Amanda Shires: To The Sunset
”It’s all rock & roll – no golf!’ is how acclaimed singer/songwriter/violinist Amanda Shires describes her electrifying firth album, To The Sunset. She’s borrowed a lyric from the effervescent track ‘Break Out the Champagne,’ one of 10 deftly crafted songs that comprise her powerful new recording. The Texas-born road warrior, new mom, and recently minted MFA in creative writing has mined a range of musical influences to revel an Amanda Shires many didn’t know existed. ‘Isn’t it refreshing?’ Shires asks. Indeed. Distorted electric guitars, effects pedals, swirling keys and synths, and rockin’ rhythms certainly suit Shire’s visceral songcraft and lilting soprano.
Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild!
The collaboration between Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks and rock ‘n’ roll royalty Linda Gail Lewis, Wild! Wild! Wild, gleefully lives up to it’s title. Subversive as it is reverential, the album confidently jumps the genre tracks of nitty-gritty rock ‘n’ roll, Americana, country & western, rockabilly, and all of their offshoots. Recorded at Chicago’s Reliable Recorders by Alex Hall (JD McPherson, Pokey LaFarge, The Cactus Blossoms) and produced by Robbie Fulks, the album features a band of American roots music legends, stalwarts, and peers. Linda Gail Lewis says, “I love singing with Robbie. It reminds of singing with my brother, Jerry Lee. The duets we did were so much fun. And the songs Robbie wrote are out of this world. My husband was a promotion man for Stax and Chess, and he felt like he was back at Stax when he heard ‘Foolmaker.’ Robbie is a soul singer. That was a surprise.”
Jason Mraz: Know
the sixth album from the acclaimed singer/songwriter. Know serves as a follow-up to the 2014 LP Yes!, and is Mraz’s first full-length studio recording in over four years. The bulk of the album was written against the backdrop of the 2016 Presidential election and it’s aftermath, and Mraz found himself writing a lot of “frustrated, angry, even sad songs, but nothing I wanted to sing.” Instead he has chosen to convey an uplifting, positive message. Know. Was produced by Andrew Wells, who brings an organic and groovy feel to the album’s classic, acoustic rock sound. Mraz has won two Grammy Awards and received two additional nominations, and has also won two Teen Choice Awards, a People’s Choice Award and the Hal David Songwriters Hall of Fame Award. He has earned Platinum and multi-Platinum certifications in over 20 countries, and has toured in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.
The War and Treaty: Healing Tide
As The War and Treaty, Michael and Tanya Trotter serve up healing and pain robbing with freewheeling joy on the monumental new full-length album, Healing Tide. An original tour-de-force produced by Buddy Miller, the collection swaggers with a confidence only gained by artists who are wholly, proudly, themselves. Funky bass lines, keys, lap steel, acoustic strings, and stripped-down percussion create a swampy Southern soul bed for the couple’s transcendent vocals. Michael wrote every track on Healing Tide.
Dawn Landes: Meet Me At The River
Through four full-length albums, Dawn Landes has blazed her own path with songs that are as fresh as they are timeless. Still, there’s no mistaking that strains of Nashville reside in her voice and in her musical soul, and now, with her fifth album, Landes is finally bringing them to center stage. Meet Me at the River is Landes’ self-described Nashville record, and she has assured it’s pedigree by enlisting the production skills of Fred Foster, the Country Music Hall of Fame member who played a pivotal role in the careers of Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, and Kris Kristofferson.
Showcasing the essence of what Jake Shears does best, the eponymously titled solo debut from the Scissor Sisters frontman is an album brimming with anthemic choruses and lyrics about the joys and vagaries of love and sex – all of it underpinned by a swampy soul influence imparted from his newly adopted hometown New Orleans. Shears’ artistic vision blossomed in the epicenter of Southern decadence, where he had headed following the Scissors hiatus in 2012. Initial ideas for the album were mapped out at the city’s famed Marigny Studios before he decamped to Louisville, KY to work with producer Kevin Ratterman (Ray LaMontagne, My Morning Jacket) who recruited members of My Morning Jacket, VHS or Beta, Jim James’ solo band, and Floating Action to lay down the album’s foundation. With string and brass arrangements by Christian Hebel (Barbra Streisand) and Lance Horne (Alan Cumming), they returned to NOLA to capture the city’s signature sound with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Sturgill Simpson’s brass section. The result is a thrilling work that plays inside some of the hallmarks of classic American rock music and marries them with Jake’s inimitable point of view, humor, and gift for unforgettable hooks.
Jim Lauderdale: Time Flies
Jim Lauderdale’s 31st album, Time Flies, is a return to what he does best: classic country infused with striking notes of Americana and soul. As a two-time Grammy winner and multi-genre dabbler, Lauderdale is able to carve out space for himself in music worlds both familiar and foreign, and after a creative legacy spanning nearly three decades, it’s no surprise that his ability to rejuvenate his sound is indomitable. Time Flies was recorded at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN, and produced by Jim Lauderdale and Jay Weaver. Special guests include Charles Odie Blackmon, Mando Saenz, and Pete Bernhard (The Devil Makes Three).
Mac Miller: Swimming
the fifth studio album by rapper Mac Miller. Includes the single “Self Care.” Mac has accomplished every goal he ever set for himself. At least that’s what the magazines say about the Pittsburgh kid, and they’re right enough. With his first album, he became a grassroots rap megastar. With his second he bared his weird soul and was praised for it. His 11 mixtapes boast a couple bucket lists’ worth of collaborators, from Bun B and Kendrick Lamar to Rick Ross and Juicy J. And in the same year that he toured the U.S. backed by a psychedelic soul band, he rapped all over Europe with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. He did indie. He’s doing major. He even bought himself a ridiculous house in the Los Angeles hills and made a TV show about it. Hell, he made a jazz record.
Shemekia Copeland: America’s Child
With America’s Child Shemekia stakes her claim as a riveting Americana singer of striking authenticity. The album features eight new songs from Gauthier, Kimbrough and more, plus brilliant covers of Prine’s “Great Rain,” The Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” Johnny Copeland’s “Promised Myself” and the traditional ballad “Go To Sleepy Little Baby.”
Ever the outlaw, Shooter Jennings has now crafted what might well be his most truly idiosyncratic work thus far, Shooter. Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, Low Country Sound founder Dave Cobb, at the renowned RCA Studio A on Nashville’s Music Row, the album sees Jennings staking out a fairly straightforward goal: to simply make a great country record. It should be noted, Jennings’ last studio album was a genuinely visionary tribute to Giorgio Moroder so in some ways, making a straight-up country record is as much of a left turn as anything else in his brilliantly mercurial career thus far. But with songs like “Fast Horses & Good Hideouts” or the raucous “I’m Wild & My Woman Is Crazy,” Jennings more than affirms his mission by returning to country’s original, if oft misplaced, mandate: singing songs about growing up and getting older, about going out and getting trashed. In short, making music for real people with real lives. With Shooter, Jennings truly puts his own mark on country music, living up to his extraordinary birthright with unparalleled passion, experience, and heart.
Steve Coleman: LIVE at The Village Vanguard
Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman’s Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) is his first live release in over 15 years. It captures his band Five Elements in two joyous sets at the historic New York venue where some of the most famous jazz recording from the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans have been made. Coleman’s personal history is tied deeply with the club: One of the main reasons he moved to New York City from Chicago was for the opportunity to play in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, of which he was a member from 1978 to 1980. After playing there with singer Abbey Lincoln in 1984, there followed a hiatus of over 30 years before he was invited to perform at the club as a leader in 2015. Since then, he has led his band Five Elements at the Vanguard every year, including these two sets recorded in May, 2017. Unlike his two most recent releases, Morphogenesis (NPR Critics Poll #2 album of 2017) and Synovial Joints (New York Times #1 jazz album of 2015), both of which are highly orchestrated, Coleman’s recent goal has been to perform as spontaneously as possible, often completely extemporaneously, and yet still retain form and structure. Interspersing the set with tracks that feature these new compositional tactics with long-time Coleman favorites, the musicians tackles Coleman’s typically intricate music with an effortless grace. The band’s mastery over the cross-hatching rhythms, tricky counterpoint and percolating groove, inspired by the magical vibe of the Village Vanguard, is captured here at it’s absolute peak.