A midwestern songstress with a soulful set of pipes, strong guitar skills, and even stronger songwriting prowess, Andrea von Kampen’s debut album is 8 tunes all made and fleshed out in Nebraska and by an entire Nebraskan cast of musicians.
“Tomorrow” starts the listen with sparse sounds and von Kampen’s delicate yet soaring pipes where backing strings punctuate the mood, and “Teton” follows with subtle percussion and a more playful climate. Things really pick up with the elegant and introspective “Portland”, which is a quaint, stunning folk tune.
The 2nd half of the album is equally impressive, with the pop-influenced ideas of “Julia” and the radiant, country-esque feeling of “Old Country”. The album ends on Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello”, where the true scope of von Kampen’s vocal talent is on display against cautious picking that twinkles with timeless beauty.
It’s pretty likely that von Kampen will find whatever she may be looking for with her music; she has the ability, the discipline and the mass appeal in her craft. Don’t let this unassuming album go unnoticed, cause it’s a gorgeous affair with much substance.
A collaboration that began on stage in 2017, though Lucinda Williams had ties to The Marvels prior to then, upon meeting Charles Lloyd a connection was developed that is thankfully further explored with Vanished Gardens.
Though the instrumental “Defiant” starts out with soft brass and an elegant climate, “Dust” brings in a blurry expanse with the rich, haunting vocals of Williams as she recites a poem. Although much of Lloyd’s previous work resides near jazz, “Vanishing Gardens” brings plenty of mysterious guitar licks as the atmosphere pushes and pulls with unpredictable tension, and this eclectic nature foreshadows the remainder of the album.
A long listen with most tracks well above the 5 minute mark, the ensemble spread their wings plenty with gospel sounds on ““We’ve Come Too Far To Turn Around”, the country, pedal steel work of “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men”, and the record even exits on Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel”, where Williams guides us through a soulful highlight.
Now 80 years old and having been performing music since the age of 12, Lloyd’s saxophone playing here is sublime, and the addition of an Americana legend like Williams brings the setting into a country, blues, folk hybrid that we can only hope there is another installment of in the future.
A Paris and New York duo, Nicolle Rochelle handles the vocals while Antoine Chatenet builds beats, samples and hooks. Together the pair create trap, bass and club sounds on One Time, where pop, swing and electronica come together in flourishing ways.
“One Time” Starts the party with dark mystery, and brings both house sounds and electro-pop buzzing as the tune evolves. “Boy Bounce” follows and brings us jazz, hip-hop and swing for an ultra-creative dance track, and later tracks like “Don’t Give A Damn” and “What We Do” will certainly light up the dance floor, too, especially the swift and melodic former, while the latter brings in strategic dual vocals for the EP highlight.
Self-described a future swing, it’s certainly that plus countless other ideas and brings an irresistible energy and lively beats to originals that warrant repeated listens.
Travels well with: Caravan Palace- Panic; Parov Stelar- Coco
Idan Raichel has seemingly done the impossible by establishing worldwide fame playing Israeli music, and the global icon ups the ante here with an album featuring musicians from Japan, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Cuba, India, Niger, and, of course. Israel.
The listen starts strong with the textured, diverse “Galgal Mistovev (Spinning Wheel), which flows into the acoustic, soft sounds of “Ahava Ka’zo (A Love Like This)” that brings in the pretty vocals of Zehava Ben to illuminate the elegance on hand. The title track- one of Raichel’s biggest hits to date- highlights everything he does best, from emotive vocals to thriving sounds with fluid instrumentation, and has apparently struck a chord with many as “Ve’Eem Tavo’ee Elay (And If You Will Come To Me)” has become a wedding standard.
Raichel recruits some incredible talent here, including Bombino, who contributes guitar licks on the groove friendly “Imidiwanine (My Friends)”, and Grammy nominee Danay Suarez lends his pipes on the busy, festive atmosphere of “La Eternidad Que Se Perdio (The Eternity That Was Lost)”. Later on, more diversity comes through in the funky “Ketero (Let’s Meet)”, where 17 year old Yahalom David showcases her mature voice.
With his 14 piece ensemble The Idan Raichel Project on hiatus for 3 years now, Raichel has been able to focus on the more intimate part of his art, and this chapter is another installment of inventive, creative, eclectic world music sounds that deserves the global attention it will likely receive.
An obscure but heartfelt Nashville artist, J Edwards and his raspy and raw vocals have stories to tell- ones he’s lived- and they will resonate with those that work hard, love hard, and, sometimes, fall on hard times, too.
“I Ain’t Broken” starts the album with husky vocals, blues spirited guitars and a resilience in the lyrics. and then things get calmer on the soulful ballad “Staying Here”, where gravelly vocals sync up well with restrained music.
Edwards puts every ounce of emotion in his work, and songs like the piano led, Bob Seger-ish “Young Again” illustrate this, and the heartbreaking, ebullient “Another Cold Shoulder” is a dark yet beautiful highlight. Still, despite the themes of sorrow, Edwards does offer plenty of playful sounds. “Whole Lotta Nothing Going On” brings us organs and upbeat melodies, while “Cold Cold Summer” is a rustic roots rocker.
Listening to J Edwards is like wandering into a hole in the wall bar and seeing live music from someone you’ve never heard before, but certainly will never forget. Despite his ragged voice and often downcast subject matter, the guy strikes a chord deep down in the listener that resonates with grit, beauty and feeling.
Though folk and country might be the biggest contributions to the formula Karen Jonas uses, she’s also got a penchant for blues, jazz and ragtime on this very retro and fun 10 tunes that yield a very unique brand of Americana from the Virginia songstress.
Butter lets organs set the mood on the opening “Yellow Brick Road”, where sweet and expressively vocals work well with the bright, warm instrumentation, and from there things ache with the pedal steel of “My Sweet Arsonist”, where a more introspective atmosphere arrives.
As the albums moves on, things get more exploratory with the horns and soulful “Butter”, the breezy country melody of “Gospel Of The Road”, and throwback shuffle of “Oh Icarus” that sounds like it could be playing in a speakeasy 100 years ago. All of the varied influences come together on the jazzy, big band, carnivalesque sounds of “Mr. Wonka”, which really displays what Jonas is capable of with her varied craft.
An extremely eclectic and accomplished album, Jonas is daring enough to incorporate a lot of elements often absent from Americana, and together with her flawless pipes our only real option is to be left in awe.
It’s been a busy decade for Philadelphia’s Low Cut Connie, who, if you have for some reason not been informed, have become a pretty big deal in the world of rock’n’roll. “Dirty Pictures” (Part 2) is not only their 5th album, but their most sophisticated, thoughtful, and, if I can be so bold, creative work to date.
The album gets off to a rowdy start with the bluesy honky tonk rockin’ “All These Kids Are Way Too High”, which makes use of a slinky piano melody you won’t forget for days. “Beverly” follows with a more restrained approach that’s still soulful and rugged, before the reckless piano fueled rocker “Oh Suzanne”, which brings plenty of furious guitar licks, too.
Certainly known for their incendiary live shows, the band thrive in quieter atmospheres, too, as the calm, Elton John influenced “Every Time I Turn Around”, and acoustic guitar, maudlin moment “Hollywood” prove in spades.
The back half of the album brings back the rock on the thundering and bold “Master Tapes”, and the guitar fueled stadium rocker “Please Do Not Come Home”. The album exits on Alex Chilton’s “Hey! Little Child”, which puts a raw, loud twist on a classic.
Whether you’re a fan of The Stones or The Replacements or are looking for a soundtrack to incite a barroom brawl or to drown your sorrows in, this installment of Low Cut Connie will serve you well. Finally a band who live up to all the clamor, if you haven’t spent considerable time with these future legends, well, you need to rectify that immediately.
A band that formed from a trip to San Francisco that Raul Vargas made based on a tip he got while in Australia, it didn’t take long for Vargas to link up with like minded musicians to form Makru, who have enjoyed a 16 year career thus far.
Here the five piece brings us sounds as varied as ska, reggae, rumba flamenca and more, and are accompanied by a handful of musicians with horns and percussive influence to help flesh out the cultured album.
The quick listen leads with the brass flavored ska and reggae sounds of “Nomadas Opcion”, though it’s not long until peaceful, nature tinted tunes like the percussive and acoustic “Contar” and the emotive, English sung, violin friendly “Cloud” arrive.
The back half of the listen offers us the stylish “Palabras”, the lullaby turned into Middle Eastern folk sounds of “Tu Mission”, and the album highlight, “Where You Wanna Be”, where strong female vocals and a groove filled atmosphere yield a ska-rock masterpiece that’s soulful, danceable and a whole lot of fun.
A world music meshing that’s full of strong rhythm, detailed musicianship and fluid vocals from both genders and in both Spanish and English, Tu Mission is a global experience with rich textures and addictive songs you won’t soon forget.
The bi-cultural composer, musician and pianist Mark de Clive-Lowe returns with an album that takes nods at his Japanese roots and was recorded live over 3 nights as well as a studio session, although due to editing it’s hard to tell which is which.
“The Offering” starts with quaint piano sounds and flutes that evolve into a lush affair with cascading beauty, and the horn and percussion sounds of “Bushido 1” follow, where jazz ideas come to the forefront. “Memories Of Nanzenji” brings another track of gorgeous, cinematic qualities with textured sounds and synth and “Mizugaki” recruits spacey ideas and wild saxophone for the most avant-garde tune.
An album of mostly long tracks, “Akatombo”, a childhood folk song, is a quick 2 minute piano journey, and is paired with the longest track, “Niten-Ichi”, which carries a dramatic quality that twists and turns with sophisticated, accomplished musicianship.
Though fans of traditional jazz sounds will find much to embrace here, the Eastern and electronica ideas are what truly make this listen a mesmerizing experience. The first in a two part series, expect Heritage II to be released soon, too.
Travels well with: Taylor McFerrin- Early Riser ; Atjazz- That Something
The co-founder of The Kinks returns with the always magnificent The Jayhawks backing him up as he pens an album based on his vision of America. Somewhat serving as a sequel to 2017’s Americana and a soundtrack to his 2013 memoir, Davies brings a lifetime of talent and experience to this very accomplished listen.
A master story teller throughout his entire career, here the stories are about himself, as we get insight into incidents like being shot in New Orleans, The Kinks being banned from playing in the U.S., and generally musings from a life lived on the road. In the place of the power chords he built his fame on, instead we get warm, pensive melodies from the all star ensemble.
As to be expected, The Jayhawks impress with their work here. While “Back In The Day” is ultra stylish, retro-rock, “Bringing Up Baby” sits comfortably in their well known lush, folky, Americana ways. Things do head into louder rock’n’roll territory on the spoken word “The Take”, though most of the album is on the calmer side of the equation, as tunes like the piano heavy “A Street Called Hope” illustrate. Though their isn’t a bad tune to be found, the big band influence of “March Of The Zombies” is hard to deny as one of the best tracks present.
While Davies was born in England, the album traces his experiences through America, the country that provided much of his early inspiration. Now in his mid-70s, though his life and pace may have slowed down, he proves he’s still a first rate songwriter with a knack for telling a story across these 19 pieces.
The 9th album from Roger Daltrey may not have seen the light of day if it weren’t for Pete Townshend, who handles guitar duties on the bulk of the tracks here. Other appearances come from Mick Talbot on keyboards and Sean Genockey on lead guitar, as the ensemble reinvent tunes from Stevie Wonder, Nick Cave and many others, and, of course, Daltrey originals appear, too.
The title track starts the album with rollicking retro-rock fun, before the acoustic guitar fueled “How Far”. “Where Is A Man To Go?” brings us a cautious piano work, while “Get On Out Of The Rain” is a full, explosive soulful tune with plenty of backing vocals and a horn solo.
The second half is equally compelling, where “into My Arms” brings sparse piano with Daltrey’s inimitable pipes, and “You Haven’t Done Nothing” yields a loud, rhythmic affair. The 1956 tune “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” is a emotive, R&B offering with exceptional brass and “Certified Rose”, a Daltrey tune penned for his daughter, is one of the best with remarkable singing that would have also fit The Who well.
An album that takes nods to Daltrey’s formative years in the ‘60s, though the 74 year old icon has a more ragged voice, he can still carry a tune with the best, and the soul and gospel inflections here and some excellent balladry amid the busy affair make this a luminous listen.
The debut album from this Portland, Oregon quartet brings us careful and unassuming indie-pop, much of which comes from real life experience between Brian Hall (keys, vocals) and frontwoman Amy Hall, his wife.
“Back Yards” starts the affair with a melancholic atmosphere where lush sounds and crisp indie-rock leave an indelible mark, and the driving and elegant rock of “Danger” follows. As we get further along, the soaring vocals of Amy Hall highlight tracks like “Sensations”, while “Light Light Weight” recruits shimmering guitar work and bright synth for one of the best tunes present.
The back half of the listen offers us “Shoulder To Shoulder”, which is a softer moment, the warm guitar licks and electro-rock buzzing of “Modern Things”, which could ignite a dance floor, and the ambient and dense “Lilly”.
While Tents are certainly a busy band, though never in an overwhelming sense, “Deer Keeps Pace” and “Deer Keeps Pace Pt 2” are both stripped back tunes, allowing soulful vocals to shine with minimal instrumentation.
Though the affair is a mature one, Tents have a youthful spirit and exploratory instinct that makes Deer Keeps Pace remind us of younger days while still retaining much sophistication. A valiant first effort, and an indication of monumental work in the future.
Now here’s a novel idea. Tokyo long running legends Bloodest Saxophone get together with some of biggest and brightest voices from Texas, including Lauren Cervantes, Angela Miller, Crystal Thomas and others for reckless, swampy horn filled retro fun.
The classic “I’ve Got A Feeling” opens the disc with swift, reinvented power track, before the 5 voices come together on the organ fueled “I Just Want To Make Love To You”. Crystal Thomas handles vocal duties on the warm, soulful “Losing Battle”, while Jai Malano lends her pipes on the horn and blues guitar licks of “Walking The Dog”.
Deeper tracks included the slower, saxophone layered “Don’t Hit Me No More”, and though the album is vocal heavy, “Cockroach Run” is an instrumental where Johnny Moeller offers his guitar acrobatics and brass helps punctuate the experience.