Black Prairie (from the album A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart - The Black Prairie debut felt a little like a side project for Decemberists members, Jenny Conlee and Chris Funk. Jenny shows up as a guest musician on multiple album credits and Chris is not only a strong session wing man but also works behind the board both producing, and playing on, numerous projects.
Carolyn Wonderland - Peace Meal - Carolyn Wonderland has a confidence in her playing that gives her a foot up on the blues ladder. Yes, Carolyn is a good songwriter with vocals that can roar in a whisper, and she is one A list guitarist. Listening to Carolyn on her latest release, Peace Meal, I get the feeling that the first fan she needs to please is the one behind the guitar and voice, Carolyn Wonderland. The daughter of a band singer, Carolyn picked up her Mom’s Martin at an early age. She mastered guitar, trumpet, accordion, piano, mandolin, lap steel and along the way discovering a talent for whistling. Peace Meal gives Blues as a prime influence while Carolyn guides the songs through psychedelic landscapes (“Usurper”), electric fire starters (“Victory of Flying”) and dirt road country folk (“Shine On”).
Peace Meal shows an artist taking chances with sound without moving away from her core. Carolyn Wonderland presents fine examples of all that she can do on the album. “Only God Knows When” is gospel harmonies catching the wave of a second line rhythm and “St. Mark’s” steps lightly as it creeps along under a confessional booth re-telling of what was amid hopes for the future. Carolyn’s music has been likened to Stevie Ray Vaughan on the guitar side and Janis Joplin references for her vocals. That description fits as influences and in some of the way the sounds manifest but Carolyn Wonderland is an artist that needs no RIYL’s attached. She nods to her Janis influences with a cover of Ms. Joplin’s “What Good Can Drinkin' Do”. Peace Meal hosts a few other covers alongside Carolyn Wonderland originals, offering versions of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning” and Elmore James’ “Dust My Broom”.
The Slide Brothers (from the album Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers) - Do not be fooled be the ‘scared steel’ name that the style of The Slide Brothers wears. The title, like one hour cleaning, is just a phrase attached, it doesn’t apply directly. The sound of scared steel was born in the House of God Church more than 80 years ago but has since crossed over to mainstream secular success. Robert Randolph has revitalized the sacred steel tradition in the modern era and the push he gave the band to put some rock, funk and ferocious blues on record is captured on their debut album title.
The Record Company (from the album Feels So Good) - The press release stated Morphine meets John Lee Hooker….it had me at Morphine. Los Angeles’ The Record Company had the good fortune to be influenced equally by The Stooges and Morphine in one corner and Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker in the other corner delivering a roundhouse punch from all sides. “Darlin’ Jane” is a soul roots barn dance doing the chicken scratch, “Baby I’m Broken” is electric blues and harmonica telling the story of the man on the losing end of love and “Roll Bones” one of the proudest bass lines ever to walk a groove.
The Record Company is L.A. –based but the balance of native to transplant it way off, with the we-‘re-not-from-here side taking on weight. TCR came together in the musical test tube of L.A with its three members hailing from Milwaukee (Chris Vos-guitar, vocals, harmonica), upstate New York (Marc Cazorla-drummer, vocals) and Philadelphia (Alex Stiff- bass, vocals). The Record Company keep their music “close to the bone” as Chris Vos points out. He brings that up for the band’s ability to fit into bills with punk, blues or rockabilly acts on the same bill. Feels So Good opens with a rockabilly rumble for its title track. The drum pounds reel off the ‘don’t’s’ for the day. With the glut out of the way, the sound stages are cleared for the “green light” for the trance being laid down by the tom-tom’s. The Record Company plus size their sound with a feral roar and soulful promises and smirks.
The Record Company E.P. Feels So Good is out of print. Look for their Rounder Records debut, Give It Back to You, on February 12, 2016
Otis Redding (from the album Lonely and Blue, The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding) - Concord Music Group has inserted a ‘what if’ moment in the recorded history of Otis Redding. The label has collected one of Mr. Redding’s best attributes; his ability to dig into heartfelt ballads. Otis had a way of sinking to the very bottom of the pain; breaking on through and going deeper with more promises, confessions and hope lost. Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding has been released on the Stax Records label on CD and blue vinyl. The collection is packaged with a look that fits it into the 1960’s recording period of Otis Redding.
The compilation producer, David Gorman, felt that “given how nobody had delivered a gut-wrenching sad song like Otis, I always felt he should have made an album you could put on late at night and settle into a glass of something strong. The mood and subject of every song is the same…Otis, heartbroken and begging for your love. I tried to find the saddest most potently heartbreaking songs he ever sang, with no regard for chart position or notoriety. There are a few hits on the album, but they’re there because they fit the mood, not because we wanted to include hits. Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding includes jukebox and car radio memories such as “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “These Arms of Mine” and a lyrically darker version of “I’ve Got My Dreams to Remember” alongside lesser known heart tugs such as “Waste of Time” and “Everybody Makes A Mistake”.
Listen and buy Lonely and Blue; The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding from AMAZON or iTunes