Here’s ten more quick reviews of new music worth your time.
Beth McKee — Dreamwood Acres
This lovely clutch of original songs features the sultry, soulful vocals of McKee, and the rich instrumentation is built around McKee’s classic electric piano (Wurlitzer, Rhodes), which she plays in a straightforward, non-fussy manner. Imagine Bonnie Raitt playing keys and writing with Paul Simon. The album has a live-in-the-studio vibe.
The Lucky Losers — Blind Spot
Nominally, the Lucky Losers is/are vocalists Phil Berkowitz and Cathy Lemons. This duo’s interplay on this good-timing blues album reminds me of Louis Prima with Keely Smith. Guitarist Kid Andersen provides instrumental support. The eleven songs here—all original compositions—are nicely varied, a quality often in short supply on blues records.
The Jamie Saft Quartet — Blue Dream
The “dream” in the title is an apt descriptor: meditative instrumental jazz that alternately soothes and challenges, this set of twelve tunes features pianist Saft backed by sax, upright bass and drums. There’s a delightfully timeless feel here, neither modern nor retro. Only occasionally do things get a bit avant-garde.
Donovan’s Brain — Convolutions of the Brain
Three discs is a lot of Donovan’s Brain, but these guys know how to write catchy, rocking tunes. This is a odds-and-sods collection of tunes recorded all over and across a quarter century, so the audio quality varies. But if you dig ‘em like I do, you’ll appreciate this set.
Belle and Sebastian — How to Solve Our Human Problems
Between 2017 and this year, Glaswegian popsters Belle and Sebastian released a trio of EPs. This CD brings them all together. The EPs seemed to serve as an opportunity to explore different styles, but all of those excursions have the group’s patented personality as their central character. A true delight.
Gin Blossoms — Mixed Reality
Seeing the Gins live, I was reminded of the sheer consistent quality of their music. But I wondered if that standard would be upheld with new music, whenever it arrived. I needn’t have worried: Mixed Reality is as memorable and melodic as anything on New Miserable Experience. Buy this album.
Sugar Brown — It’s a Blues World…Calling All Blues!
Brown was a finalist in the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis; this new collection has the slightly overdriven sonic feel of great jump blues recordings of old. In fact there’s nothing abut it that suggests the 21st century. And that’s exactly how it should be. High energy fun abounds.
Super 8 — Turn Around Or…
Wait: didn’t I just review something by this artist the other day? Yes indeed, I did. But let’s not hold his prolific nature against songwriter Paul Ryan. There’s a loose-limed jug band feel to these friendly rock-pop tunes. It sounds like demo recordings, but the song quality still shines through.
Dialeto — Live with David Cross
Dialeto’s most recent album found them interpreting Bela Bartók’s work through a prog mindset, and it worked. This live set captures the band on tour in support of that project, joined by former King Crimson violinist David Cross. As such, Crim tunes abound. And they’re all quite amazing. Highly recommended.
Sunshine Boys — Blue Music
Three veterans of Chicago power pop and/or indie bands come together for this project. It very much feels like the American Midwest, with hints of Urge Overkill, Trip Shakespeare and Cheap Trick. The catchy tunes stick in the listener’s head, with just the right amount of rocking vibe. A must-hear.