Singer-songwriter Nate Currin’s follow up to his You and I Are Ghosts album, The Madman and The Poet, is an emotionally-charged twelve track collection replete with meaningful, captivating stories with depth and soul. A concept album divided into two halves, Currin stocks the first half (The Madman) with songs that are melodically and thematically dark while the acoustic, string-filled (violin, mandolin) second half (The Poet) focuses on lasting love, light, and hope.
The first six songs have the listener journey through Georgia, Los Angeles, Birmingham and more, telling of broken hearts, internal struggles and soul searching. Currin’s vocals are soulful with a mixture of sorrow and anger permeating the tracks. Opening the album is the gritty, electric guitar laden “Another Love Song” on which he sings “I grew up hating others til I met Jesus in a Georgia town” while “City of Angels” has a roots-rock 90’s vibe providing the backdrop for a female searching for something other than broken dreams and a broken heart. A mid-tempo ballad to a love who left him shattered, “Birmingham” is melodically and lyrically gutting. “I’m lost with you gone, I drive these highways just to be alone…and these days that we plan it’s the deeper things it takes to be a man…. You drive on back to Tennessee to live your life and forget me, to swim this ocean out to sea, a shell of who I used to be.”
Southern rock with a noir vibe pulses on “Midnight Train” as he searched for the one who got away while “Ballad of A Horse Thief” paints a cinematic western tale of vengeance. The Madman concludes with the deeply intense, emotional and religiously charged “Sinner or Saint” where the internal questioning and struggle as to who one is lies forefront. “Am I a sinner or am I a saint ‘cause I feel like a misfit on my better days…. from the earthly things that eat my soul….am I the fire or am I the smoke…. I cross my fingers behind my back hope my God will take up the slack.”
The album takes an acoustic turn beginning with “A Madman or A Poet” a sparse, delicate and achingly beautifully song on which Currin practically whispers “so run away with me my love.” That’s followed by the stunning “She Reminds Me” which tightens your heart in the best way possible, the hopeful “We All Need To Love Sometimes” and the affecting “Ship With No Sea.” The album closes with “Let Grace Fall Down On Me” a prayer-like duet that is so powerful it might leave you an emotional wreck.
The Madman and The Poet is incredibly human, haunting and intensely moving. And easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far.
Currently in the fourth decade of his career, Willie Nile has opened on the Who's 1982 tour, guested onstage with Springsteen and counts a who's who of musical luminaries as fans including Bono, Paul Simon, Little Steven and Lucinda Williams. Nile's latest, World War Willie, hits record stores on April 1 and showcases Nile's gritty guitar work and sharp songwriting that is all at once humorous, insightful and timely.
Recorded with longtime producer Stewart Lerman and Nile's longstanding band — Matt Hogan on lead guitar, Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums — with additional guitar from Steuart Smith (Eagles, Rosanne Cash) there’s an incredible uncorked energy to the album beginning with opening track “Forever Wild” which extols the virtues of being young and free (which sounds relevant here coming from 67-year-old Nile rather than a 20-something who hasn’t fully experienced life).
“Grandpa Rocks” is a humorous, head banger (in the best way possible) about well, himself - a rocker whose age doesn’t slow him down no matter whatever title he has (Nile has four grandchildren). “He ain’t quite ready for the pine top box……He loves his woman, he’s an old grey fox.” The tongue in cheek humor and word play continue on “World War Willie” calling out various paramours, but pointedly noting “I know a woman on the east coast……She’s the one I like the best/that’s why I have to move out west” and the clever "Citibank Nile."
World War Willie is balanced by Nile's innate ability to showcase the poignant and serious alongside that playfulness. "Let's All Come Together" is a timely call for unity to make the world a better place (with a raise your glass in unison chorus) while “Runaway Girl” is a straight up touching ballad about a “two dream girl in a one horse town/they can’t lock you up and they can’t break you down”; “Trouble Down in Diamond Town” paints a Bonnie and Clyde vignette so vividly you can see it play out as you listen and the sincerely romantic “Beautiful You” simply melts. The collection is rounded out with “When Levon Sings” a heartfelt tribute to Levon Helm and closing track, Nile’s rendition of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.”
Long live rock and roll. And long live Willie Nile.
London based singer-songwriter Hannah White launched her album Noughts and Crosses in 2013 after a YouTube demand for a track which she recorded in her bathroom reached 25,000 hits almost overnight. Since then, she has been recognized by Whispering Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2, and BBC Radio Ulster as well as several national publications. White recently finished working with Nigel Stonier (Joan Baez, Martha Wainwright) on her third album Whose Side Are You On? Releasing April 29th, the album includes “I’ll Make You Strong,” the first single from the project. An immediate ear grabber, “I’ll Make You Strong” has an infectious, lively melody that puts the accordion center stage on a track about finding the one you love and being their rock despite your heart potentially hurting. There’s an airy, happy, genuine feel to White’s delivery, but one can’t shake an underlying dolefulness that comes with giving yourself to someone who sometimes forgets to give to you.
"When you’re feeling too low to get up and go
I’ll make you strong
There’s no need to care how my heart will fare
Cause I’ll make you strong"
Watch the video here
Nashville songwriter Charlie Hager recently released his new album, American Saga (Flour Sack Cape Records/Greenland Studios), a ten song collection that includes his current single, “These Days.” The rootsy acoustic track is gentle, ruminative….and timely. “These Days” considers something many are quick to do: judge others before getting to know them or hearing them out. Hager isn’t angry, he sings with a calm, encouraging, positive tone reminding us that in the end “it’s our choice to let them in” - something that in the current landscape strikes a chord.
“These days we don’t give someone a chance to prove themselves
We Decide to deny and cast our doubts
Purposely the different ones we don’t seem to help
Refusing and choosing to leave them out
But it’s in our hands, in our minds and in our friends the choice to let them in”
A native of Northern Kentucky and Southern Indiana farm country, Josh Goodlett’s debut radio single, “Why You Gotta Be That Way,” was embraced by fans and radio alike while his self-penned European-only release, “Leaving Indiana,” enjoyed eight weeks in the Top 10 on the international HotDisc chart. His newest single, the mid-tempo “I Don’t Usually Do This,” (written by Bobby E. Boyd, Brad Wolf and Phillip Moore) is the compelling story of a man who has finally let his guard down to allow his heart find a home. Goodlett’s tenor conveys the genuine emotion of a man who surprises himself with his feelings and his willingness to put his heart on the line for the first time. It’s a song with an honesty that will not only appeal to the women who know this man (or want to find this man), as well as to the normally guarded man who finds himself in the lyrics.
"Stay I never stay
But girl for the first time I can’t walk away
Gone, I usually gone
These old worm out boots don’t stay in one place too long
I must be slipping
Girl what’s wrong with me
Girl I don’t usually do this
My heart don’t fall
Yeah I don’t usually do this
Well it’s not like this at all"
North Carolina’s Town Mountain, the recipient of 2013's International Bluegrass Music Awards Momentum Award for Band of the Year, will release their fifth album, Southern Crescent, April 1 on via LoHi Records. For this new project, the five-some - Robert Greer [vocals and guitar], Jesse Langlais [banjo and vocals], Bobby Britt [fiddle], Phil Barker [mandolin and vocals], and Nick DiSebastian [bass] - worked with producer Dirk Powell at his Cypress House studio in Louisiana and the result is a soulful, energetic collection of ear pleasin’, toe tappin’ roots-grass.
From the fiddle filled, energetic instrumental opener, “St. Augustine” to the carefree “Ain’t Gonna Worry Me” bluegrass sensibilities merge with roots, rock and country in melodies that will not only make you sit up and listen – they’ll have you getting up and moving as well. “Comin' Back To You” joyously recalls Jerry Lee Lewis, the reflective and thoughtful, “House with No Windows” allows mandolin and fiddle to expose a tangible lonesomeness while “Long Time Comin’” and the jaunty Celtic-tinged instrumental “Leroy’s Reel,” showcasing spritely and on point instrumentation.
Rounding out the collection is the immensely spirited, “I Miss The Night,” a grab you by the ears tune written after Langlais experienced 22 hours of daylight during Alaska’s summer solstice, the witty “Tick On A Dog” and personal favorite “Whiskey With Tears” which brings some serious honky-tonk swagger to a story of a down on his luck guy headed to his “new second home” to have his favorite drink “whiskey with tears” mixed just right.
Travel, distance, loneliness and love - Town Mountain illuminates them all with a passion and raw energy that makes Southern Crescent an oh so satisfying listen that you’ll return to again and again.
Singer-songwriter Gabe Dixon [who toured as keyboardist and background vocalist for Alison Krauss among others] releases his first independent album, Turns To Gold, on April 8th. Honest and emotional, the eleven tracks, performed largely on upright piano and featuring organ, violin and cello, touch on growing as an individual and the value of love.
Turns to Gold begins with “Holding Her Freedom,” a gospel-flecked number that touches a nerve. Piano and guitar convey the swirling emotions of a woman who has been hurt by love, such that she is afraid to open up, holding captive her freedom to love again. Things turn lighter on the funky, sexy “Crave” about the intensity of love (lust?) when you initially meet someone which flows directly into the gorgeous “Don’t Make Me” a truly romantic tune where that initial attraction solidifies into something that you want to last a lifetime. The romanticism continues with “The One Thing” where he realizes that although he has made mistakes in life, a committed relationship with her is definitely not one of them, a sentiment that continues in the gentle “If I Love You” encouraging opening one’s heart to a love that could “go down in history.”
Clocking in around two minutes, “Same Place” is brief, yet incredibly impactful largely due to Dixon’s warm, heartfelt vocals: “I’ve held you so close, didn’t wanna let go," “Flow Like Wine” is ethereal and earthy (and swoon-worthy): “Love don’t mean nothing without your love," while “The Way to Love Me,” which features Natalie Prass, seeps with a palpable vulnerability.
The project is rounded out by three songs that remind us that love also often includes heartbreak and hurt. The regret of tossing away a love he didn’t earn – and the desire to get it back – features in “These Wheels”; unhealthy habits that don’t ease pain collide in “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: “There’s a bottle on the shelf and a phone in my pocket both of them calling my name” and a hint of the Beatles can be heard on the emotional closer, "Live Again," which finds him reflecting on moving on: “Sometimes you have to let your heart break……Sometimes it’s no use saving your own skin, sometimes you’ve got to die to live again.”
Turns to Gold explores the joys and complexities of that oft times elusive emotion, showcasing songs that can both make you feel elated and also rip your heart out. But in the end it encourages one to let their heart open, being prepared for the possibility of ache but remaining hopeful that that one true treasure of a person awaits.
Cory Bishop and Michael Bare released their debut EP as The New Schematics in late 2015. The five-song set took them into new territory as a pop band with electronica elements, but they always maintained a strong story telling lyrical element in their songs. On March 18th the duo released ‘Unplugged+’ where they took the songs from that debut EP and re-arranged, re-imagined and unplugged them….and they are, dare I say (yes, I dare) even better than the originals. The five songs are stripped back and sublimely infused with mandolin, harmonica, and keys; adding dimension and depth to the songs, letting instrumentation and delivery shine while allowing lyrics to resonate.
Incredibly scaled back, “Break My Heart” maintains an airy playfulness as Bishop sings about being a “blue jean Casanova” who finally meets the one who gives him the hope to experience real love. Infused with strings, “Midnight” is darker, more poetic and more effective while “All In” maintains a Lumineers vibe, poppy, yet at the same time rootsy. “The Breakdown (Broken-Down)” is taken from a lush electronica laden song to an alt-country/pop noir tune where the lyrics can firmly sink in, while “Drug” (the only new track) is a witty and perfectly real description of that universal tonic….love. “You can't drink it, you can’t smoke it/You can't shoot it/you sure as hell can’t toke it/But it'll get you higher/And it'll hang you drier/Than God’s greenest grass.” The standout track of the EP though is surely “Born Without Borders” a breathtakingly beautiful, sparingly produced, chest swelling ballad with Bishop’s delivery crushing in the best way possible (similarly as he did with “Crown of Thorns” from his 2014 EP):
"The funny thing about faith
It’s hard as hell to fake.
Believing looks a lot like gambling.
I’ve tried counting cards,
I’ve tried shooting stars,
But all my prayers fade into rambling."
Bare and Bishop prove that you can make old(ish) new again; by giving their songs a fresh take, they allow you to listen and appreciate them in an entirely new, different and enjoyable way.
Formerly front man of the Dance Hall Pimps, RJ Comer delivers Americana Rock with his newest release, Nightly Suicide, due March 25th. The six track project kicks off with “Steppin’ Down” a gritty tune on which he sings “I feel so much better now that I’ve abandoned hope.” and includes the title track, Comer’s homage to Charles Bukowski that also illustrates Comer’s early life. Comer’s soulful vocals and dark guitar riffs permeate “Losing What You Are Losing” while the hazy “The Moon Ain’t Fallen On Me Yet” details internal battles one faces. Roots rocker “One Day” and a swagger filled cover of Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s” round out an honest, intimate collection
At 56, Tom Wilson says he is just emerging as an artist and that evolution can be seen on his latest release Beautiful Scars. The third album under his alternate moniker, Lee Harvey Osmond, Beautiful Scars shares its title with an upcoming memoir for Random House and inspired a short film trilogy with Jeth Weinrich, Where the Dirt Ends the Love Begins.
Released in Canada in 2015, the ten song project, produced by Cowboy Junkies Michael Timmins and due out in the US on March 25th, was made during the period where Osmond learned (at age 55) that his cousin was really his mother and his heritage was Mohawk, not Irish. This new knowledge and the varied emotions that undoubtedly accompanied it contributed to an album that’s fearlessly versatile, compelling and truthful.
Flush with horns, the approximately seven-minute opener “Loser Without Your Love” is a bluesy, trippy - and sexy - ode to the one who makes him whole. “Blue Moon Drive” continues that vibe while the utterly funky “Shake The Hand” is spellbinding, “Oh The Gods” saturates with an eeriness and “Hey, Hey, Hey” is seductive and captivating. Osmond’s weathered baritone gets vocal assist from his son Thompson on the subtle, yet seemingly fragile, “Dreams Come and Go” while “Planet Love” takes you on a spacey-folk trip. The album concludes in my favorite way - with one of those feel it in your heart songs - “Bottom of Our Love," an acoustic ballad with a loneliness and longing that’s palpable, proving that while our scars contribute to who we are, their beauty should be embraced rather than be kept hidden from view.