Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Album reviews: Michael Ubaldini, Seth Swirsky, Hank Williams, Alligator Records collection

Upcoming albums from groundbreaking Southern California-based artists Michael Ubaldini and Seth Swirsky, as well as an essential Hank Williams collection and a superb blues compilation from Alligator Records make for some mighty fine listening. 

Artist: Michael Ubaldini
Title: Starshaker (Blackwater Records)
You might like if you enjoy: John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street"
Tell me more: Alt-Americana rocker Michael Ubaldini is set to release an album that is very much of our time even while it is steeped in authentic songcraft that ensures it is a masterwork for the ages. While even gifted songwriters are often content to revisit the same themes over and over again, Ubaldini is able to draw inspiration aplenty from a far-flung assortment of places. His Starshaker is ripe full of timely observations: the biting "Politician Superstar" is likely the sharpest jab ever aimed as modern-day candidates while "Jeanie Lees Phone" takes an equally direct swing at those who see the world exclusively through their smart phone. The affecting Mississippi blues-draped "Ballad of Brian Jones" celebrates the enduring power of the late Rolling Stones guitarist's legacy; authentic country (including some great pedal steel from Gary Brandin) is used to support Ubaldini's infatuation-filled tale of "Tombstone Woman." Information: rocknrollpoet.com.

Purchase 'Starshaker' here

Artist: Seth Swirsky
Title: Circles and Squares (Grimble Records)
You might like if you enjoy: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, ELO, Brian Wilson
Tell me more: Seth Swirsky is a true power-pop master, able to tap into the best of his influences and create something as contemporary as it is original. His latest album Circles and Squares marks another milestone for the singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist (who plays the majority of instruments on the 16-song set). The shimmering "Shine" (which could have been at home on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds), wistful "Far Away" (tapping into a Jeff Lynne-meets-Paul McCartney vibe), beautiful baroque pop musical proposal "Let's Get Married" and sparse acoustic ballad "The Simplest Way" are among the many fantastic originals on Circles and Squares. If Roger McGuinn and Sir Paul had ever teamed for a song, it might come off as the scintillating "Table." Wonderful stuff start to finish. Information: seth.com.

Get 'Circles and Squares' here

Artist: Hank Williams
Title: The Complete Mother's Best Collection…Plus! (Time Life)
You might like if you enjoy: Hank Williams, Michael Ubaldini
Tell me more: When Hank Williams died in January 1953, he was only 29. Despite his young age, he left an enduring legacy widely acknowledging him as the first and most formidable country music superstar; he is also one of America's greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Now fans of "the Hillybilly Shakespeare" can dig even deeper into his mastery thanks to one of the most important collections of 2016. Hank Williams: The Complete Mother's Best Collection…Plus! features 15 audio CDs and 1 DVD gather together in a box set. There are 142 performances from Williams' "Mother's Best Flour Radio Shows" recorded in 1951 and the DVD that features behind-the-scenes conversations with Williams' daughter (Jett Williams) and several of Hank Williams' band members (Don Helms and Big Bill Lister). Information: HankWilliams.com.

Buy 'Hank Williams: The Complete Mother's Best Recordings…Plus!' (15CD/1DVD)

Artists: Shemekia Copeland, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Tommy Castro, more
Title: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection (Alligator Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, James Cotton, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, Lee Rocker
Tell me more: It is difficult to single out any of the tracks on the outstanding collection Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection. Disc 1 includes memorable tracks from a slew of legends including Shemekia Copeland, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Koko Taylor and Tommy Castro & the Painkillers. Up-and-comers including guitar great Selwyn Birchwood, Toronzo Cannon, and the amazing Moreland & Arbuckle bring a modern-day energy to the proceedings. Moving on the disc 2, what better way to start than with the amazing tandem of harmonica legend James Cotton and guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa to deliver the hard-charging "Cotton Mouth Man." The slow side of Chicago blues is captured by the great Albert Collins on "If Trouble Was Money." The late Johnny Winter is celebrated via a propulsive slide guitar-powered "Shake Your Moneymaker." And this writer hasn't even mentioned outstanding turns from Lee Rocker, Delbert McClinton, Mavis Staples and Guitar Shorty. There are stellar moments everywhere. Information: alligator.com.

Get 'Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection' here

Robert Kinsler

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