Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Demon Rind: “Stupid Luck” Video Premiere

The Demon Rind is a band based up in Washington, made up of Kwab Eugene Copeland on piano, electric piano, synthesizers, percussion and vocals; Johnny Sangster on guitar and vocals; Bill Herzog on drums and vocals; and Carrie Robinson on bass and vocals. Other musicians join them on occasion, including Olie Eshleman on pedal steel, Barb Hunter on cello, Jesse Sykes on vocals, and Lance Moore on vocals. Originally called Eugene Wendell & The Demon Rind, these guys combine elements of rock, garage rock, pop and folk, sometimes delving into the darker side of things, creating an interesting and engaging sound that has a sort of cinematic quality and atmosphere at times. The band’s new album is titled Something Nice I Want To Tell You, and it is from this release that comes “Stupid Luck,” a song written by Kwab Eugene Copeland. And, actually, Copeland composed all the material for this album.

In the music video, the musicians are all sporting masks, which is beginning to not even seem weird anymore. Ah, this new reality has taken hold, hasn’t it? On the album, and in the video, “Stupid Luck” is followed by “Fury In Your Heart Part 3” (or “Fury In Your Heart Part 2,” as it is listed on Bandcamp), an instrumental number that emerges naturally. The album version, which was recorded a few years ago, and the live video version are somewhat different, and feature different musicians. 

It is my pleasure to premiere the video for The Demon Rind’s “Stupid Luck/Fury In Your Heart Part 3.” Enjoy.


 Here are the song’s lyrics, as performed in the video:

Luck, you never really know

If it's easier to look

If it's ever any good

Luck, it happens all the time

The look that you were born with and amounted to

Look at what you do

Like there's no one there but you

And the shit that you've been going through

The shit you can't express

The words that you were warned with and amounted to

(On the album version, the line “The shit you can’t express” is sung as “The words you can’t express.”)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Würm: “Poison” (2020) Vinyl Single Review

Würm is a band that was formed in the mid-1970s in southern California, and then reformed in the early 1980s, combining elements of punk and metal and hard rock. Composed of Edward Danky on guitar, “Loud” Lou Hinzo on drums, Simon Smallwood on vocals, and Chuck Dukowski on bass, Würm put out an LP titled Feast in 1985. Then in 2018, that record was re-issued along with the band’s EP and some demos as a Record Store Day exclusive double album titled Exhumed. It either reignited an interest in the band, or illuminated an interest that had never really gone away. Certainly part of the interest stems from Chuck Dukowski being a member. Folks know him from his work with Black Flag. At any rate, the interest has led to the band reforming and putting out a new single on vinyl. Ed Danky died back in the early 1990s, and is here replaced by Phil Van Duyne on guitar. Simon Smallwood also died, and here is replaced by German Gonzalez on vocals.

“Poison,” interestingly, has a kind of trippy 1960s thing happening at the start. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me; after all, these guys covered The Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” back in the early 1980s. This song has an unusual opening line, “I smell your smile in the sky.” Soon this track kicks in to become a strange and cool hard rock song, sort of like early Black Sabbath. And German Gonzalez is shouting, “Look at what you’ve done/You’ve released the poison.” But it is that instrumental section in the middle that really stands out, featuring some exciting work on guitar and bass. Before the song reaches its end, it returns to that psychedelic-sounding opening. The record’s flip side, “Zero Sum,” comes on hard and strong. “Stupid motherfuckers want to hold me down/Stupid motherfuckers want to wear my crown/Stupid motherfuckers gonna get shot down/All you fucking clowns.” Yeah, this one has a lot of appeal to those of us who have been feeling angry these days. And isn’t that everybody? “You say someone’s got to lose/I say no dice.” That great thumping beat drives everything forward, and the way the line “Zero sum, no fun” is sung reminds me a bit of Jim Carroll. It’s a short song, just over two minutes, but seems to do everything it sets out to do in that time.

Record Track List

Side A

  1. Poison

Side B

  1. Zero Sum

Poison was released through ORG Music on September 26, 2020, as part of the second Record Store Day Drops. By the way, on the back of the record sleeve, it says, “Hello Human. We Are All One.” A nice message, and a good reminder. Below that is printed “The Universe is music,” which feels just exactly right.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Jimmy Sweeney: “Without You” (2020) Vinyl Review

Well, as everyone is quite aware by now, 2020 is a strange year. And “strange” is the kindest way I can think to describe it. Really, it’s been quite hellish and seems to only be getting worse. But there are some bright spots, such as the release of Jimmy Sweeney’s Without You on vinyl, a recording that itself is the stuff of strange tales, a mysterious demo that inspired a young Elvis Presley in 1954. Elvis himself then attempted his own version of “Without You,” but apparently felt he wasn’t getting it right, and gave up on it. There was also a question about just who was on that demo that Elvis heard. Whose voice was it that affected Elvis Presley so strongly? Sam Phillips didn’t know the name of the artist. More than sixty years later we got confirmation that the singer on that demo was Jimmy Sweeney, and now in this odd year of 2020 that demo is getting a release under the singer’s name. The LP is a compilation of recordings by Sweeney, tracks from the 1950s and 1960s, including some that were previously unreleased. Vinyl is certainly the way to go with this release, and the record includes a booklet with information on Sweeney and the songs.

Side One 

The album opens with its title track, “Without You,” the song from the demo that Elvis heard when he was still a teenager. Right away, you can hear how Jimmy Sweeney’s voice and style influenced Elvis Presley. “Where is the meaning without you?/Why can’t I forget the love that we knew/You broke my heart, dear, by being untrue/Yet there’s a yearning to be in your arms.”  The track also features some good work on guitar. Even apart from its historical importance, this is a wonderful recording. That’s followed by “Deep Blues,” a fun track by Jimmy Sweeney And The Varieteers. It is rhythm and blues, and you can hear hints of rock and roll in the guitar work. This track also features some nice work from the backing vocalists. It was released in 1954 on Hickory Records, a label that was new at the time. “I Pay With Every Breath” is another track by The Varieteers, also released on the Hickory label in 1954. Listen to the emotion, the ache as Jimmy sings “She trusted me and I deceived her/Now I pay with every breath I take” and “But now I know how much I love her/Now I care, but it’s too late.”

“It Wouldn’t Be The Same (Without You)” has an interesting connection to the Elvis story, for Elvis Presley did record a demo of this song in 1954, around the same time that this recording was made. And the titles have an obvious similarity. This recording by The Varieteers was left unreleased until now, and is a really nice rendition. The style changes with “Desire,” a song recorded by Jimmy Sweeney with an orchestra. This recording predates the first several tracks, this one being from 1953, put out on the Republic label. Jimmy Sweeney recorded under a few different names, and on his version of the classic “Danny Boy” the group is listed as Jimmy Destry With The Rhythm Rockers. It is a good rendition, with both country and jazz elements. That’s followed by another track by The Varieteers, a previously unreleased demo of “Don’t Come In Here,” a ridiculously enjoyable gospel number. In addition to a great vocal performance by Jimmy Sweeney, this track boasts fantastic work by the group’s bass vocalist, Chuck Merrill. This track was shockingly previously unreleased. The first side of the record ends with “Tobacco Road,” a slow, wonderful song where Jimmy Sweeney is backed by a choir. It was released on the Tennessee label in 1950. Sure, there is some static, one of the reasons it feels right listening to this release on vinyl. 

Side Two

The second side opens with a beautiful love song from 1958, “Gonna Find My Sweetheart,” this one written by Jimmy Sweeney. “Gonna find my sweetheart, that’s all I can say/I need her tender kiss to chase these blues away.” It was the flip side to “Sick, Sick, Sick,” his first single on Columbia. That’s followed by a fun number titled “Flippity Flop,” a demo recorded circa 1960, but left unreleased until now, featuring a delicious vocal performance backed by piano. “Sick, Sick, Sick” is another fun track, this one his first single on Columbia, featuring some cool vocal play. It sounds like a hit, but wasn’t. “She Wears My Ring” was recorded under the name of Jimmy Bell and released as a single on the Hickory label in 1960. Jimmy delivers a phenomenal vocal performance here. This song was also released under Jimmy Sweeney’s name in 1962, and it then became a minor hit, and was also his final release during his lifetime. 

“(Where You Lead Me) I’ll Follow You” features a lively energetic performance and some good guitar work. This song, which was written by Jimmy Sweeney, was released on the Columbia label in 1959, the B-side to his final single on that label. “I’m just a puppet hung on a string/You just pull it, and I’ll do anything.” That’s followed by another of the Jimmy Bell recordings, “Lunch In A Bucket,” this one from 1961. It’s a playful tune, with Jimmy singing “My baby brings me my lunch in a bucket.” That doesn’t sound all that appealing, but “My baby brings me a whole lot of kisses and a chocolate cake” certainly does. That’s followed by “Afraid,” which appeared on the Columbia single with “It Wouldn’t Be The Same (Without You).”  Yes, apparently Jimmy recorded that song again, releasing that version in 1958. Anyway, “Afraid” features a sweet, warm vocal performance, as well as some good backing vocal work. Then “What’cha Gonna Do About Me” is a fun and totally catchy rock ‘n’ roll song, and it includes a reference to Romeo And Juliet. How was this not a hit? It was written by Jimmy Sweeney, and recorded under the name Jimmy Bell. This wonderful record concludes with an a cappella demo recording of “Deacon Brown,” another original song by Jimmy Sweeney. This one too has a playful sense about it, being a song about a deacon who has a passion for eating chicken, or at least certain parts of the chicken.

Record Track List 

Side One

  1. Without You
  2. Deep Blues
  3. I Pay With Every Breath
  4. It Wouldn’t Be The Same (Without You)
  5. Desire
  6. Danny Boy
  7. Don’t Come In Here
  8. Tobacco Road

Side Two

  1. Gonna Find My Sweetheart
  2. Flippity Flop
  3. Sick, Sick, Sick
  4. She Wears My Ring
  5. (Where You Lead Me) I’ll Follow You
  6. Lunch In A Bucket
  7. Afraid
  8. What’cha Gonna Do About Me
  9. Deacon Brown

Without You was released on vinyl today, September 26, 2020, as part of the second “Record Store Day Drops.”

Friday, September 25, 2020

John Finley: “Soul Singer” (2020) CD Review

Singer and songwriter John Finley has been writing and performing since the mid-1960s, and was a member of the band Rhinoceros. That band’s song “I Will Serenade You,” written by John Finley, became a hit for Three Dog Night in 1973 under the title “Let Me Serenade You.” And Ivan Neville recorded Finley’s “Why Can’t I Fall In Love” for the film Pump Up The Volume (that film features a fantastic soundtrack). John Finley spent a good deal of his career in Los Angeles, but now is back in his hometown of Toronto. The new album, Soul Singer, features mostly original material, written or co-written by John Finley.

He opens the album with a wonderful new rendition of “I Will Serenade You,” now under the title used by Three Dog Night, “Let Me Serenade You.” As the album’s title promises, this version is full of soul, and it features some good work by Lou Pomanti on keys. Lou Pomanti also produced this album. And adding to coolness of this track, fellow Rhinoceros member Danny Weis joins John Finley on guitar. But of course it is John Finley’s wonderful vocal performance that is the focus here, the lyrics delivered with the passion of a gospel number. Robyn Newman and Gavin Hope provide backing vocals, contributing to that soulful feel. That’s followed by “I’m On Your Side,” a smooth number, written by John Finley, Kathleen Jentz and Lou Pomanti.  And when your world is coming down/And you think there is no one around/I am on your side.” In this crazy, uncertain world filled with awful people, we all need to know that at least one person is on our side, and in this song, John Finley offers encouragement and warmth. “I believe, I believe in you.” How good it is to hear someone tell us that, and how necessary for our sanity, particularly now. Hang on out there, folks.

Things get funky with “Go,” a song John Finley wrote with Carl Graves and Lou Pomanti. At the beginning John comments, “This feels good.” And indeed, it does. This is a fun track with some delicious work by Marc Rogers on bass. There is some great energy here. The song gets kind of loose, and has a cool vocal section in the second half. Then John Finley gives us a bluesy jazz number, “What Time Can Do,” which features some nice work by William Sperandei on trumpet, plus some wonderful touches on piano. “What time can do/To me, to you.” This one was written by Oscar Saul, Danny Ironstone and John Finley.

I mentioned Pump Up The Volume earlier. The central song of that movie is Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” and a second Leonard Cohen song, “If It Be Your Will,” is also featured. (Neither of those tracks is included on the soundtrack album.) For Soul Singer’s first cover, John Finley chooses what is now certainly Leonard Cohen’s most popular and famous song, “Hallelujah” (earlier that honor would have belonged to “Suzanne”). “Hallelujah” first appeared on Leonard Cohen’s 1984 LP, Various Positions, the same album that gave us “If It Be Your Will” (and my personal favorite of all his records). A little later, different verses would be added to the song. On this rendition, John Finley performs the four verses from the original album version, delivering a soulful and moving vocal performance, supported by wonderful work from backing vocalists Amoy Levy and Ciceal Levy. There is one odd change to the lyrics. The line “I don’t even know the name” here becomes “I didn’t even know your name,” which doesn’t make sense unless he is suddenly addressing God or something. Still, it’s a really good version. At the end, he repeats the line “I did my best,” which is effective, working in the same manner as the first time it is sung, but also possibly as a comment on his handling of the song itself. I don’t recall anyone else doing that.

John Finley returns to original material with “The Boys Song,” about how boys are brought up to be a certain way. This track is a solo effort, John on piano as well as vocals. It’s an interesting song, and one that feels timely in these strange days. There is also something rather theatrical about it, feeling at times like it could be from a musical. “Money Love” also feels pertinent in these tough days when a greedy narcissist is occupying the White House. If that bastard loves anything besides himself, it is money. This is a good, kind of funky track, written by Danny Weis and John Finley. Danny Weis plays guitar on it. “For love of money, a man will sell his soul,” John sings here. “Try to climb higher/How low can you go.” I love the way he delivers the line “How low can you go.” Katherine Rose delivers some wonderful work on backing vocals. In the second half, the song takes a turn, to address what is really important, and that section features some great stuff from William Sperandei on trumpet. This is one of my personal favorite tracks. It is followed by the album’s second cover, Buddy Johnson’s “Save Your Love For Me,” a delicious jazz number featuring some excellent stuff on piano and a strong vocal performance.

John Finley is in his seventies, but that doesn’t keep him from delivering a dance song titled “Party Party.” Yup, it gives me hope. Some folks seem to have a greater amount of energy in their seventies than I do in my forties. And this song benefits from the horn section of William Carn on trombone and Tony Carlucci on trumpet. “Here’s the message, straight and true/You’ve got the power, it’s all up to you.” That’s followed by “Dear Delilah,” an interesting original song, its first lines delivered as spoken word. It soon develops into a sweet, soulful number. “You see, when I’m happy, it’s only for a while/And when I’m lonely, I still can you see smile.” The album concludes with an excellent cover of Charlie Rich’s “Who Will The Next Fool Be.” The energy builds and soon this track has you in its hands. In addition to a moving and powerful vocal performance, this track features some absolutely wonderful stuff on keys, as well as some great work on saxophone by Alison Young. This track just gets better and better, a perfect way to wrap things up.

CD Track List

  1. Let Me Serenade You
  2. I’m On Your Side
  3. Go
  4. What Time Can Do
  5. Hallelujah
  6. The Boys Song
  7. Money Love
  8. Save Your Love For Me
  9. Party Party
  10. Dear Delilah
  11. Who Will The Next Fool Be

Soul Singer was released on July 17, 2020 through Vesuvius Music.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Johnny Iguana: “Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular!” (2020) CD Review

I know Johnny Iguana from his work with the fantastic band The Claudettes. They released a new album, High Times In The Dark, earlier this year. But he also has a pretty serious history in the blues, having played with Junior Wells (you can hear him on his Live At Buddy Guy’s Legends, where he is credited as Johnny “Fingers” Iguana), as well as several other blues artists. And now he has released an album on which he shares his love for the blues. Titled Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular!, it features material by some of the best-known blues artists, including Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson. There are also some original tunes, written by Johnny Iguana (whose real name is Brian Berkowitz), all of them instrumentals, and all of them previously recorded by The Claudettes. Johnny Iguana has gathered some excellent players together for this release, including Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer and Billy Flynn.

As you’d expect, the album opens with some wonderful, seriously enjoyable work on piano. The first track, “44 Blues,” a song written and originally recorded by Roosevelt Sykes, features John Primer on vocals. And with that work on piano, it feels like some kind of blues celebration. And, hey, that’s what it is, right? There is also some really good work by Bob Margolin on guitar. That’s followed by one of the Johnny Iguana originals, “Hammer And Tickle,” a title that I dig. This is a cool instrumental track, originally included on the debut album from The Claudettes, Infernal Piano Plot… Hatched! (yes, Johnny Iguana likes his exclamation points; the band’s 2018 album is titled Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium!). This new version features some wonderful work by Michael Caskey on drums and Bill Dickens on bass, as well as plenty of great stuff on keys. It’s a fun tune that grooves and shakes and moves forward with no hesitation or pause.

The piano comes thumping in with an ominous sense at the beginning of “Down In The Bottom,” so just look out, everyone. Step aside and let this one come stomping in. This song was written by Willie Dixon, and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf. This great version by Johnny Iguana features John Primer on both vocals and guitar. That’s followed by a totally fun rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “You’re An Old Lady,” this track featuring Billy Boy Arnold on vocals and harmonica. The piano has a great life of its own, often feeling like an entire band itself. But all the musicians on this track, including Billy Flynn on guitar and Kenny Smith on drums, are grooving and rocking, and I wish they’d jam a bit longer at the end. I particularly love that work on harmonica. Then “Land Of Precisely Three Dances” comes on strong and furious, at a great pace, that piano driving everything ahead. This is one of the Johnny Iguana original compositions, this instrumental first included on The Claudettes’ debut album (in fact, three of the four Johnny Iguana compositions on this disc are from that release). There are some interesting changes to this one, feeling at times like some insane dance song that had been infiltrated and corrupted and made oh-so-much-better by the blues. And it features more excellent work on drums by Michael Caskey.

Phillip-Michael Scales delivers a good, soulful vocal performance on “Lady Day And John Coltrane,” a song written and originally recorded by Gil Scott-Heron (it was included on his 1971 LP Pieces Of A Man). He also plays guitar on this track. This is a great choice of songs to cover in these harsh and uncertain days. “Ever feel kind of down and out/You don’t know just what to do/Living all your days in darkness/Let the sun shine through/Ever feel that somehow, somewhere you lost your way/And if you don’t get help quick, you won’t make it through the day.” That’s followed by “Big Easy Women,” another original instrumental number, this one originally included on The Claudettes’ second album, No Hotel.  This track has a fantastic, delightful energy. I can feel that piano breathing, sweating. And after a minute or so, things are taken up another few notches. This is so much damn fun, and features good work by Michael Caskey on drums and Bill Dickens on bass. Things then get much more bluesy with a wonderful rendition of Otis Spann’s “Burning Fire,” featuring a powerful vocal performance by Lil’ Ed, helping to make this track something really special. It has a classic sound and vibe, and I love that instrumental section, particularly the play between the piano and guitar. Wonderful stuff. Lil’ Ed also sings and plays guitar on a rockin’ version of Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker,” which includes a great instrumental section at the end.

The album’s final original instrumental is “Motorhome,” a tune that was included on the first album by The Claudettes. This track moves a lot faster than I would have thought a motorhome could go. That is, until recently. On the drive to Colorado, a giant motorhome came barreling down on us going like eighty-five or something, a monster driven by some demonic force to which fatigue is unknown, powered not by gasoline, but by the fear of other drivers. And, hey, this track is something of a beast itself, driven by some inner force.  That’s followed by the album’s second Sonny Boy Williamson song, “Stop Breaking Down,” featuring Matthew Skoller on vocals and harmonica. I’m not sure which is more impressive – his cool, strong vocal performance or that lively, masterful work on harmonica. This is another of the disc’s highlights. This excellent album then concludes with a delicious rendition of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hot Dog Mama,” this track featuring Billy Boy Arnold on vocals, and Billy Flynn on guitar. “I’m going to get drunk now, baby” is a line I think we can all relate to. Is anyone still sober out there? God help you.

CD Track List

  1. 44 Blues
  2. Hammer And Tickle
  3. Down In The Bottom
  4. You’re An Old Lady
  5. Land Of Precisely Three Dances
  6. Lady Day And John Coltrane
  7. Big Easy Women
  8. Burning Fire
  9. Shake Your Moneymaker
  10. Motorhome
  11. Stop Breakin’ Down
  12. Hot Dog Mama

Johnny Iguana’s Chicago Spectacular! was released on August 21, 2020 on Delmark Records.


Friday, September 18, 2020

Dianne Davidson: “Perigon: Full Circle” (2020) CD Review

Dianne Davidson is a singer and songwriter who began her career in the 1970s, releasing three albums early in that decade. Since then, she’s provided backing vocals on albums by folks like John Hiatt and Dan Fogelberg, and toured with Linda Ronstadt’s band. In 1988, she released an album titled Breaking All The Rules. And now she has released a new album. Titled Perigon: Full Circle, it features mostly original material, written by Dianne Davidson. Joining her on this disc are Larry Chaney on guitar, Leigh Maples on bass, Nancy Gardner on drums, John Salem on keyboards, Tim McDonald on keyboards, Jim Thistle on percussion, and Michael Mishaw and Vickie Carrico on backing vocals, as well as several other guests on various tracks.

The album opens with “Just Out Of Reach,” a good, soulful number, a love song about a person who is there, but just out of reach. “I live each day knowing time is running out/But still I hope knowing love can conquer doubt/I have a good life/I am happy, safe and strong/But in my heart, there’s a place where you belong.” I dig the horn section of Roger Bissell on trombone, Denis Solee on saxophone and George Tidwell on trumpet. That’s followed by “Subtle Touch,” a delicious and groovy blues tune that features special guest Ruthie Foster on vocals. I am a big fan of Ruthie Foster’s work, and she contributes a good amount of power and soul here, helping to make this track one of the album’s highlights. Plus, there is some nice stuff on keys and guitar. Mac Gayden is on slide guitar on this track. “You make me moan and whisper when you love me with that subtle touch.” Then “Precious Boys” has a sweeter, mellower, but passionate folk vibe, and features some nice work by Barry Walsh on accordion. This is a song dedicated to those who were lost to AIDS. “I’m so much older, but you’re still the same/Frozen in time with a thousand names/I kept on living, but you had no choice/My heart is breaking, my precious boys.” There is a second version of this song included toward the end of the album, titled “Precious Boys – Film Version.” I’m not sure precisely what that title means, but this track does have something of the vibe and style of a film score, with the addition of Lisa Silver on violin. Dave Roe plays bass on this version. And I love that work by George Tidwell on trumpet.

The first cover on this album is “Over Africa,” a song written and originally recorded by Gretchen Peters. It was on her 1996 album The Secret Of Life. Dianne Davidson’s rendition has a bright, cheerful vibe from its start, in part because of the percussion. That’s followed by “Sounds Of The City,” a song that was written by Dianne Davidson, but originally recorded by Tracy Nelson for her 1978 album Homemade Songs. Dianne Davidson and Tracy Nelson have sung together on several albums by other artists, and Dianne actually provides backing vocals on Tracy’s recording. Dianne’s rendition opens with the sound of a distant siren, which seems unnecessary, but once we’re past that, this becomes a rather moving track, with a soulful and touching vocal performance. And check out these lines: “Is there a friend among the people/Who will tell me if I’m home/And I don’t know which way to turn to/Everything is strange and dim/I’d like to call up my family just to tell them where I’ve been.” Interestingly, it sounds like Tracy Nelson in her version sings, “Who will tell me if I’m wrong.” It is a song about being a touring musician, and it features some nice backing vocal work by Michael Mishaw and Vickie Carrico. Austin Wireman plays keyboards on this track.

“Solitary” is a cool song with a blues vibe and a rather serious sound to Dianne’s vocal delivery, as she describes life without her lover. “People say, oh, it ain’t so bad/I should enjoy all this freedom that I have/But without you, it’s prison here in my head/I’ve got four walls and a bed.” But those horns brighten things up.  That’s followed by “They All Leave,” another of the album’s highlights. “They say don’t be afraid/And hurt you anyway/As if your heart is just made of stone.” Her delivery is so interesting here; it’s part strength, part ache. The line “Can’t tell the truth from lies” certainly stands out in these days when a sad segment of our population worships the mendacious narcissist currently occupying the White House. This track features some nice work by Larry Chaney on electric guitar. The album’s second and final cover is Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” a song that was included on his 1997 album Time Out Of Mind (where it is titled “Make You Feel My Love”). Billy Joel also recorded it for a compilation titled Greatest Hits Volume III.  Dianne Davidson does a wonderful job with it, delivering a beautiful and moving rendition, her voice supported by a string section. Gideon John Klein is on cello, Donny Reis is on viola, and Lisa Silver is on violin. The album concludes with another beautiful and touching song, “Missing You Tonight,” one of my personal favorites. In addition to a gorgeous vocal performance, Dianne Davidson provides some pretty and gentle work on acoustic guitar. She is supported by Gideon John Klein on cello, and Marianne Osiel on English horn. “It’s been so long since I’ve felt you beside me/Still, I think of you so tenderly/Too bad it’s only in my dreams.”

CD Track List
  1. Just Out Of Reach
  2. Subtle Touch
  3. Precious Boys
  4. Over Africa
  5. Sounds Of The City
  6. True Believer
  7. Solitary
  8. They All Leave
  9. To Make You Feel My Love
  10. The Island
  11. Precious Boys – Film Version
  12. Missing You Tonight
Perigon: Full Circle was released on August 28, 2020.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Uncle Walt’s Band: “An American In Texas” (1980/2019) CD Review

Uncle Walt’s Band is a group you might have missed the first time around, as well as the second time around, for that matter, if you lived outside of Austin, Texas. They formed in South Carolina in the early 1970s, then moved to Austin, released an album, and then broke up. A few years later, in the late 1970s, they reunited, and released a few more albums. The first of those was a studio album titled An American In Texas, which last year was re-issued in an expanded edition, with a lot of bonus tracks and new liner notes. The band, known for its harmonies, was made up of Walter Hyatt, Champ Hood and David Ball, and all three contributed material to this album.

An American In Texas opens with a delightful, cheerful tune written by Walter Hyatt, “As The Crow Flies.” This is just the sort of thing I was in need of, with a wonderful jazzy vibe to the guitar work and of course some really good vocal work. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I will fall in the woods, and the arrow and the goods will be yours/As the river rolls I will take you to the sea if you want me.” That’s followed by “You Keep Me Holding On,” a sweet number written by David Ball. It has a pleasant groove, and lyrics you can sing to your partner. “I love the things you do/You keep me holding on/You keep me holding on/And I will always want my arms around you.” This music is making me feel so good, no small task in these heavy days of dread and despair. I am guessing it will have the same effect on basically anyone who listens.

One of my personal favorites is “Sad As It Seems,” written by Champ Hood and Mary Cason. I love that wonderful jazzy country sound. “Why can’t you see/It’s not sad as it seems” are lines that certainly stand out these days. This track features some fantastic vocal work, including harmonies, as well as more excellent guitar work. Then “The Last One To Know” is a fast-paced, totally enjoyable country tune featuring fiddle, a song that calls folks to the dance floor. This one was written by Champ Hood, and it is he who plays fiddle. The fiddle also plays an important role in “Green Tree,” a sweet song written by Walter Hyatt and Tommy Goldsmith. This song includes some excellent lyrics, including these lines: “Why did the fragile once seem so strong/Why did forever once seem so long.” I love those lines. Then “At Least Two Ways,” a song written by Champ Hood, has a cool groove. I dig that bass work. “You know it’s all bound to change/But I’ll be the same man, believe me/And when the tables turn/There’ll be such sweet harmony.” Oh, there is a lot of sweet harmony right here. There are also some pop influences heard on this track. There is something tremendously enjoyable about this music. Check out the excellent vocal work on “Bluebird,” a track written by David Ball. “I’m always searching in the honky tonks/Her favorite spot on busy nights/She knows I’m waiting there with lonely arms/She knows I long to hold her tight.” And there is nearly a yodel in the delivery of the song’s title word. This track also features more good work on fiddle.

“Too Far To Fall” is a mellower, beautiful and engaging number written by Walter Hyatt and Mary Lou Hyatt. Check out these lines: “I don’t want to start again/This time I gave it all/And falling out of love with you/Is just too far to fall.” That’s followed by “An American In Texas,” the album’s title track, which is a fun fiddle number, the album’s only instrumental. I appreciate the playfulness of the title, by the way, sort of implying that America and Texas are two different places, something that often seems to be the case. This track was composed by Champ Hood. “Don’t You Know – Can’t You See” is another totally enjoyable track, with some pop influences. This is music to raise your spirits. “Just tell me that you care/Just tell me you’ll be there/Don’t you know each lonely day/I am without you, I am afraid/By your side we were two/Alone I am missing you.” There is some really nice guitar work on this track, and on the one that follows it, “Walking Angel.” The original album concludes with another of its highlights, “Deeper Than Love,” a pretty and sweet song in the folk and country realm, featuring more good work on fiddle and some beautiful lyrics. Check out these lines: “It’s so long we’ve been apart/When I remember your life/I remember mine.”

Bonus Tracks

This expanded edition contains thirteen bonus tracks. Yes, the bonus tracks outnumber the album’s original tracks. The first eight are from a release titled 6-26-79, which was originally put out only on cassette in the early 1980s, though recorded in 1979, and sold at the band’s live performances. “For The First Time” is a sweet love song written by David Ball, featuring good harmonies and some soft rock elements. “When I tell you how I feel/When I tell you I need you/I have thought for a long, long time/You would be here beside me.” That’s followed by another song written by David Ball, “Stay With The One Who Loves You,” which has a similar vibe, but with more of a jazzy feel. There is a bit of a Paul Simon style at a couple of moments. “Open Up Your Heart” is also a love song. It is a pretty song written by Walter Hyatt, and it includes some good guitar work. That’s followed by “Hard To Bear,” one of the most interesting tracks on this disc, with an unusual groove that ends up being kind of catchy, with a cool bass line. And of course the track features some wonderful vocal work. This one was written by Champ Hood.

“Shine On” has a bright, cheerful vibe right from the start. And these lyrics certainly stand out: “Yes, I’m aware that times are tough/Tomorrow’s no uncertain thing/But you don’t know what it will bring/You know it ain’t gonna bring enough.” This track has a positive feel, heard in the song’s main line, “Keep on working and shine on.” There is some excellent stuff on guitar too, helping to make this one of my favorite tracks. It was written by Walter Hyatt. It’s followed by “To Make You Believe,” which has something of an easygoing vibe, and includes an interesting vocal section. It was written by Champ Hood. “Though without you beside me/I know there’s no tomorrow.” Then in “All I Need Is You,” they sing “In the land of you/Where the dreams are true/I am by your side.” Yes, it’s another love song. I think we can use as many love songs as possible. While not ignoring the troubles (the numerous current troubles) of the world, it seems a healthful thing to turn our attention to those people who are most important to us in these trying times. So I say, bring on the love songs. “Lean On Your Mind” is the last of the songs from 6-26-79, and it’s a fun one. I like the lines, “Lean on your mind/And rest your mouth a while.” He also mentions walking “on happy feet,” and I can’t help but wonder if that is a Steve Martin reference. This song was written by Walter Hyatt.

The next four bonus tracks are concert recordings, all previously unreleased. The first is a cool number titled “Situé,” with a Brazilian vibe and featuring some good work on guitar. This one was written by Walter Hyatt and Champ Hood. It is followed by a completely delightful song, “Outside Looking Out,” this one featuring some absolutely delicious jazzy guitar work and a wonderful bass line. It was written by Walter Hyatt. “I found out I liked it on the outside, looking out, getting down.” This is one of the best tracks on the disc. “You Touch My Heart” is a pretty love song. “You touch my heart and now I linger/I am the voice and love is the singer/All too soon I’m on my way.” And the line “Everything has got to be jake with you and me” stands out, for I can’t remember the last time I heard someone use the word “jake” like that. The last of the live tracks is “Seems I Can’t Forget,” which was written by David Ball and features a really nice vocal performance. The disc’s final track is a studio recording of “She’ll Be There,” also written by David Ball, featuring a string session. “I never thought I’d find/A love of this kind.”

CD Track List
  1. As The Crow Flies
  2. You Keep Me Holding On
  3. Sad As It Seems
  4. Last One To Know
  5. Green Tree
  6. At Least Two Ways
  7. Bluebird
  8. Too Far To Fall
  9. An American In Texas
  10. Don’t You Know – Can’t You See
  11. Walking Angel
  12. Deeper Than Love
  13. For The First Time
  14. Stay With The One Who Loves You
  15. Open Up Your Heart
  16. Hard To Bear
  17. Shine On
  18. To Make You Believe
  19. All I Need Is You
  20. Lean On Your Mind
  21. Situé (Live)
  22. Outside Looking Out (Live)
  23. You Touch My Heart (Live)
  24. Seems I Can’t Forget (Live)
  25. She’ll Be There 
This special, expanded edition of An American In Texas was released on November 1, 2019 through Omnivore Recordings.