Artist: Lindi Ortega
Title: Liberty (Soundly Music, LLC)
You might like if you enjoy: Ennio Morricone, Dolly Parton, The Civil Wars
Tell me more: Lindi Ortega is armed with one of the most evocative voices in all of country music and a masterful approach to writing and crafting originals, and in a perfect world her shining songs would fill the airwaves. So discerning listeners would be advised to rush out and pick up the Canadian native's fifth LP Liberty, a three-part album that artfully chronicles a mythical character's beguiling journey from dark to light. Against an expansive Ennio Morricone-inspired soundscape, the sound of "Liberty" is truly gorgeous with the bonus that the songs range from haunting ballads ("Til My Dyin' Day," "Forever Blue") and goth-Americana nuggets ("Darkness Be Gone," "In The Clear") to roots rockers ("The Comeback Kid," "Lovers In Love") and Spaghetti-Western gems ("Afraid of the Dark," "Liberty"). The cinematic-minded album concludes with Ortega's first-ever Spanish language recording; her take of Chilean composer Violetta Parra's "Gracias A La Vida" ("Thank You To Life") is a beautiful and fitting finale to an enthralling album. Information: LindiOrtega.com.
Artist: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Title: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Memories In Rock II (Minstrel Hall Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Rainbow, Deep Purple, Black Country Communion
Tell me more: Ritchie Blackmore is the rare artist able to achieve critical acclaim and commercial success as a member several different groups while focusing on different styles of music. He first found success in the late '60s, 70s' and early '80s with pioneering British hard rockers Deep Purple before forming his own heavy metal band Rainbow, and more recently with the traditional folk rock ensemble Blackmore's Night. When Blackmore relaunched Rainbow in 2016, it appeared to be a casual brief reunion to perform a trio of dates in Europe. The success of those dates led to three additional concerts in the United Kingdom in 2017, now captured on the newly-released Memories In Rock II (available as a 2CD+DVD set, on vinyl and via digital formats). In addition to Blackmore's formidable skills on the fretboard, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow has a mighty lineup courtesy of vocalist Ronnie Romero (a Spanish singer discovered by Blackmore's wife Candice Night), famed Swedish keyboardist Jens Johansson, bassist Bob Nouveau, drummer Dave Keith, and backing singers Lady Lynn and the aforementioned Candice Night. The recording sizzles with power via melodic rockers such as "I Surrender" and "Since You've Been Gone," heavy rockers "Smoke On The Water" and "Perfect Strangers," as well as an extended blues-rock foray ("Mistreated"). Blackmore's classical influences are woven throughout the performance, including on the baroque-tinged "Soldier of Fortune" and instrumental "Carry On Jon" (the latter a tender tribute to Deep Purple's long-time keyboardist Jon Lord, who passed away in 2012). The album's bonus track "Waiting For A Sign" is the first new Rainbow song in ages and is worthy of Blackmore's legacy; the track is anchored by a British blues-rock groove and impressive lead guitar work. Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Memories In Rock II will be released on April 6, 2018, as a 2CD+DVD set, via vinyl and on digital formats. Information: BlackmoresNight.com.
Artist: Kacey Musgraves
Title: Golden Hour (MCA Nashville)
You might like if you enjoy: Kacey Musgraves, Emmylou Harris
Tell me more: Beyond her tuneful songs and pure soprano, country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves continues to evolve. On her newly-released third album Golden Hour there is melancholy aplenty even when the songstress is delivering infectious and upbeat material. "Lonely Weekend" has the breezy flow of a warm summer afternoon but not too far below the surface the Texas native's voice reveals a vulnerable disquiet; "Mother" offers a brief but deeply affecting and tender nod to her mother. "Butterflies" is a youthful tale of new love; "Oh, What A World" turns things on a dime with a two-tier theme — being both a celebration of the world around her and the romantic subject of her affection. "Love Is A Wild Thing" and the title track prove to offer particularly introspective looks at the power of love. "Rainbow" is an encouraging ballad featuring her expressive vocals accompanied only by piano. Musgraves has developed into a master at blending country and pop in ways that are both original and poignant. Musgraves is one of the featured performers that the upcoming Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA on Saturday, April 28. Information: KaceyMusgraves.com.
Artist: Bettye LaVette
Title: Things Have Changed (Verve)
You might like if you enjoy: Bob Dylan, Betty LaVette, Mavis Staples
Tell me more: Leave it to soul singer Bettye LaVette to deliver the perfect full-length tribute to Bob Dylan. Produced by Steve Jordan, Things Have Changed allows the 72-year-old LaVette to revisit and rework a dozen Dylan gems spanning from 1964's “The Times They Are A-Changin’” to 2006's “Ain’t Talkin’.” With her raspy but inviting deep vocals, LaVette infuses the songs and their savvy wordplay with a fresh and life-lived authenticity. "It Ain't Me Babe" is now a soulful ballad. "Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others)" comes off as a freewheelin' soul rocker with LaVette's passionate voice dancing amidst the song's groove and guitarist Larry Campbell's lively riffs. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is a cool mid tempo soul tune, artfully building in power and spirit. "Emotionally Yours" has never sounded so beautiful, with LaVette's surefire delivery fully capturing the emotional force of the song. The jazzy take on "What Was It You Wanted" is bolstered by New Orleans sensation Trombone Shorty. Information: BettyeLaVette.com.
Artist: Danielle Nicole
Title: Cry No More (Concord Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Bettye LaVette, Beth Hart, Trampled Under Foot
Tell me more: As long as there are singers as passionate and talented as Danielle Nicole, the future of the blues is in great musical hands and will thrive. On the singer-songwriter/bassist's second solo album Cry No More, Nicole ups the power quotient via 14 powerhouse performances produced by Tony Braunagel (Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Burdon). From the blistering opener "Crawl" and moody "I'm Going Home" (which features some thrilling slide guitar from Louisiana legend Sonny Landreth) to the Delta-styled take on Blind Willie Johnson's "Lord I Just Can't Keep From Crying." Nicole's dynamic vocals and bass guitar elevate the far-flung blues material, and itt doesn't hurt that the lineup of players is of the upper-echelon variety; guitarist Walter Trout fires up the Nicole original "Burnin' For You" and Kenny Wayne Shepherd unleashes some impressive Buddy Guy-styled guitar play on the Chicago blues track "Save Me." Elsewhere, guitarist Luther Dickinson (of the North Mississippi Allstars) guests. Information: concordrecords.com.