Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Recent Releases Roundup: Ricky Byrd, Heidi Newfield, Cidny Bullens, Brian Bromberg

A diverse field of musical styles are explored via new audio releases featured in my latest column...

Ricky Byrd
Titles: Sobering Times (Kayos Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Ronnie Wood, Jim Carroll Band, the Smithereens, Willie Nile
Tell me more: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Ricky Byrd isn't facing his demons alone. On his newly-released Sobering Times, the New York-based artist is triumphantly celebrating his recovery with the world at large via a slew of stellar rock originals marked by his straightforward confessional lyrics and infectious rock song craft. The melodic "Quittin' Time (Again)," edgy "Together," breezy "Hear My Song" (featuring Byrd's wonderful mandolin work), acoustic proclamation "Pour Me," and roots rockers "Tired" and "Recover Me" (the latter a terrific duet with Willie Nile) are among the the terrific cuts on the album. Byrd released Clean Getaway in 2017 as a musical statement about recovering from addiction, but it's clear from the strength of "Sobering Times" there was plenty of territory yet to explore this time around. Released on Sept. 25, 2020 (the 33rd anniversary of the day the former Joan Jett & the Blackhearts lead guitarist started on his sober journey), Sobering Times is a wide-ranging release that not only celebrates Byrd's stellar guitar talents and songwriting, but his expressive baritone vocals and ability to mine new pay dirt in the classic sounds of '70s and '80s rock. A stellar cast of players joins Byrd on the recording including Bob Stander (bass guitar, percussion), keyboardist-accordion player Jeff Kazee (of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes fame), drummer Steve Holley (Wings, Ian Hunter, Joe Cocker), drummer Liberty Devitto (Billy Joel) and vocalist Christine "The Beehive Queen" Ohlman (Saturday Night Live band). Information: RickyByrd.com.

Heidi Newfield
Titles: The Barfly Sessions (Not Famous Enough LLC)
You might like if you enjoy: Ruthie Foster, Janiva Magness, Larkin Poe, Sass Jordan
Tell me more: Nashville, Tennessee-based songstress Heidi Newfield's explosive talents as singer, harmonica master and songwriter are exhibited across the freewheeling The Barfly Sessions. The 14-track disc finds the artist co-writing and collaborating with a number of ace songwriters and top-tier guests (Jim Lauderdale, Delbert McClinton, Chris Stapleton, Matt King and more). Produced by Newfield along with Jim "Moose" Brown, The Barfly Sessions is a mostly rousing high-octane affair as evidenced by the fiery opener "I Won't Wait Around," countrified "Wrong Side of the Bottle," aptly-titled "Bring This House Down" and rousing cover of "The Blues is My Business (with Newfield and McClinton sharing lead vocals as well as blues harp duties). Newfield also showcases her potent soprano on the soulful ballad "Three Things," tenderhearted country-flavored "Wait For It" and "Temporary Fix (For a Permanent Scar)," and the wistful "When Heaven Falls." Information: HeidiNewfield.com.

Cidny Bullens
Titles: Walkin' Through This World (Blue Lobster Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Cindy Bullens
Tell me more: The bold Walkin' Through This World marks singer-songwriter Cidny Bullens' first release as a transgender man; the album (produced by the artist and Ray Kennedy) explores and documents the real-life story of the Nashville-based artist's five-year gender transition. That story is bolstered by the bona fide artistic power and authority of the songs on the disc.   The LP opens with the tuneful "Little Pieces," Americana-mining "Purgatory Road," spoken word-centered anthem "Walkin' Through This World" and affecting "The Gender Line"  which collectively showcase the stellar variety of sounds that bring the LP's theme to life. Other highlights for this listener were the infectious roots rocker "Crack The Sky," uptempo "Call Me By My Name" and spirited rock and roller "Lucky For Me." "Walkin' Through This World" features collaborations with a number of well-known artists including guest vocalists Beth Neilson Chapman, Rodney Crowell, Mary Gauthier, Bill Lloyd and Jess Leary.  A two-time Grammy nominee as Cindy Bullens, the artist has worked with a who's who of greats including Bob Dylan, Sir Elton John and Rod Stewart. What's more, Bullens sang lead vocals on several tracks of the soundtrack of 1978's "Grease" (including "It's Raining on Prom Night" and "Freddy, My Love"). Information: CidnyBullens.com.

Brian Bromberg
Titles: Bromberg Plays Hendrix - 2020 Remix and Remaster (Artistry Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Brian Bromberg, Vinnie Colaiuta, Stan Getz, Jimi Hendrix
Tell me more: Celebrated jazz bassist Brian Bromberg has issued a remixed and remastered version of his 2008 album Bromberg Plays Hendrix. Re-released in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Hendrix's passing in September 1970, listeners will be blown away that no electric guitars are used on the album; rather, Bromberg uses both acoustic and electric basses (including overdriven electric piccolo bass, a 24-fret instrument with each string tuned an octave up) while drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is also key as they revisit some of the most beloved Jimi Hendrix classics with dazzling arrangements sure to please fans of both jazz and Hendrix. To describe this album as impressive is truly an understatement. My favorite tracks on the album include the opener "Fire," flat-out thrilling "All Along the Watchtower," jazzy "Hey Joe" and high-powered "Purple Haze." The outstanding new mix isn't all; a previously-unreleased funk-tinged rock original track titled "Jimi" recorded during the original sessions is featured here as well. Listen to Bromberg Plays Hendrix with headphones folks and be prepared to be blown away. I sure was! Information: BrianBromberg.net.

Robert Kinsler

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