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BARBARA WEEN/Detour Ahead: Unabashedly a woman of a certain age that the Boston area has been keeping all to themselves, this jazz singer has the chops and life experience to give these oldies/chestnuts the proper spin they deserve. Surrounding herself with jazzbos skilled in the tradition, Ween makes your ears feeling like they are back in the age of such hot peppers as Anita O'Day and Chris Connor. Far from being a retro pipe dram, Ween knows how to give the real deal with a crystal clear voice that shows depth without warts and speed bumps. Certainly the kind of stuff to play when you want to feel like a grown up, this is a real winner of a vocal date that has it all on the ball.

DAVE FIELDS/All In: When Fields first started going out on his own, the major labels were just starting to fall apart. At that time, when you heard something that sounded like it should be on a major but wasn't, you still had to wrap your head around it that there was nothing wrong with it. Fields continues to show there's nothing wrong with it. With a sound rooted in blues rock power trios, Fields and his pals power shred their way through a set of mostly originals, all compelling and on the money. Coming form a place that reveres bar bands who aspire to shaking the walls rather than resonating echoes in outdoor arenas, this is how you rock through the American night. Hot stuff.

ANDY T-NICK NIXON BAND/Livin' It Up: A native Nashvillian who was part of the end of Chess days, a SoCal bred guitarist and a Texas Bluesman in the producer's chair. What does this give you? Smoking west side Chicago blues show band sound par excellence. You figure it out. Sounding like a throwback to frat boys first taste of blues in the 60s, this smoking date isn't retro stuff, just a reflection of a period that found the urban blues scare as prevalent as the folk music scare of a few years earlier. Kick ass stuff the mainstream blues fan will flip for, there's ain't a wasted note in the bunch and each track is a killer. Well done.

MANNISH BOYS/Wrapped Up and Ready: 6 cds in, this super tight blues band doesn't need guests like Mike Finnegan and the rest of the hard hitting vets to grab your attention, but that doesn't mean Candye Kane, Mike Welch, Bob Corritore, Kid Ramos and other hitters don't have to drop by and join the party. The core here knows how to hold the core just fine. Showing once again why they are continual and perennial award winners, this smoking set is the one that raises the bar for everyone else. Playing like playing the blues is a way to get rich, the crew puts their hearts and souls on the line and show they can make a bet with the devil and win. Lay that on your crossroads! Hot stuff throughout that proves contemporary blues is alive and well with enough vitality to kick any young ‘uns asses that think otherwise. Well done.

ALASTAIR GREENE BAND/Trouble at Your Door: A versatile cat that can back Alan Parsons as well as front his own blues/rock power trio, here we find Greene with his blues/rock mates showing his road warrior side. Powered by a roadhouse sound that rowdies you up real nice, these tracks are a reason to turn every nice summer evening into a rocking Friday night. Fun stuff whose main purpose is to entertain, Greene hit's the bulls eye with room to spare.

THE NIGHTHAWKS/444: 40 years in and there's no dust on them. Fresh off another BMA award, this bunch continues to pilot the roots ship they first set sail with but they keep it fresh, lively and contemporary while leaping off from a sound rooted in the past. The consummate party band for anyone that doesn't live in Brooklyn, this is such a gasser, all you can do it sit back and take it in multiple times so you can finally get a real handle on all the stuff going on here. This is what they talk abut when they talk about making a joyful noise. Killer stuff from a crew that started out in the blues and never really strayed that far from it but seems to have covered a lot of ground between here and there.

MARY ANNE ANDERSON with Doug MacDonald/Rendezvous: Don't know if it's intentional or not but this songbird has a vibe that will take you back to vocalists like Blossom Dearie. On this guitar/vocal date that kicks off with a smoking, understated version of "Paris Blues" that really works, this is the kind of set that gives certain hotel bars that something extra. Vocal fans have a mind blowing treat on tap here with this set of chestnuts that are roasted just right. A winner throughout.

VIOLET/original Broadway cast recording: It feels a little funny to say that a show from 1997 that most people never heard of is having a successful revival right now, but it was the first show by Jeanine Tesori, there's "Gilmore Girls" money behind it and Sutton Foster at the center of it, so you do the math. A story about a girl who got an ax in her head in the 60s and takes off to find a faith healer to make her normal, this is actually a subversive story about girl power. Obviously, Broadway just wasn't ready for this or Tesori because it feels original rather than revival. Foster is one of the few people that could have made the works of Lee Groban commercial and she makes this utterly charming instead of shaggy dog affair. With dialog complimenting the score on this double disc, it's a great you-are-there experience for any play fans stuck west of the Hudson. This is sure to bring more awards to PS Classics trophy case. Well done throughout.

TOM CHANG/Tongue & Groove: Not your dad's jazz/rock/world mash up, this set finds it's way to your ears by way of downtown and it picks up all the bumper grab riders it can along the way. Way out there stuff for those who like their contemporary jazz on speed, this is music to mess your mind--unless it's already messed up and just looking for it's own hit parade.

THE LOUDERMILKS: Paying tribute to the Louvin Brothers' real name as opposed to John D., the former members of Lou Ford pick up the insurgent country cudgel once again. Coming along a touch too late to ride the late 90s genre wave, you have to wonder now how Bloodshot missed out on picking this crew up. Right in the insurgent country pocket, they know the right moves to make the rocked up country thing work well. Smart songs, smart playing and smart moves make this add up nicely in a very contemporary way. Tasty stuff that anyone who ever thought of buying a classic Wilco album will want to have. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 213
May 31, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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