Come Straight (CD) By Ronnie Davis & Idren

Come Straight

Ronnie Davis & Idren

Omnivore 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Omnivore is one of the leading reissue labels in the world. They have recently turned their attention in a reggae direction. They are currently re-issuing a number of reggae releases from the Nighthawk label.

Ronnie Davis (1950-2017) was born in Jamaica and was a member of several groups including The Tennors and Itals. He embarked on a solo career and by 1995 was fronting Idren. His classic 1987 album Come Straight has now been re-released with two previously unissued bonus tracks.

Idren consisted of Lloyd Ricketts, Robert Doctor, and Roy Smith who provided the harmony and backing to Davis’ lead vocal. They used a basic band to provide the instrumental backing.

They produced a gentle sound that was driven by Davis’ light vocals and the tight harmonies of the supporting trio. They tended to be less controversial and edgy that many of their contemporaries but at times could be powerful.

All the songs are self-penned and in many ways brings their philosophy of life to music. “Repent” is a song of redemption, both personal and corporate, while “Two Roads” explores eternal choices. Through it all runs theological musings and thoughts.

The music has been re-engineered from the original master tapes to create a dynamic sound, which puts the voices up front and picks up the nuances of the harmonies. The new liner notes are by Nighthawk co-founder Leroy Jodie Pierson.

Come Straight is a subtle yet enduring album. It provides an excellent entrance into  the world of late 20th century reggae music. It is a world worth exploring.

Rating: ***1/2

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Waterline (CD) By Nobody’s Girl

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Waterline

Nobody’s Girl

Lucky Hound Music 2018

Review By David Bowling

 

Rebecca Loebe, Grace Pettis, and Bettysoo were fixtures on the Texas folk scene when fate came calling. They have combined their talents to form Nobody’s Girl and have released the 7-track CD, Waterline.

They are a basic three-part vocal trio who rely on their harmonies to drive the sound. Their music has a gentle quality to it, which contains an edge and retains a connection to their folk roots.

They collectively composed five of the seven tracks. They also provide a country oriented cover of Blondie’s “Call Me.”

Nobody’s Girl is a work in progress and Waterline is the first step on their journey. Their debut release is a good beginning.

Rating: ***

 

Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom CD By George St. Clair

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Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom

George St. Clair

George St. Clair Music 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

Somewhere Marty Robbins is smiling. Over a half-century ago he released a series of country and western Gunfighter albums that told stories of the old west. They became commercially successful on the pop charts and were some of the first albums to expand the boundaries of country music and take it into the mainstream.

George St. Clair carries on that tradition in a modern sense. His reflections and philosophy about the American west have now come to music with his album Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom. His talents as a story teller and balladeer have merged into an album of images and perceptions set to music.

His is a simple approach. He is a standup acoustic guitarist and vocalist, who is accompanied by another instrument here and there. The melodies are simple, which keep the focus on his thoughts and stories.

“The Places Where They Prayed,” “New Mexico,” “Autumn 1889,” “Pedro  Paramo,” and “Up To Fail” range from the grasslands of the west to the personalities who inhabited them. Stories of love, failure, redemption, and love dominate his themes.

Ballads Of Captivity And Freedom is one of those albums that you experience as well as listen too. It is music that reaches back in time and takes you along for the ride.

Rating: ***1/2

Our Country: Americana Act II (CD) By Ray Davies

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Our Country: Americana Act II

Ray Davies

Sony Legacy 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***

Lock Up The Liquor (CD) By The Little Red Rooster Blues Band

Lock Up The Liquor

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band

Little Red Rooster Label

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

The Best Of Johnny Rivers (CD) By Johnny Rivers

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The Best Of Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers

Capital 1990

Review by David Bowling

 

Johnny Rivers rose to fame as the house band/artist at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go Club in Los Angeles during the mid 1960’s. During the next 15 years he would sell 30 million records, place nearly two-dozen songs on the Billboard Top 100, and establish his own record label.

River’s albums were better than the norm for his era, but it was his single releases that set him apart. His ballads and up-tempo pop songs were perfect confections for AM radio play. His songs have been re-released in a number of forms but the best introduction to his music is the 1990 release The Best Of Johnny Rivers. It gathers together most of his hit singles to create a picture of mid-1960’s-to early 1970’s pop music. He may not have changed the course of American music but he made it a lot more enjoyable.

His early releases were mostly covers. Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and “Maybelline” are re-imagined as pop tunes with a thumping bass section. Harold Dorman’s 1960 hit “Mountain Of Love” follow the same formula.

It was his own songs, however, that solidified his career. “Secret Agent Man” from the TV series and “Seventh Son” are perfect light weight sixties radio fare.

Despite the energy of his up-tempo material, it was his ballads that were his most popular songs. “Baby I Need Your Lovin.'” “Summer Rain,” “The Tracks Of My Tears,” and the number one “Poor Side Of Town” remain good listens a half-century after their release.

The final two hits of his career were rockers. Covers of Huey Lewis’ “Rockin’ Pneumonia” and Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes” brought some life to these often covered classics.

Johnny Rivers has been playing the oldies circuit for year and is mostly remembered by the generation that matured in the 1960’s and 1970’s. His music remains his lasting legacy and when the best of his recordings are gathered together, it remains a memorable listening experience.

Rating: ****

 

 

 

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (CD) By The Beach Boys

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The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Capital 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***

Just Waitin’ (CD) By The Steve Krase Band

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Just Waitin’

Steve Krase Band

Connor Ray Music 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

In The Boys’ Club (CD) By Kat Riggins

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In The Boys’ Club

Kat Riggins

Bluespik Media Group 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***1/2

 

 

Blind Spot (CD) By The Lucky Losers

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Blind Spot

The Lucky Losers

Dirty Cat Records 2018

Review by David Bowling

 

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.

Rating: ***