Friday, March 23, 2012

The Soul Corner - "Sweet Inspiration"

The Sweet Inspirations were backup singers to a long list of major acts, most famously Elvis Presley, and including Wilson Pickett, Jimi Hendrix, Solomon Burke and Aretha Franklin. They can be heard on the Dusty Springfield classic album Dusty in Memphis, as well Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl".
The Sweet Inspirations also had a few hits of their own in the late-60's. My favorite is "Sweet Inspiration" from 1968, written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham:

At this point the group consisted of Cissy (Drinkard) Houston, Estelle Brown, Myrna Smith and Sylvia Shernwell. Various other members came and went though the Sweet Inspirations long career, which started in the late 1950's. They continued recording through 2005, and have performed even more recently.

But the composition, musicianship and and most of all vocals on "Sweet Inspiration" are just perfect, a powerful love song.

Prospecting for Gold at Pastime Records

We like Exter, UK, musician Andy Botterill not only because he writes and records music we like, but because he is one of a number of UK musician who are keeping the jangle pop/C86 banner waving. Andy releases his music through Exter-based label Pastime Records, which he also runs. And today we are prospecting for gold in Pastime Records' recent catalog by highlighting some excellent 2011 releases from the label that should be of interest to readers who, like me, never tire of the C86/jangle sound. (Facebook link for Pastime Records)

Andy B

We'll begin with Andy B, which is the recording name for Andy Botterill. Andy released two solo LPs in 2011, Buttons and Badges and Letters Home. For these projects Andy played guitars, keys, piano, bass and sang lead and backing vocals (and drums on the first LP). However, various musicians, including Elisabeth Bennett, Andy Fonda, Andy Ward, and Ant Smith helped out with instruments and vocals on some of the tracks. Andy Fonda (who also plays with Phil Wilson) provided the excellent production.

Andy's recordings feature the classic C86 sound, a "storytelling" feel and Andy's winsome, heartfelt vocals. Here is "Daisy Smiles" from the uniformly delightful Buttons and Badges --

Letters Home begins with one of my favorite Andy B songs, "Television Girl". It is a taut post punk track and showcases Andy's talent for songwriting. It is followed by the more relaxed jangle pop of "At the End of the Day" --

The third track presented here from Letters Home is "Nice to See You Again" --

Andy is a dedicated and industrious guy. In addition to running the label and recording his own music, he plays in Falling Trees and National Pastime (which is discussed below). And he is an articulate and passionate advocate for the music he loves. It is easy for us to urge to to support him.

In additional good news for fans, Andy has recorded new music that we can expect to hear later this year.
Facebook for Andy B

National Pastime

In 2011 Pastime also released the Coma EP by National Pastime, which is the band's second EP for the label. This band consists of Andy Botterill, Andy Padfield, Ant Smith and Chris Head. This four track recording is a really fine C86 nugget. The band has its roots in lo-fi guitar pop, but my current favorite track, “Goldsworthy Gurney”, suggests that the band is fully capable of greater breadth. Here is title track "Coma" (which also appears on Andy B's Letters Home) --


Bright Lights, Big Zombie

The noisiest of the 2011 Pastime releases we are covering today is the delightfully named Bright Lights, Big Zombie. Also based in Exter, the band is comprised of Leo Collett (guitar and vocals), Tom Davies (drums), Sam Hemmings (bass), and Dan Wright (guitar, piano and vocals). Bright Lights, Big Zombie count Ride, Syd Barrett, The Velvet Underground among their influences, but I hear a bit of Weather Prophets and BMX Bandits in there as well. I recommend that you stream the entire album here, but if you don't have time for the whole thing right now, listen to the first track and the jangle delights of "Figure" and "Voices in the Dark" --


As you see above, The Morrisons wear there style on the sleeve--their album sleeve for their Rainy Day EP displays a Rickenbacker. And the jangly C86 indie pop inside matches the cover. This band's style is a bit different than the bands discussed above. The vocals are very much to the fore in the mix with warm male vocals and female harmonies.

The fourth track, "Brighter Days" --

By way of background, The Morrisons were formed in 1986. They disbanded in 1988, but reformed in 2004 and have been recording and playing new material. The members are: Elaine Churchward (vocals); Adrian Maxwell (percussion); Dave Clifford, an original member (bass); Ian Churchward, and original member (guitar and vocals); Phil Andrews, and original member (guitar and vocals); and Guy Bolt (drums, keys and vocals since 2004, but currently on leave to spend time with his family).

The Morrisons also have a full length album scheduled for release on Pastime records this year. If this EP is a good indication, it should be a "must have" for any fan of the jangle pop sound.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Your Mouth And Eyes - "Farm the Moon"

Your Mouth And Eyes is Thane Matcek, a singer/songwriter who plays country music with his father - (a country musician who inspired Thane to learn everything from Hank Sr. to Dylan to Kurt Cobain in one summer), and makes energetic indie rock like this single, "Farm the Moon":

It's good stuff, and I look forward to hearing more from them, and from this label, Ojet Records. Download the song at Bandcamp:

Your Mouth And Eyes - at Ojet Records

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

REVIEW: Spectrals - Bad Penny

What does a music writer do when he discovers that he has overlooked a release by four plus months? One option is to pretend that the release didn't have sufficient interest or wasn't worthy. But that brings the integrity of one's taste to the fore of the discussion. Another option is to hope no one notices. Frankly, given the large number and excellent taste of our readers, that isn't a realistic option. The best option, of course, is to cover the album as if it was just released. Yes, problem solved. And when it is a good album, it is the right answer for everyone. Well, having gotten that bit of business off my chest, here is....

Bad Penny by Spectrals. Spectrals is, in fact, 21 year old Louis Jones, who hails from a very small town in northern England. His work is influenced by the mix of old rock and soul records he heard growing up, resulting in elements of 60s pop and rock, doo wop, Northern Soul, garage and a bit of surf. Try the first track --

Spectrals - Get A Grip from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

What I like about Spectrals is that, despite its clear influences, it seems completely unaffected. It seems to me that Louis isn't trying to repackage old sounds to make money off them. He's just playing his music the way he loves music. He plays all of the instruments on the album except for the drums, which are played by his brother Will.

"You Don't Have to Tell Me" --

Louis is touring in the US this spring, so if you like his music check out the tour schedule on his website, which is linked below. Bad Penny is his first LP, and it is released on Slumberland Records. He previously released some shorter efforts on Slumberland and Captured Tracks.

"Big Baby" is one of my favorites --

Twitter ( @_SPECTRALS )
Artist's page at Slumberland Records

New Blues Rock Discovery: Idle Maestro - Dark Horse EP

Idle Maestro is a rock outfit from the UK, playing a strong variety of the great blues-based stuff you are likely to recognize from the catalogs of The Black Keys, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and The White Stripes. Here are a few songs to check out:

Dark Horse EP by Idle Maestro

And here's a relatively recent video:

Looking forward to hearing more.

Idle Maestro website

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Winnifred", a single by Roommates

Yes, it is a single--four songs. But even if you are stuck in the rut of only paying attention to albums, this is an irresistibly catchy powerpop release, and if you miss out on it your life will have a black, festering, irreparable hole that will never mend and likely will result in disasters in personal relationships and cause children and cute dogs to cross the street to avoid you (yeah, I know, some of you just call that "Tuesday").

Roommates is the mutual effort of Ben Cook of the groups Fucked Up, Marvelous Darlings, and The Bitters, and Mark Fosco of Marvelous Darlings. Alternatively, you could call it a virtual reunion. Ben and Mark shared an apartment for four years. It seems that during that period they created four songs in separate two-track batches (which were released in a limited run of cassettes by a "retired" label) and performed on a few occasions.

The four songs have been salvaged by Slumberland Records, and packaged in a 7" that is available on March 20. You'll love the songs, and you can wonder whether the dominant influence belongs to Teenage Fanclub or directly to Big Star.

Here is the fourth track, "1st Floor Blues" --

Slumberland Records

"Ninas Different", single by Fiction Faction

Today's profiled single is the two-track Ninas Different by Fiction Faction. This release is the follows their fall 2011 EP, Malenky Lizards, which we reviewed here.

Fiction Faction is David (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Paul (Lead guitar, Vocals), John Paul (Bass, Backing Vocals), and Ellis (Drums, Backing Vocals). Their music features undeniably dance-able rhythms, chiming guitars and electronic carpets and flourishes. It is bright, urbane indie rock and I highly recommend it.

"Ninas Different" is the A-side:

The B-side is "Turquoise Noise":

If you prefer, here is the Bandcamp stream of the single:

Twitter ( @fictionfaction1 )
Saraseto Records

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sam Russell and the Harborrats

Before I began blogging about music, I had a collection of discs that I would take in my car. One of them was a mix of various songs by a Seattle group called The Harborrats. I didn't know much about them except that they were led by a fellow Wisconsonite, Sam Russell, and their live shows often featured waffles, toasted on the spot and tossed into the crowd. I ran across my Harborrats collection this weekend, so I resolved to see what, if anything, Sam and the gang have going on. Go ahead, click on the play button for "Dive Bar Blues (Crossing Russell Road)" by Sam Russell and the Harborrats, and keep reading:

Good stuff, right? But a good song released last December is just a small part of the story. Kenosha, Wisconsin native Sam Russell, frequently with The Harborrats and other worthy contributors, has been engaged in the Blue Moon Bible project, an intended eight albums with eight songs each. Four EPs are finished to date. The style of the music is somewhat eclectic, but can best be described as garage soul or Americana soul. But each song highlights Sam's range. As a vocalist he can deliver folk songs, soul songs and rockers, and he can do it from baritone to mid tenor. As a songwriter, he seems to have no genre boundaries, and has the ability to write songs that sound like classics from the first listen.

Sam also has a solo album, The Year of the Cow (well, I told you he is from Wisconsin), coming out on June 5, 2012. The two-track single "I Am the Ghost" has been released, and you can stream it here:

Despite the upcoming solo album, however, I can't avoid giving a bit of press to the Harborrats' material here as well, because I think it is really good and criminally underexposed. You can get to all of it from the links below, but I'll highlight a favorite song (or more) from each of the Blue Moon Bible series.
Volume A was also called The Katie Sermon. Here is the rousing eighth track, "Mt. Prospect":

Volume B, also called The Youngest Sister, featured these four songs that I have on my car mix:

Volume C, Salted Caramel Shake features this great track:

Volume D, The Sugar Nile, includes these Rocksteady74 favorites:

By the way, The Harborrats and other contributing musicians on the recent releases are as follows:

For the "I Am The Ghost" single:
Sam Russell-vocals, guitar
Kate Noson-vocals
Michael Spaly-fiddle
Ken Nottingham-upright bass

For the "Dive Bar Blues" single:
Sam Russell-lead vocals, electric guitar
James Apollo-2nd vocal, harmonica, Nord keyboard
Michael Spaly-electric violin, backing vocal
Allison Tulloss-ooo's and ahh's
Kjell Anderson-fiddle, backing vocal
Toby Hanson-accordion
Carey Rayburn-trumpet
Ken Nottingham-upright bass, backing vocal
Schuyler Jones-electric bass, backing vocal
Dave Forrester-drums, backing vocal
Isaac Chirino-percussion

For The Sugar Nile EP:
Sam Russell—vocals, guitars
Michael Spaly—vocals, guitar, violin, mandolin
Allison Tulloss—vocals
James Apollo—vocals, keyboards
Schuyler Jones—electric bass
Ken Nottingham—upright bass
Dave Forrester—drums and percussion
Isaac Chirino—drums and percussion
Kjell Anderson—violin
Toby Hanson—accordion
Carey Rayburn—trumpet
Justin Roeser—guitar on 3
Scott Andrew—vocal on 6
Johnny Sangster—Hammond B3 on 2
Kate Noson—backwards vocals on 2


The Harborrats website

REVIEW: Margot & The Nuclear So-And-So's - Rot Gut, Domestic

Rot Gut, Domestic is Margot and the Nuclear So-And-So's third album. Their leader is singer/songwriter Richard Edwards, and this record is a set of songs that he labels "panic rock". We recently featured an advance single, "Prozac Rock" and I remarked on the punk content. That's certainly in evidence on the rest of the record, but so is a real sense of musical variety. The rock songs rage on, and the ballads are sweet and affecting. There's a real sense of humor - if you find an artist with this kind of musical talent and a sharp sense of humor as well, hold onto him. From the ballad "A Journalist Falls In Love," a sad tale told from the perspective of a reporter who falls in love with a death row inmate only to have to witness his execution, this is the story of his opening line, as it were:

"Yeah, I know I killed a few
But none of those women were you"

And there's a really good rock song featuring the chorus "Arvidas Sabonis/ Come back, we miss you" - I mean, really good.

Edwards' voice is strong enough to carry real buzzsaw rock songs like "Shannon" and "Disease, Tobacco Free" but clear enough to carry the ballads here. In addition to the aforementioned "Journalist" the band also slows down for "Frank Left" which reminds me of a Paul Westerberg ballad, and the really beautiful album closer "Christ".

Here's a free download of "Shannon" via Soundcloud, where you can also stream a couple other songs, "Frank Left" and "Prozac Rock":

And here's a video for "Prozac Rock":

Margot-Prozac Rock from Margot Cloud on Vimeo.

This is an excellent rock album with a big sound - it's ambitious, and there's nothing better than hearing a talented artist aim high and hit the target. They'll be on tour all over the country starting March 31. The album will be out March 20.

Margot Website

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New Rock/Soul Discovery: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires - There Is A Bomb In Gilead

Do yourself a favor and download this song NOW:

"Centreville" by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

Lee Bains III is a former member of the Dexateens, a longtime favorite of several on the WYMA staff. I'd have bought this record unheard, given the involvement of garage rock god Jim Diamond, but I have heard it and let me tell you, you will be quite upset if you pass on a chance to see them and to buy this in May when it comes out. "Centreville" is a good representation of their sound - Skynyrd meets The Dirtbombs in Memphis - and the song "Everything You Took" from the Alive Naturalsound compilation Where Is Parker Griggs? (WYMA review here) is as down, sweet and soulful as anything this side of Al Green. I'm not lying and I'm not exaggerating -- Bains is an amazing talent. Soul music this good just has to be heard. Spread the word.

Here's another track: "Righteous Ragged Songs":

A spectacular Allmans guitar intro and, again, that soulful voice fronting a screaming Southern rock band - what's not to like?

They'll be on tour with the Alabama Shakes (we've written about them before here, having first heard about them via the Drive-by Truckers) in March and April:

March 23 - Tuscaloosa, AL - Bama Theatre w/ Dexateens, Alabama Shakes
March 24 - Birmingham, AL - The Nick w/ Black Willis, Bohannons, Doc Dailey
April 5 - Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre w/ Alabama Shakes
April 6 - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle w/ Alabama Shakes
April 7 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head w/ Alabama Shakes
April 9 - Philadelphia, PA - World Cafe Live w/ Alabama Shakes
April 10 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's w/ The Neutron Drivers
April 11 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom w/ Alabama Shakes
April 12 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg w/ Alabama Shakes
April 14 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground w/ Alabama Shakes
April 15 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club w/ Alabama Shakes
April 17 - Toronto, ONT - Lee's Palace w/ Alabama Shakes
April 19 - Cincinnati, OH - The Comet w/ Buffalo Killers
April 20 - Knoxville, TN - The Well
April 21 - Waverly, AL - Old 280 Boogie w/ Centro-matic, Pine Hill Haints

REVIEW: Bristol Reggae Explosion 3: The 80s Part 2

My current favorite reggae reissue series is the Bristol Reggae Explosion series from Bristol Archive Records. The series focuses on recordings (released or unreleased and previously only sold only at gigs in the 70s and 80s). According to the liner notes, all 15 tracks in this volume were previously unreleased on CD format. Despite the narrow focus, I assure you that the quality of the reggae, and the sound of the recordings, is exceptional. And for me, the collection is even more enjoyable because the artists generally are not famous.

This wonderful live track from Joshua Moses, "Stick It Up", displays the quality of this collection.

Here is some rare footage of the performance of the final track of the CD edition: "Sweet Rosie" by Dan Ratchet --

For some Reggae soul, here is "I'm Free" by Bunny Marrett --

The album is available in limited edition vinyl (with fewer tracks) and CD formats, and are packaged with artwork, rare photographs and extensive liner notes.

If you are a roots reggae fan, and especially if you are a reggae collector, I highly recommend the entire series. The first and second edition of the series were 28th on my top album list for 2011, and were the only non-rock albums on the list. Bristol Reggae Explosion 3: The 80s Part 2 continues the high quality and joy of discovery. Every music city should have an organization like Bristol Archive Records to keep their music history alive.

Bristol Archive Records