There’s always a trickiness to concept albums. Do the songs work on their own merits, or do they need the framework of the concept to bolster them? Is the concept explicit, or do you need to read copious press materials or liner notes to ferret out a theme? Will I need to take psychedelics to understand this album?
By Tyler Hodg
Stewart Eastham’s latest effort, Dancers in the Mansion, is like a wild night in a Nashville bar: the swinging country music encourages you to hit the dance floor, while occasional somber sounds result in moments of reflection. All that’s missing is a little too much bourbon. (more…)
You know what’s easy to love? A two-person band. Do you know what band you’re about to love? Hymn for Her, a nomadic pair who make their home in a ’61 Bambi Airstream trailer (with their daughter) and make the kind of music you can crunch away the miles to.
The 20-year anniversary of Tiny Tim’s death continues with an absolute treat for fans in the form of Tiny Tim’s America. This release is special because it’s comprised of new material, from recordings Tiny made in 1974 when he was in between recording contracts. Using this demo tape, a number of songs were chosen to compile a vinyl album (plus mp3 download). The original entire demo recording is also included on the mp3 download.
Asheville, North Carolina’s The Honeycutters have followed up 2015’s sublime Me Oh My with the completely wonderful On The Ropes. It’s good to have them back with such strong, satisfying material. Vocalist and songwriter Amanda Anne Platt’s voice is a treat: maybe older and wiser (by a year), but still hopeful. Hearts have been broken and mistakes have been made, but she’s not giving up. Ever.
Louisiana Swamp Pop king Gregg Martinez has the kind of powerhouse voice that seems to grow slow and deep, like the roots of an ancient tree, straight up from the earth. It’s an incredible voice, and Martinez has a gift for adding an extra lagniappe of soul to everything he sings.
It’s difficult to listen to The Blind Boys Of Alabama’s Higher Ground (2002) and not compare it to its predecessor, Spirit Of The Century (2001). Both are Grammy-winning collaborations with producers John Chelew and Chris Goldsmith and both feature bold, spiritual covers of songs by contemporary artists, with the Blind Boys Of Alabama being backed by a band in “musical conversation.”
The Blind Boys of Alabama have performed together for nearly seven decades and have recorded over 60 albums. Joining together as glee club singers at the Alabama Institute For the Negro Blind in 1939, founding members Jimmy Carter, George Scott, and Clarence Fountain (with newest member Joey Williams joining in 2001), The Blind Boys of Alabama make honest, American music, rooted deeply in gospel, focusing on the truly glorious way that their voices blend.
The music that Those Pretty Wrongs makes is familiar in the best of ways. It’s sun-dappled melancholy, 1970s AM radio-friendly songs that soar with warm harmony and delicate guitar. It’s quiet power pop with heart, which makes sense if one looks at their pedigree.
New music from Jimbo Mathus is always cause for celebration. The former (and soon to be current again) Squirrel Nut Zipper makes music that is deeply steeped in the South. It’s a melange of influences—gritty swamp rock with a hot hit of blues, a dash of gospel, bluegrass, and more than a little honky tonk—and it comes out sounding exactly right. His latest, a nine-song EP called Band Of Storms, is more of what makes Mathus great. He may wear his influences on his sleeve, but the sound that he has is pure Jimbo Mathus.