4 CDs of Soul, Beatles, Alt-Pop & Americana

B_Javier_Colon_Photo_by_Tony_Dube_036Singer/songwriter/guitarist Javier Colon is thrilled to have to obey the law of “Gravity” on Concord Records. The winner of the debut season of NBC-TV’s “The Voice,” Colon’s fourth CD is the one that finally captures what he’s all about. Winning that televised competition garnered him a record contract with Universal but, as he says, “…it was an arranged marriage and it didn’t work out.”

The 15 new songs (12 of which he wrote or -co-wrote) saunters by with an easy peaceful feeling. Vocally, he’s so damn soulful! The compositions are memorable. His guitar playing is fluid. This might be his time. After all, when he sang lead in The Derek Trucks Band, he molded his own sensibilities to Trucks…and did great on the road for two years. When he toured Japan with sax man Dave Koz, he gave some balls to the smooth-jazz operator. And he toured Mexico and South America opening for Maroon 5, reportedly the kids were alright with him.

As I say, now it’s his time. The dude is a valid triple-threat on guitar, vocals and compositionally. These songs are catchy, funky, rhythmic, rockin’ and cool. What else could one want?

zzzWren by WrenSinger/songwriter Wrenn is on a fast track. Her four-song “Apathy & Good Books” EP has already been described as “Adele-lite” and “retro-pop.” Her way with a melody is McCartney-esque and her flair for the dramatic is Bowie-esque. She’s from Athens, Georgia, the same little town that gave the world The B-52s and, indeed, there are some divinely quirky moments here. She graduated from Georgia University where she majored in Visual Arts. All the artwork, videos and “bubble-gum chic” of her stage outfits add up, especially when you consider her fans are called “Fireflies” (I guess you’d have to go to a show to find out why.) She wrote, recorded and produced her “Hi” debut last year in three weeks. She’s also a photographer, artist and model who can play the flute. I, for one, am looking forward to her second full-length. If this tease of a CD is any indication, we may have a new pop star in our midst.

Daria-2I really tried to like “Strawberry Fields Forever: Songs By The Beatles” (Origin/OA2 Records) by Daria but I couldn’t get Bill Murray’s classic Saturday Night Live comedy routine out of my mind of the bad nightclub singer. After all, these songs are part of my DNA. Actually, maybe that’s why I couldn’t get past the cocktail hour backing and seriousness of the project…especially when you’re covering McCartney’s “Helter Skelter” (which Lennon always hated) as a lounge act. The only song that’s served up right is “If I Fell,” which you could, indeed, picture a wedding band doing. But the title song? Or “Come Together”? Inexplicably she puts “Blackbird” in “Bird Medley” next to “Bye Bye Blackbird” from 1926 and “Icarus.” She should have shelved that last one to include the Little Jimmy Dickens’ classic 1965 Grand Ole Opry song “May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”

Steve Dawson by Alice DawsonSteve Dawson can sing, play guitar and compose (and do all three masterfully). The songs on his seventh and superb “Solid States and Loose Ends” CD (Black Hen Music) are oftentimes dark, fraught with the kind of literary imagery you might find in a Raymond Chandler novel. In his native Vancouver, Canada, he’s known as a Ry Cooder mad-scientist type of musician. Since he’s moved to Nashville, he’s become an excavator of the long-ago and far-away. Despite this being a full-band release (as opposed to his stark and lonely “Rattlesnake Cage” in 2014), he covers “Riley’s Henhouse Door” accompanying himself on acoustic slide. The song is a prized gem of a nugget from the 1920s by Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers.

Four years in the making, complete with A-List Nashville players on whatever each track calls for including drums, keyboards, violoa, fiddle, mandolin, accordion, sax, trumpet, acoustic and electric bass and backing vocals by the sublime McCrary Sisters, you might say this one is his career album. It traverses roots-rock, blues, folk, country, gospel and soul. He plays acoustic, electric, slide and pedal steel. “On Top Of The World” is Western Swing. He even covers “You Got What It Takes” by Joe Tex.

This one’s a stone cold beauty of a keeper.

 

 

 

 

 

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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