Well, this is the month in the United States where the birth of the nation is celebrated. We got a lot of years in the bank – 240 to be exact – and similarly, we got a lot of new music in the SoundPress.net office this month. Here are our favorites that are currently exploding from our speakers. You might even see a few of these rocket up the charts!
In the 60’s Bob Dylan (www.bobdylan.com) was a folk revolutionary and a beatnik troubadour who many called the voice of his generation. With the passage of time and many chapters of his legendary career in the books he has re-emerged in recent years as a standard bearer of celebrated and celebratory pop songs as demonstrated on his latest album, Fallen Angels. It began in 2009 with the unlikely offering of a Christmas album and continued with 2015’s assemblage of music made famous by Frank Sinatra. This record continues the tribute as all tracks presented here were also recorded by Ol’ Blue Eyes. Dylan delivers “Young at Heart” with a winsome irony underscored by his well-worn and weathered voice. But, Dylan was never really known as a great singer – his style was in a sense more spoken word – as he presented lyrical and intellectual ideas to the collective counterculture. In that way, numbers like “It Had to Be You” demand to be listened to all over again. Subtle and quality instrumentation serves to provide lift and lilt at the same time. “That Old Black Magic” from 1942 is upbeat and is the closest thing to a rocker on here while the closer “Come Rain or Come Shine” is awash with a moody melancholy. On Fallen Angels Dylan again resurrects many musical gems but it will be up to his fans to determine whether this collection is a blessing or a curse.
Like Dylan, Jon Anderson (www.jonanderson.com) was identified as “The Voice” of progressive rock stalwarts YES for most of his career. A late-2000’s health scare left him on the sidelines as that band carried on without him with not one, but two, sound-alike singers to varying degrees of success. This forced the famed frontman to reinvent himself as he pledged to go into creation mode. True to his word Anderson has been busy releasing that output to the world. His most recent work The Invention Of Knowledge with Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings (www.theflowerkings.se) should make YES fans react positively and in the affirmative. Anderson’s sweet and hopeful lyrics abound on this mystical venture that is layered with quality proggy instrumentation provided courtesy of the very talented and capable Stolt. There are nine total tracks here broken down into four separate suites of song. Stolt says, “It is not aiming at being new YES music; just new music, modern and classical, rock and ethno, tribal and orchestrated, grooving and floating.” What floats to the surface is the sonic power and depth missing from Anderson’s most recent solo works resulting in a solid collection that is the closest thing to sounding like his former band’s heyday in a longtime. The core unit of Tom Brislin and Lalle Larsson on keys; Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt on bass; and, Felix Lehrmann on drums are co-inventors of this satisfying project summed up best when Anderson sings, “We are truth, made in heaven, we are glorious.” Positive and confirming observations like this can help make a listener feel good inside – and that’s a good feeling to know!
At age 17 Quinn Sullivan (www.quinnsullivanmusic.com) is both a young and old soul. Midnight Highway his latest release reflects that as he traverses varied musical terrain. Quinn opens with “Something For Me” a sassy bold ride of old school blues that is a tip to his mentor Buddy Guy. Next is a triple play of animated, agile songs that should appeal to a younger audience. Quinn picks up an acoustic for the pretty “Eyes For You” and later “Going”. His rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was spot-on flowing into the innovative “Buffalo Nickel” a cool jam that meandered into Allmans and Grateful Dead territory. Midnight Highway covers plenty of ground traveling from the blues, into pop and closing with classic rock. It’s a record that proves Quinn Sullivan is a road-tested guitarist now on the journey of a songwriter.
Whitford St. Holmes (www.whitfordstholmes.com) featuring Aerosmith guitarist, Brad Whitford and Ted Nugent vocalist/guitarist, Derek St. Holmes recently released Reunion to revive their musical project from the early 1980’s. In addition to the two veteran axe men the band includes bassist Chopper Anderson, keyboardist Buck Johnson and on drums, Tesla’s Troy Luccketta. Whitford explains, “(we’re) all old-school rockers, super-passionate about rock ‘n’ roll, the music that moved us as teenagers.” This record definitely rocks often hard yet harmonies, strings and other elements add to the diversity of Reunion starting with the snappy single “Shapes”. The song is a tip of the hat to the legendary Yardbirds. “Tender is the Night” is gentler yet catchy followed by the rousing “Rock All Day”. This triple play of potential hits sets the tone for rest of this solid record that will leave fans hoping this group of players will reunite more often.
Soulrocker is the ninth studio release from Michael Franti & Spearhead (www.michaelfranti.com). This eclectic thirteen track CD opens with the catchy and cheerful “Crazy For You” followed by “Lord” a regal blend of acoustic guitars backed by electronic beats. This pattern is repeated effectively on a number of Soulrocker tunes. “Summertime Is In Our Hands” is a lush anthem with a sunny mindset along with “Still Standing” another hopeful and hopping tune. The closer “Love Will Find A Way” states that despite hatred in the world people can learn to love. Soulrocker melds dance, pop, reggae and rock in well-constructed songs peppered with social commentary. Harmonies, horns, soulful vocals and strings add layers to Michael’s muse. Reflecting on Soulrocker Franti shares “I feel a deeper sense of purpose in music today than I ever have in my career. The album’s really about me challenging myself and growing, and just trying to make the most inspiring music I possibly can for this intense, crazy and wonderful time we’re all living in.”
8 Ball Aitken (www.8ballaitken.com) is a fiery red headed guitarist whose sound is a blend of blues, country, rock and swamp. His self-title record is packed with slide, winsome hooks and witty lyrics. This 12 track album recorded in Nashville, TN grabbed our attention from start to finish. High points included the working man woes of “Seven Bucks An Hour In A Chicken Suit” flowing into the lively and lustful “Shut The Front Door” yet true love reined in the tasteful “A Girl In A Million” and “Sleepy”. “Monkey In A Suit And A Tie” had a more sinister side as did “Witness Protection”. The closer “Outback Booty Call” was catchy and comical. 8 Ball Aitken blends classic and contemporary country tones in songs that rock and reflect his Australian to Austin, Texas musical roots.
Canadian band Huis (www.huisband.com) recently released their second studio album Neither In Heaven in follow up to their well-received debut Despite Guardian Angels. Huis is keeping to the traditions of progressive music as they compose complex tunes with plenty of twists and turns paired with insightful prose. Keyboards play a prominent role throughout this 10 song CD. Neither In Heaven opens with the subtle title track that morphs into “Synesthesia” a layered and lengthier piece that melds into the intricate “Insane”. “The Man on the Hill” runs the range from potent to pensive and the CD closer “Nor on Earth” is a prime example of Huis’ prog potential.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Emma Cook (www.emmacookmusic.com) knows what it means to struggle. The Toronto indie-folk singer was well on her way to making a name for herself before a falling tree branch caused a serious head injury and forced her to take a hiatus from music to focus on recovery. After a three year battle with Post-Concussive Syndrome, Emma is releasing a two-part EP this summer and fall of 2016. The first installment, Counting Sheep, showcases Emma’s storytelling ability and beautifully expressive voice and leads with the sweet “Sixteen”. This track is one of many that began to pour out as she channeled all of her loss and frustration, all of the pain and hardship she experienced the last few years into this impressive effort…
Another hot act from Toronto Mother Leads (www.motherleads.com) prove themselves full of life on “Alive” – a track that is powered by hard biting, melodic hooks and driven by big riffs in front of brick-house drumming. Their songs blend seamlessly together creating an atmospheric stream of hard hitting rock, branching out progressively into alternative overtones, with snaps of sonic fury and outright lunacy. We can’t wait to see what they give birth to next…
Paul Kostick (www.paulkostick.com) is a singersongwriter hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a decade performing a range of styles from punk rock to sacred music, Paul found his niche in acoustic pop. Pairing straightforward lyrics with guitar driven tracks, his music serves as an upbeat and honest soundtrack for real life. His brand new EP Are You Listening? features a contagious energy that sets it apart from the solo artist’s previous work. The opening track “Magic” creates the tone for the album with playful lyrics and a singable melody. “17” reminisces about a first love gained and lost, and percussion-heavy “Directions” serves as an anthem for navigating a world of unpredictability and potential. The softer, moodier final track “Falling” acts as a perfect complement to the driving beat of earlier songs, as the album wraps up on a note of thoughtfulness and maturity that speaks to Paul’s unfolding artistic style.
See ya next month!
About Sights and Sounds of Note: SSON column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of SoundPress.net, an Internet-based music industry magazine and review site, online since 1999. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).