Anne Bennett’s “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” scorches with Underworld fire

Via Anne Bennett

When the mood hits just right, blues music has an almost drug-like power of intoxicating promise and persuasion deep within the storytelling of its sandpaper hollowed bones. Take Anne Bennett’s dark, rumbling new song “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” for instance, which kicks off with an entrancing pattern of assertively arpeggioed acoustic guitar notes. The resulting melody feels like slow surrounding serpentine menace; beautifully engrossing to the eye until it’s too late to see the coils encircling your throat for an unfriendly final squeeze. 

That thunder-streaked, ominous fog is the perfect place setting for the backwoods murder balladry of “Hell”, which feels a bit like the love child of Alison Mosshart and Jack White’s Dead Weather side project, or White’s Raconteurs work (think “Carolina Drama”). It’s the perfect vibe as we get close to Halloween to imagine Bennett’s protagonist suffering a grim and gruesome demise on a dark, stormy night…. only to rise again, pulled back by the pursuit of revenge so fiery, swift and terrible even Lucifer himself can only stand back and watch with awe and admiration. 

Via Anne Bennett

In fact, as the rhythm of the song rises with swirling shades of harmonica, simmering electric guitar heat and chains in the percussion, I suddenly visualize that trademark hand from any horror movie rising from the freshly overturned dirt and dust. Stirred on by the trauma of those sins committed in the deep dark muddy, Bennett breaks free of those chains, her croon as equally unleashed as the ultimate promise of retribution, retaliation and brutal vengeance.  

I can’t begin to describe my sheer enjoyment when it comes to the atmosphere of “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me”. Half of the blues is just that, conveying… real blues and making the listener believe that truth. Take one guitar riff, add a pinch of “I woke up this morning”, but you gotta feel it somewhere down deep in your blood and soul. Lucky for us blood and soul is just the passion Bennett pours into this energizing blitz of a track.

Carlile makes “In These Silent Days” filled for afternoons of golden joy

Oh, Brandi Carlile. We’re here to discuss her new country/folk rock album “In These Silent Days”, and opening track “Right on Time” just started… it makes me incapable of words outside of Brandi, WOW Brandi this level of power is so special. Carlile has musically graduated by the length of planets compared to the young singer-songwriter trying to break out of her birthplace in Ravendale, Washington. 

Not that it took her long to rise, especially with musical compatriots (and guitarist twins) Tim and Phil Hanseroth acting as the heart of Carlile’s backing band. Accolades from the recording booth to the stage soon followed. The bond between the three emerges quickly on other ITSD standouts like “Broken Horses”, Stay Gentle”, “Mama Werewolf” and “This Time Tomorrow”, as powerful harmonies amongst the trio function with the precision of a surgeon’s blade. Even Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in their prime would have trouble making voices sound that clean, crisp and pure; brim-filled with fret-worn emotional storms. 

Carlile still has the same Seattle rocker instinct that made the shriek of her voice so filled with intrigue in her 2005 breakout “The Story”, but in the 15 years since she’s taken that power and refined it with both time and experience. As she recently proved during a live gig at The Gorge she’s still as capable of keeping pace with members of Soundgarden singing their hits, but can also slow to a crawl in the next moment for a Joni Mitchell croon on “In These Silent Days” track “When You’re Wrong”. 

Since hearing Joni’s “Blue” album with her songbird-like melodies, I’ve felt as though I was witness to something I’d never hear again the same way. But if anyone gets close it’s Brandi Carlile. Just put on the closer of ITSD “Throwing Good After Bad” and that tone comes through loud and clear like gems we thought gone long ago. 

I think Carlile hit a definable height with her prior album “By The Way I Forgive You”, and has managed to continue that type of pace here with “Silent Days”. Rightly the praise continues to logjam for her as a result, and in my mind it couldn’t happen to a better person. Especially a musician working this hard not to just get better, but to redefine the art form as we know it. 

Check out Brandi and the Hanseroth twins below slaying the SNL stage last night for some added audio magic!

Jude Shuma takes us on immersive ride with expansive “Suzy Space Cadet” project

Via Jude Shuma

There’s a certain majesty in the many stained-glass hues of an untapped night sky. Constellations and the stars we find as familiar friends dot the territory like a box of overspilled paints coursing down a sidewalk. But if anything it all feels like department store blinds concealing our view of something much more than just a backyard to a quiet neighbor’s house down the street. And the deeper delved, the further the mystery goes… that infinite realm holds so much open space (no pun intended) where many stories can begin to take root within the path of the orbit.

It’s in those cascading waves where we find Jude Shuma’s new trippy audio/visual hybrid project Suzy Space Cadet. The record itself is a hay fever psychedelic, ricocheting mood of thick percussive bridgework, pacing bass/synthesizer lines, and lockjawed guitar fuzz to emulate and characterize the main character Suzy’s descending direction. David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and the iconic Major Tom come to mind in Suzy’s tale, though more if ”Oddity” became a short film given time to have access to a relatable emotional center and background.

Courtesy of Jude Shuma

The visual/comic book side of “Suzy” as well as Shuma’s occasional unsteady lyrical narrator fill in the gaps between the sonic instrumental moods due to their ties together, creating a frustrated feeling of elation that becomes uncertainty, fear, and a loss of everything familiar through the eyes of our space-bound narrator hurtling through the endless void. The drifting arc of this narrative path leads to the question of how far do you spread your eager wild wings without fear of becoming Icarus, a casualty for flying too close to a sun at the edge of the universe.

Moreover, we can easily extend that warning to all humanity itself. In my prior post we discussed musician Andrew Thomases and his climate fears on new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. But there’s also the likes of Bob Dylan’s 1983 Infidels track “License To Kill”, in which Dylan laments humanity’s violence and that man’s thirst for colonization included our first step that ever touched the moon. 

Humanity has a relationship as raggedly raw as Shuma’s guitarwork when it comes to the realm of space, especially as Earth’s climate issues spark debate of our future trying to survive on other planets. There’s still so much we don’t know, plus the thought that we as a society may only act as a blight to any other place we choose to inhabit. As much as Shuma’s “Suzy” project is meant as light, slightly substance-enhanced fun, it also raises questions as numerous as each of the stars above us.

Get the full immersive experience of Shuma’s latest project below! Visual media features illustrations from German artist Denise.

STREAM: “Suzy Space Cadet” on Spotify

VIEW: “Suzy Space Cadet” Comic Book

Don’t sleep on meaning unveiled behind Thomases new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”

Photo via Andrew Thomases

I really enjoy the approach musician Andrew Thomases is using to make his appeal for saving the Earth on new single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. To quote the singer-songwriter:

“Throughout my life, I have always been concerned about climate change and the impact humans have on the planet. What will the environment look like in a few generations? Will our grandkids be able to enjoy it like we do? I decided to write a song about it, and I write it in the voice of the environment. “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” is a warning and a call to action, as we must act quickly to preserve what have for future generations. Otherwise, they may not even know what they are missing.”

Andrew Thomases

Thomases buoys this concept in on the back of jangly, Pavement-style power chord waves bearing an off-center mellowed honesty that holds no weight back in the choogling punch of its lyrical intents. And while some might lead that “warning” with a fueled, angry venom upon their lips, Thomases has a straight-up approach similar to the likes of They Might Be Giants, John K Samson, a rolled smooth Mark Lanegan or the Crash Test Dummies. Words aren’t a poetically overcooked word mince because at the end of the day the stakes and consequences of the subjects are real not whimsical license, and that’s the type of urgent emotion in play here. It’s not a time for games. No matter how you communicate, it’s overdue to make the important matters heard. 

That perspective is echoed and illustrated even more deeply in the official lyric video for “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?”. Issues like severe deforestation, pollution, and rising ocean waters get the top billing as Thomases declares a simple admonishment from the Earth to its people, will you be sentimental when all you knew disappears? It seems like such an obvious question, but as the highest offices/powers in the land go longer and longer willfully without an answer, endgame possibilities start to feel more and more prominent and possible in the months and years ahead. 

Pic courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Music with a message is not only essential for highlighting these matters, but in how it’s meant to stay with the listener once the track has ended. To later ask, how do you see this concern now; did it change your perspective or make you dig your heels down further? In a world with a still-ongoing pandemic the dividing lines between us become easier and easier to discern this way, especially on matters of masks, vaccines, and overall regulations.

But the climate of our world exists outside such black and white perspectives. Good or bad results based on our actions are coming whether we like it or not, and as Thomases points out we’re beyond past needing to start paying attention.

Be sure to check out Thomases and “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?” across social media and on digital music platforms!

Craft hits another slam dunk on new HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE mixtape

Off Marlon’s FB page

I recently had full fusion surgery on my right wrist in order to alleviate the consequences resulting from late stage Keinbock’s Disease. The procedure requires dealing with a lengthy recovery time and a slow comeback to semi-normal function, but after going through significant pain and strength issues for years (even while typing) the trade has thus far been a very important one. Plus, it’s a move that finally promises a real and lasting solution to a career-hobbling crutch.

Healing is still ongoing, but I’ve finally gotten to the stage where like a cigarette at the end of a long day I can slowly stub out some words again. The effort to do so takes a bit longer than it normally would, but I found too many music-related words swinging through my brain like fruit on the vine to simply be left unused to go rotten.

Sourced from Craft’s social media

So let’s get started with New York City bar-spitter Marlon Craft. The 28-year old Hells Kitchen rapper has been a creative madman in a career still going as young as it is strong. Last time we joined Craft he’d locked forces with producer Yusei on the superb Space EP; today we find his vivid verbal vitriol as the headlining star behind new release HOMECOURT ADVANTAGE Vol. 1. 

The mixtape is less standard LP format and more a set of fast-shifting vignettes putting Craft’s sheer level of profound verbal bars in even sharper scope, especially with beats and sampling that frame Craft’s worldview rather than overwhelm it. Tracks like “Lost Faith”, “The Loop”, “Bluffin”, “All We Got” and “Halal” hit with the consistent laser-like efficiency of Steph Curry snipershot threes; a perfect fit alongside HOMECOURT’s SLAM Magazine-basketball alluding cover. 

From Marlon Craft’s FB

No lyrical topic’s safe here either as Craft puts everything from mental health to the oligarchs in his firing squad line. And in this day and age, it’s become more important than ever to find figures like Craft willing to scream the truths behind the indiscretions, illusions and inequalities of our existence. Too often there are too many willing to be silent or have hushed conversations on those dangers and fears in the hope that will be enough to keep the hungry wolves from breaking down their door.

But life isn’t the power of pretend, purple dinosaurs and pretty faeries. It’s a real, raw experience that deserves equal scrutiny whether its kind, cruel, or a percentage in between somewhere. We must never be afraid to use our voices, and lucky for us Marlon Craft made a trade deadline swap for more full-throated defiant shouts here on HOMECOURT.

Be sure to check out Marlon’s new album and plenty of his other material on everything social media, streaming sites, digital downloads, the works!

Ryan delivers one of his strongest singles yet with “Autumn Rain”

Summertime in 2021 has felt more than a bit abbreviated, especially with the weight of an unprecedented pandemic at our backs. Now we’re in September and it’s already become easier to see the day’s light ending earlier on as the season begins to mull its inevitable change.

With that gradual alteration of perspective moods begin to sway as well, and not always for the greener side of the fence. I’ve been in and out of that crevasse many times, but regardless of the moment music has always been a salve for those invisible wounds. Especially when I’ve felt the words and the emotions were speaking directly to my state of mind. 

I’ve felt that connection with Andrew Ryan’s new, very appropriately-titled single “Autumn Rain”, which comes out on all things digital today. The song vibes perfectly with a feeling of an upbeat smile hiding deeper, lightning-laced storm clouds of weary discontent beneath the airy surface. The track walks a similar path to “Somewhere Only We Know” from Scottish rockers Keane or prime Oasis, and the contrast pays off with great satisfaction.

Ryan’s impeccable knack for mixing and production also sticks out here as it did with his prior single “Never Let Me Know”. The musician is clearly a drummer at heart as every skillful note falls into place as evenly as Tetris tiles, and the layers bear repeat listening to avoid missing the small details (like the piano notes) brought out especially well through headphones. 

As I noted the last time I discussed Ryan’s music, “Autumn Rain” fits like instruments to the background of cinema when I imagine the old days of going to hole-in-the-wall rock show venues. We’ll be able to go back regularly (hopefully) someday, but in the meantime its fun to imagine what might be, soon.

In the meanwhile, check out “Autumn Rain” below, and for more on Andrew Ryan’s work be sure to follow his presence across social media!

Andrew Ryan- acoustic guitar, keys, bass guitar, synth, production, and mixing. 
Will Walden- electric guitar (StaG), 
Eric Slick- drums (Dr. Dog). 
Mastered by Jamie Sego at Portside Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

.Paak brings the “Fire” on new “Shang Chi” soundtrack

It’s been an absolute joy to me watching the continued rise and success of musician Anderson .Paak. The Oxnard, California native hit the jackpot especially hard this year, largely due to his gold medal-level collaboration with Bruno Mars in their new band Silk Sonic. Debut single “Leave the Door Open” has been all the rage in 2021, possessing a popularity watermark that made the song almost Tik Tok-levels of unavoidable at its peak.  

The duo continues to take their time releasing a full LP (second teaser “Skate” dropped in July), but in the meantime .Paak has kept busy. The rapper, singer, music video director, drummer and jack of all trades makes his latest appearance on the big screen with a song that’s part of the soundtrack for Marvel’s recently released superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Courtesy of Google

“Fire in the Sky” isn’t just some unused session track here to fill time either. 88rising, a record label largely devoted to Asian and Asian American musicians, was brought in to curate the LP; creating a melding flow of artists like Jhene Aiko and NIKI with Marvel’s first tentpole flick that’s primarily focused on Asian and Asian American actors. A similar method was employed for Marvel’s Black Panther; rapper Kendrick Lamar executive produced the effort with a specific vision meant to pay homage to the culture and tones of each moment. 

Shang Chi skillfully paints with a similar brush, using the soulful vibe of .Paak’s wide-grinned musical optimism just as Shang-Chi’s credits roll. And, like so many of his features or one-off appearances on various projects, he always knows just how to hit center stage’s sweet spot. Kicking in with a blissfully hazy piano in a gentle cloud of guitars, .Paak raps, drums and sings with all the rhythm of a buzzed romantic high on another human, sticking out his chest, shooting his shot, and making that lightning rod first connection. 

“Fire in the Sky” is aptly named as its all the sensation of looking at a post-storm horizon, bright swatches of color emerging in wild, intricate streaks of hope after a dark and lost night. Bruno Mars is credited as a contributor/lyricist for the song, which makes sense as its warm throwback vibe sounds right next-door to the Silk Sonic creatives. At the end of the day it all boils down to this one simple point (something I knew well already) .

PAAK DON’T MISS! 

Williams having a blast on solo single; no “Game for Guessing” on that

Courtesy of Google Images

Sometimes there’s a fine line between being “too fun” or “too serious” in an artist’s music. Don’t go over the Florida Georgia Line, and CERTAINLY don’t cross the Mark Kozelek Divider (these days anyway). 

Thankfully, the Lone Bellow’s Zachary Williams is well-trained in the balancing act. Williams has a solo album called Dirty Camaro due out October 22nd, with debut single “Game for Guessing” having just dropped (featuring the lovely Robert Ellis who helped produce the LP).

Like Williams, Ellis is an earnest goofball at heart, and that tandem strikes early here with “Game for Guessing”. The lyrics don’t always make sense and lean heavy on well-crafted humor; something Ellis relished in on his underrated 2019 solo release “Texas Piano Man”. But they’re a lot of fun, especially as the band rocks with wild abandon. 

Image courtesy of Google Images

The accompanying music video for “Game” adds perfect illustration to that mood, as Williams dances through an old house wearing a brightly colored robe with shiny slippers and later winds up running down the street in a hospital gown. It’s something to be witnessed (see below). 

Knowing Williams, there’s also going to be a hell of a lot of heart and emotions on Dirty Camaro. That’s just the wonderful way he rolls. The only thing left to do now is wait for release day in order to find out. 

“How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?” I think it could be one of 2021’s best

Courtesy of Google Images

To put it simply: I absolutely LOVE what the band Big Red Machine has done with the uplift of new album “How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?”. The side project is the brainchild of two men who recruited a host of gorgeous throated/fingered angels for friends to create a 15-track LP that slipped into the world recently.

Ordinarily I’d simply say those two gentleman were Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon, but their separate credits are worth a mountain of paragraphs. Forgive me if I admire too much, but it’s hard not to be impressed.

Courtesy NME/Graham Tolbert

Dessner is a vital multi-instrumental presence in indie rock group The National with twin brother Bryce (twinning with his own sideman and composer accomplishments). He’s also worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Sharon Van Etten and The Lone Bellow, showing his all around limitless range.

Meanwhile, Vernon is the man behind the curtain of bands like Bon Iver, Volcano Choir and the now-defunct DeYarmond Edison. While miraculously perhaps, he’s managed to collaborate alongside both Kanye West and Taylor Swift and lived to tell the tale with great success.

So as you can guess, having Dessner and Vernon collaborate for a 2nd BRM album is exciting. This effort perhaps moreso because it is so beautifully collaborative without sounding crowded or overstepped.

While the 1st BRM LP was primarily bounced off Vernon and Dessner, this feels more out in the open. Like an album The Band might have made if they had a vibe for more futuristic tones (such as the Naeem-featured “Easy to Sabotage”). There’s also plenty here to be found that’s down to Earth, like Anais Mitchell’s gorgeous poignance on “New Auburn”, the swoony church of Sharon Van Etten of “Hutch”, and a gorgeously ghostly Robin Pecknold on “Phoenix”.

Taylor Swift doesn’t disappoint either, as she and Vernon pair like they’ve sung together for years on the yin and yang of “Birch” and “Renegade”. But her fame level doesn’t overshadow on this; her takes are simply just more goodness in the grain here.

Courtesy of Google Images

For something so divided amongst artists, one would almost expect some sound division across this album. But Dessner and Vernon keep a flow that never truly leaves these pieces no matter how casual or ornate.

They’re calling the shots with this orchestra, and it’s creation is a gorgeous comparison to sunrise. Get your sunglasses, it’s gonna be pretty.

Ryan’s “Never Let Me Know” makes for fitting fall palate appetizer

From Andrew Ryan’s FB page

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has truly deprived the world of the joy of personally seeing so much young and hungry music talent that’s out there. I know that in my case, I have a quantity of wonderful memories seeing several bands in an evening, maybe knowing one of them, and coming home a fan of others I hadn’t even heard of before that night. 

This is all while being packed into a sweaty sardine heap inside a charming blink-and-you’d-miss-it venue that might be violating fire codes by having so many people there. Nevertheless, there was always a certain kind of magical love affair I experienced getting into the club trenches and being on the lookout for the next best thing creatively. Even if by our current pandemic standards such a scenario now seems impossible.

I’ve long felt Andrew Ryan belonged directly in the ranks of these diamonds in the on-stage rough. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the St. Louis native live and in person, fortunately in the digital age I’ve been able to slowly witness his artistic progression at length from the studio side of the glass.

Image courtesy of AR Facebook

Ryan’s latest single “Never Let Me Know” is a deeply dreamy, psychedelic Midwestern rocker that feels as woozily disconnected as its lyricisms imply. Ryan lets his producer heart out within the tightly wound layers of tipsy guitar, drum and heartbeat-like bassline, the building of which only adds to the equal tapestry of fogging emotional murk. 

It’s been impressive to watch Ryan build his sound from basics such as acoustic guitar, percussion, and a sprinkle of bass into material with greater and greater nuance. “Never Let Me Know” has a rich, ragged flow akin to Lord Huron that only adds to the listener’s ear appeal, and that’s vital when constructing world building melodies. 

Courtesy of AR Facebook

From my perspective, I love great headphone albums or songs that reveal layers. They reward repeat listens by scrubbing off the surface to reveal intricate bass runs, guitar style techniques, and notes that might never be discovered with the naked ear. Fans don’t lie sometimes when they say all a good LP needs is more time to listen to it in order for it to truly flourish.

I believe the same is true with “Never Let Me Know”, especially as it enters into my now fall-themed playlists. Give a listen to the track below, peep the personnel who helped give this song life, and keep it tuned here September 22nd when we visit Ryan again to evaluate another new project! 

Andrew Ryan- acoustic guitar, keys, synth, production, and mixing. 
Will Walden- electric guitar
Alden Hedges- bass guitar
Eric Slick- drums
Mastered by Jamie Sego at Portside Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

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