CD reviews: 'Dig Thy Savage Soul' a blistering album
By Jeffrey Sisk
Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 6:42 p.m.
‘Dig Thy Savage Soul'
Barrence Whitfield and the Savages (Bloodshot)
Between 1984-90, Boston's Barrence Whitfield & the Savages were riding high with their no-holds-barred approach to making music. Mixing, rock, soul and R&B, Whitfield & the Savages were a sonic force of nature. They called it quits after 1990's “Let's Lose It,” but Whitfield put together version 2.0 of the band a couple years ago and released “Savage Kings.” The new lineup has settled into a groove and it shows on latest CD “Dig Thy Savage Soul,” a blistering gathering of 12 tunes that might peel paint off your walls. Keepers include “The Corner Man,” “Bread,” “Hangman's Token,” “Blackjack” and “Turn Your Damper Down.” Good stuff.
‘The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976'
Various Artists (Omnivore)
Though not as well-known as Motown and Stax, Minaret Records churned out some of the best Southern soul and R&B of the late 1960s and early '70s. Omnivore has cobbled together “The South Side of Soul Street,” a two-CD set that brings together Minaret's soul singles in one grooving package. Big John Hamilton was Minaret's prized performer and he performs 20 of the set's 40 tracks. Hamilton is particularly scorching on “The Train,” “I Have No One,” “Pretty Girls,” “If You're Looking for a Fool” and “I Got to Get Myself Somebody.” Other performers include Genie Brooks (“Fine Time,” “Helping Hand”), the Double Soul (“Blue Diamonds”), Johnny Dynamite (“The Night the Angels Cried”), Willie Cobbs (“I'll Love Only You”), Doris Allen (“A Shell of a Woman”) and Willie Gable (“Row, Row, Row”). A must for those who love soul music.
Dog Party (Asian Man)
Sisters Gwendolyn (age 17) and Lucy Giles (14) are still in high school, but they've already embarked on a successful career in music as garage punk duo Dog Party. “Lost Control” is the Party's third full-length and shows the Giles sisters to be accomplished far beyond their years. The 13 tracks speed by in a brisk 31 minutes, but that's plenty of time to enjoy high-octane gems “How Are You Doing?”, “Cry,” “Best Friend,” “Gutters,” “Los Angeles,” “Why Don't You Tell Me” and “Alright.” These young ladies have a bright future.
‘Feed Your Soul'
Christa Wells (self-released)
Christa Wells isn't a household name, but the singer/songwriter has a loyal following. So loyal, in fact, they contributed $15,000 to her Kickstarter campaign to fund second full-length “Feed Your Soul.” The North Carolina-based musician is having a nice year. In addition to this solid 12-track offering, Wells and pal Nicole Witt scored with their debut as folksy duo More Than Rubies. “Feed Your Soul” is a nice showcase for Wells, who soars on keepers “Vanity Vanity,” the haunting “This Thing Is Not Going to Break You,” the title track, “You Are My Defense” and “Being Loved.”
Washed Out (Sub Pop)
How appropriate that Ernest Greene dubbed his solo electronic project Washed Out, because that perfectly describes the dreamy, atmospheric nature of the music he creates. Second full-length “Paracosm” has Washed Out delivering more of the same over the course of nine tracks and 41 minutes. Absorbing “Paracosm” in a single sitting is a bit of a challenge as the similar-sounding tunes start blending together. Highlights include “It All Feels Right,” “All I Know” and the title track.
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin (MCA Nashville)
Country icon Vince Gill and famed steel guitarist Paul Franklin have joined forces to pay tribute to the classic Bakersfield, Calif. sound with the aptly-titled covers album “Bakersfield.” Gill and Franklin dip into the songbooks of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard on the 10-track release. Among the many highlights are Owens tunes “Foolin' Around,” “He Don't Deserve You Anymore,” “Nobody's Fool But Yours” and “But I Do,” as well as Haggard gems “Branded Man,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “I Can't Be Myself” and “The Fightin' Side of Me.” Enjoy, y'all.
‘Rhythm & Blues'
Buddy Guy (RCA)
Legendary bluesman Buddy Guy has been doing his thing for more than half a century and shows no sign of slowing down with the release of “Rhythm & Blues,” a two-disc studio set that features collaborations with the likes of Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Beth Hart, Gary Clark Jr. and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. Even at age 77, Guy remains a premier artist and sizzles on “Best in Town,” “Messin' With the Kid” (with Kid Rock), “Well I Done Got Over it,” “The Devil's Daughter,” “Meet Me in Chicago,” “Too Damn Bad,” “All That Makes Me Happy Is the Blues” and “Poison Ivy.” This one's fantastic.
‘Fire & Fortune'
Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker (Navigator)
Folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker put their own spin on traditional English music on their “Fire & Fortune” debut. Clarke's crystalline vocals and Walker's acoustic guitar work dominate the 12-track release as the classically trained twosome deliver an album that serves up timeless tracks in “The Month of January,” “Another Perfect Love,” “My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose,” “Green Grow the Laurels,” “A Pauper and a Poet” and “When a Knight Won His Spurs.”
‘The Smurfs 2 (Music From and Inspired By)'
Various Artists (RCA)
Britney Spears' admittedly catchy new single “Ooh La La” is the centerpiece of the soundtrack to “The Smurfs 2” animated film. It's a 10-track collection of kid-friendly tunes (not surprising considering the film's target demographic) and has some definite pop appeal. In addition to Spears, there are winning entries from G.R.L. (“Vacation”), Owl City (“Live It Up”), Cady Groves (“Forget You”) and Buckwheat Zydeco (“Tutti Frutti”). Novelty act Right Said Fred embarrass themselves with closer “I'm Too Smurfy,” but all in all it's a record your kids should enjoy.
Selena Gomez (Hollywood)
Twenty-one-year-old former Disney darling Selena Gomez has, almost despite all odds, managed to carve out a respectable pop music career. “Stars Dance” is her fourth full-length and an admirable followup to 2011's surprisingly good “When the Sun Goes Down.” Hit single “Come & Get It” has been all over the radio for months and is the highlight of the 11-track release. Other keepers include “Slow Down,” the title track, “Save the Day” and “Write Your Name.” Now if she can just steer clear of Justin Bieber ....
Little G Weevil (Apic/Vizztone)
It's widely accepted that the blues are a distinctly American form of musical expression ... so, of course, a Hungary native has emerged as one of the stars on the modern blues scene. Go figure. Little G Weevil cleaned up at this year's International Blues Challenge and knocks it out of the park on third full-length “Moving,” his first all-acoustic release. Having written 11 of the 12 tracks, Weevil is more than a one-trick pony. His singing is better-than-average, but it's his guitar work that sets him apart. Now residing in Atlanta, Weevil scores with “Shook It and Broke It,” “Mean and Dirty,” “Moving,” “No Man in My Bed” and “Swing in the Middle.”
‘Don't Get Heavy'
Fur Trade (Last Gang)
A duo comprised of Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays aAnd the Gay Nineties' Parker Bossley, Fur Trade is putting a rough finish to the “yacht rock” sounds of the 1970s and early '80s that it loved so much. “Don't Get Heavy” is a flat-out terrific debut album, as Fur Trade serves up a dozen uniformly strong tunes that sound best with the car windows down on a hot summer afternoon. The title track launches the album in fine fashion and Bays and Bossley further impress with “Kids These Days,” “Glory Daze,” “In Between Dreams,” “Burning the Locals” and “Pleasure Bound.” Do yourself a favor and get involved in the Fur Trade.
‘The Savage Heart'
Jim Jones Revue (Punk Rock Blues)
My first exposure to the swaggering garage rock of the Jim Jones Revue came a couple years ago with the release of “Burning Your House Down.” The British collective is back with dynamic followup “The Savage Heart,” a bawdy gathering of nine tunes that pays homage to the likes of the Stooges and the MC5. Frontman Jim Jones struts his way through a 36-minute set highlighted by “Never Let You Go,” “7 Times Around the Sun,” personal favorite “Where Da Money Go?”, “In and Out of Harm's Way” and “Midnight Oceans & the Savage Heart.” Rock on, lads.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (self-released)
A long time has passed since Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were being touted as the best unsigned band in the world, but Alec Ounsworth & Co. are still at it. They ended a four-year recording hiatus in 2011 with the fantastic “Hysterical” and have a new album slated to drop in early 2014. To tide us over until then, CYHSY offer up “Little Moments,” a tasty four-track EP. The opening title track is one of their best compositions to date, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah also soar on “Heaven” and “Once.” Even remaining tune “Only Run” overcomes a ho-hum start. Looking forward to the full-length.
‘Hand on the Plow'
The Tillers (Muddy Roots Music)
Cincinnati indie folk trio the Tillers have cobbled together one of the year's best albums in “Hand on the Plow.” Mike Oberst and brothers Sean and Aaron Geil inject some punk rock sensibilities into the traditional old-time sound and the 11-track platter reaps the benefits. From the opening strains of “Old Westside” clear through to the final notes of “Weary Soul,” the Tillers miss nary a note. The guys are especially strong on “Shanty Boat,” “I Gotta Move,” “Tecumseh on the Battlefield,” “Long Summer Day” and “500 Miles.” Can't recommend this one highly enough.
‘High Moon Order'
Betse Ellis (Free Dirt)
Armed with her trusty fiddle, Arkansas native Betse Ellis takes a huge step forward with solid sophomore set “High Moon Order.” Ellis' longtime love of Ozark folk music is evident throughout the 13-track release, but Ellis manages to add elements of country, pop and even punk — check out her dynamite cover of the Clash's “Straight to Hell” — to showcase her versatility. Things get off to a nice start with “The Traveler,” and Ellis also scores with “Long Time to Get There,” “Elk River Blues,” “The Collector” and “Question to Lay Your Burden Down.” Enjoy, y'all.
‘Lost Souls & Locked Doors'
Rob Nance (self-released)
North Carolina native Rob Nance has built a loyal following in his home state and now looks to expand his fan base with first-rate folk-rock platter “Lost Souls & Locked Doors.” With an easy delivery and some deft work on mandolin and guitar, Nance serves up an 11-track winner. The opening tandem of “Ain't Losing Yet” and “Hands Like Mine” sets the bar high, yet Nance manages to match that level of excellence on “Wicked Away,” “Good Day to Swim,” “Louise,” “Light in the Dark” and “You've Got 'Em on the Ropes.” Keep an eye out for this guy.
Australian outfit goodbyemotel's four-track “People” EP, already a success Down Under, is now available on our shores in advance of this fall's full-length release “If.” Its anthemic pop tunes should have broad appeal — and lead single “Set It Off” was featured in a slew of TV shows (“Suits,” “Covert Affairs,” “Gossip Girl”) and an Australian Chrysler ad. None of the other songs measure up to “Set It Off,” though the slow-starting “Graham Calendar” comes close. Remaining tunes “Michael” and “Information” are OK, but not especially memorable. I'll be curious to hear what goodbyemotel does over the course of an entire album.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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