A shot across the bow of a popular music scene dominated by synth-pop and the emerging sounds of hip-hop, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1983 debut resurrected the notion of the axe-slinging guitar hero. Recorded in two days, Texas Flood was a solid mix of originals and crisp covers. Fresh off being David Bowie’s go-to axe-master on the Thin White Duke’s own smash ’83 outing Let’s Dance, Vaughan and his trio came roaring out of the gates with the self-penned “Love Struck Baby,” a quick shuffle with riffs echoing hints of Chuck Berry and T-Bone Walker. The remaining nine songs found the Texas native paying homage to Buddy Guy (a snappy reading of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) and Howlin’ Wolf (a rough and rowdy “Tell Me”) when he wasn’t showing off some fleet-fingered riffing on the Isley Brothers’ “Testify” or pouring some emotional playing and singing into the title cut originally performed by fellow Lone Star State bluesman Larry Davis.
The latest treat to emerge from the fertile musical crescent that is New Orleans is the Honey Island Swamp Band (HISB). Together nearly a decade after joining forces in San Francisco after getting displaced by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, this outfit is funky and feisty with plenty of twang. It’s the kind of quintet that will immediately appeal to fans of Little Feat and The Band while Zac Brown Band followers will immediately recognize the HISB as being creative kin. Overseen by veteran producer John Porter (B.B. King/Buddy Guy), these dozen songs are dripping with Americana influences. The rich heritage this outfit draws from includes honky-tonk (“Pills” featuring accompaniment by Willie Nelson harp blower Mickey Raphael), laid-back Allmans-flavored boogie (“Prodigal Son”) and even a sassy NOLA-kissed shuffle (“Johnny Come Home”). Elsewhere, elements of mandolin-trilling bluegrass overtures (“Miss What I Got”) and loads of sinewy swamp rock overflowing with slide guitar (“Change My Ways”) bubble to the surface. Cane Sugar winds up being a musically sweet dark horse for this year’s sleeper summer album.
The Honey Island Swamp Band will be appearing on August 16 at Sullivan Hall, 214 Sullivan St., NYC 212-477-2782 www.sullivanhallnyc.com
Normally the idea of pairing a musical elder statesman with an array of younger bucks reeks of pure marketing minus the thought of whether it’ll actually sound like some numbers cruncher was the impetus behind it (I’m looking at you, Carlos Santana). But in this case, it’s John Fogerty, whose creative integrity is as solid as the avalanche of work he’s created with Creedence Clearwater Revival and as a solo artist. Released on his 68th birthday, this project works thanks to the pairing of artists with the right songs and the idea that it was okay to go a little deeper into the CCR catalog. So while there’s familiar fare such as Fogerty ably keeping up with the Foo Fighters on a mondo aggressive take on “Fortunate Son” or uniting with Jennifer Hudson and Allen Toussaint on a Crescent City-flavored reading of “Proud Mary,” there are plenty more obscure but no less stellar moments on this project. A classic country reading of the title track featuring the unusual pairing of Miranda Lambert and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and a poignant version of “Someday Never Comes” is perfectly rendered with help from Dawes. Further, the two new songs, the most excellent road song “Mystic Highway” and the ominous yet twangy “Train of Fools,” prove there’s plenty of creative kick left in this mule.
When Blake Shelton made his controversial comments earlier this year basically saying traditional country music was for old farts, it’s clear that Miranda Lambert’s main squeeze won’t be inviting Dale Watson to his next cookout.
Not unlike peers Dwight Yoakam and Rosie Flores, Watson is a devotee of Bakersfield-inspired honky-tonk firmly imprinted by elder statesmen Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. And unlike the clean (read bland) pop-flavored fare currently falling off the Music Row assembly-line that’s passing for country music nowadays, these 14 songs about boozing and loving ring with considerably more authenticity.
When Dave Grohl shot the documentary Sound City, about the legendary and recently-shuttered recording studio in Van Nuys, CA, this ad hoc group came together and put out an album. Given Grohl’s broad musical appetite, it’s not surprising that this mix of odd creative bedfellows includes Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Stevie Nicks, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Fear frontman Lee Ving and former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic.
Having purchased the studio’s original Neve mixing board, the Foo Fighters mastermind invited all these artists into his home to record. Rather than cut a bunch of covers, Grohl and company instead went with all originals. The results are surprisingly good given the freewheeling nature of this project. Standouts include a surprisingly spry-sounding Springfield tearing into the aggressively Foo-like “The Man That Never Was,” Nicks’ Mac-kissed “You Can’t Fix This” and Ving’s punk-blues rant “”Your Wife is Calling.” Then there’s of course “Cut Me Some Slack,” essentially Nirvana fronted by Macca. Originally debuted at last year’s MSG Sandy benefit and subsequently played on Saturday Night Live, it’s a slice of raw yowling that finds the septuagenarian easily keeping up with his considerably younger bandmates. Thanks to the loose vibe on Real to Reel, this mash note to Sound City works on a few different levels.
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