Bob Rea - Southbound
Rea opens the set with the album's title track, a rollicking "she's gone" song that is happier than you'd expect for the subject matter; clearly the man Rea portrays on the cut had a really good time while it lasted. Rea sings with a drawl that is urban cowboy cool filtered through disappointment on the pedal steel enhanced and twangy "Screw Cincinnati;" the cut is not the only one on Southbound that hints at a fondness for Merle Haggard. A tribal beat drives the ominous sounding "The Law" where Rea warns that "You better break the law before the law breaks you." It is Rea's evocative vocal style that is the star here, along with the interesting self-penned or co-written lyrics, but big kudos go to steel and dobro player Mike Daly for giving the music just the right seasoning.
The County Well - Future Country
The County Well is a Northern California-based musical collective spearheaded by guitarist Don Zimmer and singer and guitarist Graham Guest. The pair, joined here by an additional 13 musicians, also wrote all the songs. With the outfit featuring lots of Marin County artists, there are hints of the Grateful Dead throughout and there's no doubt that Jerry Garcia would have loved to jam with these cats who use mysterious lyrics, flute riffs and a psych-tinged melody on "Mrs. Soul" before heading to the hills for the dobro, steel guitar and harmony vocal filled folk country of "Baby." "Extra Heavy" is a slow lysergic groove that Deadheads will find familiar and the album closes with the trippy "Subtle and Serene," an instrumental that is indeed all that the title indicates.
Joe Goldmark - Blue Steel
Goldmark is a steel guitar player who offers here a set split between slick instrumentals and steel guitar-driven cuts that feature guest vocalists. Listeners will be hooked from the beginning as Goldmark opens with the extremely hooky "Night Flight," an instrumental that twangs and soars but also grooves thanks to soulful organ playing from Tony Lufrano. Guest singer Glenn Walters joins Goldmark for a version of the Rufus Thomas classic "All Night Worker;" Walters also shines on the jazzy romp "The Wobble" and on B.B. King's swinging "Beautician Blues." Goldmark also has a blast bouncing through Bob Marley's "Natty Dread;" Lefty Frizzell's "Look What Thoughts Will Do" and Jeff Lynne's "A Love So Beautiful" both feature stellar vocals from Dallis Craft. Craft also lends her voice to a take on Graham Parker's "Howlin' Wind," a surprising but well-chosen cover.
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