Last of the Summer Sounds
Itís a part of the music business that I never tire of and it concerns artists of all stripes passing a new release my way.
Having attended so many festivals and shows this summer, there was more than enough ďnewĒ music to listen to while out on the road.
The mailbox was also brimming from time to time with recently completed projects from points east, west and south.
So after shaking the CD tree one more time I thought that this week Iíd let fly with a few impressions and assessments of five folk, blues and roots albums that Iíve had the chance to give a serious amount of attention to and all or which are worthy of repeated spins.
Whitehorse (Six Shooter Records)
Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland have been firing on all cylinders for some time. This ridiculously talented couple jumps from project to project, both studio and live in a seamless fashion, while consistently serving up fresh sounds with inspired twists.
Whitehorse puts the spotlight on the two simultaneously in the performance department. They share vocals amidst a sonic sweep that grinds it out on the bottom end while broad strokes of acoustic instruments are splashed across the top end with Doucetís White Falcon guitar periodically tearing a hole in their canvas.
Clever turns of phrase and a rhythmic dance drive Killing Time Is Murder, and McClellandís sultry vocal delivery on Passenger 24 is set in a deep trench of a groove that snakes its way in and around the blues. The lone cover is a folksy take on Springsteenís Iím On Fire where the two stand alone for the first two verses before their voices tenderly become one. Doucetís voice and the arrangement give the piece an alluring Ricky Nelson vibe and hopefully this treatment will find Springsteenís ear some day. Long may Doucet and McClelland run.
Drybones (Drybones Music)
The next Blackie and the Rodeo Kings? It remains to be seen but Nathan Rogers intimated at the Vancouver Island Festival that similarities could be drawn between Colin Linden and his pals and this relatively new trio that finds the son of Stan joining forces with Duhks instrumental ace Leonard Podolak and Winnipeg roots rocker JD Edwards.
Predominantly original material impresses in the areas of structure, intent, and range of inspiration. The urban setting of Squeegee Man, a modern jug band tune, Rogers' beautiful ode to the Arctic, titled The Turning, and the road ode titled The Jake-Wagon collectively cover a lot of ground.
An invigorating and earthy cover of Rory Gallagherís Loanshark Blues sets the listener onto the streets of Belfast. Austinís Danny Barnes tossed Banjo Hustler Podolukís way, and the trio reciprocated with a spirited interpretation that sparkles, in part thanks to Podolukís deft banjo playing.
A folksy album that probably could have used a few more dollars for production, this self-titled effort from Drybones is a fine first outing from a trio of artists that could become a mainstage draw at festivals in short order.
Connie Smith: Long List of Heartaches (Sugar Hill)
Anyone who caught Connie Smith at the Blueberry Bluegrass Music Festival in late July saw an artist who hasnít lost a thing since her heyday when she was cranking out country hit in the sixties and seventies.
If hardcore country music is your thing, this set could have you tasting tears inside of a couple of tunes. Smith finds the emotion of each piece with a perfect combination of heart, understanding, and soul. Her delivery is a showcase of beautifully restrained power set with sympathetic yet spectacular playing from her band The Sundowners.
Produced by her husband Marty Stuart, Long Line of Heartaches is classic country music from a very classy artist.
Arnold McCuller: Soon As I Get Paid (Whatís Good Records)
Notice the name of this indie record company? Well, whatís good, is this record.
McCuller has been working his vocal magic on James Taylorís stages for thirty years and if everyone who has ever caught this sensational vocalist in concert with Taylor or Lyle Lovett would pick up a copy of this disc, heíd have a million-seller on his hands.
Blues, soul, and R&B singing doesnít get better than this, nor do arrangements or accompaniment. As is always the case, a singer needs songs, and McMuller had that part of the equation covered with care and he then added conviction to the equation.
The set list is deep and soul-drenched; John Hiattís The River Knows Your Name, the Buddy and Julie Miller penned Gasoline and Matches and his tribute to Jackie Wilson via Lonely Teardrops are just the thin edge of the wedge here.
Trackdown Soon As I Get Paid, as soon as you
Sergent Garcia: Una y otra vez (Cumbancha)
Batten down the hatches as this ensemble is intent on stirring the pot and shaking the streets.
An out-and-out intoxicating sound, Sergent (Bruno) Garcia and his band are groove hounds. The leader has deep roots in France and Spain and he has as much in common with Joe Strummer and Santana as he does with Afro-Cuban band leaders and reggae masters.
Mariachi horns can provide the instrumental punctuation on a tune like Chacun Son Combat and at the next turn banks of keys swell up and under boisterous choruses that are part of a call and response arrangement found on Ojos Inocentes.
With dynamite production to boot, this batch of songs rolls through themes ranging from love and redemption to those that draw a bead on political and social struggles. Translation of the lyrics is provided in the accompanying booklet.
One would have to believe that after all these years of creating his sound, Sergent Garcia is on the verge of becoming an international superstar.