Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Jamestown Revival – San Isabel – 11 tracks / 49 minutes
After two records worthy of praise, the boys knock it out of the park on their third effort.
Nostalgia, good advice, and beautiful harmonies are plentiful on this duo’s third album, San Isabel. Zach Chance and Jon Clay sound as good as ever, and Jamie Mefford’s production is tremendous here – after hearing his work with Gregory Alan Isakov, that is no surprise. Leadoff track “Crazy World (Judgement Day)” asks if our human race is too far gone and finds the fellas lamenting that perhaps that day of reckoning is needed: “are we just a terrorizin’ no-good group of criticizing fools, racing towards our judgement day… are we just an agonizin’ no-good group of idolizing fools running around without a clue… maybe judgement day is overdue”.
“This Too Shall Pass” reminds us that all things good and bad are fleeting and to hold out the hope and keep fighting. This sentiment is nothing new, but doesn’t come off cliché, thanks to their authentic and earnest sound. One thing fans of the band will notice is the longer songs found here, and “Killing You, Killing Me” (which clocks in at just under six minutes) is an example of how effective these epic ballads can be.
Their harmonies are absolutely gorgeous on two standout tracks: “Round Prairie Road” and their stripped down version of The Mama’s and the Papa’s “California Dreamin’”. The album’s closer, “Winter’s Lament”, is a unique take on approaching springtime and includes some tasty harmonica work. If you aren’t already familiar with these guys, get with it- this is a great place to start.
Key Tracks: “Killing You, Killing Me”, “Round Prairie Road”, “Winter’s Lament”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/0ujviO24y6WGV1KQwkcwIv?si=UKCGnty1SqG6hKWoGajXBQ
Chris Shiflett – Hard Lessons – 11 tracks / 32 minutes
Best known for his day job playing guitar for Foo Fighters, Chris delivers more country-tinged rock with Hard Lessons.
Although the album starts with some arena-ready singalong lyrics on “Liar’s Word”, don’t let that fool you – there is some depth and edge to be found here. “This Ol’ World” finds Chris explaining that even if the world has “lost it’s goddamned mind”, he hopes that you are doing all right. The guitar solo here is some gloriously good country shredding. Lead single “Welcome to Your First Heartache” doesn’t do it for me, but is one of only two missteps (see also “Leaving Again”) on an otherwise terrific album front to back.
Chris’s duet with Elizabeth Cook on “The One You Go Home To” recalls old-time country duets with a little more rough around the edges approach. “I Thought You’d Never Leave” is a clever and funny take on being left and enjoying the Hell out of being single: “Don’t want you comin’ round again, don’t try to move your shit back in; I got everything I need, slept in every day this week, baby I thought you’d never leave”.
On “Fool’s Gold” Chris sings about his father who joined the military to escape the commitments of home and ended up alone for his troubles. Here’s hoping Chris continues to find time to write and record solo music, as his last two albums have been some of the best country music of the last few years.
Key Tracks: “This Ol’ World”, “The One You Go Home To”, “I Thought You’d Never Leave”
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/04tJs929ZfeCei5CUZ9130?si=IN1VBfF5SDWUZxiKH_81pA
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden) – 13 tracks / 51 minutes
On their 5th album, Lukas and the boys continue to do their thing, with mixed results. The title track is a modern-day version of John Prine’s “Spanish Pipedream” sentiment– I enjoy the acoustic version found on the deluxe edition of the album better than the original take with the backing vocals. “Simple Life” has a terrific groove to it, and “Out in L.A.” is a sweet and country-pop gem that’ll worm its way into your brain if you let it.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Black Star Dancing (EP)
The first of four planned EPs this year from the prolific songwriter finds him in a dance mood. The title track seems a bit scattered and could even be called a journey into new-wave disco, “Rattling Rose” finds Noel back into familiar territory to great effect, while “Sail On” is the loveliest composition on this release and one of the prettiest songs the man has written in years.
Keb’ Mo’ – Oklahoma
The bluesman is overtly socially conscious on this record, touching on pollution and global warming (“Don’t Throw It Away”), gender equality in our politics (“Put A Woman In Charge”), and the current immigration debate (“This Is My Home”). “I Remember You” finds him doing what he does best.
Calexico and Iron & Wine – Years to Burn
Their second collaboration is interesting to be sure, but has more misses than hits for me.
Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
The Boss gets serious and brings what sounds like a full orchestra with him on his latest release – my favorite track is “Sleepy Joe’s Café”, a laid back ode to “a place out on the highway across the San Bernardino line, where the truckers and the bikers gather every night at the same time”
Shinyribs – Fog & Bling
Kevin Russell’s latest is an unexpected detour from his signature sound that leaves me hoping this is a short-lived foray into pop-dance territory.