Nocona – Long Gone Song

Nocona – Long Gone Song
Henrietta Records
Americana continues to make a comeback and L.A.’s Nocona is not merely riding the waves – they are making their own. They prefer a more energetic, powerful version like a blend of Jason & the Scorchers and The Paladins, snarling with electricity. The title track blasts the CD into orbit with a frenetic subtly punkabilly romp that allows all the players to let loose with their prodigious chops. “Toothless Junkie” is a gritty east Texas blues rocker that hits with the power of an Abrams tank. “All The Victories of the World” shows their adeptness at more balladic songs that are no less powerful. “Knives and Cologne” brings a bit more of an alt folk edge with ethereal touches. Along with their knack for creating songs that musically stand up to any American act out there these days, their lyrics are thought provoking, often intense stories that can be darkly humorous at times. Being only their second release I can guess others have not yet heard of this band, I heartily endorse checking them out as they will definitely wake up your musical tastebuds.  – MW


Leaders in the Clubhouse – Won

Leaders in the Clubhouse – Won
The debut from this San Diego based indie act shows influences from 70’s bands melded with a modern songwriting sensibility that creates music with a really cool retro vibe. With tendrils reaching back to bands like Queen, Styx and ELO, the pop hooks are fused with a subtle edginess and tongue-in-cheek, occasionally cynical and topical approaches to lyric writing. Check out songs like “Hater” and “Law of the Jungle” and you get a good glimpse into what they are about. They also interject a deft touch of strangeness, wonderfully present in songs like “21/8 Bar Song” and “She Gets Loud.” There is very solid musicianship throughout the CD, too, including flavorful keyboard work and the occasional addition of a horn section. With this first effort, this band obviously has the passion to take their influences and do something a bit different with them while trying to drive home messages with their words. Definitely a band to watch out for.  – MW


Mitch Mann – Blackwater Creek

Mitch Mann – Blackwater Creek
Crazy Chester Records – CCR-001
If you think blues rock has to be electric, than veteran Alabama singer/songwriter/guitarist Mitch Mann will blow that preconceived notion out of the water with this release. Opting to use acoustic guitars and a more organic rhythm section, the result is music that is intoxicating, toe-tapping, and lets you really get deep into the talents that went into its creation. Right off the bat when they kick into the Dead-popularized classic “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad”, you can feel this is going to be one fun journey. “Baby Don’t Forget” follows with a haunting but snappy groove showcasing that Mitch is more than capable of writing music with sly edginess that still retains some deep, muddy roots. The ballad “St Louis Blues” allows Mitch to unleash his vocal pyrotechnics, uniquely backed by some gritty trombone work. “Hold On While You Got Her” is a hooky folk number that is highly infectious. Sprinkled with the right amount of instrumentation by top-notch players including the delectable harp work of Jimmy Hall, this must just has such great grooves that you cannot help but groove right along with it. – MW


Claire Holley – Time in the Middle

Claire Holley – Time in the Middle
The lead track from L.A. via Mississippi singer-songwriter Claire Holley seems sort of typical for the genre, well done but not ground-breaking, which may seem a bit surprising for someone with seven albums out. Do not despair because as you delve further you can tell this lady’s talents go much deeper and she has something special going. Ethereal and organic, comforting yet provocative, the music can caress your soul before suddenly snaring it with tempered but heartfelt emotion. Listen to standout tracks like “Traveling Saints,” “Heat of July” and “Love in a Bowl” and you can get a real feel for what Claire is capable of with both her songwriting intricacies and excellent vocal range both in timbre and emotive conveyance. The title track is perhaps the most purely touching song on the disc. Bare bones, atmospheric, and with such rich vocal fervency that you won’t want to do anything but sit and listen. And keep listening as the next track “Bone” has a pulsing grittiness that is stunning. With so many singer-songwriters sounding the same these days, I am quite glad I went past the somewhat generic but still good lead track here, because there is so much excellent, ear-opening music following that I am now wanting to hear more from this highly talented lady.  – MW


CD Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Louie Ludwig with the Moss Pickers – Elevation 13
ZZI Music – zzi 042115
A south Louisiana boy cranks up some serious Appalachian roots music. Bluegrass, folk, and country is melded in a pure organic fashion with wonderful musicianship. The lyrics are heartfelt and occasionally slyly humorous, perfectly portrayed by Louie’s rich, emotive vocal timbre. A great storyteller with excellent music backing him, this is modern-infused, old-timey music at its finest.

Jim Singleton – 8 O’Clock in the Afternoon
Blues guitar/vocal wiz Jim Singleton pays a high octane homage to his influences with this collection of seven covers and three originals. Reminiscent of Cactus in how he cranks up the smoky power in covering tracks by artists as diverse as Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Whitesnake, and Chris Isaak. The covers are infused with his own personality and his originals showcase that he is adept at writing as well.

Soul Suga’ & Diane Durrett
Veteran vocalist Diane Durrett will absolutely knock you out with this wonderful effort. Soulful, bluesy, sassy and sultry, she has one of those voices that could enthrall you acapella. The music is made even more delectable by the contributions of the cream of the crop of musicians from Diane’s native Georgia. The songwriting is comfortingly familiar, but also just edgy enough to really catch your ears, ranging from mellower grooves to wild romps. This disc purely sizzles.

Mississippi Fever – 300 Miles to Memphis
This St. Louis blues-rock trio has immense shoes to fill if you think of the greats like Johnny Winter and Jeff Healey who have passed recently. They make a beyond noble effort to accomplish that with this fiery effort. This is music that feels electrified even when the song may be mellow, bone-crunching rhythms, wicked guitar licks and throaty vocals. With a solid mix of originals and a few choice covers, these guys really put the “power” into power trio.

Hyperbubble – Dee Dee Rocks the Galaxy
Pure Pop For Now People – FOR06
Mind-bending Texas-based electropop duo Hyperbubble have once again produced a mosaic of often innovative, often wild and genre defying music that feels like something from some distant galaxy. They can go from frenetic cyber intensity to darkly humorous space blues to prog influenced bombast at the drop of a synth key. Sure, this may not be for everyone but a lot of talent and deep thought goes into the music, so if you really want to stretch your musical mind, check them out.

Michael Oosten – Jump In
Way Gone Music – WG1006
Madison, Wisconsin singer/songwriter Michael Oosten has been around a long time, and has not lost a nanogram of his passion or talents. Seemingly having a soul in the Dylan school but unafraid to not just open the envelope but to kick it open, Michael gifts us with styles ranging from folk and barrelhouse blues to reggae, from jazz to Celtic. His lyrics are stories that will enthrall, make you cry, laugh and sometimes nod in agreement. An extremely pure songwriter with a talent pool for innovation as big as lake Michigan

Matt Lax and Nearly Beloved – This House is Mine
Attaboy Records – #4
From northern California, Matt Lax is a singer-songwriter sort of a mix of James Taylor and Jim Croce. Comforting vocal timbre that can subtly convey emotions, while telling stores that are simple but thought-provoking and straight from the heart. The music is beautifully organic with folk, country and bluegrass touches, and just the right intricate flourishes to give delicious spice. Very ear-catching music where you can really feel the stories that he is telling.

Slamm Allen – Feel These Blues
American Showplace Music
It is the name of his CD, and then he backs it up and then some throughout the dozen tracks. Honing his chops as the frontman for legendary James Cotton, Slamm Allen takes the standard blues songs and lights a conflagration under them. He is just one of those players whose guitar solo work never gets old, and has a voice that guarantees you that, well, you see the CD title. He makes sure that the listeners feel it, too, and even if it is the blues, it sure feels great!

Joe Newtz – Crossing Over
Pennsylvania singer-songwriter seems to have a lot of diverse musical influences and he manages to fuse them into a signature sound. This speaks well for his songwriting talent as you can hear influences ranging from Gregg Allman to Pearl Jam, from Chris Isaak to R.E.M. The music tends towards rock with side excursions to folk and showcases a love for making music which translates into well-crafted and very enjoyable music.

Chris Norwood – Year of the Bear
Dallas singer/songwriter Chris Norwood is an indie folk rock artist with a knack for writing songs that are both hooky, catchy, and thought provoking. He is one I would call a pure songwriter in that he comes up with heartfelt, but also brash and topical stories, and finds just the right musical ways to convey them to the listener. With enough interesting folksy twist and turns and some excellent back up musicians, this guy will catch your ears, snag your soul and touch your heart simultaneously.

John Ginty – No Filter
American Showplace Music
Veteran touring organist John Ginty has now created his own music, and absolutely kills it on this disc. Weaving blues, jazz, funk and other styles, John proves to have a smoky, soulful voice to complement his wonderful keyboard work. He also is an adept songwriter and knows how to take comforting tried-and-true styles and turn them into something special. Not just for organ fans, but anyone who loves good blistering bluesy songs with an edge, this is also for you.

Slackjaw – It’s Always Something
New Jersey has been known as a breeding ground for great music, and this power blues-rock trio is keeping that tradition up, with a loud electrified exclamation point. Smoking blues of the type you would think would come out of Chicago or Memphis, these guys none the less fill this CD to the brim with blistering guitar licks, potent rhythm grooves and gritty vocals. With moderns twists to the usual lyrical themes, this is the type of blues you can rock out to…hard, and get into their stories as well.