By Lee Zimmerman
Guitarist, songwriter, producer and all round wunderkind Fernando Perdomo is a force of nature — not only does his release one exceptional effort after another, but it also manages to vary the template without sacrificing quality or consistency. His latest project, recorded in tandem with vocalist/guitarist Will Hawkins with bassist Brendan Vasquez and drummer Nick Moran is a steadfast rock outfit that goes by theme of Nine Mile Station. With Hawkins’ gritty vocals at the fore and the steady support of his bandmates, the group’s debut album, Open Highways, effectively captures resiliency and resolve in such a way to make them already sound like seasoned veterans even at the outset. A cover of the Tom Petty classic “The Waiting” is especially telling, but a slew of originals — “California,” “New Friends” and “Hit the Ground,” among them — convey the feel of vintage classics, all within a timeless template. As a result, Open Highways leaves little doubt that the road ahead will lead to further triumphs.
William Beckman is another artist who sounds like he’s been reading in the ethos forever. He bears a classic croon and sturdy baritone that brings to mind Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and others of a particularly hallowed stature. As a decedent of cattle ranchers in Del Rio Texas, it’s little surprise that he occasionally veers south of the border to incorporate the mariachi and Norteño sounds of northern Mexico within his classic country motif. His new EP Faded Memories reflects both his agility and ability. A hit on social media, he is, as his reps claim, “the real deal,” and whether igniting a slow burn or driving forward with a steady beat, he conveys an unwavering confidence and credibility. His singing and songwriting clearly have him well-situated for prime time, while a riveting take on Bruce Springsteen’s ruminating “I’m On a Fire” perfectly caps the collection and allows for the fact that Beckman is clearly capable of sparking some major interest all on his own.
Noam Weinstein epitomizes what it means to be the sensitive singer-songwriter type. He pours his heart out through his songs, without regard to vulnerability or indifference. His latest release, Undivorceable, sums up that stance courtesy of a series of mournful and melancholy piano ballads that find Weinstein emoting with all the ache and sensitivity he can summon. Seemingly centered on the trials and travails of relationships bound by a lingering love, it finds producer Mike Viola effectively capturing the passion and pathos while often incorporating a small string section to enhance the dramatic effect. The result is a lovely set of songs, shared with an ache and longing that speaks softly to the human heart while looking at life from the inside out. Weinstein has ample experience when it comes to sharing songs of this nature; with eight albums to his credit, he’s garnered any number of critical kudos, honors and accolades, in addition to having his songs recorded by other artists. Undivorceable suggests that the bond remains intact.
Admittedly, it's tough to get a new handle on the blues. Therefore, it takes a special artist to cull the essence of that genre and create something creative and compelling whole still staying true to the timeless template originally established by Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the other early icons that etched this uniquely American motif. Given that scenario, credit veteran blues provocateur Stacy Mitchart with mining elements of Blues, R&B and old school in ways that are both daring and distinctive. His new album, Printers Alley, proves the point courtesy of 15 riveting tracks that offer unfiltered observations of love, infidelity and the difficult choices that must be made when reconciling the needs of the mind and the heart. Rollicking and robust, it attests to the fact that Mitchart is indeed one of the most essential artists staying true to the blues In a vibrant and varied way.
Singer-songwriter Stephen Clair is an emotive artist whose ability to share his sentiment finds a continued connection on To the Trees, his ninth album and most effusive endeavor to date. A resident of New York’s Hudson Valley, he channels evocative imagery to excellent effect, from riveting ballads to over-the-top upbeat revelry. Even so, To The Trees, a collaborative affair, recorded with a band dubbed The Restless Age (drummer Lee Falco, keyboardist Will Bryant and bassist Brandon Morrison), is a decidedly optimistic affair, as summed up in the sentiment shared through “I Hope We Make It Here” in particular, a celebratory song that declares Clair’s desire to stake his place on the planet and commit to continuing the spread of good vibes in the process. It also points to the fact that it’s long past time Clair received the recognition he so long decidedly deserves. If nothing else, he remains a beacon of optimism in a world where that quality is sadly lacking. In summation, To the Trees takes that possibility to its highest heights.
Shooter Jennings had a lot to live up to. The only son of the legendary Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, he had to stake his place in the musical firmament early on in order to distinguish himself from his famous forebears. With his new project, Sometimes Y, a collaboration with a hip-hop artist that calls himself Yelawolf, he makes his most distinctive statement yet. It’s a topsy-turvy affair that combines swagger, arena sized rockers, intensity and exuberance to create a musical hybrid that avoids easy categorization of any kind. It doesn’t call for a quick listen, but rather decided indulgence to fully appreciate the novelty and nuance. The title track provides an explosive opening (literally!) and from that point on, the duo proceed fearlessly through a stunning array of ten tracks that offer an outsized sound and assertive stance. Exhilarating and effusive in equal measure, it’s certain to bring both artists to a higher plateau. “Make me a believer,” they declare on the song of the same name. One listen is enough to convince anyone in earshot.