Music Of The Month: August 2021

Liam Kazar Due North

Due to the way the dates fell, plus some unusually busy weekends, I’m late getting my August recommendations posted. But just like July, there were not a lot of releases in August that really grabbed me.

Having inexplicably jettisoned their clever and memorable band name Mandolin Orange, the duo (and married couple) Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz brought us their first record under their new more pedestrian moniker, Watchhouse. The album is self-titled, and it’s a good one.

James McMurtry’s new record, The Horses And The Hounds, also came out this month. I always look forward to new music from McMurtry; for my money one of the best lyricists out there today. This latest entry does not disappoint, and the song “Canola Fields,” in particular, is a real winner.

This month’s top recommendation, though, is the album Due North from singer/songwriter Liam Kazar. Throughout I hear notes of Talking Heads, classic soul, and bubble-gum pop. Here and there just the tiniest glimpse of a Jeff Lynne flourish. I find a few of the tracks to be a bit over-produced for my personal taste, but every song is a toe-tapper, and it’s also great music for driving. (Trust me on this; my daily commute is 90 minutes each way.) It’s far and away the new release I’ve turned to most often this month.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: July 2021

Yola Stand For Myself

I wasn’t exactly bowled over by a lot of this month’s releases, so it was relatively easy to make a pick this time around.

Jackson Browne brought us a good batch of new material on his new album Downhill From Everywhere. We also got a new record from Son Volt, Electro Melodier. I always love Son Volt’s sound, although I will readily admit I’m pretty sure I couldn’t distinguish any one album from another.

Early on, my favorite contender for this month was an album called Click Click Domino by the husband & wife duo who call themselves Ida Mae. I hadn’t heard of these guys before, but I very much enjoy their bluesy sound and for several weeks I thought this record might be this month’s pick of the litter.

But then, on the last Friday of the month, along comes Yola’s Stand For Myself. Suzy and I have been big fans of Yola since we found out about her a couple years ago, but I’ve always personally been of the opinion that her records –as much as I enjoy them– haven’t effectively showcased her voice to its best advantage. Well, look no further. This is the album I’ve been waiting for. Great from start to finish.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: June 2021

Amythyst Kiah Wary + Strange

Some of the best music I heard this month, by far, was in the form of live streams from Cafe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY. On Saturday, June 12, Stephane Wrembel performed two shows that were streamed for free, and both were extraordinary (as his shows tend to be). Both the early show and the late show are available to watch on YouTube. If you want to see a true master plying his trade, click on these links and enjoy.

But this is my monthly record recommendation, so it seems more appropriate —call me crazy— to recommend an actual record. Luckily there are quite a few good ones to choose from this month.

There were new records from a couple of people I wasn’t familiar with. K.C. Jones brought us Queen Of The In Between, and Rachel Baiman released Cycles. Both achieve the accomplishment of offering up intensely personal lyrics, often about very dark subject matter, without ever becoming maudlin or melodramatic. Well worth repeated listening.

The month also saw new material from a few familiar faces. Hiss Golden Messenger’s new Quietly Blowing It stands as a bright light as we begin to make our way out of the trauma of the pandemic. I have similar thoughts about Tim O’Brien’s latest, He Walked On, though this record is a bit more pointedly topical. And Amy Helm continues to impress with What The Flood Leaves Behind.

Early on I was pretty convinced that Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real were probably going to win my recommendation this month for A Few Stars Apart. Back in the day, I was firmly of the opinion that Willie could do no wrong. Lukas is currently making it pretty clear the same is true for him. Alas, this month his record got edged into runner-up position because…

Amythyst Kiah’s new record Wary + Strange is off the hook good. Big, bold, butt-kicking good. Like a lot of folks, I learned about Kiah by way of 2019’s Songs Of Our Native Daughters album, on which she was featured alongside Rhiannon Giddens, Layla McCalla, and Allison Russell. Kiah definitely stood out on that record, which is no small feat for anyone working next to Giddens. But even so, I did not see this new record coming. I can’t say enough good things about it, so I’m not going to try. Just go listen. Now. What are you waiting for!? Go!!

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: May 2021

Lord Huron Long Lost

There was a LOT of good music released this month, once again making it very hard to pick just one record to recommend. The Black Keys dropped a pretty much straight forward blues album called Delta Kream which, front to back, might be my favorite record from their catalog. I’m also really digging Rising Appalachia’s latest, The Lost Mystique Of Being In The Know. Oliver Wood (of The Wood Brothers) delivered an excellent solo record, Always Smilin. And another new solo album, Start It Over, from The Deslondes singer/songwriter Riley Downing, is also great.

As much as I like all those, my runner-up for May’s pick of the month is another blues record: Little Black Flies by Eddie 9V. Every single track on this record will make your toes tap and your head bob. So. Much. Fun. Neither Suzy nor I had ever heard of this guy before, but we will definitely be keeping an ear out for him from now on.

But in the end, my #1 May recommendation is Lord Huron’s new release, Long Lost. I hear a little of everything on this record. It’s folky, of course. (Who would imagine me recommending anything that wasn’t?) But in addition to that, there are huge helpings of Spaghetti Western, some psychedelia, a smattering of ’40s -’50s era American Songbook-like stylistic flourishes, not to mention any number of passages straight out of the Angelo Badalamenti / David Lynch toy box. And I don’t mean that I hear all this from one track to another; these influences are all stirred together in different combinations on every song. Hopeful. Mournful. Melancholy. Optimistic. It’s really good.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: April 2021

The Brother Brothers Calla Lily

My April recommendation is a really close call. I very strongly suggest you check out Carsie Blanton’s new album, Love & Rage. It could easily have been my pick for the month and I’d have been perfectly happy with that. But in the end, I have to got with The Brother Brothers’ new release, Calla Lily. This record is like discovering a previously unreleased Everly Brothers album. Amazing. And I’m a complete sucker for that kind of close harmony singing and the kinds of songs that show it off.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: March 2021

Valerie June The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers

Valerie June captured our hearts from the very start (with her 2013 debut album Pushin’ Against A Stone) and, like Buck Meek, she’s always great, a bit off the beaten path, and a little unexpected. But man oh man, this record is sooooo, soooo good.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: February 2021

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Hunter And The Dog Star

Could be that I like this so much mainly because I kinda lost track of these guys over the years and haven’t heard them in a long time. Regardless, it’s the February release I’m returning to the most.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

Music Of The Month: January 2021

Buck Meek Two Saviors

Finding ourselves at home so much during the pandemic, Suzy and I unintentionally started a habitual Friday night review of the week’s album drops. About once a month we find something we really like. Eventually it occurred to me to post our monthly recommendations on Facebook. Which I have since been doing. But this morning I got thinking that I should post them here as well because a) it will make them much easier for me to find and refer to and b) I mostly hate Facebook.

Our January pick was Buck Meek’s Two Saviors

I love Buck’s unusual songs structures and oddball lyrics and subject matter. We’ve been big fans for several years now, but this album is off the charts good. Can’t say enough positive things about it. There isn’t a single dud anywhere on the record, but for me “Second Sight’ is a real standout.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!