Monday, July 09, 2018

Summertime Heats Up Via New Releases

A wide range of outstanding releases are helping heat up the summer, including a surprise stunner from Gorillaz, an outstanding sophomore album from the Rails, the third LP from New York-based artist Vincent Poag and a historic live release from guitar great Dennis Coffey.

Artist: Gorillaz
Title: The Now Now (Warner Bros./Parlophone)
You might like if you enjoy: Gorillaz, Damon Albarn's "Everyday Robots"
Tell me more: On the brilliant new Gorillaz release The Now Now, singer-songwriter Damon Albarn has essentially followed up his 2014 release Everyday Robots with a sequel of sorts; the new disc is intoxicating musically even while offering a lyrically-impactful search for finding one's self in a world - America in particular  where people seem to be more alone than ever. Whereas 2017's Gorillaz return Humanz was packed with all-star guests ranging from Mavis Staples and Grace Jones to Popcaan across the track list, The Now Now is a decidedly more intimate and stronger affair. A soundscape paved with cool beats, retro synths and grooves surrounding Albarn's signature vocals, the 11-track disc includes the breezy "Humility" (featuring jazz guitarist George Benson's shining fretwork), the '80s-mining "Tranz," infectious "Lake Zurich," distant "Magic City" (complete with Blur guitarist Graham Coxon's flourishes) and the enthralling "One Percent." Information:

Artist: The Rails
Title: Other People (Thirty Tigers)
You might like if you enjoy: Carbon Leaf, Bright Blue Gorilla
Tell me more: It's so clear; the Rails get it. Other People, the latest release from the London-based duo comprised of Kami Thompson (daughter of Linda and Richard Thompson) and James Walbourne (his performance credits include the celebrated likes of the Pretenders, Son Volt and Ray Davies) is a disc that will impress on a single listen even while revealing ever-growing lyrical and sonic layers with subsequent listens. There are tracks rooted in traditional Irish folk sounds ("The Cally," "Other People"), indie roots rockers ("Late Surrender," "Brick And Mortar") and Americana folk ("Drowned in Blue," "Mansion Of Happiness") — all lushly arranged and emotionally truthful. Beyond their talents as top-tier musicians, the duo's secret weapon may well be that Thompson and Walbourne each have amazing and distinctive voices and are able to create a magical third voice when they sing together (just listen to the affecting "Dark Times," wistful "Leaving The Land" and tender "I Wish, I Wish"). Information:

Artist: Vincent Poag
Title: Heroes and Demons (Danal Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Tom Waits, John Prine, Bob Dylan
Tell me more: Based in New York City, singer-songwriter-guitarist Vincent Poag uses his rich baritone to deliver original material that taps into his observations inspired by both a look inward as well as studies directed outward toward the big world around him. On his newly-issued third album Heroes and Demons, there is a straightforward lyrical approach enhanced by creative songwriting in the tradition of American favorites including Randy Newman, Bob Dylan and John Prine. Whether delivering a front-and-center appreciation of life itself ("Beautiful Day") in uncertain times like theses, or tapping into the jangly pop rock of Tom Petty ("Young Again") and utilizing a retro jazzy backdrop on the winning "One Step Ahead of Gloom," Poag's style allows him to weave a number of genres into a singular sound. The Waterboys-flavored "Piper Play" is this writer's favorite; the nugget recalls some of Mike Scott's most Celtic-drenched treasures with a luxurious moodscape enhanced by Irish flute, mandolin, fiddle and accordion. Information:

Artist: Dennis Coffey
Title: One Night at Morey's: 1968 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Dennis Coffey
Tell me more: Listening to the power and inventiveness of Dennis Coffey's One Night at Morey's, it's hard to believe the live performance featuring Coffey on guitar, organist Lyman Woodard and drummer Melvin Davis was recorded 50 years ago. The power and range of the trio is breathtaking; the three musicians blend jazz, funk, R&B and rock via a freewheeling approach that showcases the trio's virtuoso chops and creative chemistry. The instrumental reworking of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" plays out over a fast-moving 13+ minutes! The Meters' "Cissy Strut" is buoyant, with the rhythmic groove a launching pad for flat-out masterful lead guitar work courtesy of Coffey. Those looking for some flat-out killer lead guitar work from Coffey can check out "Burning Spear," where the speed of his runs thrills. A version of the Young Rascals' "Groovin' " certainly serves as the perfect groove for the trio, with all three musicians offering up some outstanding musicianship — all of it nuanced and presented in the service of the piece itself. The originals featured here — "Big City Lights," "Mindbender," and "Union Station" — and they are equally potent. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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