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DUDLEY TAFT/Summer Rain: If Taft's stuff sounds like southern rock that's been stripped down, it might be because he's a blues rocker with a heart and from Ohio. Hard hitting stuff that would be unbridled southern rock if there was some Charlie Daniels and Toy Caldwell in the mix, this is the stuff people that look at the Walmart parking lot and see the ghosts of corn fields need to rock the night away. A sure fingered guitar slinger, he makes himself at home on all left of center broadcast outlets, making a real impression every time out. Hot stuff.

CASSIE KEENUM & RICK RANDLETT/Hauntings: Sounding much like the kind of thing Ry Cooder would have patched together before they gave him real budgets which he would have made work nonetheless, this duo sounds anything but white as they reach down to bring blues and southern soul front and center with very little beyond their wits and chops to make it happen. A bluesy singer from Baptists roots and her guitar playing side kick that never let go of his rock star dreams make it all happen. The results are utterly charming and heartfelt and give you a clue as to what must have been going on before Delaney and Bonnie and Tulsa all found each other. Back porch all the way but never basic, this is wonderful sultry music for wonderfully sultry nights.

HAMILTON LOOMIS/Basics: Basic because he simplified his lyrics to focus on the groove? A different flavor, but no less tasty, than his past works, Hamilton cuts to the chase here to make anthemic, fist pumping, beer chugging white boy with the blues tunes that deliver. A smart set that could easily be a gateway ramp to bring new ears into the modern blues rocking tent, it's purely fun stuff that makes you feel good and let's you party the night away in fine style. Check it out.

SULTANS OF STRING/Christmas Caravan: This band snuck up on me a few years ago leaving me thinking they were pretty amazing hoping the rest of the world would agree (so I could say I was there first). Since then, they've won every kind of award there is. Now we find them taking on the challenge of making a Christmas that's more than pretty work on past sure things or well intentioned stuff that miss the mark. Whew! It's an amazing world beat Christmas where even the tried and true is taken to such new and amazing lengths you won't really know where your head is at---at least until you get acclimated. A must for any holiday music fan looking for something completely different where the wheels don't fall off, this is a bar raising winner throughout. Very hot stuff clearly made to chase the cold winter away.

ROB LUTES/Walk in the Dark: It figures that someone who admires John Prine would himself be a stylistic mash up of a bunch of compelling things you just can't put your finger on at any given time. Well, if you ever walked into a restaurant with nothing to do and the waitress yelled at you and so did the food, the you know what it is to trace these Americana and more footsteps. Not a chaw of mealy mouthed Americana anywhere to be found here, this cat that's won awards on both sides of the border kicked it out in three days with some of Canada's finest yielding you a smoking back porch/Americana date that is so real and well conceived you have to play it several times to make you heard what you thought you heard. A real cooker all the way loaded with real music for the real muso!

DENNIS JOHNSON/Rhythmland: It's too hard not to call this guy a master slide guitar slinger. Adding a vocal sense of humor and sprightliness to his arena, Johnson makes such smoking music that if he doesn't close you right out of the box, there's something wrong with you. This is the sound of the back porch when it's on fire and there's no way to put it out. If you're one of those who always wondered what the hullabaloo about slide guitar was, this ain't no cultural artifact, this is the answer to all your questions. A winner throughout.

SARAH LOU RICHARDS/Someone Who Gets Me: A Minnesotan transplanted to Nashville that went back home to record, even if the sound and fury are different, her latest makes me feel like I'm listening to a Sandy Denny record. A folkie to the core no matter what other skins she's put on and off, this is way more coffee house than mainstream Nashville and right up the alley of coffeehouse music fans looking for that left of center experience they can sink their teeth into.

LEANN OSTERKAMP/Complete Solo Piano Works of Leonard Bernstein: Bernstein was such a protean talent from the golden age of the Jewish over achiever that there are those who love him too much, those that hate him too much---largely for overlapping reasons and those who appreciate him as the Zappa of classical music; a cat that could show so many sides and flavors that there was something for everyone or something for those who zero in on a particular flavor. As always, it takes a singular talent to bring the work of another singular talent to life. Osterkamp has the unenviable task here for spreading all the solo piano works of Bernstein over two discs. Unenviable? Yeah, because she's tasked with breathing life into unpublished and otherwise private works made for special occasions and has to know how to bring the right vibe to the right tune. The young artist has earned her wings here. Making the disparate tunes from miniatures to self contained works flow most righteously, this is a special treat in Bernstein's centennial year where all others are rolling the past goods out by the pound (not that there's anything wrong with that). A tasty treat from first byte to last, this is the real deal. Killer stuff throughout.

AL BASILE/Quiet Money: This is one of those sets that can do nothing wrong. Basile teams up with Duke Robillard while Basile looks back fondly at the early days of Roomful of Blues when they were looking back fondly at the originals that inspired them. Speaking of original, somewhere in all that, this is a another se t of Basile originals that capture the time and tide without any amber. Fun stuff tailor made for good times, it's amazing what white boys with the blues have done to the sound of the northern migration, particularly as clicks have replaced the sound of the punch press on the assembly line. A winner with every note.

TREVOR SEWELL/Calling Nashville: A blues rocking white boy with the blues meets Americana head on and puts out a call to some vet folkies to add the organic flavorings. Having paid his dues gladly, he shows the lessons he learned along the way are being put to good use as hitting the heights and having his efforts rise to the top come across as a natch. Hard hitting stuff that holds your attention too hard for it to wander, this is a great throwback to when albums were given some thought before they were released and took you from A to B with stops at great diversions along the way. The right stuff throughout.

Volume 40/Number 297
August 25, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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