Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

It’s Saturday and winter and snow have finally arrived in Central New Jersey. But this shall not prevent me from taking a fresh look at newly-released music. As is oftentimes the case in these posts, the featured artists are entirely new to me. All tracks appear on albums released yesterday (January 28). This Best of What’s New installment is the first to include a Spotify playlist that goes beyond the tunes highlighted in the post. I figured why not add a few additional new songs from each reviewed new release.

Pinegrove/Habitat

My first pick this week is a rock band from New Jersey, Pinegrove. According to their Apple Music profile, they blend ragged, emo-tinged indie rock with Americana and folk influences…and have…built a sturdy grassroots following through several well-received independent releases before signing with Run for Cover Records to release their 2016 breakout album, Cardinal. Just as their momentum was building, the band took a year-long hiatus, delaying the release of their third album, Skylight, which finally appeared in late 2018...Led by singer/ songwriter Evan Stephens Hall, along with core members Zack Levine (drums) and his brother Nick Levine (guitar), Pinegrove first emerged out of the city of Montclair in 2010 with a self-released EP called Mixtape One. Their debut album, Meridian, arrived in 2012, followed by a pair of independently released EPs and Mixtape Two. This brings me to Habitat, a track off Pinegrove’s sixth and latest album 11:11. Like all other tunes on the record, it was penned by Hall.

Immanuel Wilkins/Emanation

For the most part, I include (old) jazz in my weekly Sunday Six feature, which is why I’m particularly happy to have come across new music by a young jazz alto saxophonist called Immanuel Wilkins. From his website: The music of saxophonist and composer Immanuel Wilkins is filled with empathy and conviction, bonding arcs of melody and lamentation to pluming gestures of space and breath. Listeners were introduced to this riveting sound with his acclaimed debut album Omega, which was named the #1 Jazz Album of 2020 by The New York Times. The album also introduced his remarkable quartet with Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass, and Kweku Sumbry on drums, a tight-knit unit that Wilkins features once again on his stunning sophomore album The 7th Hand. Here’s the opener from that record, Emanation. It’s pretty free-form, but I still like it!

Brent Cobb/Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Brent Cobb is a 35-year-old Nashville-based country singer-songwriter who originally hails from Georgia. He made his vocal debut as a 7-year-old when he performed a Tim McGraw song with his father’s band at a Georgia festival. As a teenager, Cobb fronted Mile Marker 5, a local band that gained prominence opening up for larger acts. After meeting his cousin and record producer Dave Cobb, he recorded his debut album No Place Left to Leave, which appeared in August 2006. Just a Closer Walk with Thee is the opener of Cobb’s latest album And Now, Let’s Turn the Page…, a country gospel record. Here’s a bit more from his website. Brent Cobb follows in the footsteps of his country music heroes with his new gospel album, And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…. By offering eight familiar hymns alongside an original song written with his wife, the collection feels reverent as well as rowdy—and completely in his comfort zone. Brent cites a near-death experience as the push he needed to finally make And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…. In July 2020, the vehicle he was driving, with his young son inside, got T-boned at a rural four-way stop. I rarely listen to gospel and when I do, I usually prefer a gospel choir. But this tune nevertheless grabbed me with its warm feel.

Cloakroom/Dottie-back Thrush

I’d like to wrap up this new music review with Cloakroom, an American rock band from northwest Indiana. From their Apple Music profile: Midwestern trio Cloakroom formed in 2012, coining the term “stoner emo” to describe their lurching, guitar-heavy sound that borrowed equally from hardcore’s brawniness, the dreamy sound-webs of shoegaze, and sad-hearted ’90s indie rock bands like Hum and Red House Painters. Coming together in Michigan City, Indiana, the band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Doyle Martin, who had formerly fronted pop-punk act the Grown-Ups, as well as drummer Brian Busch and bassist Bobby Markos. [In 2019, Bush was replaced by Tim RemisCMM] Debut album Infinity arrived in 2013 and was followed the next year by the more developed double album Further Out. In 2017, Cloakroom dropped their sophomore LP, Time Well, via Relapse Records. This brings me to the band’s new album Dissolution Wave and the track Dottie-back Thrush – definitely outside my core wheelhouse. But there’s just something about their trance-like sound.

Last but not least, here’s the above-noted enhanced playlist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Apple Music; Immanuel Wilkins website; Brent Cobb website; YouTube; Spotify

Best of What’s New

A selection of newly released music that caught my attention

This week’s Best of What’s New installment brings another nice mix of great new music. From country to blues to soul to singer-songwriter style, it’s all there. Or how about a Boston-based band with a very unique sound they describe as Americana funk? Or a neo soul collaboration’s beautiful cover of a well-known Tracy Chapman tune? I hope I’ve sufficiently whetted your appetite to read on!

Ray Wylie Hubbard/Bad Trick (featuring Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh & Chris Robinson)

While Ray Wylie Hubbard has been active for more than 50 years, I don’t believe I had heard of him before, but I simply couldn’t skip a tune featuring Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh among the guests! Hubbard’s online bio states he is the secret handshake amongst those who know, which to me suggests he may not exactly be a household name. Hubbard was born in Soper, OK on November 13, 1946. Beginning in 1965, during semester breaks from his studies at the University of North Texas, he spent the summers in Red River, N.M., where he started playing music in a folk trio called Three Faces West. During that time period, he wrote a tune with the lovely title Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother, which was first recorded by country artist Jerry Jeff Walker in 1973. It helped Hubbard sign with Warner Bros. Records and release his debut Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Cowboy Twinkies in 1976. Seventeen additional country, folk and blues-oriented albums have since appeared. This includes Co-Starring, which came out on July 10 and features the above tune, which was co-written by Hubbard and his wife Judy. Hubbard told Apple Music he had met Ringo about five or six years ago. When Ringo learned about Hubbard’s new album, not only did he offer to play drums on Bad Trick but also ask his brother-in-law Joe Walsh and Don Was to join on guitar and bass, respectively. The fourth guest is Black Crowes co-founder and lead vocalist Chris Robinson. Check out the fun video!

Black Pumas/Fast Car

Based on sampling a few tunes, Black Puma sound like a really cool, relatively new band. According to Apple Music, it’s a collaboration between producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Quesada and singer-songwriter Eric Burton, who fuse cinematic neo-soul, light psychedelia, and a touch of urban grit. No matter how you characterize their music, it simply sounds great. Quesada and Burton joined forces in 2018 and released their eponymous debut album in June 2019. Their latest single Fast Car is a cover of the Tracy Chapman tune that appeared on her eponymous debut record in April 1988. I’ve loved that tune from the very first time I heard it when it came out. Things around Chapman seem to have been quiet for a long time. Perhaps this great remake will help bring her back on the radar screens of folks who dig but have forgotten about her.

Twisted Pine/Don’t Come Over Tonight

Don’t Come Over Tonight is a track from Right Now, the forthcoming sophomore album by Twisted Pine, a Boston-based band with a unique sound that’s hard to describe. Here’s how a short bio from their web site puts it: Praised by NPR for their “upbeat, poppy vibe; energetic, driving rhythms; and virtuosic solos,” Twisted Pine will release their sophomore full-length Right Now on August 14, 2020 (Signature Sounds). Exploring a sound they call Americana funk, Twisted Pine takes traditional music in exhilarating directions. Bassist Chris Sartori writes, “This album is easier to feel than describe. We’re rooted in bluegrass, continually inspired by explorers like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Sierra Hull. Right Now takes this heritage into a new dimension. Our bluegrass is jazzy, our indie folk is poppy, our grooves are funky.” Twisted Pine [Kathleen Parks, fiddle; Dan Bui, mandolin; Chris Sartori, bass; Anh Phung, flute] grooves with fearless improvisation and intricate arrangements. The band has been around since 2013. Their eponymous debut album appeared in July 2017, followed by the EP Dreams in January 2019. Don’t Come Over Tonight was written by Parks. It’s quite unusual, yet pretty cool, in my opinion. These guys are virtuoso musicians and great vocalists. Check it out!

Ruston Kelly/Rubber

Ruston Kelly is a 31-year-old singer-songwriter who was born in Georgetown, S.C. and grew up in Wyoming, Ohio. 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 Tim McGraw recorded 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. Released on June 10, Rubber is a track from Kelly’s forthcoming sophomore album Shape & Destroy scheduled for August 28. In October 2017, he married singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, who as reported by Rolling Stone also performs on the album. Apparently, they since filed for divorce.

Mick Hayes/Autumn Romance

Mick Hayes is another great sounding artist with relatively little publicly available information, even though the blues guitarist and vocalist has a website and a Facebook page – I just don’t get it! At least his website links to various reviews of his most recent album My Claim to Fame, which was recorded at the legendary FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala., appeared on May 29 and includes the above tune. According to American Blues Scene, Hayes’ love affair with Muscle Shoals began when he was a young man growing up in upstate New York, where he would browse record shops with wall to wall music from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to Duane Allman to Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke.  Rock and Blues Muse notes Hayes and his band have spent the last decade playing up to 200 festival and club gigs a year and have opened for Duke Robillard, Samantha Fish, and Delbert McClinton. AllMusic also lists a 2016 album, Segue, by Mick Hayes Band. The cool thing about My Claim to Fame is that not only did Hayes record it at FAME but, as American Blues Scene pointed out, he also worked with studio musicians who recorded with artists like Ray Charles, Etta James and B.B. King. Oh, and Hayes co-produced the record with John Gifford III, who assisted with engineering Gregg Allman’s final studio album Southern Blood – sounds like the stars truly aligned for Hayes!

Sources: Wikipedia; Ray Wylie Hubbard website; Twisted Pines website; Rolling Stone; American Blues Scene; Rock & Blues Muse; YouTube