Not since I heard Bloomington, Indiana’s now defunct 16-piece funk outfit Flattus have I heard anything as immediately infectious as Doctorfunk, a band as comfortable dabbling in off-kilter covers as they are breaking fresh ground. I submit for your approval this funkadelic bad-assed restructuring of AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” which is as fitting a summer jam as I’ve heard in years. The jazzy funk backdrop gives the song a fresh new groove, but the vocals stick close enough to the original that this serves as a fitting homage to one of rock’s greatest tracks. For more, check out Second Opinion, the band’s exceptional sophomore album, produced by Jeff Tamalier, who formerly produced or played guitar for Tower of Power, the Strokeland Superband, Cold Blood and others over the years. And follow them on Facebook, you’ll want to definitely keep these guys on your radar screen!
Nikki Lerner’s entire album Longings is well worth your listen, but if you’ve only got time for one song, try the subtle building “Plea,” which showcases her pop-meets-jazz leanings in full-on glory. This is an example of a song taking its time to earn a listener’s respect, building layer upon layer of melody as Lerner’s vocals swim among the notes, elevating them from mere pop to something significantly more. This is mournful blues, soaring pop and multi-textured jazz all rolled into one five minute track, something you have to hear again and again to fully absorb. From the pizzicato strings at the first chorus, which immediately make the hairs on the neck stand alert, to the background vocals which add depth and clarity to the melody, this is a song built upon attention to detail. Every detail brings you back. By the time the song builds to its apex — “Please forgive me!” lingering in the air over thundering toms and an epic string instrumental provided by jazz violinist Zach Brock, there’s no going back.
You can buy the album via her Bandcamp page.
Delta Rae returns with a new single, “Run,” off the band’s latest EP Chasing Twisters, and we’re here to preview the song which is this week’s iTunes “Free Song of the Week” feature. In addition, we’ll introduce you to Midnite on Pearl Beach, a Chicago band blending elements of psychedelic, folk, rock and blues to create a sound you’ll have to soak in to believe. We feature a clip of single “One Foot Left,” in addition to the entirety of album track “Modern Gods,” off their upcoming album Lamplighter — get it on January 14th!
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For those among us who lament the cookie-cutter direction folk-tinged Americana has taken in the current decade’s “pop folk” era — that of the Lumineers or Mumford’s Babel – you may now rejoice in that which is The Muse. The fourth album from Boulder’s the Wood Brothers revels in everything blues, jazz, gospel and, yes, folk. The opener, “Wastin’ My Mind,” will stun fans of the Band who are likely to marvel that this song wasn’t produced forty years ago, and from there it’s a great ride through track after track of genre-bending songs which prove to be more than folk revivalism or obsessive attempts at recreation.
Any album with the one-two-three punch of “Wastin’ My Mind,” “Neon Tombstone” and “Sing About It” is already worth a listen. But the album’s boozy, horn-soaked finale “Firewater” wins the day, that slow-burn melancholy certain to fuel many a full-album restart or furious clicks to repeat the track itself. The rest of the album more than lives up to the gauntlet the band has thrown down, proof that there’s still room in today’s musical landscape for albums which challenge the listener. With three months to go, the Wood Brothers have produced this year’s best Americana album by far.
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I see your mouth moving
But there’s a circus coming out
Believe every word I say — the new collaboration between the always credible Ben Harper and blues-harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite is unstoppable. Musselwhite, with more than twenty albums to his name in addition to collaborations with everyone from Tom Waits (Mule Variations) to INXS (Suicide Blonde) teamed up with Harper for Get Up!, Harper’s upcoming new album (due out January 29, 2013 — mark that calendar!). The result is a full frontal assault of tasty blues, the raw hook slathered in a tasty sauce of grungy guitars and harmonica insanity. “Blame it on hard living,” Musselwhite sings, but there’s no blame needed in this aural algorithm — input what Rolling Stone dubbed “a scuzzy howler,” and output a tasty blues explosion powerful enough to heat any long cold winter.
“From delicate pop melodies to growling delta blues riffs, The Barr Brothers boasts a wide-ranging mix,” the band’s PR folk write in their press release bio, but that doesn’t do much to describe the intricate arrangement you’ll be confronted with when you give this song the headphone treatment it so fully deserves. If the rest of this album has music as lovingly crafted as the debut track, September 27th can’t come soon enough!
Year of the Album — #031
Hugh Laurie – “Let Them Talk” (2011, Warner Bros. Records)
From the opening notes of “St. James Infirmary,” it’s clear that Hugh Laurie is not fucking around with Let Them Talk, the British actor’s first foray into launching a music career. You might be prone to laugh, if it weren’t for Laurie’s impeccable chops as a bluesman. This is a serious attempt at bringing a great deal of New Orleans flair to the table, and Laurie’s even got Allen Toussaint around to provide spectacular horn arrangements. Give the album a chance and you’ll be converted. By the time Let Them Talk has played out in its full glory, you’ll have forgotten this is a blues album by an actor. It’ll be more “where’s this guy been all these years?”
The album is comprised of a series of classic blues songs, many of which feature Laurie performing alongside the likes of Tom Jones, Irma Thomas, and Dr. John. Produced by Joe Henry, the album plays out as a serious endeavor, and Laurie comes at these songs with real relish. On the title track he lets his voice and piano tell it all, and holding that song up to the light on its own merits it seems to completely sum up his motives. “Let them whisper because they know not what’s between you and I,” he sings. “I’m gonna keep on, I’m gonna keep on loving you ‘til the day that I die.” If that’s the case, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many who have heard Let Them Talk who will be disappointed if Hugh Laurie was to take more opportunities to let his musical side shine.