By the time Eileen Rose’s debut album, Shine Like It Does, came out in 2001, the female singer/songwriter boom of the ’90s was unofficially over. Major labels were no longer going out of their way to find the next Alanis Morissette, the next Fiona Apple, or the next Sarah McLachlan. But talented female singer/songwriters had not disappeared — they were still doing their thing even though they weren’t being hyped to death by major labels. And one of the more promising ones was Eileen Rose, whose second album, Long Shot Novena, is an enjoyably bluesy collection of roots rock and folk-rock. One hears a variety of influences on this release; Rose’s singing and writing have been influenced by everyone from Stevie Nicks and Marianne Faithfull to Bob Dylan. But Rose never sounds like she is emulating any of her influences; ultimately, the Boston native (now living in England) sounds like herself on “White Dove’s Awake,” “See How I Need You,” and other melodic yet gritty originals. Rose (who wrote all of the songs herself and plays guitar on all of them) is obviously well aware of the power of the blues; Long Shot Novena isn’t a blues album, but the singer/songwriter brings a lot of blues feeling to her roots rock and folk-rock. One of the CD’s best tracks is the poignant “For Marlene,” which she wrote for the mother of a young Boston woman who was murdered in 1997. Five years after Rose wrote “For Marlene,” the killer had yet to be caught — and Rose’s song explains that time had not healed the mother’s wounds. Meanwhile, Rose brings a strong country influence to “Big Dog,” but for the most part, she isn’t a country singer. Roots rock and folk-rock are the styles that usually prevail on this memorable sophomore outing.
01. Devon Allman’s Honeytribe – Mercy Mercy
02. Leslie West – Third Degree
03. Europe – Bag of Bones
04. Walter Trout – Lonely
05. Don Airey – People in Your Head
06. Gov’t Mule – Railroad Boy
07. Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa – I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
08. Healing Sixes – Fine Time
09. Warren Haynes – Hattiesburg Hustle
10. Steve Lukather – Transition
11. JJ Grey & Mofro – 99 Shades of Crazy
12. Robert Cray – Won’t Be Coming Home
13. Danny Bryant – Prisoner of the Blues
Bonnie Whitmore‘s second disc is crammed full of soulful, insistent Americana, with sharp-edged songs sometimes reminiscent of Tom Petty, delivered in a sure voice that’s both powerful and plaintive and throws in a touch of twang just when it feels most called for, as in the rootsy “Cryin’ Out for Me” and the elemental “The Gavel,” a pounding soured-love song that’s one of my favorites. In “Heartbreaker” (speaking of Tom Petty), she displays an ability to elevate lyrics that border on cliché (“You ain’t nothin’ but a heartbreaker/You ain’t nothin’ but a reason to cry”) with a compelling melody.
Yet while the songs and arrangements follow familiar patterns, tired cliché isn’t what Whitmore is about; it’s hooks. The more energetic songs, like “High in the Sky” and “There I Go Again,” shine with rock-and-roll joy that bring to mind Mary-Chapin Carpenter, while the more contemplative numbers, like “Colored Kisses” and “Heartbreaker,” get their strength from plainspoken, hummable melodies and precision arrangements often dressed up in organs and strings and mandolins. Harmony vocals are another strength on display in many of these songs, sweetness and raw emotion hanging together in the air in thrilling tension as she holds out those long notes.
Picketts singer Christy McWilson has one of those voices that, when you hear it, it matters little what she’s singing; the sound of her voice alone makes the experience worthwhile–think a throaty Kelly Willis. Producer Dave Alvin may describe her as a “roots-rock Sylvia Plath,” but between the warmth of her warble and the perkiness of the production, all thoughts of suicide are held at bay. True, she sings of sober subjects such as growing older (“Apple Doll”) and the business end of the music biz (“Fly Away”), but the energy of the performances and the out-and-out gorgeousness of her instrument make The Lucky One a cathartic rather than a depressing experience. Unfortunately, Alvin’s L.A. alternative sound tends to obscure rather than highlight McWilson (say what you will about Nashville productions, they do know how to record great voices). Enjoyable as the Spectorish “Someday” is, one wishes her powerful vocal were set off rather than just another element in the wall of sound; elsewhere, her lowest notes are often nearly lost. Still, Alvin is to be lauded for rescuing a real talent from potential obscurity, and those who experiences McWilson’s womanly wail can consider themselves among the lucky ones. –Michael Ross
The smoky, soulful sounds of Caitlin Rose in this exclusive live performance EP. Backed by a top-notch band of players she had hand-picked solely for this session, Caitlin re-imagines songs from her latest album, The Stand-In, dressed in a lounge-tinged, vintage country vibe.”
01 – Golden Boy
02 – Pink Champagne
03 – Old Numbers
04 – No More Lonely
05 – Everywhere I Go
Folk vagabond Devendra Banhart has shared more details about his new album, Mala, his first studio album since 2009’s What Will We Be. The record will be out on March 12 through his new home label Nonesuch. That’s the cover art, above, painted by Banhart himself.
The album title, Mala, was inspired by Banhart’s fiancée, Ana Kras, a Serbian artist. According to a press release, the word “mala” is an Eastern European term of endearment (like “sweetie pie”). The album was co-produced by Banhart and Noah Georgeson and recorded at Banhart’s house in Los Angeles.
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