Hello again world! Not exactly sure what season it is where you are. Winters has been hanging on here but that just gave us more time to stay inside and listen to the endless flow of music that finds its way to the office of Sights and Sounds of Note. Let’s take a look.
• Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel (www.tommyemmanuel.com) is one of only five musicians to receive a Certified Guitar Player (CGP) title from the late Chet Atkins. Tommy is an accomplished, award-winning, fingerstyle player who aptly handles bass, melody and supporting chords all at one time. His latest accomplishment is Accomplice One. On this sixteen track album Tommy performs with some of the most talented people from across the musical spectrum. The lineup includes Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, J.D. Simo, David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Suzy Bogguss and more. The CD is a mix of favorites and originals running the range from blues, country and rock. “Deep River Blues” the opening number sets the standards high with the rest of the pack delivering. Midway there is a triple threat that features a colorful take on “Purple Haze”, “Rachel’s Lullaby” a sweet instrumental featuring Jake Shimabukuro on ukulele and a delightful “Djangology”. Accomplice One is a passionate, precise, playfully record that proves Emmanuel still deserves the honor of CGP.
• Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers (www.joegrushecky.com) show steely resolve as they have gone back to work to craft a late career masterpiece that is both molten and potent. A cameo from Broadway Bruce on “That’s What Makes Us Great” underscores the fact that it is Grushecky who now truly should be hailed as the real blue collar hero because he has lived that life – for reals. “Got to Go to Work Today” and “Hell to Pay” are anthems and an acknowledgment of the daily struggles faced by the modern nine to fiver. “Work in Progress” continues the theme with a focus on self-improvement. Joe, no stranger to Asbury Park, takes everyone on a stroll along the beach during his Brill Building tribute track “One Beautiful Night”. A severe accident to the group’s original bass player, Art Nardini, forced the guys to re-tool a bit. But, they came out with guitars a blazing. Still, with a name like More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows you shouldn’t be surprised that the raucous rock takes a pause on the title track and closer “Don’t Mourn for Me Like That”. Like in days past when sons would follow their fathers in the mines or factories, Joe’s son Johnny gets elevated to the producer’s chair and is their heir apparent to the house rockin’ company store. More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows has been forged in fire and sweat emerging bright and shiny as it bears all the burdens of the working class.
• The Oak Ridge Boys (www.oakridgeboys.com) represent a tradition that dates back to World War II. The original group from Knoxville, Tennessee began performing country and gospel music in nearby Oak Ridge. During the Oaks’ long history there have been many member changes but a core emerged in the 1970’s to become one of the most distinctive and recognizable sounds in the world. The four-part harmonies and upbeat songs of The Oak Ridge Boys have produced dozens of hits along with plenty of awards (Grammy, Dove, CMA, and ACM). Their latest 17th Avenue Revival is a return to their gospel roots. The nine covers run the gamut from serious to foot stomping songs starting and ending with the inspiring theme of shining. With just the right amount of instrumentation the Oaks present relatable stories of faith such as a spirited “God’s Got It”, the classic “I’d Rather Have Jesus” to the familiar and funny “Pray To Jesus” – and we play the lotto. With The Oaks’ heavenly four-part harmonies 17th Avenue Revival is a revival of the highest order.
• Esoteric Recordings are proud to announce the release of an official limited edition deluxe boxed set of YES founder Chris Squire‘s (www.chrissquire.com) legendary 1975 solo album Fish Out Of Water. In many ways this record sounds like a classic 70’s YES project sans Jon Anderson which then gave Chris an opportunity to reveal he was a respectable lead singer in his own right. Some of the special guests on Fish Out Of Water had some sort of YES connection. There was former YES drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Patrick Moraz along with Mel Collins and Jimmy Hastings. The production on this updated collection is clean and crisp allowing all the prog pageantry to unfold in lavish long compositions that includes horns and strings. This record is insightful, intelligent and intricate thus standing the test of time. Apparently, Squire was always justly proud of his first solo album. It was his long held wish that a 5.1 surround mix would be undertaken of the work someday. This Esoteric Recordings edition finally brings this to fruition and is a fitting tribute to the artistry of Chris and his collaborator, Andrew Pryce Jackman. Fish Out Of Water belongs in every YES fan’s collection.
• Gong Expresso (www.gongexpresso.com) featuring Gong alumni Francois Causse, Benoit Moerlen and Hansford Rowe with guitarist Julien Sandiford have released the savory Decadence. The title opening track simmers at a delicate pace prior to percolating into more dynamic structures setting the tone for the rest of this strong instrumental brew. Reflecting on the record, Hansford shares that “Decadence is the title tune on the new Gong Expresso album. Here the word means ‘falling away.’ I hope this tune and all the music on the album somehow addresses this in an unadorned, direct way. When I play with these 3 musicians I am convinced there is something special happening, a coming together. Benoit Moerlen (vibes, marimba) and Francois Causse (drums, percussion) and I began playing together in early 1977 in PM’s Gong and our rapport is of the kind only long term relationships can provide. On the other hand Julien who is 25 has been alive less time than I have been playing with the others. Yet our musical relationship feels infinitely long.” Other highpoints on this 8-track collection include the flavorful “Frevo” and the closer “God Knows.” Decadence is a shot of succulent jazz from Gong Expresso – some of the most skilled players in the genre.
• The Security Project (www.securityprojectband.com) features King Crimson and Peter Gabriel members presenting the early works of Peter Gabriel on their latest effort entitled Contact. The group is much more than a tribute band as they craft new arrangements that still stay true to their original muse. The Security Project’s eleven covers creatively melds striking rhythms, soaring vocals with world tones. Our favorites including a riveting “I Don’t Remember”, an innovative “Intruder”, a still insightful “No Control” and the classic “Games Without Frontiers.” The Security Project pays their respects to Mr. Gabriel with Contact a reverent and revolutionary album.
• Bailey James (www.baileyjamescountry.com) is a Nashville based guitarist, singer and songwriter who has already appeared at the legendary Bluebird Café, The Wildhorse Saloon and the mega-popular CMA Music Festival in Nashville. She has also participated in numerous press interviews and showcases at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Music City. Bailey is a soulful performer with an old soul – all this at the age of fifteen. Her six-track EP Where It All Begins echoes of more traditional country yet has contemporary sounds and storytelling such as “For Never” which mentions texting and tweeting with a twang. James’ love songs run the range from sad to sweet and speaks to all generations. Bailey is on the rise. Her first release “Run Girl” peaked at #36 on the Music Row Country Breakout Chart. The accompanying music video for the tune-a co-write about pursuing dreams has been viewed on her YouTube page over 132,000 times and has premiered on The Country Network. Bailey James is an artist to be on the watch for and Where It All Begins is another step in the right direction for this young musician.
• Musician Stephen Inglis (www.stepheninglis.com) approaches the music of the Grateful Dead in a more subtle style. Stephen’s double disc entitled Cut The Dead Some Slack is a mainly acoustic (slack key guitar), vocal presentation of countless classics such as “Scarlet Begonias”, “Ripple”, “Brokendown” Palace and more. Hawaiian slack key traditionally involves loosening the strings to craft additional resonance thus adding rich elements to Inglis’ bending, blending muse. Stephen is both an expressive singer and strummer apt at showcasing these songs in a simpler format. His potent picking adds personality to fan favorites such as “Bertha” and “Cassidy” while allowing the storytelling to really shine in “Wharf Rat” and “It Must Have Been The Roses”. Just like the Dead, Inglis magically meanders from one tune and eventually back to it as in the case of “Dark Star”. The music of the Grateful Dead lends itself to broad interpretations and Ingles’ are insightful, inspired and intricate. Cut The Dead Some Slack is in follow-up to Stephan’s widely acclaimed Slackin’ on Dylan so check them both out!
• Vista Kicks (www.vistakicks.com) are a group of retro twenty somethings who must have gone through their parents record collection because these heart-throbs with a retro vibe and a taste for fashion have mined the very best of the 60s and 70s to present their amazingly satisfying debut album, Booty Shakers Ball. If you’re interested in hearing what a merger of the Beatles and Motown might sound like, or what a collaboration between James Brown and Jimmy Page could contain look no further because VK echoes the British Invasion as they offer glam, pop and boot stomping bar rock to kick us all out of our collective millennial malaise.
• SSHH (www.sshh.co.uk) has released “Rising Tide” that finds the ever sexy Siouxie Sioux pairing up with in-demand drum progeny Zak Starkey who surprisingly moves up front to show off his guitar skills. The result is a pulsating bath of electronic and dance beats that is sure to lift even the heaviest of hearts. There’s a depth as the track moves on a raw, edgy and punky current that dives below the surface to explore themes of anger and happiness. Nothing shallow about this one.
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! We get a constant stream of music via old school snail mail and modern digital links. Let’s take a look at what crossed our door these past few weeks.
• Wow! Bibeau (www.bibeauband.com) proves two things. One is that rock and roll will never die and the other is that metal will live forever. Seeing their latest video for “Mark This” made me feel fifteen all over again when I was watching Iron Maiden for the first time. These young guns pay homage to the genre, too, while being fresh and new. You’ll find where they’ve melted in some GnR and other old school icons to forge their place in steel and horns as they begin to mold a new golden age for American metal.
• Sure, no one likes going to the Dentist (www.dentistband.com) But, it’s easy to drill down on why this strangely named act unlike any before them from Asbury Park is gleaming in the spotlight. Sure, their videos and lyrical content can be disturbing but that’s nothing a shot of Novocain can’t fix. Speaking of Cures, yeah there’s a bit of that here but in this case it’s female fronted by Emily Bornemann with professional assistance from Justin Bornemann and Matt Hockenjos. Emo, dark with confidence and attitude this Dentist is filling a much needed niche. So, shut up and smile.
• The New York Yankees and baseball gave us Bernie Williams as an athlete turned accomplished guitar player. Now football and the Los Angeles Chargers return the favor as offensive lineman Joe Barksdale (www.josephbarksdale.com) delivers his debut Butterflies, Rainbows & Moonbeams. Showing the same dedication and determination that helped him achieve world class athlete status the artist only picked up the axe less than five years ago. The competitive force on the girdiron has been telling everyone who will listen he’ll be one of the greatest guitar players of his generation before it’s all said and done. There’s nothing offensive about that statement as he backs it up by tackling the giants. Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” is beautifully done and helps kick off his second career with anticipation for what will come next. On the field and in the studio Joe Barksdale is one man who is most definitely taking charge.
• Parting Is by Jon Durant (www.jondurant.com) is an innovative instrumental album. Its atmospheric sounds are beyond traditional guitar tones. As Jon explains “many pieces begin as loops that I would play a melodic lead over. I recorded several of these, then began to deconstruct the loops and record the various parts as separate components which could become less loop like and more dynamic and flowing. The track, “Open Window” is a perfect example of how that played out.” Parting Is is a masterful, mellow, nine track collection that would be ideal for a meditation class.
• Kat Cunning (www.katcunning.com) is shrewdly appealing, especially on the title cut from her debut record, Baby. The Broadway actress delivers a jazzy and vulnerable vocal over an electronic and staccato base track that is drawning praise for it’s unique mix of sweet, spicy and salty ingredients. A star is born!
• Lunden Reign (www.lundenreign.com) continue their campaign to become modern rock royalty with an outpouring of ten new tracks now released on striking and colorful 180-gram vinyl. Confessions covers a of lot ground. Politics, emotions, social empowerment and heartfelt love songs are all topics featured here. Nikki Lunden and Laura Espinoza-Lunden keep their hands on the reins even as they remind us of the Bangles and Go-Gos but with a harder edge and deeper focus. If I told you that was a sure-fire formula for success, would you keep it a secret?
• Tennessee Jed (www.tnjed.net) hits all the right notes in describing the music that most turns him on. Now, we’re turned on, too! “Soul Country Pimpgrass” and its accompanying hilarious video showcase Jed’s big persona with fine frenetic fiddling and persuasive picking. Jed takes a few jabs at some of his rival genres but when all is said and done – we agree. Let’s have more Jed.
• Veil of Maya (facebook.com/veilofmaya) has lifted the veil on the fact that they are on the rise. On their latest False Idol they follow a not so nice leader on his ascent to power. The band flies on a hypnotic mix of melodic screamo that masterfully merges progressive, death, thrash and hardcore with a message. You will bow down!
See ya next month!
ABOUT SSON: Sights and Sounds of Note column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are longtime activists in the music industry. Together, they have reviewed thousands of concerts and music releases through their network of websites including this one and www.musiccitynashville.org. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich has interviewed dozens of famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).