The old saying goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” If there was ever an instance to contradict that statement, the cover of the Banditos’ Bloodshot debut would be it. Take a look at that cover and really let it sink in. Dig into the details and you know you’ll be getting a rollicking, rocking version of Barroom Americana.
Hailing from Birmingham, Banditos are the latest entry on the venerable Bloodshot roster. Discovered at SXSW ’14 by the Bloodshot crew in a venue, that Bloodshot co-founder Nan Warshaw remarked had “questionable sound. the 6-piece was back at SXSW this year making some real noise during the fest. I caught them at an outdoor stage on the first stage and they were everything I had imagined. Vocals alternating between three voices (Corey Parsons-singer/guitarist, Stephen Pierce-singer/banjo and Mary Beth Richardson-vocals), buoyed by the rhythm section of bassist Danny Vines and drummer Randy Wade and punctuated by the driving solos of Jeffrey Salter.
Overall the album has this booze-soaked feel to it, sort of like a Diamond Rugs record. The album opens with a can of whoop-ass with the trio of The Breeze, Waitin’ and Golden Grease that are meant to be listened to loud; preferably outside at a barbecue while drinking canned beer. A few tunes later, Still Sober (After All These Beers) is a tune that will leave John McCauley remiss that he didn’t think of first.
While a whole album of ramshackle Americana would be just fine by me, Richardson sprinkles in a few tracks where she slows things down sounding like she’s being backed by The Holding Company as opposed to these fine gentlemen from Birmingham. No Good and Old Ways go a long way to breaking up the non-stop party and giving the album some real feeling.
Based on the album cover alone, I thought I was going to love this album and it exceeded those lofty expectations. They are going to be on the road this summer and they are not to be missed. This band embodies the reason HearYa started up 10 years ago.
Michael Rault plays an infectious brand of psychedelia-tinged power-pop. Hailing from Edmonton and now residing in Toronto, Rault was lucky enough to have his music heard by the tastemakers that are Burger Records. As Rault joked in an interview, Burger is a bit of a cult with their fans. If you get the stamp of approval from them, chances are you’re going to pick up a whole new batch of fans. And while I might not be quite at cult status with Burger Records quite yet, I am flipping through their pamphlets on lonely nights.
But how do you stand out in a cult? Rault does that by mixing elements of 60s pyschedelia-tinged pop that leans towards the later Beatles catalog and giving a nod to the glam-rock era of T-Rex which adds up to a great listen.
After the aforementioned move from Edmonton to Toronto, Rault dealt with the normal anxiety of trying to make your mark in a new city. I can still remember the feelings I felt when I moved from NY to Chicago over 20 years ago. You’re as worried about where to find a good slice of pizza (Café Luigi) to finding someone to love (met my wife within 6 months). Rault digs into these with All Alone (On My Own), Suckcess and Real Love (Yeah) to name a few.
Living Daylight has been gracing my speakers for a couple of months now as Burger Records has delivered another winner. I suggest you get on board with Rault and Burger Records ASAP but HearYa never advocates joining a cult.
Dense. That’s the word that comes to mind when I listen to TORRES. After a spin of her latest, Sprinter, I feel like I’ve been hit in the guy with a medicine ball. Her music is powerful, raw and intense. It doesn’t let up for one minute. Its not meant to be listened to casually. You have to let yourself sink into it and let it envelop you.
TORRES is the moniker of Mackenzie Scott, a woman whom I’m tweeted the following about during SXSW, “TORRES looks like my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher but she certainly doesn’t sound liker her.”
Sprinter is the second album by TORRES and her first with Partisan. Strange Hellos starts the album off with a bang. The intro lasts about a minute before Scott kicks into gear with not one thought given to hiding the sheer contempt and hatred she has for this woman Heather. New Skin is the next track and it appears to deal with her Baptist upbringing in Georgia. Her new skin being the new life she’s leading. Its heavy shit as the outro she sings over squealing guitars confirms.
The darkness fears / What Darkness knows
But if you’ve never know the darkness / Then you’re the one who fears the most
Sprinter isn’t the album you play at a dinner party or to wind down after a long day. It demands your attention and you are rewarded if you give it. She’s getting all sorts of praise for this album. make sure to see her live as that you get to see another side of her that doesn’t come across on the album.
Recently I was having a conversation with some friends about what act they would like to play on their back deck or porch if giving the opportunity. Many good names were thrown out but the first act I thought of was Mandolin Orange. Comprised of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, the duo’s warm and inviting harmonies are backed by easy-going fiddles, banjos amongst other instruments. Sitting on a deck with a bourbon in your hand on a warm, muggy evening while listening to Mandolin Orange just feels right.
Such Jubilee picks up where the excellent This Side of Jordan left off. Emily had this to say about the new album, “All of these songs are definitely a product of being on the road, but they’re not about the road.”
The opening track, Old Ties and Companions, really spoke to me as someone who is getting close to hitting half-time on the game of like. As I settle into my mid-40s, a track that looks back on your friendships really resonates. Another track that resonates with me is Settled Down. I’ve been married 17 years this May. Settled Down has a line, “Moments, just fleeting times with little wings of gold / remind us of how real we find true love in every sign of getting older.”
Blue Ruin is a tearjerker that tackles the atrocity at Sandy Hook. Similar to the track, 12/17/12 on the latest by The Decemberists, the track leaves you frustrated and angry. “I was thinking about all those kids who wouldn’t be there on Christmas morning,” says Marlin. “People can get so heated and so serious about change and addressing gun violence when something that traumatic happens, but a month or two afterwards, they’ve all cooled down and it’s not in the forefront of their thoughts anymore. But two years later, those kids still aren’t around on Christmas morning and their parents are still dealing with that.”
Mandolin Orange aren’t turning the music world on its ear with some new musical style. What they are doing is writing wonderfully crafted tunes that will stand the test of time. They’ve been fine-tuned through countless tours which makes it all the more surprising that I’ve never seen them. They’re at Schuba’s tonight and as luck would have it, I have prior plans. Eventually I’ll rectify that situation; hopefully on my back porch.
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