It’s the time of year around the world when millions in the northern hemisphere are tired of the Winter blues and are desperate for the return of Spring. With that in mind we have the perfect disc to help drive away the seasonal doldrums. Plus, a lot of other great music has recently arrived ranging from rock to blues to pop and jam. We’ve given them a test drive and can now pronounce that they’re all ready to uplift and inspire even the weariest of weather worn souls.
Grammy nominated blues-rock guitar god Joe Bonamassa (www.jbonamassa.com) is one of the hardest working axe men in the genre yet Joe still finds time to return to the studio time and time again to evolve as an artist. Blues of Desperation is packed with searing guitar solos in songs that are stylistically diverse but built on a solid blues foundation. The 11-track album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee where Joe collaborated with some of the best guys in the business. Sure, we are big Bonamassa fans and each new release is a cause for celebration. From the rousing opener “This Train” to the reflective “What I’ve Known for A Very Long Time” perhaps you’ll discover what we’ve known for a very long time – Joe is a musical treasure for our times. In between was the seductive “Drive”, the daring title track with its siren like guitars countered by the soulful “The Valley Runs Low” and the riveting “How Deep This River Runs”. Blues of Desperation has it all – sizzling guitar solos paired with strong song structure to tell a story and that is what the blues past and present are all about.
Speaking of Joe… L.A. singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Beth Hart (www.bethhart.com) is back with a solid solo record. In recent years Beth has collaborated with guitar greats Jeff Beck and Joe Bonamassa. Better Than Home runs the gamut from reflective to rocking and generally finds the once often troubled artist in a happy place at the moment. The 11-track album is packed with insightful lyrics about life and love. The opening song “Might As Well Smile” blends backing gospel vocals with a lots of soul that flows into the pensive “Tell ‘Em To Hold On” and the stark yet startling “Tell Her You Belong To Me”. The pace picks up with a punchy “Trouble”. “St Teresa” is another high mark with its intense imagery along with the moving closing number “Mama This One’s For You”.Better Than Home is a personal and powerful record from Beth who is well-known for putting her heart into her artistry.
Guitarist and smooth singer/songwriter Gary Clark Jr. (www.garyclarkjr.com) draws from a broad pallet of influences such as blues, country, jazz, rock and soul. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim his most recent release is varied and perhaps not as guitar driven as some fans might have expected. However, we enjoyed the experimental flow of this 13-track CD. His sophomore release throws out the rule book and adds new plays featuring elements of R&B and dance music. At the start “The Healing” blends an old school style with hip-hop. “Our Love” and “Church” were filled with soulful stylings and the catchy “Can’t Sleep” featured a saucy rhythm punctuated by guitar riffs that flowed into the heavier “Stay” and a sassy “Shake” showcasing distinctive distorted guitar sounds for which this Austin based musician is known for. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim is a new chapter for the talented Gary Clark Jr. and will keep fans guessing as to what comes next.
Rick Springfield (www.rickspringfield.com) has been playing music since the late 1960’s but he came into notoriety in the 1980’s with such hits as “Affair of the Heart”, “Human Touch” and “Jessie’s Girl”. Springfield has remained popular in part to his reputation as an energizing live performer and he still knows how to pen appealing pop-rock tunes. Rocket Science Rick’s latest is packed with hooks paired with clever lyrics. The record opens with the lively “Light This Party Up” flowing into “Down” a delightful track addressing commitment and disillusionment. Rocket Science rocks yet as the record unfolds a country flavor subtly emerges especially on the memorable “Miss Mayhem” featuring Rick on a Dobro and the twangy “Crowded Solitude” with its interesting word play. Rick has mastered the formula of catchy songcraft. It may not be Rocket Science but it still results in another shining star for Springfield.
Lucinda Williams (www.lucindawilliams.com) is known as the Queen of Americana Country and on her 12th studio release The Ghosts of Highway 20 she reigns supreme while digging up the past on a particularly dark and dirty road. Lucinda sets off on her journey to discover her roots growing up in the deep South and ends up contemplating her – and everyone’s – unpleasant ultimate destination. The opener “Dust” sets the tone for the gritty lo-fi mood found throughout the double disc’s set of fourteen crisply instrumented tracks. “I Know All About It” is a wrenching report of the singer’s familiarity with pain. “Place in My Heart” is a sadly sweet and vulnerable love song. Even the album’s most optimistic tracks like “If There’s a Heaven” border on the dreary and downtrodden. The closer “Faith and Grace” is an extended excursion clocking in at over 12-minutes of moody and funky jams. On this release Williams serves as a narrator who sounds often like a weary and weathered sojourner hanging on to hope. In the end The Ghosts of Highway 20 is equally haunted and spirited with a just a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
Tim Reynolds (www.timreynolds.com) is most widely recognized for his role as lead guitarist in the Dave Matthews Band. When’s he’s not truly solo he fronts his experimental power trio called TR3. His latest with them is Like Some Kind of Alien Invasion and it opens as it is named with the otherwordly tones that kick off the determined I.C.U. This is the second studio effort with the band comprised of Reynolds on guitar and vocals along with bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier. Together the triad journey and explore a vast musical terrain from jam to jazz to power metal on the album’s 14 tracks. Along the way the boys even veer their craft toward soulful love songs with “The Glow” and venture into South-rock scenarios with “In the Zone”. Quality production throughout lifts Reynold’s earnest vocals and the overall performance to a high point made expertly ready to invade your ears and mind.
Steve Kimock’s (www.kimock.com) Last Danger of Frost finds the seasoned guitarist exploring new terrain by utilizing the bass, electronic sounds and vintage guitars. The 11-track CD was conceived in Steve’s century-old Pennsylvania barn in the winter months giving him the space to experiment with non-convention techniques. Steve is joined by his son John Morgan (composer/drummer/multi-instrumentalist) on this collaboration called Kimock. The first four tunes “Music Tells a Story” runs the range from acoustic to spacy sound effects. The rest of the record journeys through more intriguing textures and world tones making for an interesting instrumental album that is as pleasant as the coming of Springtime.
Aunt Mary (facebook.com/auntmarytheband) were Norway’s progressive rock pioneers of the 1970’s. Like many bands they have seen their fair share of trials. In some ways Aunt Mary’s 2016 release New Dawn was a challenge but the passion to create new music prevailed. The 11-track CD reflects their progressive roots along with blues and hard rock influences too. “Slave Parade” the opening track marches to a heavy rhythm flowing into the catchy “Unconditional Love” then back to a heavier vibe in “Hopelessly Lost”. “G Flat Road” travels through a number of musical twist and turns thus setting the path for the second half of this rocking record. Aunt Mary plans on touring in support of the album demonstrating that despite hardships there is hope of a New Dawn for all of us.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Newcomer Sara Diamond (facebook.com/iamsaradiamond) hails from Montreal and she shines nice and bright on her debut single, “Just Give In”. The R&B infused track reveals why she has sold over a million children’s songs and how come she’s a favorite at Canadiens’ hockey games. This new song elegantly showcases Diamond’s soaring sultry vocals, the rhythm pulsing around her voice, all while shimmering synths propel the song to glorious heights…
Tom Carter (www.tomcartermusic.com) is an indie rock musician from Atlanta, GA. His original songs sound like R.E.M. meets 60s and 70s pop-rock and overflow with quality and potential. The artist listened to the British Invasion Bands of the 1960s but was a child of the 70s and the early 80s so a plethora of influences abound…
The Velvet Hands (www.thevelvethands.co.uk) will instantly grab you with their high energy garage-rock and charismatic storytelling. Emerging from the resurgent Cornwall rock ‘n’ roll scene the four-piece are instantly addictive as revealed on their latest single, “Habit”. These are the guys for you if you like your rock full of youthful vigor and snarling attitude…
Noah Zacharin (www.noahsong.com) makes a welcome return with his seventh full-length release, Strange Rider. This Toronto-based artist takes various turns at jazz, folk, R&B, blues and even do-wop in a collection called his most adventurous and eclectic yet. The trip includes a relaxed yet richly resonant vibe as Zacharin’s warm and mellow vocals narrate this fine collection of emotional and eloquent songs…
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).