The second album from these Birmingham-to-Nashville transplants opens with a garage-rock sound that wasnâ€™t as evident on their self-titled 2015 debut. Mary Beth Richardsonâ€™s bluesy vocals are given the context of San Francisco-sound powerhouses like the Jefferson Airplane, and though a banjo peeks through the haze, the â€˜60s rock vibe is strong. The title track suggests a psych-rock Richard and Mimi Farina, the ballad â€œHealinâ€™ Slowâ€ has a â€˜50s vibe, â€œLonely Boyâ€ might have been a country song written in the Brill Building, and the whispery â€œWhen It Rainsâ€ could be a fondly remembered â€˜70s radio hit. The band seems to be democratic in exploring their influences, cross-pollinating without overwhelming the base flavor of each song. Theyâ€™ve added new spices to the boogie, blues and soul of their debut and shown themselves to have both musical vision and reach. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]
Twenty years into his recording career, the most surprising thing about Wayne Hancock is the lack of surprise in his unwavering pursuit of hillbilly boogie. What might have looked like a faddish nod at the start of his career has evolved into the heart and soul of his artistry, transcending the nostalgia that connects him to Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson and others. His first album since 2013â€™s Ride is stocked with swinging original material, sublimely selected covers of Merle Travisâ€™ â€œDivorce Me C.O.D.â€ and Pee Wee Kingâ€™s (by way of Hank Williams) â€œThy Burdens Are Greater Than Mine,â€ and steel player Rose Sinclairâ€™s instrumental showcase â€œOver Easy.â€
Hancock is front and center, but he gives his band (Sinclair, electric guitarists Bart Weinberg and Greg Harkins, bassist Samuel â€œHuckâ€ Johnson and producer Lloyd Maines on dobro) room to stretch out and solo. You probably wonâ€™t even notice the lack of a drummer until someone points it out. Hancock writes of a working musicianâ€™s fortitude, the toll it takes on off-stage life, and the rewards it pays. Messy homes give way to mistreating and long-gone mates, with â€œDivorce Me C.O.D.â€ taunting a soon-to-be ex and the original â€œWear Out Your Welcomeâ€ kicking the problem to the curb. The few moments of respite include the apologetic â€œTwo String Boogieâ€ and the sweet invitation â€œLove You Always.â€
Thereâ€™s a conversational looseness to the sessions, with longer songs, such as â€œDog Day Blues,â€ designed to stoke improvisation that suggests the jazz side of Western Swing. The players are up to the task as the rhythm section vamps, the guitarists take their turns in the spotlight and Hancock picks his spot to return to the mic. â€œThy Burdens Are Greater Than Mineâ€ closes the set, reframing the albumâ€™s travails with the sympathetic observation that someone, somewhere always has it worse. And in Hancockâ€™s case, a lot worse, since heâ€™s found the thing he loves the most – juke joint swing – and carries it with him everywhere. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]
Though only a part-time congregation, this Chicago quintet has brilliantly combined the cool swing of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the complex arrangements of Curt Boettcher and the lush harmonies of the Anita Kerr Singers. Comprised of NRBQâ€™s Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough, the Decemberistsâ€™ touring vocalists Kelly Hogan and Nora Oâ€™Connor, and session ace Alex Hall, the Flat Five debut a mesmerizing blend of pop, jazz, R&B and folk that is laden with joie de vivre. The opening â€œFloridaâ€ is effervescent with harmonies and a chiming guitar hook, and the R&B â€œBuglightâ€ sounds like a jivey mashup of the Andrews Sisters, Roches, Mills Brothers, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and Coasters.
The albumâ€™s â€˜60s vibe recalls Boettcherâ€™s work with the Association, Millennium and Sagittarius, along with the sunshine pop of the Free Design and Spanky and Our Gang. Thereâ€™s a touch of Bacharach in the trumpet solo of â€œBirmingham,â€ a McCartney-like bass line on â€œI Could Fall in Love With You,â€ and the Latin-styled â€œThis is Your Nightâ€ recalls Sergio Mendes and Brasil â€˜66. Though to be fair to the latterâ€™s playfulness, itâ€™s unlikely that Brasil â€˜66 vocalist Lani Hall ever sang anything like â€œdonâ€™t just sit around and mope / buy yourself a great big bag of dope / itâ€™s a world of love and hope.â€ Those lyrics, along with those of the entire album, come from Chris Ligon, older brother of group member Scott, and a writer of uncommonly fine senses of melody and humor.
The groupâ€™s instrumental sound is the perfect complement to their harmonies, fluidly stretching from the banjo-lined folk of â€œBottom Buckâ€ to the languid guitar and accordion of â€œSheâ€™s Only Fiveâ€ and Emmit Rhodes-inspired â€œI Could Fall in Love With You.â€ The waltz-time jazz â€œYouâ€™re Still Joeâ€ has a tasty electric piano solo to complement the swinging rhythm section and a remarkable bell-like vocal round that plays the song out. The closing â€œItâ€™s Been a Delightâ€ is nominally a farewell from lovers whoâ€™ve loved the night away, but itâ€™s also a clever thank you to the recordâ€™s listeners, and a fittingly sweet end to thirty-five minutes of vocal delight. This is the biggest, most unexpected and best musical surprise of the year. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]
Waco Brothers (Dean Schlabowske, Joe Camarillo,Â Jon Langford, Tracey Dear and Alan Doughty) return with their first full-length album of original material in 10 years.Â Going Down in HistoryÂ drops onÂ February 26th, but you can stream the first single now!
No doubt Mary Beth Richardsonâ€™s heard enough Janis Joplin comparisons to last a lifetime. But her Joplin-like fervor is arresting, and only one of the ingredients that makes up this Alabama bandâ€™s insurgent stew. The flavors are Southern – boogie, country, rockabilly, blues, R&B and soul – but theyâ€™re blended loosely rather than mashed together, and each gets a turn in the spotlight with one of the groupâ€™s three lead vocalists. The band shows off their instrumental talents and stylistic diversity, but never wanders too far from the gritty, stage-ready drama that is their calling card. The vocals beseech, the guitars buzz, and the band barrels down the track with a load tightened up in a hundred second sets. This is a powerful debut that surely plays well on the road. Make sure to buy the singer a drink and request â€œStill Sober (After All These Beers).â€ [Â©2015 Hyperbolium]
Though the 78â€™s lineup has revolved a few times since the group took their name in 2007, singer, songwriter and guitarist Whitey Morgan (nee Eric Allen) has proven himself a consistent leader across the groupâ€™s recordings and live performances. Their latest release snapshots the band in 2011, laying down hardcore honky-tonk in Morganâ€™s home town of Flint, and sounding like Waylon (and the Waylors) on a good night. Flint may be physically closer to Saginaw than Nashville, but its rust-belt living lends a lot of grit to the bandâ€™s music. Morgan performs with a swagger that resonates with a crowd ready to celebrate hard-drinking tunes like â€œTurn Up the Bottle,â€ â€œAnother Roundâ€ and the ironically titled â€œIâ€™m Not Drunk.â€
Morgan touches on several of countryâ€™s favorite topics – women, drinking, cheating, and how women and cheating lead to drinking – and shows why theyâ€™re perennials. Heâ€™s fatalistically accepting of both cheating and drinking on the two-stepping â€œCheatinâ€™ Again,â€ but lets his loneliness drive as he seeks another chance with â€œProve it All to You.â€ The bandâ€™s low-key take on Springsteenâ€™s â€œIâ€™m on Fireâ€ is surprisingly effective, as are covers of Johnny Paycheckâ€™s cautionary â€œ(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Trainâ€ and Dale Watsonâ€™s Billy Joe Shaver tribute, â€œWhere Do You Want It?â€ The 78â€™s are a tight unit, with Brett Robinsonâ€™s steel and Mike Lynchâ€™s piano really standing out. If you canâ€™t catch the band live, make sure to play this loud at your next party. [Â©2014 Hyperbolium]
After a healthy run in the latter half of the 1980s, Barrence Whitfield and the original lineup of the Savages left the scene. Fast forward a decade and Whitfield and guitarist Peter Greenberg were back with a new lineup for 2011’s Savage Kings. Whitfield’s delivery is as wild as ever, with growls, howls and shouts, and the latest edition of the Savages rocks even harder than the original. This is equal parts soul and garage rock, lending it the feel of sweaty Northwest frat rockers fronted by a hard-soul vocalist who’s next gig you’d make a point of catching. Greenberg’s incessant rhythm chords and twanging riffs drive from the top, but the rhythm section never takes a breather and the sax and B3 squeeze themselves into whatever space is left (or, when there’s no room, they just push everyone else out of the way). Whitfield borrows Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ incredulous histrionics for “I’m Sad About It,” but the album’s mix of covers and originals is never less than original. You can set your volume knob low, but this one will still play LOUD. [Â©2013 Hyperbolium]
Wayne Hancock’s been making great albums since he introduced himself with 1995’s Thunderstorms and Neon Signs. His vocal similarity to Hank Sr. hasnâ€™t abated a bit in the subsequent eighteen years, nor has his fealty to the basic elements of Williamsâ€™ brand of twangy honky-tonk and haunted sorrow. But Hancock is more a man out of time than a throwback, and though his music takes on a nostalgic tint amidst Nashvilleâ€™s contemporary style, he makes the case that the sounds he champions are timeless. He sparks terrific performances from his guitarists (Eddie Biebel, Tjarko Jeen and Bob Stafford), steel player (Eddie Rivers) and bassist (Zack Sapunor), and he sounds happy to be singing,l even when he’s singing the blues.
Hancock’s spent the past few years touring, riding his Harley and getting divorced. The latter has turned his music into an essential salve, and though he sings “it’s best to be alone than be in love,” he’s more likely to pine than actually swear off romance. The album opens at highway speed as Hancock tries to outrun his heartache with an open road, a full throttle and dueling electric guitar solos. He’s soon again singing the blues, low-down and alone, but the tears in his voice can’t disguise the pleasure he gains from vocalizing his troubles, a pleasure shared with anyone who gives this album a spin. [Â©2013 Hyperbolium]