Blue Sky Thinkin’ By Anne McCue

April 28, 2015


Anne McCue is one of those artists you want to follow everywhere. The Australian born singer/guitarist learned her musical chops as a member of two all-female bands; Girl Monster and Eden AKA. Now based in the United States, she is about to release her 7th full-length studio album, Blue Sky Thinkin.’

She has been primarily an alternative country artist, whose music expands in a folk, blues, and rock direction upon occasion. Her releases have also been guitar based and she has developed into an accomplished instrumentalist. That’s why her new album is such a surprise as it is an abrupt change of musical direction.

She has traveled in what can be described as a light jazz direction as she draws from the past by channeling the likes of Billie Holliday, George Gershwin, and Hoagy Carmichael. The main emphasis has moved away from her guitar and settled squarely on her voice and words.

The songs are her own as she wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks. It is the style that reaches into the past. This is very apparent on “Things You Left Out In The Rain” and “It Wasn’t Even Fun While It Lasted” as they are lyrical and melodic as she gives quiet swinging performances.

You can picture Billie Holliday in a smoky lounge late at night singing “Save A Life.” She moves in an acoustic direction with Cowgirl Blues, which is a stylistic tribute to one of her idols, Memphis Minnie. “Little White Cat” may not fit the style of the rest of the music but it is welcome as it is a rough roadhouse boogie tune.

It is always interesting to see an artist expand their horizons and try something different. Blue Sky Thinkin’ is an album that shows a different side of Anne McCue, and for those who have continued to follow her, it is a very worthwhile journey.

The Complete Atlantic Recordings By Jackie Moore

April 28, 2015


Jackie Moore was, and still is, a gritty rhythm & blues performer. Her style may have been a little too raw for huge success but her output during the early 1970’s was the equal to most of her contemporaries. She had one big crossover hit in 1970 with “Precious Precious,” but despite 15 middling R&B Chart hits, mainline success managed to elude her.

She spent five years with the Atlantic label, 1969-1974, for whom she issued a number of singles and one studio album. Almost half of her studio recordings remained unreleased. Real Gone music has now issued The Complete Atlantic Recordings, which gathers together all 30 of the songs she produced for the label.

Taken individually, many of the songs are excellent. When taken together, they lack cohesiveness as the label was never allowed her to settle into a consistent style. Her only album, 1973’s Sweet Charlie Babe, was cobbled together from her singles, leaving an album’s worth of material in the vaults.

This is a release where many of the unreleased tracks are equal to what appeared on her single releases. “Here I Am” is a performance that fuses gospel and blues with a powerful duet with David Crawford. “I Just Started” has a big brass sound and backing vocals by the Sweet Inspirations. “Young Girls” is the type of down to earth rhythm & blues that punctuated her career. “I Forgive You” is so obscure that the composer has been lost to history but it is a deep grooved funky piece.

“Precious Precious” has a number of layers including a brass background, the Dixie Flyers, and Dr. John on piano. “Darling Baby” traveled in a different direction as it is a delicate cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit. “Sometimes It’s Got To Rain (In Your Life)” is an attempt to combine her gritty vocals with the pop soul sound of Motown, which was so popular at the time.

After leaving the Atlantic label she would continue to sporadically record, while raising a family. Her great shining moment came in 1979 when her “This Time Baby” became one of the big dance club/disco hits of the era.

The Complete Atlantic Recordings is a nice look into the career of a sometimes forgotten soul singer. It is a legacy worth exploring for anyone interested in the music of the era.

Rock & Roll Time By Jerry Lee Lewis

April 28, 2015


Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the grand old men of rock and roll. His career now spans seven decades. He was 79 when he entered the studio to record his latest album Rock & Roll Time.

His last two studio efforts, Last Man Standing (2006) and Mean Old Man (2010) were duet albums. His latest release is all Jerry Lee. It is still heavy in star power but the likes of Keith Richards, Neil Young, Nils Lofgren, Robbie Robertson, Doyle Bramhall II, and Shelby Lynne are regulated to guitarists and background vocalists.

The title of the album is somewhat misleading. While he can still rock as seen on covers of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” and “Promised Land;” much of the album is more in tune with the country side of his career.

The title track, written by Kris Kristofferson, has a plaintive and nostalgic feel. Lynyrd Skynrd’s “Mississippi Kid” is transformed into an emotional country-tinged performance. “Keep Me In Mind” is a pure country ballad, reminiscent of many of his country hits during the 1970’s.

He reaches deep in the Bob Dylan catalogue with a sincere version of “Stepchild.” In a tribute to his Sun label days, he straddles the line between rock and country with “Folsom Prison Blues.”

His voice may not have the explosive power of his younger days but he more than makes up for it with a laid back and smooth approach. He can still play the piano but also uses the array of guest guitarists to fill in the sound.

Jerry Lee Lewis has produced a remarkable album at an age when most of his contemporaries have retired or passed on. It may not shake your nerves and rattle your brain but there is still some fire in the music.


The Last Month Of The Year (CD Reissue) By The Kingston Trio

April 25, 2015


The passage of time has dimmed the legacy of the Kingston Trio. They were one of the groups that were responsible for the folk revival of the late 1950’s and were recognized stars in the pre-Beatles era. Five of their albums topped the Billboard Magazine album chart for a total of 46 weeks, which still ranks in the top ten all-time.

Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds were college students in the 1950’s when they formed the Kingston Trio. While their greatest popularity was during the first half of the 1960’s, a version of the group is still on the road today.

The Last Month Of The Year was released in late 1960. It ranks as a unique holiday offering as the material is drawn from English and European folk songs and spirituals of the southern United States rather than traditional Christmas fare.

The music of the Kingston Trio always had an easy going and spontaneous feel to it. The Last Month Of The Year was different from that norm as it was the result of an extended recording process. The instrumental backing has a very technical quality and the harmonies are polished. Despite being one the better and most creative albums of their career, it did not sell as well as their other releases at the time and was quickly pulled from circulation by their label. It has only rarely made an appearance in print during the last half-century. It now returns as a reissue by Real Gone Music with a crystal clear re-mastered ound and an excellent booklet, which presents a history of the music and band.

It is a folk album first and foremost. “All Through The Night” is an 18th Century Welsh folksong, while “Go Where I Sent Thee” is from the American South of two centuries ago and fuses gospel and traditional folk. “A Round About Christmas” was originally a song that was sung as a round, while “Last Month Of The Year” is an up-tempo jaunt with a jazz feel to it.

The harmonies on “Follow Now Oh Shepherds” and “Bye Bye Thou Tiny Little Child” are some of the best of their career. “The Snows Of Winter” is music from the fourth movement of Brahms First Symphony with lyrics co-written by Bob Shane.

The Last Month Of The Year is a holiday album that takes the road less traveled and is all the better for it. It is many times a forgotten holiday masterpiece and a must listen for the season.


Core By Arjun

April 25, 2015


Core by Arjun is an album you need to listen to a number of times to appreciate the textures  and understand the subtleties.

The band was formed during 2003 and consists of guitarist Eddie Arjun Peters, drummer Lamar Myers, and bassist Andre Lyles. They are an experimental threesome who combine rock and jazz improvisations into a fusion sound.

Their approach is instrumental and given the nature of their music, it is safe to say that vocals would be a hindrance. The rhythm section lays down deep grooves as Peters guitar dances above the rhythms. Some of the songs move in a gentle direction, while others have a powerful impact.

They have developed into a tight band who after a decade together are able to intimately connect with each other, which given their improvisational approach, is an important component of their success.

Arjun has carved out a nice niche for themselves in the musical landscape. Core is an album well-worth exploring.

Baby Love By The Supremes

April 23, 2015

It took the Supremes several years and a number of failed singles before they became successful. “Where Did Our Love Go” hit the top of the charts August 22, 1964. Two months later, on October 31, 1964, they reached number one again with “Baby Love,” where it remained for four weeks.

Their second number one hit established Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson as one of the top vocal groups in the United States. They may not have known it at the time but the best was yet to come.

Live In Memphis (DVD) By Big Star

April 19, 2015


Alex Chilton, formally of the Box Tops, formed Big Star in 1971 with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummell.  Their first two albums were critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful. The band folded in 1974 but re-appeared in 1993 with vocalist/guitarist Chilton and drummer Stephens joined by two members of The Posies; guitarist/vocalist Jon Auer and bassist /vocalist Ken Stringfellow. The band recorded and performed together until Chilton’s death in March of 2010.

While there are a number of live Big Star recordings around, their Memphis concert of October 29, 1994, was the only one to have been professionally filmed. That concert has now been released as a DVD, CD, and double vinyl LP.

Despite being professionally recorded the sound and video is average by today’s standards. The energy of the band more than makes up for it as it was a homecoming concert and was advertised as their farewell performance. The band is trying very hard and it shows in this superior live show.

The material is primarily drawn from their first two albums, plus a number of cover songs that Chilton liked to include in their live shows. The exception is a poignant cover of deceased member Chris Bell’s solo tune “I Am The Cosmos.” Jon Auer provides the vocal as they salute one of their founding members.

The highlights of their tunes from their acclaimed first albums are “September Gurls” and “The Ballad Of El Goodo,” which are presented in all their harmonic pop glory.

Chilton always had an eclectic taste for other people’s material and that was on display in this concert. The covers range from a wicked interpretation of Todd Rundgren’s “Slut,” to a rocking cover of the Kinks “Till The End Of The Day,” to the pop/jazz classic “The Girl From Impanema.” He even reaches into the obscure past with a cover of the long-forgotten Gary and The Hornets “Patty Girl.”

Live In Memphis catches the second generation Big Star at their best. While their first two albums remain must listens; this live albums presents a different version of the band that was about to carve out its own legacy.