Sunday, April 22, 2018

Odin at Whisky A Go Go, 4-21-18 Concert Review

It had been just about a year since Odin last played the Whisky A Go Go, and fans were eager for a good dose of hard rock and roll from the band immortalized in the documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Last night’s concert seemed to come at a perfect time. After all, it was Record Store Day, and the show was held, at least in part, to celebrate the special vinyl re-issue of Don’t Take No For An Answer, a six-song EP originally released in 1985. You didn’t have to wait in line for hours at a store to get a copy of this particular record; they had it for sale at the merchandise booth at the show. By the way, this new re-issue has a great look, a red and black pattern to the vinyl (yeah, I am a sucker for colored vinyl). The show also came at a time when the band seems re-energized and excited about playing, about moving forward. Lead singer Randy O is working on a solo album, and based on the tracks I’ve heard (particularly “Black And White”), it’s going to be excellent. And the band has added a song to the set list, one I hadn’t seen them perform live before. Who knows what other songs they’ll break out in the months to come? (I’m hoping for “The Writer.”) This is certainly a good time to catch this band.

When I arrived at the venue last night, the second of five opening bands was playing. Yeah, having five opening bands is a bit much. I am getting old, I know, but so was everyone in the place. And by 10:30 p.m., I was feeling a bit drained and ready for Odin to go on. But there was still one more opener to go. There were several familiar faces in the crowd. There really is a nice little community here, and most people were enjoying themselves (I did later see security having to deal with one guy, which surprised me). One woman was completely rocking out on the floor during the openers, moving all about like a dizzy angel, spreading cheer to everyone around her. At one point she threw her shirt over her face and moved about by instinct. Metal chicks are of a particularly cool breed. One thing I like about metal fans is that they don’t limit themselves to just one type of music. I got into a conversation with one guy about Earl Scruggs, for example. Anyway, it was a good crowd, and the floor was filling up before Odin took the stage.

Flowers were placed at the lip of the stage, and petals were strewn over the stage just before Odin came down to start the set. They began at 11:50 p.m. (following a brief “Odin” chant), and there was no messing around. They got right to the music, opening with “One Day To Live.” The line “The end of our days is in sight” might have more meaning in these dark days of Donald Trump. The band had a terrific energy and excitement last night, and “12 O’ Clock High” was particularly awesome. Randy checked in with the audience after that one, asking if everybody was okay. Hell, yeah! The crowd was pumped. And after “Over Your Head,” the band mentioned the vinyl re-issue. Several people in the audience had the record, and the band had signed a few copies backstage before the set. “Push” had a tremendous energy, like an explosion moving everyone forward, certainly one of the highlights. All four members of the band – Randy O, Jeff Duncan, Shawn Duncan and Aaron Samson – were delivering the goods last night, and Shawn launched into a cool drum solo leading into “Don’t Take No For An Answer.” This band really knows how to engage an audience, which was especially noticeable during a song like “Don’t Take No.”

It was great seeing Odin do “She Was The One,” a song I hadn’t seen them perform before. This song was included on both the band’s 1987 EP The Gods Must Be Crazy and the 1988 LP Fight For Your Life. I hope they continue to pull out other tunes and mix up the set list at future shows. “She Was The One” was followed by “She Needs My Love” and then “Little Gypsy.” Last summer, Odin played a show down in Fullerton, where they were joined on stage by Lit members Jeremy Popoff and A. Jay Popoff during “Shining Love.” Last night Jeremy again joined them for “Shining Love,” which closed out the set. Before the song, he told the crowd that when he was fourteen, fifteen years old, he had been in the audience at that very venue, seeing Odin perform. The encore was “Judgement Day,” which came on strong with that great punk beat. The show ended at 12:57 a.m.

Set List
  1. One Day To Live
  2. Midnight Flight
  3. 12 O’ Clock High
  4. Over Your Head
  5. Push
  6. Modern Day King
  7. Don’t Take No For An Answer
  8. She Was The One
  9. She Needs My Love
  10. Little Gypsy
  11. Shining Love 
Encore
  1. Judgement Day
Here are some photos from the show:


The Whisky A Go Go is located at 8901 Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, California.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Record Store Day: April 21, 2018

I have a lot of records and CDs that I haven’t yet listened to, but that didn’t stop me from going out and getting more records today. After all, it’s Record Store Day. I had gone through the official list of releases online, and written down thirteen records I wanted to own. Then I narrowed that down to seven that I hoped to purchase.

This was my list:
  • Grateful Dead: “Fillmore West 2/27/69” 4 LP set
  • Jerry Garcia: “Run For The Roses”
  • The Honey Drippers/Brotherhood: “Impeach The President/The Monkey That Became A President” 7-inch
  • David Bowie: “Let’s Dance” 12-inch single
  • The Submarines: “Honeysuckle Weeks” LP
  • various artists: “Boston Hardcore ’89-’91” LP
  • various artists: “Hillbillies In Hell: Volume 666” LP
I got in line at 7:30 a.m. (Freakbeat Records opens at 11 a.m.), and there were already twenty people ahead of me, maybe twenty-five. At 9 a.m., the guy came around to collect each person’s number one pick. I went with the Grateful Dead box set. Though it’s probably the easiest item on my list to obtain (more copies were pressed of this one than of any of the others), it’s also the most important to me. And there were too many folks ahead of me in line to risk choosing something else. Not that everyone ahead of me was likely to be a Dead fan, but you never know. The way I figured it, if I walked away with only the Grateful Dead box, the trip would be worth it.

And this time we were treated to some live music while waiting in line. Just before 10 a.m., Dylan Gardner did a quick soundcheck, and just after 10, he began his set, playing songs from his two albums, as well as one Beatles cover. He was accompanied only by a guy on caj√≥n. Some of his fans came out just for his set; they weren’t even in line to buy any records. After his first song, Dylan mentioned that Freakbeat was one of his favorite records stores, and that his new record, Almost Real, had just come out. A little later he said that he had played for people in line two years ago, but that the line this year was much longer. Funny, I don’t recall him playing two years ago. I don’t remember there ever being live music while in line. Did I somehow miss Record Store Day one year? Or has my memory finally disappeared entirely? You know, I am starting to get a hazy recollection of being sick one time and not being able to get out of bed, so sick that I did not care what I was missing. Well, no matter. My favorite song of his set was “The Way It Goes,” a quieter number.

Dylan Gardner Set List
  1. Can’t Stop Thinking
  2. I’m Nothing Without You
  3. Sign Language
  4. Too Afraid To Love You
  5. You Got That Thing
  6. Ticket To Ride
  7. The Way It Goes
  8. Hit Me With The Lights Out
  9. Let’s Get Started
  10. I Want It Like That
As he started his final song, the line began moving. I love when they open a little early, and this time they opened the store twenty minutes early. I was actually inside the store before 11.

Of the seven items on my list, I got three (they didn’t have the others). Besides the Grateful Dead box, I was able to get the Jerry Garcia record and the David Bowie record. The total came to $113.30 (the Grateful Dead box itself was eighty dollars). In the early years of Record Store Day, we’d get a lot of free goodies in our bags. I guess those days are gone. There still was a handy tote bag with the date on it. But the only giveaway inside it was a white flexi-disc by Las Rosas. Still, I’m happy to have the three things that I was able to purchase. In fact, I think I’ll be putting on that Jerry Garcia record now.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Lloyd Green And Jay Dee Maness: “Journey To The Beginning: A Steel Guitar Tribute To The Byrds” (2018) CD Review

The very first folk, or singer/songwriter, concert that I attended (or that I recall attending, anyway) was Roger McGuinn, of The Byrds. I was a teenager, and the show was at The Old Vienna Kaffeehaus (a venue that no longer exists) in Westborough, Massachusetts. It was that show, back in the late 1980s, where my passion for folk music really began in earnest (Ellis Paul was the opener). And it was around that time that I purchased Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Before that, the only Byrds album I owned was Greatest Hits (a compilation which had come out before Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and so contained none of that material). Anyway, Gram Parsons had just joined the band, and the sound of this album was a whole lot different from the band’s earlier releases. The record also featured two steel guitar players – Lloyd Green and Jay Dee Maness. Both have since gone on to pretty damn good careers, and now they are revisiting that material on their new album, Journey To The Beginning: A Steel Guitar Tribute To The Byrds, an excellent and beautiful instrumental tribute to that record (Sweetheart Of The Rodeo turns fifty this year). And for you fellow vinyl enthusiasts, the album is being released on vinyl tomorrow as part of Record Store Day.

This release presents the songs in the same order as the original album, with one addition – a vocal reprise of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” at the end. So it begins with “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” the album’s most famous track, which was also released as a single. The song is one of several Bob Dylan tunes that The Byrds covered over the years. By the way, joining Lloyd Green and Jay Dee Maness on this release are Russ Pahl on guitar, Dennis Crouch on bass, John Gardner on drums, Sam Bush on mandolin and fiddle, Eugene Moles on guitar, Al Perkins on guitar, Sally Van Meter on Dobro, Earl Poole Ball on keys, Skip Edwards on keys, and Peter Wasner on keys. They have several vocalists joining them for that final track: Jim Lauderdale, Herb Pedersen, Richie Furay, and Jeff Hanna. On backing vocals are Matraca Berg, Jim Photoglo, Bill Lloyd and Marc Lacuesta. Not a bad group of musicians and singers, eh? The focus, of course, is on the steel guitar, and these guys do some delightful work on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” This music is making me happy, something I appreciate more and more in these dark days of Donald Trump.

“I Am A Pilgrim” was also released as a single, though I don’t think it fared all that well on the charts. This version features some nice work on fiddle by Sam Bush. One of my favorite tracks on this release is “The Christian Life,” which surprises me because it’s not a particular favorite of mine from the original record. I always liked it, but never loved it. I am loving this rendition. My favorite track from The Byrds’ album has always been “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” and the version here is certainly another highlight. Perhaps the most fun track on this album is “Pretty Boy Floyd,” with that delightful exchange between fiddle and guitar. But each track offers its own delights and surprises, and I find myself smiling through the entire album. Perhaps especially during “Blue Canadian Rockies,” and when you hear it, I imagine you’ll be smiling too.

The original Byrds album ends with “Nothing Was Delivered,” another Bob Dylan song, which offers this sound advice, “Take care of your health and get plenty of rest.” Of course, this version doesn’t contain that line, but listening to this album will help with your health, at least soothing your soul. And, as I mentioned, this release doesn’t end there. We get another version of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” this one with vocalists joining in. Jim Lauderdale, Herb Pedersen, Richie Furay (of Buffalo Springfield and Poco), and Jeff Hanna (of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) each sing lead on a verse. The Byrds’ rendition of this song includes a mistake in the lyrics, with the line “Pick up your money, pack up your tent” being sung as “Pack up your money, pick up your tent.” Interestingly, that error is duplicated here. So they are really sticking to The Byrds’ album. It’s a wonderful rendition, and a perfect ending to this album.

CD Track List
  1. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
  2. I Am A Pilgrim
  3. The Christian Life
  4. You Don’t Miss Your Water
  5. You’re Still On My Mind
  6. Pretty Boy Floyd
  7. Hickory Wind
  8. One Hundred Years From Now
  9. Blue Canadian Rockies
  10. Life In Prison
  11. Nothing Was Delivered
  12. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Vocal Reprise)
Journey To The Beginning: A Steel Guitar Tribute To The Byrds is available on CD, and is being released on vinyl tomorrow as a Record Store Day limited release. By the way, if you live in Nashville, you have a chance to catch Lloyd Green And Jay Dee Maness performing as part of the Record Store Day festivities.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs: “Clippety Clop” (2018) CD Review

Certain things always excite me, such as going to a Red Sox game, seeing a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, and the release of a new album by Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs. It’s been two and a half years since the duo’s last release, Coulda Shoulda Woulda. Boy, time is just barreling on, isn’t it? Well, Clippety Clop, the new album, has that same great raw and totally delightful sound I’ve come to expect (and rely on), country and folk music with a punk attitude. It’s like back porch music if the porch is attached to a house that contains a gate to hell in the basement and a gate to heaven in the attic. But this album is different from earlier releases. For one thing, it has something of a theme running through it, with the songs all being related to horses and mules, with the rhythm of horses sometimes incorporated into the songs. The other thing that sets this one apart is that the songs are covers.

They open the album with a wonderful rendition of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mule Skinner Blues” (here simply titled “Mule Skinner”). They give it a cool rhythm and their own spin, singing, “I like to work/I’m working all the fucking time/I can carve my initials/On a mule’s behind.” But it is the instrumental section that follows those lines that makes me so goddamn happy, and gets me moving. This is a fairly short version, just over two minutes, but it’s really good. That’s followed by “Two White Horses,” a traditional song that has been often done as a blues tune. This rendition by Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs is more lively and playful (like in the way they use percussion on the “church bell” line).

They then go to a more recent song, the Bad Livers’ “Horses In The Mines,” a slower, bluesy number. This song was the title track to the Bad Livers’ 1994 album (I was hosting a folk and acoustic radio program at that time, and I remember we played this album a lot). That’s followed by Paul Siebel’s “Pinto Pony,” originally included on his 1971 record Jack-Knife Gypsy. I like what Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs do with this song, particularly in the instrumental section. I dig that guitar. And they playfully add their own impression of the “shootout in the cantina,” which made me laugh. They also deliver a good rendition of Belton Sutherland’s “Kill The Old Grey Mule,” which is sometimes titled “Old Grey Mule” and here is titled “Kill Grey Mule.”

One of my favorite tracks is their version of “I Ride An Old Paint,” perhaps the most famous of the songs chosen for this album. It’s been covered by folks like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Linda Ronstadt. This rendition by Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs is more lively than most versions, with a wonderful raw edge. It’s more fun than other versions I’ve heard, and is just a total delight. It’s followed by another fun number, “Jinny Mule.” While this rendition is not quite as delicious as the version by Big Maybelle, it is still a highlight and features one of my favorite vocal performances of the album. Another well-known tune chosen for this release is “Stewball,” a song that’s been covered by Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary, among others. This version is quite a bit different from most other versions, with some prominent percussion. I really like the way they approach it. The album finishes up with “Mule Train,” a tune which has been done by folks like Frankie Lane and Bing Crosby and Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the song that gives the album its title. And as you might expect by now, this version by Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs stands apart from all earlier renditions, and is seriously cool. It’s actually a bit slower, meaner than a lot of other versions I’ve heard.

CD Track List
  1. Mule Skinner
  2. Two White Horses
  3. Horses In The Mines
  4. Pinto Pony
  5. Black Horse Blues
  6. Kill Grey Mule
  7. Carpet Of Horses
  8. I Ride An Old Paint
  9. Jinny Mule
  10. Stewball
  11. Strawberry Roan
  12. Mule Train
Clippety Clop is scheduled to be released on May 4, 2018 on Transdreamer Records.

Lunden Reign: “Confessions” (2018) Record Review

Okay, I admit that I am a sucker for colored vinyl. And Confessions, the new record from Lunden Reign, is offered in an incredibly appealing aquamarine shade, with a slight marbled quality. Basically, it’s beautiful. One thing I love about records is the physical relationship it creates between you and the music. And the colored vinyl just makes that relationship even more enjoyable. All right, enough about that. Lunden Reign is a Los Angeles rock band, the core of which is the duo of Nikki Lunden on lead vocals and guitar, and Laura Espinoza-Lunden on guitar and keys. Both contribute material to the new album, which is the band’s second full-length album, following 2015’s American Stranger. Luis Maldonado, who produced the album, plays guitar, bass and keys (and also co-wrote the music). Also on bass are Mathew Denis and Devin Hoffman; on drums are Matt Lucich and Noel Jasso.

Side 1 kicks off with “Stardust Daze,” a strong and positive rock song in which Nikki Lunden sings “We have to find a way/We’ve got to find our way/We’re living in the face of dreams/And everything we’re living for/Is something that’s worth fighting for.” The vocals are delivered with passion and honesty. This is a song I like more each time I listen to it. It’s followed by “Confessions,” the record’s title track. This one is a harder song, with more of an uneasy edge, and it grabs me from the start. I absolutely love the vocal line on this one. It’s interesting that revealing one’s self is akin to confessions.

The first lines of “Coming Home Tonight” are “For days I’ve been so haunted by/Your fierce embrace/And bewitching eyes,” and there is something haunting in the vocal delivery. Then, when it kicks in for the chorus, it becomes more firmly rooted in the pop realm. This song features some unusual lyrics, like these lines: “A portrait of a charcoaled girl/Drawn on sheets on a tilt-a-whirl.” (My friend once vomited on a tilt-a-whirl, and tried to hold it in his mouth, and every time we’d pass by the guy running it, my other friend and I would shout out to him to stop it. The guy ignored us, and eventually, well, my friend couldn’t keep it in. I haven’t been on a tilt-a-whirl since. Okay, slight digression there. Sorry.) “Coming Home Tonight” is followed by “Red Wagon.” In this one, they sing “And we can’t go back to yesterday.” That’s true, and yet this song itself takes me back to an earlier time. Something about its sound makes me feel like I’m a child again, and that’s part of the point of the song. No, we “can’t return to yesterday,” but we can certainly revisit the way we felt then. Likewise, “Little Girl,” which concludes the first side of the record, might take you back. There is something of a 1980s rock thing happening, which I like.  I also really like the way Nikki approaches the vocals, particularly on the chorus. This one also has a positive vibe, urging us to not give up, with lines like “And the sky/Won’t fall upon you this day/And the moon/Will shine until a new day/Comes to me and you.”

Side 2 opens with “Fate Of The World,” rock song of a certain, heavier mood. “These modern day times/Such criminal minds/We’re led into a dark story.” That is true, though I’m doing my best to not let myself be pulled down into it. It’s difficult to separate yourself, to not be affected, isn’t it? This song obviously has something to say about our world, our current situations. Lines that stand out to me as being particularly pertinent are “They’re spewing out lies/Dreams to start to unwind” and “They led us along/Why didn’t we care?” That’s a big question I have these days, even as I try to care a little less myself, in order to keep from completely succumbing to despair or anger. Ah, where is that line? To be informed and concerned with being inflamed and consumed. “Never Ending Dream” takes place in this same dark world, but has a slightly more romantic bent. “Hold me tight so I can sleep/When I wake I want to be/In your arms where I don’t care/If my ghost brings me despair.” How about those lines?

“Dead Man Walking” is a fairly powerful song about the dangers of hard drugs. Nikki gives a passionate, angry vocal performance, and the vocals are what sell the song. “The desperation in his eyes/Believing in the needle’s lies/Fingernails scratch down his spine/Wasted by the demon spies.” Then “Thunder Or The Rain” has heartache and a sense of powerlessness, though you get the feeling she finds strength even in those powerless moments. The album finishes with “Faded Memories,” which hooks you immediately with that guitar part, which has a bit of punk to its style. “Time cuts deep/Recollections bleed/Tearing pages from a book/That you will never read.” A strong finish to a really good record.

Track List

Side 1
  1. Stardust Daze
  2. Confessions
  3. Coming Home Tonight
  4. Red Wagon
  5. Little Lost Girl
Side 2
  1. Fate Of The World
  2. Never Ending Dream
  3. Dead Man Walking
  4. Thunder Of The Rain
  5. Faded Memories 
Confessions was released on vinyl on April 14, 2018.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kelly Z: “Rescue” (2017/2018) Record Review

For more than two decades now, Kelly’s Lot has been pumping great original blues and rock music into Los Angeles. Now lead singer Kelly Zirbes, under the name Kelly Z, offers an album of covers, Rescue. These tracks were recorded in 2011 and, according to the note on the back of the album cover, left unfinished. This, of course, isn’t the first time Kelly has covered other artists’ material. There are quite a few covers on Pastrami & Jam, for example. But this record is something different. First of all, it’s not a Kelly’s Lot release, though of course Perry Robertson does play on it. This album features mostly a classic sound, complete with a horn section and back-up singers (including the excellent Teresa James).

The record kicks off with “What Do I Have To Do To Prove My Love To You,” here shortened to “What Do I Have To Do,” a great funky number written by James Brown and Marva Whitney, and originally recorded by Marva Whitney. This version by Kelly Zirbes has a classic sound, with raw energy, and is a whole lot of fun, with Kelly belting out those lyrics. And I dig those backing vocals. Even though it is a studio recording, it has a live feel. That’s followed by a good rendition of “Baby It’s You,” written by Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams, and originally recorded by The Shirelles. This version by Kelly Z is much closer to that by Smith, who had a hit with it in 1969. I particularly like the work on horns here, and that cool (though brief) lead guitar part (that’s Perry Robertson on guitar).

Kelly then slows things down with “You Don’t Realize,” a wonderful song released by The Electric Flag in 1968, and written by Michael Bloomfield. This is an excellent rendition. Man, I love those horns. Roy Wiegand joins on trumpet on this track. It is Kelly’s vocal work that is the focus here, and at times it is absolutely gorgeous, while other times powerful. That’s followed by “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine.” Okay, the “Yes, dear” at the beginning caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud. It had been a while since I’d listened to the Ike & Tina Turner recording, and had forgotten about Ike’s part. (In that version, it was “Yes, Tina.”) Here Perry Robertson does that part, giving us his best Ike Turner. This is a playful number, and Kelly deliberately holds back here, which works well with the song. This version has an early sixties rock and roll sound, along the lines of the original, which was released in 1961, and then those backing vocals are wonderful.

Kelly Zirbes kicks off side 2 with another Ike & Tina Turner song, “Trying To Find My Mind” (though the lyric is “I’m trying to find my mind,” the tune was titled “I’m Looking For My Mind” on the Ike & Tina Turner records), a rockin’ tune that comes on strong. Kelly is certainly not holding back here, but letting loose, showing that great raw power her voice has. This track has a strong ‘70s rock song sound. Chuck Kavooras plays slide guitar on this one. I love when Kelly rips into a lyric, but I also appreciate when she finds those sweeter tones, as she does on Harlan Howard’s “He Called Me Baby,” particularly at the beginning. Of course, the sound builds from there, her voice rising especially as the horns do, which is wonderful. This rendition has more soul and is less country than most versions, and ends up being one of my favorite tracks. I dig that part on keys.

Then we get into some very cool funky soul with a rendition of Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing.” I love that bass. This version has the sound and vibe of a great Stax recording. “If you feel like you want to scream/’Cause that’s your way of letting off steam/Scream on, scream on.”  I do, I do, nearly every day since November of 2016! This track features some cool work on guitar too. The album then concludes with an unusual take on Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine.” She gives this delicious rendition a meaner vibe. And I love those bursts of horns. I don’t think you’ve heard a version quite like this before.

Track List

Side 1
  1. What Do I Have To Do
  2. Baby It’s You
  3. You Don’t Realize
  4. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine
Side 2
  1. Trying To Find My Mind
  2. He Called Me Baby
  3. Do Your Thing
  4. You Are My Sunshine
Rescue was released on CD on October 6, 2017, and on vinyl on January 18, 2018. Though it’s available on CD, I recommend getting it on vinyl. It just feels right to listen to this one on vinyl. You know? If you don’t have a record player, this is a good time to get one. After all, Record Store Day is this Saturday.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Joyann Parker: “Hard To Love” (2018) CD Review

If you want music with a whole lot of soul and passion, music that can move your heart one moment, then move your feet the next, check out the new release from Joyann Parker, Hard To Love. The album features all original material, written by Joyann Parker and Mark Lamoine. The songwriting is strong, with lots of good, memorable lines, like “You go to sleep in the driver’s seat, but you wake up in the trunk” in “Bluer Than You.” Joyann, in addition to lead vocals, plays guitar, piano and trumpet on this release. Joining her are Mark Lamoine on guitar and backing vocals, Tim Wick on piano and organ, Michael Carvale on bass, and Alec Tackmann on drums and percussion.

The album has a strong start with “Memphis,” a good mean bluesy gem about moving on, and saying good riddance to someone and not looking back. “No regrets, no time to spare/Now I’m moving on/By the time I get to Memphis/You’ll be gone.” She sure isn’t shy, or pulling her punches, using phrases like “poison oozing out your mouth,” and belting out the lines, getting the anger out of her system through music and through movement. “Gotta keep on rolling, keep on rolling, gotta keep on rolling on down.” Yes, we all need to keep on rolling. That’s followed by “Envy,” which has a familiar, classic R&B sound and rhythm, with good work on keys. In this one, she misses her previous lover, wondering if he is doing the same things with his new girl that he did with her. “Do you touch her like you touched me/Do you hold her body close to yours as you sleep.” What’s interesting is at the end, she is also wondering about the other woman’s reactions to his love. “Do you move her like you move me/Do her eyes light up with fire when you meet/And does her heart pound in her chest when she hears you speak/And does her soul burn when she hears you sing.” Ah, she still has it bad for this guy, and she seems to think that maybe he still feels something for her.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again here: I need to make a mix CD of songs titled “Home.” I’ve never heard a bad song with that title. And Joyann Parker’s “Home” is no exception. In fact, it’s one of my personal favorite tracks on this CD. It’s a beautiful, moving, uplifting R&B number. “We’re only here, we’re only here for such a short time/But the journey, the journey can feel so long/When life ain’t all that you hoped for/And your whole world, your whole world is upside down.” She concedes that there are troubles, but the song is full of hope. And isn’t that what we need? She delivers an excellent, lively, passionate vocal performance. And I dig that lead guitar part halfway through. This song just gets better and better, building to a powerful ending. (If you’re curious about other songs titled “Home,” check out songs with that title by Ellis Paul, Erica Blinn, Michelle Malone, The Evangenitals, The Spongetones, The Ides Of March, Joe Walsh, Iggy Pop, James Houlahan, Janiva Magness and Anton Fig.)

“Dizzy” is a fun, rockin’ number to get you on your feet. Then Gunhild Carling joins Joyann Parker on horn for “Who What When Where Why,” a groovy and energetic tune about a woman with questions. “Who am I to you/What did you think you were going to do/And when will you ever be free/Where is the life you promised I’d see/And why oh why oh why do I cry/For a guy that keeps leaving me high and dry?” The horn is excellent. I’m also totally enjoying the work on keys. “I keep holding onto you while you’re letting go of me.” And, holy moly, listen to Joyann really giving it all vocally at the end. Yes, this is certainly one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks.

And then we get a song with a great New Orleans flavor, “Ray.”  This sound always make me feel good, makes me want to join a second line and dance through the whole city. And this song features more delicious work on keys. “I’m trying to make this work/But you’re really such a jerk/Aren’t you, Ray?” “Take My Heart And Run” is another fun one with a wonderful rhythm, and a raw, immediate, loose sound. And it’s followed by “Your Mama,” a playful tune where the other woman in her man’s life is the guy’s mother. “Tell your mama, your mama she’s got to go/I can’t take her messing with my head no more/Well, you’re my baby, not hers no more.” This tune has a delicious, jazzy vibe. The album concludes with its title track, “Hard To Love,” a slower, pretty number that really focuses on Joyann’s vocals. “They say the best things are free/When it comes to him and me/I paid with my heart early on/The price was high, you see/Because he’s so hard to love.”

CD Track List
  1. Memphis
  2. Envy
  3. Home
  4. Dizzy
  5. Jigsaw Heart
  6. Who What When Where Why
  7. Bluer Than You
  8. Ray
  9. Evil Hearted
  10. Take My Heart And Run
  11. Your Mama
  12. What Happened To Me
  13. Hard To Love 
Hard To Love was released today, April 13, 2018, on Hopeless Romantics Records.