Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Another album with a very high listenability index. The music is blues based, but contains a lot of buried treasures in addition to blues. There is an ubundance of vocal styiling, Vaudeville, burlesque, and some Caribbean influence. It’s Koko Taylor, meets Tom Waits, meets Harry Belafonte. Tami has a very strong and sultry voice which is perfectly suited for the songs on Sassafrass! (more…)
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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
It was one of those perfect early spring nights that Chicago music fans dream of all winter long. Perfect sunny, warm weather. A perfect venue. And a fantastic band that perfectly matches the aesthetic of the venue. The Empty Bottle has long been one of my favorite places to see a show, and last Friday the triple bill lineup headed up by hometown Bloodshot Records artist Sarah Shook and the Disarmers exceeded everyone’s expectations. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
What’s in a name? A name is the first introduction to a person or a thing. I think a name is very important. So when I think of Joe’s Truck Stop, the name conjures up images of something familiar and something comfortable. The name is very welcoming, they serve one and all at Joe’s. The customer service and execution by the folks at Joe’s is second to none. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I would like to come up with a new measure to evaluate music. The listenability index. After all, that is what is most important. How good does it sound? Is it something that can be played over and over without repelling the listener? The index goes from one to 100, with 100 being the most listenable, and one being the least. Life Is Good On The Open Road gets a listenability index rating of 100. Yes, you read that right. I have listened to the entire album three times now and I have yet to find a part where I said to myself, “I would have phrased that differently.” I can’t find one flaw. And believe me, I tried. That’s what I do as a critic.  (more…)

Reviewed by Bill Tokash
Hank. Buck and Don. Jimmie, George. Ray, Dolly. Tammy. Ira and Charlie. Dwight. Gram. Ralph. Loretta. These are country artists whose soulful vocal stylings strike me viscerally in an inexplicable way. Like when I hear George Jones sing “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)” and I’m overwhelmed because I can feel every ounce of his pain in each syllable and note. Or when The Louvin Brothers sing When I Stop Dreaming and the very depth of the love they are expressing is palpable. I certainly wouldn’t go to bat arguing that Sarah Shook has a vocal range or capability on par with some of the greats. But I feel every gram of her heartbreak, impatience, regret, fierce determination, and newfound independence in her voice across the ten new songs on Years, her standout second release on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records.

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Reviewed by Bill Tokash
John Prine was my gateway drug to Twang Life. It took me awhile to finally get myself caught up in the Twang Life. One of my earliest musical memories was playing my dad’s Hank ‘45s on our pop-top record player. But it was the 70s, and Twang was Not Cool in my neighborhood. I kept my emerging addiction under wraps for years, awash in 70s arena rock, punk rock, and 80s and 90s college/indie rock. But the search for authentic ‘Twang Life’ music dominates most of what I look for and listen to nowadays.
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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
If you are looking for your next honky tonk hero, I think I may have found him. His name is Jame Scott Bullard (JSB) and he is pure, 24 karat gold. Not only does JSB look the part, he has lived it. The songs all tell JSB’s story. He used to abuse alcohol and drugs, but now his energy is spent building and developing his art. He is very versatile as well. He can sing honky tonk, outlaw, punk, metal, and good old rock and roll. If JSB were a baseball player, he would be described as a “five tool player”. (more…)