- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Eric Clapton

“I Still Do” (rel. May 26)

Bushbranch Records/Surfdog Records

Once again, the English ax-slinger goes back to the roots of rock on this, his latest album for Bushbranch Records/Surfdog Records. Mr. Clapton goes full-on blues master on the opening track, “Alabama Woman Blues.” Some of the ensuing tracks are a tad less than inspiring, but then “Spiral” kicks in to bring the energy back up, followed soon thereafter by the mournful “Cypress Grove.” “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day” takes the tempo down but keeps the vivre up, with Mr. Clapton reminiscing in song about the past in a tune that recalls to mind his earlier “My Father’s Eyes.” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” switches gears from blues to an almost bluegrass/gospel hybrid, while “I’ll Be Alright” is a delightfully mournful ode to the pain of moving on. “I”ll be Seeing You” is a quiet goodbye track.

For my money, “Alabama Woman Blues” is both the highlight and the strongest cut, and the album never again quite attains that glory, but Mr. Clapton shows throughout that he remains a master of the form.

 

Haroula Rose

“Here the Blue River”

Little Bliss

The angelic-voiced Haroula Rose invites listeners to contemplate and lose themselves in reverie on the new disc “Here the Blue River.” “Songbird” and “Margo” are devastatingly touching openers. “Grass Stains” is a lovely meditation on memory and how the past informs the present. “Walk Away” is a heartfelt entreaty to an uncertain lover to give it a chance, while “Sirens” dives deep into heartfelt pain. “This Old House” takes the notion of one’s home coming undone as a metaphor for the entropy of life.

 

AMERICAN HI-FI

“American Hi-Fi Acoustic”

Rude Records

For something a little different, we recommend American Hi-Fi’s going back to the well to rerecord their self-titled debut from 2001. On this completely new take on old material, a kind of country/rock hybrid focuses on good times and upbeat tunes. “Surround” and “Flavor of the Week” are two toe-tapping tunes that start the disc off right, while “A Bigger Mood” and “Safer on the Outside” take a more introspective turn. “Hi-Fi Killer” bears the mark of Weezer and Morrissey, while “My Own Enemy” makes war and hatred sound bizarrely beautiful. “Scar” goes for the fiendishly lovely. “What About Today” is a push to grab life by the horns near the album’s end.

 

Rene Marie

“Sound of Red” (rel. May 13)

Motema

The Grammy-nominated pride of Virginia gets jazzy yet again on this new disc for Motema that is as soulful as they come. The titular track kicks off the disc with a bluesy callback to the Jazz Age. “Go Home” is a langourous, beautiful tune about moving on and healing, while “Certaldo” is a sexy dirge about the enraptures and traps of falling in love. “Colorado River Song” makes whitewater rafting somehow chill, while “Many Years Ago” makes hurt feel so good.

Miss Marie will celebrate the release of her album with two performances at Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel, Maryland, May 13 and 14.

 

Albert Castiglia

“Big Dog” (rel. May 20)

Ruf Records

The Florida bluesman releases his second disc for Ruf Records, appropriately enough, entitled “Big Dog.” Mr. Castiglia kicks off the album with “Let The Big Dog Eat,” which is a thrashing, upbeat blues ode, followed by a killer guitar solo amid the joy of “Don’t Let Them Fool YA.” “Drowning at the Bottom” is about as delightfully mournful as a blues tune can possibly be. The album sags a bit in the center before bouncing back with “Where Did I Go Wrong,” which combines a dirge of a harmonica melody with a classic blues chord structure, followed by “Down Where the Devil Makes His Deals,” a shout-out to the Southern latitudes from which the blues itself sprang. “Somehow” is a somewhat-lengthy look at the future of possibilites.

Mr. Castiglia will peform at JV’s in Falls Church, Virginia, June 5.

 

Gurf Morlix

“Eatin’ at Me”

Rootball

Yes, his name is unusual, but Gurf Morlix, Lucinda Williams’ guitarist, takes outlaw country for a new spin on “Eatin’ at Me.” “Grab the Wheel” is a painfully urgent call to take life by the horns. “Orphan Tears” will tear at your soul from Mr. Morlix’s musical depths, while “50 Years” is a meditation on aging and what becomes of friends and loved ones over time. “Dinah” is a blues-country meld that is toe-tappingly spiritful. “Born in Lackawanna” switches gears yet again, with an upbeat swagger. “Blue Smoke” is a dirgeful final number in which the narrator declares what he will stand — or not — in future relationships.

Mr. Morlix will be performing at Hill Country BBQ May 14. Tickets are $12 to $20 by going to Ticketfly.com.

 

Michaela Anne

“Bright Lights and the Fame” (rel. May 13)

Kingswood Records

Michaela Anne delivers an album of versatile style on this disc for Kingswood. “If Only” is a country-tastic love song about yearning and trying harder. “Everything I Couldn’t Be” aches with a love lost to another, while “Won’t Go Down” is an uptempo country crooner. “Worrying Mind” takes on the psychological echo chamber, challenging the listener to catch those nagging doubts in your head that tell you things are bad when maybe they aren’t. “Easier Than Leaving” goes upon the same mind track as “Worrying Mind,” with the narrator weighing the pros and cons of a damaged relationship. “Liquor Up” celebrates going out for a good time in unapologetic style.

Truly a talent to watch.

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