- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall is a magical time of year — to fall in love, to contemplate the accomplishments and mistakes of the summer, to set new goals. The changing of the leaves and the falling temperatures cannot help but make one contemplative this time of year, and self-inquiry always could use a decent soundtrack.

Fortunately, we have the goods to fire up as the seasons change, from artists new and up-and-coming, angry and calming, surprising and even more surprising.

Crank it up!

 

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Prophets of Rage

“Prophets of Rage” (rel. Sept. 15)

Fantasy

The 2016 election certainly didn’t go the way they wanted, which has only added fuel to the fuel that this supergroup unleashes on their new self-titled album. Prophets of Rage comprises members of Public Enemy, Cyprus Hill and Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine, and they make no bones about their take on current events on this hard-hitting disc. Opener “Radical Eyes” is an admonition to not be distracted by razzle-dazzle, followed immediately by the none-too-subtle “Unf*** the World,” whose video was directed by none other than Michael Moore. “Hail to the Chief” will definitely make you sit up and take notice, and “Strength in Numbers” is a clarion call for a common goal if ever there were.

If you’re not into the rage, this album is definitely not for you, and likely you’ll get through to the end if you agree with the sentiments, but “Prophets of Rage” from front to back is a well-done reactionary album in the grand tradition of musical commentary.

Don’t forget that the Prophets will play the 9:30 Club Thursday evening.

 

Arcade Fire

“Everything Now”

Columbia Records Group

“Everything Now” shows that Arcade Fire remains in fine form as they continue to crank out some serious rock ‘n’ roll. The title track gets the album off in jamming style. Other standout cuts include the rather uptempo “Chemistry,” and I’m really digging on the funky “Good God Damn,” “Put Your Money on Me” and the ethereal “We Don’t Deserve Love.” Finally, a new take on the title track closes out the album.

Arcade Fire will perform Saturday at the Capitol One Arena — formerly the Verizon Center.

 

Paul Kelly

“Life Is Fine”

Cooking Vinyl

“Finally Something Good” is a joyous romp that blends elements of Bob Dylan and certain Stones sounds, and “Firewood and Candles” is delightfully bluesy. “Leah” boasts some strains of Tom Petty on this certainly unique cover of an old Roy Orbison tune, and title track “Life Is Fine” bears both the stamp of Mr. Dylan and the many gospel records that influenced him.

Keep an ear out for the unique “Don’t Explain,” featuring Linda Bull, and the eerily pretty “I Smell Trouble.”

Mr. Kelly Performs at The Hamilton in the District on Sunday.

 

Roadcase Royale

“First Things First” (rel. Sept. 22)

Loud and Proud Records

Nancy Wilson of Heart takes to recording this side project with former members of Prince’s New Power Generation band along for good measure for the supergroup Roadcase Royale. “Hold on to My Hand” features Miss Wilson in full voice, which we don’t get to see as often as we should given that sister Ann typically sings out front in Heart. “Even It Up” and “Cover Each Other” are positive rockers, and “The Dragon” bears the mature writing of recent Heart album “Beautiful Broken.” Miss Wilson reminds us why she sometimes sang for Heart with a stripped-down, acoustic cover of “These Dreams,” and closer “Never Say Die” is a bluesy parting note.

Miss Wilson will tour this fall with Bob Seger.

 

Jim Allchin

“Decisions”

Sandy Key Music

Jim Allchin takes the Delta blues by way of his Florida hometown for this jamming disc of grooves that are right at home in any juke joint. “Artificial Life” and “The Mexican End” are both solid blues tracks, with Mr. Allchin shredding on his ax and backed up by some amazing organ on the latter tune. (His vocals remind me a bit of Jonny Lang.) “Bad Decisions” will no doubt make you recall some of those questionable choices of yore, and I wish dearly that Stevie Ray Vaughan were still with us to jam with Mr. Allchin on “Blew Me Away.”

Other killer tracks include “Friends” and the more country-bluegrass inflections of “You Might Be Wrong.” “Stop Hurting Me” features a mournful piano line,

Incredible as it may seem, Mr. Allchin was a onetime programmer for Microsoft, but turned back to his love of music after a cancer scare in the early aughts. Just goes to show you that the time to do what you love is now!

 

John McCutcheon

“Trolling for Dreams”

Appalseed Productions

On this, John McCutcheon’s 38th — yes, 38th — album, the American original blends folk, country and various other influences for another disc of solid sounds. “Gone” features a mournfully beautiful fiddle as the album’s opener. Album can be a bit monotone at times, but great tracks include “The Reason I’m Here,” the up-country “Three Chords and the Truth” and quiet closer “Longing.”

Mr. McCutcheon appears at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, Sept. 22.

 

David Ramirez

“We’re Not Going Anywhere”

Thirty Tigers/RED

The dulcet-voiced David Ramirez has produced an album of sensitive, lyrical pop with a sweetness rarely seen. “Watching From a Distance” describes a love affair either on hold or one only wished to be made real by the narrator, with ensuing track “People Call Who They Want to Talk To” a reminder of the preciousness of some relationships. The heart of the album is great, with “Time,” “Good Heart” and “Telephone Lovers,” the absolute winner on Mr. Ramirez’s newest effort. “Villain” takes a bit of a dark turn, but the moodiness evoked is worthy of Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash, before abruptly shifting gears again for “Eliza Jane.” “I’m Not Going Anywhere” is a worthy closer for this outstanding effort.

 

The Steel Wheels

“Wild As We Came Here”

Big Ring Records

A little bit country, a little bluegrass and a lot awesome, this new one from Virginia’s own Steel Wheels keep the Americana music tradition of the Blue Ridge Mountains alive on this album of lovely tunes. The album starts out wonderfully, with highlights being the title song, the slow but heartfelt “Sing Me Like a Folk Song” and “Heartbeat.” The other great songs like “Ghost of Myself” and “Till No One Is Free” showcase again what a rich Appalachian musical history is to be found just hours from the nation’s capital.

The Wheels will roll into the capital for a show at The Hamilton Oct. 15. Catch them on their way up to the stratosphere.

 

Jesse Cook

“Beyond Borders” (rel. Sept. 15)

Adult/Jazz/Classics - eOne

In times like this, a little bit of calming music is in order, and thanks to Jesse Cook, that’s precisely what is on offer. Mr. Cook, a Canadian guitarist and songwriter, brings a Great White North flair to his take on traditional flamenco music on “Hembra,” the uptempo “Skip the Moon” and the desultory “The Toll.” Keep your ears peeled for a John Williams inspiration on “Above the Rain” (a prescient song title if ever there were in these days), and album-closer “Wisdom of a Thousand Years” even incorporates some vocal chants in this wordless album.

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