Saturday, October 15, 2016

Album reviews: Justin Hayward, Game Theory, Dwight Yoakam, Bobby Rush

Those whose musical taste runs the gamut all have something to enjoy thanks to an expansive range of highly-recommended new titles.

Artist: Justin Hayward
Title: All the Way (Eagle Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Justin Hayward, the Moody Blues
Tell me more: Singer-guitarist Justin Hayward has one of the most distinctive and enduring voices in all rock, having emerged on the scene in 1966 as singer, songwriter and guitarist with the Moody Blues. Hayward's wonderful All the Way goes a long way in shining an additional bright light on Hayward by collecting recordings that feature the artist singing songs from his solo career, as well as reworkings of material from the Moody Blues and a brand new song "The Wind Of Heaven" (the theme song for the film of the same name). The Renaissance-flavored "Broken Dream," carefree Americana-tinged "Troubadour," tender and symphonic take on Don McLean's "Vincent" and a terrific live performance of "Nights in White Satin" recorded in the late 1990s are among the memorable songs on this collection, essential for fans of Hayward and the Moody Blues. Information:

Buy 'All The Way' today

Artist: Game Theory
Title: The Big Shot Chronicles (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Let's Active, Rain Parade, R.E.M.
Tell me more: Thirty years after its original release, Game Theory's vital third album The Big Shot Chronicles has been reissued as a deluxe edition that features the original 12-track album remastered along with 13 bonus tracks (nine of which are previously unissued). Game Theory singer-songwriter-guitarist Scott Miller (who sadly died in 2013; he was only 53) was a unique talent who crafted songs that tapped into youthful fervor while the songs themselves were bolstered by a mix of jangly melodies and smart indie rock arrangements. The range of material on Omnivore Recordings' new edition of "The Big Shot Chronicles" includes the driving "Erica's Word" (featuring a wistful vocal performance and great lead guitar solo courtesy of Miller), crackling "Make Any Vows," poignant "Regenisraen" and psychedelic-flavored "Too Closely." Among the interesting bonus tracks is an instrumental version of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus And Lucy." The CD booklet is wonderful, spanning 28 pages and featuring a wealth of photos, production notes and liner notes that shed insight into Game Theory's amazing The Big Shot Chronicles. Information:

Buy 'The Big Shot Chronicles' here

Artist: Dwight Yoakam
Title: Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars... (Sugar Hill)
You might like if you enjoy: Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley
Tell me more: Groundbreaking country singer-songwriter Dwight Yoakam has returned to his rural Kentucky roots with his first-ever, bluegrass-centered full-length album Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars… (out now via Sugar Hill Records). The uptempo "What I Don't Know," more introspective "These Arms," breezy "Guitars, Cadillacs" and rip roaring "Gone (That'll Be Me)" shine here, all showcasing Yoakam's potent and authentic vocals. Everywhere lush arrangements filled with strumming guitars, shimmering mandolin, plucking banjo and expert fiddle work drape the songs with a wonderful Appalachia glow. Yoakam's reworked originals are not the only prize here; a touching version of "Purple Rain" recorded in the immediate aftermath of Prince's death on April 21, 2016 closes out the dozen-song collection. Information:

Buy 'Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars…' here

Artist: Bobby Rush
Title: Porcupine Meat (Rounder Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Doyle Bramhall II, Joe Bonamassa, Keb' Mo'
Tell me more: Eighty-two years young, Bobby Rush has returned with the intoxicating Porcupine Meat, a dozen-track set that allows ample time for the blues singer to deliver one of the best albums of his long and celebrated career. Mixing up his blues-based sound with funk, soul, R&B and related styles, Rush is unique for genre heroes now in their eighties who still push forward as a singer, songwriter and sonic explorer. Porcupine Meat features a wealth of potent material; the affecting R&B first-person account of racial injustice "Got Me Accused" features Rush as a double threat courtesy of a nuanced and affecting vocal performance and moving blues harp solo. Later, Rush lives up to the title of the glorious "Funk o' de Funk" with a infectious performance while the soulful "Me, Myself and I" looks at romantic loss with real life honesty with a guest appearance from guitar great Joe Bonamassa that brings additional power to the blues ballad with his soaring soloing. Information:

Purchase 'Porcupine Meat' here

Robert Kinsler

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