WHAT’S THE RUSH? Tracy K (independent) ***** +Some of my favourite music- Neil Young, The Guess Who, Big Dave McLean- comes from Winnipeg, and you can add Tracy K to that list. What’s The Rush, her 4th album, is a rough and tumble blues record that hits all the right notes.“This project began a long time ago but really, what’s the rush?” Tracy jokes. “I started recording some recent originals in 2015… and what started out as a demo morphed into an e.p. and grew into an album. Winnipeg has a stellar artistic community, and there are some fantastic players on this record.” Sounds like she just felt like making some music and ended up in the promised land.What’s The Rush has grit and soul and is rough around the edges in just the right places. As a singer Tracy is like Bonnie Raitt and Koko Taylor, and she blows some of the best blues harp this side of Little Walter. Production at Winnpeg’s award winning Bedside Studios by Len Milne is perfect- rowdy, deep and intimate. Throwing this on is like walking into the middle of the best party ever. Stunning.
ESSENTIALS: Done Gone Wrong, Everybody Wants, I’m Guilty
NOT SO SIMPLE Austin Young Band (Vizztone) *** ½Who knew that Denver was a hotbed for the blues? That’s where Austin Young hails from and this, his band’s 2nd album, is a high energy set of blues/ rock.Young is a soulful vocalist, reminding me of Ottawa’s Dan Deslauriers. The group performs mostly as a power trio (augmented on occasion by keys or horns), so their sound depends heavily on Austin Young’s muscular guitar playing. His style, whether banging out chords or delivering a blistering solo, is not unlike SRV- the kid really leans into it, and it sounds like he’s playing for his life.All songs on this disc are originals, and they reflect Austin’s influences- from Albert King to Hubert Sumlin, as well as more modern players like Joe Bonamassa and Gary Clark Jr. The centerpiece of this record has to be the final track Angel Flying Home- dedicated to Austin’s father (as is the record), it’s a solo performance with just his voice and guitar. Not So Simple is a mature work for this young guitar slinger, I can’t wait to see where he takes it next.
ESSENTIALS: Angel Flying Home, Barren Road Blues, Letting Go
REVOLUTION RADIO Green Day (Warner Music) ***Revolution Radio is more of the same- which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your pointy of view. Angular, simple, hard-driving songs and lyrical themes that, on occasion, address the world we live in- it sounds familiar, and that’s comforting.“Of course the world has lost its collective mind… and me, Mike and Tre are lost souls too” says singer/ guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong. “Revolution Radio is a movement for lost souls to come together… dance together… sing together. That’s what the spirit of Green Day has been about since day one.” With his famous onstage meltdown well behind him and the drinking that fuelled it too, Billy Joe and the band sound more focused than they have since before American Idiot. Recorded in their hometown of Oakland and produced by the band, history and the band’s fans will view Revolution Radio as a blistering return to form.This album rocks and gives you stuff to think about at the same time. You’ll probably hear the term “they’re back” a lot in connection with this record, and for good reason too. Enjoy.
ESSENTIALS: Bang Bang, Still Breathing, Revolution Radio
50 Rick Astley (Warner Music) ****+50 is Astley’s first album in a decade, and his first official North American release since 1993’s Body & Soul. There probably isn’t a single one amongst us that hasn’t been “rick-rolled” by his 1987 hit Never Gonna Give You Up (he was 21 at the time) but you’d better buckle up because Rick Astley’s time has come again.I’m not usually a dance music guy, but I liked Rick’s 80’s stuff and find myself enjoying his new music just as much. They have that same energy, but they feel more soulful too. “50 marks both a new chapter in my journey as an artist, and a return to the music I first fell in love with. I could not be more excited to share it with my fans” he says.I’m pleased to see him return to being to a current and vital artist. The years have been kind to his amazing voice too- it’s smoother and richer, and all those years of life experience inform the songs too. 50 is a wonderful album that has me wondering what’s next- a comeback from Paul Janz?!?
ESSENTIALS: Keep Singing, Angels On My Side, Somebody Loves Me
PLAY DATE! Nancy Wright (Direct Hit/ Vizztone) *****This is 56 minutes of the most musical fun you’re likely to have this year. Equal parts blues, funk and soul, it’s one of those records that just makes you feel glad to be alive as it jumps, jives and wails.Nancy is one of the most respected sax players on today’s blues, Americana and R&B scene, and her tenor magic is regularly compared to that of the greats. “This project took me somewhat by surprise” she says in the liner notes. “It was as if I was doing it behind my own back, maybe to avoid over-thinking it. It’s guided by a remark Dick Shurman made about current challenges in the music industry: do what you love.”Dedicated “with love and gratitude to the memory of Lonnie Mack”, Play Date was made with the help and support of some great musicians Nancy has encountered in her journey- Elvin Bishop, Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker and Jim Pugh among them. She’s a soulful player and singer, and this disc is an exciting blast of fresh air.
ESSENTIALS: Why You Wanna Do It, Blues For The Westside, There Is Something On Your Mind
IN THE NOW Barry Gibb (Columbia) *****One of pop music’s best and most influential writers and performers is back, with an album that I wasn’t sure he had the heart to make. Produced by Gibb and John Merchant, In The Now is a pop gemstone.Barry is the oldest and last surviving Gibb brother. He made sweet music with Robin and Maurice for decades as the Bee Gees and enjoyed solo success too. The grief of losing Maurice in 2003 and Robin in 2012 is unimaginable, but it’s right that Barry would once again turn to music. In The Now is an energetic celebration of life, rich sounding and impeccably produced. Home Truth Song is about his return to music, Star Crossed Lovers is dedicated to his wife and End Of The Rainbow is for Robin, Maurice and Andy.I’ve been a Bee Gees fan since the 60’s, and In The Now is everything I’d hoped it would be- you can’t ask for more than that. Maybe it’s knowing something of Barry’s circumstances, but this is one of those records that you can really feel.
ESSENTIALS: Grand Illusion, Blowin’ A Fuse, Soldier’s Son (one of three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition)