You think you're behind. I think I forgot to turn in a book report my sophomore year in high school and I know I still have an incomplete on my college transcript. And that's just the beginning! My To-Do list for even just the past few weeks is a few miles long and the music is coming faster than I or anyone else can keep up with, so let's get to the music right away, okay?
Devon Sproule, who this morning posted a video from her brand spanking new DVD, Live In London (link here). She posted it on Facebook with a nod to Megan Huddleston, another talented Charlottesvillain who evidently wrote the song. I laughed (it is about a lady who is pissed at her boyfriend/husband/lover and has the line, "You better sleep with one eye open...") and I reveled because it had a hillbilly jazz tone to it that caught me totally by surprise. When they got to the break, Sproule strangled her guitar with minor chords and showed herself a part of a band and, well, I am a sucker for women who really know how to play. Sproule, for those in the dark, has released a handful of albums and has a style all her own. Her Don't Hurry For Heaven album is to my ears a stunner and contains what might very well be my pick for song of the year--- Sponji Reggae, which is not reggae at all but not not reggae, either. Truth is, I haven't heard anything quite like it. And it has the added advantage of being a duet with her ingenious husband, Paul Curreri, who is an incredible talent himself (his California album is still in heavy rotation at my house and has been for over a year).
Old Californio album for the past few months and, after bugging publicity maven Kim Grant all that time, have been awarded a consolation prize of great worth to me. Drummer Justin Smith just last week sent me a copy of a 2006 release titled Along the Cosmic Grass and I'm floored. He sent a note to explain technicalities (There was no need, for I care about the music more than any audiophile qualities) and I hope he forgives me for printing it here: "Here's 2006's Along the Cosmic Grass," he writes. "I hope that it will suffice until Sundrunk Angels is released. Keep in mind--- this is 100% a home recording. Rich (Dembowski--- the songwriter/guitarist) and I mixed it and there is essentially no mastering." Well, if they could have done a better job, I couldn't hear it. The songs are just different enough to separate the 2006 OC from the 2009 OC, whose Westering Again easily worked its way into my subconscious. Westering might be better recorded and might lean a tad more toward country roots (They are more rock than country--- you can read my review here), but Cosmic is plenty good enough. The songs are fresh, the sound is good and OC fans could spend money on less and be happy. I would like to see OC make it available at possibly the website level--- maybe a CD-R for a budget price. If you are a sound fanatic, you aren't in to the music anyway, but if you know and love these guys (if you really hear them, you just might learn to), this is something to look for. I know, Justin, I shouldn't be writing checks that you have to cash but it is, after all, about the music. Speaking of music, if you're ever in L.A. and want to find some, you might want to check out Grand Ole Echo, a worthy project of Ms. Grant. Always good music. And live!
Randy Burns just released a new album: Hobos and Kings. I received a copy a week ago and haven't listened yet (I have visitors from out of town and, well, I like to pick my times, you know?), but I will soon. The reason I mention Randy is that I have been a fan since the early seventies when he was fronting the Sky Dog Band, a folk/country rock band of some distinction. They were pretty much New York, Burns having cut his teeth on the old Phil Ochs-era, Bleeker & McDougal folk scene. Burns has a great voice and when I heard Song For an Uncertain Lady, I was sold. The album was/is classic and the song--- well, there is just nothing like it. I still play it on occasion just to recapture that folk/psych vibe I hear all too seldom. Anyway, you might want to check out the new album or any of the other CDs he has made available. By the way, Song For an Uncertain Lady is on The Exit and Gaslight Years. If you decide to scope it out, sample the other songs as well. It is topnotch music from a golden era. More on Hobos and Kings when I've had a chance to absorb the music. Thank you, Randy!
Shade's (now) outstanding debut Highway is doing to me. I liked it but was not overwhelmed when I first heard it (here is my review), but time has a way of correcting your first impressions. Numerous listenings have moved this to the top of personal favorites--- the albums I play when no one else is around so I can concentrate on the music. I am enthralled by their use of background vocals and the honesty in their music. Don't be fooled. This is good stuff! Check out their video.
I'll end this with really good news--- Jill Stevenson is finishing up a new album! Jill blindsided me with two EPs last year--- The Jill Stevenson Band and Where We're Not with Adam Widoff. There is an understated quality to the songs she writes and the way she sings them which makes them way more than they are. Actually, it makes them what they are--- damn impressive. I've already put this at the top of my wish list. Like I said, the hits just keep on comin' and as long as they do, life is good.