Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

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

Chase Ceglie/Tonight

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

Elder/Endless Return

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

The Dirty Nil/Bye Bye Big Bear

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

Winterland/Set Me Free

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

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

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

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Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. All picks appear on releases that came out yesterday. Let’s get to them without further ado.

Larkin Poe/Southern Comfort

Great to see a new album by Larkin Poe, the roots and blues rock-focused singer-songwriter sister act of Rebecca Lovell (vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums) and her slightly older sister Megan Lovell (vocals, lap steel, slide guitar, keyboards). Their website describes their music as “gritty, soulful, and flavored by their southern heritage.” I first came across these two young dynamic ladies, who not only are excellent musicians but also great vocalists, in late 2019. They started out as teenagers with their eldest sister Jessica Lovell in a bluegrass/ Americana formation called The Lovell Sisters. After the trio disbanded in January 2010, Rebecca and Megan decided to forge ahead without Jessica and have since been making music as Larkin Poe. Apart from self-producing their own music, the two sisters have a very active YouTube channel that among others includes a cover channel featuring stripped-back renditions of many well-known rock and blues tunes. If you don’t know Larkin Poe, check them out! Their energy and enthusiasm are infectious! Meanwhile, here’s Southern Comfort, penned by Rebecca Lovell, a nice southern blues rock-flavored tune from their sixth full-length album Blood Harmony.

Jack Kays/Finally Fine

Let’s turn to Jack Kays whose music is “hard to pigeonhole,” according to AllMusic, blending “punk and emo with rugged acoustic folk and occasional detours into cloud rap.” Here’s more from their bio of the young artist: After a handful of independent releases, the Ohio native found viral success with his sparse but aggressive acoustic songs, especially “Morbid Mind.” Signing with Columbia Records, Kays released his debut album, Mixed Emotions, in early 2021. My Favorite Nightmares, a collaborative EP with Travis Barker followed later that year. I featured a tune of that EP in a Best of What’s New installment at the time. Kays who struggled with addiction during his teenage years is now out with his latest EP titled Cessation. One of the songs, Finally Fine, begins…from the perspective of an addict and then transitions midway through to the perspective of someone in recovery, a press release explains. There’s something captivating about Kays’ lyrics and stripped-back approach on this and the EP’s other tracks, which drew me in.

Action/Adventure/Levity

Action/Adventure are a pop punk band from Chicago. From their Apple Music profile: Combining the aggressive melodic approach of pop-punk with the punishing guitar attack of metalcore, Action/Adventure are a band from Chicago who’ve earned a powerful reputation on the city’s underground rock scene. They also upend expectations of what a hardcore band should look like: Action/Adventure is composed of five BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) men, and their songs sometimes examine the challenges and contradictions of being part of a dominantly white musical community. They just as often deal with the anger, imaginings, and uncertainty that often fuel hardcore, and they perform with a strong balance of fire and precision. They made an emphatic debut with 2015’s Rumble Pak EP, revealed a greater maturity and ambition on 2018’s Going Heel, and began breaking through to a larger audience with 2021’s Pulling Focus. Action/Adventure include Blake Evaristo (lead vocals), Brompton Jackson (vocals/guitar), Oren Trace (guitar), Manny Avila (bass) and Adrian Brown (drums). Levity, credited to all members, is a tune from their latest album Imposter Syndrome. Metalcore generally isn’t my cup of tea, but Action/Adventure’s pop-flavored type isn’t your usual metalcore.

Franz Nicolay/Wandering Star

Wrapping up this week’s Best of What’s New is a prolific multi-instrumentalist and writer, Franz Nicolay. From his website: In addition to records under his own name, he was a member of cabaret-punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, “world’s best bar band” the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol, co-founded the composer-performer collective Anti-Social Music, was a touring member of agit-punks Against Me!; and recorded (complete discography here) or performed (complete list here) with dozens of other acts. He studied music at New York University and writing at Columbia University (where he was awarded a Felipe P. de Alba Fellowship). He received fellowship residencies in composition at the Rensing Art Center and writing at the Ucross Foundation and the Edward F. Albee Foundation. He has taught at Columbia University and UC-Berkeley, and is currently a faculty member in music and written arts at Bard College. This brings me to New River, Nicolay’s latest solo album, and the opening track Wandering Star. Great tune – check it out! In fact, the entire album looks promising, based on sampling a few of the other tunes.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Larkin Poe website; AllMusic; Sony Music Canada website; Apple Music; Franz Nicolay website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and I hope everybody is enjoying their weekend. This also means it’s time to take a fresh look at newly released music. All picks appear on albums, which were released yesterday (November 4).

Big Joanie/Cactus Tree

Kicking us off today are Big Joanie, a black all-female punk trio formed in London in 2013. From their website: Championed by BBC 6Music, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan, Big Joanie are a London-based Black feminist punk band who combine the fury of nineties riot grrrl with synth-heavy post punk. Following their 2018 debut album ‘Sistahs’ on Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s label Daydream Library Series, the band secured a coveted run of support slots playing with Bikini Kill, Gossip, Sleater-Kinney and IDLES. Ahead of their second album, set to come out on Daydream Library in the UK and Kill Rock Stars in the US, Big Joanie are ready to bring their unique brand of feminist punk to the entire world. Big Joanie are Stephanie Phillips (guitar and vocals), Estella Adeyeri (bass guitar and vocals), and Chardine Taylor-Stone (drums and vocals). Their aforementioned second album Back Home is now out. Here’s the opener Cactus Tree, penned by Phillips. It’s safe to say Big Joanie are the first black punk band I’ve ever encountered, not to mention all-female. More importantly, these ladies have an interesting and I find distinct sound – not even sure I’d call it punk. Check this out.

The Lone Bellow/Cost of Living

Next up is another trio, The Lone Bellow, an Americana and roots group that began as a song-writing project for Zach Williams (guitar, lead vocals). Following an accident his wife had, which led to temporary paralysis, Williams began writing in a journal to cope with the situation. At the urging of friends, he learned how to play guitar and turned his journal entries into songs – what a cool story! After starting out as a solo act in New York City, he joined with Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals) and Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, bass, keyboard, vocals). In January 2013, they released their eponymous debut album. Cost of Living is a song off Love Songs for Losers, the fifth and latest album by The Lone Bellow who are now based in Nashville. I love their harmony singing and warm sound!

Emily Nenni/Useless

Emily Nenni, according to her website, is a California-born and Nashville-based [country] singer and songwriter [who] chronicles her life through delicate songcraft rife with honky-tonk spirit and spiked with just the right amount of soul...Growing up in the Bay Area “in a family of music nerds,” her father worked in radio…Mom and dad took her to countless concerts as a kid and regaled her with endless tales of music lore. Emily’s mother introduced her to the likes of Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Hank Williams, while her father spun James Brown and John Coltrane. Following high school, she attended Columbia College with a major in audio engineering. After a year, she dropped out and saved up enough money to move to Nashville…Eventually, she linked up with producer and frequent collaborator Mike Eli. Together, they cut her independent debut LP, Hell of a Woman, in 2017. Next up, she joined forces with Teddy and The Rough Riders for the I Owe You Nothin’ EP before serving up 2020’s Long Game EP. This brings me to On the Ranch, Nenni’s label full-length debut, and Useless, a tune she co-wrote with Michael Elias LoPinto. While other tracks on the album are traditional country, this song has more of a country-rock vibe – not bad!

Turnover/People That We Know

My last new music pick for this week comes from an American band called Turnover, formed in Virginia Beach, Va. in 2009. From their AllMusic bio: Turnover emerged in the early part of the 2010s, quickly outgrowing their emo and punk roots to create a more introspective sound that incorporated the lushness of dream pop and the tender melodies of indie pop. 2015’s Peripheral Vision marked the beginning of their transformation as it dialed down the distortion and added touches of shoegaze haze and summery vocal harmonies. Further works saw them branching out into wistful introspection (2017’s Good Nature) and soft pop (2019’s Altogether.) By the time of 2022’s Myself in the Way, they had cooked up a slick slowcore-meets-disco sound inspired by Quincy Jones and Chic. Turnover are Austin Getz (vocals, keyboards), Nick Rayfield (lead guitar), Danny Dempsey (bass) and Casey Getz (drums). Here’s People That We Know, credited to the entire band, from their above-mentioned latest album. The smooth and groovy tune drew me in.

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Big Joanie website; Emily Nenni website; AllMusic; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Happy Saturday and welcome to another installment of my weekly new music revue. Once again, I found myself with more songs than I was able to accommodate, a nice problem to have. Following are four I decided to feature, all from albums that came out yesterday (October 7).

Disq/This Time

My first pick are Wisconsin indie rock band Disq, who according to Apple Music were founded by two teenage childhood friends. Here’s more from their profile: The roots of Disq go back to the friendship of Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock. The two grew up together, and both were surrounded by creative, artistic families. After learning several instruments and exploring pop music foundations laid by bands like the Beatles and alternative rock starting points like Weezer, the two budding songwriters formed Disq when they were still in their early teens. With Bock on bass and backing vocals and deBroux-Slone on guitar and lead vocals, the duo self-produced and released the Disq I EP in 2016. Over the next several years, the band expanded to include additional guitarist Logan Severson, drummer Brendan Manley, and guitarist/keyboardist Shannon Connor. After signing with indie label Saddle Creek, Disq released their full-length debut album Collector in March 2020. This Time, written by DeBroux-Slone, is a track from the group’s sophomore album Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet. Great song!

Indigo Sparke/Pluto

This is the second time I’m including singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke in Best of What’s New after this installment from February 2021. According to a profile on the website of her record label Sacred Bones Records, Sparke writes with a rare and reflective power, creating music that builds and bursts as she examines love, loss, grief, and a newly realized rage. Born in Australia and now based in New York, Indigo worked as an actress before establishing herself in the Sydney music scene with her EP Night Bloom (2016). Over the next few years, she toured and collaborated extensively with Big Thief, released her single, “The Day I Drove the Car Around the Block,” to critical acclaim, had a song featured on the TV show Cloudy River, and performed across Australia and the U.S. Indigo signed with Sacred Bones in early 2021, and made her label debut shortly after with Echo [I previously featured the opener – CMM], which she co-produced with Adrianne Lenker (Big Thief), and Andrew Sarlo (producer of Big Thief, Nick Hakim, Bon Iver, and Hand Habits). This brings me to Hysteria, Sparke’s sophomore release, and Pluto, a beautiful song she wrote together with Aaron Dessner.

Surf Curse/Cathy

Next up is new music by Surf Curse, a music project by Nick Rattigan (drums, vocals) and Jacob Rubeck (guitar). From their AllMusic bio: A gritty and melodic Nevada-bred guitar-and-drum duo who later became a fixture of Los Angeles’ D.I.Y. garage and punk scenes, Surf Curse aligned themselves with the artist-run Danger Collective label where they released albums like 2017’s Nothing Yet and 2019’s Heaven Surrounds You. The sudden viral success of “Freaks,” a song they’d released years earlier, earned them a deal with Atlantic. That label has now issued Surf Curse’s fourth and new album Magic Hour. Here’s Cathy. I like their sound!

The Star Crumbles/Desperately Wanting

Before getting to the last pick, I have to call out fellow bloggers Jeff from Eclectic Music Lover and Marc Schuster from Abnominations, who brought the music project The Star Crumbles on my radar screen with recent posts here and here, respectively. The following is informed by these posts. Marc who is based in Philadelphia is actually a member of the project, which also includes his friend, Denton, Texas-based Brian Lambert. Both are longtime singer-songwriters and musicians. After they had met on Twitter, Lambert reached out to Schuster for some help with one of his songs earlier this year. Recognizing how well they worked with each other, they decided to form The Star Crumbles. Schuster and Lambert, among others, are both into ’80s music and bands like The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order and Ultravox, which you can clearly hear on their first album The Ghost of Dancing Slow. They also came up with a fictitious story behind the band, which they captured in a hilarious mini-documentary. Here’s the remarkable thing from my perspective: While I used to dig much of ’80s music at the time, nowadays, I tend to be lukewarm about it. I definitely can’t say the same about The Star Crumbles and their tune Desperately Wanting, which pretty much grabbed me right away. Once again, this goes to show that at the end of the day, there are only types of music: Music you dig and music that doesn’t speak to you. Check this out!

The following Spotify playlist includes the above and a few additional tracks by the featured artists.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Sacred Bones Records website; AllMusic; Eclectic Music Lover blog; Abnominations blog; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

After a two-week hiatus due to a vacation in Germany, I’m happy to be back. The first two songs highlighted in this post are from albums that were released yesterday (August 12). The two remaining picks reflect music that appeared while I was out. Let’s get to it!

Tony Molina/The Last Time

Kicking things off today is Tony Molina. From his Apple Music profile: California native Tony Molina spent years working in the punk and hardcore scenes before venturing out into his much poppier solo work. Living in the Bay Area, Molina played in various D.I.Y. hardcore acts starting in his teenage years. In 2013, while still fronting the much more aggressive Caged Animal, Molina released his solo debut, Dissed and Dismissed, a collection of 12 short and fuzzy tunes that took notes from ’90s indie and power pop acts like Weezer, Dinosaur Jr., and Teenage Fanclub. The incredibly brief album (the 12 tunes rush by in as many minutes) caught the ears of various labels and booking agents, and within the year, Molina was scheduled to release singles with indie luminaries like Matador and Slumberland. Fast forward nine years to Molina’s third solo album In the Fade. Here’s The Last Time, a nice fuzzy rocker!

Collective Soul/Reason

The first time I heard of Collective Soul was in March 1993 when they seemingly emerged out of nowhere with their debut single Shine. I immediately dug what became their biggest hit to date. Then the alternative rock band completely fell off my radar screen. Frankly, I had no idea they are still around and have since released 10 additional studio albums, including their latest titled Vibrating. Three of the group’s founding members are still part of the current line-up: Ed Roland (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards), his brother Dean Roland (rhythm guitar) and Will Turpin (bass, percussion backing vocals). Jesse Triplett (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Johnny Rabb (drums, percussion) have been with the band since 2014 and 2012, respectively. Reason, penned by Ed Roland, is a nice melodic rock tune.

Sheryl Crow/Circles

I trust Sheryl Crow, one of my favorite pop rock artists, needs no further introduction. When Crow released Threads in August 2019, she said her 11th studio album would be her last full-length effort, citing changed listening habits in the era of music streaming. I reviewed it here at the time. But the singer-songwriter also noted this didn’t mean retirement or no more new music. While Crow hasn’t been exactly prolific since Threads, she has followed through on her announcement. The latest example is her rendition of Circles, a tune written by Post Malone who first released the song as a single in August 2019, off his third studio album Hollywood’s Bleeding that appeared in September of the same year. Crow put out her cover of the tune as a single on August 2.

Tedeschi Trucks Band/Emmaline

My last pick for this Best of What’s New installment is Emmaline, a song off Tedeschi Trucks Band’s I Am the Moon: III. The Fall, the third of their ambitious four-album I Am the Moon studio project, released July 29. I covered the first two installments here. The fourth and final album I Am The Moon: IV. Farewell is scheduled for August 23. I Am The Moon is the fifth studio effort by Tedeschi Trucks Band, a group 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. Emmaline was written by Mike Mattison, one of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s harmony vocalists – great tune!

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

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday, so here we go again taking a fresh look at new music. All picks appear on releases that came out yesterday (June 10). Here we go!

Calder Allen/Shine

My first pick this week is music from the debut album by Americana singer-songwriter Calder Allen. From his website: At only 19 years of age, Calder Allen is one of the newest rising acts to emerge out of Austin, Texas. Both audibly and lyrically beyond his years, Allen is a prolific singer-songwriter and self-taught guitarist who completed the recording of his first album in August 2021 at none other than the historic Arlyn Studios, shortly followed by his inaugural performance at Austin City Limits Music FestivalA fifth generation Austinite, Calder Allen’s natural ability and love for music is embedded into his DNA; among his music inspirations includes his grandfather Terry Allen, the legendary visual artist, and Buddy Holly Walk of Fame songwriter. His album producer Charlie Sexton, and other prolific artists like Gary Clark Jr., Caamp, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt are also impactful influences on Allen’s music. His debut album is titled The Game. Here’s the opener Shine. I really like what I’m hearing here!

Vance Joy/Solid Ground

Next, I’m turning to Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy, born James Gabriel Keogh. From his AllMusic bio: Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy was vaulted into the mainstream when his 2013 single “Riptide” became a massive international hit. His blend of thoughtful indie folk and breezy melodic pop helped both his EP and subsequent debut album, Dream Your Life Away, go multi-platinum. Joy maintained his success throughout the rest of the decade, topping the charts again with his 2018 follow-up Nation of Two. His third album, In Our Own Sweet Time, was released in 2022. Among the 12 tracks is Solid Ground, which Joy co-wrote with Dave Bassett. Pretty enjoyable tune!

Nick Mulvey/Another Way To Be

Nick Mulvey is an English singer-songwriter who has been active since 2007. From his Apple Music profile: After a successful stint with Portico Quartet — which included a Mercury Prize nomination in 2008, 150 shows worldwide, and signing to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records — Nick Mulvey set about creating a sound that was both striking and individual, intertwining influences of great musicians such as Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Waits with a variation of African styles, including guitarist Kawele. His solo debut, 2014’s First Mind, landed in the U.K. Top Ten and was also nominated for the Mercury Prize. This brings me to New Mythology, Mulvey’s third and latest album, and Another Way To Be, a song written by him. While it’s not in my core wheelhouse, I like it!

Rise Against/The Answer

Let’s wrap up this revue with new music by Chicago punk rock band Rise Against. Formed in 1999, the group’s current line-up includes original members Tim McIlrath (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Joe Principe (bass, backing vocals), along with Zach Blair (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Brandon Barnes (drums, percussion), who have been with Rise Against since 2007 and 2000, respectively. In April 2001, the group released their debut album The Unraveling. Their fourth album The Sufferer & the Witness brought them first significant chart success in the U.S., reaching no. 10 on the Billboard 200, as well as their first charting album abroad, most notably in Canada where it peaked at no. 5. To date, the group’s catalog includes nine studio albums, two compilations and 10 EPs, among others. Their latest release is an EP titled Nowhere Generation II. Here’s the opener The Answer, credited to the entire band. This nicely rocks!

Before wrapping up, following is a Spotify playlist with all of the above and a few additional tunes.

Sources: Wikipedia; Calder Allen website; AllMusic; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Jane Lee Hooker Deliver Strong New Album Rollin’

Today, Jane Lee Hooker released their third studio album Rollin’ and it’s a fun listening experience! The New York rock band has been on my radar screen since I caught them live at a summer-in-the-park concert on the Jersey shore in August 2017. Two things struck me right away: Their raw power and that they were an all-female band, something that remains relatively rare to this day. Four and a half years later, the group delivers an album that offers their familiar hard-charging guitar-driven rock, as well as some new elements, including acoustic blues and vibes of soul.

While Jane Lee Hooker’s music is generally categorized as blues-rock, I feel their own characterization as being a blend of rock & roll, blues, punk, R&B and soul is more accurate. That’s especially the case on the new album. Jane Lee Hooker were founded in 2013 by Dana “Danger” Athens (vocals), Tina “T-Bone” Gorin (guitar), Tracy Hightop (guitar), Hail Mary Zadroga (bass), Tracy Hightop (guitar) and Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston  (drums) – in addition to the cool band name, you just gotta love these stage names! The group’s original line-up remains in place to this day, except for Houston who left in 2020 and has been replaced by ‘Lightnin’ Ron Salvo

Jane Lee Hooker (from left): Tina Gorin, Dana Athens, Ron Salvo, Mary Zadroga, Tracy Hightop. Photo by Rob Carter.

In 2015, Jane Lee Hooker signed with Ruf Records, a prominent independent German blues and blues-rock label, and released their debut No B! in April 2016, a collection of high-energy blues covers. This was followed by sophomore release Spiritus in November 2017, which featured originals. According to the band’s Facebook page, Rollin’ was written and recorded during the pandemic, which resulted in Jane Lee Hooker trying out new methods of songwriting and recording.

With COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements in effect in NYC, the band found themselves locked out of their Brooklyn rehearsal room – the creative space where they write and rehearse with amps cranked up at maximum volume. Says singer Dana Athens, “Aside from Jericho and Lucky, which were written before 2020, the rest of the songs on Rollin’ were primarily written on acoustic instruments in my backyard while social distancing underneath the grapevines my Greek grandparents planted in 1968. We had this oasis to gather and make music and pass the time the pandemic had afforded us.”

She continues, “…we recorded this record very differently than we have done with our other albums. Beginning with focusing on drums at one studio, then tracking vocals, guitars, and other things at two other locations. This process was very different from our “plug-and-play’ attitude of yore.” Let’s check out some music!

Here’s the opener Lucky, a smoking mid-tempo blues rocker. Like all of the other six original tunes on the album, the song is credited to the entire band. “I love how “Lucky” came together because it was written in Fred’s studio on Stanton St. during practice out of the blue,” Zadroga recalled. “We took a smoke break and were saying we needed to write something new. All of it. Together!”

Drive is one of three tracks that were released as upfront singles. The soul-oriented rock ballad is my personal favorite on the album. “I was not intending to write about travel, the song is really about long-standing plans to see a friend and how you can still feel connected to someone no matter the distance between you,” Athens told Blues Matters! “Lockdown made these friends seem even further away, so I guess the song also contains a bit of escapism and fantasy – wishing that you could be together.” I love Athens’ vocals and keyboards and the beautiful guitar work.

Next up is Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, one of two covers on Rollin’. The original is a jazz tune written by Austrian jazz keyboarder and composer Joe Zawinul in 1966 for Cannonball Adderley. Athens, who had not known the instrumental until she coincidentally came across it on Spotify, added lyrics. “Dana picked this cover months before recording, but we hadn’t arranged much less played it, until the end of our session,” explained Salvo. “It came together perfectly and Dana’s lyrical stamp made it our own.” Jane Lee Hooker did a great job with their rendition. If you’re curious, you can check out the original here.

White Gold, a neat acoustic blues tune, provides a nice contrast to the otherwise electric sound of the album. “I can’t remember the name of the studio in Woodstock [Dreamland Recording StudiosCMM], but it was an old church,” Hightop said. “Matt [producer Matt ChiaravalleCMM] and Ron [drummer Ron SalvoCMM] had already gone to sleep and Dana, T-Bone and I snuck back into the old dark church to practice the song. Just two guitars and Dana’s massive voice filling the church.” Added Gorin: “I always knew we had a song like this in us. It doesn’t even feel like a departure for us to me. We always had roots in our music and this shows our purer side of that.”

The last track I’d like to call is Runaway Train, another blues rocker. “I guess I started writing this one in late 2019,” Athens pointed out. “I didn’t want to
use the potentially over-used train theme, but the song just came out. At this time Mary and I were getting together at my house to write and jam. The very first recording of this song is a voice memo from December 2019 of just Mary and I fleshing it out.” Salvo added, “Sounds exactly as the name implies! High speed and off the rails.” Gorin concluded, “Very JLH tune. We love dealing out energy and this one is the perfect vehicle for that.”

“Somehow, amidst the chaos of a global pandemic, we were able to write and record what I feel is our best work as a band yet,” Athens summed up the album. “Astounding that some things, like writing music with each other, will always be a beautiful and safe world, even during a worldwide health disaster like COVID19,” added Gorin. Hightop concurred, stating, “We were really able to take our time and do these amazing songs justice. This album is just next level in so many respects.” I have to agree. With a more diversified sound, Rollin’ feels like a step up from the band’s two previous albums.

Rollin’, a self-released album, was produced and mixed by Matt Chiaravalle who has worked with the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Warren Zevon and Courtney Love. It was recorded at three studios: Virtue and Vice Studios in Brooklyn, NY; Dreamland Recording Studios in Woodstock, NY; and Mercy Sound Recording Studios in New York, NY).

Here’s a Spotify link to the album:

As a bonus, here’s a live version of Drive I captured at a recent album release party in New York City. Thanks again to the band’s manager Gregg Bell who kindly invited me to the fun event and took the time to chat for a few minutes. He’s actually based in Australia, and this gig was the first time for him to see the band live – well, they certainly rocked the place!

On May 13, Jane Lee Hooker are scheduled to kick off a European tour to support the new album, including The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Their current schedule is here.

Sources: Wikipedia; JLH Facebook page & website; JHL press kit; Blues Matters; YouTube, Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

Another Saturday is upon us. Today, Best of What’s New is hitting a milestone of sorts with its 100th installment. Since the publication of the weekly feature’s inaugural post on March 21, 2020, I’ve covered more than 400 newly released songs. Discovering tunes I sufficiently like can be a challenge, given I’m primarily into the ’60s and ’70s. But I continue to be encouraged it’s still possible to find decent new music, as long as you are willing to look for it. Let’s get to this week’s picks, which all are on albums that were released yesterday (February 18).

Gregor Barnett/Driving Through the Night

I’d like to kick things off with new music from the debut solo album by Gregor Barnett. He is best known as a co-founder of Philadelphia-based punk band The Menzingers, which has been around since 2006. Here’s an excerpt from Barnett’s bio on the website of his label Epitaph Records: “It was this perfect storm,” says Menzingers guitarist/co-vocalist Gregor Barnett. “The band couldn’t tour, I was going through a really difficult time, and I was stuck at home watching my family struggle with illness and death and hardship. The only thing I could do was write my way through it.”And yet, despite all the turbulence surrounding its creation, there’s something deeply hopeful and reassuring about Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave, Barnett’s debut release under his own name. Written and recorded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the collection is a sonic departure from Barnett’s more punk-leaning work with The Menzingers, drawing on the gritty, off-kilter Americana of Tom Waits or Warren Zevon as it faces down loss and doubt in search of relief and redemption. Here’s Driving Through the Night, which like all other tracks on the album was penned by Barnett. I like his sound!

The Heavy Hours/Wasting All Our Time

The Heavy Hours are an alternative rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s more from their website: On the heels of releasing their acclaimed Wildfire EP (2021) in the midst of a global pandemic, The Heavy Hours now return with Gardens, a full-length album that further exemplifies their distinctive strain of warm-hearted, open-armed alternative rock. The Cincinnati, Ohio-based quartet recorded Gardens several years ago, long before the group had management, an agent or a record label in their corner. With money they had collectively saved up, each of the members took a week off of work and set out to record a pocket full of songs at Montrose Recording located on remote farmland in Richmond, Virginia with producer Adrian Olsen (Nate Smith, Foxygen, Futurebirds). Somehow these early studio recordings found their way into the hands of multi GRAMMY award-winning producer/songwriter and Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach who immediately took a shine to the band and in turn led to organizing a writing session in Nashville, TN, which crafted tracks released on the Wildfire EP. This brings me to Gardens, which according to this mini-documentary was recorded in 2018. Here’s Wasting All Our Time, credited to all four members of the band: Andrew Yorio, Michael Marcagi, Jonathan Todd Moon and Ian Malott. I’m glad The Heavy Hours were finally able to release this great music.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers/Been Lovin’ You Too Long

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers are a band around country singer-songwriter Sarah Shook. According to her Apple Music profile, Shook was born in Rochester, New York in 1985. She was raised in a deeply religious household, home schooled, and only allowed to listen to classical or Christian praise music as she grew up. Despite these restrictions, Shook taught herself to play guitar in high school and began writing songs…In 2010, she put together her first band, Sarah Shook & the Devil, who issued an EP in 2013, Seven. By the end of 2013, that band had split, and Shook & the Devil guitarist Eric Peterson started over with the group Sarah Shook & the Dirty Hand, a stopgap project that played live around the Chapel Hill area. Meanwhile, Shook had found a fan in producer and engineer Ian Schreier, who was eager to make a record with her. In 2015, she and Peterson assembled a new band to record with Schreier, which also included Aaron Olivia on bass, Phil Sullivan on pedal steel, and John Howie, Jr. (who is also Shook’s partner) on drums. The new combo, dubbed the Disarmers, cut their debut album live in the studio with Schreier at the controls. Sidelong was self-released in late 2015. Fast-forward about six years and two months to Nightroamer, the third album by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. All tunes on the record were written by Shook. Here’s Been Lovin’ You Too Long.

Goodbye June/Breathe and Attack

My last pick for this week is by Goodbye June, a rock band from Nashville, Tenn., formed in 2005. I first featured them in a Best of What’s New installment in December 2021. The group consists of Landon Milbourn (lead vocals), Brandon Qualkenbush (rhythm guitar, bass, backing vocals) and Tyler Baker (lead guitar), who are all cousins. Apple Music describes them as a hard rock band who blend a rootsy sound with big guitars and plenty of strutting style. Their debut album Nor the Wild Music Flow came out in 2012. Breathe and Attack is from their fourth and latest studio album See Where the Night Goes. I said it before, I’ll say it again: This band reminds me of AC/DC. Milbourn has some of that Bon Scott swagger, and their guitar-playing stylistically is pretty similar to the rock & roll band from down under. Check it out!

Before I wrap up, here’s a playlist of the above tunes. As usual, I threw in a few others by the featured bands.

Sources: Wikipedia; Epitaph Records website; The Heavy Hours website; Apple Music; YouTube; Spotify

Clips & Pix: Sihasin/We the People

Sihasin is an indigenous music project of Clayson Benally (bass) and Jeneda Benally (drums). According to their website, the siblings are from the Diné (Navajo) Nation in Northern Arizona. Sihasin, which means hope in the Diné language, combine punk rock, folk, world music and pop with Navajo rhythm in their music and songs that aim to empower and inspire others to bring change and social justice.

The above clip captures their most recent single We the People, which premiered digitally on July 4, 2021 in each American embassy. Previously, Sihasin had been selected by American Music Abroad, a cultural diplomacy program that shares American music internationally and that is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Clayson and Jeneda got their start in music as teenagers in 1989 when they formed punk rock group Blackfire, together with their brother Klee Benally (guitar, vocals). Sihasin was founded in 2012 after Blackfire stopped being active. The band remains on hiatus.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Sources: Wikipedia; Sihasin website; YouTube

The Who Played by Others

When it comes to popular bands whose songs have widely been covered by other artists, The Beatles are always the first who come to mind, and it’s no wonder. Fellow blogger Hans from Slicethelife has been doing a long-running series “Under the Covers” (see one recent installment here) and I believe has yet to find a Fab Four tune that hasn’t been covered by somebody else. While in my completely unbiased opinion, The Beatles are the best band that ever existed [ 🙂 ], obviously, there are many other outstanding groups with terrific songs. One of my favorites in this context are The Who. Following is a playlist featuring renditions of some of their songs.

David Bowie/I Can’t Explain

I’m doing this list chronologically by date when The Who first released the featured tune. First up is David Bowie’s cover of I Can’t Explain, off his seventh studio album Pin Ups from October 1973. Like all other tracks in this post, I Can’t Explain was written by Pete Townshend. It was the first single that appeared under the name of The Who in December 1964. Interestingly, the song came out in the U.S. before it did in the U.K. where it was released in January 1965. I’ve always loved it. After listening to Bowie’s slower take twice, I find it intriguing as well, especially the neat saxophone work that was largely done by Bowie himself!

Green Day/My Generation

One of favorite early tunes by The Who is My Generation, the title track of their debut album from December 1965. I still get amazed by John Entwistle’s bass solo, even though I’ve listened to it countless times. With its aggressive sound, My Generation really is an early punk song. So perhaps it was only fitting that Green Day included a cover on their sophomore studio album Kerplunk that appeared in December 1991 – not bad!

Vanilla Fudge/I Can See For Miles

I Can See For Miles became the only single from The Who’s third studio album The Who Sell Out – love that tune! Released in September and October 1967 in the U.S. and UK, respectively, it reached no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and no. 10 in the UK. Yet Townshend was disappointed, feeling it should have been a no. 1 – oh, well! Regardless, it’s one of the gems in The Who’s catalog. Here’s a nice funky take by Vanilla Fudge from their most recent 2015 studio album Spirit of ’67. Apparently, the band is still around, with three of its original four members remaining in the current line-up.

Elton John/Pinball Wizard

Elton John’s version of Pinball Wizard is a great illustration of how the piano man could rock. Since I heard it first many years ago, I’ve always thought this is the length the original should have had instead of what feels like a premature ending where the tune suddenly fades out. Pinball Wizard first appeared in March 1969 as the lead single of The Who’s fourth studio album Tommy released in May that year. John’s rendition became part of the soundtrack of the rock opera’s 1975 film adaptation. It also appeared separately as a single, climbing to no. 7 in the UK on the Official Singles Chart.

Rush/The Seeker

In March 1970, The Who released The Seeker as a non-album single. I dig this tune that was subsequently included on their 1971 compilation Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. While I’m not much into Rush, the Canadian rockers recorded a neat version on an EP they released in June 2004 titled Feedback. Check it out, this nicely rocks!

The Dear Abbeys/Baba O’Riley

Baba O’Riley is the majestic opener of The Who’s fifth studio album Who’s Next, which just passed its August 14 50th anniversary release and hasn’t lost any of its magic. Here’s an incredible a cappella version by The Dear Abbeys, an all-male acapella group who according to their website were formed in February 1992 at Boston University and “have gained a reputation in the a cappella community for musical precision, complex and unique arrangements and an energetic style of live performance that’s difficult to match.” Well, they certainly passed my audition with Baba O’Riley, which was included on an album from January 2007. It sounds pretty neat!

The Natural Mystics/Love Reign O’er Me

This groovy version of Love Reign O’er Me was done by The Natural Mystics, a reggae band who recorded the song for a self-titled album released in June 2013. Originally, it’s the closer of Quadrophenia, The Who’s mighty sixth studio album from October 1973. It also became the second single off that record released the day after the album had come out.

Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’/Squeeze Box

In May 2017, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ issued a great collaboration album titled TajMo. It includes this fun Cajun version of Squeeze Box, a tune The Who recorded for The Who by Numbers, their seventh studio album from October 1975. Listening to Taj Mahal’s deep vocals in the chorus, one can literally picture a swamp alligator – really dig that rendition!

The Binghamton Crosbys/You Better You Bet

How about some more a cappella action? Ask and you shall receive. Meet The Binghamton Crosbys, aka The Crosbys, a group formed in 1983 at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. Wikipedia lists 13 albums released between 1987 and 2016. Their 2006 record Roadtrip to Munzville includes this fun rendition of You Better You Bet. The Who recorded this tune as the opener of their ninth studio album Face Dances that came out in March 1981. The song was also released separately as the record’s lead single, giving The Who their first top 10 hit in the UK (no. 9) since 1976 when a reissued single of Substitute reached no. 7. In the U.S., You Better You Bet topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and climbed to no. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Casey Wickstrom/Eminence Front

Let’s do one more: Eminence Front, a track from The Who’s 10th studio album It’s Hard that appeared in September 1982. Unlike for most other songs in this list, I found numerous covers of the tune. I was particularly drawn to this bluesy take by Casey Wickstrom, a young artist from California. According to his website, he is a multi-instrumentalist and live looping artist, vocalist, music producer, writer, and film editor. He sings and plays guitar, lap slide guitar, cigar box guitar, bass, harmonica, and other instruments. Wickstrom released Eminence Front as a single in June 2019.

Sources: Wikipedia; The Dear Abbeys website; Casey Wickstrom website; YouTube