Music lovers have to be pleased with the parade of stellar releases that are being released in the first few weeks of summer.
Artist: Kacey Musgraves
Title: Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville)
You might like if you enjoy: Kacey Musgraves' debut Same Trailer Different Park
Tell me more: One of the only artists among the current crop of young country singers who connect with the genre's richest traditions free of cliche, Kacey Musgraves' outstanding sophomore effort Pageant Material is at once contemporary and classic. From the tuneful high-kicking "High Time" and "Late to the Party" to the likes of the infectious banjo- and fiddle-adorned "Biscuits," the two-time Grammy winner's album is fortified by her role co-writing all 13 tracks on the disc. The Texas native playfully revisits her meteoric rise on "Dimestore Cowboy" (name dropping 'Austin City Limits,' Willie Nelson and the ghost of Gram Parsons along the way) while Musgraves skillfully tackles life's big questions effortlessly in the contemplative "Somebody to Love" and poignant "Die Fun." Information: kaceymusgraves.com.
Buy 'Pageant Material' here
Artist: Neil Young + Promise of the RealTitle: The Monsanto Years (Reprisel)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young's Living With War and Psychedelic Pill albums
Tell me more: Leave it to Neil Young to continue to rattle the world's chain. Although he will celebrate his 70th birthday later this year, Young continues to champion his strong views on big business and corporate greed, destruction of the environment, threats to small-time American farmers and the world at large on his latest album The Monsanto Years. Backed by Promise of the Real (featuring Willie Nelson's sons Micah and Lucas Nelson), Young has crafted yet another masterwork. Young's epic 2006 album Living With War is recalled via the grunge anthem "New Day For Love" while the tuneful Americana rocker "People Want to Hear About Love" would have been home on 1977's American Stars 'n Bars. Elsewhere the sparse "Wolf Moon" (with little more than minimal acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and some signature Young harmonica play) conjures up the beauty of our nation's disappearing wilderness. My favorite song is "Big Box," a lyrical diatribe against everything from corporate greed to political finance laws that blends heavy rock courtesy of Young's fiery lead guitar work with ethereal vocals that soars across an eight minute-plus ride. Information: www.NeilYoung.com.
Get 'The Monsanto Years (CD/DVD)' here
Artist: Joy Williams
Title: Venus (Sensibility)
You might like if you enjoy: The Civil Wars, Johnnyswim, Kate Bush
Tell me more: Life's challenges often spur artists to create great music. Such is the case on Joy Williams' Venus. One-half of the multi-Grammy winning Americana duo The Civil Wars, Williams first full-length outing since that duo broke up in August 2014 will please fans of her previous work courtesy of folk-minded nuggets such as "Woman (Oh Mama)" and the gorgeous "One Day I Will." But there is also material that expands her reach into art rock territory with the same gifted touch; the confessional "Before I Sleep," riveting "Sweet Love of Mine" and introspective "Not Good Enough" exhibit the songstress' expanded reach. While the events that gave life to the songs on "Venus" may have tested Williams (just listen closely to "You Loved Me," "The Dying Kind" and "Till Forever"), the album itself is a joyous and life-affirming listen. Information: joywilliams.com.
Purchase 'VENUS' here
Title: Muddy Waters 100 (Raisin' Music Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Muddy Waters, John Primer, Gary Clark Jr., Shemekia Copeland, Johnny Winter
Tell me more: The line-up of modern-day blues icons who join singer-guitarist John Primer to celebrate the 100th birthday of Muddy Waters (the legendary bluesman died in April 1983) on Muddy Waters 100 is almost as impressive as the 15-track collection itself. Things kick off with the blues staple "Got My Mojo Working," with Primer sharing lead vocals with Shemekia Copeland. Elsewhere Derek Trucks' amazing slide guitar impresses on "Still a Fool," and James Cotton blows his blues harp with the mighty firepower he displayed on the original 1957 recording. Texas blues champion Gary Clark Jr. conjures up some magic in his expressive electric guitar work on "Forty Days and Forty Nights." Especially bittersweet is the uptempo Chicago blues gem "I'm Ready," a cover of the title track off Waters' 1978 album that was produced by Johnny Winter; on the new version Winter played slide guitar on the track a mere five weeks before his death in July 2014. Information: raisinmusic.com.
Buy 'Muddy Waters 100' today
Artist: The Dream Syndicate
Title: The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Rain Parade, Three O'Clock
Tell me more: Blending the melodic instincts of the '60s with the punk-energy of the late '70s, the so-called "Paisley Underground" exploded in Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1980s bringing with it the music of The Bangles, Rain Parade, Three O'Clock, Green on Red and others. Among the most notable of the scene's champions was The Dream Syndicate thanks to the band's seminal 1982 debut The Days of Wine and Roses. Now Omnivore Recordings has reissued a deluxe edition of the album that celebrates the original indie release and piles on a slew of previously-unissued bonus material that casts additional light on the sterling lineup of Steve Wynn, Karl Precoda, Kendra Smith and Dennis Duck. Highlights on the collection include the hypnotic rhythms embedded in "That's What You Always Say," driving "Then She Remembers" and wistful "Too Little, Too Late." The bonus material is enthralling too, including the rehearsal jam "Is It Rolling, Bob?" and infectious rocker "Still Holding On To You." Information: omnivorerecordings.com.
Buy 'The Days Of Wine And Roses' here