HITS Daily Double
Power of Peace, the potent new joint effort from The Isley Brothers and Santana (Sony Legacy), was executive produced by Carlos Santana. But it is dedicated, in part, to legendary executive Clive Davis, and with good reason; it is squarely in the tradition of Davis' brilliant reboots of Santana, The Grateful Dead and other iconic acts. Cannily chosen rock, pop and soul gems that have inspired the participants are favored with alternately rousing and lovely renditions here, and Ron Isley's ravishing voice and the ripping, sparkling guitars of Carlos and Ernie Isley are in top form. Highlights include the Swamp Dogg jam "Total Destruction to Your Mind," an incandescent "What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love," Curtis Mayfield's "Gypsy Woman," Stevie Wonder's irrefutable "Higher Ground," the Muddy Waters/Willie Dixon classic "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)." This is truly a family effort—Cindy Blackman Santana kills on drums, while Kandy Johnson Isley and Tracy Isley jump in on vocals. Power of Peace's themes of coexistence, love and harmony have never been more timely, even if they come from songs nearly a half-century old. Some music not only stands the test of time, but comes back around just when you need it most.
Warner Bros. will re-release seminal British album The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths on 10/20. It follows the band’s #1 success with a previously unheard version of “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” (Rhino) on the U.K.’s Record Store Day Singles Chart. The Queen Is Dead, first released in 1986, hit #2 in the U.K. and received widespread critical acclaim. Its newly mastered and expanded version features several of the band’s finest moments, including the title track and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” as well as the iconic “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” Eight previously unreleased tracks include demo and early versions. All configurations—digital and streaming as well as three physical formats—will feature the 2017 remaster of the original album. Fans will be able to choose between a deluxe 3CD/1 DVD box set, a 2CD version and a 5LP box. The announcement follows renewed rumors of a reunion, which were rubbished on Wednesday by band member Johnny Marr, who told a hopeful fan to "get a grip."
Recently formed female folk trio I'm With Her have just released their debut original single, "Little Lies," along with a video of their studio performance. The track, highlighting the threesome's acoustic vibe and harmony chops, is available via SpotifyiTunes, and Apple Music.  I'm With Her signed with American roots label Rounder Records out of Nashville in 2014. Rounder's parent co, Concord Bicycle Music, is a JV of UMG. The group formed after an impromptu performance at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, from which they went on to tour throughout Spring and Summer of 2015. They've started a 15-city tour this year along with Punch Brothers (Nonesuch)and Julian Lage (Mack Avenue) on the first ever American Acoustic Tour. We've included the remaining tour dates below.  Tour DatesJuly 29            Portland, MEJuly 30            Newport, RIAugust 1         Raleigh, NCAugust 2         Vienna, VAAugust 3         New York, NYAugust 4         Chautauqua, NYAugust 6         Binghamton, NYAugust 8         Charlottesville, VAAugust 9         Cleveland Heights, OHAugust 11       Atlanta, GAAugust 12       Cincinnati, OHAugust 13       Grand Rapids, MIAugust 14       Highland Park, ILAugust 15       Park City, UT 
The annual New York Americana Fest will present Bonnie Raitt, The Jayhawks and a celebration of Chuck Berry’s music under the direction of Vernon Reid. Presented 8/12 and 13 as part of Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors program, the Berry tribute caps the Saturday bill of Jayhawks and Low Cut Connie in Damrosch Park. Raitt and Memphis soul legend Don Bryant perform the Sunday concert. Traveller (Jonny Fritz, Robert Ellis and Cory Chisel), Flaco Jiménez and Amanda Shires will perform an afternoon show on Saturday in the center’s Hearst Plaza as part of the Roots of American Music Weekend. The free Out of Doors Festival starts 7/26 with Rickie Lee Jones, Ronnie Spector and others. Roots of American Music Weekend closes the series.
A playlist by Bud Scoppa Rock’s not dead yet, boys and girls. The proof is this batch of irresistible songs released during the first half of 2017—although one, Radiohead’s “I Promise,” dates back to the sessions for 1997’s OK Computer, the great band’s third album and the last that presented them as a (relatively) conventional five-piece rock band from end to end. The other two dozen tracks are from some of today’s most beloved standard bearers: The War on Drugs, Spoon, Dan Auerbach, Arcade Fire and The National, alongside still-vital veterans Todd Rundgren (the greatest artist never to be deemed worthy by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee), Daryl Hall and four-fifths of Fleetwood Mac, along with Thundercat’s wicked-clever use of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins’ instantly recognizable voices. But the most compelling case for rock’s ongoing viability on this playlist are those bands and artists who are making ecstatic, sophisticated music below the radar. Austin’s Cotton Mather have made two terrific LPs since reforming in 2012 on the occasion of the 15th anniversary reissue of their latter-day power-pop classic Kontiki. Last year’s Death of the Cool and the recently released Wild Kingdom contain memorable songs written by Robert Harrison as part of his project to write a song inspired by each of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, which seems unbearably pretentious but has yielded recordings that evoke the likes of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Squeeze, XTC, Beck circa Sea Change and The Beatles, a reference point deepened by Harrison’s Lennonesque vocals. His “Better Than a Hit” struck me as the perfect title for this playlist of mainstream outliers. Back home in Nebraska, Matthew Sweet has cooked up his most immersive album since his ’90s heyday with Tomorrow Forever. In my bio, I called the sprawling 17-song record Matthew’s All Things Must Pass. He’s back and swinging for the fences again, accompanied by his core collaborators and some scintillating new contributors.   BNQT is the retro-rock alter ego of another Texas band, Midlake, as a premise for inviting the frontmen of other groups to bring songs and collaborate on their presentation. The resulting Volume 1, which features Band of HorsesBen Bridwell, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and, most winningly, TravisFran Healy, is a sheer delight throughout, but “Restart,” one of two tracks Midlake composed and worked up in character as BNQT without a featured guest, is an instant classic in its melding of crunchy groove, supercharged riffage, soaring harmonies and layer-cake chorus hook. Californian Miranda Lee Richards, whose new Existential Beast locates powerful parallels between the turmoil of the late ’60s and today’s bizarro world, Adrianne Lenker of Brooklyn-based Big Thief and Alyse Vellturo of pronoun, another young Brooklyn band, make a captivating case for themselves as three of the most striking frontwomen to emerge in this decade. And pronoun’s “A Million Other Things” sounds like an Alternative radio smash to me and to others I’ve played it for. Chris Price was raised in Miami, but his music is quintessential L.A. This was delightfully apparent in his insightful production of Rainbow Ends, Emitt Rhodes’ first album since 1973, and now on his own Stop Talking, which stopped me in my tracks. With 14 songs, each conceived and executed with jewel-like precision and withering candor, Price has made an album of revelatory musical and lyrical eloquence, a work that reminds me of Harry Nilsson at the peak of his powers. Imagine Nilsson Sings Newman with George Harrison on guitar and string arrangements by George Martin—and one guy playing all these roles.   When I asked Chris via email what he picked up from Nilsson’s records, and what other artists helped shape his style and sensibility, the 32-year-old polymath responded: “Nilsson had a knack for locating the humor in tragedy, and the tragedy inherent in humor. He was like a great stand-up comic in that sense, always letting you know that things were deeper and more complex than what’s on the surface and actively trying to reveal that complexity to you. It helped that he was perhaps the greatest male pop vocalist of the 20th century. Other artists I am drawn to for similar reasons are The Kinks and the wry, cutting songs of Ray Davies; Nick Drake, who nailed alienation and longing better than almost anyone; Antonio Carlos Jobim, who reveals emotions through chords almost more so than through lyrics; Randy Newman, obviously; and of course, Lennon/McCartney/Harrison.” Price is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the 40-odd songs he recorded during the Stop Talking sessions, while also finishing up the debut album of the power-pop supergroup Bebopalula. “It’s incredibly gratifying to be back in a band, especially one where everyone else is such a good singer/songwriter in their own right,” he says. “It takes so much of the pressure off when you only have to deliver 1/4 of the material, and the rest of the time you can really focus on making your contributions as a musician as impactful as possible. The album has a very unique sound, I think unlike anything else around currently.” Can’t wait.  7/7 update: Just expanded the playlist from 25 tracks to 30, with selections from Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, Curse of Lono, BNQT with Fran Healy and one more from Sweet. (Yes, it looks like there are 32 embed below, but that's a Spotify glitch.) Only yesterday did it hit me that 24 of the 25 tracks on the initial playlist are from North American bands and artists, the exception being Radiohead. Of course, you could also throw in Christine McVie on the two collabs with Lindsey if you want to be picky. In any case, I find that fact encouraging. But I’ve added some Brit flavor in two of the additional five with Healy and up-and comers Curse of Lono.       
About 45 seconds into "Sheepcrook and Black Dog," a track from The Queen of Hearts, the forthcoming Nonesuch set from Offa Rex (due 7/15), I said something I don't often say these days:  HOLY FUCKING SHIT. The Zeppelin-esque riff rock that kicks off the tune gives way to gorgeous, authentic English folk, and the effect is electrifying. The band is an inspired collaboration between Portland pop-rock provocateurs The Decemberists and English artist Olivia Chaney, whose grasp of classic Celtic song is as profound as anyone's—and whose voice is a gift from heaven.  While the rest of Queen isn't quite as heavy, it is relentlessly riveting, and a showcase of the participants' musical versatility. Among the other highlights: the beguiling title track, the rousing, politically charged "Blackleg Miner," a gorgeous take on Ewan McColl's evergreen "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and the stately memento mori "The Old Churchyard." What's perhaps most staggering is that these songs are all either traditional or well-aged standards in the folk canon; Offa Rex's interpretations (driven by Chaney's canny arrangements) sparkle with immediacy.  You can hear the whole thing here, thanks to an NPR advance stream. It's a a welcome drink from the deepest of wells.
By Simon Glickman Funny what the universe can throw your way, exactly when you need it. Such as Rhino’s Jethro Tull Songs From the Wood 40th Anniversary Edition: The Country Set. This handsome batch of remastered discs, concerts and outtakes, replete with a 96-page booklet for maximum fan geekage, is my new standard for “rediscovery.” When this record was nearly new, I lavished many, many adolescent hours swooning away to its sylvan grooves—and leering at its occasionally lascivious lyrics. Think that’s a nerdly confession? Nestled among my other 45s is the 7” “The Whistler” single featuring the (until now) otherwise unreleased “Strip Cartoon” as a B-side. The Chrysalis logo revolved in my dreams. I played air flute. I might as well have lived in The Shire. And I further admit that over the years, I came to think of the album as lesser Tull, lacking the edge of the angry young early-’70s material, so of the city and therefore, somehow, more authentic. But now I’m a gray and withered old hobbit and have experienced the country air and all of its joys. So Songs’ folkloric anthems, fixated as they are on the seasons, on antediluvian lore with the fertile earth at its center, feel warmer and fuzzier than I might’ve imagined. The reason this album and the music immediately following it hewed to these themes is twofold. One: Ian Anderson and his bride left the city at last and he lived the life of a country squire in Buckinghamshire, where the rites of spring were danced outside his very windows. Two: His manager gifted him with Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, a scholarly guide to the beliefs and rituals of the pre-Christian land. He dove in, and emerged with forest-rocking cuts like “Jack-in-the-Green,” “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” and “Cup of Wonder.” And also sexed-up woodland jams like “Velvet Green” and “Hunting Girl.” The music marries the band’s tricky, already baroque rock to the timbre of ye olde English folk, but the combination has aged rather astonishingly well. Even with bubbling late-’70s synths all around the hedgerows. Also: Jesus, this rocks. Put on “Pibroch” for your Sabbath-worshiping pals and see them bow down before the blazing riffage of Martin Lancelot Barre. Couple this with two audio discs and one DVD of a miraculous ’77 show that crystallizes the band’s repertoire, stylistic range and sheer sense of fun better than any I’ve heard, and you’ve got something pretty miraculous. Then there’s all the stuff that takes my geekage to the next level, like the charming trade ad for Marshall amps that finds Barre recounting his nervous Tull audition. Or the interview with engineer Trevor White! What does he say about rolling off 10db in the first submix? Buy the set and find out! Look, I know this ain’t for everybody, But it sure as shit was for me, and now—when merely cataloguing the terrible things going on in the world is a full-time occupation—it is solace indeed. Too nerdy for you? Fuck off. I’ve got air flute to play.  
Guitarist Robert Cray, late folksinger Iris DeMent, Graham Nash, the studio musicians of Hi Records and the founders of HighTone Records will be honored at the Americana Music Association's 16th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony on 9/13 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Cray will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. The Hi Rhythm section—guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, keyboardists Rev. Charles Hodges and Archie "Hubbie" Turner, bassist LeRoy "Flick" Hodges and drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr.—are this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalists. DeMent will be honored with the Americana Trailblazer Award; Nash will receive the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award; and HighTone founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg are the recipients of the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. As previously announced, Van Morrison will receive Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting. “We are proud and humbled to honor these artists whose work has shaped what we not only call Americana today, but the musical landscape on the whole,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “We are inspired by their work and excited to see them all as they will honor us in song at the Ryman this fall.” The ceremony serves as the official kick-off for the 18th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference that runs 9/12-17.
The Velvet Underground and Nico turns 50 this year. UME is celebrating by releasing on 6/30 a black vinyl edition of the album with its original Andy Warhol-designed cover art and a pink vinyl version limited to 1,000 copies. In November, VU co-founder John Cale will perform the album in full with an orchestra and special guests on 11/16-17 as part of the 2017 Next Wave Festival at New York's BAM. (On 11/18, he’ll do a career retrospective performance). In addition to reproducing Warhol's "banana cover" design, complete with peelable banana sticker, the 50th-anniversary vinyl edition also reproduces the album's original gatefold cover as well as its rare original back-cover "torso" photo, with Lou Reed's face superimposed over the torso of Warhol associate Eric Emerson.   The shot is restored to its original glory on the 50th anniversary edition, along with a replica of the black sticker that was used to obscure the image. The sticker will be attached to the shrink wrap of the anniversary LP. An additional insert has been added for this edition, with vintage images plus new liner notes by Cale and Richie Unterberger, author of the book White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day. The album, released in March 1967 on Verve Records, sold only 30,000, but as Brian Eno famously said, everyone who bought it formed a band. And if you think you like the album, you got nothing on this guy, one of our favorite publicists.
Having wrapped three sold-out nights at New York’s City Winery performing solo, Nick Lowe has his return ticket to Gotham booked, this time with his rock & roll shoes on. Lowe and Los Straitjackets will perform 8/5 as part of the Lincoln Center Outdoors series of free shows that starts 7/26 with Rickie Lee Jones performing her album Pirates in full as part of part of NPR Music’s Turning The Tables Live and the Americana Fest on 8/12-13. The Lowe appearance will provide a rare opportunity to compare and contrast an artist just months between appearances. At his relaxed City Winery performance, accompanied by just his acoustic guitar, Lowe gently rocked his best-known songs—“I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock ‘n’ Roll),” “Cruel to Be Kind” and, of course, “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”—as well his more recent material that he sweetly croons with casual ease—the elegant “Stoplight Roses” and “Shelley My Love.” By the time he returns to New York—and potentially affecting his repertoire choices— Yep Roc will have Lowe’s catalog back in print, releasing digitally on 7/14 Nick the Knife, The Abominable Showman, Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit, The Rose of England, Pinker and Prouder Than Previous and Party of One. Nick the Knife and The Abominable Showman will be reissued on LP/CD on that date as well; Cowboy Outfit and Rose of England follow on 8/25 with Pinker and Prouder and Party of One coming out 10/20. During his City Winery run, Lowe closed with Elvis Costello’s “Allison,” a song he produced 40 years ago and one that Costello may well perform when he returns to Central Park’s Summerstage on Thursday. Highlights of this year’s free shows at Summerstage include Margaret Glaspy in Brooklyn on 6/22, a Fela tribute on 7/16 in Central Park and The Budos Band on Staten Island on 7/22. At Lincoln Center, the Pirates performance will also feature performances by Ronnie Spector, Nona Hendryx, Alynda Segarra, TORRES, Lizzo, and Gaby Moreno. Also on the schedule are Rumer and Dionne Warwick on 7/29, Angelique Kidjo’s interpretation of Talking HeadsRemain in Light on 8/2 and Spanish Harlem Orchestra on 8/9.
See More Critics Choice >