Friday, March 16, 2018

Album Spotlight: Dorothy - 28 Days In The Valley

For anyone wanting Dorothy's second album 28 Days In The Valley to be ROCKISDEAD part two, well, it's not. What it is though is a much more diverse and, in my opinion, better album. And that's saying a lot, because ROCKISDEAD was one of my top albums from 2016.

The title 28 Days In The Valley refers to how long it took to record the album, produced by, and some songs co-written by, Linda Perry. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Perry was the singer and primary songwriter for 4 Non Blondes.

Dorothy Martin, which is whom the band is named for, also got sober and removed herself from a toxic relationship and put together an entire new band for this album. As a result, some of the songs on 28 Days In The Valley seem cathartic while many others are almost spiritual in nature, reflecting her new outlook on life.

I usually don't get into background information this much or comment on lyrics (that is up for the listener's interpretation) but I thought it was important this time. It matters to how I interpret the music in this case, which, to me, is the most relevant thing; Is the music good?

After a couple of cursory spins of the album, I listened with a purpose. This is an album that is a veritable homage to classic rock. It has everything. I first fell in love with Dorothy on the debut album because of all of the swamp. 28 Days In The Valley still has that swamp, but so much more.

There is really no easy way to describe the music. From start to finish, the easiest thing to compare it to is Southern Rock. The album has so many elements of that music running through the course of the songs, but it's much more nuanced than that.

The title song is a vignette that could be on a western movie soundtrack that evokes thoughts of tumbleweeds and dust. "Mountain" is a Southern Rock, almost gospel song. "Freedom" is a Southern Rock song with hints of psychedelia. "Ain't Our Time to Die" has a strong, groovy Tom Petty vibe to it. "White Butterfly", which Dorothy said in an interview is essentially a prayer, has an Allman Brothers meets Pink Floyd to it. "Philadelphia" is reminiscent of Debbie Harry in Blondie.

This is not to say that any of the songs are cheap knock-offs or dated. It's just that those influences (if they are) come through in the songs and execution. I also get hints of Grace Slick, Heart and Sheryl Crow in different parts of the album.

I'm also I big fan of how this album was recorded/produced. It has that 70s feel where all the instruments are prominent and nothing gets buried in the mix.

28 Days In The Valley is an unapologetic rock album that should resonate with any fans of what rock was in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. And thankfully we still have artists like Dorothy making kickass rock music.

Here are some songs that represent the diversity of the album, but I would suggest listening to it all:

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Show Experience with Dorothy and Holly West

I went to see Dorothy on 3/9/2018 at the House of Blues in Dallas, TX in the Cambridge Room. Why is the name of the room important? Because there are two rooms at the Dallas House of Blues. The Cambridge Room is the smaller room with a capacity of 250. It was sold out.

This was part of Dorothy's Freedom Tour in which she headlined smaller venues and enlisted local artists from each city to open the show. That night's opener was local Dallas artist Holly West, more on her later.

The crowd was diverse, ranging from teenagers to people at least in their 50's. I fall much closer to the latter category. Being that it was at such a small venue, standing only general admission, there was not a bad place to be. The kids crowded the stage while the older folk hung back.

Holly West took the stage with her three piece band spitting fire with their version of blues rock. West was on bass and all the vocals with the accompaniment of drums and guitar. All three are excellent musicians. Holly's vocals were fantastic. The guitar player had some excellent slide guitar mixed in with his bluesy solos. The drummer. Let's talk about the drummer.

For some reason, he reminded me of Jack Black. He was putting on a show within a show. Throwing his stick in the air and catching it with every opportunity. Standing up between songs to incite the crowd to cheer. Using his foot for cymbal crashes. He was a joy to watch.

Seriously, Dorothy did a service to everyone by picking Holly West to open the show. Aside from the two deeper cut covers by Think Lizzy and Led Zeppelin that West did, I did not know a single song but was into it the entire time. Her EP Mokita is available on streaming services. Check her out if you like Dorothy.

I'm going to talk about Dorothy's music first before I talk about the show. I have been a fan since first hearing the debut album ROCKISDEAD, a swampy, bluesy, sultry hard rock album. I wrote about it here. Dorothy played a few songs from that album, but more than half were from her upcoming album, of which three songs have already been released. From what Dorothy played live, this new album is going to be more diverse and better than the debut. When I don't know the songs and they move me, there is something there.

Dorothy Martin commanded the stage with the grace of Stevie Nicks, the swagger of Robert Plant and the enthusiasm of Grace Potter. This was an old school rock show. No glitz and glam, just a band belting out one banger after another. And so much fun.

Martin looked like she was having fun, from her bouncing around to her between song banter. And she was in control, telling one person in the crowd to shut of the iPhone because the of the light and telling the bartenders to turn of the TVs at the bar because they were distracting her from the crowd. The crowd ate it up.

You always hear a record with great vocals and then when see them live, eh, what tricks did they play in the studio. Not so with Dorothy. Her vocals live are as good as on the record. I appreciate that.

Martin has also assembled a great band behind her. Two guitars, bass and drums. Theme of the night? Excellent musicians. I really enjoyed the guitar solos that you don't get as much anymore. There just aren't the shredders that used to be on every corner in the 80s. And the bass player was channeling his inner Juan Croucier (look it up kids), I'm sure he would have done spins if the stage were bigger.

Admittedly, I haven't been to as many rock shows lately as I have in the past, but this was one of the most fun and best one's I've ever been to. If you get a chance, go see Dorothy live, you won't be disappointed, unless, of course, you just don't like good music. Kidding. But if you like hard rock, they put on a great show.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Album Spotlight: Ruby Boots - Don't Talk About It

Australian rocker Ruby Boots (real name Bex Chillcot) has led an interesting life. She's been living independently since the age of 16, worked on a pearl farm and took a three year break from singing to repair vocal nodules. Those are just the highlights, but we're here to talk about her latest album Don't Talk About It. Yes, I realize the irony in that last sentence.

I'll admit it, maybe nostalgia has clouded my judgement, but save for one song, this reminds of the stuff I would hear on popular mainstream radio in the late 80s/early 90s. Can I compare Ruby Boots to anyone from that time? Not exactly, she has her own unique sound that is reminiscent of the time when radio was not filled with electronics and manufactured music.

There are elements of rockabilly, rock, country, punk and even some bubblegum on the album. It has been said that this is not a cohesive album, but that's kinda what I like about it. You want to hear the next song because you know it isn't going to be like the one you're currently listening to.

To bring it back to my nostalgia, this would have been one hell of a rock album in the 80s.  Not sure Ruby Boots or her fans would agree, but that is a compliment.

I try to be current, but music doesn't come with an expiration date. I will admit that it took me a  bit to process this album, which means I've listened to it several times. I'm still not tired of it. It's that good.

Here is the video for "Don't Talk About It"

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Album Spotlight: India Ramey - Snake Handler

India Ramey's third studio album Snake Handler takes listeners on a very personal journey through Ramey's formative years and beyond.

The songs on Snake Handler explore the domestic abuse of Ramey's mother by her father, the angst of having her father's blood in her, Pentecostal church experiences, a dead end town; murder, sex and corruption in a small town; a town ruined by flood, and finally, a visit to her estranged father in a coma on his deathbed.

None of it is light fair. It's all pretty heavy and heady. I don't want to put words in her mouth, but to this listener, it seems like an album bent on exorcising demons and coming out the other side in a better frame of mind.

As any regular reader here knows, I usually don't spend that many words on the the lyrics/themes of any album. For me it's mostly about the music. However, once the music draws me in, and the subject matter is worthy, I like to point it out.

Snake Handler has been described as Southern Gothic because of some of the darker subject matter. Mostly it's just a swampy record describing real things, exploring grown up subjects, It leans country, sometimes more than others, but it's real instruments played by real people.

Here is the title track "Snake Handler":

And here is a live acoustic version of"Devil's Den", probably my favorite song:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Album Spotlight: Sonia Leigh - Mad Hatter

This, being my first album spotlight of 2018, let us go over what constitutes an album being spotlight worthy for me.
1. This shouldn't have to be said, but it has to be. It has to be an albums I've listened to.
2. No or one skipworthy song. Yeah, that's a pretty high bar. But I do albums and not songs. You may think that's quaint and/or antiquated, but that's still how I consume music. What does skipworthy actually mean? It's the song/s that one would automatically skip every single time.

Now, let's explore good music this year. That's what I intend to do.

I will admit that Sonia Leigh's Mad Hatter had me perplexed at first listen. It's like listening to your friend's eclectic playlist. She has purposely recorded music that would not pigeon-hole her. She has succeeded.

I don't like to compare artists to other artists, but as every song on Mad Hatter is a turn in a different direction, I feel comparisons, for the purpose of context, are in order.

Sonia's voice, on the more hard-edged songs, is reminiscent of Joan Jett. A lot of the songs have the quirky vibe of early Sheryl Crow. Maybe some Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders as well.

This one was hard for me. The good is so good, and there is so much good, but the bad is atrocious. Clocking in at 11 songs, it's definitely one song too long. The album closer, "Mind on the Prize", is an all out assault on the aural senses. Do yourself a favor and just end your listening after 10 songs.

I'm able to forgive one terrible song like I did with Angaleena Presley and "Country". I could forgive "Mind on the Prize", but then there is "Walking in the Moonlight", which could have been done by Demi Lovato or Carly Rae Jepsen. But there is enough there and it's catchy enough that I wouldn't actively skip it.

That's the bad. The other nine songs are fantastic. Delving into many different genres while never focusing on any particular one, it's all interesting. I like interesting. Give me something interesting and edgy over something safe and saccharine any day.

Strap into the seat and give this roller coaster of an album a try. I guarantee you  will not like it all, but you will find something to like. Sonia Leigh is talented and quirky and will have none of your BS. Not sure if I like this as much as I respect it.

Today, this is my favorite song on the album, subject to change without warning.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Music Video: Danielle Nicole - Save Me

This from Danielle Nicole's upcoming album Cry No More, set for a February 23 release. This is better than the studio version.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Album Spotlight: Danielia Cotton - The Mystery of Me

For anyone who doubts Spotify as a music discovery device, you're not using it correctly. While it is The Mystery of Me just blew me away.
not my main music discovery vehicle (I rely on blogs and social media for a lot of it), it can be very effective. Spotify recommended for me Danielia Cotton. Never heard of her before from anywhere. Her latest album

The Mystery of Me is a rock album akin to the rock albums I grew up listening to. Rockers, ballads, swamp, blues, Motown and soul all rolled up into something interesting and entertaining. Think a funkier, bluesier Southern Rock with a Lzzy Hale/Janis Joplin vocal mashup.

If you like diversity in an album, The Mystery of Me has it. If you need lyrical depth in an album, this one has it as well.

There is not going to be any in-depth analysis here, words just get in the way of listening to good music.

Here is "Set Me Free" from the album. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Album Spotlight: Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown

Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown's self-titled album is their fifth release and second full album. It's an eleven song piece of real hard rock, swampy, groovy, bluesy and guitar-heavy.

Tyler Bryant grew up in Texas and moved to Nashville during his senior year of high school. The Shakedown is comprised of drummer Caleb Crosby, bassist Noah Denney and guitarist Graham Whitford (son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford).

With this self-titled release, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown seem to have found their niche, deftly combining the blues, swamp and heavy rock with a touch of Alice Cooper creepiness and Aerosmith (of course, right?). Sonically the album is great.

Vocally, well, Bryant doesn't have the best voice in the world, but it works. See the Alice Cooper reference above. His voice exudes the right emotion and passion on every song.

This is another great example that rock isn't dead if you want to find it.

Here is the official lyric video for "Heartland":

And here is a live acoustic version of my favorite song from the album "Ramblin' Bones":