Wyoming By Randy Lee Riviere

Wyoming 

Randy Lee Riviere

Wilderness Records 2021

Review by David Bowling

 

Country music is one of the most popular styles of music in the United States. It now has a smoothness that is far removed from the twang of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.

Once upon a time there was a style called country & western. Two of the very different leading proponents were Marty Robbins with his Gunfighter Ballads series of albums and Bob Wills western swing music.

Randy Lee Riviere’s new album Wyoming re-visits and updates many of the elements of the Marty Robbins brand of country & western. His stories of the west are more panoramic and philosophical than Robbins and the music has a modern smoothness but the intent is the same.

Throughout the album, above all, is an appreciation of the American west. His lyrics pay homage to the environment, Native Americans, and family; all within the context of the American west.

The center of the album and his songs are his lyrics. Each song is like the chapter of a book that coalesces into a fulfilling whole.

However, it is the title track instrumental that takes the listening on a journey without lyrics..  It sums up the mood and textures of of the music and brings everything to a satisfying conclusion.

Lyrically, “Red Rain” that is an opus of the old west combining life, love, and violence. “Our Town” is a nostalgic and angry look at the changing west. “Morning” is about what will never be again, and so it goes through the 12 original tracks.

Riviere has returned to an oft forgotten style to produce an emotional and interesting album of music. It takes the listener on a satisfying journey through the modern-day west where folk, country, and rock elements coalesce into modern-day country & western. Somewhere Marty Robbins is smiling.

Rating: ***

The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971 By Dusty Springfield

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The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971

Dusty Springfield

Real Gone Music

Review by David Bowling

 

Dusty Springfield, 1939-1969, was one of the lead pop songstresses of the last half of the 20th century. After a brilliant music career and tumultuous life, she died just prior to her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

While she was known for pop hits such as “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” “The Look Of Love,” and “Wishin’ And Hopin,” it was her three years with the Atlantic label the formed the definitive period of her career.  Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler, and Arif Mardin, (engineer, producer, vice president), transitioned her from pop to a more soulful style.

Now her 12 singles, both A and B sides, released by the Atlantic label, have been issued under the title The Complete Atlantic Singles 1968-1971.

Led by “Son Of A Preacher Man,” one of the best songs of the time period, the bulk of the material should be required listening for any fan of the era or Springfield. Her smooth delivery effortlessly transitions to soul and her voice gives everything a unique sheen.

Songs such as “Just A Little Lovin,'” “Breakfast In Bed,” “Willie And Laura Mae Jones,” and lesser known tracks “Bad Case Of The Blues,” “That Old Sweet Roll,” and “I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” are all sublime.

It is some of the lesser known tunes that add luster to the release. “Lost” is a foray in Philadelphia pop/funk, while “Let Me Get In Your Way” finds her vocal following a simple bass line. “In The Land Of Make Believe” uses a sitar to set up her vocal.

The sound is excellent as is most everything recorded for the The Atlantic label, especially when the three above mentioned gentlemen were involved. The instrumental backing is supportive and never gets in the way, which lets her voice be the focal point. She had a wonderful way of annunciating each word clearly, which was unique.

The Complete Atlantic Singles: 1968-1971 catches Dusty Springfield at her best, which given her career, says a lot.

Rating:****

From Elvis In Nashville By Elvis Presley

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From Elvis In Nashville (4-CD Box Set)

Elvis Presley

Sony Legacy 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Since Elvis Presley’s death over 40 years ago, his material has been reissued dozens of times in every form imaginable. From small greatest hits albums to huge box sets that have been pieced together from previously available material, every song he ever recorded has appeared over and over again. Now, however, someone has had an original idea.

During June of 1970, Elvis went into the studio and, in several marathon sessions, recorded three albums worth of material. Later, background vocals, orchestration, and some duets were added before their release. Now all the additions have been erased. What remains is just Elvis and his basic backing band, which makes for a very different listening experience.

The first two CD’s in the set contain the undubbed masters of all the issued songs. Elvis was recording live in the studio and his voice dominates each song without any distractions. Songs such as “The Fool,” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” “Mary In The Morning,” “Love Me,” and “Life” are re-invented and re-imagined in their simplicity.

The final two discs contain the outtakes from the sessions. I think they have all been released previously but have not been collected in one place. Now back in their original context, they make sense. Elvis was recording live in the studio and so tracks with multiple takes show him in total control. It is a good presentation of his creative and recording process.

This is another one of those albums that will appeal mainly to Elvis’ hard-core fan base. It is not that there is anything really new here but rather the appeal is in the uniqueness of the presentation. Forty-four years after his death, that is enough.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Winter Stories By Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld

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Winter Stories

Judy Collins & Jonas Fjeld

Wildflower 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

There was a time when Judy Collins was an important part of the American folk revival movement. Beginning in 1961, she released a series of excellent folk albums. While she has turned in a pop direction during the past four decades; every once in awhile her folk roots shine through.

Her latest release, Winter Stories, is a nice fusion of pop and folk. There are some older songs and recreations of past tunes. Her choice of Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld as a vocal partner on a number of songs was an interesting choice, and ultimately an effective one, as he pulls a number of the tracks back from the pop precipice.

Winter Stories, despite the title, is not a Christmas album. Rather it is a laid back affair that is best heard sitting around the fire place on a cold winter night. It is mostly an album of story songs, including her 30 year old opus “The Blizzard.”

The vocal duet tracks work well. “Northwest Passages” is about the explorers of the past and Eric Anderson’s “Angels In The Snow” is recreated for a duo. Add in “Frozen North” and the title track and it adds up to a series of strong tracks with Fjeld.

Possibly the best song is her haunting rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “The Highwayman.” She transforms this old country tune.  She takes “Bury Me With My Guitar On” in a different direction and it emerges as a peppy rendition.

It is nice to see Collins veer back toward her folk roots. Winter Stories is one of her strongest albums in decades.

Rating: ****

Volume 1 By The New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers

Volume 1

New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers

Stony Plain Records 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

There are super groups and then there is the little super group that can and did.

Back in 2007; some what under appreciated blues and roots musicians Charlie Musselwhite, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood, and Jimbo Mathis gathered at Jim Dickinson’s ranch for a few days and nights of recording music. They simply sat in a circle and played a couple originals and some classic blues songs while the tapes ran. And so the New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers were born, but not for a while.

Jim Dickinson passed away and the tapes sat on the shelf for over a decade. They have now been resurrected and cleaned up and released as Volume 1, which means there is a second volume on the horizon, which given the quality of this release is good news.

The production is impeccable given the primitive nature of the recording sessions. Each instrument is distinct and the songs have a flow from one to the other. It is also presented as a very intimate release but does not intrude on the quality of the music.

Musselwhite is a superior harp player and he demonstrates his skill on “Blues Don’t Worry Me” and “Strange Land,” which are blues shuffles. He plays off Jim Dickinson’s piano melodies.

They are on very solid ground when they turn to older blues tunes. Charley Patton’s “Pony Blues” had great slide guitar by Hart, as does the Mississippi Sheiks “Stop And Listen Blues.” “Come On Down To My House” is presented as a barrelhouse blues piece curtesy of Jim Dickinson. They also transform Hendrix’s “Stone Free.”

The New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers manage to not only create good music but seem to be having fun at the same time. The real good news is there is more to come.

Rating: ****

Hypnoboogie By The Barrett Anderson Band

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Hypnoboogie

The Barrett Anderson Band

Whitaker Blues Records 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Barrett Anderson honed his craft as a member of Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters (1999-2002) and The Monster Mike Welch Band (2002-2005). Since 2007, he has been heading his own self-titled band.

The Barrett Anderson is a top notch bar band and as such are better live than in the studio. The have spent most of their existence on stage, which allows their spontaneity and energy to shine through.

Just before the virus shut down virtually everything, the banned performed at The Fallout Shelter in Norwood, Massachusetts. One of those performances has now been released as their new album Hyperdrive.

The sound has a club feel to it, which in this case works well for the music. It is more raw than smooth, which is the way good blues is meant to be. The band is also comfortable in this environment which enhances the music.

The album’s 11 songs are divided into seven originals and four covers. Bo Diddley’s “Mona,” complete with staccato guitar, leads off the set and establishes the atmosphere while The J Geils Bands “House Party” closes the show, leaving the audience wanting more. There is also a modernized take on the Son House classic “Grinnin’ In Your Face.”

The original material is highlighted by the slower “Emma Lee,” which is a nice counter point to high octane tracks.

Barrett Anderson and his band are one of those artists that tend to float under the radar many times. They are a solid electric blues band that has benefited from their years on the road. The produce a good and at times exciting brand of blues and Hypnoboogie reflects this.

Rating: ***

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Under A Mistletoe Sky By Tom Mason

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Under A Mistletoe Sky

Tom Mason

Gas Station Records 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

There are Christmas albums and then there are Tom Mason Christmas albums.

Tom Mason has two different musical careers. He has released seven albums of what best can be called rocking sea shanties with his band The Blue Buccaneers and three solo albums of Christmas music, which fall into the Americana and rock categories.

The 2020 holiday season finds Mason releasing Under A Mistletoe Sky. It is a very different celebration of the holiday season. There are no hymns or traditional Christmas songs. Rather, there are ten original tunes that will make you smile and approach the spirit of the season from a different direction.

The title track is an up-tempo light rock/blues song. It is a smooth track that benefits from the additional vocals of Sheila Lawrence. “Christmas Boogaloo” is more soulful and serious as it plays off the summer unrest in our country, while incorporating rhythms of the 1960’s.

“Little Elvis, King Of The Elves” is a goofy tale that works in rockabilly form. Not many Christmas albums have a song that deals with climate change at the North Pole but so it is with “Santa Says Keep It Cool.”

Possibly the best song is the album closing “Christmas In Love” complete with harmony vocals and understated slide guitar.

Mason is one of those effortless guitar players who can carry virtually every style of song. Throughout the album, he plays the melodies without intruding on the spirit of the music.

Under A Mistletoe Sky is not an album that creates the feelings of solemnity of Christmas Eve. It is more music for the fun of opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning or sharing some Christmas drinks. So, if you are looking for music for a different type of holiday celebration, then this is an album for you.

Rating: ****

Blues Bash By Pat Robillard & Friends

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Blues Bash

Duke Robillard & Friends

Stony Plain Records 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Duke Robillard is now a half-century or so into his career and remains one of the hardest working and most prolific bluesmen in music today. He helped found Roomful Of Blues and has gone on to release 30 plus solo albums, in addition to producing and guesting on dozens of projects.

Many times the simple path is best and so it is with his new album, Blues Bash. The concept was just to make an album of blues songs he liked with a group of long-time friends.

The music, as always, is impeccable and well-produced. Robillard’s guitar solo’s are creative and powerful and they continue to be highlights of any of his releases.

His basic band of keyboardist Bruce Bears, drummer Mark Teixeira, and bassists Jesse Williams and Marty Ballou provide the foundation for his three original and seven cover songs. He then builds upon this foundation with brass, harp, and guest vocalists. It all adds up to an album of basic but party-oriented blues.

At this point in his career, I doubt if Robillard could make an average album. Blues Bash is well above that level and should provide enjoyment for any aficionado of the blues.

Rating: ****

 

Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council By The Style Council

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Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council

The Style Council

Polydor/UMC 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

Music by The Style Council has been readily available for the last three decades. The latest entry, Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council, is a fine representation of the band’s career and is an excellent introduction to their career.

The Style Council begins and ends with Peter Weller. Weller is now 62 years old and remains one of the most respected musicians in English history. It is just about impossible for people in the United States to realize his popularity and musical impact in his home country.

Weller’s first band, The Jam, was one of the most popular and commercially successful of the English punk rock bands 1976-1982. He formed the Style Council in 1983 with keyboardist Mick Tolbot, formally of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The Style Council allowed Weller to move beyond the confines of punk music. He explored, jazz, pop, soul, and folk. His vocals took on new textures and the music was smoother. It was the lyrics that retained some of his punk roots. They were socially conscious and had an anger and bite to them. They were also tied to the band’s English roots, which may have prevented them from having a larger commercial appeal in the USA and in some ways ties the band to their era.

This release proves what a fine band the Style Council was through out their career. If you are looking for just the highlights, then this CD is it. Their American hit “My Ever Changing Mood,” “Why I Went Missing,” “Walls Come Tumbling Down,” “Life At The Top People’s Heath Farm,” “Ghosts Of Dachau,” and a bevy of others all exemplify the best of British post punk and mod music.

It is a straight forward release with few surprises. An extended “Dropping Bombs On The White House” and a string-laden “My Ever Changing Moods” are the only significant additions.

Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council introduces their music to a new generation or two. There may not be a lot of new revelations but the old ground is covered very well.

Rating: ****

 

The Parade By The Greg Sover Band

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The Parade

Greg Sover Band

Grounder Soul Music 2020

Review by David Bowling

 

The Greg Sover Band may not be a household name but he and his band have consistently produced a solid brand of blues/rock titled. They have now returned with a six song album featuring five originals songs and a nice cover of Cream’s “Politician” titled The Parade.

Their sound is fueled by Sover’s guitar mastery. His creativity comes in flurries and then he returns to the melody. He is supported by his basic band of guitarist Allen James, bassist Garry Lee, and drummer Tom Walling. He adds a harp and keyboards at times to fill in the sound.

Except for “Never To Late” written for Sover’s late mother; the pretty much take no prisoners. They may not expand the blues into any new ground but they cover the old very well. Sover is experienced enough to know who he is and is able to be very creative within the confines of his style.

The Greg Sover Band is still a work in progress but as a band they are in a good place. There music is very listenable and will keep your attention with repeated listens and at times that is more than enough.

Rating: ***