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As a musician and composer myself, I keep an ear out for new independently released music and artists who are doing good things — great things, really — which may be worthy of your attention. I can’t offer a real rhyme or reason as to why certain things resonate with me and others don’t. I guess that is the magic of music, in a nutshell.
That said, here are a few quick snapshots of three indie albums from some modern singer songwriters who have been bubbling up in certain circles, embracing classic forms with verses, choruses and bridges all wrapped up in rich instrumentation, memorable melodies and at times very tasty production flair.
Beth Bombara’s It All Goes Up
The first thing that caught me about Beth Bombara’s album It All Goes Up was a great sense of hooks, solid production, a rich and expressive voice and — perhaps most importantly — some really compelling, beautiful and at times badass guitar work. Backed by her band, Ms. Bombara plays electric, classical and acoustic guitars as well as Mellotron with some support from other players on Pedal Steel and even a classic Fender Rhodes electric piano. Sweet vintage sounds you don’t always see popping up these days.
But really it was the guitar solo on “Lonely Walls” that first caught my ear, sounding more like if jazz / ambient guitarist Bill Frisell sat in on a Radiohead session outtake from OK Computer than an indie artist from Missouri. With a voice that at once reminds me of under-the-radar Boston rocker Jennifer Trynin (who had two fine albums out on Reprise in the ‘90s) by way of Chrissie Hynde and Bonnie Raitt, Beth Bombara’s music is worth checking out.
You can find Beth Bombara’s It All Goes Up streaming in high resolution 96 kHz, 24 bit fidelity on Tidal (click here), Qobuz (click here) and on Apple Music (click here). You can order her album on vinyl and CD on Amazon and via her website: bethbombara.com/
Maia Sharp’s Reckless Thoughts
Some of you might remember in 2021 I reviewed a fine album by Maia Sharp called Backburner (click here to jump to that review). Here new album is out called Reckless Thoughts and its another rich new recording of stirring songs wrapped in rich textures.
For those not familiar with her music, I’ll recap some impressive details from my prior review: “Sharp has a strong track record already and has been recording since the late 1990s. According to the wiki, her songs have been recorded by no less than Cher, The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Kathy Mattea and Paul Carrack. She has Collaborated with Carole King, Jules Shear and Art Garfunkel, among others.”
This is one of those albums that has been growing on me. Songs like the haunting “Too Far Now” have lovely turns of melody, rising and falling and excellent production aesthetic which is the kind of track I could imagine Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel covering if they recorded together again. And the opening track “She’ll Let Herself Out” has a neat signature riff with a Radiohead like descending figure. You can find Maia’s album streaming in CD quality on Tidal (click here), Qobuz (click here) and on Apple Music (click here) You can order Maia’s album on vinyl and CD via her website www.maiasharp.com
Tom Heyman’s 24th Street Blues
I was sent the new album from San Francsico’s Tom Heyman unsolicited and wasn’t sure what to expect but felt particularly curious to listen given that the LP came with a full music book of the songs within (illustrated with haunting art by Deirdre White)! Talk about belief in your music to create a formal music folio for your new album upon release (kudos on that!).
Heyman’s music is a sort of 21st century take on 1970s singer-songwriter sounds — think James Taylor meets Springsteen run through a blender of San Francisco’s Mission district instead of the backstreets of New Jersey and North Carolina’s rural country roads. This is a cool indie release with an oh-so-slight urban country vibe going on that works (including Heyman’s fine pedal steel guitar work on many of the tracks compliment the blend of acoustics and gently chiming periodic electric guitar textures).
Some of the tracks which jumped out at me initially include the sweet “Barbara Jean,” “Hidden History” and “That Tender Touch.” You can find Tom Heyman’s 24th Street Blues streaming in CD quality (16-bit, 44.1 kHz) on Qobuz (click here) and Tidal (click here) as well as on Apple Music (click here). And you can find his album in vinyl, CD and download formats up on Bandcamp (click here) including the songbook on Amazon (click here). You can also check out his website at: www.tomheymanmusic.net
(Mark Smotroff is a deep music enthusiast / collector who has also worked in entertainment marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for Analog Planet, Sound + Vision and many others. You learn more about his background at LinkedIn.)