By Lee Zimmerman
Award-winning, critically acclaimed artist Amy Correia expands her insight and approach with her new EP As We Are, a thoughtful rumination on remorse, reflection, mortality, and matters of the heart. She does so courtesy of a series of songs that share both wit and whimsy, albeit in a thoughtful and measured way. “This one is for the lovers out there/The ones who dare to share/All of their hearts and most of their thoughts,” she insists on “With All of Us,” a song that sums up the album’s shared sentiments. The supple arrangements and carefully measured pacing makes each of these entries come across as well considered — quietly philosophical yet still sharing a gracious outreach. Correia’s quiet yet assured vocals manage to resonate even in the midst of these mostly mellow settings, but still find a clear connection regardless. As a result, As We Are is as unpretentious as its title implies.
The serendipitous sounds of The Lied To’s — Susan Levine and Doug Kwartler — ring with a resilience that’s hard to resist. The sound veers from caressing to compelling, and on the song “It’s Not Who You Love” from their new album The Worst Kind of New, the sentiments soar with effortless affirmation. The material is effectively engaging from start to finish, given a kind of folk noir that encourages a consistent embrace. Levin’s delicate vocals often contrast with Kwartler’s uptempo engagement, allowing for variety and versatility to seep into their songs. “Midnight Kiss,” “Winter of the Winter,” “Time” and “Long, Lonesome Road” allow for a more solitary sound, while “Missin’ You,” “Two Days” and “Brokedown Jamboree” offer an uptick in attitude and energy. It’s a most agreeable mix and one that offers an excellent example of the pair’s verve and vitality. Likewise, it’s creates a decidedly pleasant pastiche all round, and one that begs repeated listens. Suffice it to say The Lied To’s are unerrignly appealing.
Jennifer O’Connor’s career has been a fascinating journey, one that’s encompassed some seven album and a pair of EPs released over the course of the past 20 years. While she’s remained quietly below the radar, she’s never failed to fascinate or enthrall. Her latest album, enticingly titled Born at the Disc, continues to extend hat appeal, a hushed, decidedly atmospheric set of songs that shimmer with an ethereal glow. Using synths and drum machines as her primary writing apparatus, O’Connor herself describes it as “part origin story, part quiet reflection, part angry awakening. It’s about family and love. It’s about being one’s self without remorse or regret. It’s about taking stock and taking responsibility. It’s about exhaustion and relief. It’s about annihilation and reconstruction. It’s especially about uncovering what is true. And then not being afraid to live by it.” Given the times we live in, it hits the mark in all those ways and more. A thoughtful and pensive piece of work, it’s clearly her most mesmerizing effort yet.
Tempest is a storied Celtic rock band with a history that reaches back well over three decades. Their sound -- mostly British folk fare shared through contemporary execution -- harkens back to classic folk/rock outfits like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, given that their archival origins are tempered with an electrified approach that's consistently driving and dynamic. Their latest album, Going Home, provides an astute example, boasting a riveting cover of Roger McGuinn's “Jolly Roger” (originally released on The ex Byrd’s first solo album) and a mix of traditional tunes updated and enhanced by leader and Tempest constant Lief Sorbye. It’s a stirring set of songs — rousing, robust and completely compelling. Granted, music like this is somewhat sparse these days, but Tempest continue to hold true to their template and make music that maintains a decided drive and dynamic. Consequently, Going Home — as the title implies — is the ideal introduction for the novice, as well as a stunning reminder for fans and followers why they were enticed and entranced to begin with.
Jessica Kunze and Sally Peters, otherwise known as Rosie’s Ghost, offer an impressive debut courtesy of Bandida, an album flush with traditional far western influences, ranging from an easy lope and south of the border narratives to the lilting sounds of fiddles and the gentle sway of pedal steel guitars. The songs tell a story, built around a tender and touching narrative about a girl who dreams of being a cowgirl and the hopes and inspiration she gathers in bringing it all forward to ultimate fruition. It’s an expressive effort, a soundtrack in search of a movie that’s yet to be made. The two women find an able backing band, but it’s their tender vocals that paint a perfect mesh of dreams and desire. “Let’s ride horses together , you and me forever, side by side we’ll ride…” they sing, immersed in the prairie motif that envelopes the effort overall. An expressive and effusive tale embracing both tenderness and tenacity, Bandida provides an excellent introduction for Rosie’s Ghost, a spirited combination of both attitude and agility.
A British outfit of some renown, Starlite Campbell Band — specifically, Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell — specialize in a straight-forward sound permeated by sturdy rhythms and spry melodies that ring and resonate every step of the way. With their new album, The Language of Curiosity, the focus falls on rich and memorable melodies, songs that make an emphatic impression even on an initial encounter. The title track is an ideal case in point, a riveting rocker that’s as insistent as it is emphatic. “Bad Sign,” the song that follows, is decidedly pointed as well, thanks to a compelling chorus that drives its point home. So too, “Take the Time To Grow Old” is flush with decided deliberation. “Said So” is a rocker worthy of the early Kinks. Ultimately then, the duo can be credited with a delivering an album that ought to bring them the attention they so decidedly deserve. Riveting and resilient, The Language of Curiosity needs no translation.