Sunday, May 18, 2014

John Butler Trio - Flesh & Blood

2014 -  Vanguard

By Phillip Smith; May 17, 2014

Flesh & Blood, the sixth studio album by Australian roots band, John Butler Trio is a sheer delight.  Filled with rich melodies and poignant lyrics, this eleven track album goes down smooth and refreshing like iced lemonade in the summertime.  Backing Butler this time around is bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Grant Gerathy.   

Butler creates a trippy environment for “Blame It On Me”, riding a wave of trance-inducing beats laced with spacy effects.  It’ s so fascinating, I find myself melting into the song, while imagining how enjoyable it would be to hear an extended version of it played live.   The use of steel pans gives the super-poppy “Only One” an infusion of Caribbean flavor.  This is one of those songs that can easily get stuck in one’s head. 
“Spring to Come”, the opening track, catches my attention with a rhythm reminiscent of Rusted Root, and a message of hope and encouragement reminding us that ‘out of the darkness, only the light can come’.  

Gerathy uses a very industrial sounding percussion to begin “Livin’ in the City” with. After a few measures, the song melts into a really funky rhythm accented with bluesy and psychedelic guitar riffs.  Like Anthony Keidis, Butler rolls his vocals out quickly and very pronounced.  I really like this one.  “Devil Woman” is another track I am infatuated with. Tribal beats set a foundation for a wild old-time spiritual romp intended to exorcise a different kind of demon.

A splendid album to listen to, Flesh and Blood invokes an assortment of emotions and feelings.  Some songs put me in my quiet space, as others make me want to dance.  I just can’t seem to stop listening.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Jake Bugg - Live at Silver Platters , Seattle WA, January 20, 2014

2014 -  Island Records

By Phillip Smith; May 10, 2014

Although I didn’t venture out twenty-five miles to the nearest record store on Record Store Day this year, I did manage to find the RSD release of Jake Bugg’s four-track EP Live at Silver Platters disc on eBay.  Bugg beautifully performs each of his songs solo and acoustically, pulling one piece from his first and self-titled album, and two from his Shrangri La album.  This stripped-down performance offers yet another glimpse into how deep his well of talent goes.

The first thing that pops into my mind when “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It” plays, is uncanny observation of just how much Bugg reminds me of a young Bob Dylan tearing through “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.  If this is what he sounds like at twenty years old, I have a feeling we are in store for an explosion of great music in the future from this troubadour.  “Storm Passes Away”, also from his Shangri La album, is about trying to piece a relationship back together.  This one is very reminiscent of classic Hank Williams, both in song styling and performance.    

Bugg seems to draw inspiration from Paul Simon on “Lightning Bolt”, a magically fast-tempo song with quick rhyming lyrics laced with hints of blues and classic country. It’s so amazing how rich this song sounds, I quickly forget this is just one man and his guitar.   

Live at Silver Platters , Seattle WA, January 20, 2014, really has a lot going on for just being a four track live EP.  The only drawback is that it leaves me wanting more.‎

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Warrel Dane - Praises to the War Machine : From the Archives #12

2008 -  Century Media

By Phillip Smith; Written for , July 6, 2009

Praises to the War Machine is the solo effort of Warrel Dane, lead singer of  Seattle band, Nevermore.  Collaborating with Soilwork’s guitarist Peter Wichers, and drummer Dirk Verbeuren, Dane has constructed a new heavy metal opus.  Praises to the War Machine doesn’t just tap its needle into the heavy metal vein of decades past, but plunges that sucker right in there.  I definitely pick up shreds of Black Sabbath, Ozzy, and Dio to name a few.  And that’s not a bad thing. 

First out of the gate, the guitar-heavy and melodic “When We Pray”  drives home the point, which Dane sings ‘nothing ever changes when we pray’.   Other heavy tracks include, “Obey” and “Equilibrium“.  “Obey“, reminds me a bit of Disturbed, and pounces upon the listener with vigorous guitar riffs.    
And lets not forget the ballads.  One in particular stands out, “Your Chosen Misery”.   This one seems a little out of place, when compared to the other tracks, as the vocals are contrastingly deep  for the lion's share of this song. 
The most interesting track however, is a cover of Paul Simon’s “Patterns” from the 1965 album, The Paul Simon Songbook.  Danes version, although tons heavier than the original, is still recognizable.  Check out the original and then listen to Dane’s version if you get a chance.   And definitely check this CD out.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Bugs Henderson Group - Still Flyin’

2008 -  Reissued by Grooveyard Records
1981 – Originally issued on Flying High Records

By Phillip Smith; April 27, 2014

I’ve recently stumbled upon Grooveyard Record’s re-release of the late Texas blues guitarist/songwriter Bugs Henderson’s Still Flyin’ CD.  Although, the music is thirty-three years old now, it’s new to me, and frankly put, it’s a damn good album. In addition to the ten tracks on the original album, this reissue, also throws in an additional four bonus tracks, the last of which, happens to be Audio Liner Notes.  It's such a unique idea, and makes for an interesting listen as we hear the stories behind the music.  Rounding out the rest of the band is bassist Bobby Chitwood and drummer Ron Thompson.   

“Baby Ruth”, a bluesy southern rock boogie, kicks the album off and draws me right in.  This is a fun one to listen to, and sounds like it was a fun one to record as well.  Henderson plays to an increasingly faster tempo, exhibiting some of his fabulous guitar-play.   Keeping the momentum going for a song appropriately named, “Heart Attack”, a rightfully impressive exhibition of fast-paced rockin’ blues, Henderson pulls out all the stops as Thompson pounds the hell out of his drums.     

Henderson proves he can slow it down a bit too, and still sound great.  “Judi Likes the Blues” a song that sounds as if it were cross-pollination between Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers, is a mellow and softly played country blues track, featuring the late and great Tom Morrell dishing out some tasty licks on his steel guitar.

I listen in awe to the killer blues riffs, in “Not Guilty”, title track “Still Flyin’”, and instrumental, “Little Brother”.  The latter is dedicated to Bug’s little brother, Kim who died in a car accident at the young age of Twenty-one.  Psychedelically played on top of a slow, yet funky rhythm, the emotion is felt with nearly every note.   

Catching me somewhat by surprise, this album quickly became a favorite to listen to.  It’s an outstanding blend of guitar-centric Texas Blues and boogie-laced Southern Rock.‎

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Delta Flyers - Sixteen Bars : From the Archives #11

2010 - Soulbilly Music Group 
By Phillip Smith; January 8, 2011

Vocalist Stevie DuPree and songwriter/guitarist Travis Stephenson are the driving force behind The Delta Flyers, a genuine down-home blues style band.   Sixteen Bars offers up ten top-notch original songs, covering the trials and tribulations of the common man and those a little less fortunate.

When one is confronted with  the term, ‘Sixteen Bars’, without taking too long to think about it, the sixteen bar blues easily comes to mind.  However. “Sixteen Bars”, the name of the title track is clearly a reference to the number of bars across a jail cell door.  This  track tells the crazy alcohol-fueled hard-luck story of the events leading up to a long prison sentence.   Played with lots of  twangy slide guitar and accompanied harmonica, this track is haunting and intriguing.

 A little bit of a history lesson awaits those who listen to “Dockery Farm”, a dirge about the hard life as a poor share-cropper at the famous Dockery Farm cotton plantation outside Cleveland,  Mississippi.  According to B.B. King, this is where it all started.  Dockery Farm,  regarded as a birthplace of the American Blues, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Speaking of historical places, move over Bob Dylan, there‘s a new song about Highway 61.  I‘m talking about “61 Highway Blues“.  Again, there is likely to be some killin’ done too.  As Dupree puts it, ‘That old 61 highway sure can be a mean ole road.’.  Some great slide and some even  better story telling makes this a great song to start the album off with.

The cut that really got my attention on this album, was “Poison Took My Baby”.  Though it’s only a bit over two and a half minutes, this song takes a hard look at the damage drug and alcohol abuse wreak on a relationship.  As the song closes with , ‘Damn that whisky.  Damn that needle’, there is no mistaking what the message here is all about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album.  The Delta Flyers prove to be a band to be reckoned with, and I anxiously await their next release..

Rating =  4/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sean Taylor - Chase the Night

2013 -  Sean Taylor Songs

By Phillip Smith; April 12, 2014

London-based singer-songwriter Sean Taylor’s sixth and latest album, Chase the Night, is quite the masterpiece. This is some of the most unique and fascinating new music I have heard in a while.  Using blues and roots music to deliver intelligently crafted lyrics that sound like lost verses of beat poetry that fell out of a Kerouac book, Taylor has skillfully assembled an album which I find becomes more interesting with each subsequent listen.   Backing Taylor on all songs is Mark Hallman, tackling whatever instrument is thrown his way and flawlessly, I might add.  The album was recorded at Congress House Studios in Austin, TX.

Taylor has this fantastic ability to pour his emotions into his music.  Take “Losing You” for example, a bluegrassy song about lost love and self-blame.  Even after admitting his infidelities, the listener still is left with a soft spot in their heart for him, as he sings, “I know I’m losing you, I don’t wanna believe it’s true.”  I love the violin Warren Hood adds to the song as well as the electric slide guitar, provided by Andre Moron.   “So Fine”, with sultry vocals by Stephanie Daulong, reminds me a small bit of Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky”.  Interestingly unfolding the similarities of sex and drugs, this song slowly and beautifully increases the tempo, building up a musical tension that is released via a furiously chaotic climax. 

“Biddy Mulligans”, about watching the world through the bottom of a shot glass, seems to draw inspiration from the works of Charles Bukowski.  There is definitely a little inspiration from Tom Waits hanging out in this song as well, sans the gravelly voice. This is beautifully played, with Taylor on both piano and guitar, Hood on violin, and Hallman taking on the bass.

I absolutely love “River”, with its trance-inducing rhythm, fuzzy guitar, and beat poetry lyrics. Like a Jim Morrison who’s more interested in being a Londoner, than being the Lizard-king, Taylor keeps the verses freely flowing.       

This is the first album of Taylor’s I have heard, and after just a few listens, it landed at the top of my favorites for the year.  Also, knowing he has five other albums out there to listen to, while I wait for the next one to come out, puts a smile on my face.  Chase the Night is definitely a keeper.‎

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Billy Pierce & Friends - Take Me Back to the Delta

By Phillip Smith; April 5, 2014

Listening to the new album, Take Me to the Delta from Billy Pierce & Friends is like taking a mini musical vacation to New Orleans.  The songs are marinated in a Cajun-style country blues sauce and served buffet-style, so as to make sure everyone gets a little of what they have to offer.  Along with Pierce, who handles the vocals and slide guitar, is bassist Chris Miller and drummer Billy Meyers.  Joining the band is a multitude of guest musicians which include the likes of Sonny Landreth, Charlie Wooton, Waylon Thibodeaux and the guys from Bonerama.

Title track, “Take Me Back to the Delta” is a bluesy treat.  With guests Landreth on slide, Wooton on bass, and Thibodeaux fiddling away, you can’t go wrong. This one is just plain fun.  I really like the instrumental, “Song For Sonny”.  This is my favorite.  It pretty much falls into the category of trance blues.  Guest drummer Johnny Digiovanni, keeps a steady interesting beat running throughout the song as Pierce plays some bodacious slide guitar. I would love to hear a full album of more songs like this one.  Coming in at number two, is “Rooster”, a song about putting stuff behind you and letting go.  Jimmy Carpenter’s sax playing surely contributes to the cool factor.  While on the subject of cool factors, check out Wooten’s funky bass track on “Big Joe”.  It goes really well with that cool swampy slide Pierce lays down.      

A couple of notable covers to mention are Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway”, and Hank Williams Sr.’s “Jambalaya”.  Like Heinz ketchup, the Broonzy cover is ‘Slow Good’.  Bonerama provides the horns and Johnny Neel tickles the ivories, giving this a really nice authentic New Orleans sound.  And we all know, no trip to The Big Easy is complete without a big bowl of the aforementioned Jambalaya.  This bowl is spiced up with help from Thibodeaux, Digiovanni, and Henry Ramato on accordion.  

Take Me Back to the Delta has some really cool musical components, and fans of both Blues and Zydeco music are encouraged to check this album out.‎