Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to the first July installment of Best of What’s New. Summer is in full swing, and so are new music releases – time to take another look! All picks are from albums that came out yesterday (July 1).

Umphrey’s McGee/Always October

Kicking it off this time are American jam band Umphrey’s McGee, whose music has incorporated many different styles since they were formed in December 1997. From their AllMusic bio: Originating out of South Bend, Indiana in the late 1990s, Umphrey’s McGee became widely established on the American jam band circuit and have become known as one of more ambitious and musically versatile acts in the genre. Their wild amalgam of funk, metal, progressive rock, electronic, jazz, and folk has played out over numerous live and studio albums including 2006’s Safety in Numbers and 2009’s experimental Mantis…In the 2010s, the band continued to thrive, issuing an album tracked at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios and releasing the 2018 companion albums It’s Not Us and It’s You. Here’s Always October, a track from the group’s latest studio album Asking For a Friend. Credited to all six members, the tune’s pop rock sound seems to be representative of the remaining album, based on various other tunes I’ve heard – pretty pleasant!

Momma/Motorbike

Momma are a Los Angeles-based indie rock project of school friends and singer-songwriters Etta Friedman (guitar, vocals) and Allegra Weingarten (guitar, vocals), as well as Zach CapittiFenton (drums). They released their debut full-length album Interloper in 2018. This was followed by their 2020 sophomore Two of Me, which according to Apple Music was a “minor breakthrough.” Now Momma are back with Household Name, their third and new album. Apple Music calls it “their professional studio debut.” Here’s Motorbike, a track credited to the three members of Momma, as well as producer Aron Kobayashi Ritch. I like their sound!

Tedeschi Trucks Band/Playing With My Emotions

As a blues rock fan, I can’t believe I’ve yet to dedicate a post to Tedeschi Trucks Band! They were founded in 2010 by married couple Susan Tedeschi (guitar, vocals) and slide guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks, who among others was a member of The Allman Brothers Band from 1999 until they disbanded in 2014. To date, Tedeschi Trucks Band have released six studio and three live albums. This includes their latest studio effort I Am The Moon: II. Ascension, which is part of a series of albums. Here’s how their website explains it: Tedeschi Trucks Band announces the most ambitious studio project of their storied career: I Am The Moon, an epic undertaking in four albums with four corresponding films and 24 original songs. Inspired by a mythic Persian tale of star-crossed lovers, and emotionally driven by the isolation and disconnection of the pandemic era, the thematic I Am The Moon totals more than two hours of music, unfolding a robust tapestry of genre-defying explorations that propel the treasured American ensemble into new and thrilling creative territory. How about a sample? Here’s Playing With My Emotions – love that tune! This entire album series surely sounds pretty intriguing to me and definitely something I want to further explore!

Camp Trash/Feel Something

Let’s wrap up this Best of What’s New installment with some more indie rock, coz why not? Here’s some new music from Camp Trash – not a lot of publicly available information about this group from Florida. At least I found the following on the website of their label Count Your Lucky Stars Records: Camp Trash seemingly burst out of nowhere with their debut EP Downtiming at the beginning of 2021, armed with catchy riffs and infectious vocals that earwormed their way into your head and wouldn’t let go. It landed on several prominent playlists from NPR, Stereogum, and the cover/feature track of Spotify’s official editorial list, ‘Fresh Finds- Rock’. They have only leveled up for their first full length, The Long Way, the Slow Way. Crafting songs that somehow feel original but familiar at the same time, Camp Trash blends 90s alternative rock and 2000s emo with pop-punk sensibilities. Here’s Feel Something, credited to all four members: Alex Roberts, Bryan Gorman, Keegan Bradford and Levi Bradford. I like it! My humble recommendation: Ramp up your PR to get the word out. Start by putting a bio on your website!

This post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify list of the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; Tedeschi Trucks Band website; Count Your Lucky Stars Records website; YouTube; Spotify

A Debut Album I Love

A “Turntable Table Talk” contribution

Fellow blogger Dave from A Sound Day is currently hosting Turntable Talk, a fun recurring feature where he invites some fellow music fans and writers to weigh in on music subjects. After participating in previous installments about the pros and cons of live albums and the impact of MTV, I was glad Dave invited me back to share my thoughts about a great music debut.

In his own words: I’m calling it “Out of the Blue.”Basically, great debuts that probably took you by surprise. Now, I’m not talking to old debut records by artists you love that you eventually went back to and found, but rather albums or even singles that you found more or less when they came out that you really loved… a surprise great that came out of the blue.  So no Beatles, unless of course you were around in 1963 and had the luck to suddenly hear ‘she Loves You’ or ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and went ‘Wow, who are these mop-topped lads I’ve never heard the likes of?”…in which case, then that would be a great story! 

Well, I wish I would have been around to see The Beatles! Without further ado, following is my contribution:

It’s a pleasure to be back contributing to “Turntable Talk” to share my thoughts on another interesting topic. Thanks, Dave, for continuing your engaging series!

While I can think of many great debuts like Dire Straits’ and Counting Crows’ eponymous starts from 1978 and 1993, respectively, or Katrina and the Waves’ Walking On Sunshine (1983), I decided to pick something else. Per your guidance, I also didn’t consider any gems that appeared before my active music listening time, such as The Beatles’ Please Please Me (1963), The Rolling Stones’ eponymous debut (1964), The Who’s My Generation (1965), Cream’s Fresh Cream (1966) or Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin I (1969), to name a few.

Even though you’d perhaps think the above parameters made picking an album more tricky, it literally took me less than 5 seconds to make my decision. You won’t find it on Rolling Stone’s 2013 list of 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time either. Enough with the teasing. My pick is the self-tiled first album by Southern Avenue, one of my favorite contemporary bands.

Southern Avenue (from left): Evan Sarver, Tikyra Jackson; Tiernii Jackson, Ori Naftaly and Jeremy Powell

Before getting to the album, let me give a bit of background on Southern Avenue. While I’m sure that over the past seven years this near-constantly touring group has gained many other fans, and despite some chart success and industry recognition, it’s still safe to say there’re not a household name.

Southern Avenue blend Stax-style soul with blues, gospel, funk, rock and contemporary R&B. They were formed in 2015 when Israeli blues guitarist Ori Naftaly met Memphis vocalist Tierinii Jackson and her sister Tikyra Jackson, drummer and backing vocalist. Jeremy Powell on keyboards and bassist Evan Sarver complete the band’s current lineup.

Southern Avenue took their name from a street that runs from East Memphis to “Soulsville,” the original home of Stax Records. While that’s a clear nod to the band’s admiration for the legendary soul label, they have noted they don’t want to be seen as a Stax revival act. That said, their eponymous debut album, released in February 2017, appeared on the storied soul label. In fact, Southern Avenue became the first Memphis band signed to Stax in over 40 years!

I’d say it’s time for some music! Let’s kick it off with the aforementioned Don’t Give Up, which is the album’s opener. This soulful tune, which has a cool gospel vibe, still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Lead vocalist Tierinii Jackson may be a relatively tiny lady, physically speaking, but she’s a giant when it comes to singing. I also love when she harmonizes with her sister Tikyra Jackson, who as previously noted is the band’s drummer. I should also mention the song was written by guitarist Ori Naftaly.

Let’s pick up the speed with a great soul tune titled Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love – love the horns in this one! The song was penned by George Jackson, an American blues, R&B, rock and blues songwriter and singer. He’s probably best known for co-writing Bob Seger tune Old Time Rock and Roll.

Next up is 80 Miles From Memphis. Penned by Naftali, the up-tempo blues rocker remains one of my favorite Southern Avenue tunes. I just wished they’d keep it in their set these days! Naftali nicely demonstrates his blues chops here. This song just puts me in good mood!

Let’s do one more: No Time to Lose, another original. This tune was co-written by Naftali and Tierinii Jackson. Check out the great guitar riff. I also dig Powell’s keyboard work. And there’s more of that great horn action.

While perhaps not surprisingly Southern Avenue’s self-titled debut missed the U.S. mainstream charts, it entered Billboard’s Blues Albums Chart at no. 6 in February 2017. It also reached no. 1 on the iTunes Blues Chart.

Since their eponymous debut, Southern Avenue have released two additional great albums, Keep On (May 2019) and Be the Love You Want (August 2021), which I reviewed here and here. While this band may not be widely known, they’ve also earned some well-deserved industry recognition, including a 2018 Blues Music Award for “Best Emerging Artist Album” and a Grammy Award nomination for Keep On in the “Best Contemporary Blues Album” category. To learn more about the group and their ongoing tour, you can check out their website.

Southern Avenue are a compelling live act. Since August 2018, I’ve seen them three times. In case you’re curious, here’s my review from a gig in Asbury Park, N.J. I attended in July 2019. I surely have every intention to catch them again. I’ll leave you with a live rendition of Don’t Give Up, which I captured during the aforementioned show. Typically, it’s the final song of their set.

Sources: Wikipedia; Rolling Stone; YouTube; Spotify

If I Could Only Take One

My desert island tune by The Neville Brothers

It’s Wednesday and I’m back with my little exercise to pick one tune to take with me on an imaginary trip to a desert island. Given my arbitrary self-imposed rules, perhaps I should change the title of the recurring feature. When most folks hear the term ‘desert island song’, understandably, they associate with it their most favorite music. That’s not what I’m doing here, at least not on an absolute scale.

The idea of this feature is to pick an artist or band I have rarely or not covered at all to date and select one song from them I like. Oftentimes, the choice comes down to only a handful of their tunes I know. As such, this excludes many of all-time favorites like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Carole King, Neil Young, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy or Steely Dan who otherwise would be preferred picks. Another restricting factor is I’m doing this exercise in alphabetic order.

What that said, let’s get to today’s pick. I’m up to the letter “n”. Looking in my music library reveals artists and bands, such as Graham Nash, Johnny Nash, Nazareth, Willie Nelson, Randy Newman, Nilsson and Nirvana. My pick is Yellow Moon by The Neville Brothers.

Sadly, The Neville Brothers are among the music acts whose names I had known for years but had not been able to identify a specific tune. To inform the above pick I sampled tracks of two compilations, including the one pictured in the clip, Uptown Rulin’, which came out in 1999.

I couldn’t find much information on Yellow Moon. This groovy tune is credited to band co-founder, keyboarder and vocalist Arthur Neville, who was also known as Art Neville, and Jack Neville who based on my findings in AllMusic was a songwriter, predominantly for country artists. Here’s a nice live version of the tune, featuring the great John Hiatt as a guest. While the group’s sax player Charles Neville introduces him, he notes the Nevilles had performed a song written by Hiatt on their 1978 eponymous debut album (Washable Ink).

Yellow Moon was the title track of a studio album The Neville Brothers released in March 1989. According to Wikipedia, it peaked at no. 66 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. Notably, the album was produced by Daniel Lanois who also worked with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, among others. He also collaborated with Brian Eno to produce various albums for U2 including my favorite The Joshua Tree.

A review of Yellow Moon by Ron Wynn for AllMusic notes the album charted and remained there for many weeks, while the Nevilles toured and generated lots of interest. It didn’t become a hit, but it did respectably and represents perhaps their finest overall pop LP. The group won a 1990 Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Performance for another track on that album, titled Healing Chant.

The seeds for The Neville Brothers were planted in 1976 during a recording session of The Wild Tchoupitoulas. This Mardis Gras Indian group was led by the Nevilles’ uncle, George Landry, known as Big Chief Jolly. In addition to the previously noted Art Neville (keyboards, vocals) and Charles Neville (saxophone), The Neville Brothers featured Aaron Neville (vocals) and Cyril Neville (vocals, percussion). All four were siblings and participated in the above recording session.

AllMusic and Wikipedia list nine studio albums The Neville Brothers released during their active period between 1976 and 2012. In the latter year, they formally disbanded but reunited one more time in 2015 for a farewell concert in New Orleans. Charles Neville and Art Neville passed away in April 2018 and July 2019 at the ages of 79 and 81, respectively. Aaron Neville, now 81, is retired. Seventy-two-year-old Cyril Neville, the youngest of the four brothers, still appears to be an active musician.

Sources: Wikipedia; AllMusic; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Hard to believe it’s Saturday again. With a four-day get-away from home, somehow, this week felt even shorter than usual. All picks in this latest Best of What’s New installment appear on albums that came out yesterday (April 29).

Bloc Party/Day Drinker

Kicking things off today are English alternative rock band Bloc Party. According to their Apple Music profile, the group began in 1999, when Kele Okereke and Russell Lissack decided to form a band inspired by their love of Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Pixies, and DJ Shadow. They landed their big break when Okereke got the demo of “She’s Hearing Voices” to BBC Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq, who played it on his show. During the band’s formative years, Okereke studied English Literature at King’s College London but dropped out after Bloc Party signed with Wichita Recordings. Silent Alarm [their 2005 debut album – CMM] was nominated for Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize and was named Album of the Year by NME. Their sophomore album, A Weekend in the City, hit No. 12 on the US charts and made the Top 10 in the UK, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand. In addition to co-founders Okereke (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Lissack (lead guitar, keyboards), Bloc Party’s current lineup includes Justin Harris (bass, backing vocals, synthesizer, glockenspiel, saxophone) and Louise Bartle (drums, percussion, backing vocals), who each joined the band in 2015. Here’s Day Drinker, the opener of Bloc Party’s sixth and new studio album Alpha Games. Even though it’s not in my core wheelhouse, I find this tune pretty catchy.

Willie Nelson/Live Every Day

I trust Willie Nelson, who has been active for 65-plus years, doesn’t need an introduction. Yesterday, the American country legend turned 88 years and released his 72nd solo record A Beautiful Time, featuring original songs, as well as covers by The Beatles and Leonard Cohen, among others. The record comes only five months after The Willie Nelson Family, a collaborative album by Nelson, his sons Lucas and Micah, his daughters Paula and Amy and his sister Bobbie Nelson. Live Every Day, co-written by Nelson and Buddy Cannon who produced the album with Nelson, offers some smart advice and shows Nelson in admirable shape: Live every day like it was your last one/And one day you’re gonna be right/Treat everyone like you wanna be treated/See how that changes your life…

The Head and the Heart/Every Shade of Blue

The Head and the Heart combine pop with indie-folk and Americana. Founding members Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Thielen (violin, guitar, vocals), Kenny Hensley (piano), Chris Zasche (bass) and Tyler Williams (drums) met through a series of open mic nights at a local club in Seattle in the summer of 2009. After their well-received self-released and self-distributed eponymous debut album, the band signed with Sub Pop in November 2010. The label remastered and expanded the album and re-released it in January 2011. Johnson left shortly after the group’s third album Signs of Light had come out in September 2016 and was replaced by Matt Gervais (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards). Every Shade of Blue, credited to Casey Smith, Jesse Shatkin, Nate Cyphert, Samuel Dent and the entire band, is the title track of the group’s fifth and latest album.

Trombone Shorty/Good Company

My last new music pick for this week is by New Orleans-based Trombone Shorty who is best known as a trombone and trumpet player. Born Troy Andrews, he has worked with some of the biggest names in rock, pop, jazz, funk and hip hop. To give you a flavor of the 36-year-old’s career, already at the age of four, Andrews appeared on stage with Bo Diddley at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. By the age of six, he became the leader of a brass parade band. In 2005 when he was 19 years old, he toured around the world with Lenny Kravitz as a member of his horn section. Since 2002 Andrews has also released numerous albums, both as a bandleader and as a sideman. This brings me to Lifted, which according to his website, is Trombone Shorty’s second release for Blue Note Records [and his 12th recording as a bandleader, based on WikipediaCMM]. Apple Music categorizes the album as jazz, but it’s also pop, funk and soul. Here’s the groovy closer Good Company, co-written by Andrews, Chris Seefried and Cobi Mike.

Last but not least, here’s a Spotify list with the above and some additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Trombone Shorty website; YouTube; Spotify

And Just Like That Bonnie Raitt Releases Her Best Album to Date

Since finding out the other day that Bonnie Raitt was going to come out with a new album I had been full of anticipation. The wait was finally over last Friday (April 22). Not only is Just Like That… Raitt’s 21st album and her first new release in more than six years, but I increasingly feel it’s her best work to date in a 51-year recording career!

As people who follow this blog or are aware of my music taste otherwise know, Raitt is one of my long-time favorite artists. Since my former German bandmate and music buddy introduced me to Nick of Time in 1989, I’ve listened to this amazing lady. From the get-go, I loved her smooth slide guitar playing (btw, I read she’s completely self-taught!), as well her voice and songs. My appreciation increased even further after seeing Raitt at NJPAC in Newark, N.J. in August 2016. She’s just a phenomenal music artist!

According to Raitt’s website, work on Just Like That… began last summer when it appeared things with this tiresome pandemic were headed in a better direction, and she brought her band to Northern California: Duke Levine (guitar, vocals), George Marinelli (guitar, vocals), Glenn Patscha (keyboard, vocals), James “Hutch” Hutchinson (bass) and Ricky Fataar (drums). “I’ve always wanted to make a record here [closer to her home – CMM], and once vaccinations made traveling safe again, we were thrilled to get everyone back together,” she explained. “I think the absolute joy and relief of reuniting to play live music is really palpable on this record.”

“On this record, I wanted to stretch,” Raitt further pointed out. “I always want to find songs that excite me, and what’s different this time is that I’ve tried some styles and topics I haven’t touched on before.” Raitt has always had a gift to pick and interpret great songs written by other artists, such as John Hiatt, Gary Nicholson, Wayne Kirkpatrick and John Prine. Apart from continuing that tradition, Just Like That… also features four tunes written by Raitt – more than the usual two to three original songs on previous albums. Time for some music!

Here’s the great opener Made Up Mind, a song by Canadian roots-rock band The Bros. Landreth from their 2013 album Let It Lie. The song was co-written by David Landreth, Jonathan Singleton and Joseph Landreth. Raitt’s rendition was first released on February 22 as the first of three upfront singles. “Made Up Mind I fell in love with in 2014 from The Bros. Landreth who opened a show for us in Canada,” Raitt told Zane Lowe during a 1-hour interview for Apple Music. Can’t blame her. Here’s the excellent original in case you’re curious!

Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart is a tune by American guitarist and songwriter Al Anderson, who according to his AllMusic bio “is best known for his 22-year stint with roots-rock renegades NRBQ” [between 1971 and 1993 – CMM]. “Al Anderson I’ve been friends with, with one of my favorite bands, NRBQ,” Raitt told Zane. “He was the lead singer and guitar player for them, one of the lead singers. And I’ve had that song for 30 years.” Like Made Up Mind, the track first appeared as an upfront single, on March 25. Love this tune!

Since I included Livin’ For the Ones, another highlight of the album, in my last Best of What’s New installment, I’m skipping it here and go right to the title song. Written by Raitt, it’s a deeply touching story song inspired by a news story she had watched on TV. “They followed this woman who was going to the house of the man who received her son’s heart she donated when he passed away, for the first time,” Raitt told Zane. “…And he invited her to sit on the couch…And then he said, ‘would you like to put your head on my chest and listen to your son’s heart?’ [Raitt’s voice breaks] It laid me out. It just laid me out.” Just picturing the scene Raitt described makes you cry!

Things turn funky on Waitin’ For You to Blow, another original. According to a statement on Raitt’s website, the song is inspired by Mose Allison, Les McCann and Eddie Harris, and ‘70s funk. “There’s something thrilling about creating something brand new out of feelings and styles that have always run so deep in me,” Raitt stated. Check out the cool groove of that tune!

The last track I’d like to call out is Love So Strong, a song by Jamaican ska and rock steady group Toots and the Maytals from their 2007 album Light Your Light. The above statement notes Raitt had planned to do that tune as her third duet with the band’s frontman Toots Hibbert, but her dear friend passed away in 2020. Raitt ended up recording the groovy song as a tribute to Hibbert, who is regarded as a reggae pioneer like Bob Marley.

Bonnie Raitt produced Just Like That…. Like her two previous albums, Dig In Deep (2016) and Slipstream (2012), Just Like That… appears on Redwing Records. The album was recorded and mixed by Ryan Freeland who had served as engineer and mixer on the Grammy-winning Slipstream. Freeland has also worked with Ray LaMontagne, Aimee Mann, Loudon Wainwright III and Alana Davis, among others.

Here’s a Spotify link to the album:

The final word shall belong to Raitt who as stated on her website has never felt more grateful that she can continue making music, contributing to causes, keeping her crew working, and connecting with her audience. “I’m really aware of how lucky I am and I feel like my responsibility is to get out there and say something fresh and new—for me and for the fans,” she says. “It’s really daunting not to repeat yourself, but I have to have something to say, or I wouldn’t put out a record.”

Sources: Wikipedia; Bonnie Raitt website; Apple Music; AllMusic; Discogs; YouTube; Spotify

On This Day in Rock & Roll History: February 15

Today in my recurring music history feature I’d like to take a look at select events that happened on February 15. And, as oftentimes is the case, it all starts with this band from Liverpool, England.

1965: The Beatles released Eight Days a Week as a single in the U.S., backed by I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party. The song had first appeared on the UK album Beatles for Sale that had come out on December 4, 1964. It was also included on the U.S. album Beatles VI released on June 14, 1965. According to Songfacts, most of the tune was written by Paul McCartney, though as usual, it was credited to John Lennon and him. Unlike the usual arrangement where whoever of the two wrote most of the song would sing lead, John ended up taking over lead vocals here. Songfacts also maintains Eight Days a Week was the first pop song that fades up from silence. The tune became the seventh no. 1 Beatles single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Here’s a clip with footage around their legendary August 1965 performance at New York City’s Shea Stadium.

1969: Sly and the Family Stone hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with Everyday People, their first of three chart-topping hits on the U.S. mainstream chart. Written by Sly Stone, the song had first appeared as a single in November 1968. It was also included on the psychedelic soul and funk group’s fourth studio album Stand!, released in May 1969. Songfacts notes the tune is about how everyone is essentially the same, regardless of race or background, adding, Sly & the Family Stone was a mash-up of musical styles, with band members of different genders and ethnic backgrounds. It also states Billy Preston played keyboards on the recording.

1975: Linda Ronstadt reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with You’re No Good. While between 1967 and 2006 she scored 20 top 40 hits on the U.S. mainstream chart, You’re No Good was her only no. 1. Written by Clint Ballard Jr., the tune was first recorded and released in 1963 by American soul singer Dee Dee Warwick, the sister of Dionne Warwick. You’re No Good has been covered by numerous other very different artists like The Swinging Blue Jeans, Elvis Costello, Ike & Tina Turner and Van Halen. Remarkably, You’re No Good’s chart-topping position coincided with Heart Like a Wheel, the album on which the tune appeared, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard 200. It became the first of three no. 1 records for Ronstadt on that chart.

1979: The Bee Gees ruled the 21st Annual Grammy Awards held in Los Angeles. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack won Album of the Year, and the Bee Gees won Best Vocal Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for Saturday Night Fever and Best Arrangement for Voices for Stayin’ Alive. Billy Joel and Donna Summer had a good night as well. The piano man scored Record of the Year and Song of the Year for Just the Way You Are. The tune is from Joel’s fifth studio album The Stranger that came out in September 1977 and also appeared separately as a single at that time. Summer won two Grammys for Last Dance: Best R&B Vocal and Best R&B Song.

1980: Elvis Costello released his fourth studio album Get Happy!!, the third with his backing band The Attractions. Wikipedia notes the record marked “a dramatic break in tone from Costello’s three previous albums, and for being heavily influenced by R&B, ska and soul music.” Apparently, that change didn’t have much of an impact on the record’s chart performance. Like predecessor Armed Forces it reached no. 2 in the UK on the Official Albums Chart, while in the U.S. it climbed to no. 11 on the Billboard 200, just a notch below no. 10 for Armed Forces. Get Happy!! was ranked at no. 11 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties, published in November 1989. Here’s I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down. Co-written by Homer Banks and Allen Jones, the tune was first recorded in 1967 by soul duo Sam & Dave.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Songfacts; Songfacts Music History Calendar; This Day in Music; YouTube

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Welcome to another installment of Best of What’s New, my weekly look at newly-released music. This time, three of the four featured artists are entirely new to me, while the last pick I’ve primarily known by name for more than 30 years. All tunes came out yesterday (February 4).

Eric Krasno/Lost Myself

My first pick this week is Eric Krasno, a versatile New York-based guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer. According to his Apple Music profile, he is best known for his work with Soulive [a funk/jazz trio – CMM] and Lettuce [a Boston funk group – CMM], both of which he co-founded. His own musical roots lie in funk, jazz, rock, and hip-hop, and he has written songs and produced records for a variety of artists in a range of genres including Norah Jones, Aaron Neville, Talib Kweli, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ledisi, 50 Cent, and Matisyahu…His earliest influences were his musician grandfather, a professional pianist who played gypsy jazz and swing, as well as his older brother and father, also accomplished musicians though amateurs. His early attraction to classic rock records from Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jeff Beck, and Grateful Dead influenced his decision to become a guitarist. He began playing in local bands during high school. After graduating, he attended the Berklee School of Music for one semester before transferring to Hampshire College. Despite its brevity, it was at Berklee that he encountered other founding members of the funk/jam unit Lettuce during a summer program…In 1999, he joined brothers Alan and Neal Evans, and Sam Kininger, to co-found Soulive, a jazz/hip-hop/folk/groove unit that recorded for several labels including Blue Note and, like Lettuce, they’re known for a rigorous touring schedule. In 2010, Krasno released his first solo album Reminisce. This brings me to this third and latest studio release Always and Lost Myself. The funky, soulful, bluesy tune was co-written by Krasno and David Gutter. Krasno’s vocals remind me a bit of John Mayer.

Black Country, New Road/The Place Where He Inserted the Blade

Black Country, New Road are an English rock band established in London in 2018. The initial lineup included Tyler Hyde (bass), Lewis Evans (saxophone), May Kershaw (keyboards), Charlie Wayne (drums) and Isaac Wood (lead vocals, guitar), who all had been members of Cambridge, England-based group Nervous Conditions. After the release of their debut single Athen’s, France, guitarist Luke Mark joined the band. That formation subsequently recorded Black Country, New Road’s debut album For the First Time that came out in February 2021. The Place Where He Inserted the Blade, credited to all members, is a tune from the group’s sophomore and latest album Ants from Up There. It’s an unusual, interesting track, mixing rock, pop and classical music elements. Four days prior to the record’s release, Wood announced his departure from the band due to mental health issues. Bassist Hyde will assume lead vocals for now.

Muscadine Bloodline/Dead on Arrival

Muscadine Bloodline are a Nashville-based duo of Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton who blend country and Southern rock. From their website: Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton grew up in Mobile, Alabama, but didn’t cross paths until they each started to pursue their musical dreams. In 2012, they forged a friendship when Stanton opened a show for Muncaster’s band at Soul Kitchen in Mobile. Charlie’s contemporary vocals complimented by Gary’s harmonies and masterful guitar licks showcase a powerfully refreshing mix of talent, passion and unfiltered authenticity. Since naming themselves Muscadine Bloodline in 2015, they’ve had two Billboard-charting critically-acclaimed EP’s, have sold out shows across the country, opened concerts for hundreds of artists and earned a standing ovation at their Grand Ole Opry debut in 2018. The guys’ Southern roots carry over to their band name as well: Muscadine grapes grow in the South while Bloodline represents their heritage. In September 2020, they released their debut record Burn It at Both Ends. Bluesy country rocker Dead on Arrival is a song from the duo’s second and new album Dispatch to 16th Ave. The tune was co-written by Muncaster and Stanton, along with Adam Hood and producer Gary Stanton.

Red Hot Chili Peppers/Black Summer

Wrapping up this week’s music revue is the latest single by Red Hot Chili Peppers. While they have been around since 1983, other than Under the Bridge and Californication, I can’t name any other tunes by the rock band from Los Angeles. As expected, the group has had numerous line-up changes over the decades. The current members include co-founders Anthony Kiedis (lead vocals) and Michael Peter Balzary, known as Flea (bass, trumpet, piano, backing vocals), along with John Frusciante (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) and Chad Smith (drums, percussion). To date, the Chili Peppers have released 11 studio, two live and 12 compilation albums. A new album, their first in nearly six years, is coming out on April 1: Unlimited Love. It was produced by Rick Rubin, who previously had served as their producer for six albums in a row, released between 1991 and 2011. Here’s Black Summer, the lead single from the new album, credited to all four members. I think it’s a great tune that makes me want to hear more.

Last but not least, as usual, here’s a playlist of the above songs, along with a few others.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Muscadine Bloodline website; YouTube; Spotify

‘Tis the Season – Lighten Up!

If you’d asked me over the past couple of weeks whether I was ready for Christmas and New Year’s, most days, I would have said ‘nope’ to the former and ‘hell yes!’ to the latter. Undoubtedly, the second year of this dreadful pandemic has brought many challenges, and with omicron spreading quickly and furiously, the outlook for the near future isn’t great either. Still, while it’s always easy to find reasons to complain, I feel I really shouldn’t do it.

Instead, I should be grateful for many things I oftentimes take for granted: A loving wife and son who haven’t gotten sick; the fact thus far I’ve been able to escape the bloody virus; a roof above my head, even though we literally just needed to have it replaced, which wasn’t cheap; a job I’ve been able to do from home for the past two years; writing this blog about music, a topic I love; and so on and so forth.

As such, it’s time to stop having the blues about the inconveniences the pandemic has brought, especially missing out on live music, and to embrace the holiday season. And, yes, you guessed it, music can help. Following are some contemporary Christmas songs in different genres, including pop, rock, punk, rap, funk, classic rock & roll and even hard rock – as well as one breathtaking rendition of a traditional Christmas carol. I’m borrowing picks from a post I did four years ago. All songs are also captured in a Spotify playlist at the end.

John Lennon/Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (1971)

Chuck Berry/Run Rudolph Run (1958)

The Pogues/Fairytale Of New York (1987)

Run-D.M.C./Christmas In Hollis (1987)

AC/DC/Mistress For Christmas (1990)

José Feliciano/Feliz Navidad (1970)

James Brown/Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto (1968)

The Ravers/(It’s Gonna Be) A Punk Rock Christmas (1978)

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band/Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (2007)

The Temptations/Silent Night

Below is the Spotify playlist. In the case of (It’s Gonna Be a) Punk Rock Christmas, the version by The Ravers wasn’t available, but I found another rendition of the song by what sounds like a female punk band, The Majorettes.

Happy Holiday Season! If you don’t celebrate Christmas and/or the New Year, I hope this won’t prevent you from having a great time anyway!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube

The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday morning and time again to embark on another eclectic music mini-journey. Somehow it doesn’t feel a week has gone by since the last published installment of The Sunday Six, but the calendar doesn’t lie. This time, my picks include some saxophone-driven jazz, rock, funk and country, touching the 1950s, ’70s, ’80s and 2021. I actually skipped one of my favorite decades, the ’60s, which is a rare occurrence!

Sonny Rollins/St. Thomas

This time, I’d like to start with some saxophone jazz by Sonny Rollins. I first featured the American tenor saxophonist, who is very influential in the jazz world, earlier this year in this Sunday Six installment from March. Over an incredible 70-year-plus career, Rollins has recorded more than 60 albums as a leader and appeared on many additional records as a sideman. He has played with the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach and Modern Jazz Quartet. St. Thomas is the lead track off his breakthrough album Saxophone Colossus from 1957. The title of his sixth record became Rollins’ nickname. Credited to Rollins, St. Thomas is based on a nursery song his mother sang to him when he was a child. On the recording, he was joined by Tommy Flanagan (piano), Doug Watkins (bass) and Max Roach (drums). Earlier this month, Rollins turned 91.

Dave Mason/Let It Go, Let It Flow

Dave Mason had been a familiar name to me in connection with Traffic, the English rock band he founded together with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood in April 1967. Over the course of his 50-year-plus career, Mason also played and recorded with many other artists, such as Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and Leon Russell. Between 1993 and 1995, Mason was a member of Fleetwood Mac and appeared on their 16th studio album Time from October 1995. In addition to that, he launched a solo career in 1970 and has released 15 albums to date. Let It Go, Let It Flow, written by Mason, is from his seventh solo record Let It Flow that appeared in April 1977. This is a catchy tune – I love the singing and the harmony guitar action, as well as the organ (Mike Finnegan) and bass work (Gerald Johnson). Let It Go, Let It Flow also was released separately as a single and reached no. 45 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100.

Cold Chisel/When the War is Over

A recent post by Robert Horvat from Rearview Mirror about Cold Chisel reminded me of When the War is Over, another song by the Australian rock band. Not only do I love this tune, especially the vocals, but it also brings back memories of my years as a bassist in a band when I was in my early ’20s. In addition to originals written by the group’s leader, we also did some covers. And, yes, this included When the War is Over, a track from Cold Chisel’s fourth studio album Circus Animals that came out in March 1982. Written by the band’s drummer and backing vocalist Steve Prestwich, When the War is Over also became the album’s third single in July 1982, climbing to no. 25 on the Australian charts. The song has been covered by various other artists, including Little River Band and Scenic Drive. ‘Who the hell is Scenic Drive?’ you might wonder. Hint: A German band that focused on West Coast-oriented pop rock and existed between 1987 and 1989.

Stevie Wonder/Superstition

After a beautiful rock ballad, it’s time for something more groovy, something funky. Superstition by Stevie Wonder was the first track that came to my mind in this context. One of my all-time favorite tunes by Wonder, Superstition became the lead single of his 15th studio album Talking Book from October 1972. It also yielded his first no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 since Fingertips – Part 2 from 1963 when he was still known as Little Stevie Wonder. Jeff Beck who participated in the recording sessions for Talking Book came up with the opening drum beat. Wonder improvised the guitar-like riff, playing a Hohner clavinet. They created a rough demo of the tune with the idea that Beck would record the song for his next album. However, by the time Beck did so, Wonder had recorded the tune for Talking Book, and at the insistence of Berry Gordy who saw a hit, it had been released as a single. Apparently, Beck wasn’t happy and made some comments to the press Wonder didn’t appreciate. Eventually, Beck released his version of Superstition on his 1973 eponymous debut album with Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Scott Hirsch/Dreamer

For this next pick, let’s jump to the present and beautiful music from a forthcoming album by producer and singer-songwriter Scott Hirsch. From his Facebook page: You’ve heard the sound of Scott Hirsch. You might not know it, but his audio production has lurked deep in the cut of many admired recordings from the late 1990s to the present. A founding member of Hiss Golden Messenger, he was integral to the band’s formative years in the studio and on the road. His sonic imprint remains on their productions; most recently mixing the forthcoming album Quietly Blowing It. He recorded and mixed a Grammy nominated record by the legendary folk-singer Alice Gerrard and has produced and played on records by William Tyler, Mikael Jorgensen, Orpheo McCord and Daniel Rossen. I’m completely new to Hirsch who released his solo debut Blue Rider Songs in 2016. Dreamer, which features folk and alt. country singer-songwriter Kelly McFarling, is a mellow country-oriented tune from Hirsch’s upcoming third solo album Windless Day scheduled for October 8. He released the tune upfront on August 13.

The Robbin Thompson Band/Brite Eyes

And once again, it’s time to wrap up this latest music zig-zag excursion. Let’s pick up the speed with a great tune by Robbin Thompson. Thompson was a member of Steel Mill, an early Bruce Springsteen band that existed from November 1969 to January 1971 and included three members of the future E Street Band: Vini Lopez, Danny Federici and Steve Van Zandt. Thompson also worked with Timothy B. Schmit, Phil Vassar, Butch Taylor and Carter Beauford. Between 1976 and 2013, he recorded a series of albums that appeared under his and other names. Thompson passed away from cancer in 2015 at the age of 66. Here’s Brite Eyes, a track from Two B’s Please, an album released in 1980 by The Robbin Thompson Band. The seductive rocker also became a single and a minor national hit in the U.S., peaking at no. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s got a bit of a Jackson Browne flair, while the harmony singing is reminiscent of America. Also, check out that great bassline – what an awesome tune!

Sources: Wikipedia; Scott Hirsch Facebook page; YouTube

Southern Avenue Mature on New Album

Be the Love You Want “still got that church vibe, it still has the soul”

Southern Avenue’s new album Be the Love You Want dropped today, and it’s another beauty by the five piece from Memphis, Tenn. Their third studio album had been on my radar screen since the June 11 release of the excellent Push Now, the first of three upfront singles I covered here. While it feels like a bigger and more contemporary production compared to the band’s first two records and there’s a guest appearance by pop artist Jason Mraz on Move Into the Light, the second upfront single I reviewed here, Be the Love You Want at its core still sounds very much like Southern Avenue’s music I’ve come to love: A tasty blend of blues, soul, funk and gospel, combined with elements of modern R&B.

Be the One You Love kicks of with the title track. It sets the tone for an album that according to Southern Avenue’s website “showcases an exhilarating, and deeply emotional collection of songs that captures all of the shared experiences that bring us together—joy and sorrow, unity and separation, love and hate.” Like most of the other tracks, it was co-written by guitarist Ori Naftaly and lead vocalist Tierinii Jackson, who co-founded Southern Avenue in 2015, together with drummer Tikyra Jackson, Tierinii’s sister. It’s a strong opener featuring Tierinii’s seductive voice, beautiful harmony vocals by Tikyra, nice work by Naftali and keyboarder Jeremy Powell, and a great grove fueled by Tikyra and bassist Evan Sarver.

I’m skipping the funky Control, which I previously reviewed here, and go right to Don’t Hesitate (Call Me) where the band slows it down a bit. It’s a beautiful tune full of soul and a cool sound. I also really like Naftaly’s guitar work. Check it out!

Again, I’m skipping a track, the above noted Push Now, and go right to Fences, another soulful gem on the slower side. It was co-written by Naftaly, Jackson and Itay Shimoni.

Let’s Get It Together picks up the groove again. In addition to Naftaly and Tierinii Jackson, the tune is credited to the rhythm engine of Evan Sarver and Tikyra Jackson. Great funky stuff – I love it!

Let’s skip the aforementioned Move Into the Light and do one more: Move On, the excellent closer. It’s got some more of that great funky groove. The lyrics in a broader sense seem to reflect Tierinii Jackson’s struggle for acceptance by her church and her parents who reprimanded her for pursuing music outside the church. “I had a few viral videos out at some point,” Jackson told American Songwriter. “But I became this embarrassment to the church. I was openly reprimanded in front of the church. So, I just walked out and never went back. That drove a rift through me and my parents for a while. But we grew through it and we’re still growing.”

Be the Love You Want, which appears on Renew Records/BMG, was co-produced by Naftaly and Steve Berlin who has won multiple Grammys and worked with the likes of Los Lobos, Deer Tick and Jackie Greene. The album follows Keep On (May 2019) and the self-titled Southern Avenue (February 2017). You can read more about Keep On here. I’ve also repeatedly covered music from the band’s eponymous debut, for example here.

The last word shall belong to Tierinii Jackson. “We reworked it with the band and made it all churchy and soulful and as Memphis-y as we could,” she previously explained to American Songwriter, referring to Move Into the Light, the album’s second upfront single featuring Jason Mraz. “It turned out really, really great. It’s kind of a wild card, because it’s more of a dance song, but it’s still got that church vibe, it still has the soul.” While her statement is more fitting to that particular tune, I feel it also nicely sums up the entire album – more mature and contemporary production but still Southern Avenue!

Sources: Wikipedia; Southern Avenue website; American Songwriter; YouTube