Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Speedbuggy USA: “Kick Out The Twang” (2018) CD Review

Speedbuggy USA, after several years without any new releases, gave us South Of Bakersfield in 2016. And now they’ve followed that gem with another excellent album, Kick Out The Twang. This album features mostly original material, but also a couple of good covers. And in fact, one of those covers kicks off the album. The first band I ever fell in love with was The Monkees, and Speedbuggy USA gets things going here with a good country rendition of The Monkees’ “Last Train To Clarksville,” here titled “Take The Last Train To Clarksville.” And it totally works as country. Of course, The Monkees had a lot of country elements to their music, thanks to Michael Nesmith. Anyway, this is a fun rendition. They don’t bother with the “didda-didda-didda” part. A great start to the CD. It’s followed by “Get Around,” a good solid rock song with a rough and rowdy edge, like a song playing at the devil’s favorite whiskey joint. There’s even a bit of howling. There are moments when it sounds to me like what would have happened if Bon Scott had decided to tackle country music. “I get around, I get around/I don’t give a damn if I sink or I drown/I fall down, hit the ground/I get around.”

“Shaky Town” is a somewhat mellower country tune that has that rhythm like a horse trotting across the range. And, hey, it addresses one of those great country music topics – driving a big truck. This is one I’m going to add to my road trip play list, especially because I love the line “I ain’t lost, and I won’t be found.” Oh yes, I’m eager to get on the road, to be going, doesn’t matter where. It’s the leaving and not the arriving that is appealing, you know. This is a song I enjoy more and more each time I listen to this album. It’s followed by another of the disc’s highlights, “Hold My Head Up High,” with that potent combination of punk and country. “What should I do/I still need you/You were untrue/What should I do.” There is some really good vocal work here. Then “Southbound” begins with the sound of a train whistle, and takes on the rhythm of a train speeding along, a song in motion.

“Sorry” is a gorgeous, slow, sad tune. “I’m sorry I watched you cry.” This song is just so bloody good, and completely effective. The band then raises the energy again with “Wood, Screws And Nails,” a fast-paced and fun country punk tune. Dance around like an elated maniac with amphetamine pumping through his veins. “This heart is strong and it will not fail/I built this heart with wood, screws and nails/And why don’t you love me/Darling, tell me true/Why don’t you need me/Darling, I’m your fool.” And, yes, there is a Mr. T reference, if you needed any further reason to adore this song. That’s followed by the album’s second and final cover, “Unchain My Heart,” their version sounding truly haunted and pained, and lines like “I’m under your spell, like a man in a trance/But you know damn well I don’t stand a chance” ring true. We are in dark country territory here.

The band moves more into the folk realm with “Long Gone.” “I’m long gone/I finally let go.” I like this song a lot, but my absolute favorite track on this album is “Honky Tonk Singer,” which follows it. This is a fantastic song; it is serious, moving, engaging, and features perhaps the best vocal performance on the album. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’m at the end of a trail/I can’t hold on much longer/It’s a hard road to travel/When love lets you down.” This song digs right into you, you know? Then “Rodeo Star” is the song that gives the album its title in the lines, “If I was a rodeo star/Life would be so beautiful for me/Why, I’d come out with a bang/Hell, I’d kick out the twang.” The album concludes with “Darlin’ I’m Comin’ Home,” a lively song about being on road, another good choice for a road trip mix. “Truck stop girl, won’t you treat me right.”

CD Track List
  1. Last Train To Clarksville
  2. Get Around
  3. Shaky Town
  4. Hold My Head Up High
  5. South Bound
  6. Sorry
  7. Wood, Screws And Nails
  8. Unchain My Heart
  9. Long Gone
  10. Honky Tonk Singer
  11. Rodeo Star
  12. The Devil With Me
  13. Darlin’ I’m Comin’ Home
Kick Out The Twang was released on July 6, 2018.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Vanessa Collier: “Honey Up” (2018) CD Review

Vanessa Collier is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter and saxophonist, and on her new album, Honey Up, she delivers some uplifting and exciting blues and soul music. The album, her third, features mostly original material (with just one exception). Joining her on this release are Nick Stevens on drums, Nick Trautmann on bass, Sparky Parker on guitar, Laura Chavez on guitar, William Gorman on keys, Quinn Carson on trombone, and Doug Woolverton on trumpet.

The album gets off to a great start with “Sweatin’ Like  Pig, Singin’ Like An Angel.” This is exactly what I need, a song that feels like a party with some strong female vocals leading the festivities. This track is some blues, some gospel, and a lot of soul. And with this ongoing heat, a song about sweating is just perfect. Plus, I love that contrast in the line, “Sweatin’ like a pig, singin’ like an angel.” Oh yes, let’s not let this heat hold us down. This track, in addition to a lively vocal performance, features nice work on keys and guitar. And then the horns take turns at lead, giving us some wonderful stuff, particularly when they seem to be dancing, tangled together, finishing each other’s sentences. Now the entire band sounds like a group of angels, and my apartment (where I’m listening) has become a church. The fun then continues with “Don’t Nobody Got Time To Waste.” “If you’re early, then you’re on time/If you’re on time, then you’re late/Oh yes, you’re late/And if you’re late, well, then you’re fired/’Cause don’t nobody got no time to waste.” This song sounds like a celebration. You can raise some roofs with this music, and that would certainly not be a waste of time.

“Honey Up,” the title track, comes on like a glorious burst of funk, and those horns are absolutely delicious. This one has a great, fun groove. “Yeah, you want me to honey up/And kiss your behind/You want me to honey up/This is where I draw the line.” I dig this tune’s jam. I bet Vanessa Collier puts on an excellent concert. She has a pretty serious touring schedule, so maybe I’ll get the chance to check her out at some point. I certainly hope so, especially after listening to a track like “Honey Up,” one of the album’s best. It’s followed by “Percolatin’,” a seriously cool instrumental track with a funky heart of its own and room for several musicians to shine. Vanessa Collier then changes things up with “Icarus,” a sweet and beautiful tune, with something of a light folk vibe mixed with soul. It comes as a delightful surprise, and is another of the CD’s highlights. There is plenty of excellent vocal work on this track, with Vanessa providing her own backing vocals. Vanessa also plays acoustic guitar on this one.

She then goes to a thumping, loud energetic number titled “The Fault Line,” one I found myself singing along to. “We’re standing at the fault line/We don’t even know the reason why.” This one is rock, with some good work on guitar and more great stuff on horns. That’s followed by “Bless Your Heart,” which is more firmly situated in the blues. Then “You’re A Pill” is a fun number with delightful work from the horn section and more wonderful vocal work. I particularly love the jam at end. “You Get What You Get” is also fun, with a good, positive attitude. “Now I’m not saying that you should just accept everything/But sometimes you’ve got to decide when to step in the ring/But don’t make life hell for those you are around/Just change it or accept it, and stop making that awful sound/’Cause you get, you get what you get.” The album concludes with its only cover, a version of Chris Smither’s “Love You Like A Man,” here titled “Love Me Like A Man” (as it was when Bonnie Raitt covered it). Here Vanessa Collier is getting more heavily into the blues, slowing the song down and stretching it out, really exploring it and jamming on it. There is some fantastic work on saxophone here. “I need, yes yes yes, I need, I need someone to love me/Just don’t, don’t put yourself above me/And love me like a man.”  

CD Track List
  1. Sweatin’ Like A Pig, Singin’ Like An Angel
  2. Don’t Nobody Got Time To Waste
  3. Honey Up
  4. Percolatin’
  5. Icarus
  6. The Fault Line
  7. Bless Your Heart
  8. You’re A Pill
  9. You Get What You Get
  10. Love Me Like A Man
Honey Up was released on July 6, 2018.

Dave Rudolf: “British Re-Invasion” (2018) CD Review

Dave Rudolf is a singer and songwriter who has released more than thirty albums, covering a lot of musical ground. I first listened to him a couple of years ago when he released a folk album titled Let It Roll. His new release (well, new as of a few months ago; it is possible that he’s released another four or five discs in the meantime), titled British Re-Invasion, is an album of covers of songs from British artists, songs he listened to in his youth. So this is music that means a lot to him, music that inspired him, music he has a passion for. Joining him on this release are Marc Adrian on guitar, Jim Widlowski on drums, John Chorney on keys, Rick Ariail on keys, Wally Hustin on bass, John Lawler on harmonica, Al Joseph on violin, and Marsha Lynne Smith on backing vocals.

Not surprisingly, Dave Rudolf begins this album of homage to the British Invasion with a Beatles song. Makes sense, right? The song he chooses is “Rain,” which was originally released as the flip side to “Paperback Writer.” This is a song that the Grateful Dead used to cover occasionally in the 1990s (I saw a really good version in Eugene, 1994), but is certainly not one of The Beatles’ most covered tunes. This version from Dave Rudolf is a decent, respectful cover, with some nice work on both bass and guitar. He extends it a bit at end, which I appreciate. “Rain” is followed by a somewhat goofy rendition of The Hollies’ “Carrie Anne,” with an island or reggae feel. Then again, this song was always a bit silly, and it’s cool that Dave Rudolf does something a bit different with it. This one is extended a little too.

Dave Rudolph lets his vocals get rough for his rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” a song that was not originally part of the British Invasion. But it was covered by The Animals, who had a hit with it, and the song became associated with them. I like the backing vocals, which give it a different feel. There is also a cool section on harmonica. That’s followed by another song that was not originally part of the British movement, but became associated with a British group. “Tobacco Road” was written and originally recorded by John D. Loudermilk, but the version everyone knows is that by The Nashville Teens, an English band. It has since been covered by a lot of artists. This song is one of the album’s most fun tracks. It is a good, energetic, rockin’ version, with more good work on harmonica as well as some delicious stuff on keys.

The second of three Beatles covers on this album is “Hey Bulldog,” another interesting choice. This one features Ryan Rudolf joining him on backing vocals. I’ve always really dug this song, perhaps in part because it was on the very first Beatles cassette I ever owned, Rock ‘N’ Roll Music Volume 2. This is a really good rendition, with some nice work on guitar. Dave doesn’t bother with the barking and spoken word part at the end. The third and final Beatles song is “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring some good work on keys. And of course an album of British Invasion songs has to have at least one Rolling Stones tune. For that slot, Dave Rudolf chooses “Beast Of Burden,” a somewhat surprising choice, since it is from the late 1970s, long after the initial British Invasion. He follows that with a Who song, “The Kids Are Alright,” which for some reason on the back of the CD case is listed as “The Kids Are Allright.” It’s probably just a typographical error, for the next song too contains a typo. Anyway, on “The Kids Are Alright,” he goes for that raw power and energy of the original, but falls a bit short, partly because it feels like an attempt at recreation. Still, it’s an enjoyable rendition.

Dave Rudolf, to some extent on certain tracks, attempts to sound like the singers who originally recorded these songs. And on Cat Stevens’ “Tuesday’s Dead” (on the CD case listed as “Tuesdays Dead”), it comes across as a bit weird, a bit false. “Tuesday’s Dead” is from Teaser And The Firecat, one of my favorite Cat Stevens albums (second only to Tea For The Tillerman), and is a fantastic song, one of his most energetic tunes. Dave Rudolf does capture the bright energy of the song. After the small errors in the titles of both “The Kids Are Alright” and “Tuesday’s Dead,” there is one title on the CD case that is really off. Whenever folks would ask me, “Beatles or Stones,” I would always answer, “Kinks.” The Kinks put out more good music than either The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. On this disc, Dave Rudolf covers “Tired Of Waiting For You,” and for some reason on the case it’s listed as “So Tired.” It’s an interesting rendition, feeling just a bit slower than the original, almost like he really is tired. Also, he sounds genuinely thoughtful and loving on the line “It’s your life and you can do what you want.” It’s a wonderful delivery. Another artist I absolutely love is Donovan, and Dave Rudolf covers “Jennifer Juniper,” a song that comes up every time I talk with my friend Jennifer Byrd. This rendition features some sweet work on violin.

One of the strangest choices for this release is “Unchain My Heart.” Obviously, it’s not a part of the British Invasion. Not at all. It was done by Joe Cocker, but more than twenty years later, on his 1987 release which was also titled Unchain My Heart. In the liner notes, Dave admits this song choice “is a bit of a stretch here.” (Actually, there is another typo, and it reads “a bit if a stretch here” – please proofread, people!) Dave delivers a good rendition, with some nice backing vocals. Scott Ashley joins Dave Rudolf on guitar on this track. The other strange choice is “Hey Joe,” which concludes the album. The song is not British, and the artist that most people associate with this song (though he did not do the original version) is Jimi Hendrix, who is also not British. However, his band at this time was British, and the band was based in London. So that’s how it fits in. And the version here is similar to that by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Ryan Rudolf plays bass on this track.

CD Track List
  1. Rain
  2. Carrie Anne
  3. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
  4. Tobacco Road
  5. For Your Love
  6. The Game Of Love
  7. Hey Bulldog
  8. Beast Of Burden
  9. The Kids Are Alright
  10. Tuesday’s Dead
  11. Time Of The Season
  12. Tired Of Waiting For You
  13. Unchain My Heart
  14. Jennifer Juniper
  15. Heart Full Of Soul
  16. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  17. Hey Joe
British Re-Invasion was released on February 9, 2018 on Moneytree Records.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Rebecca Angel: “What We Had” (2018) CD Review

I first heard vocalist Rebecca Angel a few years ago when she released a holiday single written by her father, “My Favorite Time Of The Year.” She followed that a year later with “Jet Samba,” the first time that song had been recorded with vocals. Now she has released a new CD that includes a mix of original material and covers, including two versions of “Jet Samba.” Her voice often has a light, airy quality, which works to raise our spirits and make the world seem a bit better than it is.

This CD opens with an unusual cover of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Winter Moon,” featuring some nice work on percussion by Mino Cinelu. And I really like what Hailey Niswanger is doing on soprano saxophone, giving the track both an easygoing vibe and moments of excitement. But of course the focus here is Rebecca Angel’s vocals, her voice smooth and enchanting, leading us into a dreamlike world. That’s followed by the CD’s title track, “What We Had.” This is an original song, written by Dennis Angel and Rebecca Angel, and it is my personal favorite on this disc. Something about this one makes me smile the moment it begins, with that cool groove. And Rebecca’s voice has a cheerful quality at times, wistful at other times as she looks back. “I see the leaves falling down/And darker days coming round/I close my eyes and see you.  And I love that section near the end with the different layers to the vocals, sounds so good. There is also some nice work on guitar by Christian Ver Halen. “Days without you/I just don’t know what to do.”

Then “Agora Sim” has even more of a playful, light quality, Rebecca Angel’s voice working as a pretty, delightful instrument. Ricardo Silveira and Jonah Miles Prendergast play guitar on this track, and Sebastian Stoger is on cello. This song feels perfect for summer. Then “Feel Alive” begins the same way; that is, with vocals but no lyrics. This one, however, does have lyrics. This is another original track, written by Dennis Angel and Rebecca Angel, but isn’t quite as good as “What We Had.” This one is a bit cheesy. Still, it has a good groove, with Brian Dunne on drums and Cyro Baptista on percussion.

Rebecca Angel delivers two versions of “Stand By Me,” the Ben E. King hit written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The first is a radio mix. While it doesn’t have as organic a feel as the original, it does feature a good and honest vocal performance by Rebecca, and some nice touches on guitar by Jonah Miles Prendergast. Her take on it includes some vocal play in the second half, which is pretty. The second version is the electro remix, and – as you’d expect – the track’s less real elements are stressed. It is interesting to hear the contrast between her youthful, light vocals and the electronic sounds supporting that voice. I prefer the first version. This disc also includes two versions of “Jet Samba,” the song that was released as a single in 2016. The first version, the radio mix, is fun and bright and energetic. It’s a track that should bring a smile to your face, and perhaps some movement to your feet. Then the Ipanema remix is more of a dance version, the percussion more prominent and full. This version has a cool section halfway through in which she calls out names, such as Marcos Valle and Sergio Mendes. Both versions are totally enjoyable.

CD Track List
  1. Winter Moon
  2. What We Had
  3. Agora Sim
  4. Feel Alive
  5. Stand By Me (Radio Mix)
  6. Jet Samba (Radio Mix)
  7. Stand By Me (Electro Remix)
  8. Jet Samba (Ipanema Remix)
What We Had was released on June 1, 2018 on Timeless Grooves Records.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Vinyl Hampdin: “Red” (2018) CD Review

Vinyl Hampdin is a great loud funky beast of a band, led by trombonist and songwriter Steve Wiest, and featuring a horn section and some dynamic vocals. The band’s debut album, Red, is an odd and exciting mix of original material and covers, with even the covers, to a large extent, feeling like originals. The band is made up of Lisa Dodd on vocals, Ryan Davidson on guitar, Eric Gunnison on keys, Stockton Helbing on drums, Gerald Stockton on bass, Art Bouton on baritone saxophone and flute, Frank David Greene on trumpet, Ray Herrmann on tenor saxophone and flute, and Steve Wiest on trombone. These guys seem to draw inspiration from many different musical areas, including jazz, rock, progressive rock, funk and soul.

The band kicks things off with a fun, funky, jazzy rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” the horns having a prominent role, at least equal to that of the vocals. Then the song finds a somewhat mellower place to dwell for a bit, with some nice work on keys. But soon things get wild again. Yes, this group takes the song in some interesting and unexpected directions. And listen to Lisa Dodd belting out the lyrics toward the end. They follow that with an original tune titled “Gottaluvit,” a funky rock song with more nice work on horns, plus some catchy vocals on the title line. And check out these lyrics: “Think you so slick with what you say/The bigger the lie, the bigger the pay/Don’t matter what’s right, don’t matter what’s wrong/Get enough votes and sing a new song.” “Gottaluvit” was written by Steve Wiest.

“One Song,” also written by Steve Wiest, is a strange combination of jazz and progressive rock. We’ve stepped into some other realm now, and it feels like we’ve left everything else far behind. Can we even remember the funk? There is something theatrical here, particularly in the vocals. I’m not as fond of this one as I am of the first two tracks, but there is certainly something intriguing about it. You want to find out where it’s going. The electric guitar turns to hard rock toward the end, and the horns sound like Chicago if that band had something to prove and was heavily armed. (By the way, Ray Herrmann is also a member of that band.) We return to funkier ground with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “The Road’s My Middle Name.” Yeah, it’s still bluesy, particularly in Lisa Dodd’s vocal delivery, but those horns take things in a different direction from the original.

Vinyl Hampdin also delivers a very strange rendition of “Flowers On The Wall,” the Statler Brothers song. It’s nearly unrecognizable, except for the lyrics. Gone is the lighthearted sense of the original version, and in its place is someone who is perhaps a bit unhinged and a bit on edge. There is an eerie, even frightening, aspect to this version at moments. It’s different, obviously, but it makes sense, as I always thought the song was about someone in a mental hospital. That’s followed by an original tune, “Billions,” a song that urges us to choose love, something that is incredibly difficult to do these days. “Don’t fear the dark, open your heart instead/How many people are lost?/There are billions, billions.”

This band covers Rare Earth’s “I Just Want To Celebrate,” which seems a perfect choice to follow “Billions,” and a perfect choice for this band. I love this song, and these guys do a great job with it, giving it a fiery, positive energy. They then give us an original song about baseball, “Diamonds.” As you’ll recall, 2016 was a completely foul year. The only good thing from that year was the Cubs winning the World Series. I’m not even a Cubs fan (go Red Sox!), but that Game 7 was fantastic. “Diamonds” refers to the Cubs’ curse in the line, “No goats, my heart can’t take the strain.” That’s followed by a cover of Paul McCartney’s “My Love,” never one of my favorite Paul McCartney songs (but still much better than “Silly Love Songs”) Still, Vinyl Hampdin does a decent job with it. The album then ends with an interesting and powerful rendition of Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” featuring more great stuff on horns, as well as some nice work on guitar. “When you love me, I can’t get enough/And I want to spread the news/That if it feels this good being used/You just keep on using me/Until you use me up.”

CD Track List
  1. Superstition
  2. Gottaluvit
  3. One Song
  4. The Road’s My Middle Name
  5. Pay For It
  6. Flowers On The Wall
  7. Billions
  8. I Just Want To Celebrate
  9. Diamonds
  10. My Love
  11. Use Me 
Red is scheduled to be released on October 5, 2018 on Armored Records.

Maxwell James: “Maxwell James” (2018) CD Review

Maxwell James is a singer and songwriter based in Nashville, his music a delicious blend of folk, rock, pop and blues, any sort of musical boundaries ignored in the name of pursuing something better. And he gets there. On his self-titled debut EP, he is joined by Jason Cheek on drums and percussion, Chris Croce on bass, David Dorn on organ and electric piano, and Scotty Murray on electric lap steel. All the songs are originals, written by Maxwell James.

The EP opens with “Roll Down Your Window Slowly,” a catchy tune with a steady beat, a song I dig right the start. It’s rock and pop, with a bit of a bluesy edge, a good song for summer. “Roll down your window slowly/Going to get to know me.” There is some playful vocal work toward the end, giving it a kind of relaxed groove, followed by a false ending. The blues edge is stronger, more pronounced, at the beginning of the next song, “Feed My Evolution.” This one too has a steady, and somewhat slow, rhythm, with an almost menacing quality. I particularly like the part on keys in the second half of the song. “Be my absolution from evil/Bite your tongue and don’t make a sound.”

My favorite track is “The More You Say, The Less I Know,” a wonderful mix of folk and blues with some damn good lyrics. “I’m on my way to feeling low/Sometimes I pray I just let go/What can I say when I know that I’ll be wrong.” There is something catchy about this song, and there is a good chance you’ll be singing along before it is over. That’s followed by another of this disc’s highlights, “Blatantly,” which begins with acoustic guitar and some seriously nice vocal work. There is something absolutely delightful about this song, about its sound. It has me smiling every time I listen to it. And check out these lyrics: “I don’t want to be untied/I just want to be on your side/When all of your friends/Have left you again/I don’t want to be inside/I just want to be on your mind/When all of your sins/Catch up in the end.” I love this song. The EP then concludes with “When It’s Real,” a slower folk-pop song, with more nice vocal work and a sweet, kind of sad vibe, which I love. “Right or wrong, I want to feel it/There’s a hope when it’s real/In my heart, I want to hear it/Like a song in my ear/And I know I can’t pretend/There’s a life without trouble/So I go and try to live/When I can.”

CD Track List
  1. Roll Down Your Window Slowly
  2. Feed My Evolution
  3. The More You Say, The Less I know
  4. Blatantly
  5. When It’s Real 
Maxwell James was released on March 22, 2018. I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from this singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

M.D. Dunn: “The River Lately” (2018) CD Review

It’s a bit unnerving to suddenly find ourselves living in horrible times, among horrible people, and to not be able to predict when those times (and people) will come to an end. I honestly thought we were better than this, that we had progressed in some way. I was wrong. Being angry about it only seems to hurt me, but not being angry about it makes me feel guilty. And so I’ve been turning to music to help me through, and to remind me that, although a significant portion of the country has gone irreparably sideways, there are still lots of decent folks out there who are struggling with the same problems, the same anger, the same depression. Music tells us we are not alone. Music reminds us of what is truly important. I was turned on to M.D. Dunn’s music a couple of years ago, just before everything went wrong. His 2016 release Solace impressed me, and I was excited to hear more from him. His new album, The River Lately, features all original material, largely in the folk realm, but certainly not limited to that. This album contains some seriously excellent lyrics. But, perhaps more importantly, it is music to help us as we try to make sense of a world that lost its balance.

M.D. Dunn opens the new album with “The River Lately,” the title track. It eases in with a sweet folk sound on the guitar, and seems to kick in gradually, in stages, first taking on a cool, mellow 1970s vibe, like some of CSN’s mid-1970s work. Then the horn comes in, which is kind of a delightful surprise. I love the sound of this song, and the way it builds. But the lyrics are what really grab me. Check out these lines: “Have you been to the river lately?/You should see how high the water is now/Last time you couldn’t drown here if you’d been trying.” And these: “There are no shortcuts where we’re going/We’re going to have to play it through.” And these: “You probably have it all figured out anyway/Don’t let that keep you from trying.” How’s that for some good advice? The sax comes back in after this, and the song has kind of a nice little jam, which I dig. By the way, that’s Josh Norling, who plays both trumpet and saxophone on this album. “Hold on, hold on/With all those thoughts making noise all the time/Stick around for the punchline.” Yes.

“War In Me” feels like folk for the first few seconds, then comes in with a force, with an edge, which seems fitting for the song’s content. After all, turmoil within is going to affect what comes out. “You’re the sound I make when I dream/Another soul who is more than you seem.” What a line, eh? “You’re the sound I make when I dream.” This album is full of astute, intriguing lines like that. “War In Me” is followed by “The Story Begins,” which has a lighter, more playful vibe, in strong contrast to what we’ve just experienced. This track features more good work on saxophone. “When you arrive, the story begins.”

“Barn Swallow’s Dance” is the album’s first instrumental track. It’s strange, but sometimes when I listen to it, I feel it should have lyrics. I’m surprised when his voice doesn’t come in at some point. That being said, this tune has an uplifting vibe which I appreciate. The other instrumental track is “Dragonfly,” a pretty guitar piece that has a positive feel to it.

One of the album’s most important and timely songs is “The Cowardice Of Kings.” It is no secret that Donald Trump fancies himself a king, and that he has strange love affairs with dictators. He is a dangerous and doltish enemy of democracy, and thus an enemy of the United States, and he should be treated as such. Donald Trump is not mentioned by name in this song. But see if these lyrics don’t apply: “The cowardice of kings brings cruelty to the weakest/Go on and call him on it and you become his new enemy” and “The cowardice of kings makes everyone a traitor/Sees refugees as enemies and immigrants as invaders/Public dissent becomes a treasonable crime.” And this: “The cowardice of kings brings out the tyrant.” This song reminds us to “stick around” for “the weather will change.” Yes, but please hurry.

The first line of “Only In Summer” caught me by surprise: “All he said was she was pretty enough to be a stripper.” Before I could catch myself, I laughed aloud. M.D. Dunn follows that with these lines: “They used to say that back home/It never was a problem/He thought it was a compliment.”  And there is a really good line about thinking about what you say before saying it: “Every scene you’re in needs editing/Before it goes to air.”  This is a good country song, delivered with a passion, his voice once or twice reminding me of Brian Doser. The album closes with “We Need Everyone,” in which M.D. Dunn sings “We need you now/We need everyone/You have always, always been loved.”

CD Track List
  1. The River Lately
  2. War In Me
  3. The Story Begins
  4. Ghost Water
  5. Barn Swallow’s Dance
  6. The Cowardice Of Kings
  7. When I Fall Away
  8. Only In Summer
  9. Dragonfly
  10. We Need Everyone
The River Lately was released on April 29, 2018.