By John Lane
In the interest of immediate full disclosure, I have long been a fan (and in recent times, a friend) of Kevin Coral, the mastermind behind the band The Witch Hazel Sound. The 2001 release of the group’s This World, Then the Fireworks awoke me, and others, from what you might call a creative and inspirational torpor. If you felt like you came from Anywheres-ville, USA, as I felt like I did, then it was a beautiful discovery to note that sheer magic could be conjured in Akron, Ohio.
With her latest EP, Tender Warriors Club, the reliably wonderful Lady Lamb (a.k.a. Aly Spaltro), is consciously trying to keep an open heart. Her Tender Warriors Club website reads:
find the courage to be sensitive
be emotionally vulnerable
be comfortable with & embrace solitude
never compromise their integrity
practice self-acceptance & self-love
give an honest effort
As far as manifestos go, that’s a damn fine one. And one that is utterly prescient. And Tender Warriors Club is a welcome addition to Lady Lamb’s catalogue of delicate but fierce music. She wears her emotions on the outside, and causes us to do the same. I can’t count the times that I’ve been moved to tears by her without even realizing I’m crying. Damn.
The Blind Boys Of Alabama won a Dove Award for 2005’s Atom Bomb, but the album isn’t your typical gospel music. The songs are intended to capture the “deep and haunting feel of the Old Testament,” as executive producer Chris Goldsmith says, and they do, but as always, the Blind Boys put their own distinct spin on songs. On Atom Bomb, they are joined by a fantastic band who turn the traditional (and sometimes untraditional) tracks into swampy, bluesy explorations and canvases in which to showcase the Blind Boys luxuriant harmonies, as well as rapper The Gift Of Gab (from Blackalcious), who adds a whole other dimension.
It took until 2003 for The Blind Boys Of Alabama to release a Christmas album, but the wait was worth it. Now, Omnivore is reissuing Go Tell It On The Mountain with bonus material (as they do and do so well) in time for your holiday playlist, and it is a welcome addition.
Though it was made in 2006, New Orleans Music In Exile, is finally getting a Blu-ray release. The film, made by famed music documentarian Robert Mugge (Last Of The Mississippi Jukes, Gospel According To Al Green, The Kingdom Of Zydeco, among a great many), was shot in the rather immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: two months later. Mugge and his crew had open access to a who’s who of New Orleans musicians and luminaries as they try to pick of the pieces of their lives and careers.
Matt Tarka is a DC-based indie pop time warp. On his EP, Surely Late, he evokes the hazy, early days of college radio (remember that? What do they even call that now?) with powerful melodies, a bit of sugary sweetness, and a delightful propulsiveness that belies the heartache that provides the lyrical matter. It’s a four-song chunk of solid songwriting and catchiness, and an interesting introduction.
Mall Walk is a funny name for a band that takes their music pretty seriously. The trio of Nicholas Clark (drums), Daniel Brown (bass), and Rob I. Miller (vocals, guitar) hail from Oakland, CA and have a post-punk vibe, angular guitars, and the kind of addictive hooks that are like catnip for me.
By Tim Murr
Singer/guitarist Annabelle Lee (ex-Mexican Slang) describes Peeling’s debut EP, Rats In Paradise, as being “about shedding past traumas, transcending pain and finding a way out,” she says. “It’s too easy to become disillusioned; I want to create catharsis and release.” Well, congratulations on succeeding. Rats In Paradise is a wonderfully realized collection. The four tracks, “Magic Eye,” “Leisure Life,” “In The Sun,” and “Wet Nurse” feel very similar to Las Vegas Story-era Gun Club. Even Lee’s vocals remind me of Jeffery Lee Pierce at his most reserved.