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PASSAFIRE/Longshot: The label is known for modern reggae but this outing strikes me more as a progressive jam band date. Nu roots music for Gen Z-ers that don't wan t to listen to Buddy Miller with their dads and granddads, this speaks to young ‘uns louder than being told to be a light house at the sailor's end---and it brings nu and new ears into the tent. With ten years of fighting it out on their own, they have the chops and smarts to show the manques a thing or two and how to take it all into tomorrow. A very smart set kids can turn their parents on to with no kicking and screaming. Check it out.

POLLY O'LEARY & the Rhythm Method/Black Crow Callin': Warners was good for Bonnie Raitt but they didn't do good by Raitt. Boiling it all down to it's purest state, this is the album Raitt should have made after "Give It Up" and it would have made her a star before the comodification of FM radio when the song was still more important than the single. This hard hitting, primal blues rocker knows her mind and heart and even if the old system isn't in place anymore, O'Keary can blaze her own trail and beat all comers to the finish line anyway. Delivering the sound of determination more than anything else, O'Keary is already a star, everyone outside of Washington state just needs to catch up. Killer stuff throughout.

LOW SOCIETY/Sanctified: With the miles and floorboards that have been under this crew's feet for the last ten years, it should come as no surprise that lead belter Mandy Lemons gives Bonnie Raitt a run for her money on Lemons' take on "Angel from Montgomery". The rest of the set is original blues rock roof raising with songs so on point you can listen to material you never heard before fearlessly because the writing and singing deliver again and again. Relocating to Memphis and discovering it's really her natchurl home, Lemons and compatriot Sturgis Nikides take their stuff to record in Belgium and find fellow travelers there that are rejoicing to have found an outlet for their pent up blues rock energy. This winning set hits on all eight and you don't have to be an aging frat boy to appreciate it. Killer stuff throughout.

FRANKY & THE BAND/Austin, Texas-the Rock Opera-A Texas Love Story: What's not to love about a rock opera about Austin, TX recorded in Chicago? A wildly ambitious set that certainly doesn't fit the format, this is the record for anyone that ever wanted to go to a play but just never found the vibe right for them. Almost a carnival of a recording, this is a fun, spirited performance that's part of a multi media presentation and it summons up every ounce of energy to make it an offbeat pleasure of the highest order. A work like this could only come from the heart and it's sure to touch any one that favors coloring outside the lines. Well done.

HIROE SEKINE/One World One Sun: How much of a chance are you really taking by cracking open the shrink wrap on Sekine's latest when you know that Russ Ferrante is in the producers chair and Weather Report refugees are lending their capable hands? Different from the last two sets that were in the same mold, this time around Sekine takes her inspiration from around the world almost letting her piano lead the way. With exploration at the core, this is a jazz date in a loose sense in that it mixmasters lots of stuff into the mix, all done by players that know how to get it done and are enjoying the chance to flex and stretch. Dazzling and diverse, you might just be surprised what these cats have in them. Well done.

JEREMY BACON TRIO/Cage Free Free Range: When you're one of those cats that played everything with everybody, it's a nice stopping point to put yourself out front and turn in a set of classics that you can make sound effortless. Then add this: you're a New Yorker and your uncle was one of the founders of Riverside Records. All these things add up to putting a lot of jazz in your veins. Throw in recording the set old school, in one afternoon, then tipping the cap to some Riverside cats and you have a sleek, under the radar gem that's done right. Swinging stuff from his blood stream to yours, this is piano jazz that does the job and knows all the tricks. A right on set throughout.

MICK KOLASSA & MARK TELESCA/You Can't Do That!: I've heard hypothesis that if Beatles jumped in the van, ala Police, and toured America, they would have been a great roots band by the time they covered the country. Well....., a lot of people say a lot of things. Mick & Mark must have heard this saying and had a light bulb moment. They love blues and Beatles so they did the only thing that made sense to them---make a back porch version of Beatles songs sticking to what's appropriate to the form rather than taking the soft landing of forcing the hits into the mold, ala gift shop music. There's been plenty of jazz Beatles over the years but acoustic blues? Mick & Mark must have had this in the back of their minds for quite a while because the results are stunningly original and well thought out. Just the thing to drive Beatles fans that think they've heard everything nuts, it's almost unthinkable to think someone could make this stuff their own but this duo does it in fine style. Hot stuff no matter how the fire burns with consistent low heat.

SYLVIA BROOKS/The Arrangement: The queen of jazz noir changes her look and sound a bit but the cover shot still smacks of a femme fatale slinking down a hotel hallway. Corralling the crème of LA's jazzbo community to assist as all levels of the game, she writes a little more, digs some different sounds, but never loses sight of her laser focus as being a top jazz singer that understands her lyrics and knows how to make them new. Chops like this are practically one of a kind and are not to be missed. The reigning queen reigns on.

CLIFFORD LAMB/Brothers & Sisters: When producer Jeffrey Weber rounds up the troops he doesn't mess around. Calling in a veritable handpicked A team of jazzbos to support this well chopped piano man, the result is a fast ball right down the middle. Recording direct to two tracks as he's been doing for years, Weber helps Lamb find his sweet spot making sure that the third time out is the charm. Already no stranger to airplay and acclaim, Lamb adds that specially brewed special sauce to this set and victory is his. A real tonic for thirsty ears looking for real playing where the chops are in evidence but not the whole show. Well done.

Volume 40/Number 171
April 21, 2017
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2017 Midwest Record

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