Thursday, October 29, 2020

Mario Romano: “The Journey So Far” (2020) CD Review

Mario Romano is a jazz pianist who was born in Buenos Aires, and is based in Toronto (where he also co-founded a successful real estate development company). His new release, The Journey So Far, is a compilation of some of his previous recordings, the focus being on material that he composed. There is a good mix of instrumental tracks and vocal numbers, the latter featuring several different talented vocalists. There is joy and warmth to Mario Romano’s playing, and the music on this disc provides a much needed respite during this stressful and uncertain time.

The Journey So Far opens with “And If You Please,” a beautiful, romantic number featuring the magnificent Jackie Richardson on vocals. “And if you please/Would you love me forever/Make this dream our endeavor.” In addition to an excellent vocal performance and some pretty and gentle work on piano, this track features a nice lead by William Sperandei on trumpet. There is also a string section, arranged by Jim McGrath. Mario Romano then changes gears with “Dina Dance,” which has a fairly funky opening and a delicious rhythm that seems to tell us things are good. Ah yes, let that Latin rhythm move you onto and across the dance floor and into the night. Larnell Lewis is on drums, and Maninho Da Costa is on percussion. There is also a wonderful lead by Roni Eytan on harmonica. The heart of the piece, however, is Magda Gianoukas’ adorable vocal performance. “And as you wake up to the sound/Of rhythm all around/This song begins to play.” The group jams and grooves on this one, and the results are joyous.

“Those Damn I Love Yous” is a gorgeous number, this one coming from the 2010 release by the Mario Romano Quartet, Valentina. Joining the quartet on this track is vocalist Kristy Cardinali, who delivers a moving and somewhat haunting performance. “The one that made so many dreams come true/And now your love speaks of goodbyes/So sad and blue/This can’t be you.” This track also features some excellent work on piano, helping to make this one of my personal favorites. Then interestingly we get a solo accordion piece, “Encanto De Mi Nina,” the only track on this disc on which Mario Romano plays that instrument. This one has its own particular beauty. You might be surprised by how this accordion piece is able to draw you in. That’s followed by “Si Tu Quesieras,” this one featuring a passionate vocal performance by Adis Rodriguez, and some wonderful and expressive guitar work by Elmer Ferrer.

“Via Romano” is an exciting piece featuring some absolutely fantastic stuff by Roberto Occhipinti on bass. And perhaps that is no wonder, as Occhipinti composed this one. This track comes from the Mario Romano Quartet’s Valentina album, and each of the musicians delivers here. There is a great lead on sax by Pat Labarbera, and of course some impressive work on piano, but I am most taken with Mark Kelso’s work on drums, which keeps this one moving and popping, and keeps us engaged. That’s followed by a cheerful rendition of “You’re My Everything,” the disc’s first cover, having a lighter vibe, and with a certain swing. That lead on piano is a total delight. And check out Robert Occhipinti’s work on bass. There is a lot of joy in the playing. This track in particular ought to help you push aside your worries and fears for a time. This track was originally included on Mario Romano’s 2017 release, Fenyrose Non Dimenticar. It is followed by another track from that album, and another cover, “Non Dimenticar.” This one has such a great feel to it, it has me smiling from beginning to end, and that is just what I need from music these days. I am especially taken with Mario Romano’s lead on piano. The album concludes with an instrumental rendition of its opening track, “And If You Please,” William Sperandei’s beautiful work on trumpet more in the spotlight here.

CD Track List

  1. And If You Please
  2. Dina Dance
  3. Those Damn I Love Yous
  4. Encanto De Mi Nina
  5. Si Tu Quesieras
  6. Via Romano
  7. You’re My Everything
  8. Non Dimenticar
  9. And If You Please (Instrumental Version)

The Journey So Far was released on October 9, 2020 through Modica Music.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche: “I Can Still Hear You” (2020) CD Review

Some families seem to have an inordinate, even ridiculous, amount of musical talent. Such is the case with Suzzy Roche and her family. Suzzy and her sisters Maggie and Terre were a group called The Roches, known for their harmonies and original material. And with Loudon Wainwright III, Suzzy Roche has a daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who of course also is a talented singer and songwriter. Together Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche have released a couple of albums, Fairytale And Myth in 2013 and Mud & Apples in 2016. Now they’re following those with I Can Still Hear You, which features mostly original material, beautiful songs that speak strongly to us in these difficult and ugly times. Joining them on this release is Jordan Hamlin, who plays piano, drums, percussion, guitar, bass, French horn, trumpet, banjo, cello, Mellotron, hammer dulcimer and accordion. Holy holy, what instrument doesn’t she play? She also produced and recorded the album. There are also special guests on certain tracks, including The Indigo Girls (Amy Ray and Emily Saliers).

The album opens with its title track, “I Can Still Hear You,” which was written by Lucy Wainwright Roche. This song features some absolutely beautiful vocal work. In these troubling and stressful times, this song reaches out a comforting hand, telling us we are not alone, that we are not forgotten. And in this time of isolation, this is a message we are hungry for. “From all of the people below and above/To all of the things we need to be careful of/From that was a near miss/To where do I sign this/I can still hear you.” That’s followed by “Ruins,” written by Suzzy Roche. This song too has its own particular beauty, in large part because of the vocal work, which is both friendly and ethereal. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers join them on vocals for this track. This is a song of childhood and the mindless destruction that sometimes goes along with it. “I asked my mama yesterday/I asked my daddy too/Why’s a human heart so mean/To do the things that we do.” This child then adds innocently, honestly “I don’t want to ruin anything.” In these days when we see the horror that adult human hearts are inexplicably capable of, it works to look back at the childhood roots of such troubles. It isn’t difficult to imagine the current Republican senators stomping on flowers as children, or even now as adults.

The album’s first cover is a really good rendition of Connie Converse’s “Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains).” This is an intriguing song, as it seems both playful, almost like a children’s song, and strangely haunting, addressing loneliness. Have you been thinking of mortality lately, or is it just me? It seems the larger questions are forcing their way into our thoughts these days, and the idea of a soul and what it means play a part in the way we are handling the current troubles. And so a song like “I Think I Am A Soul” is quite meaningful and striking. Written by Suzzy Roche, it features lines like “I think I am a soul/Who knows?/I heard that souls can roam the universe/The soul that I am, well, it could’ve been worse/The soul that I am gets lonesome like a million others.” Yes, in this time of isolation, this track too mentions loneliness. Emily Saliers plays guitar on this track. That’s followed by “Duck Song,” also written by Suzzy Roche. This one has something of the feeling of a traditional folk song, though an odd one. It is written as “Swan Song,” with the word “Swan” crossed out, and “Duck” in its place. The line that really stands out for me is its final line, “My strange new heart didn’t even recognize its beat.” Scott Mulvahill is on bass, and Brian Griffin is on drums.

“Factory Girl” is a traditional Irish song that The Roches covered on their second album, Nurds, back in 1980. Now Suzzy is revisiting it with her daughter, delivering a pretty rendition that also has a power, in that percussion as well as the vocal performances. The Indigo Girls join them on this track, Amy Ray on vocals and Emily Saliers on guitar. Perhaps the album’s best track is the gorgeous “Get The Better,” written by Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche, a song of a damaged angel. Check out these lines: “I’m broken in a couple ways/Lost my old halo and all the golden strands/Careful where you dream these days.” Something about this song, its sound, brings me to the edge of tears every time I listen to it. That’s followed by “Little,” a song inspired by E.B. White’s Stuart Little, about seeing things from a child’s perspective, which can be frightening, feeling small and inconsequential. “Life ain’t nothing but a tragic surprise/A whole lot of nothing for a mouse your size/Saw my shadow, mighty tall/Won’t amount to much at all.” This one was written by Suzzy Roche. 

“Joseph D” is an interesting and unusual number about a miserable man. This one kind of sneaked up on me and surprised me with lines like “Baby wants his lollipop/Hates his own guts/Begging on his broken knees/For some god to shut him up.” That’s followed by “Jane,” a song written by Maggie Roche, but one which she apparently never recorded. Maggie died in 2017. “There’s blood on the bed from the night when she said who she was/And I put on a song I thought I could put her in/But she isn’t there.” The album concludes with a cover of “Bein’ Green,” written by Joe Raposo and originally sung by Kermit The Frog, a song that certainly strikes a chord these days. Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche deliver a sweet and beautiful and gentle and hopeful rendition.

CD Track List

  1. I Can Still Hear You
  2. Ruins
  3. Talkin’ Like You (Two Tall Mountains)
  4. I Think I Am A Soul
  5. Duck Song
  6. Factory Girl
  7. Get The Better
  8. Little
  9. Joseph D
  10. Jane
  11. Bein’ Green 

I Can Still Hear You is scheduled to be released on October 30, 2020 on Storysound Records.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Brian Cullman: “Winter Clothes” (2020) CD Review

Brian Cullman is a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and journalist. His latest release, Winter Clothes, is the result of collaboration with friend Jimi Zhivago, who died toward the end of the album’s initial recording sessions in late 2018. Brian Cullman then set the project aside for a long while before feeling able to return to it. And it is fortunate for us that he did complete and release the album, for it is one of the best discs I’ve heard all year. It features all original music, written or co-written by Brian Cullman. Brian provides the vocals and plays guitar; Jimi Zhivago is on guitar, mandolin, organ and piano. Joining them on the initial sessions were Byron Isaacs on bass, backing vocals and drums; and Glenn Patscha on piano, organ and backing vocals. Then rounding out the sound on various tracks are Chris Bruce on guitar and bass, Chris Heinz on drums, Tony Leone on percussion, John Ellis on saxophone, Syd Straw on backing vocals, and Maryasque Fendley on backing vocals.

The album opens with “Killing The Dead,” written by Brian Cullman and Jimi Zhivago. When it kicks in, it reminds me a bit of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” This is a beautiful song, with an undeniable energy and appeal, and some excellent lyrics. Check out these opening lines: “Time passes slowly/When time’s at an end/The hands of the clock start to bend/Time passes slowly/That’s what she said/When she was out killing the dead.” Syd Straw and Maryasque Fendley provide backing vocals on this track, and Tony Leone is on percussion. It is a fantastic and arresting opening track. That’s followed by “Down Down Down,” the song that initially excited me about this release. After like two seconds, it kicks in with a wonderful, delirious passion. Some unusual lyrics near the beginning grab my attention: “When the doctor came by with his broken mandolin/He said there’s lawyers in my basement/Bankers in my hall/And I do believe I’m heading for a fall.” There is a strange and catchy joy to the song’s chorus, aided by the backing vocal work. That leads to the song having a peculiar effect, as some of the lyrics are depressing, such as “It’s written there inside the book/That no one ever reads/That the things you love the most/Will soon be covered up with weeds.”  Those lines destroy me, yet they are followed by the joy of the sound of the chorus, pulling me all over the place emotionally. That’s when I really knew that this album is something special. This song also gives the album its title in the lines “Heaven knows/These winter clothes/Are torn and caked with blood/And if I could/I surely would/Get out of them for good.” Ah, and just when we’re heading for a harsh and disastrous winter.

“Wrong Birthday” is a lot of fun, with some lively work on guitar and keys. Yet these lyrics too offer a description of trouble and desperation. Lines like “No more candles on your cake/That shiny car has got no brakes/You’re at the wrong birthday” and “What did you expect/Your sheets are stained and torn/What did you expect/Your accounts are overdrawn” are ones we can relate to. This is a song that is perfect for these days, when we feel like dancing through oblivion, smiling as we look around and see that everything is wrong. I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems to me that there are more and more songs about aging (or perhaps I’m just noticing them more). The opening lines of “As A Man Gets Older” are “You find as a man gets older/He stops using words like ‘forever’/As the bills start coming due/You might change your point of view, et cetera.” This one has a sweeter, gentler vibe, which works so well. “Time cannot hold, time cannot bind us/Take us away where time cannot find us.” Those lines have tremendous appeal, the song’s beauty increased by Maryasque Fendley’s backing vocals. And this line makes me smile: “And as the girls grow much too young.” This song was written by Brian Cullman and Barry Reynolds, as was the one that follows it, “Someday Miss You.” This one is a mellow, more bluesy tune featuring some good guitar work. “I know someday I’m going miss you/I’m going to cry just like a baby/I know someday I’m going to miss you/But right now, right now, I’m so glad you’re gone.” 

I know we’re all looking forward to New Year’s Eve, just to be finished with this goddamn awful horror show of a year. In the meantime, we can enjoy “New Year’s Eve,” a track with a lighthearted vibe, playing on the word “Eve” in the lines “You can always find me hanging around the Christmas tree/I’m just a New Year’s Adam looking for a New Year’s Eve.” This track also mentions winter: “Now the winter’s here/Summer has passed and gone/Mother Nature left me here to carry on.” There are lots of striking lyrics on this album, so many lines to catch your ear. John Ellis plays saxophone on this track. That’s followed by “Sleep It Off,” another fun number, opening with these lines: “Go sleep it off/You crazy fool/Go back to bed/Go back to school/You know you ain’t so hot/And you ain’t so cool.” This one has a catchy groove, and a classic rock and roll ending. Then “Coffee” has more of folk vibe. And, again, this song features some excellent and memorable lyrics, such as these lines: “First I asked for her attention/Ah, but she was in the bath/Then I asked for her forgiveness/But she could not do the math/Now salvation’s overrated/And eternity’s a drag/But consider all the options/And you’ll see where I’m at.” I also love the line, “It takes an army of indifference to look the other way.” This track also features some good work on guitar.

“Wrong Girl” has a joyous vibe right from the start, reminding me a bit of The Hooters in those opening moments. “I’m in love with the wrong girl/Always seems like the wrong girl/Always seems like I can’t hold on/But I know I can’t let go.” Syd Straw and Maryasque Fendley provide backing vocals on this track. The album then concludes with “Building,” which was written by Brian Cullman and Jimi Zhivago. This one has a pretty, somewhat haunting and yet comforting sound, with a positive, optimistic bent in the repeated line “I will build where I stand.” This song is a great ending to an absolutely wonderful album. I highly recommend checking out this disc. You won’t be disappointed.

CD Track List

  1. Killing The Dead
  2. Down Down Down
  3. Wrong Birthday
  4. As A Man Gets Older
  5. Someday Miss You
  6. New Year’s Eve
  7. Sleep It Off
  8. Coffee
  9. Wrong Girl
  10. Building

Winter Clothes was released on September 11, 2020 through Sunnyside Communications. By the way, the album’s cover photo is one more thing that makes it the perfect disc to listen to this week.

Monday, October 26, 2020

GG Allin Rock And Roll Terrorist Activity And Coloring Book (2020) Book Review

As a companion piece to Reid Chancellor’s new graphic novel on the life of GG Allin, Rock And Roll Terrorist: The Graphic Life Of Shock Rocker GG Allin, a coloring book has been released. Titled GG Allin Rock And Roll Terrorist Activity And Coloring Book, this too tells GG Allin’s story, providing some details not in the graphic novel.

For this one, Reid Chancellor provides a written introduction, rather than including drawings of himself, as he does in the other book. As with the graphic novel, this introduction does contain a warning, but also an appeal to look at the factors that contributed to GG Allin’s personality and on-stage antics, to view him as a human rather than just a spectacle. Reid writes, “I hope that by exposing even some of his worst actions it can help us to understand ourselves, people around us, and how some coping mechanisms, left unchecked, can result in some severely destructive behavior.” In addition to the introduction, Reid Chancellor offers some words at the end regarding GG Allin’s upbringing and mental health: “Sometimes I wonder what GG would have been like if he would have accepted the help that was offered to him multiple times in his life.”

The book contains some of the same art work as the graphic novel, but enlarged so that we can add our own color to it. There is also a crossword puzzle, as well as a maze, but mostly this is a coloring book. On one of the pages, we are encouraged to “Draw in GG’s tattoos,” and on another page to “Create your own flyer for GG Allin,” and on yet another to “Connect the fuckin’ dots.” There is some humor in the way Reid Chancellor tells the story here. For example, he writes: “As Tracy was preparing to become a mother, GG decided he should go to Peoria, IL and shit on stage.” No, this is not a children’s coloring book. As Reid Chancellor jokes at the beginning, “Get your red and brown crayons ready.”

GG Allin Rock And Roll Terrorist Activity And Coloring Book was released on October 13, 2020 through Microcosm Publishing.

Rock And Roll Terrorist: The Graphic Life Of Shock Rocker GG Allin (2020) Book Review

Last year Reid Chancellor released Hardcore Anxiety, a graphic novel dealing with punk music and mental health. Now he’s following that with Rock And Roll Terrorist: The Graphic Life Of Shock Rocker GG Allin, which deals with similar subjects, but focuses on one extreme example. GG Allin was a punk rock vocalist and songwriter known mostly for his outrageous and violent behavior on stage. Clearly a damaged person, he seemed to both confront and court death during his performances, and planned to commit suicide on stage. A graphic novel seems the perfect way to tell his story, for you need both that visual element and the sort of freedom that the medium provides to accurately portray his life and his performances.

Reid Chancellor inserts himself into the beginning of the book, opening with illustrations of himself at his drawing table, issuing a warning that this graphic novel contains some, well, graphic material. “You will see some gross stuff,” he says (p. 3). And then: “There will be times when you ask yourself why. Why is this happening?” (p. 4). Of course, that seems to prove the subject worthy of the telling, doesn’t it? It also shows a bit of Reid Chancellor’s sense of humor. The book then gets going with a depiction of a concert performance, where GG Allin is introduced as “The Scum of the Earth” (p. 8), which incidentally was the name of the fictitious band in an episode of WKRP In Cincinnati. The name of GG Allin’s band at this point is GG Allin And The Murder Junkies, and as GG Allin says during an appearance on The Jerry Springer Show, he is there to “put the danger back in rock and roll” (p. 14).

We are given information on GG Allin’s earlier bands as well, including Malpractice and The Jabbers, when GG was originally a drummer before becoming the front man. I’d love to find copies of some of those early records. But, again, it was what he did on stage, perhaps more than the music itself, that earned him his notoriety. And yes, the book shows him shitting on stage (hey, Reid Chancellor warned us at the beginning). Interestingly, we see him buying Ex-lax before the show, so that first time was nothing spontaneous. He had planned it. GG Allin lived one way, regardless of whether he was on stage or at home, and so his personal life was pretty rocky. Though it was those around him that really suffered, and we see some of that with regards to the women in his life. GG Allin says: “I don’t get off tour and wear normal clothes. This is me. I am GG Fuckin’ Allin year round” (p. 123). Indeed.

The book in some ways moves like a film, and we get flashbacks to his childhood and an explanation of his name. And what a seriously screwed up childhood it was. There was something quasi-religious about GG Allin’s beliefs and rhetoric, and that seemed to stem from his very birth, when he was given the name Jesus Christ Allin by his father. Much more shocking is the image of his father digging graves for the family. But being given the name Jesus Christ had a lasting impact on his life. For example, at one point he is depicted as saying: “My body must be broken for them. They’re coming to witness the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ on that stage” (p. 66). A documentary film was made about GG Allin’s life, directed by Todd Phillips (who would go on to direct Bittersweet Motel, Old School and The Hangover), and the book contains some material about that film, and about GG’s reaction to it. The book also depicts GG Allin’s funeral, and even that was a sort of performance. He lived a wild life, and you certainly don’t need to be a fan of his work to appreciate his story and this book.

Rock And Roll Terrorist: The Graphic Life Of Shock Rocker GG Allin was released on September 1, 2020 through Microcosm Publishing.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Rebecca Angel: “For What It’s Worth” (2020) CD Single Review

This has been a hellish year, a nightmare that has included a pandemic, wildfires, floods, widespread unemployment, the ongoing horror of a racist and mendacious president, and the murders of black citizens at the hands of the police. The protests following the murder of George Floyd resulted in further police brutality, even against reporters, and displayed the systemic racism of our nation for the world to see. My girlfriend and I recently watched a film about the Trial of the Chicago 8 (often referred to as the Chicago 7 because defendant Bobby Seale was removed after a time), and she remarked that the footage of the police attacking protestors looked like it was shot today. Indeed. An earlier (and much better) film about the same trial, Conspiracy: The Trial Of The Chicago 8, uses the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth” during the opening credits sequence. That song has often been thought of as an anti-war song, but it is actually about clashes between the police and demonstrators. It is certainly a fitting song to revisit now.

Rebecca Angel, a young vocalist that I first heard back in 2015 when she released a holiday single, “My Favorite Time Of The Year,” has recorded an excellent new rendition of “For What It’s Worth.” And the song has lost none of its power. Rebecca Angel gives it a bit of a funky edge, which is noticeable right from the beginning, and which works quite well. Her vocal performance is passionate and true. This isn’t the first time Rebecca Angel has addressed social issues in her music. Last year she released a song titled “Thoughts And Prayers,” which was about the ongoing gun violence problem in this country. In that song she sings, “People dying in the street/Have we lost humanity/How much more can we take/Pain and heartbreak.” It is clear the gun issue is important to her. You can hear it in her voice on this new track as she sings “There’s a man with a gun over there/Telling me I’ve got to beware.” This version also features the addition of trumpet, used in certain key moments, and some really nice percussion. Joining Rebecca Angel on this track are Jason Miles on keyboards, Dean Brown on guitar, Dennis Angel on trumpet, Reggie Washington on bass, Gene Lake on drums, Bashiri Johnson on percussion, and Maya Azucena on backing vocals. In the middle of the track, the musicians get a chance to jam, and that ends up being a really cool section. As our nation flirts dangerously with fascism, these lines are chilling as ever: “Paranoia strikes deep/Into your life it will creep/It starts when you’re always afraid/Step out of line/And they’ll come and take you away.”  

CD Track List

  1. For What It’s Worth

For What It’s Worth is scheduled to be released on October 26, 2020.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

As we near the election, with hope of setting the country on a better path, tensions are high. We are worried that if things go wrong, as they did in 2016, that the country might never recover, that this horror show might become our permanent identity. And meanwhile, most of the things we would turn to in times of crisis – family gatherings, concerts, baseball games, theatre – are not available to us, making everything even more difficult and dire. But fortunately musicians continue to release albums that speak to the better parts of us, to what humanity remains inside, uniting us in a real way. Here are some brief notes on a few new jazz releases you might be interested in.

John Daversa Quintet: “Cuarantena: With Family At Home”
– Musicians of all musical realms are addressing these strange and trying times in their individual ways, and can’t help but be influenced by what is happening in the world. From the title of this album, we can tell how trumpet player John Daversa is thinking about the pandemic and the period of isolation. This music is about what many of us have decided, or realized, is most important in life – family, love, relationships, and music itself. John Daversa even speaks to us directly about those themes on one track, “Growing Up In A Musical Family.” Joining John Daversa on this release are Gonzalo Rubalcaba on piano, Carlo De Rosa on bass, Dafnis Prieto on drums, and Sammy Figueroa on percussion, each of these musicians expressing his own sense of the times on these tracks. And each of those musicians also gets a chance to speak on the theme of family and music, which is unusual and kind of wonderful. But of course it is the music itself that speaks most strongly to us. I particularly love the interplay between John Daversa and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, as in that section toward the end of “#22.” And the percussion is often as expressive, as on “El Último Suspiro” and “Puppitas.” It’s a beautiful album, with music that we can easily connect to. If you are unable to be with your family and loved ones during this time, do whatever you can to reach out to them. Call them often, write letters, and play them this music. This album was released on August 28, 2020.

Douglas Olsen: “2 Cents”
– With the election right around the corner, it seems that everyone is throwing in his or her two cents. Can we hope to sway another person’s opinion with our own? I’m not sure. But if anything can sway people to vote with a conscience, perhaps it is music. The two cents that trumpet player Douglas Olsen contributes to the national discussion should be heard and welcomed. The album opens with an exciting and lively track “Tailwind,” which moves swiftly and surely, and features some good work on drums. It is an original composition by Douglas Olsen, as are most of the tracks on this release. The album’s title track features a delicious lead on bass, and some wonderful work by Douglas Olsen. Another of the disc’s highlights is “Rat-Race,” which has a great momentum and pulls us along, the horns feeling like they have the ability to take us right out of the rat race. I also love the warmth of Douglas Olsen’s work on “Una Para Ti,” and the fantastic piano playing on “Passage.” Among the album’s covers is a fun rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Algo Bueno” that features some excellent percussion. Joining Douglas Olsen on this release are Dino Govoni on saxophone, Angel Subero on trombone and guiro, Yaure Muniz on trumpet, Tucker Antell on saxophone, Tim Ray on piano, Dave Zinno on bass, Mark Walker on drums, and Ernesto Dias on congas. This album is scheduled to be released on November 1, 2020 (though apparently it was made available digitally last year).

Scott Routenberg: “(Inside)”
– Pianist and composer Scott Routenberg created the music of his new album, (Inside), while stuck inside during the pandemic. (Sometimes it seems we speak of the pandemic as if it is a thing of the past, when really it is only getting worse.) Much of the music on this album explores different worlds and realms, for in general we are doing most of our traveling these days in our minds, in our hearts, in our dreams. This music should aid you in your travels, opening intriguing landscapes for you. Some of the tracks remain closer to home, a place that people have either come to appreciate more than ever or loathe more than ever. This music is firmly in the more positive category. In fact, one of my favorite tracks is titled “Home Sweet Home,” a track that begins sweetly and then bursts joyfully to another level, featuring excellent work on both violin and harmonica. And check out the excitement of “Meltdown,” something I’m sure we can all relate to. The album closes on a mellower number, “The Day We Went Away,” an introspective piece featuring some wonderful work on saxophone. Joining keyboardist Scott Routenberg on this release are Sofia Kraevska on vocals; Chris Whiteman on acoustic guitar; Howard Levy on harmonica, bamboo flute, and pennywhistle; Jonathan Raveneau on violin; and Phil Doyle on tenor saxophone. This album was released on September 15, 2020.

Jeni Slotchiver: “American Heritage”
– Accomplished classical pianist Jeni Slotchiver presents the work of several American composers on her new release, American Heritage, an album of solo piano pieces. The music includes spirituals, blues, and folk, all performed with passion and heart. This is a beautiful and moving album, and in a time of division and hatred in our country, it provides a welcome look back at some of the diverse composers who have added to the great musical culture of our nation, and might help to restore some pride in our history. Composers whose work is featured here include Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Margaret Bonds, Harry Thacker Burleigh, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Florence B. Price, Robert Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still and Frederic Rzewski. A lot of the music chosen for this release will be familiar to you, and Jeni Slotchiver gives it a fresh life. This album was released on October 9, 2020.

Jim Waller Big Band: “Bucket List”
– “Rhapsody In Blue” is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, and the new arrangement of it mentioned on the CD’s cover is what got me interested in this album. But the album contains a lot of excellent original music as well, composed by saxophone player Jim Waller. The opening track, “Samba For Suzell,” for example, is a totally enjoyable number and features a delicious drum solo by Will Kennedy. “New Blue Funk” is a bright and fun piece featuring a wonderful saxophone lead by Jim Waller. “Waltz For Laura” moves really well, and has a joyful sense about it that should rub off on any who listen. “Funksuite 109” is fun and contains another great drum solo by Will Kennedy. And “This Is It,” which closes the album, has a cheerful energy that you might find coursing through your whole body. Big band music certainly has the capability to raise our spirits, something we want more and more from our music these days. The central piece of this album, “Rhapsody In Blue,” delivers what it promises and what I’d hoped, an exciting new arrangement that still keeps intact what we love about the song. This version swings and grooves, and includes a good lead by Jim Waller on tenor sax. There are some other good covers on this release, including a delightful rendition of “I Love Being Here With You,” featuring Jacqueline Sotelo on vocals, performing some good scat. Jacqueline Sotelo also turns in impressive vocal performances on “Georgia On My Mind” and “Why Don’t You Do Right,” and on a fantastic rendition of “God Bless The Child.” This album was released on August 28, 2020.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Eric Pan: “Travel Poems Chapter 1: Secret Towns” (2020) CD Review

Eric Pan is pianist and composer with his own singular style, his own way of approaching music. His new album, Travel Poems Chapter 1: Secret Towns, features mostly solo piano pieces, the music here telling stories of people and places, transporting us to different surroundings. The music is enhanced and augmented by found sounds, which lend the tracks a sort of improvised feel at times, like the music is being created and recorded wherever Eric Pan happens to be, like this album just happened to capture it. Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of using sound effects in songs, but it works extremely well here. The tracks are almost like postcards written from different locales, the flavor of the places caught in whatever message was scribbled on the back. This album is the first of three chapters. 

The opening track, “Gare Du Nord,” begins with the sounds of a train moving and a conversation, and the sense of traveling is established before the first note is played. The piano then emerges from that, carrying a serious tone, with an interestingly timeless sense. Beneath it, the sound of the train moving can still be heard, as if the piece were perhaps being played on the train. This track ends with the sound of the train pulling into the station, and we then hear an announcement over a loud speaker, followed by a car driving by. Gare Du Nord is the largest station in Paris. That’s followed by “Periscope Forest,” this one having a livelier feel from the beginning. There is a strong sense of movement here as well, and a sense of urgency, felt in the style of his playing, creating a sort of bustle. Yet the track ends with the relaxing sound of birds. These first two tracks are solo piano pieces.

“Discovery After Dark” begins with what sounds like someone in the bath. On this one, Eric Pan is joined by Nir Sabag on drums, and Hugo Reydet on bass. There is an excitement to this piece, and a strangely romantic element, an enchanting though somewhat coarse beauty. It is interesting how Eric Pan creates a certain flow to this album with the found sounds. For example, while “Discovery After Dark” has the sound of someone in the bath, the next track, “Stranded Awake,” begins with the sound of water dripping from the faucet into a tub (I can’t help but think of that powerful moment in The Rules Of Attraction). And then the sounds from outside are let in. On this track, Eric plays organ, and there is a bright and modern feel or sense to the presentation, like movement through a crowded city. And then, in fact, it ends with the sounds of a city street, a siren in the distance.

Eric Pan then returns to piano for “Majesty Of The Minute,” another solo piece. This one has a late-night feel, a sedate and solitary vibe, a peaceful atmosphere. It’s like a moment that seems to stand on its own, with shades of the past, but untroubled by whatever may follow. In the second half, we begin to hear half of a conversation in the background, unobtrusive but present, which at first seems to help reduce a sense of loneliness, but after a bit begins to have the opposite effect, which is interesting. This track ends with an outgoing phone message. That is followed by “Foot Of The Carpathians,” which has an odd opening, a repeated sound that makes us feel a bit uneasy. But then this piece begins to fill out, and takes some interesting turns. There is a repeated theme on piano that is catchy and kind of delightful. Nir Sabag and Hugo Reydet again join Eric Pan on drums and bass respectively. And though this one feels like being out in a natural setting, it ends with footsteps on a hard floor. 

“Up Jakupica” has more of a playful vibe, and begins against a background of fireworks. There is optimism here, and a youthful quality which is wonderful. And it’s all over so quickly, isn’t it? That’s followed by “Hamstrung,” another solo piano piece. People may be playing outside, but there is a sense of isolation to this track, of being inside, while light and sound streak in through the window, bringing an awareness of the outside world, though our own feelings and thoughts are more critical. Then “Wheelhouse Of Wonder (Welcome Home)” has a bright and cheerful vibe, and a warmth. Its feeling of happiness is strong enough that it should affect you, bringing you aboard. There is also a sense of discovery, and – as with all these tracks – a sense of movement. It features Nir Sabag on drums and Hugo Reydet on bass. This is one of my personal favorites. The album concludes with “Epilogue,” which doesn’t actually include any piano at all. Rather, this short track features the sounds of percussion and children on the street, giving us a strong sense of place.

CD Track List

  1. Gare du Nord
  2. Periscope Forest
  3. Discovery After Dark
  4. Stranded Awake
  5. Majesty Of The Minute
  6. Foot Of The Carpathians
  7. Up Jakupica
  8. Hamstrung
  9. Wheelhouse Of Wonder (Welcome Home)
  10. Epilogue

Travel Poems Chapter 1: Secret Towns was released on August 28, 2020.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Soundtrack (2020) Vinyl Review

At the beginning of 1995, my friend Jenn Vincent and I (with a bit of direction from Sal Piro) founded the Forbidden Fruit Rocky Horror shadow cast in Eugene, Oregon. That was the year of the film’s twentieth anniversary, and it was a great time to be shouting “asshole” and “slut” at a movie screen. Our cast played with gender quite a bit; we had a female Brad and a female Eddie, and the first year I played Magenta (before moving into the role of Frank N Furter). I’ve seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show in several movie theaters all across the country, and I can say with no undue pride that our cast had the absolute best pre-show. My friend Andy Davis (who played Riff Raff) created a Wheel Of Torture, which was a lot of fun. Now another twenty-five years have passed, and to commemorate the forty-fifth anniversary of the film’s release, a new picture disc of the soundtrack is being issued. A sexy photo of Frank N Furter is on the album’s first side. Gracing the album’s second side are photos of several movie theater marquees where the film has been shown throughout the years (I’ve been to a few of those theaters pictured). Yes, Rocky Horror is still going strong. If you’ve never seen the film, well, you ought to give it a try, and of course you must see it in a theater at midnight with the cast and crowd and the newspaper and toast and squirt guns and the whole thing. But even if you have no interest in the film, no desire to do the Time Warp with a group of delightfully twisted weirdos, you should still check out the soundtrack. The music was written by Richard O’Brien, who also plays Riff Raff in the film, and features the film’s cast, which includes Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Jonathan Adams, Charles Gray and Meat Loaf. This vinyl release has the same tracks as the album’s original release, and so does not include “The Sword Of Damocles” or “Planet, Schmanet, Janet.” 

Side 1

What a joy it is to watch Frank N Furter spin on my turntable. And from the moment “Science Fiction/Double Feature” starts, I am back in my early twenties. And even if I’m momentarily able to keep from shouting out lines in my apartment, I can’t stop them from running through my head. Geez, I have trouble remembering the names of people I currently work with, but still recall all the lyrics to this album, as well as the audience participation lines. Have you seen all the movies referred to in this opening track? The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Invisible Man, It Came From Outer Space, Forbidden Planet, The Day Of The Triffids, and so on. By the second track, “Dammit Janet,” I’m on my feet and no longer holding back, dancing and shouting out the audience responses, “with whips and chains.” If you haven’t seen the film or listened to the soundtrack in a while, you may have forgotten just how much fun this music is.  And of course the album is coming out at the perfect time, just before Halloween, and a song like “Over At The Frankenstein Place” is exactly right for the holiday. And speaking of Halloween, on that holiday in 2010 (marking the 35th anniversary of the movie’s release) I took part in the record-breaking Time Warp dance in West Hollywood, led by Sal Piro. More than eight thousand people performed the Time Warp that night, setting a Guinness World Record. You can see me in the video, as I’m right in the front, dressed as a Foul Ball (not Rocky Horror-related, but no matter). “The Time Warp” is the soundtrack’s most famous song, and deservedly so.  I love Little Nell’s part especially. So, wherever you are, “Let’s do the time warp again!” 

But things really get going with Frank’s entrance and his first song, “Sweet Transvestite.” Frank tells us “But by night I’m one hell of a lover,” and Brad and Janet will get firsthand experience of that soon enough. Then at the beginning of “I Can Make You A Man,” Frank sings “A weakling,” and we respond, “That’s Brad.” Frank continues, “Weighing 98 pounds,” and we shout, “That’s two Brads.” I love the piano part to this song. “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul,” which is Meat Loaf’s number, is a good lively rock and roll song. I saw Meatloaf in concert in 1989 or 1990, and he put on a seriously phenomenal show, the encore being a short set composed of classic rock and roll songs. Anyway, the first side of this record concludes with the reprise of “I Can Make You A Man.” And Janet tells us how she really feels about muscles. Sing it, Janet!

Side 2 

The second side opens with Janet’s “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.” “I’ve tasted blood and I want more,” she tells us. What I love most about this song is how the chorus has this deliciously innocent 1950s vibe, in delightful contrast to what she’s singing. But of course, the entire movie has a 1950s vibe, established at the start with those references to science fiction films in the opening song. Dr. Scott then gets his song about Eddie. Yes, it’s time for Dr. Rocking Everett Scott! And Meat Loaf sings to us from the great beyond. What more could you ask for? A floor show? Well, all right then, it’s time for “Rose Tint My World.” Soon Frank is asking that important question, “Whatever happened to Fay Wray?” (Answer: She went ape shit.) And then on to what most consider the central message of the film, “Don’t dream it, be it.” A good message, actually. And once you’ve embraced that philosophy, it’s time for another rockin’ number, “Wild And Untamed Thing” (though “Floor Show,” “Don’t Dream It” and “Wild And Untamed Thing” are actually all parts of “Rose Tint My World”). This seems like the grand finale, right? A happy ending and all. But, no, not so fast, virgins. Riff Raff and Magenta are there to spoil things for our revelers. Though first Frank gets a beautiful number, “I’m Going Home.”

Some of you might recall that for a time there was a thing called a videocassette. And when The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first released on videocassette, a scene was missing. Weird, right? The scene that was cut for the initial video release was “Super Heroes.” A shame, because it’s a pretty damn cool song, particularly Janet’s part. So if you wanted to see the whole movie, you still had to get off your ass and go out to the local cinema. The song is something of a downer, sure, but it’s really good. The album concludes with “Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise),” as the credits roll. And this isn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so no need to stay, thinking you’re going to get any more. You just have to wait for the Shock Treatment picture disc. (There will be one, right?)  

Vinyl Track List

Side 1

  1. Science Fiction/Double Feature
  2. Dammit Janet
  3. Over At The Frankenstein Place
  4. The Time Warp
  5. Sweet Transvestite
  6. I Can Make You A Man
  7. Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul
  8. I Can’t Make You A Man (Reprise)

Side 2

  1. Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me
  2. Eddie
  3. Rose Tint My World
  4. I’m Going Home
  5. Super Heroes
  6. Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)

This special 45th Anniversary picture disc of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack is scheduled to be released on October 23, 2020 on Ode Records.

Here is a photo of the album's second side:

Thursday, October 15, 2020

John Fedchock NY Sextet: “Into The Shadows” (2020) CD Review

John Fedchock is an accomplished trombone player and composer who has been performing professionally since the early 1980s, playing with the Woody Herman Orchestra. Since the mid-1990s, he has been a band leader, playing with various configurations, including John Fedchock New York Big Band, John Fedchock Quartet and John Fedchock NY Sextet. His new album, Into The Shadows, with the John Fedchock NY Sextet, features mostly original material, composed by John Fedchock. The John Fedchock NY Sextet is made up of John Fedchock on trombone, Scott Wendholt on trumpet and flugelhorn, Walt Weiskopf on tenor saxophone, Allen Farnham on piano, David Finck on bass, and Eric Halvorson on drums.

The album opens with “RSVP,” an original number that announces itself at the start with a brief punctuated burst, as if to say, Here, let’s get going. It isn’t long before this piece is sounding like a fantastic evening, a party we’d all like to RSVP to, you know, if there weren’t a pandemic. With that Latin rhythm, featuring some great work on drums and a cool bass line, perhaps we can imagine a party in our own homes. The piano work is part elegance, part insistence. And some excellent work from all the horn players keeps this track hopping. Here’s to a better world, may this music move us firmly in its direction, and may we all find ourselves able to attend the celebration of its arrival. That’s followed by “Alpha Dog,” which kind of gently swings, the horns soaring above the good rhythm. With a title like “Alpha Dog,” it can be expected to take control and lead us somewhere. And where it seems to take us is down a street into the Land of Cool, where people smile at us from the shadows and invite us to dance or to sample whatever wares they’re selling. But don’t worry, there is no sense of danger here. Everybody is on the up-and-up, and they just want to make sure you enjoy yourself, don’t you know, so long as you’re respectful, of course. It is an enjoyable number, and I particularly dig that lead on bass in the second half. We then get another original composition, “Manaus,” which is the name of a city in Brazil, and more precisely in the Amazon region, a city in the middle of a jungle. The track certainly does have a Brazilian flair and vibe, as well as a warmth and a welcoming sound.

The first cover of the album is the jazz standard “I Should Care,” a song written by Sammy Cahn, Axel Stordahl and Paul Weston. John Fedchock’s arrangement of this piece takes it in a different direction from what you might be used to. It is an interesting arrangement that somehow manages to feel both relaxed and exciting, with a wonderful and natural movement, particularly during John Fedchock’s lead. This track features another good bass solo. And check out that excellent work on drums, especially toward the song’s climax. That’s followed by another cover, “Nature Boy,” written by Eden Ahbez (whose real name was George Aberle) and made famous by Nat King Cole. John Fedchock’s arrangement takes the song of the enchanted and wise boy who traveled far and spoke of love, and gives it more of a Latin groove and a heightened sense of excitement, this rendition seeming to stress the sense of traveling far, taking us into a different and less familiar place. The compassion, of course, remains in place, and the lesson to love and be loved in return, though not spoken, is still clear. It is a lesson many people still need to learn. 

“Into The Shadows,” the album’s title track, is an original composition by John Fedchock, and the piece that first got me interested in this release. This one eases in, seeming to come to us through a mist that soon clears. It has a beautiful, yet introspective sound. There is a sense of loneliness to each solo, but a gentle sort of loneliness, nothing debilitating about it, and so it ends up having a strangely soothing effect, particularly now during this period of pandemic and isolation. It is like we are joined together in loneliness. That’s followed by a cover of “Star Eyes,” written by Don Raye and Gene de Paul, and made popular by Charlie Parker. This version features some really good work on bass, even before that solo, as well as a wonderful lead by John Fedchock. I also love that section toward the end, with that great work on drums. The album concludes with an original number, “On The Edge,” that pops and moves right out of the gate, with a delicious rhythm that sets the pace and carries us forward. Straight away we get some excellent work on piano. This one seems designed to lift our spirits, with the brass instruments taking off, one at a time getting a chance to lift us from the darkness. Then there is a seriously delightful bass solo. This is a piece that John Fedchock previously recorded with the John Fedchock New York Big Band, using it as the title track to a 1998 album. While a lot of people are on the edge these days, if the edge were like this track, then we’d all be happy to remain there.

CD Track List

  1. RSVP
  2. Alpha Dog
  3. Manaus
  4. I Should Care
  5. Nature Boy
  6. Into The Shadows
  7. Star Eyes
  8. On The Edge

Into The Shadows was released on July 17, 2020 on Summit Records.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Jeremiah Johnson: “Unemployed Highly Annoyed” (2020) CD Review

How is it that even with all that extra time due to unemployment, I didn’t seem to get anything done? Has anyone else experienced that? Well, some folks have remained quite busy during this strange time, making the most of it. Jeremiah Johnson is releasing his second album of the year. Following February’s Heavens To Betsy, a title I love, comes Unemployed Highly Annoyed, a title I like even more, for it describes perfectly the state many of us have been in and continue to be in, particularly musicians and other folks in entertainment. This is a blues album for this time, an album that reaches out a hand to those people who are struggling, who are worried, who may be losing faith in their fellow men. Joining Jeremiah Johnson on this release are Paul Niehaus IV on bass, keys and backing vocals; and Tony Antonelli on drums, percussion and backing vocals. The album features mostly original material. 

The album opens with “Burn Down The Garden,” a tune with something of a southern rock vibe. And right away, the state of the world is being addressed. “The faded dreams of the brokenhearted, they’ve all been turned away/Seems like the whole world’s breaking down.” Indeed. But this song offers an optimistic and positive outlook, as he tells us to “Have a little faith, things will come around.” It feels like everything has to come down in order for us to begin again, and this time with some compassion. “Let’s build a better day,” he sings here. It seems a gargantuan task, yes, but we’ve got to start, and we’ve got to start now. “Burn Down The Garden” is followed by “Muddy Black Water,” which begins with a good beat, though it is that catchy and cool part on keys that really gets me into this track. This song is about struggling anew, and doing what needs to be done and not being afraid to ask for help. “Life has given me a sucker punch body blow/I want to blame it on the weather man/You can’t rest on your laurels when the roof comes caving in.” It is easy to find others to blame for our troubles, especially these days, but that doesn’t really help. And as for the line about blaming it on the weather man, it does seem like the very weather has turned on us, doesn’t it? It often feels to me like the earth has had quite enough of humanity and is trying to shake us off, like a dog trying to get rid of fleas. In addition to floods and storms, a good section of the country has been ablaze. Is anyone still doubting climate change? “Blue skies turn to grey/Watching the riverbanks wash away/Thunder beating down on my parade.” In this song too he mentions that people “Got to have faith.”

The album’s only cover is “Cherry Red Wine,” a song written and recorded by Luther Allison, and included on his 1995 album Blue Streak. Jeremiah Johnson delivers an excellent rendition. I love that glorious blues guitar work, which is driving this track almost from its opening moments. There is also some good work on keys. In this song, he worries about someone’s drinking problem. “You worry me, baby/I’m sitting here, wondering what in the world I can do/Got so much to live for, darling/But I just can’t sit here doing nothing, watching that wine destroy you.” Alcohol is helping people get through this insane time, but it is likely hurting them too. Once this goddamn year is over, a lot of folks are going to need to dry out, at least temporarily. “I’m taking you to the doctor, darling/Maybe he knows what’s going on in your head/You’re going to keep on drinking that bad wine/Even the grass that grows on your grave will be cherry red.” Oh yes, that last line is really good. But it is Jeremiah Johnson’s guitar work that holds most of this track’s appeal. That’s followed by “Daddy’s Going Out Tonight,” a good rocking number to raise our spirits a bit. It begins with these lines: “Some people like to take their chances, some like to roll the bones/Some like to play it safe, locked up in their homes.” Well, these days I have to say the latter group is the more sensible, and the more likely to survive the pandemic. But this song is about a better time, when just going out doesn’t mean putting your life at risk. And listening to it, we can mentally put ourselves in that time, in that place. Ah, it’s going to be good to get back to that. Maybe next year? Depends greatly on what happens in the coming election. In the meantime, we can enjoy this song, which has a sort of celebratory feel. It also has a kind of goofy ending. 

At the beginning of “Unemployed Highly Annoyed,” the album’s title track, Jeremiah Johnson sings, “Sure been a struggle now.”  Oh yes. This track soon kicks in with a wonderful force. “Calm the hell down, stop freaking out/Have a little faith in the human race,” he tells us. I would love for my faith to be restored, but it is difficult when the country is being led by greedy, mendacious sociopaths. This song is directly about this insane time, particularly the pandemic, with lines like “Don’t breathe, don’t move/It’s full-blown chaos, it’s doom and gloom” and “You’d better wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.” According to Jeremiah Johnson, the lyrics were all inspired by news headlines and social media, with the song describing the situation as it stands and not taking a particular stance. “Do what you’re told, don’t even think/You can’t call it freedom if you don’t have a choice” are lines I first took to indicate that he was aligned with those who disregard the guidelines, but they are rather taken from online responses to the social distancing guidelines. We are all sick of this pandemic, no question about it, and I understand the desire to just go out and forget about it for a while. But we’ve got to be stronger and hang in there.

“Different Plan For Me” is a mellower blues number, with more excellent and expressive work on guitar, and some good stuff on bass. Its first line, “I’ve been locked up too long,” would under normal circumstances be about someone in jail, but these days it’s about being at home. Crazy world, right? This song is about the money troubles resulting from unemployment during the pandemic. “I thought I had it all figured out/And then everything went south.” It also directly addresses the amount of death our country has already faced: “People dying every day/Over 100,000 people gone now.” While in “Unemployed Highly Annoyed,” he sings, “Have a little faith in the human race,” here he sings, “You know, I try to have faith.” So he is struggling with the idea too, just as most of us are. This is a time when we all have the blues, and this music is blues to help get us together by telling us we are not alone, an important message now, particularly for those who are isolated. Then in “Love And Sympathy,” he continues to reach out to those who are struggling, and offers the reminder, “We need loving and sympathy.” This song is about the troubles and arguments that can arise between people who have been locking down and staying put together during the pandemic. “And it’s all too easy to hand off that pain/Pushing out instead of in, darling, looking for someone to blame.” It’s difficult, because there are specific people we can blame, but we end up lashing out at those around us, the very people who are going to help us get through this horrid time, the very people we should be helping. The line “You miss your family, I miss mine too” hits me hard, because in this time of the pandemic I have not been able to see my family at all. My parents are in a high-risk category and are thousands of miles away. Yet this song does offer hope, in the lines “I believe in you, you believe in me/Let’s take that pain, darling, and let’s set it free.” And toward the end that guitar rises up, pulling us up with it. 

The album concludes with “Rock ‘N’ Roll For The Soul,” a rock and roll song to help us shake loose from the heavy weight we feel. If you are similar to me, then you go to a lot of concerts throughout a normal year. Seeing bands in concert is one of my favorite things to do, and it keeps me sane, keeps me happy to be here on this planet. So this time has been particularly difficult. I haven’t been to a show since March 7th, and that is driving me right to the edge. Well, this song does its best to work as a substitute. “Get up off the chair and dance about the place/Crank it up, make it loud.” Rock and roll can be so good for the soul, no question about it, and this song has a Chuck Berry vibe and influence. I’m glad Jeremiah Johnson leaves us with a fun track, one to get us dancing. I’m looking forward to the time when we’ll be dancing together again.

CD Track List

  1. Burn Down The Garden
  2. Muddy Black Water
  3. Cherry Red Wine
  4. Daddy’s Going Out Tonight
  5. Unemployed Highly Annoyed
  6. Different Plan For Me
  7. Love And Sympathy
  8. Rock ‘N’ Roll For The Soul

Unemployed Highly Annoyed is scheduled to be released on October 30, 2020 on Ruf Records.