by: Hobert Taylor
David Kilgour and the Heavy 8's - End Times Undone - (Merge)
Since the late '70's New Zealands Kilgour was a major force in the "Dunedin Sound", (his band was The Clean, and there were The Bats, The Verlaines, Straightjacket Fits, etc.) which had a Byrds,Television,Velvet Underground, Galxie 500 jangly reverb feel. A solo since 1991 Kilgour has remained loyal to this aesthetic, so unlike say MGMT, this is not a tribute, but a continuation. Forgetting the sound for a moment, what makes this record special are the songs. They are addictive and dreamy, and like The American Music Club, their poetry spans big and small moments, ideas, and feelings with grace, humor, and wisdom.
Billy Bragg - Tooth & Nail - (Cooking Vinyl)
Bragg's 20th record, produced by the sublime Joe Henry, is gentle but no less pointed in it's earnestness and sincerity.
The production is very warm with an extraordinarily rich bass sound and intimate vocal presence. The songs are confessional and redemptive and spiritually compassionate. I particularly like his version of Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home", his own new gospel tune "Do Unto Others", the soul ballad "Swallow My Pride" and "No One Knows Anything Anymore".
The Honey Trees Bright Fire - (Self Released)
Very pretty. Very well written. Becky Filip has one of those voices, pure, bel canto, and full of personality.It is dynamically wide ranging, tonally precise in glissando, and the arrangements echo this beauty. "Golden Crown" is a perfect example of their skill and power. The harmonies and musicianship of the other half of this duo, Jacob Wick are a perfect match. The string arrangements and production by Jeremy Larson done in a small studio in Springfield, MO. are the equal of big budget projects. Folk. No OPI.
the ollam - the ollam - (Compass Records)
I'm just adding this even though it is not technically a new release. Ireland's John McSherry is a master of the uilleann pipes, the Irish bag pipe, as well as various whistles. A founder of Lunasa, and an accompanist of Nanci Griffith, Sinead O'Connor, and The Corrs, he is joined by two younger Michigan artists, Tyler Duncan and Michael Shimmin in this admixture of Irish Music, jazz, and folk. The melodies can be driven and jagged,often taking surprising turns as in "The Devilll For My Hurt" which channels King Crimson in the middle. They can also be cool and subtle as in "The Tryst After Death". My fave, the slow and jazzy and majestic "Prayer For Tears".
Spirojazz - City of Dreams - (Self-Released)
Funky jazz blues lounge crossover that sends you back to 1977 with some nice Hammond B3 and unselfconscious synth. Great for production beds. There is a particularly idiosyncratic version of "We Three Kings" that will turn your Christmas around. Spirojazz is Don Andrews playing everything. "City of Dreams" the title cut is profound and a nice snapshot of Chicago. Released in 2010 but popping up now...probably lived behind a file cabinet somewhere. Jazz. No OPI.
WDCB Loves Chicago Jazz - Vol. 1 - (Origin Records)
This 2013 release was given me last week at he JazzWeek conference in San Jose. It is all top of the line jazz by many of Chicago's finest mainstream and progressive artists. Everything is first rate...safe and cool... nothing reflecting the avant garde, but Pharez Whitted, Bobby Broom, Tim Green (with extraordinary guitarist Brian Wilkie) and Geof Bradfield really cook and provided my favorite cuts.
Peter Brendler - Outside the Line - (Positone)
This is moving music. The geist of grooves past reflected in a smoky mirror. Up tempo is post bop bop (Chet Baker's "Freeway", Ornette Coleman's "Una Muy Bonita"), down tempo insinuates sleepy sensuousness,("The Golden Ring"). Brendler and cohorts Rich Perry, Peter Evans, trumpet and piccolo trumpet, and especially the constantly appropriate Vinnie Sperrazza on the battery are fresh in the tradition. They can play "in" like on the dreamy "Blackout Reunion" or "out" like the on the mercurial "Lawn Darts". There is lovely cover of "Walk On The Wild Side". That may be the strangest sentence I have ever written in a review.Other picks, the exploratory pieces, "Opehanded", "Drop The Mittens", both very KUCI cross genre friendly and the bluesy "The Darkness
Laurie Antonioli - Songs of Shadow, songs of Light - (Origin Records)
These are more clearly jazz focused versions of Joni Mitchell songs. Tasty and tasteful. Sometimes the vocals are so close to Joni's it's hard to tell that these are new interpretations. But when Antonioli's own voice and arrangements emerge ("Easter Rain", "The Hissing Of Summer Lawns") the old becomes new. A very welcome addition to our library, and a way to play great songs we have neglected because of our prohibition for playing versions of songs that have made the top 200.
Barbara Morrison (with Houston Person) - I Love you, Yes I do - (Savant Records)
Classics done right. Nothing new, but a lesson in the tradition. "Trust In Me" is soulful with a deep Dinah Washington vibe. "Black Eyed Blues" honestly cooks and perks up the ears.
Ralph Bowen - Standard Deviation - (Positone)
As the title says, these are standards used as a point of departure. Tenor player Bowen follows the Coltrane tradition ("My Favorite Things") of playing the head of a familiar tune, dissecting it, holding up the dripping guts, and then putting it back together again. My favorites are "Yesterdays", "You Don't Know What Love Is", and the truly vibrant take on Richard Rodgers "Spring Is Here".