Sunday, December 30, 2018

Eclectic Range of Releases Close Out 2018

Although 2018 is in the history books, there are several late-year releases worthy of attention. The latest releases from country music supergroup Pistol Annies and Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, as well as important deluxe reissues from English rockers the Kinks and bluesman Henry Townsend are available now.

Artist: Pistol Annies
Title: Interstate Gospel (Sony Music Nashville)
You might like if you enjoy: Kacey Musgraves, Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe
Tell me more: Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley have each carved out successful solo careers in country music so when they join forces as Pistol Annies expectations are high. On the celebrated trio's third full-length studio set Interstate Gospel there is an honesty and depth across the 14-track album that fully delivers on the talents of the three singer-songwriters. While never abandoning the greater sonic template associated with contemporary country music, Pistol Annies offer up original songs of empowerment and independence from a welcome feminine perspective. The freewheeling "Stop Drop and Roll One," lovely "Best Years of My Life," buoyant "Got My Name Changed Back," and introspective "When I Was His Wife" and "Cheyenne" leave their mark via undeniable song craft and telling lyrics. In addition to confessional tales of lust, regret and love gone mostly wrong, there are uptempo proclamations of faith ("Interstate Prelude," "Interstate Gospel") and a particularly affecting look at the challenges of life on the farm ("5 Acres of Turnips"). It doesn't hurt that Lambert, Monroe and Presley have voices that shine and soar with every stellar turn. Information:

Artist: The Kinks
Title: The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Kinks, Blur, the Zombies' "Odessey and Oracle"
Tell me more: The 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the Kinks' 1968 masterwork The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society is amazing. It features both stereo and mono mixes from the HD masters, bonus tracks and a previously-unreleased new single titled "Time Song." The two-disc audio CD version reviewed here also comes with a 20-page booklet and extensive liner notes. Lead singer-songwriter Ray Davies penned a slew of outstanding nostalgia-drenched songs exploring life and death, growing up and growing old, and wove those works together via a mix of musical styles that work perfectly. Indeed, pop-rock ("Starstruck"), psychedelia ("Wicket Annabella"), blues ("Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains"), chamber pop ("Big Sky," "Village Green"), and an intoxicating dose of British Music hall ("Sitting By The Riverside," "All Of My Friends Were There") are among the styles used by the Kinks on the wide-ranging title. Casual rock fans who only know the Kinks via the band's radio hits should consider delving into this wondrous title that was sadly overlooked at the time of its release in November 1968. Information:

Artist: Henry Townsend
Title: Mule (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Big Joe Williams, Pinetop Sparks, Sonny Boy Williamson
Tell me more: Armed with a potent baritone voice and keyboard and guitar skills to match, Henry Townsend's talents shine across the expanded reissue of his 1980 album Mule. The late bluesman was born in 1909 and his spirit and sound emerge as fresh and enthralling today as when the disc was recorded nearly 40 years ago. Townsend's recording career dated back to the early 1930s and Mule marked an effort to put Townsend front and center on a full-length recording. The album is worth discovering, with the artist artfully pounding away on keyboards and plucking on guitar across the disc. As detailed in the album liner notes, Townsend would improvise while recording; the result is the performance of tracks that are vibrant and fully unique. The Delta-flavored "Tears Come Rollin' Down," rollicking piano-anchored "It's A Hard Road To Travel," spot on "Talkin' Guitar Blues" and the joyful romp "The Other Night" (a bonus track) ring out with an immediacy and power that are as much a tribute to Townsend as American blues music itself. Information:

Artist: Bryan Ferry and his Orchestra
Title: Bitter-Sweet (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: Roxy Music, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, DeVotchKa
Tell me more: Bryan Ferry and his Orchestra are casting new light on the music of Roxy Music and some of Ferry's solo works via the aptly-titled Bitter-Sweet. Fans of the early 20th century British Music hall genre will be find that aplenty on "Bitter-Sweet." Ferry's work on the LP was inspired by his role with the Sky Atlantic/Netflix television series "Babylon Berlin" (a show set in the 1920s and based on the books authored by Volker Kutscher). The pensive "New Town," yearning "Bitter Sweet," gorgeous "Zamba" and ambitious instrumental "Limbo" are among this writer's favorites on the sweeping collection. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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