Seth Walker has been issuing music for almost a quarter century. His albums have charted on the blues, Americana and folk charts, showing his diversity as an artist. His latest release, I Hope I Know, is his 11th album, once again produced by longtime collaborator, Jano Rix.
We discuss why he chose to relocate from Nashville to Asheville, NC, how an end to a relationship mixed with the worldwide pandemic caused him to look inward, and his excitement of playing overseas.
Michigan born singer/songwriter May Erlewine has been putting out her own music for almost 20 years. She’s also issued albums with the Sweet Water Warblers.
Her music has been covered by many artists, including Sawyer Fredericks, who performed her song, “Shine On,” on NBC’s The Voice.
Her brand new album, Tiny Beautiful Things, deals a lot with the connections between people – something sorely missing during the worldwide pandemic. In her own words, she says “this album is an invitation to connect with the many ways that love appears in our lives.”
We chat with Erlewine about the challenges around having to record the new album remotely. She also reveals the inspiration behind many of the songs on the new record.
Black Swan, a hard rock supergroup featuring Robin McAuley of MSG, Jeff Pilson of Dokken, Reb Beach of Winger and Matt Starr of Mr. Big.
The band issued their debut album in 2020 called Shake the World to critical acclaim. Now they’re back with their sophomore release, Generation Mind, once again recorded at Pilson’s home studio in L.A.
McAuley talks about how Jeff Wayne’s musical of War of the Worlds inspired one song, while Jack the Ripper inspired another. He also discusses the difficulty of getting all four (busy) members together to make music.
Known by the masses for their monster 90’s hit, “Roll to Me,” but known by their devoted fans as expert songsmiths, the Scottish band, Del Amitri, just wrapped up their first tour of the US in 25 years with a stop in Cleveland.
Mainstays Justin Currie (bass/lead vocals) and Iain Harvie (lead guitar) were joined by longtime keyboardist, Andy Alston (who also played accordion), Kris Dollimore on guitar and Ash Soan on drums. Currie still looked great, dressed in denim and sporting his long hair (a little gray now), while Harvie still had the long hair and beard that made him look more like a member of Motorhead, even in the band’s heyday.
They opened with a fitting, acoustic version of “When You Were Young,” before launching into “Musicians and Beer,” one of seven songs they played from their recent (and excellent) album, Fatal Mistakes. “All Hail Blind Love,” also new, had great harmonies. “Always the Last to Know,” a single that got considerable MTV play back in the day, was a solid rocker that sounded great. They played “Kiss This Thing Goodbye,” which was the band’s first hit in the US, at an even faster pace than the record.
Surprises included the Twisted ballad, “It Might as Well Be You,” and a stripped down version of “Empty” off of Waking Hours. “Spit in the Rain,” which was only available as an import single for years, was a welcome addition. The ballad, “Driving With the Brakes On,” should’ve been a bigger hit when it came out in the mid-Nineties.
They played their signature, Beatles’ knockoff, “Roll to Me,” in the middle of the set, which was surprising, but that left room for more interesting songs like “Stone Cold Sober,” and aggressive “Crashing Down”
They encored with a very dark, new song, “I’m So Scared of Dying,” before ending with a stripped-down run through of “Be My Downfall.”
In an era where concertgoers are overpaying to see musicians that can’t sing or play anymore, Del Amitri was a welcome change.
Currie was in fine voice throughout, and the interplay between guitarists Harvie and Dollimore was great, as well as Alston’s tasteful additions of keyboards and accordion.
25 years is a long time to wait for a band. But, I believe everyone in attendance got their money’s worth. There were rumors throughout the crowd that the band might be back next year, perhaps after completing another album. All hail Del Amitri! —Tony Peters
Stellar live recording of the Delta bluesman, previously unreleased
There is no music as raw and pure as that of blues legend, Son House. His unique voice, steeped from years in the church and working in the Delta, cuts straight to the soul. And, his slide guitar playing sends shivers down the spine.
Forever on My Mind documents a never-before-released performance at Wabash College in Indiana in November of 1964. It marks the earliest known recording of House’s “rediscovery” period.
House grew up in the Delta and recorded sporadically in 1930 for Paramount Records, but those records were not successful. In 1941, Alan Lomax taped House for the Library of Congress. Both recordings were reissued in the mid-sixties, and became part of the “folk-blues revival.” House was “rediscovered” by a trio of blues fans, including Dick Waterman, who convinced him to start performing again and became his manager.
Waterman owns these recordings and licensed them to Easy Eye Sound, run by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
The title track, “Forever on My Mind,” has never been on a Son House album before, and features a moaning vocal, where he sings “I gets up in the morning / at the break of day / I be hugging the pillow / where you used to lay.”
Of the eight tracks from this sparsely-attended show (maybe 50 people), five of them would end up on his Columbia album, Father of Folk Blues, released several months later in 1965. Comparing these two recordings bring some interesting discoveries.
“Preachin’ Blues” is more immediate here, you can hear him breathing, grunting, clearing his throat, and his slide work seems to be channeling lightning. He also makes the crowd laugh when he sings “I wanna be a Baptist preacher / so I won’t have to work.” On “Empire State Express” he just sounds possessed and that descending guitar line is utterly hypnotic.
“Death Letter Blues” is slower that the frenetic, studio recording, but is just as chilling.
He also tackles “Pony Blues,” done by his contemporary, Charlie Patton, and the blues standard, “Motherless Children” (here, listed as “The Way Mother Did”).
The restoration work here is incredible. These recordings, almost 60 years old, and taken from 1/4-inch reels, sound phenomenal. And, although it’s a “live” recording, you rarely can tell. The album producers decided to fade each song out before any applause (either that, or they were not impressed with his playing, which seems highly unlikely!).
The set comes with in-depth liner notes, featuring quotes from both Waterman and Auerbach. It’s Waterman, who traveled extensively with House, that points out how special these recordings are, noting that later concerts featured the bluesman telling stories, and hamming it up with the crowd. Here, it’s just Son House and his guitar, with very little talking.
Lastly, the collection is heightened by the groovy picture of House in a Cardigan sweater on the cover.
Waterman has said to have many other recordings like these in his possession. Let’s hope more come out like this real soon.
Forever on My Mind is a fantastic addition to the legacy of one of the true pillars of the blues, Son House. —Tony Peters
Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus have spent the last 40 years blending Troggs’-inspired garage rock with Beatles’ soaked melodies done with a New York Dolls’ sneer. The band were darlings of college radio during the eighties, and even scored a #1 Modern Rock hit with “Come Anytime.,” in 1989.
During the pandemic, the guys found themselves on a creative streak and the result is their 10th-long player, Chariot of the Gods, and it’s some of the best work they’ve ever done.
We chat with frontman, Dave Faulkner, about why there was such a large gap between recording albums, how a drunken night inspired one of the new songs, and the difficulty in scheduling a tour during the pandemic.
Bobby Cole – A Point of View (Omnivore Recordings)
Frank Sinatra once called him his favorite “saloon singer.”
Bobby Cole never became a household name. Yet, the singer, pianist and songwriter caught the attention of not only The Chairman of the Board, but also Ms. Judy Garland, who tapped Cole to arrange her short-lived TV show, and then some live performances.
A Point of View is an obscure album from mid-sixties, finally getting a proper release from the fine folks at Omnivore. And, it’s an amazing collection of supper-club style music that’s sure to delight any fan of the genre. Even more impressive is that everything here was written by Cole himself.
His original compositions definitely reflect his experiences. The album opens with the frenetic “Status Quo,” as he sings “On through the night / through the smoke and the noise / keeping the pace / while we’re losing our poise” – it’s obvious he’s seen this dance between men and women from years of playing in clubs.
You can see why Sinatra liked Cole so much, he’s got a swagger to him that especially is apparent in the spoken rap that begins “Lover Boy.” Cole has a magnetic voice, his raspy tenor draws you into his compositions. Yet, there are times when he almost sounds like his voice is going, it’s so gravely.
There’s diversity here too. He sings of adultery in a sultry way in “The Name of the Game is Trouble,” then inserts some jazz changes into the wisdom of “You Can’t Build a Life on a Look.” He goes tender for “But It’s Spring,” then increases the temperature again with “Heat,” where he’s helped on vocals by Kathy Kelly. Once again, the mood softens with “You Could Hear a Pin Drop,” then goes Bossa Nova with “Change of Scene.”
Perhaps the best track of the bunch is “No Difference at All.” It’s the ultimate kiss off to a former lover. “She’s like pink champagne / and you’re like beer / you’re like scratchy old corduroy / she’s cashmere.”
The 12 songs that originally appeared on the album are augmented by 13 additional tracks. Randy Poe’s liner notes say that they’re not sure if these are outtakes from this album, or perhaps songs attempted for a followup. Of the bonus material, the cascading “Never Ask the Hour,” the sad, “How the Lonely Spend Their Time,” and the straight-forward, “I Never Saw the Shadows,” stand out from the rest.
I think the best thing about A Point of View from the Bobby Cole is that it sounds fresh. Let’s be honest, we don’t get many new entries into the “supper club” genre these days. I would call this a fine discovery. —Tony Peters
King, Sun, Motown & Stax – all independent record companies that helped shape the course of popular music. Another such label, 415 Records, emerged in the late Seventies out of San Francisco. Originally, the company just covered the burgeoning punk movement that was happening there, but eventually they expanded, releasing an album by psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson, then landing videos on MTV with Romeo Void, Translator and the Red Rockers.
All of this is documented in Disturbing the Peace – 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave written by Bill Kopp from HoZac Books. Kopp is a lifelong collector, musician and journalist who’s first book was called Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon.
We chat about how he tracked down almost 100 interviews for the book, how he obtained much of the photos, band posters, etc, that help flesh out the story, and the relationship 415 had with Columbia Records that had mixed results at best.
Utopia is one of the most-underrated bands in history. Sure, the group provided a vehicle for whatever Todd Rundgren’s fancy was at the time. But, the truth is, Utopia had great songs – a LOT of them. The band had a knack for writing radio-friendly tracks that, unfortunately only occasionally got played on the radio.
Three of the four original members reunited (sans their keyboardist) for a tour in 2018. Honestly, that show was a letdown, largely because Rundgren chose to devote the first half of the concert to the early (and frankly, not as good) Prog-rock era of the band.
Now, here comes Kasim Sulton’s Utopia. A show that was originally slated two years ago, but had to be postponed because of the pandemic.
Unlike the reunion from four years ago, this show delivered.
The bassist, flanked by guitar, keyboards and drums, ran through a thrilling set of songs that touched on every album from the band’s career. Opening with the Beatle-esque “I Just Want to Touch You,” the melodic “Call it What You Want,” the even-more-appropriate-now anthem “Swing to the Right,” the rockin’ “Princess of the Universe,” (which the drummer sang), and the slightly funky “Fix Your Gaze.” One of Sulton’s best Utopia songs, “Libertine,” just flat-out rocked.
“Lysistrata,” and it’s chorus of “won’t go to war / no more” is about as relevant as you can get in these times. The band did tackle a few proggy numbers, like “The Road to Utopia,” and “Caravan,” giving everyone a chance to stretch out a little. But, it never seemed to drag. Sulton made sure to throw in some deep cuts as well. “I’m in Love with a Thinker,” “Hoi Poloi,” and “The Up” were all welcome surprises.
The encore consisted of “Set Me Free,” the band’s lone top 40 hit, and ended with a song of unity, “One World,” where members of the audience were invited onstage to sing along.
Sulton was in fine voice throughout, frequently joking with the small, but enthusiastic crowd, while the band made sure they were faithful to the original recordings (I love to sing a long to guitar solos :).
I was commenting to another fan as we were leaving that there was a whole lot more great songs that could’ve been played. I guess, that’s for next time, right Kasim? —Tony Peters
This album will make you believe in rock n’ roll again.
Despite having a knack for writing infectious songs, Australia’s Hoodoo Gurus have managed to fly under the radar for over 40 years. The band is back with their first new album in eleven years called Chariot of the Gods, and it contains some of the best music of their entire career.
The Hoodoo Gurus’ gift has always been their ability to straddle Troggs-inspired, garage rock, with Beatle-soaked melodic hooks, delivered with a New York Dolls’ sneer. All of this is on display on this extremely solid album.
The record starts with “Early Opener” – it’s a throwback to the way their debut album began; the sound of a bar, people talking. But, this time, we hear the strains of an acoustic version of “Come Anytime,” one of the Gurus’ most-recognizable songs.
This gives way to the primitive stomper, “World of Pain.” A whole lot of people turned to the bottle for solace during the pandemic. It’s heavy on the bass, as leader Dave Faulkner admits “it’s just the same damn things again.”
“Get Outta Dodge” features some killer slashing chords, and a great, sing a long chorus. The lyrics certainly are appropriate for our divisive climate – “people here are blinded by hate / they won’t meet you in the middle / and we found out a little too late.”
The midtempo rocker,“Was I Supposed to Care,” borrows the main riff from Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”
The amazing thing is vocalist Dave Falkner still sounds great after all these years.
The high-energy rocker, “Hangin with the Girls,” deals with gender stereotypes, while “My Imaginary Friend” features a Byrds-esque 12 string guitar.
“Equinox,” with guitarist Brad Shepherd on vocals, has a Sunshine Pop feel, while “Hang Out to Dry” is a punk rockin’ good time.
The lead single is a fabulous melodic rocker, “Carry On.” A great positive song for this troubled times.
The lone cover on the album doesn’t sound out of place at all. “I Wanna Be Your Man” is an early Beatles’ track that was also the Stones’ debut single. Seriously, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Gurus wrote it.
Few bands last 40 years. Of those, not many are making great music anymore. The Hoodoo Gurus have somehow managed to weather the years and still sound as fresh as they did on their debut album. Chariot of the Gods is a welcome return and a damn good rock n’ roll record. –Tony Peters