We continue to receive several independent local releases every week, ranging from country to R&B to punk. We’re getting so many, in fact, that we have a hard time managing the flow, but we’ll try to run short notices as space permits. These are a few of the CDs that have crossed our transom lately:
Bare Jr., 1998 Live Custom Gauge Electric EP (Immortal) I haven’t seen these guys live yet, but if this brutal, four-song, live-in-the-studio EP is any indication, I’m missing a show that registers on a seismograph. Bobby Bare Jr.’s songs sound kinda reminiscent of Southern boogiethere’s always room for a twangy breakdown or a winding guitar solobut his throat-rending roar is more Joe Strummer than Jim Dandy, and his terse soccer-hooligan choruses cut off any threat of eight-minute jams. Plus, the fearsome interplay of lead guitarist Mike “Grimey” Grimes and distortion-pedal dulcimer player Tracy Hackney will send your average speed-metal band back to Mel Bay. Bonus points for the cool packaging, a tip of the E-string to Ernie Ball. Keep an eye out for the group’s full-length, Boo-Tay, due out soon. http://www.immortalrecords.com.
Big Al & the Heavyweights, Hey, Hey! Mardi Gras (Bluziana) Smooth blues from the Alligator school, given pep by a supple rhythm section and frontman Roguie Ray’s lungs-of-steel harp solos. Ray also contributed two of the best songs: the Cajun slow dance “My Heart Cries Out Your Name” and the harp workout “Sad Sad Day,” on which guitarist Tim Wagoner also shines. Business as usual, but business is good. (www.bigal.net)
Ray Driskoll & the Homewreckers, Hello, This Is Ray (Skronk Bonk) Hmmm. According to the liner notes, producers Brett Beavers and Mike Waldron first encountered the enigmatic Ray Driskoll singing Ernest Tubb songs in France. When they spotted him two years later fighting cops on Lower Broadhe was letting air out of the tires on Rick Trevino’s busthey supposedly hustled him into a studio just long enough to cut this six-song concept EP. Then he disappeared. Judging from the record, a pleasant mix of lush early-’70s country (“House of Pain”) and lite honky-tonk swing (“It Starts with a ‘B’ ”), he may have vanished back into the time warp from whence he cameif indeed he ever existed. Then again, if everyone else has gone country, it’s possible Thomas Pynchon has too. (P.O. Box 8420, Hermitage, TN 37076-8420)
Johnny Jones, I Was Raised on the Blues (Black Magic) Local blues-guitar legend Jones goes global on his new LP, cut for his sizable European audience by the Dutch label Black Magic. Not that there’s anything worldbeat about the material: This is meat-and-potatoes blues, the musical equivalent of the soul food Jones has dished out for years at the Modern Era. A concise soloist, he’s hotter on the uptempo hit-and-run numbers than on the seven-minute jams, but on “Baptism of Fire” and especially “Galloping Dominoes” he still flashes the chops that dazzled audiences 35 years ago. Get him some punchier tunes and grittier arrangements, and his next album’ll be a monster. (c/o Munich Records, Vadaring 90, 6702 EB Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Paul Kennerley, Misery With a Beat (Spinout) A real surprise. Fed up with country radio, hit Music Row songwriter Kennerleywho penned most of The Judds’ brightest singlesreturns to his British pop roots with a wholly engaging five-song EP of vintage pub-rock. He’s backed by a snappy band of studio pros, including Chad Cromwell, Billy Livesey, Harry Stinson, Richard Bennett, Michael Rhodes, and Rockpile’s secret weapon Billy Bremner; together they come up with a record Dave Edmunds (or Tom Petty) would be proud to call his own. If anything, it’s too perfect: The whole is slightly less than the sum of its parts, mainly because every song sounds like a ready-made single. (Linda Ronstadt already snapped up one of these tunes, “The Heartbreak Kind,” for her latest record.) Still, I’d love to hear moreand a live show is a must. Kudos to Eddie and Melanie Angel’s cool Spinout label. (4825 Trousdale Dr., Suite 368, Nashville, TN 37220)
J Mundok, Artichoke (Jack Kettle) Vocalist/guitarist/programmer J Mundok and keyboardist Susanne offer droning quasi-psychedelia on their 10-song CD, which consists almost exclusively of lockstep acoustic strumming, electronic swooshes, and Mundok’s nasal, Mike Mills-ish vocals. For fans of hidden extras, tracks 11 and 12 are approximately 20 seconds of silence apiece, followed by an unlisted instrumental cut that features Susanne’s xylophone over a reverb-heavy electric-guitar figure, a spooky synthesized whine, and what sounds like a sample of Chris Farley’s washed-up motivational speaker. It’s by far the most intriguing song on the record, and it suggests a different (and better) direction for the Murfreesboro duo. (www.mindspring.com/ ~kettle)
Shapeshifters, Alienated (Chowder Town) Glammy roots-rock from a Nashville foursome that swings for the back of the arena on its debut CD. The band’s at its worst on would-be headbangers like “Somebody Stop Me,” a metal anthem only a Ratt tribute band could love. But they improve immensely on “She Always Cries in Kingston,” a bitterly sardonic sketch of two lovers rotting their brains and ambition in a generic small town. Most surprisingly, their best numbers are the ones that indulge an amiably manic sense of humor, especially “What Did I Know (When Did I Know It)” and “Rock City.” In the latter, carny-barker frontman Brian Relleva hails Chattanooga’s most dubious tourist attraction above all those overrated national parks and monuments. “Mount Rushmore?” he screams with undisguised contempt. “What are those things...MAN-MADE?!?” Catch the band next Friday, Sept. 4, at The Sutler. (1812 Forrest Avenue, Nashville, TN 37206)
Suzanna Spring, Suzanna Spring (self-released) Left to her own devices, this promising country artist writes songs that are simple, evocative, and direct without resorting to stock tune-mill phraseology. Pair her with the likes of assembly-line hitmaker Kostas, however, and you get a veritable Cliché-O-Matic. (“Don’t need no crystal ball/To read the writing on the wall,” etc.) Which is too bad: She has an expressive, Emmylou Harris-like voice that would stand out on radio. (Of course, so does Emmylou Harris.) Cue up “Just This Side of Right” to see what she can do. (Contact Clyde Brooks at 353-7950)
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