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Friday New Music

Paul Wilson reviews six new works for your Friday’s pleasure…

Swift Silver Self – Released

You are correct, there is no title for this release and yes, I was wondering why myself when I first played this CD. I suggest not getting too encumbered by the lack of a title because the music makes up for that quite well. Comprised of the duo of Anna Kline and John Looney, this latest release from the Kentucky pair is a remake, in a way, of Southern music. Kline wrote eight of the nine tracks, and one is a cover. She also performs on each in both vocal lead and harmony roles. Her voice is neither strained nor relaxed, it simply works well within each song. Obviously, she has crafted each track to fit her vocal abilities. This is Southern music and by that, I mean there are hints of blues, rock and folk all mixed up together in one carry out bag. Blending seamlessly is Looney’s lead guitar with brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles on bass and drums, respectively. Each song tells a story, as finely crafted yarns should be, and each song has some measure of Southern roots. Like good Kentucky bourbon, Swift Silver is meant to enjoy. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Jack Grace Band – “What A Way To Spend A Night” Radia Records

Brooklyn, NY native Jack Grace felt he needed a change, so he packed up his guitar, suitcase, and his dreams and headed to England. Performing around the UK, he, along with Fabian Bonner (bass) and Ian Griffith (drums) wrote and performed new material as quickly as their tour dates changed. This latest release is a collection of songs from their travels that were arranged by four-time Grammy winner J. Walter Hawkes. There are tracks on the more comical side, like “The Monster Song,” and “I’m a Burglar.” There are more serious tracks as well. All eleven tracks are mostly folk stylistically but there are also hints of rock and blues. I was particularly impressed how a horn section was interwoven into a style where horns are not commonly used. There are one or two upbeat songs, but this is music more on the melodic side and having horns is somewhat unusual. Make no mistake, they are arranged so well that the songs would seem shallow without them. All in all, this is wonderful music that does what all folk music should do – tell a story. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Billy Test Trio – “Coming Down Roses” ATM Records

Born in Pennsylvania, Test is the current piano chair in the Grammy winning WDR Big Band in Köln, Germany. He is also a composer, arranger, performer and educator. “Coming Down Roses” is Test’s debut as a bandleader. His trio consists of Test on piano, Evan Gregor on bass and Ian Froman on drums. Test wrote all but Tracks One and Seven – Cole Porter’s “All Of You” and John Coates, Jr’s “The Prince.” The remaining seven tracks are all originals. This is a work of traditional jazz all performed in a mostly slowed, rather melodic style. It is also music that is quite reflective in its delivery. Test has a master’s degree in music and his skills in arrangements are evident. I am always impressed when a trio sounds much larger than just a band with three instruments. And in this case, that is what the listener will hear. Piano, bass and drums blend together so well, I got the impression there were actually more instruments than there really were. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Alex Martin – “Folk Songs, Jazz Journeys” Pajarito Verde Music

Question – what do you get when you combine the musical styles of the Brittany region of France, rural North Carolina, Latin America and Prince George’s County, Maryland? Answer – you get the latest release from Alex Martin. Written and mostly recorded during the Covid shutdowns of 2020, Martin and some of DC’s finer musicians put together what may be best described as a traditional jazz, folk, Celtic and world music release of songs that combines music from various parts of the globe. Martin either wrote, co-wrote, or arranged almost all the eleven tracks. Each of these tracks are all part of Martin’s journey and represent the various musical styles he has heard along the way. This is music to which the listener might reflect and think about their own musical journey. 

Overall: 8

Sonics: 8

Tenth Mountain Division – Butte La Rose Self – Released

My first thought when I picked up the new release from “TMD” was that the cover art looked like the Louisiana Bayou. In fact, there is a Bayou State connection. Butte La Rose is where the Atchafalaya River switches course. And if you have ever seen the swamps and bayou sections of Southwest Louisiana, you will be able to appreciate the correctness of the cover art. Hailing from Colorado, TMD’s latest release is representative of songs found in the mountains combined with a Louisiana Cajun style that is both reflective and high octane. Several of these songs reminded me of listening to live music in open air festivals in Lafayette, LA where the music was roaring like a burning fire. Other tracks were slower and they all tell a great story. Track number three, “Highland Morning” was my favorite. This release has it all, rock, folk, country, great guitar riffs, horns, energy, politeness, and the pervasive feeling of a group of musicians having a really great time. Their third release, I look forward to discovering other music from the Colorado guys whose name sounds like a combat unit. 

Overall: 9

Sonics: 8

Steve Goodman – The Best of Steve Goodman Omnivore Recordings

Steve Goodman is perhaps best known for his most recognizable song – “City Of New Orleans.” Covered by various artists, it was initially popularized by Arlo Guthrie but also covered by, among others, John Denver and Willie Nelson, whose version even won a Grammy. A Chicago native, Goodman also wrote the Cubs theme song “Go Cubs Go.” Sadly, and tragically, Goodman died in 1984 at age 36 of leukemia. I cannot help but wonder what wonderful music he would have created had he not been unfortunately taken from this world. I first became a big fan of his in the mid to late 1970’s. His music could be quite serious in nature, but he also had a whimsical side and wrote about subjects that were a comical look on everyday life. One such song is “Death of a Salesman” from the album “Words We Can Dance To.” He also knew how to liven things up as demonstrated on the song “Mama Don’t Allow It” from the album “Jessie’s Jig and Other Favorites.” “The Best of Steve Goodman” is a compilation of his more celebrated tracks and includes studio recordings, live tracks and demos. There is a picture of a very touching note from Johnny Cash on the inside of the CD jewel case. While I enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, this best of collection, it is the totality of work in a few, all too short years that comprise Goodman’s legacy. Any fan of Steve Goodman will certainly recognize each of these nineteen tracks. They serve of a reminder of what was and what could have been. I will choose to look at them as a celebration of a life, and, an example of the simple pleasure of a great song by a master craftsman. 

Note: This work will be released on November 5th. Sample tracks are not available until that time. 

Overall: 10

Sonics: 8

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