Saturday, February 25, 2023

Angela Easterling: “Witness” (2022) CD Review

Angela Easterling is a singer and songwriter based in Greer, South Carolina. She released her first album, Earning Her Wings, in 2007, and followed that with Blacktop Road a couple of years later, that album featuring a song titled “The Picture” which was named “Best Political Country Song” by the Boston Herald. Since then, she’s released a few more albums, and her most recent release, Witness, includes a song titled “Halfway Down,” in which she addresses the nation’s gun problem. So she does not shy away from important topics (I was about to say “controversial topics,” but protecting children from gun violence is only controversial when you take into consideration the opinions of morons). On this new album, she also offers a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos).” Apart from that song, the album is made up of original compositions. Joining the singer and guitarist on these tracks are Brandon Turner on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap steel, resonator guitar, bass, upright bass, piano, organ, banjo and backing vocals (Turner also produced the album); Don McGraw on bass; and Jeff Hook on drums and percussion. There are also a few guests on certain tracks.

The album opens with “California,” and in the first line she tells us she has left the Golden State “on the loneliest night.” There is certainly an amount of sadness in her delivery, but as the song continues, and the drums kick in, she seems to become stronger, as if the farther she gets away from what she’s leaving, the better she feels about it. And as the song progresses, we learn that much time has passed since that night, that she is looking back at her decision after many years. “Now everything has changed/I’ve got a husband and a child.” Yet is there a hint of regret in her voice? She follows those lines by revealing, “But some nights I still dream/I’m out in California running wild.” And there is more joy in those lines than in the other lyrics. That’s followed by “Home.” I’ve said this before, but I’ve never heard a bad song titled “Home.” I keep meaning to create a mix CD made up of only songs with that title. There are a lot of excellent ones, by folks like Ellis Paul, The Evangenitals and James Houlahan. Well, we can add Angela Easterling’s “Home” to that list. “It’s so simple, yet it’s so profound/But when life tosses me around/It’s the anchor of my heart/It’s where my memories start.” She delivers a beautiful and moving vocal performance, and this track also features some nice work on guitar.

Angela Easterling then turns to the blues with “Little Boy Blues,” which features some good guitar work and a strong rhythm. “My heart is growing weary/I’m in this world of man/Memories still haunt me/And now I don’t know where I stand.” This song is from a mother’s perspective, pondering her son’s future. Scott Stinson plays drums on this track. That’s followed by “Halfway Down,” one of the album’s best tracks.  It begins cheerfully, deceptively cheerfully. A cheerful country number. The first clue that something more serious is going on is this line: “I hear my children laughing – no, they ain’t seen the news.” This song addresses the gun problem in this country, which is just getting worse and worse. No one is doing anything about it, except offering condolences, speeches and prayers. “Another man, another gun, American as pie/Nothing ever changes, no one’s asking why/We offer up our thoughts and prayers.” Thoughts and prayers do precisely nothing, of course. Last year there were more than six hundred mass shootings in this country. Guns are the problem, which is obvious to anyone whose eyes are even partially open. And until serious gun legislation is enacted, these shootings are going to continue. This song is in part about how we’ve come to accept these shootings as part of our national landscape.

The music turns more fun with “Keep Your Head Down, Johnny,” which is delivered at a fast pace, and is more in the bluegrass vein. Yet the lyrics don’t offer that same sense of fun. Here are the opening lines: “There ain’t no kindness in this life for a woman/I know the lord must be a man/For all the fear and the pain and the sorrow/He laid it down in her hand.” Ted Lucktenberg plays mandolin on this track, and David Rice is on fiddle. Both deliver some wonderful work. There is also an excellent guitar lead in the middle, and another delicious instrumental section at the end. Fayssoux Starling McLean and Ian Guthrie provide backing vocals on this one. That’s followed by “Middle-Age Dream.” The first lines make me smile: “When I turned 40, I went back to college/With some kids who’d never heard of Kurt Cobain.” I work with some people who are quite a bit younger than me, and it no longer surprises me when they have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about when I mention a song or artist that means a whole lot to me and others around my age. This song is about pursuing dreams nonetheless, and so it has a positive bent, and an undeniable cheer to her vocal performance. “Put my hope in every song I’ve ever sung.”

The title track, “Witness,” has a strong energy. This one is about living, continuing, persevering, but the opening lines hit me kind of hard: “I always thought I’d be the one to leave you/In the morning, without a word/I never meant to disappoint or grieve you/You’ve been gone for years, there’s not a day it don’t hurt.” This track features some good work on electric guitar. And this line stands out: “I don’t have to be right, I don’t have to be strong.” Something to think about. That is followed by the only cover on the album, Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos),” a song that sadly is still pertinent. Just look at the current attitudes toward migrants in this country, and the way migrants have been treated in the past few years by bastards like Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. Angela Easterling does an excellent job with this song, turning in an earnest performance. Scott Stinson plays drums on this track.

In “Hero,” Angela Easterling sings about unsung role models. In the time of the pandemic, many people who previously might not had been given much thought were recognized. The pandemic changed who people thought of as heroes. “This world might never know your name/Or sing your praise, or bring you fame/But that ain’t what you’re workin’ for/You know the truth, it’s so much more.” Then in “Have You Seen My Friend?” she sings, “She’s real rough around the edges/She’s been banged up in the ditches/But she’s my friend, my real good friend.” That’s followed by “Baby Bird,” a pretty song that features some nice work by Ted Lucktenberg on cello. As it begins, it seems to be simply about an actual bird nest. But you get the sense there is something more behind her interest in the baby birds, and soon she is singing about her own children, with the knowledge that they too will leave. It is only late in the song that we learn the pain behind these lines, that the song is actually about a miscarriage. “I never held you in my arms, but I still see you in my dreams.” The album concludes with “Grow Old,” which is about a desire to be there to see her child age. “I wanna know how your life unfolds/I wanna see you grow old.” And this line is striking: “Someday your troubles will outgrow me.”

CD Track List

  1. California
  2. Home
  3. Little Boy Blues
  4. Halfway Down
  5. Keep Your Head Down, Johnny
  6. Middle-Age Dream
  7. Witness
  8. Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)
  9. Hero
  10. Have You Seen My Friend?
  11. Baby Bird
  12. Grow Old

Witness was released on October 28, 2022.

Alba Asensi: “Sóc Poeta” (2023) CD Review

Alba Asensi is a singer, harpist and composer based in Alicante, Spain. On her new album, Sóc Poeta, she takes poems from contemporary writers and sets them to music. The album’s title translates from Catalan as “I Am A Poet,” and indeed Alba Asensi is a poet, as she wrote the title track. Joining her on this album are Rita Baulida on percussion; Alejandro Mateo on violin, lyre and ukulele; Pablo Albarrán on violin; Laia Domenech on cello; Abraham Lojo on guitar, Carla González on double bass; Maria Gil on flute; Christos Barbas on ney; and Miriam Trias and Marina Cabau on backing vocals. The CD case is a bit bigger than normal, and it contains a liner notes booklet featuring each of the poems, along with some photos. There are also notes by fellow musician and composer Efrén López, who mixed and mastered this album.

The album opens with a short piece titled “Toda Yo Soy,” on which Alba Asensi is unaccompanied. She sings and performs this piece on harp. It has an uplifting and empowering, even spiritual, feel. Then “Voldria Ser Una Flor” features Alba Asensi’s vocals supported by some exciting percussion by Rita Baulida, giving it a very different vibe from the first track. Alba Asensi delivers some gorgeous vocal work, and halfway through she is joined by Miriam Trias and Marina Cabau on backing vocals. They give the track an angelic, spiritual tone, particularly in that moment when the percussion drops out for a bit toward the end. This poem is by Adrián Hernández. Alba Asensi returns to the harp for “Paula Pau,” a piece written by Angela Baldó about giving birth. Alba delivers a powerful vocal performance. And, like the first track, this one she performs solo, at least until partway through, when Marta Arcas joins her for a spoken word section.

The album’s title track, “Sóc Poeta,” features both music and lyrics by Alba Asensi, the only track for which she wrote the lyrics. It opens with a beautiful and soothing instrumental section, featuring some interesting percussion work. Also interesting is the fact that the lyrics are delivered by several people, giving us the sense that we are all poets, that we are all – in our different ways – involved in creating something worthwhile for the world. This track also contains some beautiful work by Pablo Albarrán on violin and by Laia Domenech on cello. It’s a wonderful piece. That’s followed by “Volveremos Al Mundo,” which eases in with a repeated phrase before her vocals come in. It then takes on a bright feel, as her voice is raised as if addressing the skies and angels. She also delivers some beautiful work on harp, supported by Carla González on bass and Rita Baulida on percussion. And she is again joined by Miriam Trias and Marina Cabau on backing vocals. Halfway through, this piece returns to that opening phrase. This poem was composed by Luis Miguel Sanmartín.

“Entraré A La Cuina” an interesting track, for there is a beautiful dreamlike quality to it at moments, particularly at the beginning, while there is also a strong sense of being grounded in a specific place, mostly through the percussion work by Rita Baulida, who sounds like she is at work in the kitchen, using a cutting board and pulling out pots and pans. Alejandro Mateo plays both violin and ukulele on this track, and Laia Domenech delivers some pretty work on cello. There is more joy in Alba’s delivery as the track progresses, and there is laughter at the end. The poem was written by Gràcia Jiménez. That is followed by “Carícies,” a poem by Carme Cabús. On this track, Alba Asensi plays both harp and kora, and is unaccompanied. This track has a gentle, pretty, soothing sound that feels like a magical night embracing us and conveying us to some better place.

On “Pequeñas Cosas,” Alba Asensi is accompanied only by Rita Baulida on percussion. But it begins with just vocals and harp. The percussion doesn’t come in until close to the track’s conclusion. It is followed by “Poema D’Una Dona,” which features some wonderful work on strings. And here Alba Asensi is also joined by Maria Gil on flute, giving the track a lighter feel. It feels like a joyful dance with the elements. There is spirited delivery to this track. Then on “Arcilla Y Pan,” she is joined by Abraham Lojo on guitar, and by Christos Barbas on ney. This is a piece that transports us. I especially love the moment when it swells in power. And I love that work on ney, particularly the lead in the middle. This is a gorgeous, passionate and moving track, featuring an incredible vocal performance. It is followed by “Nit Nit Nit,” where Alba Asensi is joined by Alejandro Mateo on lyre. There is a sweet, magical quality to the sound, and at one point, Alba nearly whispers to us, telling us “la llum/és màgica.” The album’s final track, “Sóc,” interestingly, is an instrumental track, featuring some wonderful percussion.

CD Track List

  1. Toda Yo Soy
  2. Voldria Ser Una Flor
  3. Paula Pau
  4. Sóc Poeta
  5. Volveremos Al Mundo
  6. Entraré A La Cuina
  7. Carícies
  8. Pequeñas Cosas
  9. Poema D’Una Dona
  10. Arcilla Y Pan
  11. Nit Nit Nit
  12. Sóc

Sóc Poeta was released on January 23, 2023.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Charming Disaster: “Super Natural History” (2023) CD Review

Charming Disaster was founded and is led by the duo of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris, dipping into the delightfully darker realms, and doing so in a rather lighthearted manner, taking us along for the strange and sometimes sweet ride. The group formed a little more than a decade ago, and has released several albums, including 2015’s Love, Crime & Other Trouble, 2017’s Cautionary Tales, 2019’s Spells + Rituals, and 2022’s Our Lady Of Radium, all featuring original material composed by Bisker and Morris. Their new album, Super Natural History, likewise contains all original material, songs that combine the natural and supernatural worlds in a way that makes the strange seem natural, perhaps even inevitable. Ellia Bisker is on ukulele, organ, glockenspiel and percussion, while Jeff Morris plays guitar, organ, piano and percussion. Both provide vocals on these tracks. Joining them are Don Godwin on bass, drums, percussion and horns (Godwin also mixed the album); Bob Smith on bass; Rob Garcia on drums; and Hilary Johnson on percussion.

The album opens with “Monsters,” a catchy number in which they promise or threaten, “Gonna make you mine.” And if you might be thinking of resisting, they remind us: “Teeth and talons, horns and fur/We are grotesque and powerful.” Ah, but it all sounds so inviting and fun. And natural, as they tell us, “Can’t help what we hunger for.” No, neither can any of us, I suppose. So let’s all just be ourselves, monsters or not. “Don’t we belong here in this world?” Then in “Mold And The Metals,” after a brief instrumental introduction, Ellia tells us, “Sometimes I think it’s the mold and the metals that make me this way/I’ve tried to detox, but you know there’s nowhere to throw it away/Contaminants accumulate in tissue and bone.” Yes, what makes us the way we are? It’s a question many of us ask, though perhaps not focusing on mold as part of the equation (unless, of course, like me, you’ve had to evacuate your home for an extended period of time while walls are torn apart in order to get a handle on a mold problem). This song addresses the problem of pollution, and how once it enters the food chain, there is little that can be done to eradicate it, and it becomes part of our identities. In the hands of this great duo, pollution is like a creature itself, a monster within us. She sings that the parasite “never leaves me alone.” Interestingly, the line then changes subtly, but meaningfully, to “Never leave me alone.” It is as if now she is speaking to the parasite, afraid she can’t exist without it. And there is a kind of hypnotic element to the rhythm, which adds to that feeling and which builds in intensity just before the end.

“Grimoire” is a cheerful number, a character sketch of a witch, first taking the traditional description, delivering it, and then questioning it, combining it with ordinary details. For example, Ellia Bisker sings, “She rides a broomstick,” and Jeff Morris says, “Or a bicycle.” And the horns celebrate this woman, taking her out of the shadows with their bright sounds. “When she opens the door, what do you see?” Ah, yes, they’ve turned it on us, the listeners. What are own thoughts on this person? Wonderful. And I love the play with language, with the sounds of words, in these lines: “Write your grimoire/Speak your grammar/Make it grimmer/Cast your glamour.” And they wonder, “Is it myth?/Is it music?” The duo takes us from magic spells to a garden with “Hellebore,” which begins sweetly with the line “Take a walk through the garden.” But of course some spell components can be found in a garden, and it soon is clear this isn’t a song about planting marigolds. This isn’t your typical garden: “Hellebore, henbane/Mandrake, moonshade/Hemlock, wormwood/Foxglove, monkshood.” And as they repeat these lines, it begins to sound like a chant, to take on a power of its own, or to summon one. I love the percussion at the end.

“Bat Song” begins gently, and feels like it comes from another time. It features some pretty vocal work. “My love is blind/Tell me, are you/One of my kind?” It is sung from the perspective of a bat, and so it reminds us a bit of the album’s first track, especially when they sing, “Claws and fur/Needle teeth/Little black umbrella/With a heart that beats.” This track creates a lonesome atmosphere, as the bat questions its existence. And yet it is somehow beautiful. Then “Disembodied Head” is catchy and fun, with a punk vibe. This one isn’t from the perspective of a disembodied head; instead, this song makes us all disembodied heads, as they address us directly: “You’re just a brain/Inside a jar/You need some air/You go outside/Ten thousand heads/Are floating by.” Yeah, I have days that feel like that. “You tell yourself that you’ll get by/You have an active inner life.” This is one of my personal favorites. “All that you are/Is in your mind.” Yes. That’s followed by “Six Seeds,” which features a staccato sort of delivery of the lyrics, hitting each syllable as almost a separate entity. Halfway through, it turns romantic, sort of: “I’ve been waiting/My whole life for/Your attention/And your smile/You and I will/Rule this nightmare/Day by day/And side by side.”

“Paris Green” is beautiful as it begins, and I dig the interesting, unusual percussion. This is an enchanting number, featuring some good work on guitar. “Paint a picture in Paris green/When you’ve done what you have to do/Flowers blooming in Prussian blue.” And then the horns come in, adding another delightful layer. This track is another of the disc’s highlight, and it is over all too soon. It is followed by “Manta Rays,” perhaps the most surprising track of the album (and that’s saying something). I laugh aloud every time I listen to it. It is absolutely adorable, presenting a sort of lesson on manta rays. And not only about manta rays, but about the metric system: “They can grow up to seven meters wide/That’s twenty-three feet! And I love the moment when she asks, “Are they electrical?” and he answers, “No.” Seriously, could this song be any more adorable? I don’t think so. “But one day I would like to ride one/I would like to ride one too.” Who wouldn’t? The album then concludes with “Wrong Way Home.” This one feels like it is from another time with that pretty guitar work at the beginning. “Why don’t we take the wrong way home/No one’s calling on the telephone.”

CD Track List

  1. Monsters
  2. Mold And The Metals
  3. Grimoire
  4. Hellebore
  5. Bat Song
  6. Disembodied Head
  7. Six Seeds
  8. Paris Green
  9. Manta Rays
  10. Wrong Way Home

Super Natural History is scheduled to be released on March 3, 2023, and will be available on vinyl as well as CD.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Kelly’s Lot at Ireland’s 32, 2-22-23: Photos

I get to do what I want,” vocalist Kelly Zirbes said playfully at one point during last night’s epic Kelly’s Lot set at Ireland’s 32. And if blues fans get their way, she’ll get to do a lot more of it, for this band seems stronger than ever. And perhaps also having more fun than ever, if last night’s show is any indication. Their energy and joy led the crowd to have a great deal of fun too, and that’s what it’s all about. After all, as Kelly sings in “Why Don’t We,” “Life’s too short/And that’ll never change.” Their set included a lot of great original material, as well as some favorite covers such as delicious renditions of “Route 66” and “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Guitarist Perry Robertson got a chance to sing lead on a fun cover of “La Grange.” And Matt Lomeo joined the band on harmonica for a bit. This band seriously jammed, especially in the final hour of the set. Yeah, the set was more than three hours long, played straight through, no breaks. If you are in the Los Angeles area and have not yet seen this band (though you’ve had nearly thirty years to do so), I highly recommend checking them out. And if you live outside of Los Angeles, the good news is that the band is planning on touring again in the near future.

Here are a few photos from last night’s show:

Ireland’s 32 is located at 13721 Burbank Blvd. in Van Nuys, California.

Ivor S. K.: “Mississippi Bound” (2022) CD Review

Ivor Simpson-Kennedy, who goes by the name Ivor S. K., is a singer and songwriter from Sydney, Australia working mainly in the blues realm. He put out his first EP in 2016, and followed that the next year with his first full-length album, Montserrat, which featured excellent original material. Then it apparently took a pandemic to provide him with the time to put together a second album. Mississippi Bound was released last October. Like Montserrat, this album contains all original material. And like that first album, this one is a true solo album, with Ivor S. K. performing all the vocals and playing all the instruments.

The disc gets off to a wonderful start with its title track, “Mississippi Bound,” perhaps the most cheerful blues tune I’ve heard. Rather than beginning with that classic blues opening line “I woke up this morning,” this one opens in the future: “I’m getting up tomorrow, I’m gonna pack my bags.” Yup, it’s a song about leaving his woman. “I'll leave a letter on your pillow/So I can tell you I tried/But keeping all your people happy/Was taking all my time/You know my solitude is calling.”  I love the sound of the guitar, which has a classic flavor. And speaking of cheer, there are even some hand claps in the middle, and again at the end. That’s followed by “I Don’t Roll,” which has a tasty back porch blues sound, with lyrics that seem to fit in with the great blues tradition: “I went up, I went down/You played your part/So I went down to the corner/But I ain’t gonna call her no more.” Yet this song is about smoking a joint, while also perhaps being about a woman he’s thinking of. This track features some excellent work on guitar.

“Get Up” begins with another variation of that classic opening blues line, with Ivor singing, “I get up in the morning/About a quarter past ten.” There is a relaxed vibe about this song, which is fitting for lyrics like those first lines and these: “About two or three/I fix me something to eat.” Yeah, it’s about doing nothing, and at one point, he seeks some company, someone he can do nothing with. “So why don't ya swing on by/You can do nothing too.” This song may be about that time during the pandemic when everything was shut down, but when we’ve forgotten about those circumstances, these lyrics will still work, will still hold their appeal, for there will always be times when doing nothing is the order of the day. Then “Talkin’ Shit Again” begins with some pretty acoustic guitar work. The lyrics then are in some contrast to that sound: “Been having crazy dreams/Well, I don’t feel right/Is what she said/I just can’t get up out of bed.” I think we’ve all been in touch with that feeling. But it turns out in this case it is a lie. And the song’s second verse may be about someone specific (you’ll certainly have someone in mind), or it could be about politicians in general. “Well, he looks just like a rapist to me/Says tick his name at the booth/He says he’s telling the truth.” And then these lines at the end stand out because of the time mentioned: “And then the time ticks away/You put away the champagne/Curled up in bed before ten.” It’s interesting that in the previous song he gets up just after ten, and in this one he sings about someone getting to bed just before ten.

“Kiss On My Blues” is a playful, enjoyable number that had me smiling pretty quickly. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Let me pull the shades/I’ll help you misbehave/‘Cause you know what to do/Come here and kiss on my blues.” This track contains some wonderful work on guitar, while a steady foot stomp keeps time. That’s followed by “Sex, Drugs & Cigarettes,” which has a fun rhythm, established at the beginning. I love the way Ivor S. K.  delivers his blues with such pleasure. Check out these lyrics: “She’s got a lot of bad habits/But that’s what I like/You don’t see her much at daytime, man/She’s built for the night.” There is another line that surprised me and made me laugh out loud.  I won’t spoil it for you here. You’ll appreciate it when you get the album. Then “Wheelin’” features some excellent guitar work. I love the way the guitar parts work together, complementing each other. There is a strong, raw energy to this one.

Ivor S. K. slows things down at the beginning of “Taste Your Lips,” though the track still develops a good groove. “It feels like I’m slippin’ under/Said I can’t really see a point/When I can still taste your lips/On the end of that joint.” Interestingly, it then returns to the guitar part from the beginning. It’s a strong song, apart from its use of the awful “self”/“shelf” rhyme. The next time the song returns to the instrumental section, the pretty guitar work is supported by some nice percussion. That’s followed by “100 Dollar Bills.” This one is delightful, populated by questionable characters, all who want their fill of hundred dollar bills. Then with “Tomorrow Night,” the rhythm is on electric guitar. This cool song contains some finger snaps and a few surprising lines, such as these: “A friend’s pulled in, but I don’t know what for/He’s covered head to toe in blood and twigs/And he says, can you help, I got a hole to dig/Well, all right/Maybe tomorrow night.”

“Down The Road” has an enjoyable, easygoing vibe, featuring some good work on guitar. And just when I’m certain it’s an instrumental track, his vocals come in. This is like a minute before the end. “Down the road I go/Yes, down the road I go.” Ah yes, nothing else is needed to say, and the lyric makes this track, of course, a perfect song to put on a mix CD for your road trips. For it leaves the rest open to whatever it is you’re feeling and experiencing on the drive. That’s followed by “Slow Down,” a delightful song about the progress of a relationship. “Living together, well, it halves the rent/And after all it isn’t permanent/Then she’s holding me awful close/Said she’s something to share/Don’t her left finger look bare.” This is another of the disc’s highlights. Then “Sweet ‘N’ Low” has a cheerful vibe, featuring some wonderful guitar work. The guitar work has such personality. In “No Friend Of Mine,” he sings again of a dishonest character. “You might have a four-story home/You might have pockets deep as ancient Rome/Might drink only the finest of wine/But you ain't no friend of mine.” The album concludes with “Dead Pig,” which has a cool intro, then settles into a delicious, mean blues groove. “And he forgot his meds, there goes his stiff upper lip/He gonna say what he wants/It doesn’t matter/Oh, it doesn’t matter/Got out his guns, his ammunition’s entwined.” And the tension builds from there, the drum work at key moments like gun shots. What a strong finish to an excellent album.

CD Track List

  1. Mississippi Bound
  2. I Don’t Roll
  3. Get Up
  4. Talkin’ Shit Again
  5. Kiss On My Blues
  6. Sex, Drugs & Cigarettes
  7. Wheelin’
  8. Taste Your Lips
  9. 100 Dollar Bills
  10. Tomorrow Night
  11. Down The Road
  12. Slow Down
  13. Sweet ‘N’ Low
  14. No Friend Of Mine
  15. Dead Pig

Mississippi Bound was released on October 14, 2022.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Billy Truitt: “Abstract Truth” (2022) CD Review

Billy Truitt is a member of the Vegas Strip Kings, a band based, as you might guess, in Las Vegas, Nevada, playing a fun type of blues, with some zydeco and rockabilly flavors and influences. His fellow band mates join him on Abstract Truth, an album of mostly original material, keeping in line with that delicious style of blues. Billy Truitt plays piano, organ, accordion, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar on these tracks. Al Ek is on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap steel and harmonica; Justin Truitt is on drums and percussion; Jimmy Carpenter plays tenor saxophone and baritone saxophone; and Rob Edwards joins him on bass for one track. Also playing on these tracks are Chris Tofield on electric guitar and Mike Seifrit on bass, with Steve Eaton singing on one tune.

This disc gets off to a fun start with “Who’s Been Trying,” which has a delicious Louisiana vibe, with plenty of great stuff on accordion. Here he begins by asking, “Who’s been lying/Who’s been crying/Who’s been trying/To throw our love away?” He then immediately answers those questions: “You’ve been lying/I’ve been crying/We’ve been trying/To make it through the day.” He then urges, “No more lying/No more crying.” And indeed the song has a wonderfully cheerful sound, featuring some nice work by Jimmy Carpenter on saxophone. Plus, I love that work on keys. This is a great way to open the album. That’s followed by “No Light Blues,” which begins by establishing a good rhythm. There is certainly a New Orleans flavor to that beat. And then the guitar is all blues. Those seemingly contrasting sounds work really well together. “Yeah, I’m lost in the darkness, and I don’t want to see the light.” There is a nice little jam to conclude the track.

Truth is a theme running through the early tracks of this album. In “Truth Come Home,” Billy Truitt sings, “We’ve been waiting so long for truth to come home.” I decided last week to take a break from the news, for my own health and sanity, and I think it’s helping. But I am aware that the lies from the previous administration are continuing, and now of course there is that little wormy shit from New York who couldn’t tell the truth to save his life. And dishonesty is big business these days. I imagine a lot of us are waiting for truth to return. Anyway, this track features some really good work on electric guitar and saxophone. And I like that work on organ as the track begins to fade out. That’s followed by “Waymore’s Blues” (here listed as “Waymore Blues”), one of only two covers on this album. You know it’s a blues song because it opens with the line “Well now, I woke up this morning.” I love lists, and someday I aim to create a list of blues numbers that open with some variation of “I woke up this morning.” Anyway, this track features some wonderful stuff on keys, plus some great moments on saxophone. This is also the track to feature Rob Edwards on dog house bass. “Waymore’s Blues” was written by Waylon Jennings. Billy Truitt then delivers the album’s other cover, a seriously good rendition of James Booker’s “True,” a slower gem, continuing that truth theme and featuring more great stuff on keys.

We then return to the original material with “Salvation Or Hell And Famous Potatoes,” which certainly has the most intriguing song title of the album. There is some good work on harmonica right at the start, and there is a bit of reggae in the song’s rhythm. Billy Truitt is originally from Idaho, and mentions that state in this song’s lyrics: “Telling me the blues must go/Yeah, but you’re back in Idaho.” There is more great stuff on harmonica in the middle of the track, and then a good lead on organ. That’s followed by “Life Like Art.” The rhythm and the accordion certainly work to raise my spirits, though this one has a more easygoing feel to it. “You talk about those times/When loving me was a crime/How you rescued me/And it didn’t cost a dime/Ooh, pain in my heart.” Steve Eaton joins Billy Truitt on vocals for this one. “Life is just like art/I can’t tell them apart.”

“Hobo Flatts” was written by Billy Triutt and fellow Vegas Strip Kings member Al Ek. This one has a country blues flavor, and features some nice work on lap steel. It’s a fun number. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Hey, old devil, why don’t you set my spirit free/I’m on the road to hell and back/You know I love those southbound tracks/Come on, take me on back, back to Hobo Flatts/I’ll pass the bottle freely, talk of times gone past/Said she moved away, never ever looked back/I got an old harp, ain’t got one good reed/I get to drinking, that’s all I need.” I love that work on keys in the middle. That’s followed by another fun number, “Preacher Stole My Angel,” more in the country realm, with gospel elements, moving at a good clip. He revisits an idea expressed in the previous song, here singing “Now the preacher stole my angel, and the devil set me free.” There is some humor, as in the line “Praise the lord, pass that cell phone, please.” This is a lively, rousing track, featuring some delicious work on both guitar and piano. It seems like it would be a great one to see him perform in concert. The album concludes with “Ragtime Eastern Cowboy ‘22’,” its only instrumental track. Some wonderful work on harmonica helps set the tone at the beginning, and then we are treated to some excellent work on keys. This is an enjoyable jam with a pleasant groove. There is even a bass lead in the second half, followed by a good drum solo.

CD Track List

  1. Who’s Been Trying
  2. No Light Blues
  3. Truth Come Home
  4. Waymore Blues
  5. True
  6. Salvation Or Hell And Famous Potatoes
  7. Life Like Art
  8. Hobo Flatts
  9. Preacher Stole My Angel
  10. Ragtime Eastern Cowboy “22”

Abstract Truth was released on October 7, 2022.