, entertainment and TV productions before founding The Lemon Twigs. Their first release was a cassette, What We Know, issued as a limited edition in 2015, followed by their debut studio album Do Hollywood from October 2016. It’s hard to put The Lemon Twigs in one genre. Their music has included classic rock, glam rock and pop. One common denominator is a cool retro sound with elements of ’60s and ’70s. Their fourth and latest album Everything Harmony has a strong power pop vibe. Here’s Corner of My Eye, which first appeared in January as the lead single. Their Bandcamppage describes the tune, which was co-written by the two brothers, as channeling an Art Garfunkel-like vocal melody over a moody, vibraphone-tinged backing track suggesting the chamber pop of Brian Wilson. This is just gorgeous!
Olivia Jean/Raving Ghost
Olivia Jean initially became known as the lead vocalist and guitarist of all-female garage goth rock band The Black Belles who came together in Nashville, Tenn. in 2009. The catalyst was Jack White, formerly one-half of The White Stripes, who is also a producer. After White had listened to a demo of solo recordings by Jean, he introduced her to Ruby Rogers (bass), and Shelby Lynn (drums, percussion). The three ladies went into the studio to record some original songs, were encouraged by their chemistry and became The Black Belles. White produced their eponymous debut album, which was released in 2011. It turned out to be their only full-length release. After touring with moderate success, the band went on hiatus the following year. This prompted Jean to launch a solo career. Since her 2014 debut Bathtub Love Killings, she has released two additional albums under her name, including her latest, Raving Ghost. All of her three solo albums have appeared on White’s label Third Man Records. Here’s the title track of Jean’s new album.
John Andrews & The Yawns/Checks In the Mail
John Andrews & The Yawns is a music project by multi-instrumentalist and indie pop artist John Andrews. According to his AllMusicbio, The Yawns were a fictional backing band at first, as Andrews played all the instruments on his debut. He did employ accompanists for his later albums, but his low-key and lo-fi pop vision changed very little once he had a band, with his murmured vocals and subtle, melodic keyboard work still his stylistic hallmarks. 2015’s Bit by the Fang and 2017’s Bad Posture were tuneful exercises in dreamlike indie pop, while 2021’s Cookbook and 2023’s Love for the Underdog tightened the focus on his ’70s California soft rock influences. While pursuing his solo endeavors, Andrews has also played drums in psychedelic indie rock band Quilt and keyboards for folk-rock band Woods. Off his latest album with The Yawns, here’s the pleasant opener Checks In the Mail, which first appeared on February 6 as the lead single.
Alex Caswell/The Kaleidoscopic Lighthouse
My final pick for this week is neo-psychedelic songwriter and Alex Caswell. This talented multi-instrumentalist and studio artist entered my radar screen earlier this week, thanks to fellow blogger Angie Moon who featured an interview with him on her great blog The Diversity of Classic Rock. From his web bio: Alex Caswell is a 30 year old Neo-Psychedelic songwriter from Asheville, NC. Caswell was born and raised in Raleigh, but moved to Asheville in 2016. It is in Asheville that he began studying record producing and record engineering, with the goal of developing these skills to make his own records. He has studied jazz and music theory, as evidenced by the musical flexibility featured on his debut album…He cites Cannonball Adderley and Pat Martino as being influential on his lead guitar playing, which is another fluent skill of his. However, he is quick to point out the influence of classical composers on his songwriting, like Tchaikovsky and Bach, to name a few examples.He wrote all the songs on Visualize [his new debut album – CMM]. He plays all the instruments on Visualize, with the exception of drums. He sang all the songs, including each and every harmony part. He recorded, mixed, and mastered every track on Visualize. Caswell even created the artwork for his debut record. In his above interview with Angie, he noted Pink Floyd and The Beatles among his influences. Since I generally dig psychedelic rock, I didn’t waste much time checking out the entire album, and I think it’s great. I agree with Angie that headphones will give you the best listening experience. Here’s a sample: The Kaleidoscopic Lighthouse.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of the above and a few additional tunes by each of the featured artists:
Sources: Wikipedia; The Lemon Twigs Bandcamp page; AllMusic; Alex Caswell website; The Diversity of Classic Rock blog; YouTube; Spotify
Rose City Band release country psychedelic rock album Garden Party
On paper, Rose City Band are only four years old, yet the sound of their new album Garden Party, released April 21, feels more like the late ’60s. On their Bandcamppage, they call it country psychedelic rock [that] evokes the wide-open spaces of the American west and free spirits who call it home. They also acknowledge the Grateful Dead, which I find reassuring since the cosmic jam rockers literally came to my mind first when I started listening to Garden Party, however, I’m by no means a Dead expert!
Rose City Band essentially are a music project by songwriter and guitarist Ripley Johnson. He’s a member of experimental psychedelic rock band Wooden Shjips who have released a steady stream of singles, EPs and albums since their inception in 2006. In 2009, Johnson also founded Moon Duo, a psychedelic rock outfit with Sanae Yamada, and they also have been busy releasing plenty of music since 2010.
According to an AllMusicbio, Rose City Band’s 2019 eponymous debut album was produced by Johnson who also sang and played most of the instruments. The project has since extended beyond the studio and evolved into a band that performs live. Apart from Johnson, the touring line-up includes Barry Walker (pedal steel guitar), Paul Hasenberg (keyboards), Dewey Mahood, aka Plankton Wat (bass) and Dustin Dybvig (drums), which their Bandcamp page calls “some of the finest players in contemporary rock” – a characterization I have no reason to doubt.
Garden Party, Rose City Band’s fourth album, in their own words, is a celebration of summer and all it brings: communal gatherings, the respites offered by nature, and an appreciation for even the simplest beauty, from 12-foot sunflowers to a contorted carrot planted in the spring. From the soaring guitar solos, to the driving rhythms, the elegant pedal steel lines to the organ grooves, Garden Party has a live band’s energy captured in exquisite detail.
I’d say let’s take a closer look at some of the tracks. Chasing Rainbows is the beautiful opener that nicely sets the mood for this laid-back album. Walker’s pedal steel and the great interplay with Johnson’s guitar make for a neat listening experience!
Borrowing from the band’s Bandcamp page, “Slow Burn” drives Johnson’s signature cosmic sound into the roots of the earth, twisting more grounded phrases and homespun bends around the rollicking rhythm section. Walker’s range as a pedal steel player is on full display throughout with classic licks dancing in tandem with Johnson’s voice. Short translation: Another great tune! It also has a trippy official video.
Perhaps the standout on the album is its centerpiece Porch Boogie. It was written with the live ensemble in mind while Johnson was out on one of his regular walks, with only rhythmic ideas setting the pace for an extended groove that the group could stretch and relax into. At nearly 7 minutes, I think the track would have made the Dead happy. Plus, who’s to say it couldn’t be stretched to 14 or 21 minutes when played live? 🙂
Let’s do one more, the beautiful Mariposa, a jam tune that starts slowly before picking up speed. By now, you might think that except for the tempo in the beginning, the tune pretty much sounds like the previous tracks. I won’t object to that observation but will add this really doesn’t bother me. Instead, I picture relaxing in a hammock in the shade on a hot summer day – an attractive proposition, especially given the rainy weather as I’m writing this. Plus, at a total length of 42 minutes, Rose City Band aren’t going overboard here!
Garden Party was largely recorded at Center for Sound, Light, and Color Therapy in Portland, Ore. and mixed by John McEntire. Apart from producing and engineering most of the recordings of his own bands Tortoise (post-rock) and The Sea and Cake (indie rock), McEntire has worked with many other artists (I don’t know), such as Stereolab, Teenage Fan Club, Trans Am, Chicago Underground and The Fiery Furnaces, spanning indie rock, post-rock, avant-garde jazz and other genres.
In addition to Johnson (guitars, vocals, bass, piano, mellotron, percussion), Walker (pedal steel guitar) and Hasenberg (keyboards), Garden Party features guest appearances by Moon Duo members Yamada (synthesizers) and John Jeffrey (drums). All songs were written by Johnson.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify link to the album – hope you dig it as much as I do!
Sources: Wikipedia; Rose City Band Bandcamp page; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify
Here we go again: Another Monday brings another installment of The Follow-Up! The idea of this recently introduced feature is to supplement my weekly new music revue Best of What’s New with short takes of new music I missed or didn’t cover for other reasons.
Taj Mahal – Savoy
When music artists put out Christmas albums or Great American Songbook cover compilations, one could be forgiven to wonder whether they’ve run out of ideas, especially if they’re in the later stages of their careers. To me, this is definitely not the case when it comes to Savoy, the latest release by Taj Mahal, which appeared on April 28.
While I had known the name for many years, it wasn’t until May 2017 and TajMo, his dynamite collaboration album with Keb’ Mo’, that I started paying closer attention to Taj Mahal (born Henry St. Claire Fredericks Jr.). I quickly realized he’s much more than “just a blues artist” and yet his renditions of tunes by the likes of Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Benny Golson took me by surprise. Not only do his vocals work beautifully but the musical arrangements beam with vibrancy!
The album is an homage to the Savoy, the iconic ballroom in New York’s Harlem where Mahal’s parents met in 1938 to see Ella Fitzgerald, backed by the Chick Webb Orchestra. Why don’t we hear it from the man himself, in the spoken introduction to Stompin’ At the Savoy, a 1933 jazz standard written by Edgar Sampson and first popularized by Chick Webb and Benny Goodman. The lyrics were subsequently added by Andy Razaf.
Okay, Follow-up posts are meant to be short takes, so let’s highlight one more track: Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby, a song co-written by Louis Jordan and Billy Austin, and first recorded by Jordan in October 1943.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, according to this AllMusicreview, Mahal’s fine backing band features Danny Caron (guitar); John Simon (piano), Mahal’s longtime friend who talked him into recording the album; Ruth Davies (bass); and Leon Joyce, Jr. (drums), along with backing vocalists Carla Holbrook, Leesa Humphrey, and Charlotte McKinnon, as well as a neat horn section.
Lucinda Williams – Stolen Moments
Stolen Moments is the second excellent track by Lucinda Williams from her upcoming album Stories from a Rock N Roll Heart, scheduled for June 30. Released on April 21, the song was written as a tribute to Tom Petty who passed away in October 2017 – man, I can’t believe it’s been already five and half years!
“Tom was a down-to-earth, sweet, loving person, and I miss his music but I miss him more,” said Williams, according to this JamBasereview. “I wrote this song after he passed away. I was just heartbroken, and I’m still reeling.” Admittedly, I started welling up after reading that statement. Check out how great this tune sounds!
Stolen Moments follows the lead single New York Comeback, which appeared on April 4, featuring Bruce Springsteen and his wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa. I previously covered it here. I’m really looking forward to Stories from a Rock N Roll Heart, which is shaping up to be a great album!