FOLLOW THAT FIRE Lynn Jackson (Busted) ***+
A good storyteller can be hard to find, especially one that makes compelling records. This is Ontario artist Lynn Jackson’s 9th album; think Cowboy Junkies meets Neil Young, and you’ve got something of a handle on Follow That Fire.
The relationship to The Junkies is no accident- after having had a hand in producing her first 8 albums, Lynn brought Michael Timmins in to produce this one. “It was great working with Michael” she says. He has such a good ear for sounds as well as a vast knowledge of all kinds of music. The vibe of the new record is low key. Michael really helped capture the essence of the stories on this collection of songs.”
Aside from Lynn’s wonderfully expressive voice it’s her acoustic guitar that drives these songs. Timmins populated them with a dramatic and sparse background, as you’d expect the main guy from Cowboy Junkies would. The 10 tales on Follow That Fire feel intimate and sometimes spooky, not the sort of thing that invites you to get up and dance, but I’m really digging the ‘come here, I’ve got some stories to tell’ vibe. Aside from technical credits the booklet also contains lyrics to each song, so you can dive in just about as deep as you want.
“When I write a song, I often hear the arrangement fully formed” Lynn says, “I let the songs lead me into whatever direction they want to go.” Follow That Fire is a collection of stories about the road along with darkly cinematic tales of Alice and Ghost, plus tributes to the passing of longtime friends. Not a party record to be sure, but given a chance Lynn Jackson’s Follow That Fire has the potential to become one of your closest friends.
KEY CUTS: Side of The Road, Random Breakdowns False Starts & New Beginnings, No Regrets
BRETT ELDREDGE Brett Eldredge (Warner Music Canada) ***
Country music- the white man’s blues. I’ve said that before, and it’s true. Eldredge stands out from the current Nashville crowd on his new self titled album in a couple of ways; instrumentally the songs have a relaxed country feel, they’re not faux rock & roll thinly disguised as boot ‘n’ hat wearin’ songs. Plus there’s an emotional heft to these songs that most of the other artists are missing.
“Maybe it takes a little bit of guts to put out a self-titled album” muses Eldredge, “but if it’s 100% honestly you, then that should come across through the music. Hopefully (people) feel the connection of these songs and they help them through their everyday lives.” The good stuff, country or otherwise, is where you can make that emotional connection to the music, seeing and feeling yourself within the songs. If you’re really listening you can tell if an artist is pulling your leg emotionally, and that’s why I’m enjoying Brett Eldredge… when he sings it, he means it.
Though country has never been my favorite genre, Brett’s songs are speaking to me and some of the things I’ve been through. “Cycles is one of the hardest songs I’ve written” he says. “It’s all about a relationship where you’re falling in love and falling out of love. When they come back and they show up at your door again, how do you say ‘no’ to that person? It’s a vicious cycle and you can’t stop it.” It’s probably safe to say that most of us have been through that, and Eldredge really nails the feeling on this track. The song that follows it, Castaway, ends the album. Just voice and acoustic guitar, the repeating line that catches my ear goes “Guess I’ll always be lost without you”, about a love that got away- another skeleton in each of our closets.
Emotionally honest and musically soothing, Brett Eldredge is a decent album to have around.
KEY CUTS: Cycles, Superhero, Castaway
BASICS Hamilton Loomis (Ham-Bone Records) ****
Rock and funk-infused blues, or blues with a side of rock and a helping of funk… call it what you will but Basics, the new Hamilton Loomis disc, is a righteous experience.
The mag No Depression says “Classify him as a blues guitarist with an appetite for rock or a rock & roll maestro with a sweet tooth for the blues… Loomis lives in both worlds comfortably, crossing stylistic boundaries with effortless precision.” His playing is muscular, not unlike SRV or John Mayer, and his backing band plays simply and directly, like a very precise force of nature.
Loomis’s fans will note the absence of his trademark, playful double entendres; for Basics he really has gone back to basics with lyrics that are direct, personal and, in many cases, autobiographical. The ‘basics’ theme is reflected in the melodic construction of the songs too with single cord progressions, simple melodies, and the stripped down instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums. Hamilton has obviously discovered the old axiom “less is more”.
The result of all this is a more direct sound, an album that really hits you in the gut- sonically your reaction is instantaneous while the truth of the lyrics give you something to think about. His 3 year old son has been diagnosed with “hyperinsulinism” and the album’s opening track, Sugar Baby is dedicated to him, so Ham gets pretty real right off the bat. “They call H-I kids ‘sugar babies’ so I wanted to write a song in appreciation for all they (Congenital Hyperinsulinism International) do for families all over the world” Loomis says.
Recorded, produced and mixed by Hamilton Loomis at his Ham-Bone Studios in Katy, Texas, Basics is a tough sounding blues record with rock soul with an intimate side to it that feels like a great conversation- extremely cool stuff.
KEY CUTS: Breaking Down, Sugar Baby, Prayer
SUMMER RAIN Dudley Taft (American Blues Artist Group) ****+
I love rock & roll and I love the blues, and the way Dudley Taft puts them together has always done it for me. Here on his 5th album Summer Rain, dedicated to the men and women of the military, he’s found another gear and kicked it into overdrive.
“I have the greatest respect for those men and women who serve in the military, especially those who are deployed halfway around the world in the hot spots of sectarian conflict” Taft says. “This album pays tribute to these soldiers who sacrifice much of their lives to defend freedom and support their families. The separation from their loved ones and significant others must weigh heavy on their hearts.” That explains the running theme of anguished separation and endless toil that informs these 11 songs.
All of the basic tracks on Summer Rain were recorded at Taft’s own studio, which he purchased from Peter Frampton in 2013, then taken to Nashville and finished off. Produced by Taft himself, this disc includes contributions from SRV keyboard player Reese Wynans amongst others, resulting a powerful, muscular record that bristles with emotion and sheer horsepower. Each of the songs has its own story to tell too; the title track talks about laboring miserably far from home under the hot sun, hoping for the rain to wash away the pain and cool things down, Edge Of Insane is a lighter take on a jilted lover, Pistols At 10 Paces has some political commentary (uncharacteristic for Taft), and Find My Way Back Home is about returning home after a long separation from family.
Summer Rain is an album you can definitely rock out to, but if you look further than just the grooves you’ll find a dark chewiness that makes it far more than just another slab of blues/rock. Taft’s powerful guitar playing is the star here, but everyone else’s contributions this is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
KEY CUTS: Live or Die, Dark Blue Star, I Lost My Way
THE BROTHERHOOD Lynch Mob (Rat Pak) ***+
George Lynch has been one busy bugger… recording and releasing KXM with Dug Pinnick of King’s X and Korn drummer Ray Luzier, then collaborating with Michael Sweet of Stryper for the next Sweet & Lynch album, and now the new Lynch Mob disc. If it’s early 90’s pre-grunge rock & roll you’re after, The Brotherhood will do it for you.
Of The Brotherhood, singer Oni Logan notes that “We consider ourselves a pack of wolves, and (that’s how) we came up with the name The Brotherhood. It’s got more of an adventurous sound in part and maybe a darker, colder sound to it.” Guitarist George Lynch adds “We wrote this album as a band and the name of the album reflects what the band is about, and what all my bands have been about since I’m a kid. This is my second family, these are my brothers- that becomes a part of the music.”
The Brotherhood is melodic and hard at the same time, something these guys pull off admirably. Lynch Mob started out in the early 90’s, and that style of rock & roll is still very much a part of the group’s DNA. Comparing this with Lynch’s playing on KXM is like comparing night and day, almost hard to believe it’s the same guitarist- sort of like comparing Night Ranger to Black Sabbath, but it’s okay to like ‘em both… and I do.
Produced by Chris Collier (Lynch Mob, Flotsam & Jetsam, Prong, KXM), The Brotherhood has a sharp edged, dense heft to it that’s pretty hard not to like. Knowing what Lynch is capable of as a guitar player I wish there was a meaner edge to some of these tracks, but when I can set that aside this turns out to be a pretty enjoyable disc with echoes of even Zeppelin or Dokken shining through now and again. The Brotherhood isn’t great, but it’s pretty damn good.
KEY CUTS: The Forgotten Maiden’s Pearl, Main Offender, Dog Town Mystics