Sounds good to me / Brian BeesleyCapsule reviews of four new albums that have gotten repetitive airplay on my nifty little pocket jukebox … at least until I ran it through the washing machine this week.
Yeah, well, wasn’t the first time; probably won’t be the last.
Over the past decade, Schneider has steadily become one of my go-to musicians. His stuff reminds me of a Texas version of Jimmy Buffett: sentimental and playful, his songs profound one minute and profane the next. He’s a clever guy who knows how to craft tunes that stick in your head, and this 15-track set (released in three volumes) is, as we used to say in the ’70s, all killer and no filler. Schneider constructing swatches of bemused observation using a variety of styles: rock, pop, funk (“Ready Let’s Roll”), country and even reggae (“The Unknown”), and does it all with ease. While they will occasionally poke around in the darkness (“Montgomery”), his songs prefer to bounce around in the light (“Into the Sun,” “Han Solo”).
Recommended tracks: “Han Solo,” “The Stars Over Your House,” “You Be Alright,” “King Kong,” “Montgomery.”
This Memphis band’s latest album harkens back to the Stones of the early 1970s, blending rock, R&B, funk and a dash of country. “All …” is a musical search for many things — shelter, retribution, release, and even Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles —— knitting hooks and horns around tales of personal failing. Songwriter and lead singer Ben Nichols’ gritty voice brings these scenes to life, barking out the words like a man wrestling with multiple demons (“The Man I Was,” “My Girl & Me in ’93”). But there are some upbeat tracks to even things out (“Throwback No. 2,” “Young Outlaws”).
Recommended tracks: “Can’t You Hear Them Howl,” “Went Looking for Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles,” “Throwback No. 2,” “They Called Her Killer.”
Five years after the loungey, jazz-inflected “Rain on the City,” Johnston returns with a crowd-funded album of typical compositions. It starts with the title track, an homage to Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman,” but unfortunately, it’s a bit of a tedious listen. Things pick quickly up with the plaintive pleas of “Baby, Baby Come Back,” and the rockabilly of “TV in My Arms.” The rest of the album sounds like you’d expect a Freedy Johnston album to sound, drawing you in with quirky scenes of human endeavor set to toe-tapping tunes. There are enough nuggets here to keep you interested, but overall, it doesn’t quite match up with Johnston’s earlier masterworks.
Recommended tracks: “TV in My Arms,” “Baby, Baby Come Home,” “Sentimental Heart.”
I tend to gravitate to folk-rock that sports a beat, and this one grabbed my ear right away. I’d almost classify it as Americana, except the group —— led by sisters Donna Simpson and Vicki Horn and vocalist Josh Cunningham —— hails from Australia. With “Beautiful You,” they plow the same fertile ground that groups like The Band and CCR tilled four and a half decades earlier. These songs quickly wend their way into your brain with their inviting, earthy, resonant acoustics and sweet vocals, and the pictures they paint stay there.
Recommended tracks: “Black Dirt Track,” “Beautiful You,” “Somebody’s Gonna Get Hurt,” “Cracks of Dawn,” “Born to Love.”
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Beesley is 360 production editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org .