Friday, March 25, 2016

Album reviews: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Brett Harris, Mike Jacoby, Tim Hockenberry

The art of powerful songwriting remains in good hands as evidenced by the latest album releases from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Brett Harris, Mike Jacoby and Tim Hockenberry.

Artist: Tedeschi Trucks Band
Title: Let Me Get By (Fantasy)
You might like if you enjoy: Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks
Tell me more: The third full-length studio from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Let Me Get By, somehow outdistances the ensemble's terrific 2011 debut Revelator and fine 2013 follow-up Made Up My Mind. The group's distinctive blend of Southern rock, blues and Memphis soul is still intact, but the large 12-member troupe has fully brought all the diverse talents of the band members together in the service of amazing songs. Singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi and lead guitarist Derek Trucks may be the leaders of the band, but there is an energy that bursts across the line-up that brings thrilling performances at every turn. Just listen to the yearning "Anyhow" with Tedeschi's soulful soprano bolstered by the surrounding players, and  funk-meets-soul standout "Don't Know What It Means."  Although this writer is reviewing the standard 10-track release, "Let Me Get By" is also available as a two-disc deluxe edition that includes bonus studio tracks, live recordings captured at the Beacon Theatre in New York and alternate mixes and an expanded booklet. Information:

Purchase 'Let Me Get By' [2 CD][Deluxe Edition] today

Artist: Brett Harris
Title: Up in the Air (Hit the Deck Recordings/Redeye)
You might like if you enjoy: Nick Lowe, Band of Horses, Big Star, Burt Bacharach
Tell me more: In his 1981 signature hit, Greg Kihn once famously sang, "They don't write 'em like that anymore." Don't tell that to singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Brett Harris who has a pop sensibility that harkens back to a slew of greats from the the '60s, '70s and '80s. Fusing folk rock, power-pop and melodic rock on his wonderful new sophomore LP Up in the Air, the Durham, North Carolina-based artist has tapped into deep musical and lyrical territory via 10 outstanding songs that are fully original even while recalling giants ranging from Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach to Alex Chilton (Big Star) and Nick Lowe. The album is fantastic, spanning Beatles-styled art pop ("End of the Rope"), fully-original genre jumpers ("Lies," "Summer Night") and rich Americana ("Up in the Air," the affecting album closer "Spanish Moss"). Information:

Purchase 'Up in the Air' here

Artist: Mike Jacoby
Title: NorthEastSouthWest (independent)
You might like if you enjoy: David Serby, Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings
Tell me more: Perhaps because he hails from the Northeast part of the nation and now lives in the Southwest, singer-songwriter Mike Jacoby's brand of Americana defies easy comparisons with his influences or contemporaries. But his aptly-titled NorthEastSouthWest provides a joyful listen filled with melodic songs inspired by first-hand experiences, his lyrics delivered with an authenticity and surrounded by artful and affecting musical textures. The disc features all kinds of infectious and accessible tracks including the uptempo Rolling Stones worthy "Nevermind Me," country blues "Hell If I Know," and the beautiful acoustic guitar layered "Anyone's Guess." Information:

Buy 'Northeastsouthwest' on CD here

Artist: Tim Hockenberry
Title: Tim Hockenberry (Poignant Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Ray Charles, Warren Zevon, Emitt Rhodes
Tell me more: Although he first achieved widespread fame singing well-known cover songs on "America's Got Talent" in 2012, Tim Hockenberry's new self-titled album showcases an artist who has talents that extend beyond his expressive baritone vocals. On the country ballad "Ease Your Pain," he displays a knack for commercial songwriting with a heartfelt tale of selfless love. Another highlight is the celtic-styled ballad "Carrying You," where his piano playing and vocals carry the weight in the song's opening section with a tapestry of guitar, mandolin, tin whistle and other sounds helping the song soar. "Come On Let's Dance" starts out simply, with Hockenberry's voice and a strumming guitar soon ascending into a driving celebration. Information:

Buy 'Tim Hockenberry' on audio CD here

Robert Kinsler

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