I've stopped updating on here because I became too busy and had to cut down on doing "something", anything really. Now, I'm still too busy but I feel great music, especially great albums, is just not enough being talked about these days.
You guys have missed out on a couple of years of my musical discoveries. And I've got a few stacks of CDs that I still haven't listened to in full, going back from now to around Xmas of 2016. That's busy me, not lazy me. I'm slowly catching up on that but good new music appears all the time, so for a CD that I decide to get, there is a fast track to my listening pleasure and there is a slow stack beside the player
Of course, I cannot tell you much about the albums from the To Be Listened To stack.
The selections I'm going to list now might appear a bit random, given the flood of great material that appeared during the last 5 years, yet, I should be trying to pick out the ones that seem to be kind of relevant to John Hiatt fans, which I did not do before.
EDWARD DAVID ANDERSON - LIES AND WISHES (2014)
Ed Anderson used to be the singer/songwriter/guitarist/bandleader of the rock trio Backyard Tire Fire which I may or may not have written about previously on here. He's just awesome as a songwriter: story songs, character studies, you name it, he does it all. Current era folk rock with a 70s influence at its best. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos produced the album, and plays a bit on it, too.
THE EMPTY HEARTS (2014)
Probably you all are familiar with Little Village and the concept of so-called super groups in which already popular musicians gather together to write, play and perform in a new configuration (or should I say lineup). This is another, and they really rock. Wally Palmar sings, Andy Babiuk plays bass. And the other two members got me interested: Elliot Easton (of The Cars) plays guitar and Clem Burke (of Blondie) plays drums. As a side man, the late Ian McLagan (of The Faces) plays keyboards. I had this album on my wish list for a few years, being busy as I mentioned before, listening to sound samples time in time again, wondering if I should get it. One day, a friend played a song from it and I didn't realize it was from this album. Instead, I thought "this is a real classic track". Turns out I had guessed wrong when the lyrics set in and I realized it comes from this album. That's when I had no hesitation anymore to go out and buy it. I should have done that sooner.
THE SECRET SISTERS - PUT YOUR NEEDLE DOWN (2014)
On their 2nd album, the sisters present harmony-filled country rock/Americana with deep, sometimes dark subject matters. Produced by T Bone Burnett, his Raising Sand Band (Marc Ribot, Jay Bellerose, Dennis Crouch, Greg Leisz, etc.) is all over this record. Think "Everly Sisters" for the current era, if you will.
JOHNNY A. - DRIVEN (2014)
The erstwhile guitarist of "Peter Wolf and the Houseparty Five" presents his 3rd studio album of rock instrumentals as a solo artist. This time around, it is a real solo album, with A. having played all instruments. Often when that is the case, it is showing. Yet, not on this record: Johnny A sounds like a full band here, and a good one at that, all the while also playing his signature Gibson guitar.
FEARING & WHITE - TEA AND CONFIDENCES (2014)
Singer/Songwriter Andy White from Belfast on the island of Ireland and Stephen Fearing (who you might know from his participation in Canadian supergroup Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) go electric folk rock on their 2nd album as a duo, where the 1st one was all acoustic. It totally works. The songwriting and the musical performances are top notch. The two also play most of the instruments, and Gary Craig guests on drums throughout. Years later, Nick Lowe covered a song from this record while collaborating with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. I think the original is better.
MARY CUTRUFELLO - FAITHLESS WORLD (2014)
The stratocaster lady with the deep voice finally returned to making rock music after a foray into folk and country for a few years, and working a day job all the time. Her storytelling is as fine as it's ever been. This album is proof enough that there is good new Americana rock being made these days. It's just being self-released and thus not being heavily promoted. That's also why I had to write to the official website of the artist to get the album on an actual CD which is otherwise only available at shows. But the mp3 version can be found everywhere they have mp3s. Or at least, I hope for you that this is still the case after the few years of me having remained silent on here.
KAT EDMONSON - THE BIG PICTURE (2014)
The little lady with the unbelievable voice created this record of mostly sweet pop/jazz with producer/keyboardist Mitchell Froom, and he brought along his expert studio team including guitarist Val McCallum (of Jackshit) and bassist Davey Faragher (of John Hiatt's Nashville Queens).
NEIL DIAMOND - MELODY ROAD (2014)
This is a very solid album of heartfelt original tunes by the singer/songwriter. Don Was (of Was Not Was fame) produced it together with Jacknife Lee, the former bringing some great performers from his various studio bands to the table, with the latter bringing in some quickly aging keyboard sounds that luckily are less present in the mix.
SAM OUTLAW - ANGELENO (2015)
The solo debut of this country singer/songwriter from California finds him produced by erstwhile Little Village guitarist Ry Cooder and his son Joachim (on drums throughout). The songwriting is heartfelt and the Cooders add some beautiful touches to the album, too. The music is mostly on the mellow side, and there is a lot of acoustic guitar and steel guitar on there, too.
JOE ELY - PANHANDLE RAMBLER (2015)
Still the country rocker and Flatlander's most recent album, this is one of his best as both a songwriter and performer. Really amazing stuff. Jeff Plankenhorn and Teye join him on guitars. The record is still a favourite.
BLACKBERRY SMOKE - 3 albums: HOLDING ALL THE ROSES, LIKE AN ARROW, FIND A LIGHT
You cannot go wrong with either of these 3 albums that the probably best Southern Rock band at the time has put out during the years I have not written any short reviews on here. That is quite a feat. Lots of great songs on there.
My guess is you might have heard of the group before so I'm not going into any details now.
AU PAIR - ONE-ARMED CANDY BEAR (2015)
Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and his friend Django Haskins teamed up for this album a duo. It contains most of Louris' best songs from the past decade. Great folk-pop with an Americana influence and even the sometimes programmed rhythms are tastefully done.
BURLAP TO CASHMERE - FREEDOM SOULS (2015)
This was a crowdfunding release. Unfortunately, I missed out on the original campaign and that is why I don't have it on CD, which is too bad because the songs are amazing. The songwriting of bandleader Steven Delopoulos still shows the 60s folk-pop influence of Simon & Garfunkel and others, and influences from his Greek heritage again, like was expected. And lead guitarist Johnny Philippidis shines with adding tasty flamenco-influenced guitar. Drummer Theodore Pagano is a friend of odd, unusual meters which only adds to the fun. Deep, heartfelt tunes make this album another highly recommended one, even though you can probably only find it as mp3 files.
VARIOUS ARTISTS - BOSS SELECTION VOL. 1 (2015)
Producer Sunny D. Levine (who I first noticed when he and his mates from the band Maata Haari played on Little Village guitarist Ry Cooder's soundtrack to the Wim Wenders movie The End Of Violence in the 90s) has put together this multi-artist compilation album of new songs written for the occasion. This is a modern yet timeless sounding pop record of soulful tunes, and you can hear it was made in California. Some of his regular collaborators are headliners here, singing a song each, such as Amir Yaghmai a/k/a Young Dad (who is now guitarist with The Voids), Nick Nauman (formerly of Keepaway), Orelia Reed (of Orelia Has Orchestra). And there are also more well-known performers like soul drummer James Gadson, singer/songwriter Brenda Russell and jazz great Hugh Masekela. The single from the album was sung by actress Rashida Jones, who as it turns out, is Sunny's aunt. It shows that the people on this record know each other by heart and that's what makes this modern pop production shine.
MARSHALL CRENSHAW - THE EP COLLECTION #392 (2015)
Over the past few years, pop/rock singer/songwriter Crenshaw (who actually first came to my attention as a co-writer on one of the songs from John Hiatt's Perfectly Good Guitar album), has recorded new songs of his own and covers to put them out as vinyl singles. This album collects them on CD. It's hits and a bit of "filler", as all singles collections are, yet you decide: sometimes, the b-sides are the hits.
EVA DE ROOVERE - CHANTICLEER (2016)
This folk pop singer songwriter from Belgium got together with fellow singer/songwriters Peter Case (of The Plimsouls) and Bob Neuwirth (of Rolling Thunder Revue fame) to produce her first English language album. It only seems light at the surface because deep lyrics and memorable melodies do reward repeated listening. And she has got a very charming voice, too!
MICHAEL MENAGER - NOT THE EXPRESS (2016)
A bit of a late-bloomer as an artist, Australian singer/songwriter Menager went to LA to record this album of self-penned folk songs with interesting lyrics and a slight country influence which are a bit on the slow paced side of things. Little Village drummer Jim Keltner joins in on the proceedings and adds a nice touch, as always.
BRUCE HORNSBY & the NOISEMAKERS - REHAB REUNION (2016)
Known mostly as a piano virtuoso, Hornsby does not play the instrument at all on this record. Instead, he plays dulcimer. He is good at it. This is a fun folk-pop record. As with every Hornsby album, you can hear a certain jazz influence. And on the closing track, soul diva Mavis Staples (of Staples Singers) sings a duet.
CESAR ROSAS - LA FIESTA (2016)
Los Lobos singer and guitarist Rosas has put out this album of mostly traditional Mexican folk tunes exclusively through the US version of iTunes. That is a way too limited release for anybody to find it. I found out about it by visiting a Los Lobos fan message board regularly and watching out for new releases. Then, I had no idea on how to get the music. It's really great and should be widely available on CD based on the quality of the music alone. But it's not, instead hidden away on an mp3 file server and available to US audiences only. I cannot tell you how you can get it. And I still haven't figured out a way to find it in lossless sound. It certainly was worth trying but I've kind of given up because I felt too busy.
And yes, there are various musical styles on this album, not just the Cumbia routine that Cesar has showcased on practically every Los Lobos album during this century. It would be great if there was actually some interest to put it out on CD.
LA SANTA CECILIA - BUENAVENTURA (2016)
While we're talking Lobos-related releases, this Mexican-influenced band from California, fronted by the amazing pipes of singer Marisol Hernandez certainly is one of my favourite records to come out in the past few years. The Mexican accordion is the lead instrument on most of the songs, and La Marisoul is just such a powerful singer. A Steve Berlin production, his Lobos bandmate David Hidalgo does appear on guitar on a few tracks. So also do Argentinian singer Fito Paez and Spanish vocalist Enrique Bunbury (of Heroes del Silencio).
ZUCCHERO - BLACK CAT (2016)
The blues-influenced pop singer from Italy's best album in this decade. In producing and writing it, he did have help from his collaborators Max Marcolini, Don Was (who brought his expert studio band), T Bone Burnett and Brendan O'Brien and a few of the musicians from German producer Mousse T's studio band. This is the opposite of a case of too many cooks: it all adds to a great groove here. And towards the end of the album, Mark Knopfler makes a cameo on guitar. But the real highlight is Zucchero's melodic songwriting.
BILLY BURNETTE - CRAZY LIKE ME (2016)
Country-rock/Rockabilly at its best from the singer/songwriter who used to play with Fleetwood Mac in the late 80s and worked his day job backing up John Fogerty on rhythm guitar in the 00s. Billy's melodic songwriting and great voice make this album of some new and some old songs of his, a very happy listening experience. Shawn Camp (of Earls Of Leicester and of World Famous Headliners) guests as a co-writer, among others, which is not a surprise.
NATHANIEL STREET-WEST - BLUE COUNTRY (2017)
The comeback record of this blues-influenced singer-songwriter found him in Nashville, recording with a band of friends who are largely unknown to me, maybe with the exception of former Wallflowers drummer Fred Eltringham, who may or may not be here because the liner notes to this Americana rock record are not found on the CD version but only online, and I don't remember them all that well. Street-West is stunning on lead guitar yet again, and there are bluesy violins on this record, too. The title says country, but it's a blues influenced folk-rock record with deep songs. And a better album than his previous one which was performed by well-know studio musicians, on songcraft alone. If you're asking yourself where the great new rock music is made these days, check this out.
JACKIE GREENE - MODERN LIVES (2 EPs, Vol.1 and Vol. 2)
The folk rock singer/songwriter and now also ex-Black Crowes and ex-Trigger Hippy guitarist put out these two EPs of almost all original songs in 2017 and 2018, having played it all by himself. He is one of the best in the genre at this time and it shows.
I could write about more great albums from recent years here, but I've got other stuff to do now. It is rather likely that if I get replies to this posting and find them on my next visit, whenever that may be, I'm going to post some more recommendations. Until then: Enjoy!