Rock and roll greats Eric Clapton, Susanna Hoffs and NRBQ along with newcomers The Odd Birds are in top form on their latest releases.
Title: The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Eric Clapton, Nathan East, classic rock, British blues
Tell me more: When Eric Clapton was forced to cancel several Royal Albert Hall concerts because of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021, the legendary singer-songwriter/guitarist brought his band to the English countryside. Since no audience was able to attend, Clapton along with bassist-vocalist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd and keyboardist Chris Stainton performed in front of the cameras at Cowdray House in West Sussex, England. Highlights from those intimate recordings are featured on The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions. Not only does the title feature incredible audio and visual quality, but the performances are sure to please fans of one of rock's greatest and most influential artists. There is a rich mix of Clapton originals and other selections including blues and country nuggets across the 17-track collection. In the first few selections, Clapton plays a 12-string guitar, including on the beautiful "Golden Ring" and "Black Magic Woman" (Clapton introduces the latter by saying "This one's for Peter," referencing songwriter Peter Green who sadly died in October 2020). Even in the acoustic-styled setting Clapton and company are able to deliver some pretty dynamic performances; both Clapton and Stainton solo during uptempo runs through "After Midnight" and "Rock Me Baby." The emotion is palpable in riveting performances of "River of Tears," the instrumental "Kerry" and "Tears in Heaven." And the talented troupe has a blast when Clapton switches to an electric instrument to run through the blues classics "Long Distance Call," "Bad Boy," and "Got My Mojo Working." The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions is available on DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl, and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray and audio CD packaged in a 40-page 12-inch by 12-inch hardback photo book, digital video and digital audio. In addition, a CD-only version is available exclusively at Target stores. Information: EricClapton.com.
Title: Bright Lights (Baroque Folk Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Susanna Hoffs, Aimee Mann, The Bangles
Tell me more: Susanna Hoffs is well recognized for her exceptional talent of interpreting songs penned by other artists and making them her own. Indeed, her trio of essential "Under The Covers" releases with Matthew Sweet as well as masterful reworkings recorded as a member of The Bangles' (including Prince's "Manic Monday" and Simon & Garfunkel's "A Hazy Shade of Winter") are part of a must-hear audio story that now includes her latest album Bright Lights. Hoffs' detailed and mature readings of a range of masterworks shines, her lovely vocals a part of artful arrangements that mine the deeper elements of each selection. She magically blends chamber pop and Americana on a reading of the Monkees' "You Just May Be the One," her soprano perfectly dancing with a soundscape adorned with lush harmonies and pedal steel guitar. The haunting take on the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale" is striking, starting sparsely and slowly building in beauty and power. A completely-reworked rendition of Prince's "Take Me With U" dazzles, Hoffs' voice positioned amidst a backdrop of acoustic guitar and strings. She joins forces with Aimee Mann on a marvelous version of Badfinger's "Name of the Game," the two singers tackling verses alone before blending their voices to create magical harmonies together. Other winning highlights on the album include her melodic reading of The Merry-Go-Round's "Time Will Show the Wiser," a rollicking and tuneful take on Paul Revere & The Raiders' "Him or Me – What's It Gonna Be?" and lovely acoustic interpretation of Chris Bell's "You and Your Sister." Information: SusannaHoffs.com.
Title: Dragnet (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: NRBQ
Tell me more: NRBQ is back with their first new album since 2014. Dragnet features a characteristically rich mix of diverse styles ranging from rock and pop to jazz and spoken word sure to please and challenge music lovers. The catchy opener "Where's My Pebble?" magically blends surf rock with Texas blues — it's as if the Chantays had teamed up with Billy F Gibbons to record a track. The melodic "I Like Her So Much" features sweet lead and harmony vocals along with a delightfully delicate approach from keyboardist Terry Adams, guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough and drummer John Perrin. NRBQ's well known bent to include high spirits, intellect, irony and a sense of humor in the wide-ranging proceedings is intact as evidenced by the upbeat "Miss Goody Two Shoes," polished pop song "You Can't Change People," sumptuous "The Moon and Other Things" and "L-o-n-e Lone-ly." Dragnet is available on audio CD and Digital. The album will be released on vinyl in early 2022. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Title: Tremolo Heart (The Odd Birds)
You might like if you enjoy: The Odd Birds, The Jayhawks, The Fallen Stars
Tell me more: The Odd Birds are back with a pleasing disc (Tremolo Heart) featuring 10 wonderful tracks showcasing the duo's affecting songcraft, strong vocals and nuanced arrangements. From the breezy opening folk rock track "Alright Now" and lovely "Another One Like You" to the countrified "Drowning Rain" and the folk ballad "Today I Started Loving You Again," Ron Grigsby and Jennifer Moraca immerse the listener in a soundscape that is sure to please fans of top-tier folk and acoustic Americana. Drummer Matt Froehlich, lead guitarist Bobbo Byrnes (who also produced the album), bassist Tracy Byrnes and fiddler Georgiana Hennessy add their talents to the wonderful LP as well. Information: https://www.facebook.com/theoddbirds.