Music Clean-Out Time!

Music: Summer Clean Out Time

Every year I get inundated with new releases in the spring and by mid-summer they've backed up like Friday afternoon on I-95. Here's a roundup of some things I want to let you all know about before mold grows and the leaves drop.

 My favorite among the bunch is the debut solo effort of Hugh Masterson, Lost and Found. Masterson' no neophyte; he's been a guy in the band with The Lone Bellow, Nikki Lane, Margo Price, and others. This taut six-song EP suggests he's spent his spare time productively. Masterson uses his whiskey-soaked voice to good effect and is more than capable of fronting a kick-ass band. But what really makes him stand out is his ability to take what life deals and turn it a really good country rock line. He got hit with a tire iron in a Milwaukee mugging and parlayed his wired-jaw downtime into the titletrack—a musing on how things turn on a dime. What's not to admire about tight prose like, I'm somewhere in the middle of lost and found? Or, From now on I'm living like I'm dying. There are Springsteen-like echoes in the pathos of "Small Town" and in his command of the band in "Show Me the Road." ★★★★      #HughBob

Think of a more pop version of Kate Rusby crossed with a younger version of Jewel, and you are in the right ballpark for Ellen Thweatt, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter who has sung backup for Carrie Underwood. As we hear on her debut EP Halfway in the Clouds, all she needs is a bit of seasoning and her backup days are over. "Airplane" has a catchy country feel. Also try "Butterflies," a bluegrass/pop mash. The latter shows her great promise and what's needed next: a bit of maturity to add depth that will give edge to the little girl tones. There is a lot of potential waiting to be unleashed. ★★★★

It's Country is the debut album from Levi Petree but it's only a partly descriptive title (and derives from a semi-ironic remark made by a friend). He's a Louisiana native, so he comes by his twang naturally. "The Rapture" is badass country, but of the frenzied kind that makes you understand why some have called him Johnny Cash combined with The Clash. Yet "Rockaway" captures that "small tune" essence that The Beatles used to great effect on the White Album. There's even a little torchy/slightly corny "Lover's Cove," which is analogous to those sensitive not-quite-ballads rockabilly artists used to cool the room temperature. This is a skillful debut.★★★★   

Cory Branan is a gravely-voiced singer whose observation is things aren't so good in the US of A for quite a few folks. His Adios explores discomfort as measured by the spectrum between screwed up and everyone dies. Try "Another Nightmare in America" (with Rodney Crowell and Dave Hause), with its gritty lyric: Ain't no use praying/There's no soul there to save/Boy you're just the difference/'tween a hole and a grave. You might want to check out "I Only Know" as well, which is about as close to happy as it gets on this album. ★★★   #corybranan

The Wild Reeds are an LA-based band anchored by three women (Kinsey Lee, Sharon Silva, Mackenzie Howe). They sometimes get saddled with female Crosby, Stills, and Nash analogies, but who wants to carry that kid of baggage? Their sophomore release is titled The World We Built. Their music is a mix of soft and hard—soft when the vocals are in play with an uptick in volume and instrumentation in the seams. "Only Songs" opens with a nostalgic look back at their youth (in the 1990s!), but leavened with experience born of bad decisions that left behind songs that contain as much truth as easy promises of earthly salvation. Cleverly, the song hints of a girl group pop 90s style. Moving on is also the theme of "Everything LooksBetter (In Hindsight)," which is based on a tried-and-true theme: love that didn't last and what, if anything, survives. Forget the CSN comparisons and just call this folk rock with harmonies and hard edges. ★★★ ½  #thewildreeds

Nathaniel Braddock comes to Cambridge, Massachusetts via Chicago and now teaches guitar at Passim School of Music. He has played with numerous groups, but has recently released a solo acoustic album titled Quadrille and Collapse. His sound is on the dreamy/contemplative end of the spectrum. Delicate tunes tend to be heavier on high notes with bass and low notes assuming drone-like qualities. Check out "The Desert Within," which is typical of the atmospherics contained on this recording. Its only downside is that it could use more diversity. ★★★

Speaking of atmosphere, Palm Ghosts is a project and debut record headed by Philadelphian Joseph Lekkas. It's a blend of pop, electronica, folk, and ethereal rock in which Lekkas' breathy vocals act as delicate ornaments within the mix. "Seasons" uses thumping bass and a repetitive keyboard groove to set a gauzy mood somewhat at odds with the song's flirtatious lyrics. "I Know You Won't Break My Heart" is similar in content and in hypnotic feel. Enjoyable and relaxing stuff, though some may find it more yogic than intoxicating. ★★★

If all this innovation makes you want to take a step back in time, try Going Home by Joe Newberry and April Verch, he of North Carolina via Missouri, and she of Canada's Ottawa Valley. They title track is a Si Kahn song, but it sounds like something that's been kicking around the backwoods forever. Ditto "WillYou Wait For Me," which Newberry and Verch co-wrote. If Newberry sounds familiar to you, you've probably heard him weave his old-time magic on an episode or two of Garrison Keillor's show. And when it comes to kick-up-you-heels fiddling, it's hard to top Ms. Verch. ★★★★

Rob Weir

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