Big Week for New Music
This week, I’m in Nashville for the Americana conference, where there’s always something going on, and never quite enough sleep. Nonetheless, we got quite a few fine new releases this week, almost too many really. But I’ll try to sum ’em up in a few short sentences. Most of them are coming from artists with whom you may already be familar, or you’ll wish you were.
Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler
First we have the great Joe Ely, who has been putting out quality albums for close to 40 years now. His records are solid because he takes his time between releases and gets top-notch musicians to back him. Panhandle Rambler was recorded in Austin and Nashville, and you’ll find Ely’s usual variety of Texas roots music: rock, country, folk, nortena. His voice is as strong and soulful as ever and his songs paint vivid pictures of the stark, barren prairie life of his native Lubbock. You’ve got to wonder why Joe is not a better-known artist. I think this one is among his best.
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time
We have the second recent collaboration featuring Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, called Lost Time. Of course, these brothers started the L.A.-based roots band the Blasters way back in the early ’80s. Their “brotherly” differences have kept them apart until last year’s Common Ground, which was a collection of Big Bill Broonzy songs. This one is all covers as well, with Big Joe Turner getting four nods.
Brother Phil has always been the better singer in the band, and his plaintive vocal style really works with James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please.” Dave’s driving lead guitar just seems to get better. My favorite songs are the ones that sound like old Blasters’ tunes like “Rattlesnake Daddy” and “Feeling Happy.” Maybe if they do another album together, Dave will get out his writing pen and revive the Blasters full on.
Randall Bramblett – Devil Music
Randall Bramblett also has a gritty, bluesy offering called Devil Music that I hope to listen to more soon. This disc was inspired by a story Howlin’ Wolf used to tell, about meeting with his estranged mother, who turned him away for playing “devil music.” I even hear some Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits influence.
Lucero – All a Man Should Do
Another in the “under-known” category is the band Lucero, who has a new one called All a Man Should Do. Think Old 97’s or Slobberbone, filtered through Memphis. Lead singer Ben Nichols writes well and sings like a hoarse Steve Earle.
Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete
Dave Rawlings Machine has a second release out this week, called Nashville Obsolete. It’s actually the seventh album that Rawlings and partner Gillian Welch have recorded together in their two-decade-long partnership. Guests include Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers), Willie Watson (formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show), Brittany Haas (fiddle), and Jordan Tice (mandolin). Unfortunately, I haven’t got a copy of it or even any advanced tracks to tell you anything else about the album. My guess is that I’ll like it.
Leigh Nash – The State I’m In
Formerly of the band Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash shows her Texas country roots on The State I’m In. She even has a smaltzy string section and old school Nashville-type backup singers. She says, “I was obsessed with Jim Reeves and I was also was a big fan of Dottie West.” If that sounds like your cuppa tea, then check it out.
In other new stuff this week, there’s acoustic bluesman Guy Davis, with an album called Kokomo Kidd. It’s mostly tasty originals, but includes a cover of Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” which is actually much better than you’d think. File Davis with Ely as under-appreciated artists whose music will make you wonder, “Why aren’t they bigger stars?”
I also like the new album from The Surreal McCoys entitled The Howl & The Growl. It reminds me of what the Beat Farmers were doing back in the day.
Also, some youngster named Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) has put out one of his rare solo albums, called Crosseyed Heart. We all know what he sounds like. You’ve kinda gotta give him a pass.
We’ll do it again next Friday with new music on the way from Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Jim Lauderdale and more. Till then, take care of each other!