Bill and the Belles are Happy Again on their new Ditty Boom Records release. The 11 originals by singer/songwriter/guitarist Kris Truelsen are uplifting and joyously cool. They’re also totally ironic as they’re about his divorce. Couched in an otherworldly time-machine of vaudeville, Betty Boop and swing, you’d think this was some 1930s hillbilly novelty act from Louisiana. Fiddle, banjo, ukulele, guitar piano, bass, percussion and that delicious Hammond B3 frame Bill’s tales of woe with just the right amount of sugar. With their dead-on harmony, stop-on-a-dime precision syncopation and humor, there’s really no one else out there doing this kind of throwback music. Leon Redbone would’ve loved this album.
A half-century ago, “Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards was the #4 record in America and has stayed ever since to be ingrained in our pop DNA. Now, for his first album in six years, Right Where I Am (Rising Records), his 20th album, has the 74-year old in fine voice, writing eight new songs, and playing well with others. This one goes down easy in a folk-pop groove. Welcome Back!
The various artists on The Mojo Man Presents Boss Black Rockers Volume #10: Eeny Meeny Minie Moe (Koko Mojo Records) run the gamut from Big Boy Myles & The ShawWees talkin’ ‘bout “The Girl I Married” and Doc Starkes And The Nite Riders demanding “Love Me Like Crazy” to The Cadillacs (“Holy Smoke Baby”) and Richie Richardson and The Jaguars doing “The Jump.” Out of the 28 fun-filled tracks, the legendary bluesman Junior Wells, Richard Berry (with the outrageous “Yama Yama Pretty Mama”) and Wynonie Harris (and his “Bloodshot Eyes”) are the only acts you ever heard of…and that’s what makes these loco Koko Mojo compilations so cool. Highlights include Chuck Flamingo’s “Peeping Tom,” Henry and Mamie’s “Two Big Feet” and The Jive Five reminiscing about “When I Was Single.” This one may be their best one yet: it’s a keeper.
Bluegrass no more: vocalist extraordinaire Anna Kline and string wizard John Looney have outgrown their ‘grass roots in a band called Grits & Soul. This Kentucky duo is now Swift Silver and their self-titled debut positively bedazzles with smarts, soul and the kind of lyrical wisdom that will leave one thinking long after the final track, “Ain’t Wrecked Yet.” This is eloquent classy Americana with eight originals and one stirring cover of The Stanley Brothers classic 1950 true-life ode, “The Fields Have Turned Brown, as played by a full band of exquisite musicians. There’s tears in that song, as there are in such profound elegies as “We’ve Given Up On Us,” “Come On Home To Yourself” and “We All Get Our Turn.” Their artistry knows no boundaries. What a find!
The debut of Three-Layer Cake leaves more questions than answers. Who are these guys? What the hell kind of music is this? If one listens to Stove Top (RareNoiseRecords), one will be enthralled yet still not know what’s going on. The attitude is decidedly punk. The musicianship leans jazz. The execution could be construed as metal. It’s certainly an oddball kind of demented funk. It’s definitely avant-garde. Yet it’s accessible. Catchy even. That might be a contradiction of terms but Brandon Seabrook (guitar, banjo, tapes), Mike Pride (drums, glockenspiel, bells, organ) and bassist Mike Watt have always spit on genre constraints. Watt played with Iggy Pop. That might tell you something. Pride drummed for free-jazz legend Anthony Braxton. Seabrook is a total musical madman. There’s no describing this action. Just crank it up and surrender.