Emma Swift is an Australian singer of exceedingly high repute, and the fact that she chose to do an album of Bob Dylan songs testifies to both her taste and charm. Of course it’s not out of the ordinary for an artist to dwell entirely on Dylan— after all, the Bobster has been the source of a great many classic covers over the years — but the ability to transform them from their seminal settings and make them entirely one’s own can feel like an intimidating proposition, even for the most seasoned performer. Given Dylan’s singular sound, any attempt at emulating them sometimes finds the newer versions paling in comparison. Wisely then, on her cleverly titled Blonde on the Tracks, Swift places the emphasis mostly on more obscure songs, allowing her free expression and the flexibility to present the material through original interpretations that are uniquely her own. With Robyn Hitchcock, both her personal and professional partner, and Wilco’s Pat Sansone among those who lend support, she effectively adapts the material to find a fit with her own nocturnal-like caress. Given her efforts, these Dylaneque designs once again come across like anthems for the ages.
Those that tuned in to Richard Thompson’s recent podcasts might have noticed the presence of a someone who assisted him with vocals and onscreen support. The woman in question is an artist who boasts her own special distinction, singer-songwriter Zara Phillips. On her new album Mediation & Kitkats, Thompson returns the favor by arranging, producing and playing the bulk of the instrumentation. However make no mistake, Phillips still dominates the proceedings through 11 self-composed songs and a vocal presence that frequently brings to mind the sound of several classic British folk rockers, particularly Thompson’s former chums in Fairport Convention and their late lead singer Sandy Denny. The material is bathed in the autumnal glow of intimacy and solitude, with an assurance and allure that’s unassuming and engaging all at the same time. Thompson’s presence is also unmistakable, courtesy of both his instrumental accompaniment and the backing vocals he contributes on several songs throughout the album. Ultimately, Mediation & Kitkats provides an intriguing proposition, one that’s flush with a decidedly exotic aura filtered through both classic and contemporary conceits.
The Get Right Band live up to their handle on their daringly diverse new album Itchy Soul. Varying their motif from track to track — and often within the space of even a single song — they offer a dazzling combination of sounds that somehow manage to stay in sync — from rocking refrains and anthemic urgency to elements of prog, hip-hop, psychedelia and pure pop. A collaboration with comedian and podcaster Marc Maron on the terse track “However Broken It Is” adds to the album’s eclectic array, although the overall effort manages to avoid sounding desultory or distracting. To the contrary, there is a single theme that’s conveyed consistently throughout, one that refers to the need to address and overcome the central issues that confront the world today — agitation, unrest, isolation, frustration, and fear. Nevertheless, for all the heady discourse those difficulties imply, the melodies remain both creative and compelling, powered with an energy and ingenuity that begs repeated listens in order to fully appreciate it all. Consequently, once canoe assured that indeed The Get It Right Band get it right every time out.
As strange as it sometimes seems, siblings sometimes have the most fractious relationships when making music is concerned. One need only look at Ray and Dave Davies, Liam and Noel Gallagher, the Black Crowes or the Everly Brothers to find evidence of that divide and discord. Fortunately, The Bacon Brothers — Kevin and Michael Bacon — find harmony in the common joy of making music, and over the course of 23 years, they’ve shared that bond whenever their day jobs permit. While Kevin’s an award-winning actor and Michael’s known as an Emmy-winning composer, their combined efforts have yielded a credible career in rock realms as well. The Way We Love, the duo’s new album — and their tenth to date — offers a celebratory look at life, specifically in regard to the relationships that are nurtured through friends, family and others met along the way. The music varies, from pure pop to songs fueled by funk, with the occasional big ballad tossed in for good measure. Comprised of eight new studio offerings and a pair of live recordings as well, it’s flush with upbeat emotions and a fully fueled optimism, perfect anecdotes for today’s troubled times.
Listen to Kevin Bacon talk about the new Bacon Brothers album on the Goldmine Podcast, below.
The Austin band Greyhounds — a duo of consisting of Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell — mark the twentieth anniversary of their partnership with a striking new album curiously dubbed Primates. Their first effort to utilize an outside producer — in this case none other than Steve Berlin of Los Lobos fame — it takes the listeners deeper into the depths of the human experience, as seen through the lens of todays disparity and disconnect. While that may seem a somewhat somber pretext, it adds a taut edge to the music overall, a grit and groove that strongly suggests a classic soul motif, one that embraces the various tones and tempos found in the classic R&B stylings of a more distant era. It is, in fact, a knowing set of songs, a cautionary tale grounded in joy, hope, faith and provocation. That said, it’s not exactly easy to put an exact handle on the duo’s sound, other than to give them credit for plowing their own way forward. After all, their steady pace allows for a sense of certainty that’s sorely lacking in an unhinged era.
In the heralded tradition of all great English groups, The Loft Club offers a ready infusion of exhilarating energy and unabashed enthusiasm. It’s the natural byproduct of their overarched melodies and ringing refrains. The group’s exceptional debut album, Dreaming the Impossible, offers a blend of seamless rockers, hints of psychedelia, abject Americana, and the occasional lean towards the anglicized R&B that characterized many a band in the front lines of the so-called British Invasion during the mid to late ‘60s. Yet while there are a myriad of influences open to interpretation by those who take the time to lean in and listen, The Loft Club are best evaluated on their own terms. So while the band — Daniel Schamroth (guitar/vocals), Jamie Whyte (bass/vocals), Kieran Chalmers (drums), Amy O’Loughlin (vocals) and Sam Piper (lead guitar) — are quite capable of conjuring up a diverse array of comparisons, it’s best to judge them on their own merits, which are plentiful indeed. Their soaring harmonies, steadfast rhythms, winning melodies, and adroit execution find them clearly capable of achieving success through both confidence and clarity. A formidable debut, Dreaming the Impossible provides the possibility that success is more than possible, and, more likely, quite probable indeed.