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Greg Graffin – Millport


ANTI- Release: 31 March 2017

Featuring members of Social Distortion and Bad Religion

Greg Graffin, frontman of the iconic Los Angeles punk band Bad Religion as well as a renowned author, will be releasing a brand new solo album entitled Millport this March 31st via ANTI- .

Millport delivers a stirring though perhaps unexpected reinterpretation of the classic Laurel Canyon country-rock sound alongside Graffin’s insightful lyricism, all propelled by some esteemed colleagues from the LA punk scene including Social Distortion members Jonny ‘Two Bags’ Wickersham, Brent Harding and David Hidalgo Jr., with Bad Religion co-founder Brett Gurewitz producing.  The resulting record is less a reinvention then a creative liberation – a group of Los Angeles musicians at the peak of their game, playing a brand of music they genuinely love.
As Graffin explains, “This feels as exciting to me as when we made the Bad Religion record Suffer. Like everything had been leading up to the songs and they just happened totally organically in this short intense burst. I’m really just doing what I did back then, which is write songs that mean something to me and deliver them in a way that is completely honest.”
Album producer and Graffin’s longtime Bad Religion collaborator, Brett Gurewitz, adds, “It’s the two songwriters from Bad Religion and the rhythm section of Social Distortion, two influential LA punk bands, getting together to do an authentic country rock album, a genre most would think is the absolute antithesis of punk rock. But I think it sounds great. Both are iconic Southern California genres. It’s like the Laurel Canyon sound played by the kids who were smashing up the clubs a few years later.”
From Greg about the album:
My musical roots go back decades. It’s interesting when I take a long view of them. Like a huge tree with broad limbs, you can never predict what the crown will look like from the time that the roots are embedded in the soil. Music takes unpredictable paths — like the many directions that Southern California punk has taken over the years — but the roots are always there, providing nourishment and foundation to the ever spreading branches.
This album represents three distinct historical trends that came together in the span of only 10 days during recording at Studios 606 and Big Bad Sound in April of 2016. The most obvious one is the musicians themselves. The rhythm section is composed of players from Social Distortion. 36 years ago, Bad Religion and Social Distortion shared a stage in Santa Ana, California. Well, it wasn’t really a stage, it was an abandoned warehouse made into a punk concert/party place. That was my first concert, as the singer/songwriter in Bad Religion.  Our styles over the years diverged, but one consistent element remained – our love of American folk-rock and old-time music continued to grow.
The second root apparent on this album is that of the sound and musicianship itself. No mere hacks, these musicians are masters. Vintage wood, having been crafted into musical instruments, produces the sound of history when played by virtuosos such as those collected here. An old guitar, a vintage fiddle, drums and bass, clawhammer banjo, and a combo of electric guitar and tubed amplifier, create a sound that can only be described as classic. When you add the beautiful harmonies of these most excellent background singers, there is no doubt that this music comes from a deep-rooted expression of American experience.
The final historical root is a personal one. The people who introduced me to Old-Time music are now old-timers themselves. My family roots go back to Indiana and Wisconsin. The Indiana folks sang a-Capella in the old country chapel at my Grandma’s funeral. Her children taught me to sing and the songs they chose came from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and of course the folk revival tunes of the 1960s. This was the sound I brought forth to my own band starting in the 1980s. It’s the only kind of lyrical style I know. And hopefully this album will add another strong branch to my music. Thank you all for continuing to water the tree.
For more information please contact James at Prescription PR on [email protected]

Delta Moon – “Cabbagetown” is the new music project from the Atlanta-based blues and roots rock quartet,

“Cabbagetown” is the new music project from the Atlanta-based blues and roots rock quartet,

After
a long and successful European tour in spring 2016, the band reconvened
in Marlon Patton’s studio in Tucker, Georgia, to strike while still red
hot from playing six nights a week for the past several months. The
atmosphere was relaxed and fun, in a rural setting surrounded by great
gear, a Pyrenees pup named Leo, woods, chickens, vegetarian food and
lots of session ales.

Award-winning songwriter Tom Gray had several new Delta Moon classics ready to go – ‘Rock And Roll Girl,’ ‘The Day Before Tomorrow,’ ‘Just Lucky I Guess,’ and ‘Coolest Fools.’ Full-band renditions quickly followed with a few twists, Mark Johnson playing lap steel on ‘Rock And Roll Girl’ and Gray playing Spanish-style guitar on several songs. The rest of the original songs were written by the band in the studio, including ‘Refugee,’ ‘21st Century Man,’ ‘Cabbagetown Shuffle,’ ‘Sing Together’ and ‘Mad About You.’ This method of writing led to some interesting results with new emphasis on Franher Joseph’s rich bass voice, some non-slide lead playing by Johnson and Gray’s piano playing. In Johnson’s home studio Susannah Masarie and Kyshona Armstrong added backing vocals. Jon Liebman played harmonica on ‘Death Letter.’ Finally, the band headed to Bakos Amp Works to finish overdubs and mix the album in their old studio, now inhabited by the talented Jeff Bakos.

The opening track, ‘Rock and Roll Girl,’ is an autobiography of roots-rock dreams with a Springsteen like appeal. The free-flowing acoustic-driven groove of ‘The Day Before Tomorrow’ has an ultra-optimistic sensibility and alt-country flair. Franher Joseph moves to upright bass for the mostly acoustic introspective tome ‘Just Lucky I Guess’ and Gray picks some sublime lap steel guitar on the happy-go-lucky love song ‘Coolest Fools.’ Delta Moon are not ones to shy away from hot topics, taking on the viewpoint of the silent victims of the world’s problems on the provocative track ‘Refugee’ recounting their plight in multi-voiced narratives over a soulful groove. Gray switches to electric piano for the driving ‘Mad About You’ and drummer Patton lays down a phat hip hop beat to open the ultra-modern reading of ‘Death Letter’ with Jon Liebman adding greasy blues harmonica, sparing with Gray’s lap Steel. Another deep groove is at the center of Gray’s satirical look at our gadget-obsessed world on ‘21st Century Man,’ while the back-porch blues that inspired the album title ‘Cabbagetown Shuffle’ is a lively duel between Gray on Hawaiian guitar and Johnson on bottleneck slide. Gray leaves us with a lesson about our shared humanity on the gently rocking ‘Sing Together’ with Johnson preaching to the choir with more of his glistening slide guitar.

Rick J Bowen

BIOGRAPHY

Tom Gray and Mark Johnson met many years ago now in an Atlanta music store when Tom tried to sell Mark a Dobro out of the back of his van. Mark didn’t buy the guitar, but the two soon got together to swap slide guitar licks. That summer, on a pilgrimage to Clarksdale, Mississippi, Mark saw a huge yellow moon rise over Muddy Waters’ cabin and said, “That’s the name of my next band — Delta Moon.”

The idea of two slide guitarists in the same band is an unusual approach, but it works phenomenally well for Delta Moon. Tom and Mark started playing regularly in coffee shops and barbecue joints around Atlanta. In the early 2000s Delta Moon added a rhythm section and quickly gathered a wall-full of local “best” awards. After winning the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003, the band widened its travels to include concerts and festivals in the US, Canada, and Europe. They have been touring ever since. Delta Moon’s music has been featured in television shows on Showtime, Lifetime, the Food Network and more.

The American Roots Music Association named Tom Gray 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year. His songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper (including the hit “Money Changes Everything”), Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett and many others.

Tom Gray: vocals, lap steel, guitar, keyboards, harmonica

Mark Johnson: guitar, banjo, backing vocals

Franher Joseph: bass, backing vocals

Marlon Patton: drums

Delta Moon. It’s the band’s 8th studio album and the follow-up to the award-winning 2015 release, Low Down, named one of the best blues records of the year by both Downbeat and Blues Music Magazine. The new album consists of nine original compositions and one cover of Son House’s timeless classic, ‘Death Letter.’

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Blackberry Smoke – Like An Arrow

 It’s hard to call the Georgia quartet Blackberry Smoke Southern Rock revivalists. Rather, they work in a tradition carved out by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band back in the ’70s. Gregg Allman sings on “Free on the Wing,” the closing track on Like an Arrow, the band’s first album for Thirty Tigers, and Skynyrd is often used as a comparison point for the band, but Like an Arrow makes it plain that Blackberry Smoke is a close cousin of the Black Crowes — a band that sifts through the past to pick its favorite rock, not necessarily pledging allegiance to sounds made south of the Mason-Dixie line. Often what impresses on Like an Arrow are the songs and passages that don’t sound strictly Southern — dexterous, wah-wah-fueled breakdowns, lean three-chord rockers, and sun-kissed ballads designed for a Sunday afternoon. The latter reveals one of the tricks in Blackberry Smoke‘s quiver: whether they’re writing a brawny rocker or a delicate ballad, they’re good songwriters, sculpting sturdy songs that can withstand both the road and the years. That’s why Like an Arrow doesn’t quite feel fresh, despite a few funky flairs: it’s a record that’s deliberately part of a tradition, so it seems like it could’ve been released at any point in the past four decades. That is also its strength — from the songs to the slyly sinewy performances, Like an Arrow doesn’t simply feel like it’s built to last, it feels like it’s been kicked around the block a few times and has emerged all the stronger for it.
 

Stephen Fearing releases new album.

Veteran roots songsmith Stephen Fearing has achieved real prominence over the past 20 years as a member of super-trio Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, but he’d already made a mark as an eloquent solo folk artist prior to BaRK. He has continued to regularly release solo albums, as well as a couple of fine duo collaborations with Andy White.

Every Soul’s a Sailor is his first solo effort since 2013’s Between Hurricanes, and it’s a strong and varied collection. Working with Blackie seems to have widened Fearing’s stylistic range, while his skills as a lyricist, fluent guitarist and warm-voiced singer remain sharp. The rock-solid BaRK rhythm section of Gary Craig and John Dymond is on hand, co-producer David Travers Smith contributes horns and Rose Cousins adds effective harmony vocals to “Gone But Not Forgotten” and “Red Lights in the Rain.”

Their subtle musical touches keep things interesting, though the focus remains clearly on Fearing. He gets overtly political on “Blowhard Nation,” a scathing condemnation of Trump’s America written prior to the U.S. election (“The fat cats are gaining ground”). That’s something of an outlier, with the other material returning to more familiar reflections on love and life. Fearing saves the best for late, with the title cut being a lovely meditative piece (“Every soul’s a sailor, rolling out to sea”) that glides as smoothly as a yacht under sail in a light breeze.

 

“Fearing (is) a king amongst minstrels.” 

Halifax Chronicle Herald

Stephen Fearing was born in 1963 in Vancouver, British Columbia and grew up in Dublin, Ireland where his schoolmates included future members of U2. In 1981, he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and immersed himself in the music scene, learning the fundamentals of song writing and performing, while washing dishes to stay alive.

By 1984 he was back in Vancouver, determined to become a professional musician. In the years since, he’s been named as one of the finest songwriters in Canada and has built a national – and international – audience for his music, doing it old school through countless performances at intimate venues and on the concert stages of festivals and theatres across Canada, the US, the UK, and Europe, with appearances at major events like the Reading Festival and WOMAD, to name just a few.

“Fearing’s music crackles with ideas and collaborative energy… masterful guitar work from acoustic rock rhythm to elegant finger style.”

Acoustic Guitar Magazine

In 1996, Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson formed a new band called Blackie and the Rodeo Kings to record a tribute album of songs by Willie P. Bennett. Nine albums and one JUNO Award later, the band has become one of the most respected names in North American roots-rock-Americana music.

“The best roots-rock band in Canada, period.” 

Hamilton Spectator

Their musical collaborators are many, but to name a few – Emmy Lou Harris, City and Colour, Keb Mo, Exene Cervenka, Holy Cole, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Sam Phillips, Pam Tillis, Vince Gill, Cassandra Wilson, and Serena Ryder.

In 1998, Stephen Fearing met Andy White backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and a fast friendship was formed. In addition to his own work, White is known for his collaborations with Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, and Sinead O’Connor. As the duo Fearing & White they have released two critically-acclaimed albums and toured throughout Canada and the UK.

Fearing moved from his home in Guelph, ON in 2008, and headed to Halifax, NS. He completed work on Blackie and The Rodeo Kings’ Polaris Prize-nominated Kings and Queens (which featured duets with 14 iconic female singers including Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and Roseanne Cash). He also got remarried, became a father, and still managed to tour relentlessly.

Fearing has released ten albums as a solo artist, featuring musical guests including: Bruce Cockburn, Margo Timmons, Richard Thompson, Shawn Colvin, and Sarah McLachlan. When not working behind the microphone, Fearing spends time producing records including Suzie Vinnick’s JUNO Award-nominated album Happy Here. “With producing, I really enjoy collaborating with other artists. It’s a blast and, as a bonus, gives me a chance to learn and expand my skill set.”

Like the guests on his albums, the many awards and nominations that have come his way over the years speak to the respect he has earned among his peers, presenters, and critics.

“Blackie and The Rodeo Kings’ ‘Black Sheep’ (penned by Stephen Fearing) is one of my favorite songs from 2011.  Meticulously crafted with deep, resonant writing and featuring vocalist Serena Ryder.  Kind of like The Band recording with Joni Mitchell back in 1970.”

Brew Michaels, OM KRVO, Kalispell, MT

The JUNO Award-winner also shares his knowledge and experience with fellow musicians through songwriting workshops. “The classes dovetail nicely with performing,” he said. “My students are from all walks of life and I enjoy helping to coax them out of their comfort zones to create songs they might not have otherwise found.”

“A master of the finely-turned phrase and the perfectly-pitched line.”

Maverick Magazine

Through a life of many relocations and countless months on the road performing, Fearing has become a gifted storyteller and true musical nomad with the ability to enthrall audiences of all sizes and attitudes. “Getting on stage is the fun part, especially when the adrenaline kicks in,” he says, with a broad smile. “People want to escape and be taken on a journey. I build my shows so they do just that.”

Chelle Rose – Blue Ridge Blood

If Steve Earle wore a dress, this is what he would sound like. Chelle Rose is Appalachian tuff. You can hear her hardscrabble raisin’ in her voice. There’s enough barbed wire twang in her voice to snap a fencepost in half should it be bold enough to try and block her way.

But Rose’s pain is our gain. Although she calls it “Appalachian rock and roll,” old fashioned heartache and sorrow music is more like it. It’s a hurt to treasure, a pain to renew an acquaintance with to help banish your own. Take as needed.

The Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain

Maybe it’s being from Jersey that inflames the passion, deep dedication and profound introspection of home grown musicians. The Iron Bridge Band from the Garden State give every ounce of themselves while playing off the full range of emotions and even making informed topical observations without sacrificing the energy, spirit and healing power of rock.

The explosive quintet with the addition of singer Amy Anderson and guest artists including Jessie Wagner (lead and background vocals) and Jeff Levine (piano and Hammond B-3 organ), is led by guitarist and songwriter Stephen “Jude” Walsh, a firebrand with taste, tone and technique. Golden-throated lead singer Chandler Mogel lays bare his soul in every lyric as does Anderson on her star turn, while the solid granite husband and wife rhythm section of drummer Scott Suky and bassist Lanie groove effortlessly. Following their critically acclaimed debut Road Not Taken (2013), the band returns triumphantly with 12 original tracks showing stunning artistic evolution. The opening crunching, strutting anthem “A Little Too High” rocks hard with Mogel revealing his rock ‘n’ roll life while defiantly proclaiming “I got a little too high for heaven and a little too close to hell” in the chorus as Walsh breaks the figurative bounds of musical gravity with his soaring guitar. The riff-rocking “Black Sheep’s Son” is a spurned lover’s furious lament with “You tease me and please me, you take me round the back. But it’s out in the open, you call the kettle black.” The elegiac “The Fall” changes direction with a bittersweet romantic plea, a memorably melodic guitar hook and the unforgettable, gorgeously harmonized chorus “Because I’m waiting, for the fall. With some luck by then we’ll stand on common ground” in what should become a future classic.

“American Boss” offers a bold, scathing commentary on contemporary divisive politics by questioning “Do your actions bother you, blinded by red, white and blue? Or does the truth not matter much to you? Does your ignorance betray what we need to say, we just wanna find our way to the USA” as the unaccompanied snare drum cadence by Nick Suky creates a haunting coda. The Southern rocking “Raleigh” underscores the story of a special survivor with “Face the wind ‘cause you were born against the grain, and for sure there’s someone out there who’s the same” containing a sweet coda with Mogel and Walsh opening their hearts wide to the promise of love. The Allman-esque “Every” is a piquant declaration to an object of affection with poetic lines like “Every time I see your face, every dream falls into place, I’m never lonely” as Walsh unfurls sensuously melodic guitar lines.

With the Suky bass/drums tandem churning like a Harley-Davidson rhythm machine, “Mark Twain” blasts killer blues-rock riffs and classic Americana lyrics worthy of the Band with Mogel imprinting “She remembers mama’s words that got her by, ‘Love don’t pay the bills, but it lights a flame’” Walsh tossing off slithery slide licks with aplomb. Racing forward, “Backwoods Charm (A Southern Gothic)” weaves a cautionary tale about a mythical scammer traveling the highways and causeways described as “His mama always told him he was born with backwoods charm and someday he’d make daddy buy the farm” with Lanie Suky virtually carrying the song with her propulsive bass. The authentic Muscle Shoals/Stax vibe on the ballad “Day Gets Me Down” features Mogel sharing lead chores with guest belter Jessie Wagner slyly answering his “It’s always the moon that brings out the best in me, yeah, it’s never the sun that finds me found” with “Oh, if I’m ever lonely baby, I’m gonna reach out to you. And if you ever need me, honey, just let your train roll right on through.”

Walsh additionally shows he is a guitar talent to be reckoned with via his solo instrumental ballad “Faded” where he accompanies his beautiful, rich lead lines with alternating well-placed chords. The group returns with the wistful folk rock of “Wilderness” as Mogel reaches his silken higher register while using “wilderness” and the search for a brother as a chillingly poetic metaphor for the terror of 9/11 with lyrics like “In the midst I can swallow the guilt, but I can’t let it out, that’s not how I’m built.” Amy Anderson takes the spotlight for the closing, haunting, minor key “Light in August” in a duet with Walsh who sensitively surrounds her with perfect accompaniment as she uses her satin-smooth, mellifluous pipes to lament “In the light of the painted pictures fall from my face. Fear of time, what once was mine and every love that came to stay.”

The Iron Bridge Band is a talented, ambitious band of brothers and sisters whose reach matches their grasp in creating timeless music, and the listener is the lucky beneficiary. By turns rollicking, rambunctious, thoughtful and soothing, they provide a soundtrack for life and love. In these turbulent times, it is a rare and welcome, spiritually nourishing refuge on which to depend.

BIOGRAPHY

Uniquely distinctive and instantly recognizable, Iron Bridge Band has a sound that is both familiar and fresh. Influenced by vinyl and cassette-era rock, they bring together classic rock n’ roll, fused with roots-rock and hints of southern soul by way of thoughtfully crafted songs, four-part vocal harmonies and reflective lyrics. The music is an up-beat collaboration of edgy melodic guitar riffs, laden with fist pumping, sing-along hooks.

Iron Bridge Band is a true band in every sense and their music is a collaboration of authentic musicians who feel, groove and vibe. They bring intimacy and that intangible musical connection you can’t quantify with just pure musicianship alone. Their music has depth, realism, tells a story and is felt before it is heard. The band has been writing, recording and performing together since 2010 and has opened for national touring acts such as The Outlaws, Blackhawk and John Eddie.

Rickie Lee Jones – The Other Side of Desire

When Uncut last caught up with Rickie Lee Jones in 2012, she cheerfully admitted to suffering from writer’s block. “That’s why I keep recording albums of cover versions!” she breezily announced, seemingly unbothered by not having written any new material since 2003’s The Evening Of My Best Day, and gamely plugging The Devil You Know, her second covers collection of the millennium. Since then, she’s moved to New Orleans and kicking back in the Big Easy has set the creative juices flowing again. She now lives on the street made famous by Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire – an address celebrated in the title of her first LP of new songs in a dozen years.
The scuffed up honesty and humanity of post-Katrina New Orleans (she calls it “a city of people who do not try to escape the gravity”) has also permeated the songs. “Singing is acting,” she told Uncut three years ago. But on the 11 new compositions here there is no sense that she is playing a part; the ‘beret and badass bravado’ have gone and she’s singing from the heart. “New Orleans has washed out any affectation,” she blogged while recording the album. “It’s streaming through my own filters, I am not dressing it ‘in the style of’; there is no pretence here in the Crescent City.”
Working on a limited, crowd-funded budget in what Jones calls “an outrageously optimistic amount of time to create a record” represents another break with the past for an artist who was notorious for taking months in the studio (she spent $250,000 recording 1981’s Pirates, an eye-watering sum at the time, even if not quite in the league of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk).
Jones has always been something of an auteur, but for the first time in her career, confesses to feeling she was “not in charge” during the recording of The Other Side Of Desire, trusting producers John Porter (Roxy Music) and Daniel Lanois’ longtime amanuensis Mark Howard to mould and shape a compelling set of ripe and mature songs into an arrestingly ambitious musical journey, rich in sonic adventure and detail. The opener “Jimmy Choos” is a classic Jones narrative about an expensively dressed woman sitting on a rooftop and throwing bottles at the cops below. “You don’t have to tell me about giving up… someone loves you tonight,” she sings with palpable warmth and compassion over a simmering rhythm that calls to mind another great revenant New Orleans album, Dylan’s Oh Mercy.
The country two-step shuffle “Valtz De Mon Père” could have fitted on Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball, another Lanois/Howard landmark production. “J’ai Connais Pas”, a Waits-like tale of low-life set in a bar, taps deep into the city’s musical history, sung over a walking Fats Domino piano riff. “Blinded By The Hunt” is a slinky slice of secular Southern gospel, a sister song, perhaps, to Matthew E White’s “Will You Love Me”, and sung in a voice that evokes Brittany Howard. “Infinity” floats on a Blue Nile-style chimerical gauze as Jones describes a metaphysical dream riding “a wave through space”. “I Wasn’t Here” changes the mood again, Wizard Of Oz cuteness filtered via a Cerys Matthews pop-charm as Jones’ multi-tracked little-girl vocals dance seductively over an exquisite string arrangement. “Christmas In New Orleans” is a Southern answer to “Fairytale Of New York”, with which it shares a melody to an extent that might excite the interest of Shane MacGowan’s lawyers. “Feet On The Ground” is an achingly beautiful minor-key meditation on damage and loss, but leavened by a heavenly Philly-soul chorus. The album ends enigmatically but exquisitely with a half-sung, half-spoken poem, “A Spider In The Circus Of The Falling Star”, Jones’ voice eerily multi-tracked over a haunting sousaphone.It’s not only Jones’ most absorbing album since 1997’s beats-drenched Ghostyhead, but a record that crowns her career, not as an end but as a culmination.

Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones

Released in 2015, Restless Ones marks the first time the Heartless Bastards have had the same lineup for two albums in a row since All This Time in 2006, and the bandmembers certainly sound more comfortable and at ease with themselves than they have in a while. Lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom still sings like a powerhouse as she muses about making sense of life’s rare peaks and many valleys, but this time she sounds more in sync with her bandmates — Mark Nathan on guitar, Jesse Ebaugh on bass, and David Colvin on drums — and this music has a raw immediacy the Bastards haven’t matched since their first two albums. The sharp, jittery slide work on “Wind Up Bird” suggests the damaged blues fury of the Gun Club, “Black Cloud” has the decisive snap of vintage R&B, and “Into the Light” is that rarity, a widescreen power ballad that actually has the heart, soul, and riffs to not sound embarrassing in the 21st century. And while the band sounds tight and on point throughout, Restless Ones captures the interplay of four musicians who simply set up in the studio and let it rip; the guitars growl with conviction, the report of the bass is deep and satisfying, and the drumming is solid while leaving just enough room to color the arrangements. (In fact, the band sounds good enough that producer John Congleton often favors them over Wennerstrom in the mix, one of the album’s few sonic flaws.) While the extended, effects-laden closer “Tristessa” suggests psychedelia isn’t the Bastards‘ strong suit, the rest of Restless Ones strikes a graceful balance between the ragged but strikingly honest sound of the Heartless Bastards‘ early work and the most polished attack of The Mountain and Arrow; these songs capture an outstanding band hitting its stride, and growing more comfortable with the craft of record-making along with singing and playing great, passionate music.

Bros. Landreth

Twenty-seven years. Four bandmates. Two brothers. One album. 

Let It Lie, the debut release from Canadian roots-rockers the Bros. Landreth, is proof that there’s strength in numbers.

Anchored by the bluesy wail of electric guitars, the swell of B3 organ, and the harmonized swoon of two voices that were born to mesh. At first listen, you might call it Americana. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll hear the nuances that separate The Bros. Landreth — whose members didn’t grow up in the American south, but rather the isolated prairie city of Winnipeg, Manitoba — from their folksy friends in the Lower 48.

Where does the sound come from? Maybe it’s in their blood. After all, long before they made music together, siblings David and Joey Landreth attended their father’s bar gigs as babies.

“Mom would take us in the basinet and stick us under the bar tables, and we’d fall asleep,” says David. “Dad was a working musician who backed up people like Amos Garrett, but his love was always songwriting. He’d play three or four sets at those bars, so we’d be at the gigs all night.”

“We were always around music,” adds Joey, the group’s frontman and chief songwriter. “We had no choice! We were baptized into it.”

As the boys got older, they began paying attention to the records their parents would play in the small, WWII-era shack that doubled as the family’s home. Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder and Little Feat all received plenty of airtime, with John Hiatt’s Bring the Family and Lyle Lovett’s Pontiac standing out as family favorites. The siblings absorbed those records, which spun tales of love, life and lust in the Bible Belt. Years later — after Joey and David had given up their gigs as sidemen to form their own group, with drummer Ryan Voth — the Bros. Landreth began drawing on that familiar sound, mixing the rootsy swirl of Americana with the bandmates’ own experiences up north.

Let It Lie was recorded in a straw bale house in southern Manitoba, during one of the coldest winters in recent memory. Working with producer Murray Pulver, the Bros. Landreth found warmth in the songs that Joey and David had written at home, brewing up an earthy, earnest sound that has since drawn comparisons to the Eagles, the Allman Brothers and Jackson Browne. Eager to tip their hat to the man who gave the Landreth siblings their very first instruments, the band also recorded a version of “I am the Fool,” a song originally written by the boys’ father, renowned Winnipeg musician Wally Landreth. Wally even stopped by the studio to sing a verse on “Runaway Train,” a scuzzy, fuzzy rock song that mixes boogie-woogie guitars with two generations of bluesy, booming Landreth vocals.

“He slayed it,” says Joey, who laughs at the memory of duetting with his father in the recording studio. “It was fun, for the first time in my life, to get to tell my Dad what to do.”

Album highlights like “Our Love,” “Firecracker” and Nothing” were all inspired by a string of rocky relationships, but Lie It Lie is more than a breakup album. Filled with mid-tempo rockers, butter-smooth ballads and cowboy lullabies, it’s the sort of album that finds inspiration not only in the landscape of the human heart, but also the windswept prairies that stretch for hours on every side of Winnipeg’s city limits. The music is steeped in the history and heritage of the band’s hometown, and if it sounds wintry at times, that doesn’t mean it’s not downright lovely.

That hometown was quick to embrace the Bros. Landreth, with the Winnipeg Free Press applauding the band’s “blues rock [songs] resplendent with soulful harmonies as golden and warm as the late evening sun.” Meanwhile, the band began hitting the road in 2013, traveling the heartlands and highways that helped inspire their songs in the first place. They didn’t limit their focus to Canada, either. During the summer of 2014, the Bros. Landreth signed a deal with Slate Creek Records, an American label whose roster includes singer/songwriter Brandy Clark and Pistol Annies member Angaleena Presley.

“I remember the moment Dave and I started singing together,” Joey remembers, “and I realized how similar we sounded. It was a bit of an ‘a-ha’ moment for us. We were both pretty burnt out from our sideman jobs and wanted to make some music together, just for fun. The band built itself after that. I was just standing there, watching the walls go up.”

“Joey taught me how to sing,” David adds. “Prior to the band getting started, there were 3 or 4 years where we really didn’t spend much time together, because we were touring with other groups. We’d always been really close as teenagers. With the Bros. Landreth, I feel like it’s almost a divine interception. We were supposed to come back together and make this music.”

Nora Jane Struthers – Wake

On “Listen With Your Heart,” the centerpiece to her 2013 album Carnival, Nora Jane Struthers sings about a young woman taking advice from her dying father: “Darling, it’s time you learned to live,” the man tells the young female narrator. Struthers takes that character’s advice to heart on Wake, her latest solo album, and her best to date.
Indeed, Struthers’ third record is brimming and bursting with life, with lessons learned and love discovered, from the thirty-year-old singer. Wake edges further from the bluegrass roots that Struthers has been cautiously discarding over the first few years of her solo career: With its immediately comforting blend of ’90s alt country, roadhouse blues, rootsy power pop, and straightforward honky-tonk, the album sounds, at various points, like early Neko Case, the Jayhawks, and, most strikingly, Kathleen Edwards.
The New Jersey-bred singer’s incisive, precise songwriting is full of lovely surprises and knockout moments: On “When I Wake,” she repeats the hopelessly romantic declaration “I am living in a dream when I wake” like a mantra until the line begins to take on its own dreamlike hypnosis, and, by the end of the song, the line doesn’t seem so head-over-heels naive anymore. On the edgy, hard-rocking “Let Go,” she doles out important life lessons: “It’s a fine line between watered down vodka and vodka in a water glass.”
Struthers also cares deeply about narrative arch, and she’s crafted a carefully considered 11-song sequence that presents one of the most unabashedly celebratory suites of songs about being newly in love (“When I Wake,” “Mistake,” “Lovin’ You”) in recent memory, only to spend most of side-two in a state of hungover reckoning (“The Wire,” “Let Go.”), interrogating the easy, conclusive joy of fresh romance. As soon as she finishes her manifesto about being deliriously in love, she begins revealing its cracks and doubts: “Well the truth is I didn’t see the wire until I saw the bird,” she sings, sounding most alive when questioning her own revelations.