Alex Blum And The Roadside Quartet: If You’re Even Listening – Album Review
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Alex Blum And The Roadside Quartet have challenged us to see “If You’re Even Listening” to their newest full length album. In the last three years, Alex Blum and company have been busy. This outfit from southwest Washington has put out some great music. Yes, it was COVID time and there wasn’t anything else happening but the band was hard at work releasing singles, EPs, and full length albums. This is their follow up to the February, 2021 EP, “Talk Amongst Yourselves”. The band’s primary songwriter, Patrick Storedahl, has written 13 great songs on “If You’re Even Listening” that I would categorize as a cross between 70s rock and roll and 80s and 90s style jangle/dream pop. The bands that come to mind when listening, as a benchmark, are Fleetwood Mac, Mazzy Star, and Aimee Mann. Very solid songs that are pure ear candy.
Did I just get hit in the head with a ten pound cinder block? No, I’m listening to Jimmy Pinch’s new album, “Western Morning News“. Some may argue that those actions are one in the same. Jimmy, who hails from across the pond in England put out a dandy of a release last month that is quite worthy of some attention. This release is nothing fancy. What I mean by that is there is limited knob twisting, no production tricks, and no overdubs. Just a man, his band, and a multitrack. Here are some quotes from Jimmy’s Bandcamp page:
What an absolute breath of fresh air. First of all, Peter Case is a very interesting “case” study. He is an old fashioned troubadour who takes his guitar and station wagon and brings music to the people. In a time of instant gratification and electronic delivery systems, Peter Case still does it the hard way. No video cameras, no laptops, and no live streams. When Peter comes to town, it is a tangible, rewarding experience. All of the senses are engaged. Of course there is hearing and sound, but also taste, smell, and feel. It is a full sensory experience.
It may have started from a whisper but this release is so damn good I want to shout about it from the rooftop! It has been a long while since my last review so I wanted to start off with something special and something great. Check, check. This is both of those things. I don’t know a lot about Shippee but what I do know is that he is an artist from Northern Minnesota and music is only a part time endeavor. Other than that, I know very little so that is a good opportunity to just focus on the music.
In the wake of 2020, Lilly Hiatt shares her experience with isolation and loneliness through her latest album,Lately. Particularly in comparison to her previous album Walking Proof, Lately is soft, yet revealing. Though muted in sound, the album speaks volumes about the depths of emotion many were forced to face during the pandemic. Hiatt portrays her poetic songwriting in ballads, likeSimpleand Ride. On the other hand, she offers more swinging rock songs, like Faceand Gem.
Elijah Ocean’s latest album, Born Blue, is about as classic country as it gets. The catchy album is loaded with pedal steel, fiddle, electric guitars, and – of course – Ocean’s notable, twangy vocals. The outcome is a straight up country album inundated with (as Ocean acknowledges in hisinterview with us)Bakersfield influence. The Bakersfield sound, a subgenre of country developed in the 1950s, takes each song back to the roots of traditional country.
Jenny Don’t And The Spurs have been hitting the trail since 2012. Nine years to get warmed up, but they are just getting started. They recently embarked on a tour opening for Charley Crockett. This is a perfect example of seasoned punk rockers who inevitably venture into the world of country music. This is the natural progression. The honesty and rawness is still there, it’s just some of the untamed aggression has been quelled. That is the case for Jenny Don’t And The Spurs, who were created out of the Portland, Oregon punk community. Just to review, this is pure country music, folks. From the slow crooners to the upbeat, fast paced numbers, Jenny and company are on the case. Playin’ country music the way it was meant to be played, with 100% conviction and honesty.
Kyle Lalone buckled down during quarantine to cultivate his recently released album, Looking for the Good. Last year, I reviewed Lalone’s 2020 EP, Somewhere in Between, and referred to it as the epitome of classic country music. Well folks, he has done it again! The album, produced and mixed by Elijah Ocean, is chock-full of rock, funk, and of course, that classic country twang that Lalone so naturally creates.
There shouldn’t be any doubt about who released this album. I think the title leaves little doubt as to who the artist is. I kid. Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan is Aaron’s fifth full length release and shows some serious growth related to recording, composing, and arranging. Although Aaron is known primarily as a live musician, and rightfully so, he is becoming very adept at working in the studio. Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! is a difficult album to describe as far as genres go. His influences are broad and you get little glimpses of those influences throughout the album. Some of the names that come to mind include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, T Rex, and Tom Petty. Aaron is able to use synthesis, or the combination of ideas and influences, to create something unique to him and his music. And it works extremely well.
The Rev. and his “big band” are at it again with a release that sounds like it was written about 50 years ago in the heart of the Delta. The man who is front porch trained, along with his two partners, Breezy and Max released their 10th album. It is said the third time is the charm, but maybe it is really the tenth time because this album is totally enchanting. The title, Dance Songs For Hard Times, is certainly timely and appropriate. They are continually creating their own brand of blues and rock and roll. All things old are new again. And that’s fine with me because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The good thing is that the band is constantly changing and evolving. This album is the culmination of years of playing, practicing, and trial and error. They know what works and they get every drop of value out of it.