- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer is officially here, and to christen that most glorious season, here are some new albums to add to your music collection.

 

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Lindsay Buckingham/Christine McVie

“Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”

Atlantic Records

Two-fifths of Fleetwood Mac team up for this, uh, double-solo miniband project. Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie — who named the album after themselves — start rocking out in hopping style on “Sleeping Around the Corner,” and “Feel About You,” with Miss McVie in fine voice, makes one glad that she finally rejoined the band a few years ago. “In My World” features a fine vocal duet between the Mac members, and “Red Sun” and “On With the Show” are both reminiscent of the great ‘70s albums like “Tusk” and “Rumours.” “Lay Down for Me” and “Carnival Begin” also both show that Miss McVie and Mr. Buckingham need not have all of their bandmates around in order to make amazing music.

 

Barenaked Ladies

“Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies & The Persuasions”

Raisin’ Records

Canada’s favorite fully clothed men return with more jazzy, snappy tunes on this team-up disc with a cappela mainstays The Persuasions. “Gonna Walk” pairs the Canucks with the vocal stylings of The Persuasions on a wondrous duet and backed up by some fantastic piano stylings. “Don’t Shuffle Me Back” bears the stamp of some calypso sounds, and The Persuasions truly bring the party on the tune. “Good Times” is about as joyful as you would expect with that title, and “When I Fall” takes a slowdown for good measure. A pleasant surprise is a peppy, mostly instrument-free rendition of “One Week,” their hit from 1998. “Four Seconds” and “I Can Sing” send off the album in high-spirited style.

 

Styx

“The Mission”

Universal Music Enterprises

Styx crosses the river yet again for more of the synth-heavy rock that made them famous in the ‘70s. “Hundred Million Miles” and “Locomotive” will almost make you think you’re back in those glory years of the Styx sound, and “Radio Silence” is a fine rocker of a track. “The Greater Good” is a power ballad in the best sense of the word (recall that Tommy Shaw was in Damn Yankees, which issued “High Enough”). “The Outpost” even bears the stamp of ‘80s-era Queen (think the soundtracks of “Flash Gordon” and “Highlander”) for the album’s most unique song.

Styx returns to the DMV Aug. 13 to play at Jiffy Lube Live. Tickets are available at LiveNation.com.

 

Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen

“Death’s Dateless Night”

It’s been a while since any music was this heartfelt, but Australian Paul Kelly and collaborator Charlie Owen have gone deep on this disc. “Pretty Bird Tree,” “The Parting Glass” and “Meet Me in the Middle of the Air” are all stellar mixes of alt-country and bluegrass, overlaid with Mr. Kelly’s unique vocal stylings. Mr. Kelly also does an ethereal cover of “Let It Be,” bringing an entirely new definition to the Beatles’ latter-stage staple. Album-closer “Angel of Death” bears the stamp of Bob Dylan, whose influence can definitely be felt throughout this phenomenal album.

 

AJ Lee

“AJ Lee”

Grizzly Peak Music

A little bit gospel, a little bit soul and a lot bluegrass country set the tone for this talented Northern California lady’s self-titled second album. At only 19, Miss Lee unleashes powerful, hauntingly mature vocals on “Look at Miss Ohio” and the Southern-influenced “Hickory Wind.” Miss Lee also produces a stunning rendition of Bob Dylan on her cover of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” turning it into a country ballad — and proving once again that covers are best when artists turn them into something new. “Wait a Minute” is a fine confection to close out this EP.

Look for great things from Miss Lee as she is likely to only get better with age and vocal maturity.

 

Sam Outlaw

“Tenderheart”

Six Shooter Records

Despite what his name might imply, country singer Sam Outlaw is on a law-abiding track while following the formula of the “outlaw country” sound of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. That said, Mr. Outlaw shows talent and promise to spare on gently lovely country tunes like “Everyone’s Looking for Home” and “Bougainvillea, I Think,” the latter featuring a lovely steel peddle solo (I’m a sucker for this instrument). The title track shows Mr. Outlaw making full-voiced yet gentle use of his masterful tenor vocals on a wonderful tune, with follow-up “Trouble” a more “traditional” type of country song about being out with the boys, and “She’s Playing Hard to Get (Rid Of)” yet another meditation on that theme most common. “Say It to Me” is another great track — again, featuring a killer steel pedal! — followed by the equally toe-tapping “All My Life” and “Dry in the Sun.” “Look at You Now” is a stripped-down, bare-bones song that bids “Tenderheart” farewell, but we can only hope that much, much more remains in Mr. Outlaw’s future output.

 

Holly Macve

“Golden Eagle”

Bella Union

Sultry-voiced Holly Macve brings voice to pain and yearning and longing on this stellar album for Bella Union. Opening track “White Bridge” features Miss Macve doubling over her main melody with stellar harmonies, and “Heartbreak Blues” takes a bluegrass touch to that old country saw about aching in love. “All of It’s Love and Glory” features a driven piano line, over which Miss Macve lays her mournful vocals on one of the album’s best songs. Keep your ears open also for “Timbuktu,” “No One Has the Answers” and the lovely “Golden Eagle.”

 

White Reaper

“The World’s Best American Band”

Polyvinyl Records

Who knew that there could be this much energy coming out of Louisville, Kentucky? But these blokes out of Derby City are unleashing some heady rock on the cheekily titled “The World’s Best American Band.” The opening title track and “Judy French” bear an energetic punk influence tinged with some New Wave, and the boys are clearly having a bit too much fun on “Eagle Beach.”

 

Gov’t Mule

“Revolution Come…Revolution Go”

Fantasy

Good god, I do love when a new album comes from out of nowhere to absolutely blindside me! Ladies and gentlemen, consider your search for the best album of 2017 officially over thanks to Gov’t Mule.

Rocking hard and heavy, but not obnoxiously so, this “side project” of The Allman Brothers Band shows precisely why that group remains one of the best jam bands ever. The Mule starts out strong on “Stone Cold Rage,” reminiscent of both ‘70s and ‘80s sounds, and following track “Drawn That Way” is a rocking good time as well. “Pressure Under Fire” boasts echoes of The Band, and I challenge you to not hear the Dead’s influence on “Traveling Tune.”

This album is absolutely rocking, and “Dreams & Songs” continues the party with deep-seated rockers’ love for the music that transcends time, genres and the animosities of daily life (trust me, it’ll make you groove!). The fellas even have time to sprinkle in a trippy blues cut, with “Burning Point” bringing in Texas ax-man Jimmie Vaughan, and Gov’t Mule keeps the bluesiness rolling on “Easy Times,” which bears a hint of CSNY and gospel for good measure.

The only lesser song I find is “Sarah, Surrender,” but maybe it’s a bit too “Yacht Rock” for my tastes. Be that as it may, “Revolution Come…Revolution Go” should be added to any real or virtual album shelf post-haste.

 

The Night Flight Orchestra

“Amber Galactic”

Nuclear Blast

I appreciate that there’s still some kick-ass rock coming out. Thanks to The Night Flight Orchestra’s new disc that melds some styles of Yes, ELO, Styx and others with some hard ‘80s vibes, the party will continue. “Midnight Flyer” blends killer vocals from the Swedes with some swinging keyboard theatrics followed immediately by the stellar “Star of Rio.” I also enjoyed “Sad State of Affairs” for its hair metal-era sound, and “Space Whisperer” can’t help but remind me of Asia (the band, mind you). Keep an ear out for the album-closing “Saturn in Velvet” as well.

 

Mr. Big

“Defying Gravity” (rel. July 7)

Frontiers Music s.r.l

You remember, Mr. Big, right? They of the ‘90s power ballad “To Be With You” are back with yet another album mixing both hard and soft rock. “Open Your Eyes” features guitarist Paul Gilbert shredding in the Van Halen vain, and “Damn I’m in Love Again” is reminiscent of that ‘90s power love song era, with a driving acoustic guitar and vocalist Eric Martin preaching the gospel of love. “Forever and Back” is perhaps the band’s most experimental track in several albums, with bassist Billy Sheehan absolutely hammering away on the lower notes of the register. The non-ironic “1992” pointedly has the band celebrating the year they broke through the mainstream success — as well as an understanding of how fleeting is such adulation, with Mr. Martin crooning: “I was No. 1 in 1992.”

With final original member Pat Torpey on drums, the boys are set to hit the road this summer. We can only hope their travels will return them to the DMV soon.

 

Chuck Negron

“Negron Generations” (rel. June 30)

Chuck Negron

Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron gets the family involved with his new album, “Generations,” a trio recording with Mr. Negron’s two daughters, Charlie and Annabelle.

Entailing some covers and some unreleased Three Dog Night songs, Mr. Negron and family go deep on the quasi-psychedelic “Open My Heart,” as they do on “I’m Sorry.” “I’m on Fire” sees the entire family engaging in some rather impressive harmonics. Unreleased Three Dog Night tracks include the jocular “Save Our Ship” and “This Is Your Captain Calling,” which is a groovy ‘70s throwback.

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