With last Friday having been very busy on the new music front, I was bound to have missed some of it. In fact, I know that even with this latest installment of Catching Up, I still will not have captured all new music I dig, but there’s only so much bandwidth I have!
Jody and the Jerms – Intuition
Intuition, released on June 2, is the latest single by British jangle pop sextet Jody and the Germs. The infectious upbeat guitar-driven tune, which is reminiscent of The Bangles, The Go-Go’s and Katrina and the Waves, is from the band’s third full-length studio album Wonder, which came out on April 21.
“Intuition is about how it feels being two-timed and cheated on,” explained frontwoman Jody Jeger in a statement. “But also how a broken heart can soon heal, and then you look back and wonder how did I let that happen and ask ‘had I listened to my intuition, the signs were there.”
Jody and the Jerms, who were formed in Oxford in 2019, released their first full-length studio album in September 2020. Their Bandcamppage describes the group’s music as a “blend of melodic and uplifting indie/alt pop” that “harks back to those untouchable days indie music enjoyed in the 90s, possessing seemingly effortlessness melodies and choruses which embed themselves in your head for days.”
Where the Song Will Find Me, released May 26, is the third single off Lucinda Williams’ forthcoming studio album Stories from a Rock N Roll Heart, scheduled for June 30. I covered the first two tracks that appeared upfront here and here, and I’m a bit puzzled I missed the latest.
Where the Song Will Find Me, a six-and-a-half-minute ballad, sound like a reflection on Williams’ desire to continue writing songs in the wake of a debilitating stroke she suffered in November 2020. While she appears to have largely recovered, she still has not been able to resume playing guitar. Following are the lyrics of the tune’s chorus:
I know they will find me Like they somehow do I know they will find me When it’s time to I know they will remind me When they are ready to be found They’ll come up behind me Not making a sound Not making a sound
Where the Song Will Find Me is credited to Williams, veteran guitarist Travis Stephens and her husband, manager, and co-producer Tom Overby. The roots-oriented singer-songwriter’s 15th studio album is shaping up greatly, and I can’t wait to listen to the remaining seven tracks! Here’s a Spotify link to what’s already out!
Sources: Wikipedia; Jody and the Germs press release and Bandcamp page; YouTube; Spotify
Happy Wednesday, and I’d like to welcome you to my latest installment of Song Musings, where I take a closer look at tunes I’ve only mentioned or not covered at all today. Today’s pick comes from a great artist who only entered my radar screen last June when I saw her open for Bonnie Raitt in Philadelphia: Lucinda Williams. The more music I hear by the Americana and roots rock-oriented singer-songwriter, the more I dig her. My pick for this post is Everything But the Truth.
Like the majority of her tunes, Everything But the Truth was solely written by Williams. The great bluesy roots rocker was included on her 11th studio album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, an impressive collection of 20 tracks, which was released in September 2014.
The album only spawned one single and it wasn’t this song but a track called Burning Bridges. Even though it’s a great song as well, it didn’t chart. It’s hard to tell whether Everything But the Truth would have fared better.
The album did pretty well. In the U.S., it climbed to no. 13 on the pop chart Billboard 200 and topped each Billboard’sFolk Abums and Independent Albums charts. Elsewhere, it reached no. 11 in Denmark, no. 20 in Norway, no. 23 in the UK, no. 31 in each The Netherlands and Ireland, and no. 32 in Australia.
Interestingly, that’s a much better chart performance than the acclaimed and Grammy award-winning Car Wheels On a Gravel Road, Williams’ best-selling album that reached Gold certification in the U.S. (500,000 certified unit sales) and Silver status in the UK (200,000 certified sold units) in June 1999 and July 2013, respectively.
Here’s a nice live version of Everything But the Truth, captured in March 2014 at the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns. The spectacular venue is 333 feet underground inside Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn. When announcing the tune, Williams wondered when somebody is recording an album in there. Check this out!
Following are some additional insights from Songfacts:
This is one of 14 songs from the soundtrack and concept album, The Lone Ranger: Wanted – Music Inspired by the Film. The movie’s director, Gore Verbinski, listened to the artists each day on the way to the studio and tapped them to record for the soundtrack.
Williams admitted to Billboard magazine that she was initially unsure if she would be able to fulfill the commission. “I wasn’t sure I was even going to have time to write and record this before leaving for a European tour but it all came together in a couple of days,” she said. “Sometimes the best things happen that way.”
Lucinda Williams went into a Los Angeles studio with her band during the fall of 2013 and recorded 35 tracks in 21 days. She put 20 of the cuts into a double album titled Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The songs came from several different sources – this one was originally penned by Williams for a collection of tunes on the theme of the Lone Ranger, a Walt Disney project tied to the Johnny Depp film. “I was asked to do different projects where I had to come up with a song,” Williams recalled to Billboard magazine. “For instance, that song ‘Everything Changes But the Truth,’ I wrote that for a compilation album of songs that were inspired by The Lone Ranger movie, so I came up with that fairly quickly. It was kind of a good exercise, and a lot of times that can spur other things.”
“We started recording in October of last year and didn’t really think about it,” she added. “We just kept going, and we suddenly got all these great tracks and realized we’re not going to narrow this down to one album.”
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!
Ever since I sawLucinda Williams open up for Bonnie Raitt in Philadelphia last June, I’ve been wanting to take a deeper dive into her music. This post is a first attempt to further explore the singer-songwriter who has been active since 1978. Over a 45-year-and-counting career, Williams has released 14 studio albums with no. 15, Stories from a Rock n Roll Heart, scheduled to drop June 30. I recently featured the excellent lead single New York Comeback in a Best of What’s Newinstallment.
Before getting to some music, I’d like to provide some background. From Williams’ website: Lucinda Williams’ music has gotten her through her darkest days. It’s been that way since growing up amid family chaos in the Deep South, as she recounts in her candid new memoir, Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I told You [Crown, April 25, 2023 – CMM].
Over the past two years, it’s been the force driving her recovery from a debilitating stroke she suffered on November 17, 2020, at age 67. Her masterful, multi-Grammy-winning songwriting has never deserted her. To wit, her stunning, sixteenth studio album, Stories from a Rock n Roll Heart, brims over with some of the best work of her career. And though Williams can no longer play her beloved guitar – a constant companion since age 12 – her distinctive vocals sound better than ever.
“I’m singing my ass off,” she told Vanity Fair in February, following her first European tour since 2019. The love emanating from audiences and her musical family onstage and in the studio exemplify the healing power of music, says Williams. In 2020, she spent a week in intensive care, followed by a month in rehab before returning home. The blood clot on the right side of her brain impaired the left side of her body’s motor skills, forcing her to relearn some of the most basic of activities, like walking.
In July 2021, she played her first gig, opening for Jason Isbell at Red Rocks. She began seated in a wheelchair, but soon she was upright. “Just the energy of the audiences being so welcoming and warm and the band playing so great and being so supportive gave me so much strength,” Williams relates. “I figured, ‘Hell, all I have to do is stand up there and sing. How hard can that be?”
Williams got into songwriting and music at an early age. She started writing as a six-year-old and was playing guitar by the time she was 12. Five years later, she found herself on stage in Mexico City for her first live performance, together with her friend and banjo player Clark Jones. This was followed by gigs in Austin and Houston, Texas in her early 20s. In 1978, a then-25-year-old Williams move to Jackson, Miss. and recorded her debut album Ramblin’ on My Mind, which appeared the following year.
Williams first gained critical acclaim with her third, eponymous studio album from 1988, which was voted the 16th best album of the year in The Village Voice’s annual Pazz & Jop critics poll. Lucinda Williams has since been viewed as a leading work in the development of the Americana movement. In 1998, Williams broke through into the mainstream with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Her fifth album topped the aforementioned Pazz & Jop poll and won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. It also became her first album to chart on the Billboard 200, climbing to no. 68.
Time for some music! I’m going to highlight six tunes, followed by a Spotify playlist featuring these and additional songs from all of her albums. Kicking it off is a great rendition of Robert Johnson’s Ramblin’ on My Mind, the title track of Williams’ above-mentioned 1979 debut album, which she recorded together with guitarist John Grimaudo.
After two blues, country and folk-oriented albums, Lucinda Williams started to embrace a more Americana and roots rock-oriented sound on her third, eponymous album. Here’s Changed the Locks, which also became the album’s first single. Like all except one tune, it was penned by Williams. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers covered this song on their 1996 soundtrack album She’s the One.
This brings me to Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Williams’ acclaimed fifth album. It featured guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle who in addition to Williams served as one of the producers, along with Ray Kennedy who was working with Earle at the time, as well as Roy Bittan, best-known as longtime keyboarder of Bruce Springsteen’sE Street Band. While the recording process was drawn out, in part due to some tensions between Earle and Williams who ended up bringing in Bittan to finish the album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road overall became her most successful album to date. Here’s the great opener Right in Time – love the guitar sound on that cut!
Next, let’s jump to October 2008 and Little Honey, Williams’ ninth studio album. It featured guest appearances by Elvis Costello, Susanna Hoffs, Matthew Sweet and Charlie Louvin. Little Honey earned a nomination for the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, the category’s inaugural year, which was won by Levon Helm for Electric Dirt. Here’s the excellent opener Real Love, which also appeared separately as a single. Penned by Williams, with backing vocals by Hoffs and Sweet, the roots rocker was also featured in the 2007 American comedy-drama The Lucky Ones.
In September 2014, Williams released her 11th studio record Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone, the first on her own label Highway 20 Records. The double album debuted at no. 13 on the Billboard 200, becoming one of Williams’ highest-charting on the U.S. mainstream chart. It also won the 2015 Americana Music Award for Album of the Year. Once again, there were various guests, including Jakob Dylan, Tony Joe White, Ian McLagan and Elvis Costello, among others. Here’s the great Burning Bridges, penned by Williams.
Fast forward to April 2020 and Good Souls Better Angels, Williams’ 14th and most recently released studio album. Another widely acclaimed album, it earned Williams yet another Grammy nomination, for Best Americana Album. Here’s When the Way Gets Dark. Like all except one other track on the album, it was co-written by Williams and Tom Overby who also served as producer, along with Williams and Ray Kennedy.
Last but not least, here’s the aforementioned Spotify playlist featuring the above and some other Lucinda Williams tunes. This artist is a true treasure! Hope you have as much fun listening to her music as I had putting together this post. I’m really looking forward to her new album, which based on the lead single sounds very promising.
Sources: Wikipedia; Lucinda Williams website; YouTube; Spotify
A selection of newly released music that caught my attention
Happy Saturday and welcome to another Best of What’s New installment. To me, my last music revue feels like it just happened rather than a week ago. Anyway, all picks except for the final tune, which I say upfront is the gem here, are from albums that came out yesterday (April 7).
Blondshell is the moniker of Los Angeles-based indie pop rock-oriented singer-songwriter Sabrina Teitelbaum. After starting out in 2016 with a more pop-focused project named BAUM, Teitelbaum began writing more rock-oriented music during the COVID-19 pandemic. This culminated in the launch of Blondshell in June 2022 with her single Olympus. Teitelbaum followed it up with two other singles, Kiss City and Sepsis, in July and August, respectively. In December, she signed with independent label Partisan Records and is now out with her eponymous debut album. Here’s the opener Veronica Mars, which first appeared as a single in December. Like most tracks on the album, it was solely written by Teitelbaum. The building guitar sound that explodes into hard-charging rock at around 54 seconds into the song provides an intriguing contrast to Teitelbaum’s mellow vocals.
Ruston Kelly/Holy Shit
Singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly, who I first covered in July 2020, was born in Georgetown, S.C., grew up in Wyoming, Ohio and is now based in Nashville. He got into music at a young age and, according to Wikipedia, had a full album in high school with songs like “Bluebird” and “I’m Leavin’”. After signing a publishing deal with BMG Nashville in 2013, he co-wrote the song Nashville Without You recorded by Tim McGraw for his studio album Two Lanes of Freedom, which appeared in February that year. In 2017, Kelly released his debut EP Halloween. His first full-length album Dying Star came out the following year. Holy Shit is track from Kelly’s third and latest album The Weakness. Good tune!
Wednesday/Hot Rotten Grass Smell
Wednesday are a band from Ashville, N.C., who started out in 2017 as a songwriting project by guitarist Karly Hartzman. While attending college in Ashville, she met vocalist Daniel Gorham and recorded with him yep definitely, the first album as Wednesday. The moniker was inspired by British alternative rock band The Sundays, who were active from 1988 to 1997. Subsequently, Hartzman formed another group, Diva Sweetly. When her bandmates didn’t want to make shoegaze, she assembled new members for Wednesday and released their sophomore album, I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone, in February 2020. This brings me to the group’s new album Rat Saw God, which is their fifth. In addition to Hartzman (guitar, vocals), it features MJ Lenderman (guitar, backing vocals), Xandy Chelmis (lap steel), Margo Schultz (bass) and Alan Miller (drums). Here’s the opener Hot Rotten Grass Smell, credited to the entire band.
Lucinda Williams/New York Comeback
I’m particularly excited about my last pick for this week, New York Comeback by Lucinda Williams, the lead single single from her upcoming album Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart. Released on April 4, the great tune features Bruce Springsteen and his wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa. Williams first entered my radar screen in June 2022 when I saw her open up for Bonnie Raitt in Philadelphia, a great concert you can read more about here. In November 2020, Williams suffered a stroke from which she has recovered, though during the aforementioned gig, she still seemed to have some mobility challenges and did not play guitar. Stories From a Rock n Roll Heart, set for release on June 30, is Williams’ 15th studio album and the first since her stroke. According to this review by Consequence Sound, the album was recorded during her stroke recovery: At the time, she wasn’t able to write songs using her guitar and continued collaborating with her husband/manager Tom Overby while also bringing in singer-songwriter Jessie Malin to co-write three tracks and flesh out melodies. Williams’ longtime road manager, Travis Stephens, also co-wrote six songs on the album. Man, I love New York Comeback, which is credited to Williams, Overby and Malin, and I can’t wait to hear more music from the album!
Of course, the post wouldn’t be complete with a Spotify playlist featuring the above and some additional tunes!
Longtime singer-songwriter and guitarist delivers rich collection of blues, soul, funk and jazz
It only took listening to the first few bars of Weight of the World, the title track of Joe Louis Walker’s new album, to get a feeling I would love the music. It turns out my gut was right. Weight of the World, released on February 12, is a warm-sounding and rich collection of original songs, including soul, funk, blues and jazz.
If you happened to catch my latest Best of What’s Newinstallment from Saturday, you may recall I highlighted one of the album’s tracks, Is It a Matter of Time? As I noted in the post, while I had featured Walker once before in June 2020, I hadn’t explored him any further then. Well, I’m glad I paid more attention this time!
Before getting to the album, I’d like to provide some background on Walker who picked up the guitar as a child and already started performing during his young teenage years in the mid-’60s. It appears for the first two decades as a professional musician, Walker was a sideman before launching a recording career in the mid-’80s.
From his current web bio: Walker has recorded with Ike Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Steve Cropper, opened for Muddy Waters and Thelonious Monk, hung out with Jimi Hendrix, Freddie King, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and was a close friend and roommate of Mike Bloomfield.
Walker’s 1986 debut album Cold Is the Night on HighTone announced his arrival in stunning fashion, and his subsequent output for Verve, Alligator, HighTone, and others only served to further establish Walker as one of today’s leading bluesmen. The New York Times raved, “Walker is a singer with a Cadillac of a voice. His guitar solos are fast, wiry, and incisive, moaning with bluesy despair.” Rolling Stone calls him “ferocious.”
Walker, who is in the Blues Hall of Fame and has won various blues awards, is primarily known as an electric blues guitarist. But his latest album demonstrates his influences extend beyond the blues. Time to take a closer look!
I’d like to kick things off with the great aforementioned title track The Weight of the World. The beautiful soul tune was penned by album producer Eric Corne who shared writing duties with Walker and provided guitar and backing vocals. Corne is a Canada-born and Los Angeles-based producer, engineer and singer-songwriter. His bio reveals impressive recording credits, including John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Kim Deal (The Pixies), Lucinda Williams and Walter Trout, among others.
I’m skipping the previously noted Is It a Matter of Time? and go right to Hello, It’s the Blues. The soulful ballad was written by Walker. Beautiful!
Don’t Walk Out That Door is another standout on the album and may in fact be my early favorite. This gem, which was co-written by Walker and Gabriel Jagger, sounds like sweet “old-fashioned” soul you could picture having come out of Stax – so good!
Next things turn funky on Count Your Chickens. This is another track written by Corne -groovy stuff!
How ’bout some kickass rock & roll? Look no further than Blue Mirror, penned by Walker. Yeah, baby, it’s only rock & roll but I like it. Check out the neat guitar and honky tonk piano action!
Let’s do one more. Did I mention jazz? Here’s the album’s fun closer You Got Me Whipped, another track written by Walker.
Weight of the World, which appears on Forty Below Records, was recorded “just outside of Woodstock, NY.” This review wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the fine musicians who backed Walker. In addition to Corne, they include Scott Milici (keyboards), Marc Pender (trumpet), David Ralicke (saxophone), Eric Gorfain (violins), Gia Ciambotti (backing vocals), Geoff Murfitt (bass), Eddie Jackson (bongos) and John Medeiros Jr. (drums).
Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
Walker is supporting the album with a tour that is kicking off this Friday (February 24) in Beacon, N.Y. After a few additional dates in Woonsocket, R.I.; Northhampton, Mass. and Boston, Mass., he’s going to Europe, including France, Switzerland and Norway. The current schedule is here. I would love to see him, but unfortunately, none of the current dates work for me. I’m hoping for a second U.S. leg later this year or catch him some other time!
Sources: Wikipedia; Joe Louis Walker website; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Happy Sunday and welcome to another mini-excursion into the great world of music, six tunes at a time. Most of the U.S. including my neck of the woods fell back to standard time overnight. If this affects you as well, don’t forget to adjust your watch – if you didn’t and believe you must head out for an activity that starts at a specific time, relax, you have an additional hour! This means you may have time to join me on today’s music trip! Even if you turned back your clocks by an hour, hop on anyway!
Ornette Coleman/Lonely Woman
Let’s start today’s journey in November 1969 with American jazz great Ornette Coleman. The saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer is known as a principal founder of the free jazz genre, a term derived from his 1961 album Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. Coleman who hailed from Fort Worth, Texas, began playing R&B and bebop in the late ’40s before joining Silas Green from New Orleans, a traveling show that was part revue, part musicomedy, part minstrel show. Later on, he became part of the band of R&B, blues guitarist and vocalist Pee Wee Crayton. He ended up in California, assembled his own band and recorded his debut album Something Else!!!! By the time his sophomore release Tomorrow Is the Question! had come out, Coleman had shaken up the jazz world with his “alien” music. Apparently, some jazz musicians went as far as calling him a fraud. None other than conductor Leonard Bernstein disagreed, praising him. Lonely Woman, composed by Coleman, is a track from his third album confidently titled The Shape of Jazz to Come, which was released in November 1959. Coleman (alto saxophone) is backed by Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (double bass) and Billy Higgins (drums).
Steve Earle/You’re Still Standin’ There
Our next stop takes us to March 1996 and a tune by roots-oriented singer-songwriter Steve Earle, which was love at first listen: You’re Still Standin’ There, off his six studio album I Feel Alright. And that is safe to assume he did after he had overcome his drug addiction to cocaine and heroin in the fall of 1994. Like all other tracks on the album, You’re Still Standin’ There was penned by Earle. Lucinda Williams, another artist I’ve come to dig, joined him on vocals for this great Dylan-esque tune. I can also hear some Springsteen in here! After playing music for nearly 55 years and a recording career of more than 35 years, Earle is still going strong. His most recent album with his longtime backing band The Dukes, Jerry Jeff, came out on May 27 this year.
Time to hop to the ’60s, coz why not! Politician is one of my absolute favorites by British power trio Cream. I love that super cool guitar riff. With important midterm elections coming up in America, which could significantly impact the direction of the county, I also have to admit the song choice isn’t entirely coincidental. To the extent possible, I’d like to keep this blog uplifting and free of politics, which has become so toxic. All I will say is this: Never take anything for granted. The right to vote is a privilege. If you have it, exercise it! Politician, co-written by Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce and English poet, lyricist, and singer Pete Brown, appears on Cream’s third album Wheels of Fire, a part studio, part live double LP that first came out in the U.S. in June 1968, followed by the UK in August of the same year.
Dire Straits/Tunnel of Love
Fellow blogger Bruce from Vinyl Connection had a great post earlier this week about Love Over Gold, the excellent fourth studio album by Dire Straits, for which I’ve gained new appreciation. That’s why I’m featuring a song from the British rock band’s predecessor Making Movies, which came out in October 1980! 🙂 Joking aside, both of these albums rank among my top three Dire Straits releases, together with their eponymous debut that features this great signature Fender Stratocaster sound by Mark Knopfler. While that album and the similar-sounding sophomore Communiqué were great, Making Movies represented a leap in Knopfler’s songwriting. Here’s the excellent opener Tunnel of Love.
The Rolling Stones/Dead Flowers
Recently, I participated in another round of Turntable Talk, a fun recurring feature by Dave from A Sound Day, for which he invites fellow bloggers to provide their thoughts on a topic he suggests. This time, he asked contributors to write about their favorite year in music. The submissions were amazing (not talking about mine, though “my” year obviously was the best! 🙂 ). One key takeaway from this latest installment is how much great music appeared, especially in the 1965-1975 timeframe. A close second to my choice, 1969, was 1971, though frankly, I pretty much could have picked any other year during the above period. Longwinded way of bringing me to Sticky Fingers, my favorite album by The Rolling Stones released in April 1971 and a tune I absolutely love: Dead Flowers. Credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the country-oriented song was influenced by Richards’ friendship with Gram Parsons. I just don’t get tired of the great honky tonk guitar fill-ins by Richards and the amazing Mick Taylor. Did somebody say they don’t like country?
Giovannie and the Hired Guns/Can’t Answer Why
For the final tune of this installment of The Sunday Six, we’re going all the way to the present with a great tune by Giovannie and the Hired Guns, a rock band from Texas I recently featured as part of my Best of What’s New music revue series. The group from Stephenville around frontman Giovannie Yanez, which also includes guitarists Carlos Villa and Jerrod Flusche, bassist Alex Trejo and Milton Toles on drums, taps into a variety of genres, such as Southern rock, country, stoner metal, musica norteña and even Latin hip-hop. Here’s Can’t Answer Why, credited to Yanez and the band, off their third and latest full-length album Tejano Punk Boyz. Great melodic rock!
‘So where’s the Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes’, you might wonder. Ask you shall receive. As always, thanks for reading and listening, and hope there’s something you dig!
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Welcome to another Sunday Six to celebrate the beauty of music in different flavors, six tunes at a time. Before getting to that, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge today’s 21st anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the U.S. One thing that came out of the unspeakable horror that day was a strong sense of solidarity to come together. I feel we could badly need some of that spirit today. Back to what this blog aims to be, a “happy destination” that leaves any troubles you may have behind, at least while you’re here!
Dave Stewart/Lily Was Here (feat. Candy Dulfer)
The first stop on today’s musical excursion is the year 1989 and a beautiful smooth jazz track I was reminded of the other day. English musician, songwriter and producer Dave Stewart is best known for being one half of Eurythmics, the British pop duo he launched with Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox in 1980. Candy Dulfer is a Dutch jazz and pop saxophonist. The daughter of Dutch tenor saxophonist Hans Dulfer began playing the drums as a five-year-old before discovering the saxophone a year later. Since the age of seven, she has focused on the tenor saxophone. By the time she was 11, Dulfer made her first recordings for her father’s jazz band De Perikels (the perils). Three years later, she opened up two European concerts for Madonna with her own band Funky Stuff. In 1989, Stewart invited Dulfer to play sax on Lily Was Here, an instrumental he had composed for the soundtrack of a Dutch movie of the same name. The single became a no. 1 in The Netherlands and a top 20 in several other European countries, Australia and the U.S. It encouraged Dulfer to launch a solo career, which continues to this day. Hard-core jazz aficionados may consider the track to be “on the light side,” but I absolutely love it, mainly because of Dulfer’s amazing saxophone part!
Dire Straits/Once Upon a Time In the West
For this next track, we’re going to jump back 1o years to June 1979, which saw the release of Dire Straits’ sophomore album Communiqué. After the British rock band had received favorable reviews for their eponymous debut that had come out the year before, critics were generally lukewarm about the follow-up. Many felt it sounded too similar to Dire Straits. While that is not an unfair observation, I still like Communiqué and especially this tune, Once Upon a Time In the West. Written by Mark Knopfler, it also became a U.S. single in October of the same year. Unlike the internationally successful Sultans of Swing, Once Upon a Time In the West missed the charts altogether. In my opinion, that’s unfortunate – I just love that Mark Knopfler signature Fender Stratocaster guitar sound!
Lucinda Williams/Metal Firecracker
Since I saw Lucinda Williams open up for Bonnie Raitt in Philadelphia back in June, I’ve been planning to explore the catalog of the American singer-songwriter. While I featured her in a Sunday Sixinstallment in August with a tune from her ninth studio album Little Honey from October 2008, I haven’t made much progress to date – too much great music, too little time! Metal Firecracker, penned by Williams, is from Car Wheels On a Gravel Road. Her fifth studio album, released in June 1998, marked her commercial breakthrough. Nine additional studio albums have since appeared. Luckily, Williams largely recovered from a debilitating stroke she suffered in November 2020 and was able to resume performing. I love this tune – check out this neat electric guitar sound! Based on the credits listed underneath the YouTube clip, it appears that part was played by Gurf Morlix who was a member of Williams’ backing band from 1985 until 1996 and co-produced her 1988 eponymous studio album and the 1992 follow-on Sweet Old World.
Creedence Clearwater Revival/Green River
Okay, we’re four stops into this trip, so don’t you agree it’s time for some ’60s music? I trust Creedence Clearwater Revival don’t need much if any introduction. The American rock band led by singer-songwriter John Fogerty (lead guitar, vocals) was active under that name between 1967 and 1972. Initially, the members of the group, who also included John’s brother Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitar), Stu Cook (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums), had performed as The Blue Velvets (1959-1964) and The Golliwogs (1964-1967). For some reason, that latter name always reminds me of the Gremlins! Green River, written by John Fogerty, was the great title track of CCR’s third studio album that appeared in August 1969. It also became the record’s second single in July that year, one month ahead of the group’s performance at the Woodstock music festival.
Let’s travel to the current century. The year is 2006. The month is November. That’s when Robert Plant released a box set titled Nine Lives. It features remastered and expanded editions of nine albums the ex-Led Zeppelin vocalist released post-Zep between 1982 and 2005, both under his name and The Honeydrippers. Turnaround was first recorded during the sessions for Plant’s sophomore solo album The Principle of Moments released in July 1983, but the tune didn’t make the album. In addition to being featured on this box set, the tune is included as a bonus track on a 2007 remastered version of the aforementioned second solo effort by Plant.
Buddy Guy/We Go Back (feat. Mavis Staples)
And once again, we’ve reached the point to wrap up another Sunday Six, and I have a real goodie: We Go Back, the second single from Buddy Guy’s upcoming new album The Blues Don’t Lie. The 86-year-old blues guitar legend’s 34th record is scheduled for September 30. The release date marks the 65th anniversary of Guy’s arrival in Chicago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This ambassador of the blues is just incredible! On the nostalgic We Go Back, released on September 2nd and co-written by Richard Fleming and Guy’s longtime collaborator, drummer and producer Tom Hambridge, Guy is joined by none other than Mavis Staples. What an amazing duo and tune – really looking forward to that album!
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something you dig!
Great authentic blues is about the deepest lows and the highest highs life can throw at you. That’s exactly what Walter Trout delivers on his new album Ride, released on August 19 – and boy, what a great ride it is! I’ve really come to dig this man since he entered my radar screen about three and a half years ago, especially after seeing him at Iridium in New York City in April 2019.
Having encountered many demons, the now 71-year-old blues rock veteran has plenty of fodder to write about. From a childhood with an abusive father to alcohol and drug dependence to a near-death experience when his liver was failing and he needed a liver transplant to a gruesome ensuing recovery, Trout has seen it all over a 50-year-plus career.
Outside of blues rock circles, Trout may not be exactly a household name like Stevie Ray Vaughan used to be back in the ‘80s. But this doesn’t make him any less compelling. Plus, sadly, SVR, perhaps the best modern blues guitarist I can think of, has been gone for more than 30 years. Trout managed to turn his life around and is still standing. He has been sober since 1987. Aptly, he called his 2019 blues covers album Survivor Blues. I reviewed it here at the time.
Ride is Trout’s 30th studio album. It’s safe to assume you won’t find many other artists who reach that milestone, especially not from Trout’s generation. But what really amazes me is how much fire in the belly he continues to have. And how much Trout still has to say. Outside his music, this includes his passionate advocacy for organ donations. He likes to remind people that had it not been for a donated liver he received in May 2014, he wouldn’t be alive today.
Let’s take a closer look at some music. Here’s the opener Ghosts, which also became the album’s lead single on April 15. “It starts off with the lyric, ‘Sometimes I hear a familiar song and it brings back memories’ – that’s the truth,” Trout said in a statement, as reported by Guitar World. “I’ll be riding in my car, a song comes on the radio and I have to pull over and sob for a while. Ghosts sums this album up, y’know?”
On the title track, Trout takes a break from blues rock and embraces more of a southern rock sound. In fact, I have to agree with a review in Rock & Blues Muse, which notes the song’s Allman Brothers vibe. After reading this, I can totally picture the type of twin lead guitar fill-ins the Allmans excelled at. Also, I suspect the theme of just wanting to jump on a train appeals to many folks who like to get away from any troublesome situations. Check out this beauty!
Another highlight is Waiting For the Dawn, the second single that appeared ahead of the album on August 12. “There were times in this pandemic where I have sunk into some pretty deep depressions, sitting around, wondering whether life has a point,” Trout recalled, as noted in this piece by Rock N’ Load. Somewhere else (sadly, I’m blanking on the source) I read this slow blues is reminiscent of Gary Moore – good observation!
Perhaps Trout’s most personal song on the album is Hey Mama. Rock & Blues Museobserves it’s “an interior debate about why his mother didn’t do more to protect him from the horrific abuse inflicted upon him by his war-broken stepfather.” Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics: Hey mama, can you hear me?/I’m frightened and I’m blue/mama, can you help me?/You know I’m still counting on you…This is powerful stuff I would compare with John Lennon’sMother.
The last tune I’d like to call out is the closer Destiny, a beautiful love ballad that stands in marked contrast to the other tracks on the album and their pretty bleak lyrics. An excerpt: On the night I met you/I saw a connection in your eyes/And I felt like you’d been sent to me/And then I realized that I felt in my heart I’ve known you long before/And it wouldn’t be lonely anymore/It was meant to be, you and me, destiny… Also, check out that great soothing guitar sound!
Trout who now lives in Denmark recorded the album back in Los Angeles with his current regular band: Teddy “Zig Zag” Andrealis (keyboards), Jamie Hunting (bass) and Michael Leasure (drums). “No star cameos,” he toldRock & Blues Muse. “Strictly me and my band. The only guest was my tour manager, Anthony Grisham, who plays rhythm guitar on “Leave It All Behind.”
Appearing on Provogue/Mascot, Ride was produced by L.A.-based Canadian, producer, engineer and singer/songwriter Eric Corne. Additional recording credits noted in his online bio include John Mayall, Glen Campbell, Lucinda Williams, Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Healy, Michelle Shocked and Nancy Wilson (Heart), among others.
Here’s a Spotify link to Ride, an album I can highly recommend:
Walter Trout is currently on the road in Europe and will play 15 dates in the U.S. in September before playing Europe again in October and November. He’s closing out the year with a few dates in California. The full schedule is here. If you’re into blues rock, catch him while you can – no pun intended!
Sources: Wikipedia; Guitar World; Rock & Blues Muse; Rock N’ Load; Walter Trout website; YouTube; Spotify
Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time
Another Sunday calls for another expedition into the great world of music and all its different beautiful flavors. In case you’re new to this weekly recurring feature, you may ask yourself why throw all kinds of tracks from different eras into a post in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Well, I have a fairly eclectic taste and find it liberating not to limit myself to a specific theme like I typically do in my other posts. Hope you’ll join me!
Wes Montgomery/In Your Own Sweet Way
The first stop on today’s journey is April 1960, which saw the release of a studio album by Wes Montgomery. Even if you’re not a jazz aficionado, chances are you’ve heard of this amazing American jazz guitarist. His unusual technique to play the guitar, including plucking the strings with the side of his thumb and his frequent use of octaves, created a distinct and beautiful sound. During his active career spanning the years 1947-1968, Montgomery regularly worked with his brothers Buddy Montgomery (vibraphone, piano) and Monk Montgomery (bass), as well as Melvin Rhyne (organ). Sadly, Wes Montgomery’s life was cut short at age 45 when he suffered a heart attack in June 1968. In Your Own Sweet Way, composed by Dave Brubeck in 1952, is a track off an album aptly titled The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.
Chuck Prophet/Summertime Thing
Obviously, here in America, we’re into the summer season, so picking a tune titled Summertime Thing didn’t look far-fetched. The artist is Chuck Prophet, who only entered my radar screen earlier this year, and we now find ourselves in June 2002. From his AllMusicbio: Chuck Prophet is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who has created a handful of impressive solo albums when he isn’t busy collaborating with some of the most respected figures in roots rock. A songwriter with a naturalistic sense of storytelling and drawing characters, and a melodic sense that brings together the impact of rock with the nuance of country, blues, and folk, Prophet has been releasing worthwhile solo albums since 1990, when he brought out his first solo LP, Brother Aldo. Prior to that, he was a key member of the rough-edged Paisley Underground band Green on Red, who had a small cult following in the United States and a significantly larger one overseas, and in between solo efforts, he worked as a sideman, collaborator, or producer for Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis, Warren Zevon, Cake, Kim Richey, and many more. Summertime Thing, written by Prophet, is from his 2002 solo album No Other Love. I really dig what I’ve heard from him thus far – good reminder to keep exploring!
Stray Cats/Rock This Town
Let’s pick up the speed with some fun ’50s rockabilly brought to us by Stray Cats. Formed in the U.S. in 1979 by guitar virtuoso Brian Setzer, double bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom (gotta love that stage name!), the trio initially established a following in the New York music scene. After a gig in London, they met Welsh singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer Dave Edmunds who co-produced their eponymous debut album. First released in the UK in February 1981, the record generated an impressive three top 40 hits on the Official Singles Chart: Runaway Boys (no. 9), Stray Cat Strut (no. 11) and the tune I decided to pick, Rock This Town (no. 9), which was penned by Setzer. The Cats are still roaming the streets, though they’ve had a few breaks along the way. Remarkably, their current line-up is the original formation. Coinciding with their 40th anniversary, they put 40 in May 2019, their 10th and first new studio album in 26 years. Let’s shake it, baby – meow!
Little Feat/Rock and Roll Doctor
Time to see a doctor. ‘What kinda doctor?’ you may wonder. Well, obviously not any doctor. What we need is a Rock and Roll Doctor. And this brings us to Little Feat and August 1974. I had this tune earmarked for Sunday Six use a while ago. The group was formed in 1969 in Los Angeles by singer-songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Lowell George and pianist Bill Payne, together with Roy Estrada (bass) and Richie Hayward (drums). George and Estrada had played together in The Mothers of Invention. Notably, Frank Zappa was instrumental in the formation of Little Feat and getting them a recording contract. After George’s death in 1979, the group finished one more album, Down On the Farm, before disbanding. They reunited in 1987 and have had a history since then that is too long to recap here. Rock and Roll Doctor, co-written by George and Martin Kibbee, appeared on the band’s fourth studio release Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, their first charting album, reaching no. 36, no. 40 and no. 73 in the U.S., Canada and Australia, respectively.
Let’s pay the current century another visit with this gem by Lucinda Williams: Knowing, off her ninth studio album Little Honey, released in October 2008. While I had been aware of her name for many years, it wasn’t until June of this year that I started paying attention to her when she opened for Bonnie Raitt in Philly. The American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1978 blends Americana, folk, country and heartland rock. Her fifth studio album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road brought her commercial breakthrough. Nine additional albums have since come out. In November 2020, Williams suffered a debilitating stroke. While she has managed to largely recover and resume performing, some signs are still visible. Like most tunes on Little Honey, Knowing was solely written by Williams – great lady!
Elvis Presley/Suspicious Minds
And once again, we’re reaching the final stop of our music journey. I’d like to go back to 1969 and one of my all-time favorite Elvis Presley renditions: Suspicious Minds. The tune was written by American songwriter Mark James in 1968, who also first recorded it that year. Not sure what kind of impact the original single had but I know this: Presley’s version, which was released in August 1969, was a huge success, becoming his 18th and final no. 1 single in the U.S. Notably, as Wikipedia points out, session guitarist Reggie Young played on both the James and Presley versions. A leading session musician, Young also worked with the likes of Joe Cocker, John Prine, J.J. Cale, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Man, I love that song!
Thanks for accompanying me on another zig-zag music excursion. Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a Spotify playlist of all featured tunes. Here you go – hope there’s some stuff you like!