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JOEL FRAHM/Bright Side: You think of Frahm, you think of downtown--but Frahm has loads of Canadian cred and here he takes it north of the border to lead a trio that's come out of some extended play in Canada. Loading his sax with some Rollins before crossing the border, this sounds like Rollins either finding his lip in Woodstock or some tapes he'd long forgotten about. Pure, badass daddio throughout, this proves that there are various degrees of skronk. This is the real deal.
(Anzic 68)

LAUREN ANDERSON/Love on the Rocks: Supposed Joss Stone was influenced by Koko Taylor instead of Betty Wright? This Chicago white gal with the blues that knows how to belt with more gusto than her young years would have you think takes it to church and raises the rafters like she snuck out of the house after dark so her parents wouldn't know she was hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks. I don't know how a white gal can be so down home in the 21st century but if you need a dose of Memphis/Muscle Shoals, classic style, it just pours out of her naturally. Hot.

MERLE MONROE/Songs of a Simple Life: This duo proves you can succeed in traditional bluegrass with a wink and a grin. Vet pickers with detailed resumes, they broke righteously right out of the box and the train keeps a-rolling here. Solid, straight forward and in the pocket throughout, they touch all the expected bases on the way home and do it making it sound so right. A solid entertainment that knows how to deliver.
(Pinecastle 1256)

WILSON BANJO COMPANY/Six Degrees of Separation: So, the Guy Clark of banjo makers decides to do a round up of all the pickers endorsing his banjo and, because of his recording skills, rolls tape on this banjo extravaganza of killer pickers playing killer axes. Certainly conceived as a labor of love, everyone shows up with their hearts on their sleeves and with a hot skillet in tow. A real back porch gem, everyone here knows just what to do. Well done.
(Pinecastle 1255)

FARMHANDS/4.0: This crew has a Google worthy vitae if you want to know how impressive their back story. That's not as important as the way they take it from the back porch to a dark night headed south on 65 or west on 80 through long stretches of nowhere where even the all night cafes call it a night at 9. This is the sound of just you and the stars that are always there but never seen in the cities anymore. Traditional as anything but with a modern bent, it almost feels like throwback country from a time before Solo cup met Costco. This is the sound of a bunch of award winners racking up some more.
(Pinecastle 1253)

DUO DELLA LUNA/Mangetsu: Art music all the way as this vocal/violin duo get inside their music whether presenting original pieces of delving into
Bartok in new ways. Solidly Sunday afternoon recital music, eggheads need their top 40 stax of wax too.
(New Focus 305)

GARRETT WIELAND/What Keeps the Heart Afloat: Texas troubadour is a genre all to itself and Wieland is one of the new practitioners that's going to make a solid mark in that whole other country. Clever like the greats that came before him, this itinerant singer/songwriter/folkie has something to say and he knows how to get the massage out. Pure Texas stuff for anyone missing Townes and the rest.

MICHELLE & JASON HANNAN/Cheater's Waltz: Jason says this concept album was inspired by Willie's "Red Headed Stranger" but except for the ending, I'm feeling more "Phases & Stages". Smartly capturing that old time country radio feel, this duo shows a lot more Texas in their music that a duo from Maryland should. A real gem of a set for anyone that wants a taste of some real country, there's a lot of wonderful stuff going on here.
(Waiting for Lester 5)

GERALD McCLENDON/Let's Have a Party: Twist Turner's not originally from Chicago so maybe that explains how he can pack so much down home into these bytes. McClendon, his alter ego, delivers the goods on Turner's tunes. Any fan of classic soul and blues will just go nuts for this set. It's just that deep in the pocket. You get the feeling that Otis and Butterfield are going to pop up in the mix at any second while Hooker beats it out the backdoor on his land lady. It doesn't get better than this.
(Delta Roots 1004)

JOHN STEIN/Serendipity: All set to tour behind the album that was made to celebrate his retirement from his day job, Stein was forced into making a streamed concert to fill the void. This is the audio from that concert and even he was surprised with the live in the studio results. Leading his trio in fine style, this eclectic set with equal inspiration from Wes and Joe Pass is a jazz guitar fan's nirvana. Tasty licks bottomed by sure fingered playing make this a real garden of delights. Well done throughout.
(Whaling City Sound 129)

Volume 45/Number 224
June 12, 2021
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL. 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2021 Midwest Record

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