Tuesday, February 16, 2021

New Music: Harry Dean Stanton with the Cheap Dates, Moira Smiley and VOCO, Morgan Wallen

Three outstanding new collections are available now.

Harry Dean Stanton with the Cheap Dates
Title: October 1993 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Kingbees, Jamie James, Walter Clevenger, Jimmy Reed
Tell me more: Although best known for his parade of memorable television and film roles spanning from 1954 to shortly before his death at age 91 in 2017, the late Harry Dean Stanton was also a gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist. Omnivore Recordings has just rewarded fans of Stanton (who passed away in September 2017 at the age of 91) with the wonderful October 1993 which features Stanton and his terrific band Cheap Dates on a mix of studio recordings and live tracks captured at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood. Having caught Stanton with the Cheap Dates at a Santa Ana, CA club opening (the Roxbury) in early 1993, I was excited to hear October 1993 (released Feb. 12, 2021). The album is a celebration of roots rock and Americana delivered by a top-tier troupe featuring Stanton (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica), Jamie James (guitar, lead and backing vocals), Slim Jim Phantom (drums), Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (pedal steel guitar) and Tony Sales (bass, backing vocals). Among the outstanding studio gems are a countrified take on Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," a freewheeling version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" and an emotive rendition of William Bell's soulful "You Don't Miss Your Water." The live tracks keep the momentum moving on the collection with the rollicking Berry-penned "Never Can Tell" (bolstered by Stanton's harmonica play), tender "Spanish Harlem" and hard-charging "Miss Froggie" all celebrating this colorful chapter of Stanton's career. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.

Moira Smiley and VOCO
Title: In Our Voices (Moira Smiley Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Solas, Tune-Yards, Dead Can Dance, Gypsy Soul
Tell me more: The aptly-titled In Our Voices (set for release on Feb. 19) is the new 12-track album from singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Moira Smiley, and features her stellar vocal ensemble VOCO. The collective gathered together for three days at Dauphin Street Studios in Mobile, Alabama in March 2020, just before the world shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The album's luxurious sound is matched by its approach to events playing out across society. Social justice is artfully tackled in the anti-racist anthem "Sing About It" while the beautiful folk-draped "Days of War," vocally-dynamic "Refugee," gospel-tinged "Stand In The River" and confessional "How Can I Cry" are all aimed at exploring issues of empowerment with artful honesty and power. Intimacy and human connections are explored in the gorgeous "Dressed in Yellow," sparse banjo-seasoned "Wiseman" and intimate "Silverlake." Joining Smiley on this ambitious album are Dawn Pemberton, Karla Mundy, Gregory Fletcher, Jake Asaro, and guests Sam Amidon, Caleb Bronze and Seamus Egan. Information: MoiraSmiley.com.

Morgan Wallen
Title: Dangerous: The Double Album (Big Loud/Republic Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Jason Aldean, Morgan Wallen
Tell me more: Had this writer's review of Dangerous: The Double Album appeared a month ago, a review of country music artist Morgan Wallen's sophomore album effort would have focused strictly on the uniform strength of the 30 tracks that span the two-disc release. But earlier this month, the 27-year-old Sneedville, Tennessee native was recorded using an offensive racial slur which immediately resulted in a suspension from his record label and the removal of his music from many major radio networks and streaming platforms. Wallen has since taken responsibility for his hurtful words via a 5-minute video apology he released on Instagram. "It's on me to take ownership for this. And I fully accept the penalties I am facing," Wallen said in the video. Indeed, he noted that he was wrong and acknowledged how hurtful his language and behavior were when he was recorded yelling the anti-Black slur while intoxicated. 

This writer is hopeful that after a period of continuing reflection to work on issues related to his troubling words and behavior that Wallen will be given another chance. His is already a top-tier singer, songwriter and performer  indeed last year he was named the Country Music Association Awards' Best New Artist of the year  and Dangerous: The Double Album has spent the last five weeks at the number 1 position on the Billboard 200 chart. He has the uncanny ability to blend the best of traditional country, rootsy Americana and modern country with an emotional touch. The slew of wonderful songs on "Dangerous"  many co-penned by Wallen — include the confessional "Wasted On You," tender "Somebody's Problem," genre-defying "Warning," spirited "Wondering' Bout The Wind" and revealing "This Bar." Information: MorganWallen.com.

Additionally, TJR and yours truly have just posted our Feb. 15, 2021 in-depth discussion of issues surrounding Wallen's offensive comments this month and the subsequent fallout. View the episode HERE.

Robert Kinsler 

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