“You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, THE ART OF THE SAMPLE!”
Best known in the U.S. for his work with Aboriginal band Yothu Yindi, blind multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (AKA Gurrumul) is the best-selling Australian indigenous musician of all time. His 2009 debut solo album, GURRUMUL, hit #1 on the independent chart and peaked at #3 on the ARIA Charts. The album was eventually certified triple platinum. His sophomore album, RRAKALA, was awarded the Australian Independent Record (AIR) Award for Best Independent Blues and Roots Album in 2011. His third studio release, THE GOSPEL ALBUM, was released in July 2015 and debuted at #3 on the ARIA Charts. The album won him his third ARIA Award for Best World Music Album. And then suddenly, Gurrumul was gone, a victim of kidney and liver disease.
It has been four years since Americana outfit Sons Of Bill released LOVE & LOGIC but the band have not been idle. This quintet – led by brothers Sam, Abe, and James Wilson – remained on the road, promoting their own brand of heartfelt heartland rock. However, touring wasn’t the only thing that slowed them down. The boys in the band took off a little time for themselves, too. Oh, and then there’s that little accident that James Wilson had – a fall on a champagne glass severed five tendons and the median nerve in his right hand. While this is definitely not a good thing for a guitarist to experience, it also hindered his ability to drive, dress himself, and other simple tasks we all take for granted. Thankfully, you can’t keep a good man down…
It’s been nearly thirty years since the self-titled 1989 debut album by The Innocence Mission was released. The album was a slickly produced slice of Folk Pop that was filled with enchanting songs that shimmered regardless of the production value. Throughout the years, the band has continued to create albums filled with beautiful melodies plucked from the rain-soaked side of heaven. SUN ON THE SQUARE, their 10th studio album, is no exception. Tender, minimalistic and haunting, the album strikes the perfect balance between frail and strong, heartbreaking and hopeful, and love and loneliness. In essence, it is everything you’d expect from an album by The Innocence Mission.
It has been three years since the release of his last album BRAND NEW but singer/songwriter Ben Rector hasn’t been resting on his laurels. From writing and recording new material to the birth of his daughter in July of 2017, Ben has been busier than ever. Working with producers John Fields (Goo Goo Dolls, All Time Low) and Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air, M83), Ben has been inspired by all the positive changes in his professional and personal life and is now sharing his thoughts with the world. Although MAGIC is his seventh album, he approaches the material with a fresh, new outlook. In many ways, this album feels like Rector has re-energized and refocused his talents and now it is time to move forward and embrace the future.
When talking about the original late ‘70s UK Punk scene, 999 seem to be one of the most overlooked bands of the era. Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Buzzcocks, The Jam, and The Stranglers are usually the bands that many folks think of first when praising the virtues of Punk and how it levelled and changed the musical landscape. While those bands grabbed the headlines, there were plenty of equally-worthy bands that deserved fame and fortune. As you would probably guess, 999 was one of those bands. 999 made music fueled by Punk yet firmly rooted in classic Rock ‘n’ Roll. The music they recorded may have been born during the Punk era but 40 years later, it remains timeless and essential. If you need proof of that statement, Captain Oi/Cherry Red’s four CD box set THE ALBUMS 1977-80 is exactly what you need to make you believe. Again.
Alt-Rockers Gin Blossoms celebrate their 31st Anniversary this year. While they achieved their commercial breakthrough in 1992, the band originally formed in Tempe, Arizona five years earlier. However, it wasn’t until the following year that the band truly gelled with the addition of guitarist Robin Wilson, who would quickly assume the role of the band’s lead vocalist. The band’s independently-released debut album, DUSTED (1989), brought the band plenty of local attention, which eventually lead to their major label deal with A&M Records. By 1992, the band’s NEW MISERABLE EXPERIENCE album was a smash hit – fueled by the massively successful “Hey Jealousy” single – and their guitarist and main songwriter Doug Hopkins was out of the band (he would eventually take his own life). More successful singles followed – including “Found Out About You” and “Til I Hear It From You” – as well as the critically-acclaimed album CONGRATULATIONS… I’M SORRY (1996). The band ground to a halt in early 1997 but reformed in 2001. They released two additional albums – MAJOR LODGE VICTORY (2006) and NO CHOCOLATE CAKE (2010) – and have toured frequently ever since.
One of the most attractive features of the Trip Hop genre was it’s haunting quality. While closely associated with the Downtempo and Chill movements, the best Trip Hop provided beauty with an unsettling edge. Listening to Trip Hop should be like walking into an ancient mansion – you are wrapped in beauty but you can feel the presence of something else. The Chill is replaced by chills. And THAT is what makes Trip Hop special. And Morcheeba continues to be the genre’s most consistent and beloved bands – they put the ‘trip’ in Trip Hop.
While many musicians can wring emotion out of their instrumental weapon of choice, there’s no denying that the most emotional instrument of all is the human voice. The song’s melody and lyrics mean nothing if the voice does not connect with the listener. A notable example would be Gospel Music – the soaring voices of a church choir can melt the heart of the most hardened atheist. However, the best example belongs to The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices, a female choir that has mastered the art of the voice… and I don’t use the word ‘art’ lightly here. The sounds these voices make are soul-stirring and heartbreaking in equal measures.
Fatoumata Diawara is a highly acclaimed singer, songwriter, guitarist and actress from Mali. Her journey began when she was born in the Ivory Coast and has included stints in her father’s dance troupe, as an actress on stage and screen, as a singer in Paris night clubs and as a show-stealing performer at a star-studded tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. All of these experiences inform her sophomore effort FENFO, an album born from tradition yet entirely modern and unique. The long-awaited follow-up to her 2011 debut full-length, FATOU, FENFO lives up to the promise of that debut… and then some.