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Record Roundup

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Sam Bush

Storyman

Sugar Hill Records

Bush has become a hallmark of what bluegrass musicians can mean in today’s world, and Storyman reflects that. Complex, accessible, traditional, modern, and—above all—down to earth. This is music played with heart and integrity from a musician with area roots that encompass much the same.

– Nikki Hedrick

Cassius Clay

I Am the Greatest!

Columbia

Had the (white) producers not felt the need to tack on a few songs—and had the artist not rebranded himself Muhammad Ali shortly after—this 1963 curiosity might have gone down in history as one of the classic comedy albums. Obviously of more interest than it was a month ago, but still hilarious. Keep your eyes peeled for this one at your used record store—last I checked, vinyl copies were going for $150 and up.

– Chris Manson

Hank & Cupcakes

Cheap Thrill

Independent

Bands like Hank & Cupcakes don’t just sit neatly in little genre boxes—they defy labels to create their own voices. “See the Lie” is aggressive with punk rock roots and “Duplicate” is catchy with new wave leanings, yet both songs find their home here. The most successful benchmark of experimentation is when the entire album feels cohesive and interesting, and this is where Hank & Cupcakes excel.

– Nikki Hedrick

Lang Holloman

Soul Bells

Independent

All the down home twang you can handle. Pensacola-based Holloman enlists Sugarcane Jane’s Anthony Crawford to craft a rootsy, authentic album. With personal lyrics and classic country acoustic instrumentation, this is the kind of music that’s best listened to on a summer evening in a giant porch swing with a glass jar of sweet tea in hand.

– Nikki Hedrick

Jeff Parker

The New Breed

International Anthem Recording Company

Multi-instrumentalist Parker plays guitar, KORG, piano, Mellotron and other stuff on The New Breed, accompanied by a troupe of similarly polymathic souls. This is my first Parker album (I think), and when I saw it described as “modern jazz,” I balked. The first track, “Executive Life,” was unpromising but I stuck with it. The other seven tracks, some burdened by inside joke titles, do reward your patience nevertheless. Rhythm gets messed with, old school jazz clichés are parodied, and if Parker and company seem to be thumbing their musical noses at something, they want you to enjoy yourself, too.

– Bruce Collier

Stuck in Place

What Sheep Dream of…

Independent

Panama City indie rockers’ coming of age album nicely documents that moment when we begin to see the world for the complex entity it is. Utilizing primarily midtempo songs, Stuck in Place deliver a bold debut LP that proves the band is off to a running start.

– Nikki Hedrick

Walter Trout

Alive in Amsterdam

Adagio

Any American concertgoer is conditioned to know that when a guitar player with a successful liver transplant shouts, Are you ready?, the correct response is Yes! whether one is or isn’t. Here, a polite Dutch audience is sent reeling from the opening chords of Trout’s “Play the Guitar,” the first of many salvos offered here.  If they weren’t ready, Trout’s full on raggedy wails, growls and sneers didn’t wait to find out. Alive in Amsterdam is red-blooded, shade-grown American blues-rock, perfectly suited for summer fun—like the Fourth of July and its French buddy, Bastille Day.

– Bruce Collier

Rita Wilson

Rita Wilson

Sing It Loud Records

Adele and Taylor Swift may sell shitloads of albums, but neither of them convey the pure joy of singing like Mrs. Tom Hanks does on this all-original follow-up to her excellent 2012 covers album AM/FM. As satisfying as eight years’ worth of holiday viewings of Wilson’s film Mixed Nuts, maybe more.

– Chris Manson
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