The first month of 2020 seems like the perfect time to celebrate a handful of under the radar releases more than worthy of high-profile attention.
Artist: Sound of a Distant Sun
Title: Music From The Heart (Independent)
You might like if you enjoy: Solas, Clannad, Altan
Tell me more: A winning blend of traditional Irish and Celtic sounds award listeners of Sound of a Distant Sun's new LP Music From The Heart. Featuring the talents of Matt Tonge (guitar, bass), Georgiana Hennessy (vocals, fiddle, accordion, handpan) and Matt Froehlich (drums, percussion), the 13-track disc was produced and recorded by Bobbo Byrnes (of Fallen Stars fame). The instrumentals thrill (in particular, the traditional reading of "Gray Funnel Line," "The Banner," and an ambitious medley of "Milky Way / Banshee / Molly Bahn / Flaring Pot Reel" that wraps up the album are delightful), and songs – both original and reworked classics – resonate via affecting performances. The lovely version of Boris Bengin's "Johnny Come Home Tonight" and joyful "Two Sisters," as well as a nuanced reading of the Hennessy and Tonge-penned title track showcase a rich connection with the enduring sounds of the Emerald Isle. Information: Music@riverrunusa.com.
Artist: Kailey Nicole
Title: Kailey Nicole (Kailey Nicole)
You might like if you enjoy: Nikki Lane, Patsy Cline, Whitney Rose, Kacey Musgraves
Tell me more: Armed with an affecting soprano and solid arsenal of original songs, rising Nashville-based songstress Kailey Nicole's self-titled EP is sure to please fans of classic and contemporary country music. The Las Vegas native has an ear for infectious song craft as evidenced by the explosive "Brand New Day," rowdy "Diamonds & Coal" and "Country Love Song," the latter bolstered by an undeniable chorus and the singer's rich vocals. Nicole is also capable of delivering an emotional wallop as evidenced by the tender ballad "Save Me For a Rainy Day." It doesn't hurt her eponymous EP was produced by Niles Thomas (Roxystar), and mastered and engineered by six-time Grammy winner Bonzai Caruso (Madonna, Stephen Marley). Information: KaileyNicole.com.
Artist: The Smithereens
Title: Covers (Sunset Blvd Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Smithereens, The Beatles, The Who
Tell me more: When singer-songwriter/guitarist Pat DiNizio died in December 2017 it didn't seem likely that the world would be treated to another Smithereens album. However, in May 2018 the beloved hard-rocking power pop troupe issued Covers, a 22-track compilation of artful and arresting covers. The collection (newly available on 180 gram vinyl) includes previously-heard tracks as well as songs that never appeared on any commercially-released vinyl or audio CD set. The range of material spans from early rock 'n' roll (Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders' "The Game of Love," Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs' "Wooly Bully" and Buddy Holly's "Well...Alright") and Billie Holiday's "Gloomy Sunday" to Brian Wilson's "Girl Don't Tell Me" and a slew of epic Beatles covers. The band tears it up on John Lennon's "White Album" rocker "Yer Blues," and conjure up an equal zest for rediscovery with Bruce Springsteen's "Downbound Train," The Who's "The Seeker" and Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy." DiNizio's distinctive voice is supported by the rest of the Smithereens' stellar lineup (lead guitarist Jim Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken and bassist Mike Mesaros). As Mesaros notes in the rich liner notes: "That intense childlike love of our influences never left us." Information: OfficialSmithereens.com.