by: Hobert Taylor
Sonny Knight and His Fabulous Lakers - I'm Still Here - (Secret Stash)
Out of the Twin Cities comes this soul man of local Minnesota repute. With a backing band of young acolytes who mimic the funk of JB and also Muscle Shoals/Memphis stylings Knight adds to the canon. Funk. No OPI.
To Kill a King - Cannibals With Cutlery - (Xtra Mile)
Soon to tour the US with label mate and fellow Brit Frank Turner this lushly produced and orchestrated effort has poetry and majesty and a little pretension. Star cuts include "Funeral", "Fictional States","We Used To Protest..." and the reprise of the title cut.
Rock. No OPI.
Palo - Palo Live - (Rolling Pin)
Afro Cuban bar band that has funk elements. At he band's heart is sax virtuoso Ed Calle and the keyboards of producer Steve Roitstein. " La Malanga Resbala", "Fumando" and "Lengua Larga" are my picks. A steamy night in Miami for your ears. World. No OPI.
Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra - The Offense of the Drum - (Motema)
The son of Cuban maestro Chico O'Farrill who was one of the principal emissaries of that island's influence on the be-bop revolution, Arturo has taken a broader Pan Latin/ post modern approach with his big band. An alumnus of Carla Bley's big band where perhaps he developed a taste for eclecticism, the pianist incorporates a variety of contemporary sounds from The Dominican Republic and Spanish Harlem as well as collaborations with DJ Logic, taiko drummer Hiro Kurashima, and Vijay Iyer. Five stars. Jazz. No OPI.
Escaping Pavement - Uprooted - (Self Released)
Rock/country from Michigan...sort of generic and muddy but "Here Again" and the wistful problems with pot ditty "Smoke Filled Existence" are worth a spin as is "Winter Homecoming".
Emile Kojide Mandela - (Self Released)
Tribute single Zulu vibe from this Cameroonian afro pop-star.
Krokofant - Krokofant - (Runegrammofon)
This Norwegian trio evokes King Crimson/Zappa/Ornette Coleman. The disc is superb musically. A Krokofant is half elephant / half crocodile. This is half chordally structured/ half free jazz.... guitar drums and sax alone. I highly recommend cuts 3 ("Bodega") and 6 ("Castaway").
Jacob Latham - Midnight Train - (Self Released EP)
Very pleasant and almost there folky Americana with high and lonesome roots. "Pay Attention to the Rain" has a nice hook and ephemeral Daniel Lanois style production. "Where Do We Go From Here" is a nice up tempo stomper. "Don't Let Them In" is a spooky mid tempo warning. "John Brown" is Elvis Costello like, cramming meaningful polysyllabic irony into a poppy melody.
Grant Farm - Plowin' Time - (Great Central Records)
Grateful Dead country from Colorado... some wonderful country/rockabilly picking to boot. The first three cuts and the last four cuts cook...the middle four are from some other record which suggests that there is an uneasy marriage in this band. The middle four meander into bad reggae and weak gospel. "Same Old Game", "Don't Talk To Me I'm Lonesome" work best for me and the truly Dead inspired "Make Tomorrow Shine" is interesting.
Sturgil Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music - (High Top Mountain Records)
In the tradition of Cowboy Jack Clements, Terry Allen and all the stoned mystic cowboys from the '70's this dude is all the buzz. I read about him when I was in Switzerland last week. His voice sounds like Waylon or David Allen Coe. This is a lovely record... real country, real soulful, real trippy. I love it all. "Living the Dream" is the hit. "Voices" is just pure pure pure. "A Little Light" is the requisite gospel tune followed up with the Zen meditation "Just Let Go". All the songs are great..I mean really great, on the level of Nilsson, Orbison. Oh, by the way, it's produced by Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson, The Secret Sisters and Lindi Ortega).
Red Molly - The Red Album - (Self Released)
While we are on the subject of country purity and fine songwriting and excellent musicianship, the new Red Molly record is a standout. With a slight bluegrass edge and lots of arranging innovations, i.e. dobro and autoharp on the same cut, "Weeping Willow Tree", or a glorious re-working of Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound", or the mournful wailing harmonies on "When It's All Wrong" the songs march on in a glorious procession like the albums of old where you put it on and leave it on then play it all over again. Most of the songs are originals but another fine cover is Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning". The band's name comes from a character in that song.