Azel is the third album from Bombino, an international rock and blues musician from Niger. Following political and civil unrest in his homeland, Bombino taught himself how to play guitar and now,15 years later, is considered by many to be one of the finest guitar musicians in the world. His guitar work is simply brilliant on Azel, with the frantic energy to match any rock band and the blues sensibiliby of Jimi Hendrix. All the lyrics are sung in Bombino's native language of Tamasheq. He sings about both the geopolitical situation in Niger and Africa, along with extremely personal songs about love and friendship. The production is tight and simple, allowing Bombino's skill to shine, especially on tracks like "Iyat Ninhay / Jaguar (A Great Desert I Saw)," which feels like an endless, hypnotic stream of great guitar solos.
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The best way to describe Michael Nau's first solo LP, Mowing, is as an alternative indie-folk album that is about as eclectic as it gets. Everything is extremely stripped down and low tempo, leaving plenty of time for reflective lyricism that's laced with introspective observations. Nau's voice is as laidback as the skillful but simple instrumentation, never getting angry or excited, just crowing softly as the tune beats on. The best songs on Mowing are the more upbeat "The Glass," the emotionally resonant "Good Moon," and the funky single "Winter Beat." The album works best when you want to listen for relaxation; it won't pump you up, but it will settle you down smoothly and peacefully. Mowing isn't for everyone, but if you are into laidback indie folk, you can't go wrong with Michael Nau.
Headed by frontman Christopher Hunt, along with guitarist Ryan Shickman and drummer Billy Thompson, Gravy Nation began in 2014 right here in Davis and has since grown in popularity due to a solid live act and their first LP, the self-titled Gravy Nation. The rock band is reminescent of pop-punk groups like Better Than Ezra and Green Day but with greater pop sensibility that brings to mind 90s Britpop and classic rock from the late 60s and early 70s. Tracks include "Disconnected Brain," a funky, multifaceted alternative tune that demonstrates Gravy Nation's range and talent, and "It's Too Late," a breezy pop tune that is relaxing despite the grunge vibe that permeates the entire LP. The band knows how to crank out a righteous and angry punk tune, as illustrated by "Boredom Blues," whose lyrics convey the inherent insecurity and restlessness that comes with boredom, and "Day Wrecker," which might be the strongest song on the album thanks to it's anthemic guitar work and infectious bass. All in all, Gravy Nation is a dynamite first LP that bolsters the local music scene and shows fantastic promise for the band.
Jimmy LaFave has been recording music since the late 1970s, nearly four decades ago, and ever since, he has brought folk-country sounds reminiscent of legend Woody Guthrie to the music scene. Trail Three is no different in that regard, with Jimmy playing his guitar and singing with the passion of many artists that are decades younger than him--but also with the wisdom that comes with experience. Softer tracks like the reflective and peaceful "Secret Garden" and "I'm Thinking of You," a hopeful love song, reflect this wisdom, letting Jimmy craft stories around only his emotionally resonant voice and simple, acoustic melodies. The album contains a number of notable covers, including Eric Clapton's "Blues Power," a multitude of Bob Dylan tracks, including "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35," and The Band's "The Weight," all of which LaFave plays with his own style, making each song his own. Trail Three is a solid addition to LaFave's catalogue and would be an excellent piece in any folk-country collection, thanks to it's low-key sound and LaFave's obvious talent.
City Painted Gold is the third studio LP from bluegrass-folk band The Brothers Comatose, which will be released on March 11th. Between a solid couple of albums and a energetic live performance, The Brothers Comatose have inspired a loyal following that funded this album on Kickstarter, bringing it into fruition. The frontmen for the group are brothers Ben and Alex Morrison, who provide lead vocals for the band, with Ben on guitar and Alex on the banjo. The first song on the album, "Brothers," is a lively tune that delves into the relationship between the two men. Other members of the group don't dissapoint either, especially Philip Brezina, who plays a mean fiddle. Throughout the album, the energy level is kept high thanks to quick, foot-stomping rythyms and carefree, soaring vocals, most notably on standout tracks "Angelina," a contagiously hopeful love song, and "How the West Was Won," which through its lyrics and quick tempo paints an adventurous and chaotic picture of Manifest Destiny. City Painted Gold is an excellent album that will please fans and newcomers alike, and hopefully we will hear more from these five men soon.
The Blessing and the Curse is Lance Canales' sophmore solo LP, his first studio album since These Hands, which was released all the way back in 2008. Canales brings all the bluesy, down-to-earth Americana sound one could ask for on the album, armed mostly with a simple yet well-utilized acoustic guitar and a deep, rusty voice that makes other Americana singers sound angelic by comparison. The themes on the album are very remeniscent of southwestern pioneer life, most notably on songs like the uptempo lead track "California or Bust," "The Farmer," and "Deportee," a song about a Mexican immigrants in America. Thematically, the album gets very dark at times--especially on "Death Got No Mercy," which is as depressing and downtrodden as it sounds--but ends on an energetic high note with the electrifying "Stomp it Out." Overall, this album is very good if not particularly ubpeat--a solid Americana album that uses strong lyrical imagery to get its ideas across about the troubles of life in the American West.
Hurricane, released in 2013, is the third album by independent Mississippi duo R. Dyer and R. Thomas. The experimental-rock team dabbles in many sub-enres on this LP, even bordering on psychedelia, but they manage to stay grounded with a classic blues-rock guitar sound. On their more traditional tracks, they create a passionate atmosphere, with earthy vocals singing vague but thought-provoking lyrics. The best examples of this on the record are lead track "Butterfly" and title track "Hurricane," which provide six minutes of fun and inventive rock and roll. On the experimental side, the multilingual "Durare" and the wonderfully wonky "Delivery Pizza" bring new, unique sounds to the album. Overall, R. Dyer and R. Thomas manage to pack quite a few sounds and ideas into Hurricane, making the LP quite a fun and interesting listen for fans of many music genres.
Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail is Rod Piscott's sixth studio album in a career that spans an impressive 15 years. The album is pure down-to-earth Americana music, combining the charm and rural feel of country music and the rock sound of Bruce Springsteen. Rod Picott's soothing and earthy voice is at the musical forefront of the album, with an array of instruments filling in the rhythmic midtempo instrumentation, including a mandolin and slide guitars. The album has its quicker and louder moments, including the hopeful and reflective "Where No One Knows My Name." However, the album's best moments are the softer tracks, including the simple yet thoughtful "Bluebonnet" and "Mobile Home," which paint a realistic portrait of trailer-park life. Overall, Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail is very laid back--a relaxing and reflective album--perfect for long drives on quiet, sunny afternoons and a worthy addition to the collection of country, Americana, or acoustic-rock fans.
Pray for Rain is indie dream-pop group Pure Bathing Culture's second LP, following their 2013 debut album, Moon Tides. Pray for Rain is full of danceable beats and shimmering, rythymic guitars, which--combined with lead singer Sarah Versprille's dreamy and lofty vocals--creates a trancelike, even hypnotic sonic atmosphere. The album sounds consistently upbeat and rarely ventures far from its dream-pop structure, but its lyrics on tracks like "The Tower" and "Darling, Save Us" are thematically hefty, contemplating mortality and the fleeting nature of life. Other standout songs include title track "Pray for Rain," probably the most energetic track sung nearly entirely with rhetorical questions, and the thoughtful and laid back "In the Night, In the Peaceful Night," an excellent ending to a fine album. Pray for Rain is perfect for dream-pop fans--it's an enjoyable, relaxing, blissful album that will help you unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Symphonic Jazz Orchestra is a group of Los Angeles musicians who combine American jazz with the traditional format and sound of European orchestras. The group is heavily involved in the Los Angeles community, playing at auditoriums around the LA basin and investing lots of resources into teaching music in underfunded LA County schools.