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Music Review - `Ain’t Your Momma` by Rhonda Funk (lz)

Rhonda Funk -- Ain't Your Momma   (click on image to watch )

 11 May 2021

 

Black

One thing’s certain. Rhonda Funk isn’t shy about her assertive  perspective. With her descriptively titled EP, Ain’t Your Momma, she revels in both attitude and aptitude, expressing emotions that take her songs from comfort to confrontation, delving into defiance with grit and gravitas. Aided by an exceptional cast of session players, she emotes with a veracity and determination capable of soundly shutting down anyone who would question her tone and tenacity. 

Indeed, her pointed perspective is evident at the outset through the petulant put-down she shares with what seems to be a lazy lover. That blustery title track sets a tone that’s sustained through the effort overall, even though the discourse can change in mood and melody. The sole cover, a rugged take on Jon Bon Jovi’s “Whole Lot of Leavin’,” is shared as a bittersweet break-up ballad, one that expresses the regrets and remorse that come with the prospect of permanently parting ways. So too, “Liar Liar” calls out a deceitful partner whose cheating is easy to detect courtesy of credit card charges and secret texts that take place late at night. It’s evident indeed that the object of her scorn did a poor job of covering his tracks.

On the other hand, the track that precedes it, “I Could Get Used to This,” is equally emphatic, a rowdy and rollicking tune that revels in a relationship where things are obviously going according to plan. 

Other songs delve into deeper emotions by sharing some tender trappings. “More Than A Table”  offers an ode to someone whose life was clearly more than the sum of his efforts, while “Cumberland Falls” pays homage to a place that made an emphatic impression early in her life and continues to capture her affection.

Taken in tandem, this Funk’s fourth outing ably reflects the fact that she’s receiving recognition she so clearly deserves. It’s the rare artist who finds a common connection with her listeners, but given her emotive embrace, it’s fair to say that Funk succeeds.

 

 

 Lee Zimmerman

 

Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here

 

 

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Music Review - `Rope the Wind` by Nick Justice (lz)

Nick Justice -- Rope the Wind   (click on image to watch )

 14 April 2021

 

Black

If Nick Justice’s career has found him lurking below the radar, it’s only because he’s the one that initially put the brakes on. Weaned on the Southern California sound — as represented by the Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Jackson Browne — he was lured to the Golden State in the late ‘80s and became a journeyman of sorts — busking, paying his dues  in various itinerate ensembles and playing for whoever would listen. Eventually he worked his way up to the status  of an opening act, serving a support role to number of important outfits — X, the Blasters, the Radiators, the Del Fuegos and other ‘80s and ‘90s scene-setters

Nevertheless, Justice eventually came to the conclusion that the music biz wasn’t exactly his cup of tea, and in 1996 he took a hiatus to get married and tend to his family. Nearly 20 years later he reemerged, became reacquainted with his muse, gathered an all-star list of support musicians —  multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, guitarist Bobby Cochran, former Jools Holland guitarist Richard Bredice, keyboard player Dave Witham, and former Funky Kings drummer Frank Cotinola, among them — and released his first album, aptly titled The Cry of the Street Prophet. That was followed two years later by his sophomore set Between a Laugh and a Tear, which found him recruiting the same personnel that shared studio time on his debut. 

He’s released two more albums since then — Get the Dance At Dawn and The Road Not Taken — but his current offering, Rope the Wind, may offer his best chance yet to get the belated attention he so decidedly deserves. A collection of low-key cowboy ballads and forlorn laments, it’s a decidedly unassuming effort, marked by simple, straight-forward arrangements courtesy of Justice and a pair of accomplished collaborators — Richard Bredice reprising his role on guitars, banjo, backing vocals and keyboards, and Richard Stekol doubling down on guitars, bass, drums, mandolin and harmonies. The supple sound suits the songs well, whether it’s the mournful strains of “After We Say Goodbye, the folk-like flourish of “Run Away,” the uptempo flourish that adds impetus to “Rhymes and Reasons,” the rugged wild west narrative that touts the story of  “Billy the Kid,” or the solid and sturdy title track. 

Credit Justice with a knack for sharing a kind of breezy balladry — note the resemblance to Johnny Cash on opening track “Traveling Man” —  and while his is a generally unassuming sound, the music is still seeped in sentiment and an easy, affable embrace. So while Rope the Wind doesn’t necessarily muster anything akin to a gale force frenzy, it’s a brisk and breezy encounter regardless. 

 

 

 Lee Zimmerman

 

Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here

 

 

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Music Review - `Another Sky` by Kelly's Lot (lz)

Kelly's Lot -- Another Sky   (click on image to watch video)

 24 November 2020

 

Black

Kelly Zirbes, the namesake of the band Kelly’s Lot, doesn’t limit herself to any one particular direction or distinction. With a career that stretches back more than a quarter century and includes extensive touring both here and abroad as well as some 15 previous albums, she’s managed to vary her template from southern rock and blues, to folk, roots and abject Americana. It’s allowed her to build a rabid fan base, and it was the input from her followers that inspired at least half the tracks on the band’s impressive new album, Another Sky, an effort which reflects her dexterity in all its various incarnations.

Produced by ace guitarist and renowned session player Doug Pettibone, Another Sky is, in fact, quite a remarkable effort given its daring and dexterity. It’s upbeat and exuberant, especially given a song like “The Irish Luck,” which, as its name implies, takes its cue from the sound of an old country jig. “Until I Find You Again” finds Zirbes’ tasteful croon front and center, bringing to mind the late Sandy Denny or Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior with its sweet, seductive allure. So too, songs such as “Butterfly,” “Foolish Try,” “Lock Me Up,” and “Tangled” — the latter of which finds Pettibone sharing the lead vocal — provide an easy sway and swoon that’s well capable of seducing its listener every time out.

While most of the album aims to include mainstream melodies, certain songs do revert back to the blues — the ominous overture of “Sleep It Tonight” and the turgid ramble of “Took It Back” being the most obvious examples. Still, to Zirbes’ credit, she doesn’t cede her preferences to any one style in particular. Granted, that might lead to some confusion — or consternation — when it comes to trying to pinpoint her preferred genre, but no artist should ever have to be bound by boundaries or stifled by any particular parameters. In Zirbes’ case she’s as assertive and affirmative as she needs to be, and its melody and musicianship that come across above all else.

 

Indeed, Kelly’s Lot packs quite a punch..

 Lee Zimmerman

 

Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here

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Music Review - `Oh America` by Nellie Clay (lz)

Nellie Clay -- Oh America   (click on image to watch video)

 8 March 2021

 

Black

Nellie Clay comes about her musical roots quite naturally. A native of Western Oklahoma — birthplace of  America’s most essential folk troubadour, Woody Guthrie — she ploughs a rootsy  terrain that’s well in keeping an honest heartland persona. After a pair of albums (Born Too Late and Never Did What I Shoulda Done) and two EPs (We Got Songs To Sing and Long Sunsets), her new six song set, decidedly titled Oh America, maintains a freewheeling finesse that consisting allows for what appears to be a seemingly effortless embrace. 

That’s evident immediately at the outset with opening track “Small Town Queen,” the tale of an everyday girl who harbors greater ambitions that her rural environs can ever provide That same spirit of downcast determination is evident in the song that follows, “If I Could Paint You a Picture,” a lilting lament that finds Clay sharing both heart and happenstance with equal determination.

“Good Women” boasts a decidedly darker demeanor, and while she offers encouragement to others who have undergone harrowing circumstance, she seems to be sharing her own scenarios as well. “I know in my heart I have something to say,” she sings prior to insisting, “I’m gonna get down and turn this around.” “Kind Love,” on the other hand takes more of a ramshackle approach, courtesy of the steady pluck of acoustic guitars, banjo and its ragged rhythms.

Nevertheless, it’s the title track that finds the emotional core of the album. Beginning with the hushed, hallowed sound of “Taps,” the traditional requiem to the fallen, it’s both a tribute to those who have helped further this nation’s nobler purpose and also a reflection on the work that’ yet to be done. That then leads into the EP’s closing coda, the fittingly-titled “Long Sunset,” a most intimate ode that sums up the distance and divide that’s riddled our lives lately. Sounding like a forgotten gem by Hank Williams (think his classic “Lost Highway”), it defines what it means to seek limitless opportunity unfettered by confines or concerns. 

Like the country celebrated by its title, Oh America is a precious piece of work, an example of pure emotion, insight and sensitivity. These are indeed sentiments worth savoring.

 

 Lee Zimmerman

 

Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Beautiful Country’s Burning, Brother (Bucket Brigade)` by Jimmy Baldwin (lz)

Jimmy Baldwin -- Beautiful Country’s Burning, Brother (Bucket Brigade)   (click on image to watch video)

 13 Oct 2020

 

Black

In many ways, singer/songwriter Jimmy Baldwin could be considered the consummate road warrior. He’s brought his music to any number of watering holes, gathering places and venues large and small over the length and breadth of the country — from coast to coast and the Canadian border to the furthest reaches of America’s southernmost states. A native Texan, he taps a timeless template by paying heed to classic country, Mexican mariachi music and archival rock and roll, finding a fine blend that offers ample reverence to it all. And while he’s acquired ample acceptance from both radio programmers and an ever-growing legion of fervent followers, he can also take pride in being a three-time Grammy nominee and a budding film director as well.

If the general populace has yet to get wind of him, it’s not because they haven’t heard his music. In fact, he’s been well represented for his various commercial contributions, including ever-present ads for Motel 6 and Corona beer. It may seem less glamorous to indulge in such consumer-driven enterprises, but the advertising world has cited those accomplishments through an array of prestigious industry awards.

Of course, Baldwin has also proven his mettle through a fine series of solo albums that began in 2006 with Somebody’s Nobody and continued with his sophomore set The Cowboy and the Mermaid in 2008, followed by Vivador in 2010, Changing Time in 2012 and his most recent offering Leviathan of Love, released four years ago. Indeed, it’s been a long wait for what’s coming next, but we’re told a new album is due in February. 

In the meantime, Baldwin’s filling the void by offering up a song that shines as a veritable anthem for our times. “Beautiful Country’s Burning, Brother (Bucket Brigade)” tackles the scourge of rampant racism that continues to consume this country, as well as the fight to finally find justice by those who recognize that it’s long past time this particular plague of hatred and intolerance was terminated once and for all. It’s a clarion call for unity, as well as a reminder of all we have to lose if the nation doesn’t come together and recognize the need to right these wrongs.

 

“This could be our funeral pyre,” the song’s lyric warns at one point. “We need a a bucket brigade.” The verse is capped by a chorus that’s catchy but also to the point, summing up the sentiment entirely. So too, the video features pictures of protests, good-intentioned individuals draped in American flags and imagery of the nation’s spacious and spectacular western environs, offering further evidence of everything that’s well worth fighting for.

 

 

 Lee Zimmerman

 

Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here

 

 

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