Che Apalache “Rearrange My Heart” (Free Dirt Records, 2019)

“Now, you and I can sing a song / and we can build a congregation / but only when we take a stand / will we change our broken nation.” Those lyrics are lifted from ‘The Dreamer,’ the first single from ‘Rearrange My Heart,’ the new album from Americana/Latingrass/folk group Che Apalache. ‘The Dreamer’ chronicles the life of Moises Serrano, a DACA Dreamer born in Mexico and raised in North Carolina, also the home state of Che Apalache frontman, Joe Troop. Troop worked on the song with Serrano (who is also the subject of a documentary, ‘Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America’), and it’s the centrepiece of a powerful and diverse album that musically touches on everything from bluegrass, Americana, and folk, to Latin, jazz, swing, even rural Japanese melodies. Continue reading “Che Apalache “Rearrange My Heart” (Free Dirt Records, 2019)”

Pat Dam Smyth “The Last King” (Quiet Arch, 2019)

‘What the hell is going on?’ Pat Dam Smyth asks at the beginning of ‘Kids,’ the track that kicks off ‘The Last King,’ Smyth’s follow-up to his 2012 debut, ‘The Great Divide.’ What’s going on is the sound of someone with a serious Pink Floyd fetish (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The droning synths that open the album point the way toward an atmospheric journey of moody, classic pop that keeps a foot in the present while acknowledging the past. Continue reading “Pat Dam Smyth “The Last King” (Quiet Arch, 2019)”

Jack Cade “Bear Bones” (Collision, 2019)

Jack Cade will never be accused of having a golden throat. Imagine Kris Kristofferson in a heated argument with Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, and Johnny Cash. If it helps, or just for fun, picture the gigantic yellow bear head that graces the cover of his second solo album, ‘Bear Bones,’ as the singer of the songs within. Once you get it, though, you’ll be glad you stuck around, because ‘Bear Bones’ is one captivating listen. Continue reading “Jack Cade “Bear Bones” (Collision, 2019)”

Bruce Springsteen “Western Stars” (Columbia, 2019)

The lone traveler sticks out his thumb and his journey begins. Across the country he hitch-hikes, catching rides from family men, truck drivers, muscle car owners and the like, listening to their stories and situations as he moves from town to town. So begins ‘Western Stars,’ the most densely cinematic Bruce Springsteen album since ‘The Rising.’ Continue reading “Bruce Springsteen “Western Stars” (Columbia, 2019)”

Owen-Glass “The Rope & The Rabbit” (August Eckler Media, 2019)

One of the best albums of the first half of 2019, Owen-Glass’s ‘The Rope & The Rabbit’ keeps on giving; each song is better than the last.  Delicious, hushed harmonies hover above folk-pop arrangements that stay consistent in mood throughout.  The result is a mesmerizing, hazy mix of lazy, jazzy-funk dreamscapes filtered through an East Texas awareness of gospel, blues, country, and soul.  Imagine members of the War on Drugs jamming with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on some 13th Floor Elevators deep tracks. Continue reading “Owen-Glass “The Rope & The Rabbit” (August Eckler Media, 2019)”

True Strays “Homeward Bound” EP (Fieldview Records, 2019)

There’s no doubt True Strays can rock out.  The drums pound.  The cymbals crash.  The guitars crunch and slide and the bass bellows below it all.  Their latest EP, ‘Homeward Bound’ kicks off with the hard rock stomp of ‘Homesick Blues,’ characterized in the press materials as a song for “the wandering, zero hours contract, minimum wage wayfarer with no home to call their own.”  Continue reading “True Strays “Homeward Bound” EP (Fieldview Records, 2019)”

Roswell “Remedy” (Independent, 2019)

Jasmine Watkiss and Zoe Wren are Roswell, a folk duo whose voices combine to create a seamless flow of rich, harmonic beauty. Their debut EP, ‘Remedy,’ highlights those harmonies, sounding as telepathic as siblings who actually get along. As intricate and seamless as their voices are together, it’s even more astonishing to realize they’ve only been at this since early 2018, when Wren, a self-described “London Underground Busker” teamed up with Watkiss and started getting booked at various festivals, eventually winning the 2018 Purbeck Rising Award from the Purbeck Valley Folk Fest. Continue reading “Roswell “Remedy” (Independent, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – New Grass Revival

If Americana is an umbrella term for all roots-based American music – bluegrass, blues, country, folk, jazz, rock, and soul (which is how I define it, anyway) – then you’d be hard-pressed to find another group more worthy of the Americana label than New Grass Revival. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – New Grass Revival”

The Maureens “Something in the Air” (Meritorio Records, 2019)

The Maureens’ third album, ‘Something in the Air,’ sharpens this four-piece from Utrecht, the Netherlands’ obsession with jangle-pop to a fine sepia-toned point.  Guitars ring, vocals tightly meld, choruses stick to the ears like aural confections.  The vocal harmonies of guitarist Hendrik-Jan de Wolff and bassist Wouter Zijlstra evoke both the seamless sibling connection of the Everly Brothers as well as the more playful stylings of the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan-Mark Volman variety. Continue reading “The Maureens “Something in the Air” (Meritorio Records, 2019)”

Boo Ray “Tennessee Alabama Fireworks” (Soundly Music, 2019)

There’s a wide billboard on the side of interstate 24 headed westbound pointing the way to Tennessee Alabama Fireworks in Marion County, TN.  That’s a thing in the southeastern United States:  big fireworks’ stands, truck stops, motor inns, convenience stores, gift shops – practically little towns – resting on or near the borders between states.  (The one on I-95 at the North and South Carolina border is famously known as “South of the Border” and displays a giant sombrero-wearing mascot named “Pedro,” with billboards along the way that read “Pedro says ‘chili today, hot tamale!’” But I digress…)  Continue reading “Boo Ray “Tennessee Alabama Fireworks” (Soundly Music, 2019)”