Gasoline Lollipops - All the Misery Money Can Buy
This album starts off with the title track, a reading of a life that's on the skids, and lead singer Clay Rose delivers the song as if he knows of what he speaks. Despite the dire subject matter, the listener will want to chime in on the catchy chorus, perhaps with a bit of joy. These are "story songs" and Rose has an authentic, believable quality to his voice throughout on this set of songs that he mostly wrote or co-wrote. "Train to Ride" has a Black Crowes feel to it while "Get Up!" is appropriately enough a boogie-ing musical pep talk. Rose also has a little Waylon Jennings in his voice and you can hear it in many songs, including "Nights are Short" and "Gypsy." There's only one cover song on the album, a stunning take on the traditional cut "Sinner Man," as inspired by Nina Simone's version and here called "Sinnerman."
Heathcote Hill - The Stories We Are Told
Heathcote Hill is a six-piece band fronted by singer Megan Porcaro Herspring and the band has a rootsy pop sound, like on lite rocker "Hey" where Tom Nelson's slide guitar shines behind Megan's vocals on a cut about the absurdity of fake news and internet rumor. "Everything Slipping Away" was written by Nelson and Herspring but its arrangement and Herspring's delivery give the song the feel and ache of a traditional number about hardship. "Teddy Ray Blues #34" is a swinging cut with a rock edge while "The Rising Sea" is completely the opposite, an understated and romantically sad song that bemoans rising sea levels. Herspring's appealing vocals provide the cohesion here regardless of the sub-genres Heathcote Hill explores; the impressive 11-song set ends with the title cut, about the lore handed down through generations and which of it to believe.
Cary Morin - Dockside Saints
Morin is a Crow tribal member and expert at fingerstyle acoustic guitar picking and kudos to the person who came up with a cute name for his music, Native Americana. For this album Morin ventured to tiny Maurice, Louisiana (Lafayette area) to cut a dozen self-penned tunes with a coterie of area musicians, showcasing his vocals and picking on cuts like the Little Feat-recalling "Nobody Gotta Know," the sweet Southern soul of "Exception to the Rule" and the Delta blues of "Prisoner." Morin's picking is sublime on the dreamy "Tonight" but he and his band really rock out on "Jamie Rae," while the understated and fiddle-enhanced "Valley of the Chiefs" is eerie and mysterious. Cajun, country/folk and Zydeco are the order of the day on this fine album.
Fireside Collective - Elements
This five-piece bluegrass band from North Carolina consists of acoustic guitar, Dobro, acoustic bass, mandolin and banjo players but their main asset is perhaps the fact that all of the members sing. So while the picking here is phenomenal the listener can't help but be enchanted on songs like "Winding Road" where mandolinist Jesse Iaquinto takes lead while the rest of the band --- Joe Cicero, Alex Genova, Tommy Maher and Carson White --- blend in with sweet harmonies. There'll be an extra harmony voice on many of these songs too as cuts like "Done Deal" and "Fast Train" have choruses that are fun to sing along to. It's easy to hear the band's instrumental prowess throughout (and play air banjo!) but "Night Sky from Here" is a wordless masterpiece.
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