Tuesday 10pm: Feature LP: Allman Betts Band – Down To The River (2019)

July 2, 2019
Editor In Chief

As their name makes plain, the Allman Betts Band continues in the tradition of the Allman Brothers Band. Devon Allman and Duane Betts — the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, respectively — formed the group in 2018 with the intent purpose of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of the groundbreaking group of their fathers. By playing classic Allmans tunes, the Allman Betts Band kept the Southern rock torch burning in the 21st century, but Devon and Duane also made sure to write new material too, releasing their debut Down to the River in June 2019.

To form their group, Devon Allman and Dickey Betts recruited bassist Berry Oakley, Jr. — himself the son of original Allman bassist Berry Oakley — organist John Ginty, slide guitarist Johnny Stachlea, and percussionists John Lum and R. Scott Bryan. Working with producer Matt Ross-Spang, the band recorded the album that became Down to the River at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama. The record appeared on June 28, just prior to the Allman Betts Band launching a summer tour.

Devon Allman and Duane Betts make no attempt to hide their lineage. The pair are the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, two of the founding and defining members of the Allman Brothers Band, and they’ve named their band so it rhymes with the group of their famous fathers. More than that, their 2019 debut album Down to the River consciously evokes the sound of the Allman Brothers Band. The pair don’t attempt to expand the Southern-fried hybrid of blues, rock, soul, and country; at times, it feels like they’re spinning such classics as “Melissa” and “Ramblin’ Man” for their own purposes, alluding to these classics as a way to both nod at their audience and connect with them. Such direct acknowledgment of their roots can mean that the Allman Betts Band open themselves up to direct comparisons with their fathers, but decoding Down to the River as a series of references and influences misses the intent of the duo. Allman and Betts are intentionally following in their footsteps of their fathers, so they’ve chosen to work with a limited palette, one that cherry-picks the best moments of the past. If Down to the River isn’t as adventurous or hungry or exploratory as any Allman Brothers Band album, there’s nevertheless a deliberately cultivated warmth that’s designed to appeal to Allman fans-and, given a shot, Down to the River may well appeal to that audience.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 All Night 04:44
2 Shinin’ 04:29
3 Try 02:54
4 Down to the River 04:43
5 Autumn Breeze 08:42
6 Good ol’ Days 03:38
7 Melodies Are Memories 04:04
8 Southern Accents 04:32
9 Long Gone 06:32

Thursday 11pm: Feature LP: Sammy Hagar & The Circle – Space Between (2019)

May 16, 2019
Editor In Chief

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Sammy Hagar calls his band — either his fifth or sixth, depending if HSAS is counted or not — the Circle because this quartet brings him back to where he started. A look at the band’s lineup illustrates why Hagar believes this to be true. Within the Circle, Hagar surrounds himself with some old running mates — notably, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony anchors the group, but Waboritas guitarist Vic Johnson also has a prominent place in the band, while drummer Jason Bonham provides a reminder of the Zeppelin influence on Hagar’s earliest band, Montrose. Despite being so strongly rooted in the past, the Circle plays for the present, cranking the amps to 11 and pushing Bonham’s beat toward the forefront. The heaviness is so bracing that the hooky pair of “Bottom Line” and “No Worries” comes as somewhat of a relief halfway through the album; not only are they more melodic, they are nimble, demonstrating that this group of old pros can keep it light if they so choose. For the rest of The Space Between, they choose heaviosity. It’s a forceful, powerful sound that gains a bit of depth thanks to Hagar’s inscrutable social commentary — he’s against a spoiled “Trust Fund Baby” and happy to be a “Free Man” — but for as invigorating as the sheer wallop of the Circle can be, it proves a bit exhausting in the long run.

01 Devil Came to Philly 2:35
02 Full Circle Jam (Chump Change) 3:38
03 Can’t Hang 3:57
04 Wide Open Space 3:46
05 Free Man 4:20
06 Bottom Line 2:43
07 No Worries 3:27
08 Trust Fund Baby 4:15
09 Affirmation 3:20
10 Hey Hey (Without Greed) 2:51

Thursday 10pm: Feature LP: Steve Earle & the Dukes – Guy (2019)

May 16, 2019
Editor In Chief

AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

While he found his fame in Nashville, Steve Earle was born in Texas, and he cut his teeth as a songwriter in the ’70s while hovering on the outskirts of the Lone Star State’s circle of great tunesmiths. The literate but unpretentious approach of the Texas songwriting community clearly suited Earle, and he’s never been shy about acknowledging his influences from his early days. In 2009, Earle released the album Townes, in which he paid homage to his good friend and mentor Townes van Zandt, recording 15 of his best songs. Ten years later, Earle has offered a follow-up in the form of 2019’s Guy, a set of 16 songs from the songbook of his late friend Guy Clark. While Townes was primarily a solo effort, Guy was cut with Earle’s band the Dukes, and the difference speaks to the temperment of the two albums. Van Zandt’s songs were often powerfully introspective, and he was often given to a dark night of the soul. Clark, on the other hand, was no less pithy but considerably warmer, and there’s a playful humanity in his songs that Van Zandt’s usually lacked, as great as they were. This also explains why Townes is ultimately a more satisfying album than Guy — while Earle can be powerfully witty when he wants to be, he’s traditionally drawn to darkness more than light, and while it’s clear he loves songs like “L.A. Freeway,” “Rita Ballou,” and “Heartbroke,” the easygoing amiability and small-town wisdom of Clark’s lyrics feel a bit off coming from Earle’s increasingly craggy rasp. And though the grainy tone of Earle’s voice works on the rocked-up cover of “Out in the Parking Lot” and the twangy two-step of “Texas 1947,” and his phrasing is as canny as ever, it doesn’t work as well on more thoughtful numbers like “Desperados Waiting for a Train” and “The Randall Knife.” (This album recycles a version of “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” from a 2001 Guy Clark tribute album, and its presence points to the considerable wear on Earle’s voice in the 18 years that separate it from the rest of the album.) There’s never a moment where Steve Earle sounds anything less than fully committed on Guy, and this was clearly a labor of love, particularly on the closing number “Old Friends,” where Emmylou Harris, Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, and Terry Allen join in. But the execution isn’t quite as strong as Earle’s good intentions on Guy, though if he wanted to either remind old fans on the greatness of Clark’s songs or convince new ones to explore his body of work, he makes his case will eloquence and affection.

1 Dublin Blues 3:48
2 L.A. Freeway 4:06
3 Texas 1947 3:14
4 Desperados Waiting for a Train 4:34
5 Rita Ballou 3:12
6 The Ballad of Laverne and Captain Flint 4:05
7 The Randall Knife 4:00
8 Anyhow I Love You 3:06
9 That Old Time Feeling 5:02
10 Heartbroke 2:44
11 The Last Gunfighter BalladS 3:21
12 Out in the Parking Lot 2:39
13 She Ain’t Going Nowhere 3:49
14 Sis Draper 3:27
15 New Cut Road 4:10
16 Old Friends 4:56

Friday 11pm: Feature LP – Tedeschi Trucks Band – Signs (2019)

March 15, 2019
Editor In Chief

Signs, the fourth studio album by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, poignantly addresses some of the major changes this 12-piece group has been through over the last couple of years. That said, it’s hardly steeped in sadness, but acknowledges reckoning and acceptance while leaning on hope. In November 2016, longtime friend Leon Russell died. In January, Derek’s uncle Butch Trucks committed suicide. In May, mentor Col. Bruce Hampton (to whom Signs is dedicated) suffered a fatal coronary on-stage during his 70th birthday celebration (which Trucks and Tedeschi witnessed). The same month, Gregg Allman died after a years-long battle with liver cancer. And in June, keyboardist Kofi Burbridge suffered a heart attack that required emergency surgery.

These events had an obvious impact on Signs, but it results in their most musically diverse offering yet. Sonically it remains in the band’s trademark stew of blues, soul, rock, gospel, and improv, but also showcases a new songwriting sophistication and arranging skills. Co-produced by Trucks, Jim Scott, and Bobby Tis, these 11 tracks engage the full power of TTB beginning with the souled- out opener “Signs, High Times” that places all four singers (Tedeschi, Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour, and Mark Rivers) alternating up front in a call to rise above the swamp of self-pity. Burbridge’s Wurlitzer is distorted and funky, and the horns blare in support as frontline players trade lines across a deep groove. “I’m Gonna Be There” is a gospel tune wherein Tedeschi displays astonishing skill as a vocalist. The lyrics’ affirmation in the face of darkness is offered with clean, resonant emotional power, underscored by the backing chorus and intertwining guitars from Trucks and guest Doyle Bramhall II, as well as a string quartet sumptuously arranged by Burbridge. “Walk Through This Life” — co-written with bassist Tim Lefebvre (who has amicably left the group) and Warren Haynes, who joins the backing chorus — is a soaring soul anthem with popping horns and wah-wah guitars that Tedeschi refuses to surrender to, no matter the toll loss extracts. “Still Your Mind” references the need for close community in the midst of life’s challenges. Its music careens between garage rock, loopy R&B, and nearly Baroque psychedelia. (Trucks’ guitar break is absolutely unhinged.) “Shame” reveals the band’s musical growth and steely grit simultaneously. While Tedeschi digs into her lyric with the commitment of Mavis Staples, tempos shift, horns fold in drama, and Trucks’ guitars underscore the lyrics’ emotional storm. “They Don’t Shine” is an uptempo rave that walks a driving line between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Ike and Tina Turner with Tedeschi wrangling her Stratocaster in the lead guitar chair. “The Ending” is a wrenching Americana elegy for Hampton. Penned by the bandleaders with Oliver Wood, it’s about the man, his absence, and the wisdom and magic he imparted during his lifetime. It creates an unexpected yet fitting conclusion to Signs, a recording that will surprise and delight TTB fans as their most adventurous to date. – AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

1 Signs, High Times 3:51
2 I’m Gonna Be There 5:48
3 When Will I Begin 4:17
4 Walk Through This Life 4:46
5 Strengthen What Remains 2:36
6 Still Your Mind 4:57
7 Hard Case 3:22
8 Shame 4:55
9 All the World 3:21
10 They Don’t Shine 3:33
11 The Ending 5:02

Friday 11pm: Feature LP: The Specials – Encore (2019)

February 1, 2019
Editor In Chief

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The Specials didn’t end their golden age cleanly and they didn’t reunite smoothly, either. Lynval Golding, Horace Panter and Neville Staple brought the group back in 1996 and that incarnation lasted for five years before being put on ice, but their revival was overshadowed by the 2008 reunion that featured vocalist Terry Hall as well as Roddy Radiation and John Bradbury from the group’s golden days. This reunion stuck around for a decade, gradually losing members until only Hall, Golding and Panter were left, augmented by Ocean Colour Scene/Paul Weller guitarist Steve Cradock. This is the lineup who recorded Encore, a new studio album that arrives roughly ten years after the initial reunion, 18 years after Conquering Ruler, which was the last album released by the Specials, and a whopping 39 years after More Specials, which was the last time Hall made an album with the band. Hall’s return to the fold is to be celebrated, but it’s hard not to notice the absence of Jerry Dammers, the band’s chief songwriter and keyboardist who left behind music for activism upon the dissolution of Special AKA in 1984. Although the Specials push social commentary to the forefront on Encore — there is an ode to Black Lives Matter, a swipe against the second amendment, and the old Fun Boy Three tune “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)” has been recast as an anthem for the era of Brexit and Trump — they’re not spending much time on constructing songs, or even hooks. Everything on Encore is amiable but not especially defined: they play with the ease of a group who has made their living on the road, but they lack urgency, even when they’re singing about hot-button issues. Despite this lack of fire, Encore is a definite step up from the covers albums the Specials made surrounding Y2K: they feel like a band with a purpose, even if they’re not making an especially big deal about it.

1 Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys 3:17
2 B.L.M 5:05
3 Vote for Me 5:01
4 The Lunatics 3:35
5 Breaking Point 3:55
6 Blam Blam Fever 2:46
7 10 Commandments 3:52
8 Embarrassed by You 3:04
9 The Life and Times (Of a Man Called Depression) 5:27
10 We Sell Hope 4:35

Friday 11pm: Feature LP: Santana – In Search Of Mona Lisa (2019)

January 25, 2019
Editor In Chief

Santana’s debut for Concord records is pretty low key: an EP containing three new songs, along with edits of two of those tracks. It’s intended as an amuse bouche before Global Revelation, an album he recorded with Rick Rubin, but this EP contains none of Rubin’s signature back-to-basics moves. Recorded with producer Narada Michael Walden, it’s slick and shimmering, existing just on the margins of jazz fusion. The presence of bassist Ron Carter on “Lovers from Another Time” underscores this connection, but the EP opens with “Do You Remember Me,” ten minutes of jamming that’s too mellow to be called epic. Santana picks up a bit with “In Search of Mona Lisa,” which bops to a Bo Diddley beat and contains the only sung narrative of the three songs. It sticks out a bit like a sore thumb compared to the grace of “Lovers from Another Time,” which benefits from its glossiness, making Santana and Carter appear to glide. For this track alone, In Search of Mona Lisa is worth a listen, but the other two songs are amiable enough to not be a distraction.

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

1 Do You Remember Me 9:50
2 In Search of Mona Lisa 5:11
3 Lovers From Another Time 4:46
4 Do You Remember Me [Edit Version] 3:30
5 In Search of Mona Lisa [Edit Version] 3:52

Tuesday 1pm: Feature LP: John Mellencamp – Other People’s Stuff (2018)

December 25, 2018
Editor In Chief

AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
John Mellencamp gives away the intent of Other People’s Stuff with its titles: it’s a collection of covers, ten songs recorded between 1993 and 2018. Some of these songs come from tribute albums or soundtracks — “Gambling Bar Room Blues” is taken from a 1997 tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” was pulled from 2003’s An Interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s Songs — but most come from Mellencamp’s studio albums. The notable exception is “Eyes on the Prize,” a song he originally performed for President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010, here given a robust new version that sits along the rest of the oldies quite easily, playing as a slice of Americana that can also be read as protest song. Not everything on Other People’s Stuff is politically charged — Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway” is merely haunted, for instance — but taken as a whole, the album can be read as a summation of what Mellencamp loves about America, which amounts to a political statement in 2018. – AllMusic

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