While guitarist John Reynolds provides the muscle, singer-songwriter Mike Daly has self-released the most personal—the most heartbreaking-yet-uplifting—song of his career. “This Is My Life,” by Mike Daly & The Planets, may tell the tale of his cancer during a pandemic, but it’s so much more.
In the ‘90s, Daly fronted the strong power-pop band Every Damn Day that resulted in two albums and numerous EPs. His Planets formed in 2010 and have put out two more albums, an EP and numerous singles. Everything Daly has ever released has been top-notch American roots-rock—organic, joyous, honest, and, with that ever-present Reynolds virtuosity, both rhythmic and biting on solos, it’s a brand of New Jersey rock that stands up to anything else out of this great musical state.
“All of my heroes are fading away and I’ve seen too many friends reach the end of their days/Lately time has been traveling a little too fast/I guess this is my life now/I hope that it lasts.”
There’s no regret, no sorrow, just pure statement-of-fact, buoyed by the emotion of continuance, continuance of his art, continuance of his life (“I feel like I’ve still got something to say/I’ve got miles to travel and music to play.” (www.mikedaly.com)
Cinco, the new self-released album by Chapell, fronted by Connecticut’s Alan Chapell (although he spent an elongated period of time in India), is a solid effort combining the singer-songwriter’s unique perspectives grounded by a studio nonet that fills in all the crevices with wondrous sound. From the electric/acoustic violin of Lorenza Ponce and the keyboards of Ali Culotta to the electric and acoustic bass of Malcolm Gold, all bases are covered to achieve a satisfying listen and repeated listens thereafter. Add percussion, three backing vocalists, the electric and acoustic guitar of Ann Klein and Chapell’s own piano and you’ve got a heady brew of songs about relationships, religion, booze and entertaining. Dude can sing. He can write. And his stories make you think. (www.chapellmusic.com)
From “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” to “Little Egypt” and “Along Came Jones,” when you put the fun quotient of The Coasters on the brilliant compositions of the legendary Leiber-Stoller songwriting duo and add the sax of King Curtis, you’ve got one of the—if not the—greatest vocal groups of the 20th Century. The latest entry in Bear Family Productions "Rock” series is The Coasters Rock and, boy, they ain’t kidding. Complete with fascinating booklet of information and pictures, these 32 tracks, sounding as great as ever, run the gamut from the opening “This Is Rock and Roll” to “Three Cool Cats” (The Beatles loved this one so much, they just had to record it too) to “Young Blood,” “Down In Mexico,” “Poison Ivy,” even “Besame Mucho” (another Beatle favorite). There’s no pot holes on this super-fine highway of hilarity.
George Ducas has that unerring country-as-dirt voice as honed by a lifetime of loving Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark. Four albums in, on Yellow Rose Motel (Loud Ranch Records), he’s distilled the essence of the kind of smashes he wrote for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) into one all-encompassing strong country statement. A descendant of Willie’s pioneering 1975 Red Headed Stranger in tone and attitude, this Motel comes with dark secrets on the title track and cinematic exigencies like “Eastwood” where he creatively mixes’n’matches Clint’s characters in a new kind of Americana love song. On “Country Badass,” he lifts the all-out bragging aesthetic of old-school hip-hop into the country zone. It’s just so cool. “Preachers And Pushers,” though, is the highlight. Ducas writes from the heart, sings from the gut, can play a mean rock-star-styled electric lead guitar and has the right kind of smarts, looks and chops.
Forty quarantined songwriters from around the world collaborated in two weeks to compose and record The People Of 2020. They each had one day to add their part and pass it on. The project attempts to portray in song the vicissitudes of daily life as we now are forced to live it. And it succeeds on the strength of each musician’s creativity and how it all fits together like a big mosaic. Jazzy fusion worldbeat hip-hop funk rock is the order of the day. These are serious cats who—out of over a hundred respondents of a social media query—have played with Stevie Wonder, Sting and The Roots. As produced by Adam Ahuja, it’s a seamless trip melding horns, strings, percussion, voices, guitars and keyboards into a whole universal of good vibes. (https://www.infinitygritty.com/the-people-of-2020/)
Swiss quartet Sonar—with the help of super-guitarist David Torn (who’s played with David Bowie and Jeff Beck)—are single-handedly keeping the rapidly fading art of instrumental progressive rock alive with the release of the near-brilliant Tranceportation Volume #2 (RareNoise Records). The four-guitar format—buoyed by live looping and deliciously percolating percussion—is absolutely perfecto for this meandering, kaleidoscopic joyride of carnivalesque proportions. The four tracks range in time from 9:40 to 12:42, so there’s plenty of otherworldly jamming going on. Highlight “Slow Burn” is a build-up to infinity and, just like the rest of the record, proves that you can still rewrite the rules of guitar-centric achievement.
The best damn Pam Tillis album in years, Looking For A Feeling (Stellar Cat Records), her eleventh, hits home hard with a barrage of country-soul, swampy pop-rock, hillbilly funk, roots-reverent Americana and a hint of gospel. She’s in great voice—better than ever—and her songwriting and production chops are also evident. This proud Florida iconoclast has always been just a little bit oddball (to her credit), the kind of country singer who now quotes Questlove on the inside cover. So many highlights: “Dolly 1969” for her main inspiration, the twin fiddles on the instant barroom classic “Dark Turn Of Mind” and a veritable torch-song trilogy of the title track, “Scheme Of Things” and “My Kinda Medicine.”
Andrew Gold [1951-2011] was a lynchpin of the entire mid-‘70s Los Angeles music scene as an in-demand multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, vocalist and composer for Ronstadt, Garfunkel, and James Taylor. He went Top 10 as a solo in ’77 with “Lonely Boy.” He wrote the theme song for The Golden Girls and sang the theme song for Mad About You.
In ’73, scrounging around for a label deal, he recorded a batch of tunes yet none of them made it on to his four solo albums. They now have all been collected on Something New: Unreleased Gold (Omnivore Recordings) where his peaceful easy feeling sways with L.A. pop smarts.