Just A Simple Soul By Bert Jansch

January 8, 2020

Just A Simple Soul is a long overdue album as it gathers the best material from Bert Jansch’s 40 year solo recording career. As an added listening bonus, the 39 tracks are presented in chronological order, which enables the listener to appreciate the distinct periods of his career and the evolution of his music.

Jansch began his recording career in 1965 and over the next four decades released 25 solo albums. In addition, he was a founding member of Pentangle and would record and tour with the group for the rest of his life, 1967-1973, 1981-1995, 2007-2011 (his death). Pentangle emerged as on the most innovative and influential folk bands in music history as it combined traditional folk music with elements of jazz, blues, and rock.

Jansch was always able to bridge styles. His lyrics have always been folk oriented but the guitar work borders on the blues, similar to early Bob Dylan. He was one of the best acoustic guitarists of his era and his innovative and creative innovations are unmatched.

Any study of Jansch’s music begins with his ode to the passing of a friend, “Needle Of Death.” It is folk music at its distressing and painful best. Add in such songs as “Poison,” “Angie,” and “It Don’t Bother Me” and you have some of the better traditional folk music of the second half of the 1960’s.

For a time he was maintaining two careers; as a solo artist and member of a high profile band. “The First Time I Ever Say Your Face,” “Reynardine,” and “Moonshine” represent a more commercial approach apart from Pentangle.

From the 1990’s on, his music was reflective and at times simple. “Morning Brings Peace Of Mind,” “When The Circus Comes To Town,” “On The Edge Of A Dream,” and the title track are mesmerizing in their calmness and simplicity.

Jansch was a rare musician who was able to produce memorable music both within and outside of a band. When the best music of his solo career is gathered in one place; it forms one of the better listening experiences available.

Blues & Angels By Sandy Carroll

January 8, 2020

A new album from veteran blues and roots artist, Sandy Carroll, is due October 19th. Her last release, Last Southern Belle, charted high on the Contemporary Country and Indie Charts. Blues & Angels is a return to a more traditional blues style.

While Carroll is known as a respected singer and keyboardist; it is her ability as a songwriter that forms the heart of her newest album.

She draws on an array of singers and backing musicians to support her latest creations. They give her music more depth and textures than have been present in the past.

The songs tell stories from a blues perspective. Tales of joy, sorrow, pain, and just living come together to form a strong release.

Sandy Carroll has reached a point in her career where she knows who she is and how to put together an album of new music. Blues & Angels is another step forward in her blues journey through life.

Pop-N-Downers By Hymn For Her

January 8, 2020

True Troubadours are a dying breed in the music world, but whether busking in Europe or traveling the highways of America in their trailer home, Hymn For Her, Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing with their daughter in tow, have remained true to the travelling poet-musicians of the past.

Pop-N-Downers is the latest release by the duo. It may be their most ambitious album to date. They are a two-person band with a simple sound, but here their travel in a number of stylistic directions. While at heart, they produce music grounded in Americana, now their is a little Latin influences here and some bluegrass there.

The music also has some edge to it in places. “Shallow Graves” has a title that is self-explanatory, while “Fireflies” has a serious message hidden amid the sounds of  a gentle ballad.

Hymn For Her and their Airstream Trailer have a place in American music. They produce American music at its most elemental. Coming to a venue near you!

Love The Way: The Solo 70’s Recordings By Jorge Santana

January 8, 2020

Jorge Santana has had a late life musical rejuvenation lately. First came the re-issue of his early 1970’s albums with his band Malo, who combined hard rock elements with Latin rhythms. Now comes the reissue of his two late 1970’s solo albums under the title Love The Way: The Complete ’70s Recordings.

His 1978 self-titled release with the hit single “Love The Way,” was a commercial success. Former Malo alum Richard Bean was along for the ride as a co-writer and lead vocalist. It may not have been as heavy and hard rocking as the Malo albums but it was a smooth combination of American and Latin pop, with guitar licks curtesy of Jorge. The basic foundation is rock and roll but the production enabled it to fit in with the east coast disco scene.

The second release, 1979’s It’s All About Love, was produced by Allen Toussaint and the music shows his presence. It is more eclectic in nature and is grounded in the fusion of Latin funk and New Orleans jazz. Whether jams, acoustic, or tight structures; it is a potpourri of Delta rhythms.

Love The Way: The ’70s Solo Recordings resurrects the music of an artist who was able to fuse various musical styles and elements in unique ways. While Jorge Santana’s forays may not have changed the course of American music, it did provide two interesting interludes.

Good Vibrations By The Beach Boys

January 3, 2020


One if the iconic songs in rock and roll history reached number one December 10, 1966.

Brian Wilson went into the recording studio early in 1966 and created a pop symphony. “Good Vibrations” was the most expensive and sophisticated single ever produced at the time. It ultimately took 17 sessions, six months,  and four recording studios.

“good Vibrations” entered the Hot 100, October 26. 1966 and reached number one for one week starting December 10, 1966.

The Beach Boys would continue to be a top concert attraction but it would be ten years before they had another top 10 single in the United States.

“Good Vibrations” continues to be one of the most respected single releases of the rock and roll era.

Winchester Cathedral By The New Vaudeville Band

January 2, 2020

Every once in awhile, and odd song becomes a huge hit, and so it was with “Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band.

Geoff Stephens was working as a staff songwriter and there was a calendar with a picture of Winchester Cathedral hanging in his office, and a song was born.

Stephens was a fan of vaudeville and decided to sing the song in that style, come with the use of a megaphone. He used session musicians to form the New Vaudeville Band.

“Winchester Cathedral” peaked at number four in Great Britain but it was just warming up. It entered the American charts October 29, 1966 and five weeks later it was number one. It fell to number two a week later but regained the top position for two more week beginning December 17.

The New Vaudeville Band toured the United States and even spent a year at The Aladdin Hotel in Vegas, before fading away, leaving behind one of the more unusual number 1 songs in music history.

My Way By Willie Nelson

January 2, 2020

Willie Nelson released his first studio album in 1862 and now, 56 years later, at the age of 85, shows no sign of slowing down. My Way is his 12th release since 2010.

Nelson’s new album, as the title suggests, is an album of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. He is one of the few living artists who could even attempt an album of this type as Sinatra made just about any song his own and his versions are considered definitive.

Nelson is an iconic country artist but has moved in a pop and easy listening direction on a number of occasions. His voice may not be as strong as in the past but it has acquired a nice patina. He brings a weariness and nostalgia to the songs as opposed to Sinatra’s smoothness.

Nelson has always had impeccable phrasing and that serves him well on covers such as the title song, “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Summer Wind,” and “Fly Me To The Moon.”

Possibly the best track is “One For My Baby (And One For The Road), which is closer to the original. The most interesting track is a duet with Norah Jones on ‘What Is This Thing Called Love,” which gives it a different spin.

This is not country Willie; this is the Great American Songbook Willie. Sinatra’s originals are always worth a listen but Nelson does a credible job providing a different take on many of these classic tunes.

Soaring By The Don Ellis Orchestra

January 2, 2020

Don Ellis, 1934-1978, was an avant-garde jazz big band leader/drummer/trombone player/composer who found mainstream commercial success with the rock audience of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. His 1970 live release, Live At The Fillmore, was the apex of his career. It set the stage for  further experimentation within a big band setting before his untimely death of a heart attack at the age of 44.

Ellis began his career with the reconstituted Glenn Miller Orchestra, followed by stints with The United States Army Band, and Maynard Ferguson. His first group was the Hindustan Jazz Sextet, which incorporated a sitar into a jazz setting. By 1968 he was leading a big band and was signed to the Columbia record label.

While his live albums were always spontaneous and inventive and in many ways the best of his career; his 1973 release Soaring was perhaps his most innovative and adventurous studio release.

Soaring was recorded with 22 musicians including a 12 man horn section, three percussionists, a four string quartet, and Bulgarian jazz piano virtuoso Milcho Laviev. Somehow it all came together and resulted in one of the unique jazz releases of the era.

Recording within a jazz context; he incorporates funk, classical elements, and European folk traditions to produce an eclectic fusion of sounds.

The music is relaxed, introspective, and some of the most intricate ever recoded. “Go Back Home” is an upbeat tune with a brilliant tenor sax solo by Sam Falzone. “Sladka Pitka” harps backs to his early jazz experimentations with old world folk music. “The Devil Made Me Write This Piece” is Ellis’ last known recording as a drummer.

“Invincible” is Ellis’ crowning achievement in the studio. It builds upon itself with constant tempo and chord changes and finally soars away.

Don Ellis’ death at a young age due to heart problems ended a career that explored music from unique perspectives. Soaring is an important chapter in his legacy.

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters By Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters

January 2, 2020

Ashleigh Flynn has been around for awhile, both in the studio and on the road. Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters are new and have just issued their self-titled debut album.

A debut album is always a leap of faith. It is announcement to the world of who you are musically, for better or worse. And so we come to rebirth of Ashleigh Flynn with her backing band the Riveters.

As a solo artist, Flynn was a troubadour type singer. The focus was just on her as she produced a peppy form of folk music. A backing band allows he to stretch out a bit and explore country and pop idioms and even add a little blues influence. The sound is fuller and more complete.

Her songs may never have a gritty reality but they do have a self-confidence and a positive approach, and in the music world, that is becoming all to rare. “This Love,” “The Sound Of Bells,” “You Will Remember,” and “High On A Mountain” are journey’s though the mind and soul of Ashleigh Flynn.

Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters is the beginning of a new journey. Their debut album is a good first step.

Miles To Go By Colin James

January 2, 2020

Veteran Bluesman Colin James has just released his 19th blues album, and that is a lot of music, and a lot of love for the blues.

James has always been a blues purest and his new release reflects that fact. He reaches back to the past for nine of the albums eleven tracks. While he using a backing band, and at times a brass section, his devotion to blues history shines through on his interpretations of gems by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Little Willie John, Robert Johnson, and the like.

A strong point in the material is his selection of the cover tunes. He has avoided many of the aforementioned blues masters well-know songs and delved a little more deeper into their catalogues. “Ooh Baby Hold Me,” “Soul Of A Man,” “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” “Dug My Self A Whole,” and “Still A Fool” are a wonderful ride through blues history with some modern accents.

Colin James is fast becoming one of the grand older men of the blues. Miles To Go is another solid link in the blues chain by a modern day master.