3/17/2017 7:30:00 AM Three albums that simply rock
Throughout the months of me writing these albums reviews, I have led you on psychedelic journeys through windings paths of spacey surreality. I give you a well deserved break from those self-indulgent recommendations and give you three albums that stay true to the roots of rock and roll. While they expand beyond the three-chord quota of AC/DC (I love AC/DC, by the way), these albums have firmly planted blues roots that are ever-present from top to bottom.
Cody Dickinson, Leeway for the Freeway
Cody Dickinson has gained notoriety for founding the eclectic blues-soul outfit, The North Mississippi Allstars, with brother and guitar-god, Luther. Here, Dickinson branches out on his own and while he doesn't stray far from what has made the Allstars distinctive, the drummer gets the opportunity to shine and show his own prowess.
As a drummer myself, I know it can be tough to let percussion take the backseat. Dickinson swallows his ego completely on this record and manages to let the drums service the songs, as opposed to taking over. Could this be the input of Mrs. Mary Lindsay Dickinson? Yes, Cody's mom produced this record. How adorable is that? This was no family-favor, though. Mary is the wife of famed late producer, Jim. The Dickinsons are quite the musical family and have an immense body of work to show for it. I suggest you dive in.
For me, the highlight of the record comes in "Wing and a Prayer," which features the soul-wrenching pedal steel work from Robert Randolph. It's an alluring, enchanting tune that allows Dickinson to give a gravely delivery reminiscent of Tom Waits. There are many noteworthy moments scattered throughout the album, though. While it may not hold the weight of some of the best releases from The North Mississippi Allstars, Cody Dickinson shows off just how talented he is both behind and in front of the drum kit.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Got Soul
Here we have Robert Randolph (remember him?) doing exactly what has made him a legend among pedal steel guitar players. His latest release Got Soul provides some wonderfully groovy, and quintessentially gritty tunes to add to Randolph's live repertoire, where he continues to shine. Oh, and there is plenty of soul on this record. Randolph continues to pull on the heartstrings with his playing and that is demonstrated impeccably on Got Soul.
Let's not forget about the Family Band. While Randolph could indeed floor an audience in his own right, the Family Band allows his songwriting ability to be properly conveyed. From the encompassing horn sounds on "Shake It" to the ultra-thick grooves with wonderful backing vocals from Lenesha Randolph (Lauryn Hill) on "Find a Way," the Family Band deserves more than a little credit.
"I Want It" is my personal favorite tune on the album. Once again showcasing the all-important family band, with vocal duties being shared by each member, the song creates a very welcoming, feel good atmosphere. Mr. Robert Randolph gets his turn to step out and amaze, too. He's pretty good, did I mention that?
Ryan Adams, Prisoner
Strangely, I am relatively new to the world of Ryan Adams. He's built up an incredibly loyal following over the years, and I'm sorry to say that I haven't been a part of it. There are only so many artists on the face of the earth, and he's one I have ignored. For no reason at all, he's just slipped past my grasp. Now I regret my ignorance. Better late than never, though.
I don't have much to compare to, other than Adams' well-documented cover album of Taylor Swift's 1989, which was released in 2015. Prisoner is all-Adams, though and I like it. He blasts through the speakers as a vocalist, guitar player and perhaps most notably, a songwriter. The man lives and breaths through his music and it's painfully obvious the realness that swirls around his soundscapes.
"Haunted House" is the song that I cannot release from my psyche. And I don't want it to. At all. It sounds like the darkside of Bruce Springsteen, circa Nebraska, but Adams uses his own vocal register that hits you in a different way than Springsteen's baritone. It's majestically simple, yet powerful in its effect. Haunting would be too obvious a way to describe it, given the title, but it's accurate. I'm angry I have missed out on years of Ryan Adams that I simply was too indolent to dive into. On the bright side, I have years to go. I'm confident he'll be creating great music for years to come. I'm looking forward to the journey.
Evan Verploegh may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.