Category Archives: New Releases

BOZ SCAGGS – Out of the Blues

January 01, 1970

Concord Records

https://concord.com/

The Upshot: It seems almost criminal that the record Boz Scaggs is most remembered for should act as the signpost for an entire career. In the years since ’76’s Silk Degrees, his best work ever is happening now.

BY ERIC THOM

I’m guessing Boz Scaggs could care less whether we like what he’s doing or not – and am betting he hasn’t cared for years. His connection to music is deeply personal. He sings for himself and it’s always been about the music. He’s never been a trend setter and I believe that the overblown commercial success of Silk Degrees – the album by which he’ll be forever measured – was likely as big a surprise to him as it was to his management. In typical Boz fashion, he never set out to align himself to the ‘disco’ of the times. Truth be told, the record has more to do with the blues and R&B shadings that this blue-eyed soul singer has always favored – which is why it holds up to this day, long after the dust of disco era has blown away. Long his own man, Scaggs has always seemed driven to do his best and to exceed his own standards first – a perfectionist from humble beginnings.

A lot is being made of the fact that Out Of The Blues is “Act III” of a trilogy of genre albums, as it is being billed. I doubt Boz’ fans care. All that really matters is that Out Of The Blues is his best release yet since Come On Home – and likely the best album you’ll hear this year. It’s entirely consistent with everything Boz he’s ever done since being birthed into the age of early rock ’n’ roll, R&B, blues and rock, growing up on radio in Oklahoma and Texas. He’s just – at 74 years of age and a 20+ record catalogue – a hell of a lot better at it now. He knows his strengths and it’s only natural he’d pay tribute to those originals which have meant something to him, adding something tangible to his personal evolution as acting Ambassador of Refined Tastes. Despite his unerring reverence for the likes of Jimmy McCracklin, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Jimmy Reed and even Neil Young, the songs chosen had to do more than simply be good. Each had to allow him to transform them into something all his own. Of special note are the four, obsidian-solid originals written by fellow San Franciscan musician and friend, Jack ‘Applejack’ Walroth, one a Scaggs co-write – seamlessly blending with the whole, despite the mixture of ‘new to old’.

Boz’ mastery over his technique and painstaking control over the material that he covers is only part of the recipe for success here. His choice of musicians is notable as each is adept at adding much more to each song than mere notes and rhythms. Out Of The Blues literally breathes with an intimacy and a larger-than-life groove throughout, thanks to the chemistry between Willie Weeks, Jim Keltner, Jim Cox, Ray Parker Jr., Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton. This vital crew lends an earthy, highly organic feel to a record expertly produced within an inch of its life, informed by an allegiance to the principles of just-enough but never-too-much.

Right out of the gate, the highly colorful “Rock and Stick” hits hard with its ringing guitar chords and Bramhall’s rich embellishments. Boz’s liquid, honeyed vocals – wrapped in the warmth of Weeks’ bass – join with songwriter Walroth, who injects a surprisingly beefy harp as Keltner adds his distinctive touch with every drum strike. A little B3 in the background and backup singers conjure a little bit of heaven as Boz notes, “You can shake, you can shim-sham-shimmy” – entirely committed to the era, despite this being a new composition. Cue the opening sax attack of Eric Crystal, Thomas Politzer and Doc Kupka which, when added to Jim Cox’s seductive B3 (and stately piano), sets the stage for Scaggs’ treatment of “I’ve Just Got To Forget You” – a powerful and personal tribute to a key idol, the late Bobby “Blue” Bland. Magic Sam’s cover of Jimmy McCracklin’s “I’ve Just Got To Know” was an unknown to Scaggs until introduced to it by David Hidalgo. Here, aided by Cox’s St. Louis-styled piano, a bewitching horn section and Charlie Sexton’s tasteful lead guitar break, Scaggs’ silken vocals make it his own. On “Radiator 110”, Walroth’s standout harp (with its slight Lee Oskar shading) combines with a tougher guitar mix (Scaggs and Steve Freund) and Ricky Fataar’s fat drum sound, propelling Walroth’s ‘lover as hot car’ analogy towards becoming an ultimate driving song. Here, Scaggs’ convincing vocal gently simmers over sparring guitars as Cox’s B3 keeps the RPMs just out of the red. Walroth and Scaggs’ own “Little Miss Night and Day” is a swinging Texas shuffle injecting a severe shot of rock ’n’ roll to the hip as Bramhall and Sexton blaze against Cox’s pounding 88s, together with a hint of Walroth’s harp. Considering the choice of covers, who would guess that Neil Young’s semi-obscure “On The Beach” would be included? Yet, in Scaggs’ hands, it’s the most memorable track here – squeezing the blues out of the starkly ragged original, transforming it into something achingly beautiful. It makes the most of its slowed-down self as each fat slap of Keltner‘s tom-tom hits hard like a punch to the stomach while strains of B3 and lightly dueling guitars breathe much life into the original treatment.

Of course, nobody can squeeze more from sadness than the velvety strains of Boz Scaggs and here, he’s at his best. Walroth’s harp takes a sharp country turn on Jimmy Reed’s “Down In Virginia” which, for Scaggs, is an artist almost too easy to cover, lending him an element of elegance not normally associated with his style. “Those Lies” – another Walroth work – grabs you instantly by the throat with its slick, uptown attack. Driven by Sexton’s aggressive, processed guitar sound, Keltner’s skin-tight drumming and a brawny barrage of sax, extra animation from the baritone helps push this over the top. Cox adds B3 as if each player is following a different path – Scaggs’ vocal gluing it all together as one. “The Feeling Is Gone” is another of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s iconic songs that goes downtown with a decidedly jazzy feel as Scaggs plays straight homage to one of his more sophisticated heroes. While the horn section and piano add scorch to Scaggs’ liquid vocal, this classic breakup song serves as a lamented end to this lush outing.

This is a re-energized Scaggs, paying the love for his R&B roots well forward, seemingly delighted with the process. Out of the Blue offers more blues and R&B than you might have expected. But chances are good you’ll leave wanting more.

 

 

JACK DRAG – 2018

January 01, 1970

Burger Records (Sept. 14, 2018)

http://burgerrecords.com

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

At this point in his career, singer/songwriter/composer John Dragonetti is best known for his work with (now ex-wife) Blake Hazard in the Submarines and for film and TV scores (All About Nina, FX’s Married, We Are Legion, The Secret Life of Muslims). Before all that, however, the Bostonian led the underrated indie rock band Jack Drag.

Dormant since 2002, the moniker is back for 2018, a state of the union address from the low-key musical polyglot. Looking back at past relationships (and not just marriages) and forward to the present, Dragonetti soaks his tunes in bittersweetness. The synths ‘n’ percussion arrangement of “Bloody Noses” gives lightness to its emotional confusion, while the catchy hooks of “I Am Not Willing” bely its disillusioned theme. “Marigolds” pulls light out of the darkness through a subtly anthemic pop arrangement, while “Strangers” dips into sixties pop for its tunefulness and nineties angst for its heart. “Hope Revisited” goes unabashedly for its title concept, with brash hooks and unambiguous lyrics, though it almost feels like the forced giddiness of the damned.

With his now-signature blend of twinkly new wave and melancholic power pop, Dragonetti knocks out one sweetly melodic gem after another here, putting adult uncertainty and confusion to a catchy soundtrack.

BROKEN ARROWS – Streetflowers

January 01, 1970

Intelligent Design Records

https://brokenarrows1.bandcamp.com/album/streetflowers

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Music, of late, makes me sad.  Turning on the radio is a game of Russian roulette with five chambers out of six holding a bullet.  Pseudo-soul, re-hashed 1980s synth garbage, ham-fisted knuckle dragger butt rock and over produced rap tracks about shaking ass and making money pass for music.  Yes, I sound like an old man but the years I’ve spent sifting through the mountain of crap to uncover gems has left me somewhat jaded and cold.  Where many bands are content releasing tracks with endless over-dubs of inane lyrics and unimaginative licks of scant guitar tracks, Kansas City’s own Broken Arrows, a group of seasoned players, unloading their musical knowledge of all things power pop and classic garage, go deeper, farther into the past, using the great wave of garage rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s as touchstones and thank god they do.

Streetflowers, the latest from Broken Arrows, is an album packed with the minimalist approach of bands like The Sonics and The Trashmen crossed up with the psychedelic jump of the great Roky Erickson and the 13 Floor Elevators, intermingled with bands like Teenage Fanclub, Big Star (a strong influence throughout) and the power pop goodness of Matthew Sweet, alongside lesser known acts like The Exploding Hearts, The Electric Prunes, the always great Seeds and The Castaways.

While most acts seem content churning out half-baked thoughts and thrown together, unimaginative, inane workings that pass for singles, Broken Arrows approach Streetflowers as a whole, to be listened to as a completed work, to be listened to in its entirety, its song sequencing calling to be heard in order, the type of album that screams at the listeners to put on headphones, light a joint and soak it all in.

Within the opening chords of “Not Coming Back”, Broken Arrows show that they aren’t perfect and aren’t trying to be; an act somewhat unwilling to be polished by studio magicians (no Pro-Tools here.  Again, thank the God of your choice for that), standing up for how they want their music cast into the world.;

Broken Arrows, above all else are a band of friends, like minded individuals on the same musical page, the same frequency.  This is shown above else by the tracks “Behind the Eight Ball” and the heavy Big Star or Paul Westerberg influences weaving in and out of Streetflowers, directing an album of songwriting that is both complex while speaking to the simplicity and fragility of life.

John Chevalier, Barry Lee, Mike Penner, Bill Ryan and Dave Storms should be proud of what they’ve created with Streetflowers; an album not of songs but a whole thought.  It has a rough beauty, a drive, a joy that is oftentimes  missing in music today.  Broken Arrows are not overly polished musicians; passion and drive replace technical prowess, “perfection” and virtuoso coldness; each song has a place, building to the next.  Is it perfect? No… is that ok? Absolutely.  Broken Arrows’ Streetflowers, at its heart, is a garage rock record standing tall in a time of Disco.

 

 

FAST LANE TO GREATNESS: Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Red Rose Speedway”

In which Macca’s critically underrated, but commercially toppermost, 1973 album is re-assessed via UMe’s new mega-expanded edition.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

After Paul McCartney’s somewhat tepid debut with his new band, Wings, many would have forgiven him if he’d just decided to jettison his bandmates and go back to being a solo artist.

Thankfully he didn’t.

Just two years after releasing that debut, Wildlife, McCartney and Wings turned in the stunningly impressive Red Rose Speedway, up there with Band on the Run as the group’s peak of brilliance.

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) has just re-released a jaw-dropping box set version of Red Rose Speedway (along with Wildlife and a massive 11-disc Paul McCartney and Wings 1971-73).  Red Rose Speedway is a hefty 6-disc affair: 3 CDs, 2 DVDs, and 1 Blu-ray. Each limited edition box is numbered and also comes with a hardcover book, crammed with plenty of photos.

Released in 1973, just eight months before Band on the Run, Red Rose Speedway’s first single, “My Love,” put the former Beatle back in comfortable territory, reaching #1 on the U.S. charts. The song, sweet without the saccharine that used to cling to many pop love songs in the early ‘70s, still endures today. While none of the other eight tracks on the album charted, it’s still packed with some great songs, like the funky opening track, “Big Barn Bed,” and the bluesy “When the Night,” a song that gets better and better with each listen.

The limited edition deluxe includes the original record, remastered at Abbey Road (naturally!). The second and third CDs include 35 bonus tracks – most importantly – a reconstruction of the double-album version of  Red Rose Speedway (how it was originally supposed to be released), as well as various singles, B-sides, alternate mixes and a handful of previously unreleased tracks. In addition, the aforementioned DVDs plus the Blu-ray boast rare and, in many cases, previously unseen, footage. Of particular interest is “Live and Let Die,” filmed live in Liverpool, and the James Paul McCartney TV Special and The Bruce McMouse Show.

As if this massive cache of audio and video weren’t enough, they also come with a folio containing 14 replica hand-drawn original character sketches by McCartney (very cool!) and facsimile dialogue sheets for the film. The hardcover book houses some previously unpublished images by Linda McCartney, plus expanded album and single artwork from the archives, and the story behind the album. The book alone is a brilliant keepsake.

Finally, a proper re-release for one of Wings’ greatest records—which, by our critical rating system, rates a 5-stars-out-of-5. Believe it.

REVEREND HORTON HEAT – Whole New Life

January 01, 1970

Victory

www.victoryrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The Reverend Horton Heat (known by his parents as Jim Heath) is likely the only musician out there to be namechecked by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, John Lydon, and Rob Zombie. But it makes sense, as no band since The Cramps has done a better job of fusing rockabilly with a sharp punk rock attitude. And his latest, “A Whole New Life,” shows he still has a foot planted firmly in each musical camp.

The band is at its best when they’re playing ferocious up-tempo tracks, like “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” or the New Orleans-styled “Tchoupitoulas Street” (a song you’d swear was an old standard, but is actually a Heath original). The album takes a brief detour on the Nick cave-ish dirge “Don’t Let Go of Me,” the weakest track here. But the band quickly corrects course for the remainder of the record. They also throw in a great cover of “Viva Las Vegas” on the closing track – a perfect ending to this 30-plus minute nostalgic ride.

This latest effort marks an even dozen albums for the trio and is just as solid as anything they’ve done so far. If you never dug their high-octane rockabilly/cocktail vibe, this record certainly isn’t going to change your mind. But, if you’re a fan, “Whole New Life” will only serve to reaffirm that admiration.

DOWNLOAD: “Perfect,” “Hate to See You Cry” and “Tchoupitoulas Street”

THE RATCHETS – First Light

January 01, 1970

Pirates Press

www.piratespressrecords.com

BY JOHN B. MOORE

New Jersey has long been the farm team for punk rock bands. Everyone from The Bouncing Souls to Gaslight Anthem have hailed from one city or another off the NJ Turnpike before going on to spread the punk rock gospel to the rest of the globe. The Ratchets prove yet again with their latest LP, First Light, that the Garden State is still churning out punk rock’s best and brightest.

Relatively MIA for more than a decade after the 2006 release of their debut, the band is back – a little older, but just as promising as that debut that brought about more than a few comparisons to The Clash. On First Light those Clash influences are still front and center, as well as some of Joe Strummer’s more thoughtful later work. You can also hear a hint of Springsteen’s influence on the lyrics all across this one, as well. (You  didn’t think I could write about a Jersey band without at least one Springsteen reference, did you?)

But there’s also plenty of other elements here that make the band sound impressively original: the Bluesy guitar riffs on “Drone Control,” the ‘70s hard rock vibe of “2-4-6-8 Motorway” (a cover of the Tom Robinson Band punk classic), and Jed Engine’s sandpaper rasp vocals that were made for punk rock. The band manages to flawlessly bridge the political urgency of late ‘70s British punk rock with modern concerns.

Crammed with memorable hooks, air guitar-worth riffs and whip sharp lyrics, First Light finds The Ratchets back in fighting form and, if this record is any indication, ready to take over the world.

DOWNLOAD: “Drone Control” and “2-4-6-8 Motorway”

MISS WORLD — Keeping Up with Miss World

Album: Keeping Up with Miss World

Artist: Miss World

Label: PNKSLM

Release Date: September 28, 2018

http://pnkslm.com

BY JENNIFER KELLY

Natalie Chalal named her one-person, do-everything-yourself band after a Hole song, and that’s fitting, since not since Courtney’s heyday has a female rock musician skewered the conventions of contemporary young woman-hood while rocking the hell out this hard. Chalal, from London, has her finger on the pulse of Internet meme-ery, but her foot on the pedal of a blistering electric guitar. Her songs address a season’s worth of Keeping Up with the Kardashians ephemera, everything from low-card diets to collagen lip injections; she keeps such a straight face in doing so that it’s hard to tell whether she’s celebrating or sending up, except that she’s way too smart, self-aware and wickedly acid-tongued to be this excited about Tinder (a couple of truly vacant spoken word bits give the joke away if you haven’t gotten it before).

The best songs, though, go well beyond satire into fully realized, joyfully dissonant rock songs, which sound so rough and organic and live that you check for band credits. There are none. Chahal played everything, one track at a time. Whether you appreciate this album as social satire or straight up Joan Jett-into-Weezer rock and roll (or both) is up to you, but either way, songs like “Put Me in a Movie” and “Carb Yr Enthusiam” hit the mark. All hail Miss World, queen of the tawdry surface-y, click-obsessed world she surveys.  

DOWNLOAD: “Put Me in a Movie,” “Carb Yr Enthusiasm”

THE BAND OF HEATHENS – A Message From The People Revisited

Album: A Message From The People Revisited

Artist: The Band of Heathens

Label: BOH Records

Release Date: September 21, 2018

www.bohrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

A super group of sorts originally hailing from Austin Texas, The Band of Heathens are composed of five supremely talented individuals that are capable songwriters each in their own right. However on their new album, A Message From The People Revisited, they take a different tack, covering songs that remains essential to the character of this country and humanity as a whole. The band says they were inspired by “the artistry and genius of Ray Charles,” and indeed, in their soaring renditions of “America the Beautiful,” “There’ll Be No Peace Without All Men As One,” and “Heaven Help Us All,” the light and legacy of Brother Ray clearly comes shining through.

Other songs provide additional inspiration — Melanie’s “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in particular — recall the triumphs and tragedies that this nation has witnessed in modern times, with today’s trials clearly top of mind. Clearly meant to encourage a sense of unity and pride, this set of songs is perfectly timed. It arrives on the heels of their recent EP, Live Via Satellite, a breezy example of the band’s earlier efforts rendered with the effortless enthusiasm that consistently characterizes their concert performances.

That said, credit The Band of Heathens for taking time to deliver music with a message that’s needed more than every nowadays. Every individual, regardless of political philosophy or party affiliation, ought to consider it mandatory listening.

DOWNLOAD: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “America the Beautiful,” “Abraham, Martin and John”

CURSE OF LONO – As I Fell

Album: As I Fell

Artist: Curse of Lono

Label: Submarine Cat

Release Date: August 17, 2018

http://www.submarinecatrecords.com/

The Upshot: With the band’s 2017 album, Severed, already in the BLURT hall of musical fame, we now turn to their kickass 2018 entry.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Every once and a while you stumble on an amazing band that is so frustratingly under the radar that it makes you question the very concept of justice. The London-based five-piece, Curse of Lono, is one of those bands.

For three albums now, spread across the past three years, the band has turned in one nearly-flawless record after another and aside from the cheers coming from music reporters, some Americana devotees and record store nerds, the ripples in the pop culture lake never seem to go beyond one or two rings. The band’s latest effort, As I Fell, continues their streak of brilliantly simple and simply brilliant blend of Americana and Gothic Alternative Rock. Though the band has never been accused of being overly raucous, As I Fell finds the band at their most subdued, bringing about a strong Dylan vibe throughout the 11 songs here.

It seems almost unfair to single out one track from the next as the record is nearly devoid of any filler material. The band instead opts for creating a deeply moving Southern Gothic (yes, I realize they’re from London) sound that recalls everyone from the Cowboy Junkies to Nick Cave.

It sort of makes sense, given the remarkably twisted political world we are currently living in, that one of the best bands out there is not getting the attention it clearly deserves. Here’s hoping change is coming soon, on all fronts.

DOWNLOAD: “Blackout Fever” and “As I Fell”

 

THE TREWS – Civilianaires

Album: Civilianaires

Artist: THE TREWS

Label: Cadence Music

Release Date: September 14, 2018

By John B. Moore

Despite half a dozen albums to their name and plenty of love and adulation above the U.S. border, Ontario/Toronto-based band The Trews have never really been able to break through in the States. Like The Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts, ‘Merica was always just a little bit out of reach.

But, Civilianaires, their latest, could possibly be the record that gets them the attention they deserve here. Their sound has evolved quite a bit since the early ‘00s, losing a lot of the hard rock influences and focusing more on a cleaner, straight-ahead rock sound with hints of pop that offers a less dated feel. The slow-burn opener “Vintage Love” finds the band channeling everyone from U2 to INXS and offering a strong promise for what lies ahead. And for the most part, they deliver across 13 songs, an ambitious, expansive rock record that seems tailor-made for stadium sing-alongs. Lyrically, the band sometimes come across a little preachy and contrived, but those moments are few and far between. For the most part, they stretch their sound to impressive heights. Especially on a song like the gorgeous “Is it Too Late?”.

The Trews are finally a north-of-the-border band we can get behind. We gave Bryan Adams a career for Christ’s sake, we should at least get to experience some of the good stuff Canada has to offer as well.

Download: “Vintage Love,” “Leave It Alone” and “Is It Too Late?”