By Mike Greenblatt
The self-titled Americana beauty from Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters on Organic Records is the kind of album aspiring nu-country stars should pay attention to. This is a band that does everything right. Platt deserves all that might come to her over this, her fifth (and best) album. Backed by pedal steel, electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion and vocal harmony, it’s Platt’s show as she writes, sings and co-produces. Complete with lyrics of introspection with the kind of words you can chew on long after the album ends, it also works on a lighter level by dint of the fact that it just sounds so damn good. Go as deep as you want. It’s all good, as they say.
If the North Mississippi Allstars say it’s time for a “Prayer For Peace” (Sony Legacy), it must be. They’ve been on the mark for the last 21 years and you just can’t go wrong with what this band has been laying down. Every time. In fact, they’ve turned into one almighty jam band. On this, their eighth, RL Burnside’s “Long Haired Doney” never felt so fine. As usual, The Brothers Dickinson rule the roost. Composer/Guitarist/Vocalist Luther and drummer/pianist/synth bassist/programmer/vocalist/composer Cody are simply like no other. Their “World Boogie Is Coming” topped 2013 and now we have a 2017 best-of contender. They do Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got To Move” better than the Stones. Produced by Boo Mitchell, with performances from Allman Brother bassist Oteil Burbridge as well as a host of other fine guests, you can dance to this “Prayer…” They even do the 1920s jug-band classic “Stealin’.” Play it loud.
Mississippi native Big Joe Williams [1903-1982] moved to Chicago in the late 1940s and became a star with his oddball nine-string guitar. A primary influence on every generation of bluesmen since, he was a fan favorite during the ’60s folk-blues craze on college campuses and international festivals. To hear him play that guitar and sing in his gravel-pit voice for the 30 minutes of “Southside Blues” (Rock Beat Records) recorded live at a small Windy City club by producer Norman Dayron is to witness greatness right up front and personal. Songs like “Don’t Want No Big Fat Woman,” “Sloppy Drunk Blues” and “Sugar Mama” are but three of 12 gems.
At a station in Malden Missouri 51 years ago, Jerry Mercer and his band, The Rhythm Blues Boys, set up their equipment for what they thought would be a one-off gig. To add some spice to the proceedings, they invited their friend Narvell Felts (pictured). Little did they know that those two sessions for two different live programs would stand the test of time and be re-released by RWA in 2017 as 1956 Radio Rockabillies. Felts, still rocking today at the age of 78, would go on to be a successful ’70s country singer. Here, though, he’s positively wild, spitting his way through some hard rockabilly, backed by a swinging little combo who puts all the accents in the right places. Totally hillbilly, even humorously so (especially in their in-between song promos for their local gigs), these backwoods hicks from Arkansas make a joyous table-thumping sound on such 1950s classics as Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes,” Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train,” Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me” and 29 other short bursts. It’s all very convivial what with Mercer acting as host. Their youthful enthusiasm shines through like the most primordial of garage rock and, as such, is a worthy addition to rockabilly history. Hard to believe these old tapes were gathering dust in Mercer’s attic.
Spinnin’ Around (Germany’s Rhythm Bomb Records) by Vince & The Sun Boppers is in the hard-charging rockabilly style by a new band out of Italy whose debut only came out last year. They’ve learned their lessons well. Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Vince Mannino has been a student of that classic and beloved mid-’50s Memphis Sun Records sound since he was a teenager in late-’70s Sicily hiccupping his way through the classics, yet now writing his own. Frankie Ardito slaps that stand-up bass silly and famous Italian radio disc jockey John Ziino is positively propulsive on the drum kit. It all makes for a Tennessee-by-way-of-Italy dance party right in your own living room.
Machine Mass Plays Hendrix on yet another phenomenal MoonJune Records release. Eschewing the cliché of classic rock restrictions, Michel Delville (guitar, Roland GR09, loops, stylophone, electronics and samples), Tony Bianco (drums and percussion) and Antoine Guenet (keyboards, synth, acoustic piano) take the basic skeletal frameworks of “Third Stone From The Sun,” “You Got Me Floating,” “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp,” “Little Wing,” “Purple Haze,” “Voodoo Chile,” “You Got Me Floating” and “The Wind Cries Mary” to extrapolate their essence into even more psychedelic jazz-rock fusion action meant to confound, illuminate, challenge and, ultimately, satisfy, the adventurous ear. Bravo! I hope they do a second volume!
Don’t write about much metal anymore but damn if this new Siriun CD, “In Chaos We Trust,” didn’t rip my fool head off! The Brazilian band born in 2014 Rio has found that perfect sin-spot between death, prog, black, thrash and satan. It’s all of the above yet none of the above. Taken in small doses, it’s so good it’ll make you want to break something. Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Alexandre Castellan has recruited new monsters for bass, drums and second guitar with the result a stunning tsunami of sound. Enter this portal if you dare!
Warning! Blatant plug: The print edition of Goldmine magazine now features my “Filled With Jazz” column where I cover CDs like the instantly catchy “Jazz Tango” (Zoho) by the Pablo Ziegler Trio. Romantic, moving, kinetic, majestic and sexy, tango music is to be savored by your head and heart as much as your feet. With only guitar (Claudio Ragazzi) and that lovable, ever-present squeezebox accordion known as a bandoneon (Hector Del Curto), Ziegler makes magic. Believe me.