Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jan-Feb Contents Thunderbitch – Thunderbitch (Rough Trade) There will not be a new
band emerge with a better name this year, just saying it conjures up
what’s in the grooves. As it happens, it’s the side project of Brittany
Howard, the Alabama Shakes’ formidable singer/guitarist. She
scratches and claws her way through a set of rough’n’ready, pungent,
garage inspired rock. The big question is – what implications does this
have for the Shakes’ next album?
Laura Stevenson – Cocksure (Don Giovanni Records) In case
you were wondering, there’s no cross referencing at play here with
Brittany Howard’s new record. For her fourth album, Stevenson has
eschewed her prior dalliances with country and folk and gone for the
rock jugular, and judging by the results, the change of direction is well
warranted. She’s self-assured, as the title alludes to, and has good
reason to be.
Nikki Hill – Heavy Hearts, Hard Fists (Deep Fryed Records/Planet)
And here’s another hard rockin’ chica, based in New Orleans, who
leaves nothing to the imagination with her album title, nor indeed the
cover. All tatts and beehive hair, she’s got a great, rasping voice and
there’s plenty of swaggering, soulful, R&B based rock here, as Nikki’s
fiery vocals are matched by husband Matt’s spitfire licks.
David Essex – Rock On (Cherry Red) A pretty face isn’t always an asset, just
ask David Essex. One listen to the fabulous reissue of his 1973 debut album
quickly confirms he was not your typical stereotyped pop star. It’s jammed full of
quirky gems like the rockabilly influenced title track, and the brilliant ‘Lamplight’
transcended Top 40 radio. His sophomore album David Essex, and 1975’s concept
album All The Fun Of The Fair also bear revisiting. He really was so much more
than just good looks.
Blackfoot Gypsies – Handle It (Plowboy Records/Planet) For their second album
release, singer/guitarist/fiddler Matthew Paige and drummer Zack Murphy have
enlisted bassist Dylan Whitlow and red-hot harpist Ollie Dogg. They try way too
hard in the rock ’n’ roll sartorial stakes, to the point of looking silly, but fortunately
their veneer isn’t a reflection of the tasty country and blues infused rock ’n’ roll
these Nashville boys dabble in. The expanded line-up is just what the doctor
ordered and this is a far more cohesive set than their debut album as a duo.
Alison Brown – The Song Of The Banjo (Compass/Planet) There is no shortage
of exemplary banjo pickers around at the moment raising the instrument’s profile,
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn immediately spring to mind. Alison Brown is a
virtuoso and on her latest album has some unconventional help from the likes of
ukulele genius Jake Shimabukuro, Colin Hay, Steve Gadd, Keb Mo’ and fiddler Stuart Duncan. The music is varied
and, unlike her contemporaries, Brown’s banjo doesn’t dominate everything, far from it. It’s beautifully played,
perhaps a little too laid back for avid bluegrass fans, but if you’ve never been a fan previously, then you may just
find yourself reconsidering the banjo.
Jackie Greene – Back To Birth (Yep Roc/Planet) This is the first solo album
in five years for the sometime Phil Lesh and Black Crowes guitarist, and it’s
reasonable to ponder why it’s taken so long. Back To Birth concentrates less
on his familiar jam band guitar prowess, instead bringing the focus firmly onto
his singer-songwriter skills. Greene’s vocals are particularly expressive, and the
songs are uniformly strong, drawing a little on the blues with a whiff of country
– nice record.
Mighty Mike Schermer – Blues In Good Hands (Vizztone/Planet) Mike
Schermer’s writing and playing is earthy and authentic, and as long as albums
of this consistency keep coming, then the blues will do alright. Schermer is a
more than adequate singer and fine guitarist, and tracks like the swaggering, organ drenched ‘Heaven’s On
The Other Side’ and the slower percolating ‘Stop Crying’, with Tommy Castro guesting on second guitar, are
Otis Taylor – Hey Joe Opus Red Meat (Inakustic) Released a few months back, this mighty record doesn’t
deserve to slip through the cracks. Helping Taylor unleash his unique droning, spaced out blues comes
some judicious assistance from guitarists Warren Haynes, Bill Nershi and Langhorne Slim. Over the years,
‘Hey Joe’ has been kicked around to the point of tedium, but the two starkly different versions included here
are revelatory and doubtless even Tim Rose, Hendrix or whoever else’s name you wish to insert would have
approved. It’s a brilliant record throughout, but absolutely essential listening for tracks one and seven.
Another new year begins and the hits, and memories, keep on coming.....
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