Thursday, March 02, 2017

New music: Colin Hay, Laurence Juber, Old 97's, Livingston Taylor

Discerning listeners who love top-tier songwriting performed by engaging artists will want to get a listen to the latest album releases from singer-songwriter Colin Hay, fingerstyle guitarist Laurence Juber, alt-country rockers Old 97's and tunesmith Livingston Taylor.

Artist: Colin Hay
Title: Fierce Mercy (Compass Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Colin Hay, Bruce Cockburn, 
Tell me more: Colin Hay has an innate ability to write and perform songs that entice musically while effortlessly forcing the listener to think. On his latest masterwork Fierce Mercy, the acclaimed singer-songwriter uses a batch of original songs (several co-written with Michael Georgiades) that explore life from the insightful perspective that the majority of life's days are in the rear view mirror. But Hay's Fierce Mercy is no downbeat lament; there is a rich tapestry of both sonic and lyrical textures. The disc's soundscape blends folk-rock, jazz, Americana and more while the richly-drawn lyrics aim at the everyday triumphs and tragedies that define people's lives. "A Thousand Million Reasons" is a gorgeous and subtle song that taps into the powerful genesis of love. "She Was the Love of Mine" finds the singer celebrating the life of his late mother. "Frozen Fields of Snow" is a deeply-affecting song written by Hay that looks at the life of a military veteran outside the narrow confines of a battlefield tale. The deluxe edition of Fierce Mercy includes three outstanding bonus tracks providing even more great reasons to get a wonderful album. Hay is currently on tour and has a number of upcoming dates in the U.S. before he travels to the United Kingdom and Australia. Information:

Artist: Laurence Juber
Title: LJ Can't Stop Playing The Beatles! (HoLoGram Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, Muriel Anderson, Pete Huttlinger
Tell me more: On the aptly-titled LJ Can't Stop Playing The Beatles! two-time Grammy winning guitarist Laurence Juber thankfully delivers on the promise of the disc's title with 14 articulate and fully-realized acoustic arrangements of Fab Four compositions (including two by George Harrison). There are uptempo takes ("She Loves You," "Ticket to Ride"), elegiac sorties ("And Your Bird Can Sing," "Day Tripper," "And I Love Her") and beautiful arrangements that dazzle ("Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "I'll Follow the Sun"). Several of the more interesting renderings on the collection include the ambitious "Hey Bulldog" and playful "Honey Pie." The groundbreaking fingerstyle guitarist will perform as part of the Lord of the Strings concert series with dates at the Dana Point Community House in Dana Point, CA, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 10, and at the Mission Viejo Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 11. Tickets for either concert are $30. Juber will be selling and autographing copies of his new album at the concerts. Information: or

Artist: Old 97's
Title: Graveyard Whistling (ATO Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Rhett Miller, Wilco, Supersuckers
Tell me more: On their newly-released album Graveyard Whistling, the Old 97's unleash a batch of potent songs that mine well-traveled trails celebrating romance, life in small towns, the thrill of playing music and the joys of having a good drink. Since emerging in Dallas, Texas in 1993, the quartet has recorded a slew of great albums filled with memorable songs that stand the test of time; that formula is firmly intact on the 11-track Graveyard Whistling. There are rollicking alt-country rockers such as the confessional "Good With God" and the raucous "Drinkin' Song." The Old 97's can disarm with the most lovely of songs, as evidenced by the beautiful "Bad Luck Charm" with singer Rhett Miller's reflective delivery and the band's nuanced performance; on "All Who Wander" the band explores similar sonic territory with equal melodic prowess. The group also makes a joyful detour on the Celtic-flavored "Irish Whiskey Pretty Girls." The Old 97's are currently on tour in support of Graveyard Whistling, and will be performing a string of shows in Southern California later this month, including at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach on March 29 and at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on March 30. Information:

Artist: Livingston Taylor
Title: Safe Home (Chesky Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Randy Newman, James Taylor
Tell me more: It's impressive that singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor's new album Safe Home was recorded as part of the Chesky Binaural + Series, a cutting-edge process that finds albums recorded with a single microphone while ultimately providing listeners with an expansive and multi-dimensional recording. The jazz-styled original "I Must Be Doing Something Right" has the wonderful feel of a timeless American Standard, and Taylor's warm baritone delivers the song with authentic warmth. Taylor is surrounded by a top-flight group of musicians on the album, including Shelly Berg (piano), David Finck (bass), Bashiri Johnson (percussion) and Chelsea Berry (vocals). There are also a number of great reworkings of cover material on the disc; a completely novel take on the Beatles' "Penny Lane" is among the memorable songs covered. And although there have been countless versions of composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E.Y. Harburg's "Over the Rainbow," the version here (sung by Chelsea Berry and Taylor as a duet) is eloquently and artistically introduced by a reworked version of "Merry Old Land Of Oz" (another great song introduced in the enduring 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz"). Information:

Robert Kinsler

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