The carefully curated 33 tracks on two discs of Landslide Records 40th Anniversary are a testament to its vision. Based in Atlanta and focusing on Southern Rock and all its permutations (blues, jazz, rockabilly, Americana), the set features such stellar artists as Derek Trucks, Widespread Panic, Colonel Bruce Hampton, The Brains, Tinsley Ellis, Webb Wilder and more. It’s rare for every single track to be such a winner when looking back but this is that rare compilation with not one clinker. Listen to Nappy Brown with Tinsley Ellis & The Heart Fixers...
Oftentimes upon a groove being established, it all turns bad as soon as the singer opens his mouth. This is most true in metal but happens in other genres as well. That’s why the two volumes of Whip Masters Instrumentals (Atomicat) are such a delight. Deep grooves, syncopated surprises, funky bottoms and shred-worthy electricity with controlled feedback and a whole host of studio trickery suitably tickles the ear. The art of the novelty instrumental may not be in fashion anymore but these sides by the likes of Ike Turner, The Alan Freed Rock’n’Roll Big Band, The Champs (not “Tequila”), Sandy Nelson, Chet Atkins and 25 terrific unknowns like Teddy & The Rough Riders, Rene & His Alligators, Thin Man Watts and His Rhythm Sparks, The Rock-A-Teens, Grace Tennessee & The American Spirits, Jim Gunner and The Echoes and Bobby December & The Famous Renegades fit the bill in exceedingly danceable and groovable fashion. The second volume has Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Hadda Brooks, Space Man with The Rockets, Wade Ray & His Cow Town 5 and Boots Brown and His Blockbusters. All pre-’63. All terrific fun. With precious few flat tires, these 60 tracks of surf, rockabilly, swing, funk-soul and pop fit the bill.
How could one dude take from such disparate sources and make it come out like only J. Howard Duff can...complete with Steve Cropper licks and idiosyncratic male and female vocals? Thunder & Lightning by J. Howard Duff (self-released) features vocalist Dawn Gaye—a ‘60s wild child who escaped through a bedroom window to hit Woodstock running—who channels Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” and Nick Cage’s “Palaces Of Montezuma.”
As alluring as Gaye may be, Duff takes a back seat to no one. From Roy Hamilton’s 1958 “Don’t Let Go” and Arthur Alexander’s 1962 “Anna” (you might know it from The Beatles' cover version) to Love’s 1966 “Signed DC” and John Lee Hooker’s 1959 “Dimples,” Duff combines a ferocity of spirit with an archeologist’s scientific penchant for detail. Plus, he’s got soul and is a hell of a guitarist. He can take a 2005 Randy Travis country song like “Oh Death” and make it personal and profound. Highlight? Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1927 “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” may be what Duff has on his mind at 71. Or it could be his love of the blues is showing up like when Brian Jones on Shindig in 1965 introduced Howling Wolf on TV to me and other American teenagers for the first time.
Taj Mahal once said “the blues makes my body feel good.” That’s what I thought as I grooved hard to Open Road (Stony Plain Records) by Colin James. Yeah, he can play the blues alright, but he’s so much more. He can do the rock’n’roll like nobody’s business. He can get all Americana-gritty, sing a sweet country song, and he can blister his slide guitar like Blind Willie McTell. Open Road is his 20th album. He writes profound originals and covers only the best: Dylan, Albert King, Tony Joe White and Otis Rush. The band is, in a word, superb. This one’s a keeper.
The various artists on That’ll Flat…Git It! Volume #38 include early rock’n’roll and rockabilly from the vaults of the Liberty and Freedom labels. It’s a pure burn-fest throughout from Eddie Cochran and Bobby Vee to Johnny Burnette and even Willie Nelson. Within its 37 tracks in just under 80 minutes, you’ll discover such delicious unknowns as Andy & The Live Wires, The Frantics and Suzanne with The Band-Aides. As with all Bear Family comps, the accompanying booklet is as fascinating as the music is energizing.