Monthly Archives: November 2014

JASON ISBELL – Live At Austin City Limits

Title: Jason Isbell Live At Austin City Limits

Director: Gary Menotti

Release Date: November 25, 2014

Isbell DVD 11-24

www.southeasternrecords.com

BY FRED MILLS

Back in January the long-running Austin City Limits PBS series aired another solid episode (#585, if you’ve been counting), this one featuring Jason Isbell on the first half of the show and Neko Case for the second. As viewers only saw about 30 minutes of Isbell’s original August 19, 2013, performance, however, it’s nice to now have the entire set for our viewing pleasure.

Call it a victory lap for both Isbell and the fans who’ve embraced his Southeastern album since its release in June of last year. (Go HERE to read our interview with Isbell about the album.) Beautifully recorded and edited, the Live At Austin City Limits DVD showcases Isbell’s band—which included, this evening, wife Amanda Shires on fiddle and backing vocals—while still keeping the focus firmly on the bandleader. Austin’s expansive Moody Theatre is a great place for ACL shows; the signature Austin skyline backdrop plus the tasteful lighting scheme never fails to bring out the very best in the musical guests, and the audience typically responds in kind. Credit should be given to the series’ producers and crew for making ACL a must-view—and, if you happen to be in Austin at the time of a taping, a must-attend.

Isbell

This night’s performance boasted a setlist similar to, though truncated for taping purposes, the one I had seen in Raleigh a month and a half earlier, with a good chunk of the new record featured prominently alongside a handful of Isbell classics culled from both his solo and Drive-By Truckers catalog. Of the latter, particularly standouts are the slow-burning rocker “Go It Alone,” the jaunty, toe-tapping/hip-swinging “Codeine” and moody DBTs anthem “Danko/Manuel,” but it’s a midset Southeastern four-pack that seals the deal here. “Traveling Alone,” Isbell’s plea/proposal to Shires, takes on additional resonance with her onstage beside him, answering him with affirmation through her plaintive violin notes. “Elephant,” which Isbell prefaces with a little warning that suggests it isn’t going to be a happy song by any stretch of the imagination, has if anything grown more elegant and poignant in concert. “Stockholm,” likewise, is turning into one of Isbell’s greatest and most deeply-felt love songs, one with that all-important universal quality that allows anyone to relate. And then “Super 8” provides the audience its full-on release, rock ‘n’ roll catharsis at its best. As with the show I took in, Isbell closes things out with the Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” the perfect number to take things up and over the top and send the crowd out into the streets, buzzing and humming and maybe even doing a little levitating.

Incidentally, don’t eject the DVD at the end of the concert: included is a 14-minute program of bonus not listed on the sleeve featuring behind the scenes clips and a revealing interview with Isbell. He talks about his pre-release expectations for Southeastern (the idea was to craft a complete album as opposed to “a bunch of junk along with just a couple of great songs”), his reaction to its critical and commercial reception and how gratifying it has been to see its songs evolve onstage during the subsequent touring.

It’s funny, Isbell muses, how fans react to all the “sad songs” he’ll perform—how they like to commiserate. Says Isbell, “For some reason they love to hear your sob story if it rhymes.”

Amen, sir. That we most certainly do.

BONUS MATERIAL: Behind-the-scenes clip featuring “Super 8” (live + rehearsal), cameramen setting up their shots and the band backstage; ten-minute interview with Isbell.

Willie Nelson + Billy Joe Shaver 11/16/14, New Braunfels TX

Dates: November 16, 2014

Location: Gruene Hall, New Braunfels TX

willie

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Like taking that pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj, submerging in the Ganges or observing mass at the Vatican, witnessing Willie Nelson standing on the 136-year old stage inside the ancient Gruene Hall just outside of Austin is a religious experience. On a rare cold night in New Braunfels, Texas, Nelson, six decades into his career and nursing an obvious cold, managed to bring a hometown crowd to the point of near rapture with decades-old songs and the occasional sly smile.

Billy Joe Shaver, the unsung hero of the Outlaw Country movement and longtime Nelson confidant, did his part to warm up the crowd for Texas’ favorite son. But the warm up was hardly necessary, as the show sold out minutes after the box office opened. Still the 71-year-old Shaver, a badass in his own right (just Google “Billy Joe Shaver” and “shooting”), did a commendable job mixing in songs off his just-released Long in the Tooth and a dozen or so of his classics like “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” “Honky Tonk Heroes,” “Georgia on a Fast Train” and “Live Forever,” with Nelson’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael sitting in for most of the set.

While Shaver was on stage, the 81-year-old Nelson climbed though a special door that had been cut into the back of Gruene Hall years ago, just for him. And with little fanfare and no introduction, he and his longtime band sauntered onto the stage, settled in and launched into a crisp, but memorable “Whiskey River.” Standing on a stark stage with the flag of Texas above as the only ornamentation, the redheaded stranger, long since gone grey, clad in all black (jeans, a t-shirt and felt cowboy hat), showed no signs of growing bored with the song that has been a live staple since 1973.

The night was a mix of fan favorites (“Always on My Mind,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”) and new classics like “Beer for My Horses” and the Shaver-penned “Hard to Be an Outlaw” (Shaver joined him on an empty mic just a few lines into the song). Nelson also managed to mix in some old gospel songs and a Hank Williams tune.

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The unpretentious Gruene Hall, with its worn-down wooden floors, has seen little renovations since it opened in the late 1800s. The only seating available are the wobbly benches located against the side walls and a couple of pool tables moved aside for shows. Located in the heart of Hill Country, it’s close to the city that launched Nelson’s career – and Outlaw Country for that matter – and only holds about 800. The venue has hosted everything from high school dances to badger fights to a who’s who in Country and Americana over the past century.

The audience that night was a brilliant snapshot of the community, a mix of unironic cowboy hats and big belt buckles mixing in with hipsters from Austin, several decades younger than the cowboy set. But he managed to unite everyone inside that dancehall.

Nelson and band ended the night with a medley of spiritual songs “Uncloudy Day” and “I Saw the Light,” as well as a modern hymn, Nelson’s own “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Even for an admitted Agnostic (an optimistic Agnostic, but one nonetheless), seeing Willie Nelson perform at Gruene Hall was as close as a spiritual moment as I’ve ever had.

Photos credit: Carly Moore

 

GOV’T MULE – Stoned Side of the Mule Vol. 1 LP

Album: Stoned Side of the Mule Vol. 1

Artist: Gov't Mule

Label: Evil Teen

Release Date: November 29, 2014

Govt Mule

www.evilteen.com

BY UNCLE BLURT

Call it, Exile on Mule Street. This seven-song mini-album—vinyl only, limited to 3000 copies, targeted for this year’s Record Store Day/Black Friday event—comes from a Philly show on Oct. 31, 2009, and it finds Gov’t Mule in fine Halloween form, covering the Rolling Stones. Haynes, Abts, Carlsson and Louis are joined by guests Jackie Green on guitar and harp and Steve Elson on sax and (more!) cowbell, and if your first reaction is to sniff and go, “Who needs another Rolling Stones tribute?” I totally understand. For my part, I definitely don’t need a Stones tribute; come to think of it, I don’t need most tribute albums. But this ain’t yer mama’s Stones trib.

For starters, Gov’t Mule has a long, storied tradition of serving up smokin’ covers, from Traffic to John Coltrane to the Dead to… take your pick. And here, they essentially inhabit these tunes, with possibly the exception of “Angie,” which was never much more than a weepily maudlin Mick Jagger vehicle in the first place. The other six tracks are motherfuckers, from a rousing, thumping and, yes, rolling “Under My Thumb” to a positively evil “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” that thoroughly capture those tunes’ essences. And then there’s the bluesy, brawny, sleazy, extended foray into Exile’s “Ventilator Blues” with Greene’s harmonica prominent and Haynes unleashing some kinda stank on slide geetar; plus “Monkey Man,” which simply steamrolls forward, Haynes blurting the lyrics like a man possessed. (Worth additional note to hardcore fans who know the band’s capacity for pulling surprises out of thin air: drummer Abts takes the microphone for “Shattered.”)

Volume 1, eh? A covers/trib album this strong definitely deserves a curtain call and… waitaminnit, early December will see the release of Dark Side of the Mule, documenting the 2008 Halloween show in Boston when the band devoted nearly 90 minutes of a 3-hour concert to Pink Floyd covers. Let it bleed, you devils, and set the controls for the heart of the Mule.

DOWNLOAD: “Monkey Man,” “Paint it Black,” “Ventilator Blues”

NIKKI SUDDEN – Fred Beethoven

Album: Fred Beethoven

Artist: Nikki Sudden

Label: Easy Action

Release Date: October 07, 2014

Nikki Sudden 10-7

http://easyaction.co.uk

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

When Nikki Sudden, uh, suddenly passed away back in 2006, he left not only a mighty legacy of underground rock & roll, but also a wealth of unreleased sessions that have been slowly but surely trickling into the public arena. Recorded at regular Sudden producer John A. Rivers’ Woodbine Studios in three sessions scattered over 1997-1999, Fred Beethoven is one such rediscovered gem, and a corker at that.

Joined by frequent cohorts Terry Miles, Carl Picot and Mark Williams and French rocker Freddy Lynxx, Sudden concentrates on his rocking side here, cranking the guitars, energy and attitude. “Don’t Look Back” and “Stereo Baby” animate Sudden’s long-held T. Rex fascination into catchy boppers that put a spring in the step and a slash in the strumming hand. “Summer Burn Down” (and its alternate version “Summer Burn Out”) eschew wordsmithery for pure six-string jamming, Lynxx and his employer trading burning chords and flaming licks. “Forest Fire,” “Black Satin Suit” and the blazing “Looking at You” channel Sudden’s love of three chord mania into transcendent slices of an extremely tasty rock & roll pie.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Sudden album without at least a couple of peeks into his romantic troubadour fantasies, represented here by the mildly psychedelic “So Much to Learn” and the gorgeous “Pin a Rose On Me.” But the musicians’ intentions get signaled with the opening and closing cuts, a pair of crackling takes on Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny” (incorrectly ID’d on the sleeve as “Johnny B. Goode,” to which the tune is a sequel) that practically burn through the ones and zeros. Though never adverse to experimentation, Sudden always stayed faithful to the essence of old-fashioned rock & roll, and Fred Beethoven is a welcome posthumous testament from one spirit to another.

DOWNLOAD: “Looking at You,” “Black Satin Suit,” “Bye Bye Johnny”

NEIL YOUNG – Storytone

Album: Storytone

Artist: Neil Young

Label: Reprise

Release Date: November 04, 2014

Neil Young 11-4

www.warnerbrosrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

At this point in his nearly 50 year career, the predictability of Neil Young’s unpredictability is a given. With the fortunate exception of rap and hip-hop, there’s no genre that Young hasn’t attempted, although oftentimes the results of his eclectic experimentation can be less than satisfying. Storytone tends to yield similar results even despite occasional moments of songwriting brilliance. Young’s decision to surround himself with strings on the majority of these cuts is, while admirably ambitious, serves to dilute the quality of the material overall. He used orchestration early on — most notably on songs such as “Birds” and “Broken Arrow” — but here the arrangements are clearly overwhelming, burying the vocals and making them compete for prominence. Given the fact that Young’s strangulated voice is rather tepid to begin with, he sets up a challenge that’s more daunting than daring. Suffice it to say that Young’s credence as a crooner is clearly lacking.

Not that the entire album is cast like a Disney soundtrack or a Broadway spectacular, although that’s the initial impression purveyed with opening track “Plastic Flowers.” In fact, several songs — “Say Hello to Chicago,” “I Want to Drive My Car” and “Like You Used To” in particular — lean towards the blues, basking in big band arrangements and more muscle than that evidenced elsewhere. Still, the fact that Young chose to make the album a paean to the protection of Mother Nature — the obvious outrage expressed in “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” attests to a certain lack of eloquence — means that there’s a singular intent. As a result, the stripped down, unadorned disc of the deluxe set, featuring Young performing those same songs sans the excessive accoutrements, makes for far better listening. “Glimmer,” “I’m Glad I Found You,” “All Those Dreams,” and “When I Watch You Sleeping” fare far better, bringing to mind Young in his troubadour mode circa Harvest, Harvest Moon and After the Goldrush. Consequently, listeners are best advised to head directly to disc two and regard the set with strings as a curiosity and an example of eccentric experimentation best left on the shelf.

DOWNLOAD: “Glimmer,” “I’m Glad I Found You,” “When I Watch You Sleeping” (acoustic versions)

Dream Syndicate 9/26/14, Atlanta

Dates: September 26, 2014

Location: The Earl, Atlanta GA

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On Friday, Sept. 26, the legendary Cali band recreated their epochal album Days Of Wine and Roses for an Atlanta audience—our man on the ground reports back from the front lines.

BY KEVIN OLIVER

It had been 28 years since The Dream Syndicate last played Atlanta, 28 years to the day to be exact, when they took the stage last Friday night for the first in a two-night stand at The Earl. The years didn’t matter once the band kicked into gear, however. At one point early on Steve Wynn informed the audience that the band was only playing material they had written or recorded in 1982 or earlier, and they played all night as if they had been transported back to that year themselves.

The hook for the Friday night crowd was the promise of hearing the entire 1982 debut album from the Dream Syndicate, Days Of Wine and Roses; one of those landmark albums of the ‘80s college radio era that positioned Wynn and company as adventurous yet traditional in their approach to rock ‘n’ roll.

DS poster

Before the main event, the band warmed up with a couple of early obscurities — “Some Kind Of Itch” and “Sure Thing”, two cuts from the first self-titled EP release on Down There Records in 1982 that didn’t get re-recorded for the full-length. The latter in particular is a classic bit of relentless rhythms and concise hooks that gives away Wynn’s predilection for Velvet Underground inspired sonics powered by drummer Dennis Duck’s precise, pounding backbeat.

The current edition of The Dream Syndicate includes original members Wynn and Duck along with bassist Mark Walton, whose first studio album with the band was Out of the Grey in 1986. Filling lead guitar duties is Jason Victor, who has been playing many of these songs with Wynn in the Miracle 3. Scant reference was made to prior members other than bassist Kendra Smith; when they got to “Too Little Too Late”, a song Smith sings on the album, Wynn simply said, “Kendra’s in the woods… that’s all I’m allowed to say,” before singing a beautiful version of the song himself.

Wynn was in an ebullient mood throughout the evening, cracking jokes at his band members’ expense such as when he was referring to 1982 and the recording of their debut, looking at Mark Walton and saying, “You were a girl back then,” another not-so-subtle reference to Kendra Smith.

Wynn also noted their long absence from Atlanta, and dedicated the performance of Days Of Wine and Roses “For the 688 Club,” namechecking that legendary venue where the band’s last shows had been.

DS live

As an album, DOWAR holds up remarkably well, with several solid classics in the track listing. Wynn and Victor were rarely content to play the songs straight, stretching the limits of the melodies with extended guitar jams and riffing from the opener “Tell Me When It’s Over” all the way to the title track closer. On the latter, Wynn brought the band down to a full stop before cranking up the chorus one last time and bringing it home to close out the set.

They weren’t quite done, but even in the encore they stuck to the pre-1982 motif by dropping a couple of covers—Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” and Bob Dylan’s “Outlaw Blues”, both of which can be found on an album called The Day Before Wine and Roses which documents a live radio broadcast prior to the album’s release. [Read a review of it HERE.]As a preview of the upcoming Saturday night concert where the band was slated to play Medicine Show, they closed out the night with another song from that radio show, “Open Hours.” It would pop up again as the more familiar “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” on Medicine Show in 1984, but since that would break the evening’s time capsule spell Wynn insisted this was that other song, from 1982. Never mind that both sound more or less identical, give or take some extended vamping on the lengthy instrumental sections.

The newly revived version of The Dream Syndicate may not sound or look identical to its 1982 self (then again, who among us does, either?), but on this night they managed to evoke that past glory on stage for a little more than an album’s duration.

***

Note: photos are from the Dream Syndicate and Steve Wynn Facebook pages and not the actual show, but if anyone out there has a few good pics from the Earl they’d like to share with us, please get in touch!

 

 

CELESTIAL SHORE—Enter Ghost

Album: Enter Ghost

Artist: Celestial Shore

Label: Home Tapes

Release Date: November 11, 2014

Celestial shore 11-10

http://www.home-tapes.com/

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Celestial Shore’s stop-start tunes coil up like a slinkies in freefall, stretching bristle-y, abrasive rock riffs to the breaking point, then somersaulting in bendy little explosions of melody that are as playful as they are chaotic. Enter Ghost, the trio’s first for Home Tapes, is a far more guitar-centric affair than 2013’s 10X, yet similarly, disorientingly packed with off-shooting glee. “Gloria” rumbles with a Pixies-ish bass line, flutters with falsetto flourishes. The song ponders the shifting nature of reality with its plaintive “Who are you now?” and the melody, too, flits from alternate universe to alternate universe, here wistful, there bruising.

These are smart, complicated songs that, for all their twisty transformations, fizz away the difficulties. Lyrics take sudden cerebral fits and starts, weightlessly. alighting on ideas like evolution and free will before fluttering off, butterfly-like into sunny, tuneful landscapes. “Just in love with an idea,” since Sam Owens in “Now I Know,” and he seems not so much in love as giddily infatuated.

Celestial Shore has been touring lately with Ava Luna and Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier mixed 10X, which will perhaps, give you some context for their brainy, discontinuous pop. Yet there’s something infinitely sweet at the core of these puzzle palace songs, as if you’d finished a Rubik’s Cube and found it opened like a piñata with candy inside.

DOWNLOAD: “Gloria” “Creation Myth”

 

RED JACKET MINE – Pure Delight

Album: Pure Delight

Artist: Red Jacket Mine

Label: Showpony

Release Date: November 18, 2014

 

Red Jacket Mine 11-18

http://redjacketmine.net

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Led by singer and songwriter Lincoln Barr, Red Jacket Mine has been igniting pop fiends for the past several years now with records that draw from the best of 70s smart pop (Nick Lowe, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, etc.) without making a retro fuss about it. Last year’s Someone Else’s Cake made clear what a major find the Seattle band is. Follow-up EP Pure Delight finds the band working an expertly crafted, lovingly performed set of tunes with a variety of stylistic bents.

“AM” and “Crow” (a duet with Shane Tutmarc) put the band’s spin on soulful balladry. The groovy “Get Paid,” the Lowely “Nearly Marjorie” and the aggressive “Pure Delight” showcase RJM in full pub rock mode. “I Want You to Worship Me” is simply a brilliant pop tune. At only six songs, Pure Delight feels more like an appetizer than the next meal on the RJM menu. But it’s a damn tasty appetizer, and will definitely hold fans over.

DOWNLOAD: “I Want You to Worship Me,” “Nearly Marjorie,” “Get Paid”

 

Watch the band’s new video for the track “Pure Delight” HERE at Blurt.

Daniel Bachman 11/15/14, Florence MA

Dates: November 15, 2014

Location: 13th Floor Lounge, Florence MA

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Also feat: Hush Arbors, Trevor Healy and Jefferson Pitcher

TEXT/PHOTOS BY JENNIFER KELLY

It’s all about guitar on this chilly November evening, specifically acoustic, finger-picked guitar, undiluted by voice or other instruments. Daniel Bachman is in town from North Carolina on a small tour that has wound its way through New England, Portsmouth last night and back south through Philly tomorrow. Here in Florence, at a nice, relatively new venue (13th Floor Lounge), he reconnects with Trevor Healy, an old friend who spends his days making and repairing guitars, and Keith Wood of Hush Arbors, who often plays with a band and sings, but tonight brings just a guitar.

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Trevor Healy (above) opens, at first playing alone on a 12-string, covering a Fahey tune, then venturing one of his own. If nothing else, he’s a living advertisement for his business; both the instruments he plays have beautiful, resonant sound, a clarity at the high end and a glowing warmth in the mid-range. A former San Franciscan, Healy featured on the 2010 Tompkins Square compilation, #Beyond Berkeley Guitar.” This evening he revisits the lovely, meditative “Wrapped in Water” from that disc.

Then he’s joined on stage by Jefferson Pitcher, who plays a guitar that Healy constructed. Pitcher is also a Northern Californian who has relocated to Western Mass, though his playing slants more towards rock and experimental. Together they work out the contours of “Song of the Little Road,” Healy constructing a filigreed foundation of picking on acoustic, while Pitcher coaxes a high, tremulous note-bending melody on his electric. Later, Healy switches to electric, and the two of them embark on an angular, octave-jumping composition that sounds far more modern than anything they’ve played so far. The closer, “A Story They Told,” borrows a Native American rhythm, Healy explains. It is lovely and far from arcane, with a melody that rises buoyantly, then circles back to its start in three-four time.

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Then it’s Hush Arbors — which I know from a series of dreamy psychedelic folk albums, but which here tonight is just Keith Wood (above) and an acoustic guitar and one long, mood-varying piece. Wood begins in the kind of lysergic folk rock that you might associate with Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” but just the guitar. That morphs eventually into a more stridently rhythmic kind of rag, which struts its way through another few minutes, and then returns to the lyrical, psych-ish strumming of the opening segment. His whole set is one piece, no talk, no theatrics, and when he is done he unplugs his guitar and left the stage.

daniel bachman 008

Daniel Bachman is the main draw tonight, and talking to him briefly before the show, I learn a couple of things about him. First he is another of those very young guys who play very old music. He looks, I would guess, even younger than he is, and he has a wonderful, carrying laugh that you can hear all across the room when he does it, which is pretty often. Also, he is a serious, serious music aficionado, who, in about five minutes time, enthused about a new Native American psych reissue set that Paradise of Bachelors (his label) is working on, a set of horror movie soundtracks coming out soon and a culty Texas songwriter named Willis Alan Ramsey, whose main claim to fame is the Captain & Tennille song “Muskrat Love,” but who, Bachman insists, is much, much better than that. Actually, I probably missed three or four things he was excited about. There are a lot of them.

Anyway, he sits down to play, first on a regular six string, wringing splayed, widely spaced chords from his instrument and flicking his picking hand away from the guitar to allow them to resonant. At first there’s silence between the chords, but then he begins to populate the empty space with extremely rapid, extremely accurate picking. It’s like hearing a melody sketch, then its full orchestrated realization, it’s hard to process the fact that it all comes from one instrument.

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Bachman switches to a lap guitar for the second song , and the cool thing about this is that he’s doing two diametrically opposed things with his two hands. His right hand keeps a metronomically precise kind of time, while his left, further up on the neck, draws out eerie, vibrating slide notes that melt into other notes while you listen to them fade. It’s a disorienting mix of structure and atmosphere, the earthy certainty of picking matched with a free-roaming spirituality of slide.

Bachman plays “Sarah Anne” from the #Jesus I’m a Sinner# album on the lap guitar, and a spectral blues that he says is a cover (but which, sadly, I do not recognize). Switching back to the regular guitar, he plays a rapid picking, country ramble which is quite likely “Rappahonnock,” and closes with a stately rag (he calls it a “slow and soupy one”). It is all wonderful, both in the skill and in the spirit. He is a very good guitar player, but he uses that proficiency not for its own end, but to convey the deepest, simplest sorts of meaning.

It’s a good night for the guitar — and maybe more to the point, a good night for music.

 

 

JAMIE HOOVER – jamie TWO ever

Album: jamie TWO ever

Artist: Jamie Hoover

Label: Loaded Goat

Release Date: November 04, 2014

Jamie Hoover

www.jamiehoover.net

BY FRED MILLS

Anyone even remotely familiar with the North Carolina music scene knows of guitarist/songwriter/producer Jamie Hoover, a co-founding member of Charlotte’s beloved Brit-beat combo The SpongeTones as well as an in-demand producer (he operates his own Washateria studio in nearby Clover, SC). Hoover’s also a notable solo artist in his own right, and his latest offering began life as an a cappella project that was apparently necessitated by surgery leaving him temporarily unable to play any instruments. The material gradually evolved and resulted in an album with some vocals-only tracks and others fully fleshed out, and while fellow ‘Tone Steve Stoeckel guests on bass and guitar for one track, Jamie TWO Ever is otherwise an all-Hoover/all-the-time project.

Of the a capella tunes, perhaps most striking is the Beatles’ “Misery,” pure sonic bliss for any Fab Four fan. There’s also “Star,” a distinctively Fab Four-esque Stealer’s Wheel hit from ’74 penned by the Wheel’s Joe Egan: it’s cast as a full vocal group with multiple Hoovers (I counted either at least 4, and possibly 5 or 6, discrete voices, including a thumping basso bassline) and is appropriately jaunty—love those throaty “kazoos,” lads! Hoover’s original composition “Press Save,” meanwhile, hearkens back to the golden era of streetcorner singing groups, suggesting that had Hoover come of age prior to rather than after the British Invasion he might’ve fronted a charts-ascending doo-wop outfit.

SpongeTones fans are nicely served here as well. “Lost,” the track with Stoeckel, is warm and inviting Wilco-esque pop, and another early Lennon/McCartney classic, “I’m Looking Through You” hews true to the original while slipping in some intriguing key and chord twists. Then for all you Left Banke fans out there, sonic heaven awaits in the form of Hoover’s treatment of “Walk Away Renee.” Throw in a cover of longtime Hoover pal and studio cohort Don Dixon (“Righteous Side of Love,” done up in rousing rock ‘n’ soul fashion), and you’ve got a pretty damn inspired affair through-and-through. As most of these tunes retain a certain vocal-centric arrangement vibe that doesn’t fully obscure their a capella origins, the album additionally suggests that should Hoover decide one day to revisit the concept—or for that matter, make his original demos available—he will find a willing audience eager to listen.

DOWNLOAD: “”Righteous Side Of Love,” “Press Save,” “Walk Away Renee”