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SHIRLETTE AMMONS/Language Barrier: Don't call this gal ‘only an indie' artist. A rap based set launched from North Carolina, this world wide set with a guest list that shouldn't even be thinking about being on a new artist's indie set all show up. Multi culti with loads of attitude, sound and fury, this is the kind of thing nu ears are looking for in this progressive new age. Clearly the kind of cat that speaks her mind and brooks no baloney, this stuff shakes it up better than others shake it off. Hot stuff.

PINETOP PERKINS & JIMMY ROGERS/Genuine Blues Legends: So where have these live tapes been hiding for almost 30 years? Backed by Little Mike & the Tornadoes, the recording quality might not be all it could be but the playing more than makes up for it. A one of a kind date where all the players were feeding off each other's energy to keep pushing higher, Perkins and Rogers play what they've been playing for years and the young white boys do a great job of keeping up. Oh yeah, the crowd is digging it as well. Simply a great moment in classic blues time that we're glad got captured forever and can now be released. A must for classic, post war blues fans.

KEVIN KASTNING-MARK WINGFIELD/Eleven Rooms: Kastning is the kind of muso that almost makes you want to cheat by going into your archives, pulling up an old review, blowing the dust off it and rerunning it. A wild innovator that experiments in three dimensions and never rolls off the rails, we find him here in his fifth set in his duo mode. Finding that spot that made so many ECM albums classic and adding his own special sauce to boot, this guitar duo doesn't rest on past laurels and continues to drill their chops deeper. A mighty guitar statement that transcends genres and pigeon holes, this is the place your ears want to wind up when they crave living, breathing art that isn't preserved in amber. How much better can it get?

MICK RHODES & the Hard Eight/Paradise City: With his punk days long behind him, Rhodes and his pals have soaked up all the cool influences that have come and gone over the years and put them together in a crafty, tasty amalgam that drips just another influence every time you turn around. A wonderful wild ride that brims with punk and power pop energy as well as other time tested tropes, this bunch sounds like a bar band that made it extra good. Fun stuff that hits the right chords throughout as well as touching on themes that resonate in middle age as you look backward and forward from the mid point. Hot stuff.

TIM WILLIAMS/So Low: An old white boy with the blues, Williams was inspired by seeing the old black blues men on TV with just their guitars and tearing it up just the same. Whether intentional or not, this man and his guitar sound like the meeting between Bert Jansch and Ralph McTell that never happened but should have. The Richard Thompson influence is just as palpable as the Robert Johnson influence. The result is a smashing set that shows how easy it is to go it alone if you bring the right stuff and put it front and center. Sounding just like the off the cuff classics that they don't make anymore, this back porch music as the top of it's game. Hot stuff throughout.

MICHA SCHELLHAAS/Double Take: And here comes a debut that you don't expect to blow your ears open and it does just that. A budding guitar whiz, Schellhaas has rounded up a flock of classic jazz/rockers and the fur flies in classic fusion fashion. It ain't about the flash and fire, it's about the deep chops that just plain grab you and hold you. A German cat that's soaked up everything there is to soak up, this will take you back to the day in fine fashion. Right on throughout.

MARY FOSTER CONKLIN/Photographs: Conklin is the kind of gal that prefers to genre bend and let you draw your own conclusions instead of give you the answer you expect or are looking for. Jazz or cabaret? Who cares? Modern or classics? Doesn't matter. She's bringing her own view to the fore whether personalizing Joni Mitchell or Fran Landesman. Even in her choice of musos, she mixes downtown with classic cats. And they strike all the right sparks in the process. The only knock on this award winning singer is that she chooses to work in an arena that doesn't lend itself to arena performances. Of course the coterie that follows her through her bioteries probably doesn't mind that a bit as Conklin is one of those singers that you want to feel like she's singing just for you. A top notch set for when you're ready to get off the beaten path.

RAM 6/Manman M Se Ginen: Haitian music has come a long way form Boukmans Experience. With their first album in a decade, this Haitian band goes pan Caribbean adding loads of party elements from around the horn. Indigenous but accessible to gringos, this ‘down home' set is loaded with the kind of energy and good vibes that really get the blood flowing. A high octane listening experience that gets you going with the flow, this is wildly enjoyable stuff even if all you understand is the beat. Check it out.

BROAD CITY season 2: The secret weapon that keeps this from being accused of being a "Two Broke Girls" knock off is executive producer Amy Poehler who not only has her own TV chops to keep this in high gear, she also probably doesn't want Whitney Cummings to get one over on her. Snark powered, guest powered and in dispatches from the Brooklyn front, I'm told this is a step away from being a hilarious reality show vis a vis what's seen on the street every day. Utterly nuts and thoroughly off the hook, whether you get this show or not shows which side of the contemporary generation gap you're on. A much better use of the time for fossils than taking a class in Soc 101 a the local community college to ‘stay engaged', this is a flat out, no holds barred, good time for people that love to laugh at the unexpected.

RAY DONOVAN season 3: We've had a season that shows Donovan interacting with his clients. We've had a season that shows what goes on when Donovan tried to steady his home life against his topsy world. Now we find him backing himself into his own corner and fighting his way out of it as he amps up to really go it alone. Loaded with guest stars as well as star turns from the cast, this modern day Mike Hammer two fists his way through the glamour world needing his protection harder than Mickey Spillane could have ever written. Action and adrenaline come together with the same punch "Sopranos" and "Burn Notice" delivered making you wonder how things are going to turn out as this world turns. First class drama all the way.

Volume 39/Number 48
December 18, 2015
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2015 Midwest Record

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