Blues & Roots

New album: Elli de Mon || Countin’ The Blues

Last year Elisa De Munari published Countin’ The Blues. Donne Indomite, a book about the blues queens of the 1920s. The author also makes music under the moniker Elli de Mon – see our Gimme 5! feature from 2 weeks ago, in which she shares her influences – so it was a logical choice to also record a soundtrack to the book. Elli de Mon lives the songs of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, Lucille Bogan, Victoria Spivey, Freight Train, Elizabeth Cotten, Lottie Kimbrough, Memphis Minnie, and Bertha Chippie Hill, breathing new life into these names and their music. The Italian one woman band translated the originals into intense versions, adding a folk or garage feel to the old blues basis, but the album sounds more varied, modern and enchanting than you would expect from this description. This soundtrack was not only a good idea, it’s also very well done.

Out now digitally, on CD and on vinyl LP through Area Pirata Rec. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Joe Bourdet || Meadow Rock

Meadow Rock is not a forgotten Americana treasure from the 70’s, but the brand new debut album from Californian singer / songwriter Joe Bourdet. “Sometimes I read a picture like a book, then I close my eyes and take a second look // The images take on a strange new life, colors flying in the moonlit night,” he sings in Morning Light. Something similar happens when you listen to the music on this record, you hear something different every time: a surprising poetic phrase, female backing vocals or one of the vintage instruments (Hammond organ, double bass, pedal steel, mandolin, Moog Rogue, Fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer piano, etc.) that complement the drums, bass and various guitars (in the video for El Capitan you can see the musicians in the studio). This is beautiful, quiet folk rock, with an authentic sound and optimistic lyrics. Experiencing the nine songs on this album is like a journey through a virgin alpine meadow: “Wide awake lost in a dream.”

Out now digitally, on CD and 12″ vinyl LP. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions || Dad Rock

Based on the title Dad Rock and accompanying cover photo you could conclude that the third independently released album by Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions is a gimmick, but this is actually one to take seriously. Frontman Jack Droppers has become a father (on the back of the record sleeve he has his first child Naomi in his arms; the tenth song on the record bears her name and the eleventh, closing song was written for her: Welcome to the Party). Anyway, along with The Best Intentions (Laura Hobson, Devin Sullivan, James Kessel, Garrett Stier, and Josh Holicki) he’s recorded a collection of strong songs with compelling lyrics that will appeal to fans of Butch Walker, Jesse Malin, and Bruce Springsteen. This is infectious true American rock ‘n’ roll that deserves packed stadiums. I enjoy the album so much more than I expected based on the cover art, but I’ll pass on the limited edition Dad Rock patch they offer for sale. Listen below to the opening and closing song of the record.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP.  Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Patty PerShayla & The Mayhaps || Cheap Diction

Singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist Patty PerShayla has a beautiful name, but more importantly, she has a great powerful voice that she knows how to use in the right raw way. After her solo EP Oracle Bones (2019) and many cover requests, she has now released the full length debut album Cheap Diction, together with guitarist Lucas Powell and drummer Alec Klinefelter. Here the power trio plays ten energetic songs, inspired by blues and classic / progressive rock, with a nostalgic feel (there are even guitar solos) but completely contemporary in terms of lyrics and sound. “I’ll lose my balance if I // Tiptoe around your feelings // You might have the floor, sure // But I’m dancing on the ceiling”, PerShayla sings on opening track Walking on My Hands. Like I’m upside down from this music.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Gimme 5! Elli de Mon Shares 5 Albums That Influenced Her The Most

Photo by Simone Carollo

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

Now this is a good story about a unique artist. Elli de Mon (aka Elisa De Munari) is an Italian one-woman band that has released six albums since 2014 and did exciting shows on countless stages across Europe, mixing primal blues with primitive garage punk. That already sounds interesting, doesn’t it? During her pregnancy she didn’t perform for a while, but she found time to write a book about the female blues artists of the 20s: Countin’ The Blues: Indomitable Women. In tribute to these great women, she then decided to record the songs she wrote about. A great idea if you ask me. Watch and listen to Elli’s version of Bessie Smith‘s Blue Spirit Blues below, and you’ll see what I mean. Intriguing, and very cool. [post continues below]

The album Countin’ The Blues releases June 18 through Area Pirata Rec, you can pre-order it here.

When I asked Elli about five records that have been important to her, I expected a list of jazz and blues legends, but I couldn’t have been more wrong: her answer contains some unexpected, surprising treasures.

New album: Phil Ratcliffe || Cliftopia

This is a slightly different release than what you are used to from us, but I would still like to share it with you, because it intrigues in a strange way. Phil Ratcliffe is a musician from the UK, who played reggae with Extra Love, made hip-hop with Mouse Outfit, and now spends his time mostly on instrumental project Tungusku. In between, he worked on the collaborative bedroom-produced audio documentation Cliftopia (out now digitally, listen below), in which influences from those other bands can clearly be heard, mixed with a good dose of blues rock. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Kid Koala’s 12 Bit Blues, but could also be the soundtrack of a road movie. All kinds of genres (and emotions) intermingle, with guitars, bass and drums, but also with beats, samples, soundscapes, synths and saxophone. Experimental trip hop in a jam session by a guitar band? As said, strangely intriguing.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Brandon Agnew & The Pocket 4’s || Mave’s Variety

After the release of his EP Nola in 2010, Brandon Agnew started to devote his time to more important things, just like so many other artists who cannot make a full living from their music. However, the COVID-19 crisis also turned the life of the Canadian singer / singwriter upside down. He reconnected with an old musician friend during the pandemic and realized there may not be a better period to make new songs. Together with some friends called The Pocket 4’s, he booked a studio weekend to record ten self-written tracks for the (digital) album Mave’s Variety, which is surprisingly fun. If Jonathan Richman played blues rock, it would sound something like this.

“Patti Smith don’t mess around, baby // Jane Jacobs don’t mess around, too // When they shimmy cross they shimmy cross the crosswalk // Who they aiming for? They’re aiming for you”

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Oliver Wood || Always Smilin’

Many people are angry with anything and everything, but luckily there are some musicians who preach kindness., and when Oliver Wood sings about that, you believe that’s the only right way. We know the singer / songwriter / guitarist as the frontman of The Wood Brothers, with whom he has built an impressive discography of folk, gospel, country-soul, and Americana. Now, with his debut solo album Always Smilin’, available digitally and on CD (the vinyl LP is expected on July 9), he continues it strongly (and uplifting). Don’t expect a wall of sound, these are open, jazzy / bluesy folk songs in which each of the instruments may excel alongside Wood’s distinctive voice. Fans of Van Morrison, The Lee Sankey Group, Michael Franti, and G. Love will also enjoy this music very much.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Hello Merch

New album: Robert Finley || Sharecropper’s Son

In my humble opinion, good music is all about emotion – you have to feel it. That’s probably why I don’t like electronic dance tracks. One person who knows how to convey emotion is 67-year-old American singer / songwriter Robert Finley, discovered – better late than never – thanks to America’s Got Talent. Oh man, his voice, so gritty, aged and heartfelt it almost hurts to listen to. On his third full-length soul & blues album Sharecropper’s Son, backed by experienced musicians and produced by Dan Auerbach, it’s sometimes a bit too much. You can hear the pain in Finley’s vocals, in the autobiographical lyrics about his life with cotton fields on the side and in the howling blues guitar, but at the same time it is very beautiful – majestic. Fortunately, when you see him smile and dance in the videos for his songs, it becomes clear that he really does enjoy his long-deserved success.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Easy Eye Sound.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs || Easy Eye Sound

Gimme 5! Marc Ribler (Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul) Shares 5 Records That Influenced His Upcoming Record The Whole World Awaits You

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

I started reading Twilight Of The Gods this week, a book in which Steven Hyden explores the past, present and future of classic rock. Early in the book, Hyden calls classic rock a finite resource: “One day, it will disappear. Bands break up. Albums go unplayed and are eventually forgotten. Legends die.” Hyden has a point of course. Time does not stand still, albums are losing out to playlists, fewer and fewer bands sell out stadiums and it’s unlikely that current and future rock bands will come anywhere close to the lasting cultural impact of the classic bands from the ’60s and ’70s. But is that necessarily a bad thing? They’ve been saying that punk is dead since the late seventies, but to agree with that statement you essentially admit that you haven’t been paying attention. Ultimately,  there will always be musicians that will carry the torch of guitar music into familiar and unfamiliar territory. Which brings us to this week’s Gimme 5! which features an artist whose music celebrates the power of classic rock and soul.

Marc Ribler is a musician and producer who in recent years has been Steven Van Zandt’s right hand man in The Disciples Of Soul. Ribler also shared the stage with many Hall-Of-famers including Carole King, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Darlene Love, and Paul McCartney. On July 9th, Ribler will release a new solo record called The Whole World Awaits You (pre-order here). Busy as Ribler is with producing, performing and writing songs and jingles for others, it is a record that’s been long in the making – some of the songs were written as early as 2005. Little Steven became excited after hearing some of the early mixes and offered to co-produce the record and release it on his label Wicked Cool Records. Based on the early singles, it’s easy to see why: Shattered and Who Could Ask For More (watch the video here) are excellent throwbacks to the heyday of rock and soul, and both songs were picked as ‘coolest song in the world’ at the Underground Garage radio station. Not only that, these songs make my speakers sound better than ever – this is some well produced, mixed and mastered music. Below Marc Ribler shares five classic albums that he drew influence from in writing the songs for The Whole World Awaits You. Enjoy reading and listening!  [post continues below]

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