Albums Of The Month – March 2023

Our Top Six Releases Mar 23

Sunny War – Photo: LTTL

Top Six Releases

March 2023

Our Top Six Releases Mar 23

By Rob Dickens

Cinder Well

Cadence

Free Dirt Records

21 April 2022

Cinder Well is Amelia Baker’s experimental folk project. To these ears, Baker’s voice is outrageously captivating, moody and evocative beyond the pale. When set against sparse and forceful string arrangements, it is overwhelming.

Cadence is still a way off its official release with only singles being issued to date (see clip for “Two Heads, Grey Mare” below). The new album is a potent follow-up to her 2020 predecessor No Summer (which was one of my top albums of that year).

The album’s name refers to the cycles of our lives. It was recorded at Hen House Studios in Los Angeles and, though California’s beaches are the backdrop of this album, old-time Irish folklore influences are evident. Baker expands Cinder Well’s sound to include percussion as well as trance electric guitar and expansive string parts courtesy of the alluring playing of Cormac MacDiarmada.

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Via Hearth PR

Iris Dement

Workin’ On A World

Flariella Records

24 February 2023

Speaking of distinctive voices! First, upfront, a few of my music colleagues are not as enamoured of Iris Dement‘s voice as yours truly, claiming there’s a bit too much twang for their tastes. I understand but don’t concur.

Workin’ On A World is, surprisingly, only Dement’s seventh album. She started songwriting for it in 2016 amidst the Trump era as an antidote to the turmoil and began recording in 2019 before taking a pause due to the pandemic and being dissatisfied with its evolution. Fellow musician (and stepdaughter) Pieta Brown encouraged her to complete the project.

Lyrically, it sure packs a punch, taking aim at gun control, wrongdoings by a past President and the general evils of the world. But there’s also a beautiful tribute to Mahalia Jackson, supportive statements about civil rights leaders and sound advice as to how to make this a better planet.

Musically there’s an engaging mix of gospel, country and blues. Key contributors are Richard Bennett, Brown and Jim Rooney.

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Lucero

Should’ve Learned By Now

Liberty & Lament/Thirty Tigers

24 February 2023

I was late to the party on Memphis rock/alt-country band Lucero. Now I’m like that last annoying shindig guest who doesn’t take the hint and hangs around despite everyone else around me being exhausted and just wanting some downtime.

Should’ve Learned By Now is the band’s twelfth studio release which finds them once again teaming up with acclaimed producer and Grammy Award-winning engineer/mixer Matt Ross-Spang. The perfectly-timed guitar licks and punchy rhythms are on show again, as is the dynamic blend of styles – cow punk, gritty soul, granular ballads and Southern rock. Lead singer Ben Nicholls has that oh-so-dusty timbre to his voice that adds authenticity to the narratives.

Yes, I’m still at that party and I ain’t leaving while they play Lucero.

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Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

Living In A Colour

Compass Records

10 February 2023

It was an unlikely but ultimately brilliant pairing – guitar maestro, smooth vocalist Trey Hensley, and multi-award-winning dobro bluegrass legend Rob Ickes – pays dividends again. They started working together in 2013, released their first collaboration in 2015 and signed to Nashville’s Compass Records soon after. When I saw the pair perform (for the first time) in 2016 at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, I was mesmerized by the unique blending of their skills.

Living In A Song features ten original tunes plus two covers, and is a paean to a bygone Nashville and that classic country sound, with some elements of bluegrass and Americana to spice up the diversity.

The pair re-enlisted Grammy-winning producer Brent Maher for the project (they worked together on the pair’s previous album release) and the three-man team wrote several songs together for this project, while also teaming up with other award-winning songwriters. Guests and collaborators include fiddle virtuoso Stuart Duncan and respected artist/songwriters Thomm Jutz (see below) and Lyle Brewer.

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Sunny War

Anarchist Gospel

New West Records

3 February 2023

Anarchist Gospel is Sunny War‘s first album since she signed to the significant roots label New West Records. Her distinctive voice (Joan Armatrading-like perhaps?) and individual finger-picking style are again to the fore.

The fourteen-song set was produced by Andrija Tokic and features appearances by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Allison RussellDavid RawlingsJack Lawrence of the Raconteurs, Micah NelsonJohn James Tourville of The Deslondes, Kyshona ArmstrongDennis CrouchThe School Zone Children’s Choir, and more.

All songs were written by War with the exception of “Baby Bitch” (Ween) and “Hopeless” (Van Hunt). The styles on display are pretty eclectic – country blues, serious folk, gospel, driving r ‘n’ b and even some experimental sounds – and it gives Anarchist Gospel an edge in maturity, joyfully adding to her previous catalogue.

This is a delightfully raw and tireless collection.

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Tim Stafford & Thomm Jutz

Lost Voices

Mountain Fever Records

3 February 2023

Thomm Jutz is pretty prolific. I know that because I started taking notice of him a few years back and quickly realised he was one of those artists who does a lot of things and always of the greatest quality (for me, like Will Kimbrough) – whatever they do, it’s going to be worthwhile.

Jutz and Tim Stafford are highly respected long-time friends and mutual admirers who started assembling an inventory of co-written songs during the COVID lockdown and beyond. Both songwriting craftsmen, it is to our benefit that the pair decided to record and release them.

The songs were developed in Jutz’s log cabin studio outside of Nashville with a high-end crew of the in-demand Shaun Richardson on mandolin, Ron Block (Union Station) on banjo, Tammy Rogers (Steeldrivers) on fiddle, and multi-Grammy winner Mark Fain on bass.

Stafford and Jutz recorded fourteen of their songs to create an album of tunes that the beloved, late music writer and historian Peter Cooper called “Songs that bring American history—mountain culture, steam trains, vaudeville, race, baseball, strife, and grace—to technicolor life.”

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Our Top Six Releases Mar 23

Our Top Six Releases Mar 23

Our Top Six Releases Mar 23

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Author: Rob Dickens

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