Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Masters showcased on new titles: Ronnie Wood, Walter Trout, Bobby Rush, Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky

One of the greatest joys of being a music writer is the chance to discover and share new work featuring a diverse and talented field of artists. Looking at the latest projects featuring Ronnie Wood, Walter Trout, Bobby Rush, and Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky, all of which reflect the excitement of discovery...

Ronnie Wood
Title: Somebody Up There Likes Me (Eagle Rock Films)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, director Mike Figgis
Tell me more: "Somebody Up There Likes Me" is a Mike Figgis-directed film tracing guitar great Ronnie Wood's 50-year career as a member of The BirdsThe Jeff Beck GroupThe Faces and The Rolling Stones. The documentary film will be released in North America as a virtual cinema event starting on Friday, Sept. 18. The documentary features brand new interviews with Wood's long-time Rolling Stones band mates Mick JaggerKeith Richards and Charlie Watts, as well as his Faces band mate Rod Stewart, his wife Sally Wood and several other notable players in the music industry. In addition to a wealth of interviews, the documentary features performance segments of Wood playing guitar and harmonica, as well as footage of him painting in the studio (he has increasingly become celebrated for his fine paintings). The pacing of the film is wonderful, with segments of quiet beauty where Wood is immersed creating art in his studio intermixed with historic and recent performance footage along with a wealth of revealing interviews touching on his hardships (including abusing himself with addictions to drugs, heavy smoking and alcohol) and successes (beating cancer and emphysema, discovering a love of music early in life). "He's as tough as nails," Richards says of Wood in one interview. What the film ultimately reveals is how Wood also has a profound gratitude for the music, people and fateful events in his life that have made it so rich. Information:

Walter Trout
Title: Ordinary Madness (Provogue)
You might like if you enjoy: Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales
Tell me more: Since its release on Aug. 28, Walter Trout's latest album Ordinary Madness has struck a resonant chord with blues lovers; for the 1-week period ended Sept. 10 the album was number 1 on the British Blues & Jazz album chart and number 2 on the Billboard Blues Chart here in the U.S. The album showcases the wide range of Trout's strengths in full  his fiery fretwork, emotive lead vocals and confessional songwriting are on display everywhere. The 11-track disc finds Trout exploring a vast number of topics with purposeful candor. The title track that opens the collection somehow captures this uncertain time where months of quarantine, economic hardship and burgeoning turmoil in society have millions questioning their immediate and long-term future. But Trout can still see the good in the frayed world; just crank up "Wanna Dance," a blues rocker that finds the artist battling demons and mortality but armed with his music to heal — an explosive and infectious track that builds with each measure. Now 69, Trout celebrates his life and Baby Boomer generation with the rousing "OK Boomer." Loss and doubt are explored on the mid tempo "All Out Of Tears" and soulful ballad "My Foolish Pride; deep and consequential romantic love is revealed in the gorgeous "Heaven In Your Eyes." The inspired "Heartland" is an expressive account of a young woman who dreams of a larger world than the one she knows; this song is bolstered by rich Americana stylings (including Terry Andreadis' accordion and Drake "Munkihaid" Shining's Hammond B3 organ) and particularly expressive playing from Trout. Perhaps the most poignant selection on the album is "The Sun Is Going Down," where Trout  who survived liver failure and received a transplant in May 2014  acknowledges the ill effects of time. The song starts with a laid back Delta-tinged vibe that gradually builds to a full-on rocking tour de force rife with his masterful lead guitar play.  An epic return to be sure. Information:

Bobby Rush
Title: Rawer Than Raw (Deep Rush/Thirty Tigers)
You might like if you enjoy: Bobby Rush, Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters
Tell me more: Anytime we get new music from Bobby Rush  now 86  it is reason for true celebration. The fact that the Grammy winner and Blues Hall of Famer has released an album as potent as Rawer Than Raw is all the more sweet. The 11-track disc finds Rush covering a handful of legends from his adopted home state of Mississippi who influenced him when he was learning to play music and first performing. Although he was born in Louisiana, Rush has long called Mississippi home. Listening to his decidedly-loose acoustic covers of material from pioneering blues greats Robert Johnson and Skip James along with his 1950s and '60 contemporaries Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson II is to be transported back to the beginnings of the genre. The joyful "Shake It For Me" (a Willie Dixon-penned track originally recorded in the 1960s by Wolf), sparse "Sometimes I Wonder" and hypnotic blues harp-adorned "Let's Make Love Again," expressive "Honey Bee, Sail On" and blazing "Dust My Broom" are among the enthralling cuts on the outstanding album. Information:

Artists: Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky
Title: Please Leave Your Light On (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl North America)
You might like if you enjoy: Bruce Cockburn, Paul Kelly, Paul Grabowsky
Tell me more: What happens when a celebrated singer-songwriter and noted jazz pianist join forces for the first time? In the case of Paul Kelly & Paul Grabowsky, heard on the dazzling Please Leave Your Light On,  the results are marvelous and create a bewitching experience for the listener. The versions here rework the songs without diminishing their power. The jazz aura on "True To You," the playful "Young Lovers," wistful take on Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (the only non-Kelly composition on the disc) and intimate title track all extend their reach via the new arrangements featuring Kelly singing his wondrous songs to the lone accompaniment of Grabowsky's piano. The lovely tear-inducing "If I Could Start Today Again" closes out the extraordinary album. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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