Where Winter seems to come with a specified playlist that we revive on cue every year after Halloween, Summer cries out for its own soundtrack. Windows down, breeze in our hair, and a perfect new tune in our ear. This is how our warm weather memories are cemented.
In the last few issues we’ve covered a couple of releases that qualify as sources of “Songs For Your Summer.”
• Holy Water, the first full length release by Barbarossa Brothers, is now available in stores and online. (https://barbarossabrothers.bandcamp.com/album/holy-water) The eight song set is a “Jamericana*” tour de force, with songs such as “I Can Be Kind” and “My Cherie New Orleans” channeling a “gumbo groove” that is winning over fans on the State’s Summer festival circuit.
(*Credit to Scott Baker for coining this contraction of Jam Band and Americana.)
• Country rockers Tweed & Dixie’s self-titled debut EP is also now available for purchase, and has it proven worth the wait. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tweed-and-dixie-ep/id1244148939) The Mid-Michigan quartet has produced a tight and tuneful cache of tunes that will prove pleasing to their existing fan base, while also generating interest from the those who appreciate the guitar hooks and harmonies of acts like Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts. “Let The Girl Drive” is not only a hit-worthy tune, it is often really good advice.
As good as those recordings are, they do not corner the market on quality, local efforts which have hit the shelves in the first half of 2017.
The release which has received the most attention is unquestionably the first EP by Greta Van Fleet, “Black Smoke Rising.” (https://www.amazon.com/Black-Smoke-Rising-Greta-Fleet/dp/B071YDVGH6) The Frankenmuth based group have signed a multi-album deal with Topic Records and are currently spending their summer touring the country. “Highway Tune” has received national airplay and accolades for its nod to riff rockers, like Led Zeppelin. The title track is the type of song that is getting modern rock airplay at present. Vocalist Joshua Kiszka displays a unique rock voice that does indeed channel the likes of icons Robert Plant, Rik Emmett, Geddy Lee or even Perry Farrell. This is definitely a situation worth watching as the band and its audience continue to grow.
Jennifer Naegele’s album. Chickadee With a Little Jetlag, is a classic singer /songwriter effort. (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jennifernaegele) Her original songs document her observations, consternations and growth as returned to this area after several years living in California. The ambitious eleven song set has a lot to like, with standout tracks including “Wishing Well,” “Little Butterfly” and the title track. In terms of the “sounds like” game that is part of describing independent artists, it is common to hear people drop names like Eva Cassidy, Jewel or even Julie Andrews in describing her powerful, yet sweet singing voice. One listen to this disc and your mood is guaranteed to improve.
With “Never Give Up,” pop-rocker Gordy Garris establishes himself firmly as a singer with a gift for writing “hooks.” (https://gordygarris.bandcamp.com/releases ) The album could easily have been titled “Never Give Up On Love,” as Garris’ revealing lyrical style is used to great effect in describing relationships – wanting one, getting into one, getting out of one, wishing you had one back, etc. If you have “been there, done that, got that t-shirt” in the relationship game, it is very likely you will find yourself joining Garris on the choruses, as the album is filled with the kind of catchy ear worms that tend to follow you around all day. Good stuff, for sure.
Singer / songwriter Alex Kostka’s EP, Far From Near, is an interesting four song collection that is reminiscent of the “low-fi” era of indie-rock from the early 1990’s. With songs like “The Honest Truth” Kostka makes a concise statement that melds elements from a number of epic eras of popular music. It is not often that one might think of John Lennon, Green Day and Ben Folds in one sitting, but Kostka has managed to do that with this release. Like all the best EP releases, it leaves with anticipation for what this artist might do next.
In addition to the collections that have been formally released, several area artists have been previewing songs on social media that will be featured on future albums. What this really means is the songs are out there for us to enjoy now.
A quick Google search or a tour through Soundcloud.com will find you high quality tracks like “If You See Angie,” by JD Dominowski, “Sophia” by Leland Blue or a pair of Rosco Selley Tracks “LA River” and “Gradually Blue,” featuring Jenn Cass and Paul Randolph on vocals, respectively.
Speaking of Cass, there is a very good chance we will have to revisit this topic a little later in the year, as her band, The Lucky Nows, “is currently in the studio recording a new album of original material.
Other releases slated for the very near future include “Northern Trails,” by Shawn Butzin (which will be reviewed in the next issue) and a new full length solo album by former Sins In Stereo frontman, Dominowski.
The Hellbound Drifters are also wrapping up their first album with Flatlander Audio Recording, which will solidify their spot as purveyors of “classic,” “southern.” “country” rock. There is even a rumor that Scott Van Dell’s trio, The Straight Eights, are knocking out a set of original instrumentals with the assistance of Andy Reed at Reed Recording Company.
All in all, it is a great time to be a fan of Mid-Michigan based music. Thanks to the many artists who offer their talents for our entertainment, it Is possible to listen to songs that are not only as good as those produced anywhere, they are being created by people we know and love.
Enjoy the Summer. Be ready for Fall. The forecast is that it is going to rock.