Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of Best of What’s New. Sometimes it’s challenging to find new music that sufficiently speaks to me. This week, I had the opposite situation – a nice problem to have! Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Sunny War/Baby Bitch
Sunny War is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter who, according to her Apple Music profile, enlivens traditional folk and blues by freshening her musical attack and writing lyrics that reflect 21st century concerns. Her first album, Worthless, arrived in 2014, and she continued to gain attention over the next few years as she built up a cult following that crested with the release of 2018’s With the Sun. Her fourth and latest album Anarchist Gospel, which appeared yesterday (February 3), documents the conflict between her two sides, the “very self-destructive, and the other is trying to work with that other half to keep things balanced,” as she notes on her website. Evidently, she had a tough past, including heavy drinking and addiction to heroin and meth. Baby Bitch, a great tune co-written by Aaron Freeman and Michael Melchiondo, reminds me a tiny bit of Tracy Chapman.
Tas Cru/Stand Up!
Tas Cru is a blues guitarist and singer-songwriter based in Central New York. From his website: Tas Cru is truly a blues eclectic who refuses to let his music be bound to just one blues style. With a repertoire of over 100 original songs from multiple albums and dozens of crowd-pleasing classics, this seasoned singer-guitarist-songwriter is truly one of the most unique of bluesmen plying his trade today. Cru was honored with his first Blues Foundation Blues Music Award nomination in 2018 for his album, Simmered & Stewed. That album and the two that followed (Memphis Song & Drive On) were all recipients of the Syracuse Area Music Awards (the SAMMY’s) for best blues recordings. His 2021 album, Broke Down Busted Up was nominated by Blues Blast Magazine (Best Acoustic Blues Album) and the Independent Blues Awards Modern Roots Album, Modern Roots Artist and Content Creator Award.) This brings me to his new album Riffin’ the Blue. Released on February 3, it features guitarist Mike Zito and keyboarder Bruce Katz as guests. Here’s Stand Up! – love that tune!
Arctic Rain/Fire In My Eyes
Arctic Rain are a Swedish rock band whose sound drew me in pretty quickly. I couldn’t find much background on them. Here’s their Spotify profile: Arctic Rain is yet another shining example that Sweden is truly the golden land of melodic rock. The band writes songs with strong melodic rock vibes based around tasteful instrumental harmonies. With new keyboardist Kaspar Dahlqvist, drummer Richard Tonyson and bassplayer Anders Janfalk, “Unity” [their new album – CMM] sees Arctic Rain building upon and surpassing their musical goals they aimed for on their debut album, “The One”. Bigger, bolder songs with a more rockin’ edge, but still very much melodic rock. From the above-mentioned Unity, their sophomore release that came out on January 27, here’s Fire In My Eyes. The clip also reveals Tobias Jonsson (vocals) and Magnus Berglund (guitar) as additional members. Does anyone else hear a touch of Journey in here?
Meg Baird/Will You Follow Me Home?
Meg Baird is a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In addition to being a solo artist, she also is the lead vocalist and drummer of Heron Oblivion, a psychedelic rock group she co-founded in 2014. Prior to that, Baird, who originally is from New Jersey, was a member of psychedelic folk band Espers and played drums in punk outfit Watery Love, both groups from Philadelphia. While still playing with Espers, she released her solo debut album Dear Companion in 2007. Baird also frequently collaborates with L.A.-based classically trained harpist Mary Lattimore, and has put out two albums with her to date. This brings me to Furling, Baird’s latest solo effort, which appeared on January 27. Here’s Will You Follow Me? This tune grabbed me right away!
Eddie 9V (born Mason Brooks Kelly) is a soulful blues artist from Atlanta who has been active since ca. 2011. From his website: All his life, Eddie 9V (9-volt) has acted on instinct. Aged just 15, this old-soul artist turned away from the path of college and jobs to burst all guns blazing onto the roots and blues club circuit of his native Atlanta, Georgia. Flash forward to 2019, and for his debut album, Left My Soul In Memphis, the prodigious multi-instrumentalist simply powered up the amps in his mobile trailer and with his brother/co-writer/producer, Lane Kelly, laid down one of the year’s breakout releases, acclaimed as “fresh and life-affirming” by Rock & Blues Muse. “ Following sophomore release Little Black Flies, he is now out with his third studio album Capricorn (January 27). Let’s check out Missouri, a nice tune he co-wrote with his brother.
Ian Hunter/Bed of Roses (feat. Ringo Starr & Mike Campbell)
Wrapping up this week’s new music revue is a real goodie by Ian Hunter, who is best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist of Mott the Hoople. Following his departure from the English rock band, Hunter launched a solo career with his eponymous debut album in 1975. It was the first of many solo efforts on which he collaborated with Mick Ronson, ex-guitarist of The Spiders from Mars, David Bowie’s backing band from 1972 to 1973. Hunter who is now 83 years has continued to release solo albums at a fairly steady pace. Bed of Roses is the lead single off Hunter’s upcoming album Defiance Part 1, which is packed with prominent guests. On this song, released January 20, Hunter got a little help from his friends Ringo Starr and Mike Campbell. Man, this sounds sweet! Defiance Part 1 is scheduled for April 21. And, yes, as the title implies, there’s more. According to Hunter’s website, it will be followed by the arrival of DEFIANCE PART 2. The second chapter will feature an equally stunning range of special guests while projecting an entirely different thematic approach and songwriting aesthetic.
Last but not least, here’s a Spotify playlist of the above goodies, topped up with a few more tunes by the featured artists.
Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sunny War website; Tas Cru website; Eddie 9V website; Ian Hunter website; YouTube; Spotify