Artist: The Empty Hearts
Title: The Second Album (Wicked Cool Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Cars, The Knack, early Cheap Trick
Tell me more: The Empty Hearts are back with their aptly-titled sophomore effort The Second Album, an essential follow-up to the supergroup's self-titled 2014 debut. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame greats guitarist Elliot Easton (The Cars) and drummer Clem Burke (Blondie) along with singer-guitarist Wally Palmar (The Romantics) and bassist Andy Babiuk (The Chesterfield Kings) bring together their collective talents to create a winning blend of '60s garage rock and British Invasion sounds that are bolstered by a modern-day edge. The 13-track LP provides plenty of highlights, notably the shimmering power pop gem "Remember Days Like These" (featuring Ringo Starr on drums), explosive Big Star-meets-Cheap Trick blaster "Coat-Tailer," the melodic "If I Could Change Your Mind," and blistering snapshot of our times titled "The World's Gone Insane." The propulsive "The Best That I Can," mid-tempo retro rocker "Jonathan Harker's Journal," heavy blues rock sortie "Death By Insomnia," melodic harmonies-adorned "Come On And Try It" and rowdy Memphis soul-flavored "Well, Look at You" are other standouts on the awesome album. Information: TheEmptyHearts.com.
Artist: Bill Kirchen
Title: The Proper Years (The Last Music Co.)
You might like if you enjoy: Marty Stuart, Sonny Landreth, Elvis Costello, Norton Buffalo, Dan Hicks, Nick Lowe, Paul Carrack
Tell me more: The Proper Years offers a full-fledged appreciation of the monumental force of "The Titan of the Telecaster" guitar master Bill Kirchen. And while his guitar playing astounds at every turn, Kirchen – a founding member of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen in 1967 – is also a top-tier singer and songwriter as evidenced across the wonderful two disc collection. Collecting every original and cover recorded as part of his sessions for 2006's Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods, 2010's Word to the Wise and 2013's Seeds and Stems albums, The Proper Years is packed with 38 great cuts; a who's who of greats are featured across the two discs. Indeed, Nick Lowe (bass, backing vocals), Elvis Costello (whose signature vocals shine on "Man In The Bottom Of The Well"), Norton Buffalo (harmonica), Commander Cody (piano), Dan Hicks (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Maria Muldaur (vocals) are among the illustrious greats whose contributions add to the magic. The gentle "Rocks Into Sand," countrified ballads "Skid Row In My Mind" and "Truth Be Told," the jazzy "One More Day" and rockabilly-amped "Heart Of Gold" and Bump Wood" are among my favorite selections on disc one. The swinging "Word To The Wise" (featuring Dan Hicks), lovely duet with Maria Muldaur "Ain't Got Time For The Blues," country rollick "Valley Of The Moon," infectious "Truck Stop At The End Of The World," an inspired and completely reworked cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are-A-Changin'" are among the wide-ranging nuggets on disc two. Information: billkirchen.com/official.
Artist: Juni Ata
Title: Saudade (Flying On Fire Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Dawes, Travis
Tell me more: Don't be surprised if you don't know the music of Juni Ata, the moniker for singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jesse Daniel Edwards. The artist's brilliant debut Saudade (a Portugese word pronounced "sow-da-day" loosely translated as "a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing") is wonderfully out of step with the majority of his contemporaries, strikingly original and is definitely worth discovering. With a deeply affecting tenor, the singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist crafts powerful songs that are emotional and authentic. Edwards – who was raised in a deeply religious home in a small mountain town in Southern California where he had little exposure to secular music – never had an intention to record and release his original songs. However, through fate and the encouragement of a friend, the album has arrived and is a captivating listen. There are times of remarkable intimacy, where romantic loss and personal perseverance are rendered with stirring intensity; "Hard Letting You Down Easy" and "Fight Hard, Run Fast" are utterly astonishing in their soul-filled sentiment. At other times, such as "Philadelphia" and "When It Rains In LA," there is a rich presentation with horns and symphonic flourish. Juni Ata is no one-trick pony as evidenced by the rousing rocker "Good Enough Ain't Bad," colorful "I'll Try Anything Twice" and tender country-tinged "Not Going Anywhere." Information: amazon.com.
Artist: The Allman Betts Band
Title: Bless Your Heart (BMG Rights Management)
You might like if you enjoy: The Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Tell me more: Those looking for new rock that is steeped in traditional songwriting while wrapped up in a mix of Southern rock, folk, vintage R&B and blues will want to check out the Allman Betts Band's outstanding sophomore effort Bless Your Heart. The double-LP opens with Pale Horse Rider," a killer track that has sonic echoes of Neil Young & Crazy Horse; the song's mix of multiple lead guitars and wistful voices are showcased as the song builds to a stunning finale. The lush Southern rocker "Magnolia River" and gospel track "Carolina Song" are lush blasts from the past, recalling the classic work of the band's celebrated influences. The troupe features Devon Allman, Duane Betts and Berry Duane Oakley, sons of founding Allman Brothers members Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley. While the Allman Betts Band has definite ties with the past, there are plenty of numbers that showcase a band with a voice of its own. The lovely "Southern Rain" is an emotional tour de force somehow enchanting via a coupling of R&B and rock styles; the melancholic "Ashes Of My Lovers" simultaneously defies and embraces a slew of far-flung sounds. The majestic "The Doctor's Daughter" brings a bit of psychedelia into the group's Southern approach; "Savannah's Dream" is a masterful instrumental that clocks in at 12 minutes and displays the nuance and bona fide chops of the seven-member ensemble. Information: AllmanBettsBand.com.