This year continues to see a number of wonderful new studio albums and special previously-unissued live releases.
Title: Copious Notes (Turn-Up Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Tommy Keene, Paul McCartney
Tell me more: It's not a surprise that a long list of terrific studio albums are being released this year. During the global pandemic when artists were unable to tour many focused their creative energies on writing and recording new music. Such is the case with Richard X. Heyman's outstanding 14th album Copious Notes, a 12-track set recorded at The Kit Factory, a home studio he shares with his wife Nancy Leigh (she produced, played bass and contributed backing vocals on the album) in New York. Heyman handles lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, percussion and keyboards while a handful of guests play horns and strings to enhance the soundscape on the marvelous album. The parade of tuneful and inspired melodic rock is a constant on the fast-moving set, spanning from the undeniable lead-off cut "Nearly There" and shimmering "Choices We Make" to the gorgeous Baroque pop-flavored "Cedarbrook Park," soulful rocker "Sink Or Swim," driving power pop standouts "The Truth" and "Return To You" along with the lovely chamber pop original "But Our Love." Heyman's songs are further bolstered by his insightful and reflective lyrics that chronicle love, loss and the world around us. Information: richardxheyman.com.
Title: Kaleidoscope (Belltown Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Hilary Scott and The New County Line, Sarah MacLachlan
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Hilary Scott has returned with a five-song EP that extends her creative reach beyond the rootsy blues and Americana territory she has championed on previous releases. Kaleidoscope finds Scott exploring pop-rock with the same zeal and authenticity that has marked her approach on past solo titles and her work with The New County Line. Focusing on songs co-written in Nashville during a special songwriting project, Scott's top-tier vocals connect with the approach on the EP, notably on the yearning "Just A Shame," starry-eyed "Almost Home" and on the modern dance track "Free Country." Information: hilaryscott.com.
Title: Working Man's Dread (The Contraptionists)
You might like if you enjoy: The Lone Bellow, Rose's Pawn Shop
Tell me more: Armed with strong lead and harmony vocals and enough multi-instrumental chops to staff a full band, the Contraptionists are a duo featuring Paul Givant and Stephen Andrews. The magic that the roots-minded duo conjure up on Working Man's Dread is no fluke; the two have played music together for nearly a decade in the acclaimed Americana quintet Rose's Pawn Shop. However, the new 11-track project puts an emphasis on a sparse soundscape that comes in the service of Givant's probing songcraft. The majority of songs heard on Working Man's Dread were written by Gibant and developed with Andrews when the do completed a monthly-long tour from California through the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska back in 2018. The wistful "River Lethe," beautiful "Flotation Device," evocative "Murky Floor," genre-blending "Mountains," gorgeous harmonies-filled "Plead," bona fide rocker "Ember Days" and sweeping "Dream Song" are among the memorable original songs on the album. The Contraptionists are scheduled to perform at The Joshua Tree Saloon on Aug. 27. Information: TheContraptionists.com.
Title: Live at the Comedy Store, 1973 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Richard Pryor
Tell me more: Fans of comedian Richard Pryor will be rewarded on July 23 with the release of Live at the Comedy Store, 1973. The new collection features 14 tracks originally issued in 2013 as a limited-edition promotional audio CD given away with copies of the "No Pryor Restraint: Life in Concert" box set, as well as six additional Comedy Store performances featured as bonus material on several other special collections released in 2000 and 2005. The groundbreaking stand-up comedian tackles a wide range of subjects across the collection, his observations made as he is able expertly give voice to different characters ideally suited to elicit non-stop laughter from the audience. Recorded on Oct. 29, 1973 (in night one of a four-show run at the then relatively-new Comedy Store on Wes Hollywood's Sunset String), Pryor focused on new material in an appearance that was fortunately recorded and is available today. The packaging includes new liner notes from Cory Frye and audio restoration from Grammy winner Michael Graves. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.