Album Review: Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville

Shannon Shaw and her band The Clams have been producing great garage rockabilly albums since their debut in 2009. Now stepping out on her own for this solo album, Shaw is embracing a more polished sound inspired by a mix of soul, classic girl groups and vintage pop. Produced by label boss Dan Auerbach ‘Shannon in Nashville’ is a dramatic and engaging collection of songs which display a real raw vocal talent. Continue reading “Album Review: Shannon Shaw – Shannon In Nashville”

Why Thelma Houston’s ‘Sunshower’ Still Shines

In the late sixties Jimmy Webb had just written Wichita Lineman for Glen Campbell when he began working with Thelma Houston, a woman he declared to be ‘the most prodigious talent I have ever encountered.’ Now mainly remembered for her disco hit Don’t Leave Me This Way, Thelma Houston’s performance on the Sunshower album shows a singer of distinctive depth, who was willing to experiment with style and genre. Webb’s music was a mix of gospel flourishes, lush orchestral arrangements and yes even a hint of country music. This album remains an underrated and overlooked classic which displays the ambitious nature of both songwriter and singer. Continue reading “Why Thelma Houston’s ‘Sunshower’ Still Shines”

Album Review: Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

 

In the emotion picture which accompanies Janelle Monáe’s new album Dirty Computer she is hunted by people who want to assimilate her, dress her in white and wipe her memory clean. Love, music, colour and self-expression are silenced in this eerily realistic dystopian future. This ambitious concept album and film proves that expressing your true self takes more than courage, sometimes you have to rebel against the very fabric of society itself. Continue reading “Album Review: Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer”

Album Review: High Up – You Are Here

High Up singer Christine Fink didn’t originally intend to become a singer, but after working in a series of unfulfilling jobs she found herself drawn to performing in karaoke bars. She would sing classic soul songs and tear down the house every time. Eventually she moved to Omaha and began working with her sister, musician Orenda Fink, writing songs together for this new band High Up. Their debut album You Are Here, produced by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, combines soul influences with a gritty garage rock sound to create a ferocious collection of songs. Continue reading “Album Review: High Up – You Are Here”

Album Review: Bette Smith – Jetlagger

Despite being born and bred in Brooklyn it took a trip down to the dirty south for Bette Smith to find her sound – working with producer Jimbo Mathus and a live band, together they captured the exuberant energy of her vocal performances and recorded straight to tape. At first glance the cover suggests this may be simple retro soul in the vein of much missed Sharon Jones, but Jetlagger also blends rock and roll, blues, psychedelia, gospel and funk into its thrilling mix. Continue reading “Album Review: Bette Smith – Jetlagger”

E.P. Review: St Beauty – Running to the Sun

Alexe Belle and Isis Valentino met when working at a vintage store in Atlanta and bonded over a shared love of Diana Ross, Sade and Frank Ocean. They began working on music together and soon formed a band, naming themselves after a Stevie Wonder song and performing regularly in the basement of the shop, which had become more like a cultural hub. These shows brought them to the attention of Janelle Monae who signed them to her label Wondaland. Running to the Sun is billed as an EP, although with seven full length songs and some interludes it feels like a complete body of work. It’s a glittering mix of ultra modern RnB beats and sweet neo-Soul which sounds fresh and free. Continue reading “E.P. Review: St Beauty – Running to the Sun”

Album Review: Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black

When The Staple Singers started out in the sixties they had a simple mission, as outlined by Pops himself: ‘We want to sing about what’s happening in the world today, and if it’s something bad, we want to sing a song to try to fix it.” Fast forward fifty years and the world is as broken as ever. You’d forgive Mavis Staples if she was disillusioned with the mission. As she says ‘lately, things are looking worse than they have ever looked.’ And yet, as she sings on this album, there’s no time for crying. If All I Was Was Black is an album concerned with bringing harmony and hope back to the poor huddled masses.  Continue reading “Album Review: Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black”

Album Review: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Soul of a Woman

To lose Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley in the same year was a cruel and crushing blow to music. Sharon died from cancer one year ago today, having suffered from the illness for many years. Recorded during the last year of Sharon’s life, the new album Soul of a Woman is a testament to her indefatigable spirit. You won’t find her wallowing in misery or contemplating impending death, what the album does is subtly blend bombastic soul and gospel harmonies with quieter moments exploring life and love.

Continue reading “Album Review: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Soul of a Woman”

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