Monthly Archives: December 2016

HOLY SONS – In the Garden

Album: In The Garden

Artist: Holy Sons

Label: Partisan

Release Date: October 21, 2016


The Upshot: A 20-year musical and spiritual journey culminates in Emil Amos painting his masterpiece, a collection of lush, dark pop simultaneously mining the Portland songwriter’s core influences and freeing him to chart fresh territory.




In the nearly bygone world of albums as artistic statements, a choice cover song could tell you a lot about the record’s original material, too. Acting as a kind of code between artist and listener, the best covers managed to both surprise and make perfect sense, adding to the fuller context of the record.


Hear, for example, the stunning version of Del Shannon’s lost nugget, “It’s My Feeling,” on Emil Amos’ latest Holy Sons record, In the Garden (released on Partisan late last month). Taken from the unreleased (until 1978) Home & Away sessions recorded in 1967 by the Rolling Stones’ then-producer Andrew Loog Oldham, the original’s soaring melody highlights Amos’ most melodic and song-driven album, while its unfiltered emotional content gets to the heart of In the Garden as well. After decades battling alcoholism and depression, Del Shannon killed himself in 1990, a price that goes unsaid but certainly not unnoticed here and in Amos’ work in general.


“It’s My Feeling” is, in short, the perfect cover for a nearly perfect record of Amos’ Holy Sons self-analysis project—which for 20 years and a dozen albums has been exploring the Faustian bargain of destroying oneself “to find out what’s at the bottom of this highly efficient, trained, ritualized robot,” as Amos told the L.A. Weekly in 2011. (“Self-destruction comes down to celebrate/Like a lightning bolt to revelate,” he sings here on “Denmark.”)


With a one-man “performed by” credit and only John Agnello’s (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile) production between messenger and message, Amos opts here for 10 tracks of lush, dark pop, putting aside the experimental touches that adorned the songs on 2014’s The Fact Facer, as well as their druggy, plodding tempos. Also gone is the scathing commentary—aimed inward and outward—of that album, and the desperate sense of loss that permeated last year’s elegiac Fall of Man. In their place comes a graceful set of melodies that mirror the understanding that Amos offers—however illusory—to himself and to us, and that might’ve represented our original Garden bargain.


“I need to put myself down/On the ground again/Refocus the lens/Need to put these prison clothes away/Taking back what the river came and took away,” Amos defiantly sings on “Original Sin” over churning guitars, soaring synths and his signature big percussion. The prison metaphor appears again in the rushing, bass-propelled tempo of “Behind Glass,” but the desire to rid oneself of the hair shirt of self-loathing and sin guilt ties these songs together like bonding cement.


Yet Amos’ songs transcend any simplistic plea for a return to innocence. He’s fully cognizant that the Fall—literal or figurative—fuels the creative spirit. “The pendulum swings and it brings me things/Replacing whatever it took away,” he sings on disc-opener “Robbed and Gifted,” as layers of guitars, piano and percussion stack up and then peel off, leaving him singing the song’s refrain over the metronomic tick-tock of time.


In the Garden delights sonically, deliberately recalling the classic blend of pop, rock and psychedelia of the late-‘60s and ‘70s without turning to the tropes of the era so obvious in the work of other backwards-looking acts today. The album succeeds because it’s a contemporary distillation of those influences and Amos’ own extensive catalog of musical exploration. The acoustic guitar and twangy electric fills on the gently swaying road trip hymn “Denmark” recall Amos’ late-‘90s/early-‘00s work; “Double Negative” has a sinister feel worthy of the mysterious songs that Grails—for whom Amos drums—conjures. Additional dreamy guitar lines turn the bluesy riff that drives “Pattern Gets Cold” into an Obscured by Clouds-era textured gem, while “Too Late” taps into that late-60s Del Shannon vibe to create a mournful ballad where “freedom’s just a word that you don’t need to understand.”

That consciousness of what freedom implies is both gift and curse, made plain in the LP’s gorgeous closing title track. “Arguing with nature, when you know you will be wrong,” may be a fool’s errand—singing “Satan’s song,” as Amos suggests—but it’s inevitable in our fallen state. As the guitars and keys swell into a symphonic catharsis worthy of those late-‘60s and ‘70s classic LPs he reveres, Amos acknowledges that “when we begin to dissect the garden/It shuffles all the cards/And we break into a thousand shards.”

It’s best to stay naive and grounded in the moment, Amos finally warns us. But it’s unlikely to play out that way as we struggle, like Del Shannon and Amos—to trust our feelings over our reason. We can at least console ourselves, though, with the salve of beautiful music like In the Garden—a reminder of the idyllic state we yearn for, whether it ever existed or not.

DOWNLOAD: “Robbed and Gifted,” “Pattern Gets Cold,” “Original Sin,” “It’s My Feeling.”



Album: Rise Above

Artist: Epic Soundtracks

Label: Easy Action

Release Date: November 25, 2016


The Upshot: Even casual fans of the Swell Maps/These Immortal Souls/Crime & the City Solution cult fave will find the original ’92 album indispensable, and those wishing to dig deeper will find pockets of riches wherever the laser hits on this expanded reissue.




To kick off its treatment of the Epic Soundtracks catalog, the Easy Action label—well known to fans of Motor City-centric archival titles, along with sundry other Detroit-looking artists from around the globe—initially released the wonderful compilation Wild Smile in 2012, as comprehensive a look at the late British songwriter’s career as could be hoped for. Three years later, the label follows up with the first actual reissue: Rise Above, the former Kevin Paul Godfrey’s first solo album after years of playing second fiddle to Rowland S. Howard (in These Immortal Souls), Simon Bonney (Crime & the City Solution), and of course his brother Nikki Sudden (with whom he formed punk cult heroes the Swell Maps in the late ‘70s).


Originally released in 1992, Rise Above was likely a surprise to Soundtracks’ fans at the time. After all, his aforementioned former acts never shied away from dissonance and distortion. Plus, a glance at the liner notes reveals the presence of then-current alt.rock stars Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr), Martyn P. Casey (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds) and Will Pepper (Thee Hypnotics). But instead of the noisy rock record that lineup might presage, Soundtracks delivered an album of pop classicism.


As freshly evidenced by this expanded reissue, Soundtracks—relying on his piano rather than his usual drum kit—produces lovelorn odes inspired by the most vulnerable sides of his heroes Alex Chilton and Brian Wilson. Backed by tasteful instrumentation – often by piano alone – the troubadour sings with matter-of-fact conviction, rarely kicking up a fuss even when the emotions he’s conveying call for a psychologist’s couch.


Relying on stripped-down arrangements, “Sad Song,” “Farmer’s Daughter” and “Fallen Down” sound like lost classics from the catalog of Todd Rundgren or Carole King, wistful and melancholy all at once. “Big Apple Graveyard” and “Wild Situation” fill out his sound considerably, verging on being widescreen epics, yet never get in the way of Soundtracks himself. Not even Chris Lee’s free jazz trumpet on the former or Howard’s menacing slide on the latter break the spell. Probably the closest thing Soundtracks had to a hit, “She Sleeps Alone” – present in two different versions, one dirge-like and the other stately – splits the difference, putting Soundtracks’ vulnerable observations in the spotlight for the first half and letting strings and horns carry the coda. The tune ends the original album with its strongest song and performance, capping a pure pop classic that unfortunately never came close to the charts.


Easy Action doesn’t let it go there, however, filling the rest of this two-disk set with demos and outtakes.


Most of the former repeat the songs found on the original album, some in slightly tweaked arrangements, but most in solo form. The added instrumentation gives welcome color to the recordings, but the solo demos present Soundtracks naked, as it were, for a much more intimate experience. The handful of new tunes fit right in with the previously released in tone and style, to the point where one wonders if the only reason they remained in the vault was reluctance to release a double album. The clearly-recorded “Can You Keep a Secret” and “Caroline” exploit his plainspoken vulnerability to moving effect, while lower-fi demos of “Lay in Bed All Day” and “Beatles Song” prove that even partially realized efforts still have strong appeal. The studio version of “I Wish I Had a Girlfriend” (previously appearing in solo form on Wild Smile) uses horns and the leader’s sprightly piano to create a delightful cut that should’ve seen the light of day long before now.


The disks contain multiple versions of the same songs — “Caroline” = “You Still Shine,” “Black Hole Girl” = “Hole of a Heart,” “When You’re Not Around” = “Sad Song” — so casual fans uninterested in watching the material develop over time may not have the patience for the whole package. But even casual fans will find the original Rise Above indispensable, and those wishing to dig deeper will find pockets of riches wherever the laser hits.


DOWNLOAD: “She Sleeps Alone,” “Wild Situation,” “Fallen Down,” “I Wish I Had a Girlfriend,” “Caroline”


BALCANES – Carne Nueva 12” EP

Album: arne Nueva 12” EP

Artist: Balcanes

Label: Humo

Release Date: October 07, 2016


The Upshot: Call it post-punk, industrial rock, or even heavy metal, suitable for starting student riots in the band’s native Spain.


While it’s generally inadvisable to start a review off with a quote from another writers’ review, in the case of these brutally heavy noizemongers from Spain, we’ll make an exception since the comment at hand is far more evocative than yours truly can generally muster: “Imagine Skullflower and The Ex are suffocating each other, and puking out one final, blood-chilling gasp in unison as they depart from the realm of the living together.”

Take that ‘un to heart—assuming you’re not among the faint of heart—and toss in some random references to Jesus Lizard (particularly in how the dissonant, feedback-laced guitar skree menacingly circles the vocalist’s lash-like vocals), Earth (the heavier-than-heaven low end rumble), and even Black Sabbath (the generally doomy, claustrophobic vibe), and you’ve just about got it. The group grits its collective teeth and proceeds to construct the proverbial sonic monolith, pausing only momentarily here and there to allow glimpses of light, such as the percussion intro to “Rojo Maquina,” leaving the listener with the impression that, for Balcanes, the operative term is “to bludgeon.”

Which is not to say there’s a lack of finesses or subtlety here; the sense of unease that comes over the listener during this record’s five tracks is profound, but each death-shriek into the mic, each sustained peal of feedback, each tandem thud of bass and drums is also done purposefully, fully aware of the combined impact. Live, these guys must be motherfuckers.

Carne Nueva was preceded by 2014’s debut, the Platforma/Autopista 7” EP, and is a snapshot of a relatively young band on the cusp of finding itself. It should be fascinating to watch the group evolve. And, incidentally, you can grab it on heavy black vinyl (as well as CD and digital) that does full justice to the artful nude front sleeve design.

DOWNLOAD:  “Combustible,” “Rojo Maquina”




Album: Mu / Process & Reality

Artist: Richard Pinhas & Barry Cleveland / Richard Pinhas, Tatsuya Yoshida & Masami Akita

Label: Cuneiform

Release Date: September 16, 2016


The Upshot: Heldon member and Prog pioneer collaborates with fellow experimentalists for an improv feast.


Picking up the baton from Fripp & Eno, French musician Richard Pinhas has pushed the limits of blending electric guitar and electronic music for 40-odd years, both with the band Heldon and solo. For Mu, Pinhas pairs with the Bay Area’s Barry Cleveland, an experimental guitarist of some note himself, backed by bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Celso Alberti. On the four pieces captured here, Pinhas and Cleveland engage in processed atmospherics, long eBow lines and live looping over Manring’s rubbery, Mick Karn-like bass and Alberti’s busy kit work, creating lush, agitated soundscapes that paint the sky. Every track has easy appeal, but the best is “I Wish I Could Talk in Technicolor,” twenty-five pulsating minutes of soaring improvisation that stays far away from ambient. Nice.


Process & Reality is a similar but more aggressive beast. This time Pinhas’ partners in crime come from the more discordant end of the experimental spectrum – drummer Tatsuya Yoshida plays with Japanese prog goblins Ruins, while bassist Masami Akita prolifically creates all manner of dissonant chaos as internationally recognized noisemaker Merzbow. Yoshida attacks his kit like a jazz-trained Keith Moon, setting up a rumbling foundation for Akita and Pinhas to apply long swathes of buzzing electronics, echoing synths, six-string shimmer and cosmic drone that rocket the tunes straight into the stars. Like a Tangerine Dream tune played by a jazz fusion band on ECM Records, “TVJ 33” scans the most mesmerizing, all thirty-six minutes of it. Twenty-first century space rock flowing from a fountain of decades of experience.

DOWNLOAD: “I Wish I Could Talk in Technicolor,” “TVJ 33”


LEVIATHAN – The Legendary Lost Elektra Album

Album: The Legendary Lost Elektra Album

Artist: Leviathan

Label: Cherry Red/ Grapefruit

Release Date: November 18, 2016


The Upshot: Heavy ‘60s psych from the UK originally slated for release finally sees the light of day.


 Just the band name made these guys seem larger than life… and they were for a while. But on to the record: Where the hell did this come from?? This UK band hailed from Brighton, UK and got signed to Elektra in ’69 (all four members, vocalist Stuart Hobday, guitarist Brian Bennett, drummer Gary Murphy and bassist Roger McCabe, were previously in The Mike Stuart Span). The band released a few singles and then recorded this debut but…. alas. It was shelved for some reason and never saw the light of day; you’ll have to ask Jac Holzman the reason why. The band then lost all hope and broke up (geez, Jac… talk about crushing a band’s dreams however I can forgive you since you were the one who signed Love). Apparently a handful of copies did come out on vinyl just a few years ago but it never saw a full release and many fans were clamoring for it. The original 9 song record is here along with three bonus tracks, although they are just the single versions of songs; David Wells contributes extensive liner notes.

The band definitely fit into the UK psych scene at the time and after listening you’ll wonder what the hell Jac Holzman was on by not wanting to release it, but those were different times. The first cut “Remember the Times” is about as melodic as this band gets while they show their prog rock colors on the trippy “Second Production.” Movin’ on to “The War Machine” and this tune is just, well, plain weird, what with the military drums and lots of shouting/growling. Elsewhere, “Blue Day” would’ve fit in really well with the acid rock scene a few years later, while “Time” is a slower-tempo, folky number; and “Flames” gets real, real heavy. The band were all over the map and there was even talk of them coming to America before the plug was pulled.

This isn’t my favorite kind of stuff to listen to, but I know a talented band when I hear one and that’s Leviathan. Dive in for a piece of history.

DOWNLOAD: “Second Production,” “Blue Day,” “Flames”


Brian Wilson 9/9/16, Atlanta

Dates: September 9, 2016

Location: Fox Theatre, Atlanta GA


Return of the king, and his world-wide wrecking crew. No Mikes allowed.


Dear BLURT – here’s my gallery from the brilliant Brian Wilson Live show at the fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, on Friday September 9th. I don’t have much copy to add on this except to say I remember when seeing The Beach Boys was more about a sloppy beer-soaked sunburned day than about the music. But seeing Brian Wilson live these days is not a Beach Boys concert. It is experiencing the genius of Brian Wilson, as he leads a new hand-picked Wrecking Crew through most of his greatest songs, including all of his acclaimed “Pet Sounds” LP in its entirety, which turned 50 this year, all with the elegance, grace, wit, and top-class musicianship you would expect.

Sorry for all the wide-angle shots but the stage was so full of players; it’s what was going on, so I tried to capture some of that. Even in the widest of shots I don’t think you can see all 11-players up there in a single photo. Al Jardine is part of this ensemble, and carries so much of this show I was amazed to learn how much of the Beach Boys sound he is responsible for. And Al’s son, Matthew (back row, right), takes over the vocals on the songs where Brian can’t hit the falsetto parts, and does so flawlessly.

Just a brilliant performance by all, fun to watch, fun to hear, fun to experience. Tour dates through September and October are at

PS – the Fox Theater was packed for this show – and I didn’t hear anyone say – “I wish Mike Love was here.” #Mikewho?

Sincerely, John Boydston [Who can be found on Instagram as @rockdawgphoto so visit there and follow if you like pics of everything great.]













Last of the Mississippi Jukes

Title: Last of the Mississippi Jukes

Director: Robert Mugge

Release Date: October 21, 2016


The Upshot: As much as a celebration as it is a eulogy: Though at times this documentary looks at the Mississippi blues scene grimly, you still feel grateful that director Robert Mugge at least took time to document that scene at its root. Even if it’s been fading for years, no true music lover will come away unmoved—and at times during the film, utterly exhilarated. Above: Mugge in the film with Irma Thomas and Morgan Freeman at the latter’s jukejoint.


In 2006, a Mississippi trip provided me with sumptuous culinary highlights but mixed musical highlights. The Howlin’ Wolf Blues Museum had opened the year before in West Point and the Blues Festival done in Wolf’s name provided a great tribute including his long-time guitarist, the late Hubert Sumlin. The Delta Blues Museum stood as a large expanded former freight depot in Clarksdale, with its doors open since ’99, and just down the road from Ground Zero, a blues club co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman, which started out only two years after that. Fitting that both places are also adjacent to the fabled crossroads when highways 61 and 49 meet. Unfortunately, both places were closed the days we visited so we made due with the 930 Blues Cafe in Jackson, a small suburban house that had comfort food and an older gent playing electric piano, as well as a stop at the Club Ebony in Indianola (purchased two years later by local legend B.B. King) which featured a band rehearsing ‘80s pop tunes- it didn’t necessarily feel down home in either place. But there was also plenty of mouth-watering, sauce-slathered barbecue there that any Northerner would kill for or weep in shame at the fake shit for passes for food above the Mason-Dixon Line.

A trip four years before that would have revealed another music landmark and cultural hub- the Subway Lounge in Jackson. Opened in ’66 by bandleader Jimmy King as a basement club in a black-owned hotel, Subway was a somewhat spiffier version of the blues clubs, aka juke joints, which featured local talent and all-night jams. It also a Souther stop for nationally-known R&B acts like James Brown and Jackie Wilson who would pass through (not to mention the Civil Rights Freedom Riders in the early ‘60s).

When director Robert Mugge (also responsible for 1991’s wonderful Deep Blues doc) showed up in 2002 to document the local scene, Subway was on its last legs while Ground Zero was just starting out. As such, his now-reissued 2003 documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes is as much as a celebration as it is a eulogy. (Go to Mugge’s website for details, photos, and more.)

“We (as Americans) are doing more to preserve European classical music than we are to preserving American classical music” Freeman laments early in the film and you can’t help but think that race is involved there. Still, Freeman and club co-owner Bill Lockett did their part to keep the tradition alive and help rebuild Clarksdale by opening Madidi Restaurant and Ground Zero, where they took care to recreate the look and feel of the old time jukes with Christmas lights, beer signs and pool tables (and a sign that says “no, no, no, no out of town checks!”). Freeman himself grew up in Greenwood (1 hour south of the club) and wasn’t allowed to visit those ‘bucket of blood’ places where the blues wailed out of, though he would sneak out anyway to visit. As he recalls in the film, decades before that, field hands would come off back-breaking broiling days picking cotton to blow off steam and congregate in these small shacks.

“Sometimes people are ashamed of who they are- they wanna run away from that,” another actor tells us later in the film. Chris Thomas King was featured in the Coen brothers’ (arguably best) movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, playing a blues man, as he’s done off screen for years now. Thomas knows of what he speaks of, and not just in his own career- his dad ran Tabby’s Blues Box, which also closed its doors. Indeed, Mississippi comes up woefully short on cultivating its own musical history when compared to states like Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. Truth be told, New York, Chicago and other northern cities are also pretty pitiful when it comes to toasting their own local talent. (Pictured: Mugge with musician Chris Thomas King.)mugge-chris-thomas-king

Speaking of pitiful, the scenes that Mugge documents at the Subway Lounge are especially disheartened when we learn its rich history and how even when it was nearing its coda, it was still a vibrant place to soak up the area talent. Co-owner King started the Lounge because other clubs would close early and musicians craved a place they could play into the wee hours of the morning- as such, it was not just a musical hub but also a place where musicians bonded and felt a kinship with each other. The Lounge was also crucial to the scene because as racially divided as the city was, the club was a place where races intermingled seamlessly otherwise. The racial mixers extended to the club’s own group, the House Rockers. Alongside the Rockers, the King Edwards Blues Band alternated as the house group, with other acts sitting in on gigs all the time. For a meager five bucks, you could experience its musical treasures and wash it down with a bucket of beer (recommended since there were no waiters) and a ‘blues dog’ sausage loaded with onions, chili, relish and peppers.

But there was a money-sucking cloud hanging over Subway in the form of a casino, which in addition to the slots and card games also had its own club to draw in local acts which would enjoy a better sound system and more pay if not the devoted crowd they’d find otherwise. Bigger name area venues also tried to glom off the historic music scene, offering the same amenities and better able to cash in on it. Wanna guess how the half-dozen or so juke joints around then fared against the big boys?

Mugge tells the discouraging tale of Subway and the scene through the eyes of area musicians who are best known to hardcore blues fans but definitely deserve more recognition. The performers also provide us with useful context, history and insight, including Vasti Johnson and Steve Cheeseborough, alongside historian Richard Waterman. Other times, we get the story from the songs themselves, including Jackson’s “Casino in the Cottonfield,” Greg Taylor’s “Subway Swing” and David Hughes, who provides the title song of the movie. To give us a taste of the scene, we also see Subway performances from noted songwriter George Jackson (“Cheating in the Next Room”), singer Patrice Moncell (aka Queen of the Blues), Bobby Rush (whose woman ran off with the “Garbage Man”; view a clip below) and Alvin Youngblood Hart (probably the biggest name here, performing solo and with a trio) among others.

But even with the rich pool of talent, the club had to contend not only with the casino but also highway construction, bureaucratic red tape and not enough props from the local government. A campaign to save Subway coalesced with a non-profit org backed by the local paper, some councilmen and donated labor in recognition of not just the music history but also the building’s connections to the Civil Rights movement. At the end of the film, we see a title panel showing us contact info for the Save the Subway fund and a dedication to Helen King (Jimmy’s wife) who ran Subway with him and died shorted after the filming ended.

In the postscript included as an extra with the recent DVD reissue, we get an update where we see Harris standing in front of crane taking down the dilapidated building in hopes of ultimately rebuilding the place. But there wasn’t enough money to cover the repairs which led to more demolition and flooding. Ultimately, Subway held its last show in April 2003, closing its doors the following month and the rest of the building was demolished the following year. As a post-postscript, further info reveals that the highway came into place and the spot where Subway stood is now a grassy, empty lot with a plaque commemorating the club.

A mixed fate, at best, was in store for the other clubs there. While Ground Zero still hosts shows from Wednesdays through the weekend, Madidi restaurant went under in 2012, 930 Cafe closed about five years ago and Club Ebony is only open for special events. Another local juke joint a half hour south of Clarksdale called Po Monkey’s (which dates back to ’61) is now in limbo since its owner recently died. On the plus side, the Delta Blues Museum just got one and a half million dollars to upgrade their exhibits (which means that the state boosts history but not the here/now) and the Wolf festival now lives on as the Black Prairie Blues Festival. Local writer/educator George Light reports that Clarksdale still has its share of music thanks to area festivals and that some of the Subway acts congregated around a restaurant two hours south of Clarksdale (near where the 930 Blues Cafe stood) for a blues night until the eatery also went belly up about five years ago.

Though Mugge’s doc paints a grim picture, you feel grateful that at least he took time to document the Mississippi blues scene at its root, even if it’s been fading for years.

Luckily, if you wanna support the scene, you have some options- you can boost the Delta Blues Museum at, the Blues Foundation (based in Memphis) at, and the Mississippi Blues Foundation & its Blues Trail at If there’s enough backing, maybe Mugge could do a sunnier follow-up doc.


Turkuaz and New Mastersounds 12/14/16, Raleigh, NC

Dates: December 14, 2016

Location: Lincoln Theater, Raleigh NC


On a chilly mid-December Wednesday night, Turkuaz and the New Mastersounds (above) brought the heat to the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, NC.


This was one of the last dates on the co-headlining tour they have been on since early October and it was clear that they two bands have been having a good time together.







First up was Turkuaz (photos above) whose nine members filled up almost every square foot of the stage. This was my first Turkuaz experience and I immediately got into the groove and wondered how I’d not seen them earlier. Funky grooves, horns, great vocals and even the occasional talk-box made it impossible for anyone in the audience to stand still. Sure, I could throw out song titles like “20 Dollar Bill”, “M’Lady”, or the closer “Monkey Fingers”, but the entire set was a highlight. While each musician had their time in the spotlight, it’s the tight ensemble playing that puts this band over the top.




After the stage was cleared, the New Mastersounds (above and below) were on, with all four members right up front, drums, bass, guitar and organ in a tight line, straight across the stage. Where Turkuaz brings the funk, New Mastersounds are more firmly rooted in the soul-jazz world. Filling in on drums was Soullive’s Alan Evans, he and bassist Pete Shand were locked in so tight you’d think they’ve been playing together for years, a sign of true masters of their craft. The playing of Eddie Roberts (guitar) and Joe Tatton (organ) is some of the best I’ve heard in a while, loosely tight, with plenty of energy.

Midway through the set, Greg Sanderson from Turkuaz came out to add some sax to ”I Am Somebody”, and then all the horns joined the band along with local vocalist Charly Lowry to lead the primarily instrumental group in a “Enough Is Enough” and “Joe”.


For the encore, all the members of both bands filled up the stage to play “On The Border” and “The Rules” to close out an excellent night of funk, soul and jazz.



Album: Signs of Light

Artist: The Head and the Heart

Label: Warner Bros.

Release Date: September 09, 2016


The Upshot: The erstwhile Sub Pop band imparts a dual sense of resilience and delight.


In their brief history, The Head and the Heart have rapidly ascended to the highest realms of the new alt rock hierarchy. It’s a status they richly deserve, not because of any hype or happenstance,  but because they create a sound so exuberant, so exhilarating, that the instant impression it creates in the listener thrusts it forward and makes the music impossible to ignore.

Signs of Light is not only a terrific album, it’s one that creates an unshakeable impression immediately at the outset, a series of songs that stir the senses and soothe them at the same time. They do so in different ways, whether its the allure of opening track “All We Ever Knew,” the zest of the offering that follows, “City of Angels,” the supple yet soaring designs of “False Alarm” or the heartfelt desire of “Dreamer.” Certain songs bring an unlikely comparison — to the Moody Blues in fact — thanks to the lush harmonies and upward tilt that act in unison for inspirational purposes. Even so, such a common comparison almost seems to negate the art and accomplishment this band’s able to muster. “Making music is what we do,” they sing on “Library Magic,” and that simple truth is eminently evident throughout.

Stated, Signs of Light fulfils the aim the band’s handle appears to indicate. This is after all, music that connects with the head and the heart, and imparts a dual sense of resilience and delight in its wake.

DOWNLOAD: “All We Ever Knew,” “False Alarm,” “City of Angels”



Album: Late Nights & Heartbreak

Artist: Hannah Williams & the Affirmations

Label: Record Kicks

Release Date: November 11, 2016


The Upshot: What sounds like it comes from Memphis in the early 70s, actually arrives from the U.K. in the year 2016.


Late Nights & Heartbreak, the second album from singer Hannah Williams, may sound like it comes from Memphis in the early 70s, but actually arrives from the U.K. in the year 2016. Working with backing group the Affirmations and producer Malcolm Catto from fellow travelers the Heliocentrics, Williams plays soul as if hip-hop, P-Funk and Prince never happened. Warm electric piano, tasteful horn charts and Williams’ gritty alto (somewhere between Janis Joplin and Dusty Springfield) lead the charge across rhythms just funky enough for dancing. “Still in My Head” and “Fighting Your Shadow” mix slight jazz inflections into their straightforward Southern soul, while “Tame in the Water” adds an element of Tony Joe White-esque swamp rock. The title track dips into ballad territory so Williams can wring every ounce of emotion from the lyric.

Like the artists on the Daptone label, Williams doesn’t offer anything particularly original, but she doesn’t have to. Doing a classic style of music as well as she and the Affirmations do is more than good enough.

DOWNLOAD: “Tame in the Water,” “Fighting Your Shadow,” “Still in My Head”