DOUG MACDONALD DUO/Toluca Lake Jazz: One of those delightful little dates where all it takes is a guitar and a bass in the hands of old pros that have worked together in various aggregations, a stack of tunes so well interwoven that you almost can't tell the classics from the originals and an appreciation of good attitudes. With light touches that know how to swing hard, fans of the modern guitar masters can't help but love this just as well.
JONATHAN KANE & DAVE SOLDIER/February Meets Soldier String Quartet: Minimalist drone meets Chicago blues with histories that encompass everything from John Cale to Bo Diddley. No stone is left unturned in this left field excursion to the strangest corners of your mind. Wild stuff for sure and not for those looking for any easy listening but do like their walks on the wild sides.
MICHAEL DEASE/Give It All You Got: The esteemed trombone ace leads a crew through a set where he fantasizes he's the teacher he never had--not that this crew here really needs any mentors. Smoking his way through the proceedings, this is a tour de force outing where the blowing never stops and everyone here likes to bring the heat. This is brass that's got real brass.
ALLY VENABLE/Heart of Fire: Let's face it, kvelling over someone else's kid can be tedious. It's almost as bad as watching their home movies of stuff you don't care about. However, once in a while there comes a kid that really interesting to watch grow up in public because there's that something extra. On Venable's 4th outing, she's got Jim Gaines at the wheel and the two light real sparks. Spending her teen years so dedicated to her craft that she doesn't have the reediness in her voice that Bonnie Raitt had at the same age when she already thought she was a wizened blues momma, but that's ok. A full fledged guitar slinger with a real feel for modern roots/white girl with the blues action, we could say this high water mark set is as good as it gets but I can guarantee we'll be saying that about her next set as well. Behind that girlish voice lurks one major league bad ass.
ICELAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA/Occurrence: One thing about the Sono Luminus bunch, they know how to pack each byte so full that it takes two discs to hold their super audio, immersive experiences. One thing about the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, they aren't a bunch of modern pots and pans slingers out to hustle grant money. The music might be modern and progressive but it will not give you a headache. Taking you to the musical landscape in a land beyond Bjork, this wonderful ear opener sadly concludes the orchestra's trilogy focusing in these works but it does leave us curious to hear what's up their sleeves next. Well done and a fitting coda.
(Sono Luminus 92243)
NALANI ROTHROCK/Rock House Sessions: Delightful blue eyed country soul from a Florida thrush that's been at it since she was a kid in Florida and now taking it to the Nashville suburbs where the nu generation of Swampers has relocated to provide the proper setting. A tasty taste of good things to come.
MARK WINKLER-DAVID BENOIT/Old Friends: If you want to be a professional music critic, kids, it helps if you look at the inside of the record and read the hype sheet. I was going to make a crack about Winkler taking Benoit back to the indie roots Jeff Weber had Benoit in way back but the inside liner shows this duo predated that. They kick things off with a Bob Dorough tune giving this a distinctly Dave Frishberg feel----before moving on to Frish himself. From there, they hit a slew of fave stuff they grew up on and make this much different than the typical oldies/tribute/homage album. Their first true duo album, it exists at the nexus of comfortable and professional making this a clear cut winner and a must for tired, jaded ears in search of a tonic. These two pros are always at the top of their forms, but they are really hitting it out of the park here. Killer stuff.
(Café Pacific 5010)
FEVFERSEED/Let Yourself Down: Guitar driven, hard hitting power quartet hard rockers delivering the blues rock version of Miles' elephant funk. Having honed their chops before setting sail, they can take this in any direction they want.
PROG COLLECTIVE/Worlds on Hold: Wow, this record makes me feel like I'm going back to McDonald & Gules and the first ELP album--before they sold out. Billy Sherwood gathers up people you didn't think knew each other let alone would play together and makes it all work. There's a classic prog feel, remakes of classic radio prog and even a quasi Yes version of "More Than a Feeling". Great stuff for those that were there or those that had to be there--but weren't.
(Purple Pyramid 2153)
VERONICA LEWIS/You Ain't Unlucky: This rootsy, award wining Boston gal lights up her debut with stops at all the major blues headquarters and doesn't give any of them the short shrift. A tasty trip around the block and back, the only thing Lewis doesn't do here is bring home the bacon and fry it in a pan. That's because she's busy raising the roof. Put this down as one of your auspicious debuts.
(Blue Heart 8)
Volume 45/Number 83
January 22, 2021
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2021 Midwest Record
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