- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

You couldn’t know it by this unseasonable heat, but autumn is here, and what better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than with some new CDs (remember those?) that will take your mind off of this insane election.

Here are some new albums from artists longstanding and just starting out I recommend for your listening pleasure:

 

Eric Clapton

“Live in San Diego (With Special Guest JJ Cale)”

Reprise Records

The guitar master joined forces with the late JJ Cale for a one-night event in San Diego in 2007, and Reprise has done a master’s job at paring down an entire evening of music into two discs. Disc 1 shines especially with a killer guitar solo from Mr. Clapton on “Little Wing,” and then Cale joins Mr. Clapton for a stirring duet on the latter’s seminal “After Midnight,” and “Don’t Cry Sister” is a fabulous first-disc closer.

Disc 2’s winner is “Little Queen of Spaces,” a nearly 18-minute blues riff featuring Mr. Clapton absolutely shredding his ax and modulating his vocals on a track of pure bluesy bliss, followed immediately by the toe-tapping “Further on up the Road.”

 

Heart

“Beautiful Broken”

Concord Records

The Wilson sisters are back, and not a moment too soon, as the Seattle sisterhood unleashes a 21st century, heavy metal-influenced disc of rock unlike anything they’ve done before. The opening title track features Nancy Wilson’s thrashing guitar behind sister Ann’s still-stellar vocals on a track that is heavier than anything you might expect from sisterhood. “Two” is a country-influenced love song that is unlike anything the band has done before, while “Heaven” is an impassioned ode to love and strength. “City’s Burning” sounds like it almost belongs in a mid-‘90s angsty band’s oeuvre, with “Down on Me” a blues-esque mourn that is among the most intriguing songs the band had unleashed in many years. “One Word” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Dog and Butterfly,” with album-closer “Language of Love” a soothing way to go out.

 

Meat Loaf

“Braver Than We Are”

Savoy

Let the carnival begin! Meat Loaf re-teams with Jim Steinman of “Bat Out of Hell” fame for this new album that unleashes the singer’s impishness combined with his collaborator’s artistic mastery on “Braver Than We Are.”

The opener, “Who Needs the Young,” is a bit of a headscratcher, followed by the lengthy “Going All the Way.” “Speaking in Tongues” is where the album truly begins to take flight, with “Souvenirs” a gospel-inflected look at what’s left behind you. “More” gives the album a much-needed pick-me-up. Album-capper “Skull of Your Country” even has a callback to “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” for whatever reason.

Songwriting is solid, particularly on “Going All the Way,” but it must be said that Meat Loaf’s vocals have tempered a bit with age. It’s a far cry from his greatest works, but it’s still good to see the Loaf and Mr. Steinman back in the motorcycle saddle again.

 

Kings of Leon

“WALLS”

RCA

The fellas who made such a splash with “Only by the Night” in 2008 are back with a rocking disc for RCA. “Waste a Moment” and “Around the World” are fun early tracks, and “Find Me” is a good-time, uptempo song that may in fact be the album’s best. “Over” is a fine tune about dying love, and “Eyes on You” bears the stamp of some of their earlier work. “Wild” will make you want to go on a long road trip ASAP, and the title song proves that “Sex on Fire” was no flash in the pan.

 

Colbie Caillait

“The Malibu Sessions”

Plummylou Records

The songstress returns with an album of music inspired by the legendary California city on the ocean.

“Goldmine” features a dulcet ukelele on lead, with following track “Cruisin’” featuring Miss Caillait’s clear vocals moving the action along. “Runnin’” and “Never Got Away” are standout tracks later on the album, with “In Love Again” and “Now” decent closers — and “Now” even features the sounds of the Pacific as its parting aural stimulant.

The album is a bit spotty, but “The Malibu Sessions” is proof that Miss Caillait continues to spin some of the best yarns in contemporary music.

Miss Caillait will appear at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Oct. 30. with Justin Young and High Dive Heart.

 

Gary Rossington

“Take It On Faith” (rel. Nov. 4)

Loud & Proud Records

Lynyrd Skynyrd founding member Gary Rossington goes full-on blues in this solo CD. “I Should Have Known” is a master’s class in blues-ology, and “Light a Candle” is another really happening gospel track written with care and love. The kicking “Shame on Me” and “Good Side of Good” infuse new passion into the blues with skill and verve. “Something Fishy” features a killer harmonica part behind the toe-tapping excellence of the song, followed by the piano-driven stealth of “Too Many Rainy Days.”

This is the kind of rock that reminds us why we should still buy music (I’m talking at you, illegal downloaders!), for the passion Mr. Rossington imbues in his music is worthy not just of recognition, but just financial compensation as well.

 

2Ton Bridge

“2Ton Bridge”

Monkee Room Music

2Ton Bridge is an act I’ve been watching since their EP “2Songs” came out last year, and with their self-titled debut now hitting stores, Alexander Wright and his backup crew are coming into their own on this outlaw country disc for Monkee Room. Mr. Wright et al. echo the strains of Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings on “Waterman Town,” with “Take Your Hands Off My Land” reminiscent of the work of other Western-influenced acts like Alectro. “I’m a Hoot Owl” deals in strange subject matter but tender melodies, opening wide on a sonic landscape of timbre and imagery. “Post Hole Digger” is about as perfect a song to drink a beer while driving a truck across the desert (please note, such activity is illegal, and we are certainly not advocating you do this — but if you were, this is the song to do it by!) as has ever been recorded. “Parchman Prison Clay” would make both Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan proud, while “The Beast” anthropomorphizes the inner workings of a train in a way that is incredibly poetic, and then serves as a metaphor for the narrator’s personal demons. “Last Winter” is a surprisingly solemn meditation on choices made and not made. Album-closer “I Will Do My Last Singing” is the only track that is a bit of a clunker, as Mr. Wright performs solely with acoustic guitar on a minute-long dirge with somewhat spotty vocals.

However, this is a fine disc, and shows off Mr. Wright’s ample talents and songwriting mastery. Hopefully when he and his band hit the road, they will find acolytes wherever they trod.

 

Si Cranstoun

“Old School”

Ruf Records

A throwback disc that celebrates the music of yesteryear — just as its name implies — Si Cranstoun and his backup band provide neo-midcentury tunes that are as great for partying as they are for dancing. “Old School” is right out of a 1950s jukebox, and “Right Girl” is a love song worthy of the sock hop crowd. “Around Midnight” is a jazzy romp with a tickling piano underline, and keep an ear open for the celebratory “Skinny Jeans.” “Thames River” changes up the sound yet again for a bluesy English tune (hear it for yourself).

A talent to watch.

 

The Hunna

“100”

300 Entertainment / High Time Records

This debut disc from the British youngsters known as The Hunna is a rocking good time that has promise for the group’s future. “Bonfire” and “We Could Be” open the album with some rocking tunes, followed by the meditation of “She’s Casual.” “You & Me” is a spirited and unapologetic pitch for a desired lover, while “Piece by Piece” may be the most neo-‘80s song to come along in many a musical moon (and yes, that’s a compliment). “Never Enough” seems to be the only misfire on the album, as it’s far more bombast than musicality to this reviewer, and the album sags thereafter, but then “World Is Ours” provides a fine segue. “Coming Home” is a rocking tribute to philopatry (look it up!).

The blokes from the U.K. are touring the U.S. this fall, and will be coming to the District Nov. 15 at U Street Music Hall. Mark our words, you’ll want to keep your eyes and ears posted for this visit.

 

Civil Twilight

“Story of an Immigrant”

Wind-Up Records

“Oh Daniel” is a complex opening salvo, with “When, When” a toe-tapper to follow in the early songs. “Let It Go” is a delightfully dulcet ditty, and other cuts to keep your ears open for are “The Other Side” and “Love Was All That Mattered.”

 

Bumper Jacksons

“Too Big World”

Bumper Jacksons

A toe-tapping good time is had on this disc from District musicians Bumper Jacksons. “Coffee Mama” and “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” will make you feel like you’re back in the flapper skirt era, while “I’ve Got My Whiskey (I Don’t Need You)” is a bluegrass-heavy ode to the comforting warmth distilled liquids bring to the lovelorn. “I Learned I Was Wrong” and “Jubilee” lower the tempo a bit but not the talent of more Southern-inspired songs. “Bully of the Town” sounds like something out of the “SpongeBob” universe (and yes, I mean that lovingly).

It’s throwback music for the 21st century.

Bumper Jacksons will appear at The Barns at Wolf Trap Oct. 22. Tickets are $22 to $25 by going to WolfTrap.org

 

The Naked and Famous

“Simple Forms”

An upbeat record that is perfect for Zumba or rocking out at the club. Standouts include “Higher,” “My Energy,” “Last Forever” and “Laid Low.”

 

Dan Mangan

“Unmake”

“Whistleblower” opens the EP with a mournful tune about the burdens of making the right choices, followed by the dulcet cover “Hang With Me.” “Kitsch Redux” is a slow-moving, but no less hard-hitting, song that will leave you deep in thought. A talent to watch.

Mr. Mangan will be at the 9:30 Club Nov. 9. Tickets are $30 by going to Ticketfly.com

 

Sigean

“Lone Shanakyle”

The Celtic sounds of the Old Country are alive and well in America, and nowhere is that more true than in Appalachia, where Scottish and Irish immigrants played their ancestral music in a new land, and where it was refined and changed as it mixed with the “native” music of the American landscape. Sigean, from the Tri-Cities area of southwestern Virginia and northern Tennessee, goes back to the basics of Irish sounds with highlights like “Sporting Matty’s Set.” “Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife/In Memory of Father Angus” will conjure up images of misty fields to perhaps be enjoyed with a whiskey by your side, while “Sorry the Day I Was Married/The Atholl Highlander/Jig of Slurs” will have you dancing for joy. Slainte!

 

Whitetop Mountain Band

“Roads of Grayson County”

Roots music gets a countryfied boost with the Whitetop Mountain Band of the eponymous Grayson County spinning peppy tunes on their latest self-released disc. The titular track is a fine homage to their home areas, with “Whispering Winds” a thoroughly toe-tapping song that all but screams for you to get on the dance floor with thunder boots on. “Down in the Old Coal Mine” is a nostalgic look back at one of Appalachia’s greatest former industries, while “Corinna, Corinna” features wondrous harmonies from lead vocalist Martha Spencer and Debbie Bramer. Other standout tracks include “A Good Woman’s Love” and album-closer “Talkin’ Bout You,” which features a rousing fiddle solo in its closing moments.

Recently featured at the Carter Family Fold in Virginia, Whitetop Mountain Band will continue to entertain country aficionados for some time.

 

Big Head Blues Club

“Way Down Inside”

Big Records

Big Head Todd & The Monsters founder Todd Park Mohr gets bluesy on his side project, Big Head Blues Club, with second-generation blues greats Mud Morganfield, Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks for “Way Down Inside,” a tribute to bluesman Willie Dixon. “Bring It on Home” and “Crazy Mixed Up World” launch the disc on a blues journey worthy of the greats, and “I Want to Be Loved” gets down and dirty, the way the best blues should. “Let Me Love You Baby” is a gem of a tune, as is “Sittin’ and Cryin’ the Blues,” which is a short but thoroughly sweet riff.

 

Jane Siberry

“Angels Bend Closer” (rel. Nov. 18)

Sheeba Records

The jazzy chanteuse returns with a silky-smooth new album, in which she tries to bring heavenly sounds to us mere mortals. “Living Statue,” a duet with k.d. lang, is perfect for yoga class, what with its dulcet tones and smooth vocals from the duo, and “Positively Beautiful” is also aces.

 

Sabrina Carpenter

“EVOlution”

Hollywood Records

The 17-year-old singer from Pennsylvania is set to embark on her first headlining world tour, and what better way to kickstart the bus than with her sophomore album for Hollywood Records. “On Purpose” is a thrilling opening, but its follow-up, “Feels Like Loneliness,” suffers from an overload of Auto-Tune. I preferred the perky “Thumbs” and “No Words.” “Mirage” might be destined to become a dance floor staple, and “Shadows” is rather deep for Miss Carpenter’s young age. Album-capper “All We Have Is Love” is a fine downtempo tune to send you off in style.

Miss Carpenter will play the Baltimore Soundstage Nov. 26 and Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia, Nov. 29.

 

Switchfoot

“Where the Light Shines Through”

Vanguard

This disc from Switchfoot is rather uneven, and is sluggish to get going, but then “I Won’t Let Go,” a truly inspired track, cuts in and turns things around with some truly stellar vocals and instrumental arrangements. “The Day I Found God” and “Shake This Feeling” are other standout tracks, and “Live It Well” is an upbeat reminder to treasure every day as if it’s your last. “Hope Is the Anthem” is a suitable closer.

 

Springtime Carnivore

“Midnight Room”

Autumn Tone Records

This highly talented, ethereal act out of L.A. offers haunting melodies and danceable rhythms on this disc for Autumn Tone Records. The opening title track must be heard to be believed, and “Into the Avalanche” and “Double Infinity” show a definite mastery of the songwriting form. I also really dug “Nude Polaroids” (remember those…the photos, not the nudes!) for its haunting beauty and the ‘80s-reminsicent “Under the Spell.” “Wires Crossing” and “Rough Magic” are two of the standout songs near the end.

Springtime Carnivore will play with La Sera and Lilac Daze Thursday at Songbyrd Music House. Tickets are $12 by going to Ticketfly.com.

 

The Head and The Heart

“Signs of Light”

Warner Bros.

For some mellow yet poppy tunes heading into the fall, check out the new one, “Signs of Light,” from The Head and the Heart. Recorded in Nashville with producer Jay Joyce (Cage The Elephant) behind the control board, the Seattle soundsters have crafted a disc of musical soundscape reminiscent of some of the work of fun., The Lumineers and The Strumbellas. “All We Ever Knew” kicks off the disc with a groovy bang and fine harmony work by the fellas, and “False Alarm” provides some graceful reverie. “Library Magic” is an uptempo tune that reminded me of certain CSN work, and “Colors” is especially strong. “Your Mother’s Eyes” is a great late-album entry reminiscent of some of Ryan Adams’ work, and the closing title track is a lovely parting gift.

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