If you go to Wikipedia and look up ‘Honky Tonk’, you’ll find the following description: “A Honky Tonk is both a bar that provides country music for the entertainment of its patrons and the style of music played in such establishments. In the 1950s, Honky Tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams.” So, given that description, it’s no wonder that singer/songwriter J.P. Harris is often referred to as one of the finest purveyors of Honky Tonk music in America today. As ‘modern’ Country takes up space on the charts, it is refreshing – and dare I say it, exhilarating – to experience an artist so in tune with the roots of the genre’s pioneering artists. Harris ain’t no Americana bandwagoneer – he is as Country as Country Music gets.
Forty years since the release of his debut album, ALIVE ON ARRIVAL, Steve Forbert remains one of the most honest and warm singer/songwriters in Folk, Rock and Americana. Unfairly declared ‘the new Dylan’ for a brief moment in the ‘70s thanks to that debut, Forbert proved himself to be more than just a guy strumming an acoustic guitar at the front of the stage. His hit single “Romeo’s Tune” (1979) became a Top 40 hit thanks to Forbert’s earnest performance, great songwriting and that incessant piano riff. But Forbert was not one to crank out formulaic Pop or Folk – he was always moving forward while still paying tribute to his past. With more than two dozen studio, live, and fan-club albums in his back pocket, Steve Forbert still remains a songwriter that finds inspiration in the every day. His Mississippi soul may have moved to New Jersey but this is one cat that understands and connects with every inch of America.
Here in the U.S., veteran British Punk band The Vibrators are not held in the same high esteem as bands like The Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and a few other of their contemporaries. And I must say that is an oversight that must be corrected. Is it because they were too British? Were they too raw? Did they challenge the listener with stylistic changes to their core sound? Were they too Pop to Punk purists? So many questions, so few answers…
If you’ve never heard Sailor, then I feel pretty confident that you’ve never heard a band quite like Sailor. One of the most unusual and original bands to emerge from the UK in the mid-‘70s, Sailor achieved great success in the UK, Holland and across Europe but never made much of a mark in the U.S. However, the band did attract the attention of American Rock and Pop legends like Bruce Johnston and Curt Boettcher (billed as Becher), both of whom produced their CHECKPOINT album. If you missed Sailor and their albums the first time around, 7Ts/Cherry Red Records is making it easy to catch up with a five CD set entitled SAILOR: THE ALBUMS 1974-78, a box that contains their first five albums including bonus tracks. Fans of band like 10cc, Deaf School, and City Boy should take note…
Why on earth didn’t anyone think of this sooner? While a collaboration between Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis may now make perfect sense, it took a hell of a long time for someone to figure it out. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect – the world has been waiting for a new dynamic duo and they’ve finally arrived. Like a musical time capsule that reaches all the way back to the mid-‘50s, Robbie and Linda’s 2018 album WILD! WILD! WILD! is everything the title of the album suggests… and a whole lot more. From Country & Western to Rockabilly, this is an album created by and artist who was influenced by it (Fulks) and an artist that lived through it (Lewis).
In the U.S., Mungo Jerry only scored one hit song – “In The Summertime” – and most Americans are under the impression that there wasn’t much else by the Mungos beyond that one single. My review of the Cherry Red Records five CD boxset MUNGO JERRY: THE DAWN ALBUMS COLLECTION may have surprised people unaware of those releases. But guess what? I’ve got an even bigger surprise – Cherry Red has released a second Mungo Jerry boxset containing five more full length albums from the British act! Entitled THE ALBUMS 1976-81, this set veers into Blues/Rock/Glam genres and generally avoids the jug band Folk of their earlier releases.
Australia has always been a country that takes influences from the U.S. and UK, blending them together and creating something new and interesting. This phenomenon has been happening for decades – most successfully in the ‘80s – and definitely sets bands Down Under apart from their American and British counterparts. Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes is no exception. Signed to Hopeless Records, the Punk-fueled Aussies fuse Punk-Pop, Emo, and Hard Rock together, sprinkling their musical confections with just the right amount of catchy hooks. The melodies soar, the powerhouse rhythm section pounds and the guitars slash and burn. While this might not be your grandad’s Punk Rock, it certainly checks all the boxes that inspired your older brother.
Scottish singer/songwriter Chris Rainbow (1946-2015) is one of those artists that appeals to different groups of music fans depending on which projects they are more familiar with. His vocal work with The Alan Parsons Project has earned respect from legions of APP fans, his UK hit singles attracted attention in the ‘70s and his production work is highly respected. However, Beach Boys and vocal harmony fans have long held him in high esteem for his often-overlooked album output. 1979’s WHITE TRAILS was his final studio vocal release and shows that he was poised to bridge the gap between the wonders of his previous albums (1975’s HOME OF THE BRAVE and ‘78’s LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER) and the promise of the ‘80s (i.e.: Electronic Music). Unfortunately, he turned his attention away from solo material and WHITE TRAILS remains his final foray as a front man.
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…
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.