Our Country: Americana Act II By Ray Davies

October 16, 2019

If Ray Davies had only written one song, he would still have made a mark on the history of rock music. His 1964 classic, “You Really Got Me,” with his band The Kinks and the opening chords played by his brother Dave, helped establish the foundations of hard rock. The Kinks remained active until 1996 and were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990.

He began his solo career in 1985 and his newest release is his sixth studio album. Our Country: Americana Act II is the follow-up to his 2017 release. It continues his reflections about his American experiences.

Our Country: Americana Act II is a concept album similar to his early 1970 releases. The album contains narration, which can be both positive and negative. They are interesting the first couple of listens but become repetitive with additional exposure.

The music has a flow and when taken together is better than the individual parts. The songs are not the gritty rock of the early Kinks but has a laid back style to it. It is Ray Davies the story teller rather than Ray Davies the rock musician.

He has had a long and sometimes tempestuous relationship with America but ultimately the country formed a part of who he is as a person and musician. That songs such as “Back In The Day,” “The Take,” “Louisiana Sky,” “The Big Weird,” and “Tony and Bob” are able to chronicle his journey musically is extraordinary.

Ray Davies is now one of the grand old men of sixties rock and roll. Old Country: Americana Act II is a reflective album of a person looking back. It is ultimately an album of soothing and reflective music.


Lock Up The Liquer By The Little Red Rooster Blues Band

October 16, 2019

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band may not be a household name. but for three decades they have been touring relentlessly and producing first-rate blues. Now, in celebration of their 30th anniversary, they have released an album of 15 original songs titled Lock Up The Liquor.

They are a talented bar band who have made good. As such, they have a sense of humor and an easy going approach to their music that are important for any band who has spent years playing in front of small crowds in smoky filled rooms.

Guitarist/vocalist Kevin McCann, harp player Dave Holtzman, bassist Jeff Michael. and drummer Ben Holden have learned their craft well. Their music ranges from dance tunes to emotional ballads. “Thrift Store Rubbers” exemplifies their sense of humor and “Cotton Mouth” is a tribute to James Cotton.

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band have issued an album of entertaining blues. So grab your favorite brew, put your legs up, and enjoy.


The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic By The Beach Boys

October 16, 2019

There has been a recent deluge of albums of previously released material with newly added backing by orchestra’s. Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Oasis, Pete Townshend, George Michael, and many more have had their music re-released and re-imagined with orchestral backing. The Beach Boys are the latest to have their material undergo this transformation.

When releasing material in this manner, there is a tension between the commercial and creative. Most major artists have had their songs released in many ways and configurations and an orchestra added to the original recordings is another way for music company’s and the copy right holders to make some extra income. On the other hand, doing the best creative job possible adds to the commercial appeal.

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is the latest in the orchestral backing sweepstakes. It is a mixed affair with pros and cons.

One of the positives is the sound. While many of the songs were recorded with the technology of about 50 years ago; Brian Wilson was a genius in the studio and his recordings are impeccable. The sound is crystal clear and the vocals are up front, which puts the emphasis on the harmonies.

The ballads seem to work better than the faster songs. “The Warmth Of The Sun,” “In My Room,” “God Only Knows,” and the album’s best track, “Disney Girls,” are excellent as the new backing add new textures and dimensions to the sound. More rockish tracks such as “Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and a ramped up version of “Darlin’” are less successful as the fusion is more difficult.

Anything interesting by The Beach Boys is worth a listen but The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic is not essential. The major problem is songs like “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Fun Fun Fun” are 1960’s pop perfection and sometimes that is enough.


Just Waitin’ By The Steve Krase Band

October 16, 2019

The harmonica is such a simple instrument. Just about anyone can get sounds from the it, but to play the harmonica well, takes years, and sometimes decades, of practice. Very few musicians gain elite status, which brings us to Steve Krase.

Krase is basically a bluesman and a harmonica player extraordinaire, who has expanded his vision and sound on his new album Just Waitin.’ His selection of material forces him outside his comfort zone as covers of Hank Williams, The Beverly Hillbillies, plus classics from Howlin’ Wolf and Walter Price populate the album.

He uses a basic backing band of guitarist David Carter, bassist Rick Romano, and drummer Tamara Williams. There maybe an accordion here and some extra percussion there, but overall the sound is stripped down and provides a solid foundation for his vocals and harp excisions.

One of the best and quirkiest tracks is his cover of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song “The Ballad Of Jed Clampett.” The accordion gives it a Zydeco feel but the rest of the band connects it to the blues.

“My Baby Walked Out On Me,” “All In The Mood,” and “Nobody Loves Me” are classic blues songs with an edge. At times the band can rock, which provides a nice fusion of styles and sounds.

Krase is one of those veterans who populate the modern blues scene. He is constantly on the road plying his trade. Just Waiting’ is an album that deserves to bring him some mass commercial appeal. An excellent blues album, especially for anyone who appreciates the harmonica.

 


In The Boys Club By Kat Riggins

October 16, 2019

Sometimes the best things come on small packages. So it is with the dominative Kat Riggins and her new album In The Boys’ Club.

Riggins may be small in stature but more than makes up for it with her big, powerful voice. Add in her ability as a song writer and you have one of the bigger blues talents working today.

Her albums always have an edge and sass to them. She is a woman blues singer in a field where most of her contemporaries are male. As such, she brings a female perspective to her music. That perspective is on display in the title song, “A Girl In The Boys’ Club.” “Uh oh fellas, there’s a girl in in the boys’ club,” just about sums up her attitude and approach to the blues.

She is a southern blues singer and has a gritty nature to her voice. While there may be some modern elements to her music, she is at heart a traditional blues singer. “Kitty Won’t Scratch,” “Don’t Throw Me Away,” and “Cheat Or Lose” may have a backing band but there is an elemental quality to them that connects them to the Southern Delta, the cradle of the blues.

Riggins is now well into her career and she has settled nicely into her role as a female voice of the blues. In The Boys’ House an excellent album for any aficionado of the blues.


Sunshine Superman by Donovan

October 11, 2019

If there is such a musical category as psychedelic folk, “Sunshine Superman” would be the poster song.

Donovan Phillip Leitch produced a dozed hit singles in the late 1960’s. His “Mellow Yellow” just missed the number one spot.

His early hits “Colours,” “Catch The Wind,” and “Universal Soldier” were straight folk but with “Sunshine Superman,” he changed his style, which hit a commercial chord. It entered the Top 100, July 30 at number 90. On September 3, 1966, it reached the top of the charts for one week.

While his career would slow down in the 1970’s, his unique brand of music would lead to his induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.


Blind Spot By The Lucky Losers

September 19, 2019

Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, professionally known as The Lucky Losers, have just issued their latest album titled Blind Spot.

The album features 11 original compositions that explore various facets of their life’s journey. Whether its the subject of love, the lack of morals and ethics around them, or simply getting through life; their vocal duet approach presents the songs with passion and finesse.

Their music is blues centered but it extends into soul and Americana. Backed by veteran musicians, their approach and sound is a reminder of days past.

The Lucky Losers have spun some new tales to be explored and appreciated. Blind Spot is worth while stop on their continuing journey through the highways and byways of life.