(Pictured: Alex Spencer and band).
As even the most occasional reader of this blog knows, the Music Enthusiast is somewhat stuck in the past, longing nostalgically for the “good old days” of music. But since, to quote one particular artist, the times they are a-changing, he realizes he must come out of his cave every once in a while and listen to some new tunes. Here’s a selection for, as always, your dining and dancing pleasure.
You know, I love the piano but it’s less and less often that I hear some good old bluesy barrelhouse piano. Fortunately, there is Bruce Katz who “attended Berklee College of Music in the mid-1970s studying Composition and Performance.
After he spent years on the road with one band or another, Bruce entered the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he earned a master’s degree in Jazz Performance in the early 1990s. Later he returned to his alma mater, Berklee where he spent 14 years as an Associate Professor teaching composition, piano, Hammond B-3, and blues music history.
Bruce spent six years as a member of Gregg Allman’s band, touring and playing piano. He played with various Allman Brothers over the years and was a member of Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and two of Butch Trucks’ bands. The Bruce Katz Band tours extensively in the United States and Europe.”
From their Facebook page: “Wild Mercury gals originally wanted to start a folk group that focused on warm vocal harmonies. One thing led to another, they caught the fever for rock, for heavy sounds and for an unfulfilled dream of a riotous youth.
Since 2017, they are playing in Montreal’s bars, unveiling their sound and singing desires that are sometimes sarcastic, sometimes angry, sometimes euphoric, sometimes pop, sometimes rock, sometimes soul and sometimes folk.”
I like the punk energy the ladies bring to “Orange County,” which they advise us is the first song they ever recorded together:
From his website: Robert Ranson’s lifelong dedication to making music began with his infatuation with drums at the tender age of two. By the time he turned 12, he also developed what would prove to be a lifelong love of guitar. Throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, he played in a variety of cover bands in his hometown of Richmond Virginia, eventually leading him to start his own outfit, The Aimless Drifters.
Flash forward more than 20 years. Ranson revisits his earlier effort with an upcoming album he’s dubbed Still Dreaming.”
Although billed somewhat as a reggae-rock artist, this song, “Move On,” sounds to me like a tasty slab of bluesy rock:
By now you may be saying to yourself the following: That is some pretty good shit. But how about a song from a female artist whose music intersects where jazz, folk, and pop meet? It would be even better if she grew up in a musical family amongst both the green hills of western England and the forests of southern Germany and is now living and working in Berlin.
Say no more. Alex Spencer is that singer. From her Facebook page: “Teaming up with the stellar Berlin jazz trio of Ben Lehmann (double bass), Martial Frenze (drums) and Paul Engelmann (alto saxophone), Spencer has produced work of change and transformation. The songs explore juxtapositions between youth and aging, children and parents, technology and humanity – all underpinned by the group’s steady rhythms and mellow tones.”
Her album Shine is below. Good stuff and I direct you to the first tune, “Toxic Mountains.” She and the band have a unique sound that I truly dig:
Wikipedia: North Mississippi Allstars is an American southern rock/blues band from Hernando, Mississippi, United States, founded in 1996. The band is composed of two brothers, Luther Dickinson (guitar, lowebow*, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, keyboards, electric washboard, vocals).
“In 23 years they’ve released ten studio albums, three of which were nominated for Blues Album of the Year Grammys. (Luther has notched another four nominations in various categories on top of that.) More important, they’ve played countless shows in front of avid crowds, touring alongside Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Mavis Staples, and John Hiatt, among many others.”
The group has a new album called Up and Rolling and this tune, “What You Gonna Do?” not only has a great groove but also features the inimitable Ms. Staples:
Last but certainly not least is Mindi Abair who I first heard on the thank-God-it-exists B.B. King blues channel on Sirius. Her smokin’ hot band is called Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers. (Insert joke here.)
From her web site: Two-time GRAMMY nominee Mindi Abair has been electrifying audiences with her dynamic live performances and utter command of the saxophone since her debut album in 2000. No one since Junior Walker has brought saxophone and vocals in one package to the forefront of modern music, with a raucous tone and dynamic stage presence.
She has garnered ten #1 radio hits, six Top 5 solo records and two #1 spots on the Billboard album charts. In 2014, Mindi received her first GRAMMY® nomination in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category, followed by a 2015 GRAMMY® nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for her solo LP Wild Heart featuring Gregg Allman, Joe Perry, Trombone Shorty, Booker T. Jones, Keb’ Mo’, and Max Weinberg
This is “Baby Get it On” from her album No Good Deed. Smokin’!
*A lowebow is a variation of the cigar box guitar, created by John Lowe in the 1990s. It involves a cigar box with two wooden rods projecting from it. Each wooden rod typically holds one string: a bass string attached to one rod and a standard acoustic guitar string attached to the other.
This allows the player to pluck a one-string bass and a one-string guitar at the same time. Each of the two strings has its own electric pickup that feeds into an amplifier. Some variations contain multiple strings on the treble neck, similar to standard cigar box guitars.The lowebow was created with the one-man band in mind.