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Archive | Album Reviews

Album Review: @SONNYBAMA Chronicles The Southern Struggle

In the American mind, the South often brings up images of military struggle or racial struggle, but rarely that of class struggle.

Yet, in his debut album The Long Way Home, Mobile, Alabama rapper Sonny Bama has become the voice for the South’s dispossessed working class, continuing the legacy of left-leaning Southern populists like Big Jim Folsom and Huey Long and invoking the culture of Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

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Album Review: Shannon McNally (@McNally) Gentle Persuasion


by Ben Greenman
via the @NewYorker

The death of Bobby Charles, in 2010, touched off a resurgence of interest in the work of the Louisiana-born singer-songwriter.

The standard obituaries focussed mainly on the swamp pop that Charles pioneered in the late fifties and early sixties; he wrote “See You Later, Alligator,” which was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets, and “Walking to New Orleans,” which was recorded by Fats Domino.

But longer appreciations also made room for assessments of the gently biting solo material Charles recorded in the early seventies, which sounded like Randy Newman fronting the Band. That solo work is at the heart of “Small Town Talk” (Sacred Sumac), a collaboration between the singer Shannon McNally and the pianist Dr. John.

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Whither Passionate Kisses? Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos


By David McGee
via Deep Roots

Pop-country with a bite. In a nutshell, that’s what Boston-based Juliet and the Lonesome Romeos are offering on No Regrets, the band’s debut album. But “in a nutshell” is hardly the way to describe the virtues of No Regrets, or to indicate the immense promise Juliet Simmons Dinallo holds in her roles as songwriter (or co-writer) and lead vocalist.

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Throwback Thursdays: Coop MC-Maximize Your Profits

Fort Worth, Texas AKA Funkytown has produced a number of outstanding rap songs from a number of local artists, including this all-time classic from Coop MC’s second album Currency, which was distributed by Select-O-Hits Music Distribution back in 1996. The record was slept on outside of Texas, and Coop MC, who seems to have never recorded again, has been undeservedly forgotten in recent years.

Throwback Thursday: The Bluebirds – First You Cry

This beautifully-exquisite deep soul single was written by Shreveport-based musical brothers Bruce and Buddy Flett, and was recorded by their band The Bluebirds on their debut album “Swamp Stomp” on Select-O-Hits’ new blues subsidiary Icehouse Records. “First You Cry” had the sound of a classic soul ballad, and was soon covered by Percy Sledge.

Riding I-10 With the X-Mob

“I-10” was a grimey hood anthem on the second album from Lake Charles, Louisiana rap group the X-Mob. The album, called Paper Chasing, featured a slicker production sound than their debut album, and Pimp C of UGK had done some production work for the album and offered advice.

Although the group would sign with Eazy E’s Ruthless Records, criminal charges led to their breakup, and nothing ever was released on Ruthless. One member, E-Vicious, changed his name to Vicious following his release from prison and has continued a solo career to the present.

Gearing up for the New Lil Keke “Heart of a Hustla”

Ready for the new Lil Keke album? Of course you are! Seventeen all-new tracks, and guest appearances from Paul Wall, Z-Ro, Slim Thug, Devin the Dude, Killa Kyleon and the Screwed Up Click. It’s going to be available everywhere on October 22, 2012.

By now you’re undoubtedly frantic with anticipation, so here’s a cool free mixtape download to make the wait go faster.

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Peter Cooper On Music: Phil Madeira offers ‘Hymns for the Rest of Us’

Nashville musician Phil Madeira was talking to a British friend.

The two men, both Christians, were discussing the differences in outlook that can arise between folks of the same faith, when the faithful are divided by a rolling, mighty ocean.

“I asked if believers in the U.K are as obsessed with sexual identity and politics as their American counterparts,” says Madeira. “He said, ‘No, mate, the scandal to us is that people are hungry.’ ”

That conversation stuck with Madeira, the son of a conservative Baptist minister and the producer and prime songwriting force behind a new compilation album called Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us. It’s an album of faith for uncertain spirits, a conversational collection based on the inclusive premise that God is love, and that love is more easily conveyed by kindness, attention and good deeds than by dogma and direction.

“I’m not trying to convert anybody to anything,” he says. “I’d like to believe there’s something out there bigger than myself. With each artist on this album, I’d say, ‘I’m not asking you to declare any particular belief, I’m just asking if you’d like to participate in the conversation.’ ”

Madeira brought in Emmylou Harris (he’s a member of her Red Dirt Boys touring band), Buddy MillerThe Civil Wars, Shawn Mullins, The Carolina Chocolate DropsCindy MorganDan TyminskiNorth Mississippi Allstarsand others for the album, due out Tuesday on Medeira’s own Mercyland Records.

“This joy that I’m chasing eludes my grasp,” sings close friend Miller on the Madeira-penned “I Believe in You.” “The answers seem lighter than the questions asked/ Can’t see much further than a week or two/ Whatever, whatever. … I believe in you.”

Mercyland exists outside of the Williamson County-based Contemporary Christian music industry. (An industry to which Madeira has contributed, working with Phil KeaggySteven Curtis ChapmanAmy Grant and many others.) Instead, it is the latest in a line of Americana explorations that includes Bob Dylan’s 1979 Slow Train Coming, Harris’ 1987 gem Angel Band (with Vince Gill on angelic high harmonies, if the angels in question are superb high tenor singers), and three new century wonders: Miller’s Universal United House of Prayer,Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church and David Olney’s recently issued EP, The Stone.

These are albums of intimation, nor proclamation.

“I believe in Christ and in the Christian story because of the way my father walked it out,” Madeira says. “But, I’m sorry to say, he was a rare bird. There have been very few ‘men of God’ like him that have blown my mind.”

One mind-blowing man of God, Rev. Will Campbell, currently resides in a Nashville nursing home. Campbell is the self-described “bootleg preacher” who often traveled around with country songwriter Tom T. Hall and esteemed novelist Alex Haley, and who was known to minister both to civil rights activists and to members of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Mr. Jesus died for the bigots as well,” was one of his controversial quotes. Another was his mantra, based on the notion that all people are children of a higher power, and as such as of equal value: “You love one, you got to love ’em all,” he’d say, over and over again, and that statement plays nicely with Madeira’s “God is love” idea.

Madeira and Campbell don’t know each other, but they share some ideas about inclusion and open-mindedness, about veering from well-paved paths, about embracing differences and seeking grace.

“Some religions seem to be, ‘My way or the highway,’ ” Madeira says. “I don’t need the boundaries to be so defined. I’m searching, and my process is open. I just want to believe that if there is a god, I want to trust that God’s process is gracious. I’m a guy haunted by faith, trying to live faith.

“Someone asked me if this is a Christian record, and I said, ‘Absolutely not?’ Now, is it a gospel record? Well, the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ So, yeah, maybe it’s a gospel record. But (improvisational jazz master) Thelonious Monk, he’s good news, too.”

Reach Peter Cooper at (615) 259-8220 or
(from The Tennesseean-Nashville TN- 4/23/12)

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