Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
This week brings straight-ahead rock n’ roll, covers, and a long forgotten live recording.
Rival Sons – Feral Roots – 11 songs / 47 minutes
Attention rock fans: this is a record (and band) that you need to know, if you don’t already.
This is a shot of straight-ahead rock n’ roll with a 70s riff-rock vibe, done without the Robert Plant impersonation (sorry, Greta). Five albums in, these guys from Long Beach had yet to make it big in the states (although they have cracked the top ten in several European countries), but with this sixth effort I think they are about to make a name for themselves.
Jay Buchanan’s deep and earthy vocals go beautifully with this soulful and thoughtful rock, particularly on “Look Away”, “Feral Roots”, and “Shooting Stars” – the latter of which is a highlight and the lone ballad on this raucous set of songs. On that closing track, Jay sings arena-ready lyrics over a choir (and handclaps): “my love is stronger than yours, stronger than your hate will ever be; we move through the world like shooting stars across the sky, splitting the darkness, putting the light into their eyes”. Yes, this is song is so positive and quasi-spiritual that it could be called hokey – as luck would have it, it’s my favorite song of 2019 thus far. On the luscious and slow-building title track, the guitar interplay is tremendous and Jay’s delivery of the chorus is spot on – this song is a gem. These two songs best illustrate the songwriting ability at play here, which can be easy to look past when the music is this engaging.
“Sugar on the Bone” will leave you yelling for more cowbell, and includes a wicked guitar solo and groovy bassline, while “Back in the Woods” is a classic outlaw song – and with lyrics like “chased down a country road” and “I know this mountain like the back of my hand, I’m back in the woods again”, I find myself rooting for him. The growly and vindictive “Too Bad” is a blatant F.U. to a lover who left and now wishes she hadn’t; like so much of this album it rocks without pretension or gimmicks.
Key Tracks: “Feral Roots”, “Shooting Stars”, “Look Away”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/2OsED4DmBABqdP9NwGUpAu?si=DrKUWXwAS1qPZM84YLECrg
Weezer – Weezer (The Teal Album) – 10 songs / 36 minutes
Just weeks before the release of their highly anticipated new LP, the Weez drop a surprise covers album on the world; the internet nearly breaks as a result.
In all honesty, this is no novelty hackfest, amazing/ridiculous cover photo be damned. These guys play it so straight that casual listeners (like my Mom riding passenger in my car) might not realize these aren’t the originals, especially on the Tears for Fears classic “Everybody Wants To Rule the World”. Even the “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” redo is so spot-on it’s incredible. Mad respect to the band for pulling this off, and although there are a few clunkers here, it’s only because I don’t care for the originals (see “Africa”, “No Scrubs”, “Billie Jean”). Yes, I know I just spoke ill of Mike Jackson, sorry, I just don’t get it. The songs they chose for this project range from 1960s folk to 1990s girl-band/hip-hop, and they more or less pull them all off.
Rivers’ vocals on “Take on Me” are exceptional, and he even hits the high note admirably. “Happy Together” is priceless, but, again, I am biased because I adore the original version The Turtles recorded decades ago. The highlights of the album are the gnarly riffage and depression of Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and the lovely “Stand By Me”. Even for those who don’t bow at the altar of Weezer will probably enjoy the heck out of this record.
Key Tracks: “Stand By Me”, “Paranoid”, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/65sHj9PvsbyD0uugGHjueN?si=m8wXp6uPQA24zcS00lPnkw
R.L. Burnside – Long Distance Call – 11 songs / 38 minutes
Long-lost recording from a European trip in 1982 shows a blues legend in all his glory.
This eleven song collection is as simple as it gets: just the blues legend and his acoustic guitar, giving it all he has. True greatness captured, and in amazing simplicity. This may be a stretch to call “new” music since all of these songs have been previously released in a different accompaniment, but when a live recording is unearthed after nearly 40 years, its news. When it is this good, it definitely qualifies as music worth your time.
Leadoff track “Death Bells Ringing” finds him lamenting his impending expiration and wondering what kind of chariot “is going to take me away from here”. Of course, he wasn’t actually on his deathbed, far from it – the man was only in his mid-fifties, but he sure sounds like he believes the words he is singing when he says “I know I been livin’ wrong”. The craziest part of Mr. Burnside’s story is that although he is now internationally renowned for being one of the greats, he didn’t record until he was in his forties and didn’t reach any level of fame until he was nearly 70.
“When My First Wife Left Me” is a highlight here, and finds Robert Lee telling the tale of his first divorce; “When my first wife left me, Lord knows it put me out on the road; ever since that day now people, I been livin’ door to door”. As he repeatedly strums the same bar chord after, the blues just sink on in. “If You Don’t Want Me Baby” features lines Johnny Cash would later use on his “T for Texas” – a great song in its own right.
Key Tracks: “When My First Wife Left Me”, “If You Don’t Want Me Baby”, “Death Bells Ringing”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1SF8znji5TEu57d0Wigfib?si=e_lGo1l7Squu2vg1hIZhiA
William Tyler – Goes West
Feel like a chump saying this, since everything on this instrumental record is more beautiful than I could ever create myself, but after the killer leadoff track “Alpine Star” these songs get a little dull and nothing really stands out. However, this is perfect background music for the next sunny summer picnic or if you just need something to calm your ass down.
Sunflower Bean – King of the Dudes (EP)
Mike Krol – Power Chords
Boogie – Everything’s for Sale
Rat Boy – Internationally Unknown