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CHARLIE BALLANTINE//Providence: The mash up influence is everywhere. The hot, young guitarist from Indian-noplace might have been turned on by Wes but he's had his head turned by Scoey and Frisell and delivers a greater dose of Texas funk than he might even realize. No smooth jazz or post bop for this cat, he's going his own way with a head turning sound and vibe that grabs you early and doesn't let go. The road to the top might be harder than it used to be, but on playing alone, Ballantine is up for the challenge and plays like he's here to go the distance. He also delivers the new sound of cool. This is a kid to keep your ears open for as well as ready, willing and able to receive. Hot stuff throughout.

JOAN JEANRENAUD/Visual Music: You just don't mess with the Joan. Making an album out of commissioned pieces from over the last six years, she plays most of the material solo--but is it? By multi tracking her cello, she controls the textures and dimensions of the sound going from sprightly to sinister and making all the stops in between. It might have started out as a non album but she weaves it into an interesting, cohesive statement showing why you should never write her off as an art chick, ever; from the beginning of her career to now and beyond. While it's certainly Sunday afternoon music, adventurous ears might get even more out of it than eggheads. It's your trip to take and it's quite an enjoyable one.

STEVE KAHN/Ravens: If the cat on the back cover looks a little long in the tooth for this folksinger thing, just remember he was one of the leading lights of the Somona Country folk revival of the late 70s. He also comes by his left leaning stances naturally as his pop was a black listed writer way back in the day. The only reason to stop short of naming him the new U. Utah Phillips is that Kahn has a friendlier demeanor and is easier to rollick along with even when he gets up on his soap box. Writing new songs that sound as lived in as if you first heard them in the campus coffee house back in the hippie days, this is a most welcome folkie set organic ears could hope for. Well done.

NANA SIMOPOULOS/Skins: This is the classic case of when is an art chick not an art chick?. Simopoulos is way too accomplished and has way too cool a guest list on board here to mistake her for some self styled schemata queen busy finding herself. Opening up with a left leaning but straight ahead jazz cooker, her pen and chops take her to places you want to go. With a vibe that feels like a disciplined version of post-Miles 70s out there jazz, this is a load of music that's good for your head. Tasty, well done killer stuff that'll have you running her for the rest of her catalog. Check it out.

THE MOVEMENT/Golden: The skanking white boys from Philly by way of South Carolina show they have what it takes to debut at the top of the reggae charts yet again. A tasty party record that pushes a few agendas but is about good times in the end arrives just in time for the sun to come out in most of the country. With a nice, fat production to back it all up, even lazy fat asses will be bouncing in their chairs when this is playing whether they want to or not. Hot times just right for a hot summer.

ALBERT CASTIGLIA/Big Dog: A perfect example of the kind of ragged but right player that makes up for in soul what he lacks in perfection, this white boy blues rocker swings for the fences this time out and clears them with room to spare. Writing with a Neville and dipping into Jack Daniels catalog to show his love for his mentor, Junior Wells, Castiglia has found the freedom to let him claim his place at the top of the roadhouse rocker mountain. Playing like a cat that has to play, anyone who remembers the juke joint at the edge of town where the Wal-Mart parking lot is now will testify how this record testifies. Killer stuff.

TASHA TAYLOR/Honey for the Biscuit: Sometimes it really is in the bloodstream. Johnnie Taylor's daughter has tried her hand successfully at several things but the lure of the tunes kept calling to her. Dad's Stax side must have really imprinted on her because this record is full of McLemore Avenue blues and soul with no tinges of CBS or Malaco. The kind of artist that sounds like she can stand on her own two feet, dad might have given her the DNA but she's taken it from there. Easily some of the mightiest, modern deep soul around, this set is a stone cold killer that you'll never confuse with background music. Hot stuff throughout.

JANE LEE HOOKER/No B!: Rising from the ashes of Nashville Pussy, you have to give this bunch of five white girls with the blues 5 out of ten points before you play it just for having the chutzpah for naming the group as they did. And let me tell you now, don't even think about playing this record if you are a moldy fig without a vial of digitalis near by. A door opening set on the new punk blues genre, this isn't as radical as it sounds. This bunch plays in line with Muddy Waters post war, urban industrial blues vision, just modernized. Rather than try to grab your attention by reinventing the wheel, they fearlessly add their touch and punch to covers from Ray Charles, Otis, the MGs, Memphis Minnie, Muddy and Willie as well as Billy Crystal's uncle. And wait until you hear what they do to gospel! A wake up clarion call throughout, this is killer stuff that turns the entire genre on it's head and leads the way to tomorrow. Whew!

SILVA/Jupiter: Can't tell you if this Brazilian award winner planned it this way or if it's just my ears but he's made a great sounding Euro trash record. For those that want to chill to something other than oontz oontz music or the same bunch of down tempo grooves, Silva has found his inner Serge Gainsbourgh, dressed him up in au currant clothing and let his freek flag fly. The perfect soundtrack for laying wasted on the beach whether the sun is going up or going down, this is really cool stuff----even if you just enjoy it on Tar Beach. Step up to a new kind of cool.

JENNIFER SARAN/Walk With Me: Produced by Michael Walden, who called in a bunch of first call pals who aren't necessarily the usual suspects, the American vocalist living in Hong Kong gives the locals something to keep them cheering for her. Sophisticated adult pop, if Saran was working here, this set would be in the car with every soccer mom out there. Perhaps this is a pioneering set in a new genre we'll dub Oprah Music since it elegantly hits on all the themes Oprah has up her sleeve.

Volume 39/Number 171
April 20, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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