The Record Box for Friday, Feb 27th 2015

This month marks the 25th anniversary of my writing record reviews.  My first published column was in “Kamloops This Week” in feburary of 1990, and I believe it contained reviews of “Headless Cross” by Black Sabbath, and “Hot In The Shade” by Kiss.  I still have it in a box somewhere at home.The first album review I ever wrote was Elton John’s “21 At 33” back in 1986- not for publication, but just to see if I could do it.  Much like my radio career, my time as a published writer became by somebody asking if I wanted to give it a try.  I found that I had a facility for it, and here we are in 2015- let the good times roll.John “The Rock Doctor” Kereiff FIRST KISS Kid Rock (Warner Bros.) ** ½ Here is the latest in a string of (mostly) platinum albums for Kid, and his first on the Warner Bros. label  building on the success of 2012’s Rebel Soul and the accompanying “$20 Best night Ever” tour, he was inspired to hit the studio to write and record without much of a break. Might’ve been a better idea to take some time off and live a life to give him more to write about.It hardly seems like yesterday when he was just another wife-beater wearin’ white douche wanna-be rapper, but dang he sure had a knack for hit singles.  Kudos to Kid, though, for not wanting to stay in the same place.  After many adventures that including a very brief marriage to Pamela Anderson (to boldly go where Tommy Lee had been before), his music starting taking a turn into a more southern rock/ country direction, which pretty much puts us where we’re at with the new album.First Kiss, produced by Kid Rock at his studio in Michigan with some help from Dan Huff on a couple of tracks, continues where Rebel Soul left off.  It feels like another laid back summer album with family, relationships and good times being the recurring themes.  Further, this disc sounds as country as anything he’s ever done.  Some great playing by The Twisted Brown Trucker Band- it’s all about attitude and vibe.  Fans that have followed him for the last couple of decades or so through all of the changes will enjoy this, but those that dig the early rap/rock stuff are going to have a problem.One thing’s for sure, a happy and content Kid Rock doesn’t make music that really gets the blood up.  This is a good disc to throw on when you need to chill, but there’s a nostalgia thing to it that just isn’t working for me.  At least there’s nothing here as irritating as his Sweet Home Alabama/ Werewolves Of London mash-up for a year or 3 or 4 back.  Maybe it’s just me, but that song wore out its welcome real quick.First Kiss is a decent record, but I kinda miss the guy that stirred shit up and nailed Pamela Anderson.  He sounds like a contented individual on this album, but it’d sure be nice to hear a little fire in his belly again.ESSENTIALS:  Good Times Cheap Wine, One More Song SANCTUARY CITY Jerome Godboo (Zeb) *** ½ The latest of 14 albums (11 of them solo) from this Toronto based singer and harp player.  If you cranked his last record, 2010’s Rooting Out My Devils, then this latest batch of tunes is right up your alley.Personnel for the latest album, aside from Jerome, also includes drummer Gary Craig from Blackie & The Rodeo Kings and The Spin Doctors’ Eric Schenkman.  I think it’s fair to characterize Sanctuary City as an intimate record- raw, nothing fancy, just 3 guys enjoying each others’ company, making some rough an ready blues without a lot of frills or bells and whistles.Godboo had a hand in writing 11 of these 12 numbers, the exception being Eric Schenkman’s Fortune Teller.  “I empty myself a lot” Jerome says about songwriting.  Every day I just meditate and look past all the thoughts and better ones keep landing in, the more I get rid of the little worries.  I just look around and something will inspire me.”  Ask any writer of songs, or stories, and you’ll get a similar answer… what inspires them?  Everything.I think it was Stevie Ray Vaughan who said, when asked what attracted him to the blues, something like “It’s the simple truth”, and you can hear that in these songs too.  They feel like they’re full of real life experience, not just an excuse to play some cool chords or rhyme some words that have never been put together before.  A song like Lord Show Me How with lines like “Sometimes, Lord, she just wants to cry” touches something in each of us, and who hasn’t had a new year’s Eve like the one described in the song of the same name?  As much as Godboo sings from his own life experience, we can see ourselves in these songs too- and that’s the ultimate compliment for a songwriter.Aside from his vocals, Jerome is rightly praised for his harp playing too, playing with everyone from Ronnie Hawkins to the late, great Jeff Healey.  Rather than being yet another blues album loaded with great guitar solos- though there are some, like the one on October 17– it’s Godboo’s harp that speaks without words.  There’s also a live-off-the-floor feeling to Sanctuary City that makes it sound like an irresistible gig in some shitty little club, somewhere in downtown Coolsville.While I prefer my blues loaded with the big guitar solos full of crazy bent notes, this disc certainly scratches me in all the right places and has energy to burn- real good stuff.ESSENTIALS:  Why Don’t You Love Me, Sanctuary City, Blues travel Thru Me WISH FOR WHAT YOU WANT The Billy Walton Band (Vizztone) ****Here is proof that there’s more to Jersey than Springsteen and Bon Jovi.  Playing a high octane brand of blues/rock The Billy Walton Band seem poised to kick down the door with Wish For What You Want.This band has focused its efforts on Europe, and 13 tours since 2007 have established the band on the still fertile British blues rock scene.  In 2010 Billy got the call from Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes to come and play, and that he did.  He was particularly tickled to record a live version of  Hearts Of Stone that involved the creative force behind the band, Steve Van Zandt from The E Street Band.In general terms Wish For What You Want is the blues and the title track, which opens the album, argues the case vigorously, but there are pure elements of soul, country and joyous rock & roll weaving in and out of these dozen tracks- a similar experience as listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.  So yeah, call this a blues album if you must, but just be aware that it goes much deeper and wider than that.I get the feeling from listening to Wish that these guys are a full blown panic to catch live.  From the gonzo energy of something like the aforementioned title track to something more laid back like Change to the blues stomp of Worried Blues, this is the kind of record that keeps you engaged from the first track to the last. Walton’s guitar playing is exciting without being too over the top,  the guys in his band are consummate groove-masters and I’m delighted that Wish For What You Want made it to my mailbox.ESSENTIALS:  Hudson County Star, Wish For What You Want, Till Tomorrow HEART OF MEMPHIS Robin McKelle & The Flytones (Vizztone) ****+The city of Memphis is known for its soul, blues and R&B, so if there’s such a thing as truth in advertising the title of this album certainly qualifies.  It’s the city that gave us Otis Redding and Al Green, so it makes perfect sense that McKelle would record her new album there- this is southern soul you may not be able to get enough of.“I wanted to capture the Memphis sound in the recording process, and the goal was to write the music and arrangements with that sound in mind” Robin says.  To that end she had Scott Bomar at the console, working his magic for her and the band as he did on sessions with Al Green and Isaac Hayes. :Memphis soul is different from the Motown sound because it has more Raw emotion and, being from the south, it’s also influenced by country music” she notes. “It’s more ‘in your face’ (and) I have a natural gritty sound or rasp in my voice, so this sound suits me well.”  Boy howdy, does it ever!Vocally I suppose you could compare Robin to Gladys Knight, one of my favorite singers in the genre, going from being low and smooth to the raw emotion that the lyrics sometimes demand.  The song subjects are also what you’d expect too, from a funky breakup song like What You Want to the romance of Baby You’re The Best– in other words, songs about relationships but really, what else would she sing about… car repairs?  Doing taxes?  Romance has long been fertile ground for songwriters, and in the hands of someone like Robin Mckelle, it will continue to be for many years to come.Heart Of Memphis reminds me a lot of the soul albums I remember from the 70’s, and many of the songs I used to play on the radio at the beginning of my deejay career.  This record feels like home to me, and it just might to you too.ESSENTIALS:  Like A River, Please Don’t Let Me BaeMisunderstood, It’s Over This Time, What You Want BOOMERANG  Eric Sardinas & Big Motor (Jazzhaus) ***Don’t let the label name fool you, this is disc is anything but jazz!  Boomerang is ham-fisted, enthusiastic blues rock, ‘Motley Voodoo’ if you will, and it’s big fun.“If you throw a boomerang the right way, it will come back” Sardinas says of the album’s title. “You sit there with a broken heart, and yet at the same time know that it must go on, that you must move forward.”  The sound here is riff rock and greasy blues combined, with some nasty slide work by Eric tying it all together.  At times it really seems to do the trick, while at others it feels a bit forced.This disc is a mix of 8 originals and two potent cover tunes, the best of which is Elvis’s Trouble. “My first concert was an Elvis Presley show” he recalls. “He more than mesmerized me with his energy on stage, and his songs were simply awesome!  Trouble was always one of my favorites that he performed.  In this way, I want to carry on his legacy.”  The other cover tune here is Howlin’ Wolf’s How Many More Years and, listening to Eric’s vocal style, it makes total sense that he’s into the Wolf.One difference between the blues/rock of Sardinas & Big Motor and other bands in the same genre is Eric’s guitar- a resonator instead of the usual electric, like a Strat or Les Paul.  “(It) offers so many possibilities of expression that I pretty much have no need for special effects devices” he says. “I can just really have fun with this instrument and use it in so many ways, create such a power with it and get such sounds from it, that I can’t imagine playing any other instrument.”  That works a treat on the acoustic-y stuff, but on a few of the high energy tracks it comes across just a bit screechy.Boomerang is an earnest, honest album, unpretentious and at times gloriously messy. It’s a record with heart, and I like that.ESSENTIALS:  If You Don’t Love Me, title track, Trouble SEND THE NIGHTINGALE Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar (Rootsnroll)  *****The latest from Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar is uplifting and heartbreaking.  A combination of gospel, roots and blues, it is impossible to listen to Send The Nightingale and not be moved.Martin has been rightly compared to Mavis Staples and Sharon Jones, and Exclaim! praises the new record as “gorgeous triple part harmonies and distinct guitar tones”.  Indeed, Martin plays acoustic and resonator guitars against Mikey McCallum’s tasty electric work, and the spectacular harmony vocals of  Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb, and it sounds like they’re from the delta, not Toronto. Interesting, too, that they don’t have a drummer, relying on stomping and clapping for occasional percussion.Nightingale crosses over into country too, or country blues at least, on Mississippi Sun, my current favorite track on the album.  It’s a Cold Mountain/ O Brother Where Art Thou sort of feel, connecting the rest of the record to a larger emotional reality.  Each of these 11 songs comes from the heart and the dedication to Samantha’s mom on the inner sleeve, including an Oscar Wilde quote (she died just this past December) brings the tunes even closer in, particularly for those of us who have lost loved ones along the way. Serena Ryder was right when she said that “She’ll tear your heart out one note at a time”, and we’ll thank her for having done so.“Since the inception of Delta Sugar two years ago I knew I wanted to write and record THIS album and had to fight for it” says Martin. “The world is full of flashy music lately and I wanted to get back to basics with Delta Sugar.  We wrote and work-shopped these songs on our tour (last) summer- the album is the fruits of our labour. It may not win a Grammy and I’m okay with that, because it changed my life” she concludes.  Send The Nightingale is a powerful musical statement that may have the same effect on you too.ESSENTIALS:  Mississippi Sun, Give Me Your Mercy, I Won’t Justify


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