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SANDY CARROLL/Last Southern Belle: A late blooming coming of age record, Carroll stares down ghosts of the past that got shuffled off to the side when living life without having time to reflect on it. Coming of age in the old south as revolution was sweeping through the air, Carroll is questioning now what she might have then, except now she has the luxury of sympathetic all stars backing her up in fine fashion. Proud of the successful miles she's put under her belt, Carroll puts the last Lego of the mosaic into the place with a mature statement that you don't have to be a southerner to get. If you were to take this as nothing more than the kind of album Lucinda Williams has gotten away from making and should return to, it would be a win right there. Hot stuff throughout.

ODIN'S COURT/Deathanity: The melodic, prog metal crew debut album is re-released and spiffed up with some modern tech to make it even more beloved for the fans that already love it so. A genre splicing outing for modern ears that want to soak it all up and dig deep into the nuances, this is crazy, wonderful stuff for the younger brothers (sons?) of the kids that originally dug this outsider stuff and kept it's underground alive.

MICHAEL BROTHERS QUARTET/Reunion: The Northwestern grad whose day job for the last 35 years has been to be a mainstay drummer for every major Broadway production to hit the boards of the great white way or take to the road subsidizes his love of jazz by packing up the old gang to hang out in Nawlins delivering what strangely feels like a classic piano trio date even though the size and shape differs. Even if 35 years ‘merely' takes us back to the early 80s, this bunch has old school delightfully tattooed on their DNA making you sure this is a missing Blue Note date. This is the kind of sure handed, killer stuff that can only happen when you've out your 100,000 hours in. Well done.

KATE CAMPBELL/The K.O.A. Tapes V. 1: One of the reigning highnesses of organic, back porch music might be recording on her Iphone these days, but she' still making sure there's fellow travelers like Spooner Oldham, Missy Raines, Sally Van Meter and others among the bytes. Showing how tech can be used to really make lo fi shine, the always engaging folkie tops herself with this modern recording even while kicking it one more time for Kristofferson, Thompson, Simon and civil rights. It's only January and we have a serious contender for the top of the top ten year end lists already. Killer stuff throughout.

ANDY GUNN/Miracle of Healing: A bluesy Brit guitar slinger takes time out from cancer treatment to show the world he's still alive and kicking, not slowing it down a whit. Almost more roadhouse than pub, this journeyman is keeping the appointed rounds on his journey on schedule. Solid stuff.

JENNY MAYBEE & NICK PHILLIPS/Haiku: Vocalist Maybee is an art chick that seems to shoot wheatgrass instead of heroin and Phillips is a well traveled producer that has shown he can work with anyone, especially jazz vocalists. The two met up for this off the clock, after hours, very low key set that is loaded with art while avoiding pretentiousness. The kind of set you want to listen to late at night when you aren't in a melancholy mood, it certainly brings a new kind of special sauce to the proceedings. Intimate in a 50s kind of old school way where there's just three players kicking it out in real time, the target audience for this set will really take it to heart.

JESSIKA SMITH BIG BAND/Tricks of Light: A recent college grad brings her vision to big band. After a tour of Europe that showed her she was on the right track, this set bristles with the kind of restless youth that a kid fresh from half time marching bands wanting to leave her own mark can really shine on. It's hard to do something new without being in the shade of Gil Evans or Maria Schneider but Smith finds the way. Not a pomo or overly progressively set, it's left leaning and raring to go. This I one of those debuts that really stands out. Check it out.

NAKED TRUTH/Avian Thug: In which we find the proper jazz combo for kicking it out quartet style at Birdland's affiliate club on Mars. With a King Crimson fellow traveler in the drum chair keeping the beat on the beat, the 60s have moved into the 10s as progressive jazz still is not for the faint of heart. Wild stuff for wide open ears ready for a new wild ride.

NICOLAS BEARDE/Invitation: Bearde is one of those hard working guys that you hear a lot of but don't hear enough of. A fixture in commercials, soundtracks, TV and more, Bearde takes it front and center here stepping out with a classy, old school date that plays like no expense was spared and taste was shipped in by the truck load. Old school in the footsteps of Billy Eckstine, Bearde sings like he was one of the original master stylists of the times not just singing the songs but understanding them and bringing meaning to the mix. This is a total knock out of a first class jazz vocal date that makes you feel like a grown up just listening to it. Well done.

SKYTALK/Days in the Sun: Neo hippie power trio do a little genre splicing for underground tastes in the suburbs on this ep that gives a taste of things to come.

Volume 39/Number 68
January 8, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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