Hardin Burns – Down The Deep Well

Hardin Burns – Down The Deep Well
Ithaca Records – 5578
The sophomore effort from Andrew Hardin and Jeannie Burns is undeniably infectious with that kind of feel good vibe that you can close your eyes, nod your head and smile to while listening. Delectable vocal harmonies blending Andrew’s subtle mid-Texas twang and Jeannie’s Hudson Valley psychedelic blues lilt to wonderful effect. Even the snappier tunes have this sort of mellow flow to them that really entices you especially in songs like the title track and “Blooming.” “Gentle Rain” has an atmospheric ambiance that is intoxicating where Jeannie really showcases both range and vocal control with breathless fervor. “The Call” weaves a subtly haunting rhythm and deep-rooted country flavors with just the right touch of hookiness. Lyrically, these songs can’t come from anywhere except the heart, inviting the listener to experience the emotions running from inspirational happiness to soul-bearing introspection. Check out “Walking On A Wire” and I dare you not to be seriously touched by the words. Very down to earth music produced with some serious talent both in the writing and musical creative avenues. – MW


Derek Thomas & Skyline Drive – Beyond The Trestles

Derek Thomas & Skyline Drive – Beyond The Trestles
Soul Water Records
Sometimes when you hear a CD, you can imagine the cold calculated digital studio where the music was created. Not sure if that is where the debut by Derek Thomas & Skyline Drive was recorded or not, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like old beat up guitars, dusty amps, analog tape recorders, tattered couches, and braided rugs. It just has that plug-and-play feel; subtly rough with echoing and grit, brimming with heart-felt life! Think of some of Crazy Horse’s early works with more melodic vocal work ala Townes Van Zandt and you get a good idea, particularly in sparkling tracks like “Honey Whiskey” or “Midnight Lady.” There are many mellow tunes here from the painful croons of “Roll On” or “God Isn’t Watching” to the soaring, bare-bones blues of “Broken Angel.” showcasing the incredible emotive depth of Derek’s vocal works. Derek, who was more known for his psychedelic punk act 60 Watt Kidd, also displays a knack for writing songs with poignant, sometimes heart-wrenching lyrics, and fueling them with music that is non-pretentious but thoughtful enough to really grab you as well. This is flat out some really good music – pure, simple…really good music. Sometimes that is enough and it is more than enough here. – MW


Reanimation – Under The Last Tree on Earth

Reanimation – Under The Last Tree on Earth
Michael Shanahan is unafraid of taking chances with the music he creates. The life-brimming soundscapes of his project Reanimation weave diverse stylings of prog rock, new age, industrial and subtleties of other genres into a heady musical stew that can make you alternately bang your head in time to it, or just sit back and enjoy the effort that went into its creation. This is the product of intelligent talents, pushing the envelope until it opens up and unleashes a vibrant palette both beautiful and pulsing with hypnotic vibrance. “Dead Heart Souvenir” launches the music with a subtly seething groove prove to intense sonic ejaculations. “Surprise Hitchhiker” is like Bowie hanging out with Radiohead at a Prodigy concert. “Growing With The Growing Light” makes one think that somewhere their may gave been a punk rocker in the woodpile. Yes, this is intelligent, but it also has the right doses of the bizarre, flavored further with the fact that there is excellent musicianship throughout, and in just the right doses and the right places. Great music for those who want something that is out of the ordinary, but still rocks and created with great passion. – MW


Hurricane Ruth – Born on the River

Hurricane Ruth – Born on the River
While we are on the subject of the blues, it is not just the guys who are keeping the genre rolling. Ruth LeMaster was born and raised on a much smaller river then the mighty Mississippi; the Illinois River, but if she lived the blues there she found a way to deal with it. She shouts at it, snarls at it, rips it to shreds. Her fiery pipes nail you from the first notes of the title track as she keeps the pedal to floor from start to finish. Despite the pure power of her vocals, she adds a nice melodic edge to it, conveying her feelings with honesty. “The Walls” for example is a mellower ballad with her voice taking a bit of a nod to the direction of Janis, tearing into her own soul so she can drive the words into yours. “Dance, Dance, Norma Jean” then rips it up with a full-on barrelhouse rocker that weaves in pieces of ZZ Top’s “LaGrange” and pays tribute to several more blues luminaries. Backed by a seriously rocking power trio, this is blues and as loud, hot, sweaty, and ballsy as anything the guys are doing these days. If Ruth truly a “Hurricane”, trust me, she’s a Cat 5! – MW


Grady Champion – Bootleg Whiskey

Grady Champion – Bootleg Whiskey
Malaco Records – MCD 7546
New blues is a gutsy genre to tackle these days as the cynics will say it has all been done before. Don’t bother telling Grady Champion that. Raised deep in the belly of Delta blues territory in Canton, MS, Grady has already been stirring up crowds from Chicago to NOLA, and “Bootleg Whiskey” is a great exclamation point as to why. Although some songs such as the rollicking first track “Beg, Borrow or Steal” have a sort of happy feel, you can tell he definitely lives and feels the blues. Some of the songs have a bit of jazzier instrumentation to them bordering on Motown, but when Grady cuts loose on down and dirty shuffles like “Don’t Waste My Time” and “Who Dat” it can send shivers down your spine. He definitely has a more versatile voice than some blues-smiths, throttling back with an easy groove at times, and then belting out the pain as in “Ten Dollars.” The players who back him are all excellent and Grady also showcases his prodigious chops on the harmonica. Grady and some other contemporaries prove that not only is blues music far from dead, it is alive and smokin’! – MW


Hillary Scott – Freight Train Love

Hillary Scott – Freight Train Love
Belltown Records
Crossover acts are finding more of a niche these days and Hillary Scott’s particular niche is starting to awaken more people up to her talent. Her latest CD does fit in the Americana genre to a certain extent as a heartfelt country fueled twang is apparent in several tracks. There is also a pop/R&B sensibility that takes some tunes on a subtly different tack adding a lively vibe to the vocal honesty. The crisp hookiness of the title track – the romping boogie of “Get Your Love” and heartbreaking emotive blues-with-a-bite “Losing You” – gives you an idea of Hillary’s talent to weave the slight variance of styles into very solid, enjoyable songs. Her voice is the strongest glue that does this – a breathless croon that has a soulful quality with both range and control that helps you feel the straight-from-the-heart lyrics. It doesn’t hurt at all either that her back-up band for the album includes session players who have worked with the likes of Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Linda Rondstadt, and Bonnie Raitt, among many others. Still, Hillary’s talents are what make this a very pleasant musical repast that should keep her on track to wider spread notoriety. – MW


New American Farmers – The Farmacology Sessions

New American Farmers – The Farmacology Sessions
Big Barncat Records – BBR-002
With a name like New American Farmers, some may get pre-conceptions about what they sound like. While there are some vestiges of “traditional” Americana in this music created by songwriters Paul Knowles and Nicole Storto, there is so much more, wonderfully twisted into vibrant music. If you want to expand Americana to include all of the music created here, you have touches of 60’s San Francisco psychedelia, college town alt with Midwest dirt and grit to go along with the folk and blues influences. From the slow luscious groove of “The Garden” to the crackling rock of “Aiming For the Daylight” and the wonderful bare bones duet on the cover of Hank’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” the songwriting sensibility is often stunning here. Combined with talented guest musicians and dusky vocals, you have a sophomore effort that is both captivating and simply honest music. – MW



Kirby Sewell Band – Girl With a New Tattoo

Kirby Sewell Band – Girl With a New Tattoo
Smelly Cat Records – SCR 003
Calgary is somewhat like the Dallas of Canada music wise; a windswept meeting of dusty rural country and urban back alley blues. Native son Kirby Sewell’s music sensibility channels the subtleties of that particular musical maelstrom, and he drives it with a rocking, R&B tinged power. power. “The Devil’s in the Details” launches the disc with a grumbling, gritty boogie. “Stop And Go” drives a funky groove with graced with snarling slide guitar work. “Till The River Starts To Overflow” is like being at a twisted revival with snappy folk edged rhythms and soul bearing lyrics. Kirby has this vocal power that seems steeped in old time blues, blending the pain he feels with the joy of the release of singing about it in a whiskey gargled, smoke tinged yet melodic power croon. The songs are well written and with thoughtful, story-telling lyrics, and are executed to perfection by Kirby and his top notch band. With this being their third release more people should start awaking to this talented act from the great white north. – MW


Missy Andersen – In The Moment

Missy Andersen – In The Moment
Main Squeeze Records – MS 1202
Born in Motown and now living in San Diego, Missy Andersen is unabashed in bringing back the good old times of soul, jazz and blues. With her talents, she should have not the slightest regret in doing music her way. She has one of those smoky, intensely passionate crooning voices that you cannot help but think “this is going to be a REAL party” the second you hear the snappy juke-joint shuffle of “Rent Party.” “Night Stalker” has this gritty, secret agent film feel; slightly dangerous and extremely potent both vocally and musically. “More Than Enough” shows that Missy can handle more balladic songs with both grace and seething emotion. “Same Things Make You Laugh” harkens to the days of Otis Redding or Wilson Picket with a funky groove, tasty licks and soul-grasping vocals. Missy has only been recording since 2009, but it is obvious her heart lies with music made 5 decades previously. For anyone who is nostalgic for music of that era and wants to hear someone who can create music now that sounds just as good as some of the best of that era, you need to seriously get “In The Moment.” – MW


Danielle Woodrow – Turning

Danielle Woodrow – Turning
Seems like there have been more Hollywood personalities doing music projects lately who have actually shown a knack for creating great music, not merely doing it as a novelty. Danielle Woodrow proves that the often not famous people behind the scenes can have musical talent as well. The Senior VP of Original Programming a FX Networks keeps it simple for her first effort – just her voice and an acoustic guitar – and it works to wonderful effect. Right out of the gate she shows very good vocal control, unleashing fervent emotion when necessary and knowing when to reign it in when her words are thoughtful enough to not need the extra push. You can hear this sly diversity in songs like the uplifting “Leap of Faith,” the heart rending “The Grip”, and soul bearing “Wanna Go Back.” Danielle is unafraid here of letting the listener into her deepest thoughts and feelings and fuels the words with enough musical idiosyncrasies to further catch your attention. I’m not going to be cliche and tell Danielle to quit her day job because it sounds like she has a pretty good one. But if she enjoys foraying into creating music, then she should do that whenever she has the chance because if “Turning” is any indication, others will enjoy her foray as well. – MW