In this column I celebrate new releases from Julie Christensen, Keb' Mo', Night Crickets and John Mellencamp.
Title: 11 From Kevin: Songs of Kevin Gordon (Wirebird Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Flesh Eaters, Divine Horsemen
Tell me more: The exceptional song writing of Nashville singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon is celebrated by Julie Christensen on her latest album 11 From Kevin: Songs of Kevin Gordon (released Jan 21). It speaks volumes about the power of Gordon's songcraft and Christensen's strengths as a recording artist that this is an album where diverse music styles somehow couldn't be more at home together. The loose rocker "Find My Way," the medley of the countrified "Heart's Not In It / Down To The Well," bluesy "Jimmy Reed Is The King of Rock n' Roll," gorgeous roots rocker "Gatling Gun" and lovely folk gem "Rest Your Head" collectively cast a welcome light on Gordon's pictorial lyrics while simultaneously showcasing Christensen's gifts as a singer. Co-produced by Christensen and Brett Ryan Stewart, 11 From Kevin: Songs of Kevin Gordon also rises via contributions from a field of great musicians; in particular Sergio Webb and Chris Tench add a myriad of diverse guitar sonics across the marvelous recording. Information: stonecupid.com.
Title: Good To Be (Rounder Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Keb' Mo', Darius Rucker, Bill Withers
Tell me more: Keb' Mo' is back with an album (Good To Be) that celebrates the richness of life with an optimistic and winning approach that reminds us not to let life's everyday moments pass us by. Indeed, the opening track "Good To Be (Home Again)" acknowledges "It's good to be here, good to be anywhere" and not later, "Good to be young, good to be old, good to be home again." Elsewhere on Good To Be the South Los Angeles native takes that same inspiring approach on the romance-minded "So Easy," social justice-aimed "Louder," heartfelt cover of Bill Withers' "Lean On Me" and luxurious life-affirming "Marvelous to Me." There are also several impressive collaborations here, including the lovely duet "Quiet Moments" (featuring soprano Kristin Chenoweth), Americana-styled "The Medicine Man" (with Old Crow Medicine Show) and tuneful "Good Strong Woman" (with Darius Rucker). Across the 13-track album — his first since his 2019 holiday set Moonlight, Mistletoe & You — Keb' Mo' utilizes his signature mix of blues, gospel and even pop to create songs that are as infectious as they are memorable. Information: KebMo.com.
Title: A Free Society (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Violent Femmes, David Bowie
Tell me more: A trio comprised of David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets), Victor DeLorenzo (Violent Femmes) and Darwin Meiners, Night Crickets has released an impressive debut whose sonic moodscape fully captures the era of the pandemic. A Free Society features 13 originals that challenge and thrill the listener. The mix of sparse electronica, enticing rhythms, introspective lyrics and stylish grooves draws positive comparisons with a range of greats spanning from David Bowie to Gorillaz. Listening to this evocative album, I wondered if it could have been created any other way than musicians working remotely and sharing audio files from their far-flung locales. The dazzling opener "Black Leather on the Inside," retro "Amanda's Mantra," hypnotic "Roman A Clef" and "Soul Wave," lovely "Sloe Song," experimental "Down Below" and swirling "Sacred Monster" all enthrall. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Title: Strictly A One-Eyed Jack (Republic Records)
You might like if you enjoy: John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter John Mellencamp has returned with his highly-anticipated 25th studio album Strictly A One-Eyed Jack, which finds the 70-year-old artist reflecting on his life with honesty and insight. Tracks such as "Always Lie To Strangers," "I Am A Man That Worries," "Chasing Rainbows" and "Gone So Soon" capture the spirit of the album's arc. All tracks on the disc are adorned with traditional Americana instrumentation that is a perfect counterpoint to Mellencamp's raspy baritone. Highlights include the lovely "Streets Of Galilee," genre-blending "Sweet Honey Brown" and driving "Lie To Me" along with several notable collaborations with Bruce Springsteen (the rootsy "Did You Say Such A Thing," affecting "A Life Full Of Rain" and poignant "Wasted Days"). Information: Mellencamp.com.