Cambridge-based singer-songwriter Dan Mills released his latest all original album, Something Good, on July 7th – and if you enjoy well-crafted songs with melodies that get under your skin in the best way, then you’ll definitely find more than Something Good here.
The twelve-track project opens with the rollicking “Quiet Car,” and continues with the soulful, harmony-filled title track, and the folky-acoustic (and irresistible) “Sandy.” Mills successfully showcases a variety of genres from those mentioned above, to the old-timey knee slapper “Spinnin the Cowboys” (about certain proclivities), to the delightfully smooth “Lonely When You're Gone” to the 50’s inspired “Tuscon, AZ.” He expresses gratitude on the reserved “Buy A Boat,” cherishes Manhattan in “Crazy About NY” (hello clarinet!), and blends in California Country on “Easier Said Than Done.” Something Good is rounded out by the noir swagger of “Damage Is Done," which is led by a fabulous piano, the jaunty fiddle-laden “Let Me Do Me” and the airy, piano ballad “Hold On.”
Something Good is a gloriously varied collection held together by Mills endearing (often swoon-worthy) vocals and his honest, engaging story songs. Quite simply, it’s a gem. Discover it.
Dan Mills has been writing and performing original music for over a decade. In 2011, he portrayed country-guitar legend Carl Perkins in the Broadway cast of Million Dollar Quartet, and his song “Best I Could” earned him a nomination for Sirius XM Coffeehouse’s “Singer/Songwriter Discovery of the Year." For much of his career, Mills was based in Brooklyn NY, with his band, which has been together for seven years. Last year, Dan moved to Boston—just across town from bandmate, Jesse Humphrey (drums), but a four hours’ drive from his other collaborators, Adam Podd (keyboards) and Mark Goodell (guitar & bass). Thanks to Pro Tools and cloud collaboration, the band finished Something Good even though they were over 200 miles apart.
Robyn Ludwick takes a hard look at loneliness on her fifth album This Tall To Ride. With an astute ability to capture slices of life that are real and raw, Ludwick draws you in with well-crafted songs whose hurt, empty, and occasionally seedy, characters (some of which you may not encounter in your daily circle) are ultimately people who share a deep, yet common, need.
Opening with the hazy guitar riffs of “Love You For It,” Ludwick (who vocally recalls a combo of Williams, Nicks, and Crow), at once urgent and pleading asks, "Come back baby tell me, tell me have you ever been lonely.” Desolation, desperation, and drugs permeate the mid-tempo “Rock N Roll Shoes” the story of a woman and man whose needs are stronger than love (and when Ludwick hits those high notes, you’re fully aware of what she’s talking about); while the breezy “Lie To Me” describes the willingness to experience something that will ultimately hurt you simply to block the pain of isolation, “He’ll come back for me someday/Those are words the fools say/Hold on heartbreak nothing’s gonna save you tonight.”
This Tall to Ride continues with the confessional, dark, and soaring “Freight Train;" the pedal steel fueled tale of heartbreak, and what you do to take that feeling away, “Bars Ain’t Closin’” (“Maybe it was love maybe I was a fool, but I’m a long way from Texas and tonight I’m taking down the blues”), and the affecting “Insider” where she announces, “I’m not a beauty queen no I have never been/I’m just a dime store mystery fifty pages in.”
Ludwick explores the aftereffects of a car wreck in “Mexia,” exhibits a bit of hopefulness on “Wrong Turn Gone” and exposes a vulnerability when appealing to a would be lover in “Junkies and Clowns” before closing out with the rootsy “Texas Jesus” a brazen, yet legitimate, tale of money changing hands to get what one needs to block out the pain - for a while anyway.
This Tall To Ride isn’t sunshine and roses, but it is replete with stories and characters that make you think, feel, and yes even empathize with, because underneath the broken souls, cocaine, and sex, there’s a commonality simmering through Ludwick’s record which is the human need to make a connection and be loved --- and that's something we all can relate to.
Austin’s Big State - James Brinkman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Brown (drums, vocals) added Patrick Conreaux (bass, vocals), and Aaron Seymour (lead guitar, vocals) - bring swagger and stomp on their first full-length, Sure Thing. Released June 9, the thirteen-track outing, recorded at Teenie Sound Studios and mastered by Matthew Agoglia of The Ranch in Beacon, New York, combines new songs as well as remixed and remastered songs from their two EPs, and finds the band on firm footing with rollicking alt-country, roots rockers. Kicking off with the irreverent, “Oh, Cordelia” where he asks said gal, “Do you wanna fool around?”, Sure Thing calls to mind the Old 97’s from the high-energy “Ballad Of Davy Crockett, Part 2” to the bar room sing along, “Heck Yeah, Dang Right.” The album also includes the raucous, lighthearted “Make America Shake Again” (“One day in November sets the course for 4 more years one side weeps while the other drinks their tears”), the humorous story of “Lynette” and a meeting in a drunk tank, and the tale of “Christine,” the older woman who took advantage of a younger man and “blew his heart to smithereens.” Brinkman and Co. ponder the mystery lights of “Marfa,” a missing male (“Where Is Robert”), and city folk who invade the country (“Upstater”) on a record filled with interesting story songs, humor, and hooks that lives up to its title.
In advance of the Fall release of his new EP, Every Way But Easy, Kent Eugene Goolsby is releasing the first single from the project, "Throwin' Stones" on July 31st. Penned by Goolsby, the mid-tempo track, led by electric guitar and Goolsby's smoky vocals (recalling Kip Moore), finds him expressing regret and remorse over words said and a desire to regain what a couple once had.
"We’ve done our share of fighting
And I know that I was wrong
So won't you take me by the hand
And lead me back to where we belong
What good are words
When love should be just shown?
I'm done using all these
Sticks and stones
So let's go back"
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Since 2010, when Ellery [Tasha and Justin Golden] released its previous record, Tasha had a bout of severe depression that led the band off the road and into new work. After getting an MA in creative writing (she is currently pursuing her doctorate in public health), Tasha began running trauma-informed writing workshops for incarcerated girls: exploring how poetry and songs can break silences and amplify girls’ voices. The bravery of those young writers inspired Tasha to publish her own book of revealing poems, Once You Had Hands (Humanist Press), in 2015. The book is a result of “pushing far beyond what I thought I was allowed to write about”—a practice that altered Tasha’s songwriting, too. “The songs ’Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Sleep Well’ definitely wouldn’t exist without Once You Had Hands,” she notes.
Ellery return on July 21st with their first project in seven years, Over Land, Over Sea. Produced and mixed by Justin, and recorded at Louisville’s La La Land studio, the five-song outing is a layered, lush dose of thoughtful indie-pop that begins with “Sleep Well Goodnight” an instantly catchy and deceptively charming song that hints of revenge. That's followed by the bluesy foot stomper, “Tennessee Whiskey (Hallelujah)” which recounts sordid family histories, and the ethereal "I'm Done Waiting," where Tasha's vocals float over a gorgeous piano and violin. The Goldens round things out with the retro-flavored, hopeful title track and the emotionally resolute "Do Your Worst." A short, yet stirring set, Over Land Over Sea will have the listener riding emotional waves. - and it's a voyage worth taking.
A fixture on the Texas scene, Brandon Rhyder returns after a self-imposed hiatus with his first new album in four years on July 14th. The project, produced by friend and mentor Walt Wilkins, finds Rhyder firmly focused on life's centerpieces: interpersonal relationships, family, and love.
The ten-track eponymous collection begins with Michael Hearn’s “Evergreen,” a gentle poetic proclamation to let go of the little things, "I don't mind things that don't matter these days/Time I spend on worry never pays," and continues with “The Way They Need Each Other,” a collaboration written and performed with singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, that is a touching ode to Rhyder’s wife and more universally to commitment and partnership. Brimming with honesty and emotion, the album also includes the insightful “Shake,” the island-flavored, dreamy and romantic “Let’s Blow Off Monday,” and the introspective steel-laden ballad “No Time For That” which focuses on not the importance of self-worth. Rhyder recounts the traditions of his youth (and continuing them with his children) on the fiddle-accented, bluesy “The Huntin’ Song” and exudes a positivity on “Good Morning Sunshine" before rounding things out with the charming “Half The Time I’m Crazy” (on which Rhyder teams once again with McKenna), “I Hate This Town” (co-written with Keith Gattis) and closer “C’mon Baby Hold On” a tune about being present for your significant other that features Bri Bagwell.
Rhyder's latest is a melodically serene, yet uplifting portrait of a man who, through experience and maturity, finds himself grateful, accepting, and blessed. A good spot to be in indeed.
Tennessee native Will Hoge has amassed an impressive catalog of county-edged roots rock beginning with the 2001 release of Carousel through 2015’s Small Town Dreams. His gritty, powerful vocals and honest, poignant lyrics have made him one of the most respected singer-songwriters in the business. With the release of his tenth full length studio album Anchors (expected August 11th) Hoge employs every weapon in his vast musical arsenal to deliver what may be his finest work yet.
The aptly titled release is a relationship album with emotional anchors as the overlying theme in each of the eleven tracks; the anchors that keep you from drifting away from a good relationship as well as the ones that render you unable or unwilling to move away from a bad one. Anchors pulls you in right away with the first song, “The Reckoning” with its slow, deliberate percussion and guitar mimicking the process of coming to terms with the inevitable. “This Grand Charade” is a heartbreaking account of a couple, whose marriage is essentially over, keeping up appearances for the sake of their kids. “Cold Night In Santa Fe” is a smoldering, piano-driven track about the pain of watching a once happy relationship slip away while “Angels Wings” hits all the right country notes sonically and lyrically as it gives voice to anyone trying to rise above the personal shortcomings and flaws that can sabotage every attempt at lasting love. The title track delves into the baggage we carry from the darker periods of our nation’s past that influence the current discourse.
The lighter tracks on the record are no less well-written and relatable. “Little Bit of Rust”, a strong duet that features Sheryl Crow, talks of love worth holding on to through the rough patches while “This Ain’t An Original Sin” is a playful rocker giving a wink and a nod to giving in to the occasional casual fling. Hoge deftly channels Van Morrison and takes us back to younger days and first loves in “17”.
If you’re unfamiliar with Hoge’s music, Anchors will be a perfect introduction. The album is available for pre-order on Amazon and iTunes and while you’re there, check out his other releases. Visit his website at www.willhoge.com to learn more about this artist and find out when he’ll be touring near you.
“Songs about girls and driving and making terrible decisions, just like all the best songs. Three-part harmonies, jangly guitars & pounding drums. Songs to dance to, drink to and cry to. Sounds like the radio, in a parallel universe where the radio sounds amazing.”
They pretty much nailed it with that description. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the Golden Lights strong eleven-song set, Ghosts Along The Way, is fueled by jangly guitars, a steady drumbeat, and lyrics that draw the listener in. Roots rocker "Eventually" kicks things off and perfectly captures the album, setting the tone for what's to come. "Stuck In The Cheap Seats" is as reflective as it is infectious, "Sunshine, You're Dead To Me" is a piano-tinged shuffler and the radio-ready "Fake Friends" tells of a reality we've all encountered. The energy is amped up on the rollicking "The Fighting Kind," the jaunty, colorful "Alcohol Thins The Blood," and the mid-tempo tale of getting over a love, "Someone Else." Then it's taken back down on the melancholy "Fell By The Wayside" which captures the insightful line "I never thought I'd ever lose you/It was always my intent to chose you, but then I failed to decide," and the somber "Bittersweet Vibrations" before closing out with the "Last One Of The Losers."
If you like The Replacements, Wilco, or The Old 97’s, then the Golden Lights will be right up your musical alley. Give them a listen.
The Nashville-based duo Steelism - Jeremy Fetzer (guitar) and Spencer Cullum (pedal steel) - garnered critical praise and gained a national audience with the release of their 2014 instrumental album, 615 to FAME. These talented artists deliver another praise-worthy project with their second full-length album, ism, co-produced by Fetzer and Cullum. Released via Thirty Tigers June 23rd, ism mixes the sounds of harmonica, guitars, keys, and pedal steel with a string quartet into a re-imagined musical journey through rock, blues, techno, and country - putting forth a stylistic flair that will appeal to both music and cinema enthusiasts.
The album fittingly kicks off with “Re-member”, a roots rock instrumental laced with twang and orchestral flourishes. “Eno Nothing” has a funky groove and guitars aplenty while “Chartreuse” brings a bluesy, Clapton-esque feel. “Anthem” begins with a slow, deliberate piano before rocking into a sound that would be at home in the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino movie.
“Shake Your Heel” blends a little techno with ethereal vocals from Tristen in a song about coping with the stresses and anxieties we have from living with the noise of endless news cycles. Ruby Amanfu lends her sultry vocals to “Roulette” while Andrew Combs and Jessie Baylin combine their voices on the lovely Americana duet “Lonely Game.”
For the lyric-driven listener, the prospect of being attentive to a mostly instrumental offering may not be your idea of Option A, but I find there is something to be said for focusing on the beauty of the music and letting your mind create the story.
To find out more about Steelism, visit their website at www.steelismmusic.com where you can also purchase their music.