Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The uber talented Emily Duff is at it again. She just released here follow up to “Maybe In The Morning” and it is a good one. From New York City by way of Muscle Shoals, this 12 song, 45 minute album will give you more shakes than Baskin Robbins. While “Maybe In The Morning” was a bit more on the rockabilly/honky tonk side of the tracks, “Hallelujah Hello” is pure southern gospel. And Emily nails it. Right down to the stellar backing vocals and the Hammond-esque organ licks all over da place.
Then there is the writing. All the songs seem to be very spiritual, with almost all the songs devoted to the man upstairs. You don’t have to listen very long in order to get a good heavy helping of spirituality. In fact, the first and title track pretty much says it all, Hallelujah Hello (Track 1). If you every need a pick me up, this is it. A very upbeat song that just makes me feel good. I ain’t gonna say more about it. This is a motivational powerhouse. 
Let’s take a trip across to Track 11, Loved Blues. This is a song about redemption. This number is the one departure to the Gospel motif and really takes it down to the blues, hence the name. The slide guitar parts on this song are truly out of this world. It is the perfect set up for Emily’s vocals. Talking about being loved by a power greater than ourselves. Another song of immense power. 
If you aren’t sure if you like Gospel, give Jesus Love This Tired Woman (Track 6). I am solidly convinced that if you were on the fence, this song will absolutely change your mind to the positive. Emily has such a persuasive and infectious voice that she will convert the masses. Maybe that was her goal? Not sure. Whatever her objective, this song definitely meets them, if not exceeds them.
Do I have to say it again? okay, I love local, independent artists. And Emily Duff is just that. Besides being indie as all get out, she is also a stone cold singer songwriter. Since conversion seems to be a central theme of this collection, let me just say you will be converted after one listen. Hallelujah!
Listen and buy Hallelujah Hello

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The title, “Blue With Lou” is referring to the Lou who is also at the top of the rock and roll food chain posthumously. That would be Lou Reed. This album contains six tracks that were co-written with Lou Reed way back in the late 70s. These six songs were what remained on the cutting room floor. After Reed’s death in 2013, Nils had seriously considered breathing life into the “lost tracks”. “They got left by the wayside. Years went by, and it kept nagging at me. I thought, look, Lou’s not here to deliver these lyrics. He was inspired when he did this. It would be a shame not to share it”, stated Lofgren in a Conqueroo press release  about the upcoming album. 
That press release also gives insight as to how the whole project was conceived to begin with: 
“I kind of forgot about the idea,” Lofgren recalls. “About a month after that, I was sound asleep, the phone rang at 4:30 in the morning, and I answered it in the dark. ‘Hey, Nils, it’s Lou Reed.’ That woke me up. He said, ‘I’ve been listening to the tape you sent, and I love it. I’ve been up for three days and nights straight. I haven’t slept. I’ve been working on your tape. I’ve completed 13 sets of lyrics that I love.’ And I’m like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ Then he said, ‘If you wanna get a pad and pencil, I’ll dictate them to you.’ We spent two more hours on the phone. You can imagine my excitement.”
Ultimately, the co-written songs “A Fool Like Me,” “I Found Her,” and “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (the last co-written with guitarist Dick Wagner) appeared on Nils, while Reed claimed “City Lights,” “Stupid Man,” and “With You” for his own 1979 album The Bells. The pair’s “Life” appeared on Lofgren’s Damaged Goods (1995), while “Driftin’ Man” was recorded for his Breakaway Angel (2002). 
Having two rock and roll heavyweights on a project of this caliber is enough to garner a lot of buzz. But the ultimate question remains: Does it sound good? The answer is a resounding yes. The writing on all of the songs is smart and makes me nod in agreement when the words unfold. The sound, mix, and production are as good as it gets. Hats off to Nils and his wife Amy who tackled all of the technical stuff in-house.   
Blue With Lou (Track 7), the title track has moved out early to the front of the pack. This is not one of the songs that Nils and Lou penned together. This number was 100% conceived by Nils. He did a phenomenal job of crafting this song so it fits perfectly alongside the rest of the 11 passengers on this rock and roll bus. Of course the song is about Reed and the words describe Lou perfectly. Lou had the ability to really explore the under belly of society and apparently Nils does as well. The guitar work and backing vocals are the leaders in this very talented class.
The album starts out with the ballsy, protest ballad Attitude City (Track 1). This song was written by both parties and it is a perfect lead off number. It has the right amount of brashness and pace to set the tone for the rest of the songs. I don’t think enough can be said about Nils’ guitar work. The man knows his way around a fret board. But more than that, Nils shows on this number that not only is he technically proficient, the feeling part is what really shines through. The song seems to be about vanity and arrogance among the Hollywood and music jet set types. Not much has changed in 40 years, unfortunately. 
This album is amazing just on the merits of the music and writing alone. If you throw in the Lou Reed collaboration, it makes this mountain even larger. Add the fact that both Reed and Lofgren are esteemed members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, makes it that much more desirable. Not only does it live up to the hype, it completely overshadows it.
Listen to Blue With Lou
Buy Blue With Lou

 

 

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

A mid tempo masterpiece. Don’t let the pace fool ya’, what “I Like It Down Here” lacks in speed is made up in spades with vibe. Yes, this album is a vibe machine and evokes a beautiful emotional shield that protects the listener. Beside the pace, every song is completely unique and stands alone quite nicely. This is Will’s first solo release in five years. That is a bit uncommon, since Will’s pattern used to be an album every two years or so. But it isn’t like Will was just relaxing. He is a very sought after producer in addition to his musical prowess. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Local Baltimore hero Cris Jacobs is at it again. This is his follow up to Dust To Gold. I can’t believe it has been two and a half years since Cris’s last release. I honestly thought is was about a year. That gives you all some indication about my incredible ability to underestimate time. A sign of getting older, I guess. I must say , the sound of Color Where You Are is done in a very similar style to Dust To Gold. This current offering may be even more understated than the last one.  (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Holy cow, this is good! Mighty fine songwriting. And the arrangement, composition, and recording is brilliant. As you know, or should know, I have a penchant for independent music. This is indie AF. But is doesn’t sound home made at all. The sound, mix, and production is professional studio caliber. The transitions from vocals to solos or from lead vocals to harmonies are perfect. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The jongleur of Jacksonville is at it again, releasing his first new album in five years. Peak is a misnomer because Roy is still on the rise. A five year gap is understandable between albums since Roy has a lot of balls in the air (writing, producing, putting on shows, etc.). How’s that for tying in the juggler motif? Alright let’s back to the topic at hand, the sound waves. Roy makes some killer waves, ten waves to be exact. Some of the waves are rather compact and tightly contained while others are very grand and powerful. Be careful or some of these “waves” will swallow you up whole. 
This time, I will begin at the beginning. Sylvia Sylvia (Track 1) is Roy’s first offering on this collection and it is a beautiful tune with luxurious acoustic guitar parts that really ground this song and allow Roy and the other musicians to explore a bit. But they always come back to the foundation. The song is quite complex, the fills are fairly intricate, but not too fancy as to over power the other elements. Balance is the key here.
Roy’s voice is very interesting and quite pleasing to listen to. He doesn’t have the vocal range of some, but he makes up for that with his fine writing and musical prowess. The Radioactive Kid (Track 3) perfectly exemplifies this. Just take a listen to those pedal steel riffs. Heaven, here I come. Roy’s voice is the perfect voice for this music, much like Neil Young. I absolutely adore the spacey, country vibe that makes me feel like I am somewhere else. Somewhere a million miles away. Thank goodness this song is only five minutes long or I may have drifted into the abyss.  
Time to put your money where your mouth is. I know you all say you support independent music. Prove it. Roy Peak is as “indie” and “DIY” as humanly possible. And besides that, An Ever Darkening Sky is a damn good album. I can say with pride that I have added the album to my best playlist and eagerly await listening ASAP. 
Listen and buy An Ever Darkening Sky

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
In the two, almost three, years I have been doing TwangriLa, this is the third Baltimore band that I have reviewed. I hope that Overgrown by Haint Blue is a precursor of things to come. I would love nothing more than to review more local bands that are in the Americana space. Unfortunately, Baltimore doesn’t seem like the town that supports those types of acts. Until now. I do believe that this release will be a turning point for the Baltimore Americana music scene. And Haint Blue have appeared on Tiny Desk Concert. That’s street cred.

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Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Pure spirituality. People talk about being born again or being enlightened. This is the closest I can say I have ever gotten to either of them and it is because of Medium Cool by Luther Russell. This is uplifting in addition to being a vital release. I am going to take out Ms. Sally’s magic mirror from Romper Room. I think a lot of those names were made up, but what I am about to write is 100% authentic, like the music I am listening to. So instead of see, I hear REM, The Byrds, The Cramps, Cheap Trick, The Velvet Underground, and some Big Star. As I have stated before, pop does not have to be a dirty word. In this case, pop is the ultimate compliment. 

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Photo courtesy of Irene Young
John McCutcheon is a singer, songwriter, and musician with 47 plus years of performance experience. He just released his 40th album, To Everyone In All The World: A Celebration Of Pete Seeger. This is a collection of songs of music written and performed by Pete Seeger who was one of the most influential songwriters of the 20th century, among Pete’s other attributes. John speaks in detail about his new album as well as touring, and many other interesting topics.
               JM – John McCutcheon                                         TL – TwangriLa
TL: Thank you for doing this interview. I really appreciate it. It’s an honor.
JM:  Well I appreciate you taking an interest in the project.
TL: I’m speaking with John McCutcheon, a musician and performer with a 50-year career and 34 albums under his belt. With John’s biography, there are endorsements from Johnny Cash and Pete Singer. Welcome. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
What a breath of fresh air. Just beautiful music that never goes out of style. People still like real singing and instrument playing. There is no substitute for that, yet. Real singing is what you get, and even more. In fact, you will get The Whole Shebang. Way to work that title in, huh? But in addition to getting some world class vocals, you get some really fine playing. The drumming and percussion really stand out to me.  (more…)