May 2018

Rory Block Debuts New "Power Women of the Blues" Album Series with Bessie Smith Tribute

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Five-time Blues Music Award winner Rory Block will debut her new "Power Women of the Blues" album series with the July 6 release of A Woman's Soul, a dynamic new CD tribute to the legendary Bessie Smith, on Stony Plain Records.

"Power Women of the Blues is a project that has been simmering in my imagination for 54 years," Rory says. "It has been my longstanding mission to identify, celebrate and honor the early founders-men and women of the blues. This series is dedicated to the music of some of my all-time favorite iconic female blues artists, many of whom were shrouded in mystery during the sixties blues revival, while the recordings of others had simply disappeared."

Rory Block first heard Bessie Smith's life-changing voice in 1964 as a teenager living in New York City. "Filled with grit and incredible vocal prowess, it was the ultimate soulful wail," she recalls. "'I'm wild about his turnip tops, I like the way he warms my chops, and I can't do without my kitchen man …Stay away from my door Mr. Landlord, 'cause I'm down in the dumps!... That's the reason I, got those weepin' willow blues.' So compelling, so honest, so rich with meaning and information about the female soul."

Jake Allen: Deviant Motions

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Submitted by Mitchell Sauls

Who looks like a young Ralph Macchio and sings like a cross between Richard Marx and Christopher Cross? Who rocks harder than guitarist Andy McKee and puts you in the same headspace as Aphex Twin or Air?

The answer: Michigan's Jake Allen.

Okay, those comparisons are a bit unfair, as Allen is truly in a world of his own. In a good way. Allen's album, Deviant Motions, is a likable blend of pop-rock, acoustic guitar and glossy musical waves. There are 14 tracks on the album, and while it's heavy on quantity, Allen's quality holds up to the challenge.

Starting off the album is "The Picture." It's an interesting choice to come out of the gate, but nonetheless a wise decision. Even if you were to stumble across this song, you will be grabbed by its cool layering and ethereal/progressive rock mood. Allen's voice is really likable and is radio-friendly. You can understand what he's singing about, and he's dreamy.

The second track "Bridges" has a bit of a stutter-step start. You're ready to get going, and the music bed is still building up its momentum. Allen really belts it out in this song - I imagine him writing this while overlooking Lake Superior or even Lake Huron. He makes you feel like you're part of something. I suppose this would be a great track one, but I'm glad it's in the top three.

Leona's Sister Is All Grown Up

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 Submitted By Lenny Stoute

Music is this organic thing which doesn't necessarily need permission or even encouragement to evolve. Check the opus of artists like Eric Satie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis or Brian Eno and you can almost hear passages evolving as they go, eventually tumbling into the mainstream, therein to exert another set of evolutionary influences. Nor is it confined to elite artists. It can happen to any music and any music makers.

In the case of Toronto's Leona's Sister, the initial evolution was from a bluesy, Seventies hard rock style, more riff-oriented to a more inclusive retro rock sound. It was originally formed as a recording project created in 1998 by vocalist/songwriter JT and bassist Barry (Bazman) Twohig, the intent being to get JT's original lyrics put to music and recorded. With a few friends, she went into Studio92 and recorded the first CD, Almost Alive. In 1999, the project developed into a more regular pattern and the band Leona's Sister was started. More songs, new players, another visit to Studio92 and the second CD, Out Of The Basement, was born. Things were looking up and the revolving door of players had stopped to let off a reliable core. Then early in the spring of 1999, JT was struck by falling ice and hospitalized. This brought the band side of the project to a screeching halt but she continued to write songs.

The Twindows: Valkyrie 2.0

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Submitted by Gustave Carlson

Riding desert riffs and Seattle-style fuzz, Pennsylvania's Twindows have crafted an incredibly tight and nimble rock record in Valkyrie 2.0, out now on Amazon and streaming everywhere online music is sold. While some may contend that visceral rock n' roll is a thing of the past, the Twindows completely dismiss any such notion in these 11 blistering new tracks. Not solely reliant on primeval chest beating, there's plenty of self-aware lyrical exploration delivered with a fierce howl from frontwomanAster Grimm. What's more exciting is that, while backed by Kyle "Shaggs" Anderson on bass, guitar and vocals, KouqJ on guitar and bass and drummer Oskar Daoud, the Twindows create plenty of punk rock discord on Valkyrie 2.0 without stumbling into any pretentious scene politics, a feat not easily accomplished these days.

Keith Morris and The Crooked Numbers Psychopaths & Sycophants

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Submitted by Keith Morgan

Out of the underground and into the spotlight, folk singer Keith Morris and his band The Crooked Numbers offer a plethora of deep thinking songs on their latest effort, Psychopaths & Sycophants. The Virginia-based singer/songwriter (not to be confused with alternative icon Keith Morris of Black Flag fame), manages to balance darkness and light in the nine tracks on Psychopaths, although the overwhelming theme of this album speaks to the rebellious nature of the human spirit.

The opening track, "The Future," instantly evokes a Stooges-like blues swing in its swagger, never relenting in its dangerous sensibility. Keith's Dylan style crooning is peppered with organ moans and an able backing choir, whose chants seem to churn us deeper and deeper into Keith's haunting landscape. There are shades of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Nick Cave in his brooding, but none of this feels derivative in nature or style, mostly because of Keith's gritty descriptive lyricism. As he pleads for us to repent during the last stanza, one can't help but feel the ironic rit that brushes against the speakers. "What Happened to the Party" slows down the tempo a bit, but the darkness seems to give way to a foggy surrealism that makes perfect company or the spoken word layered over it. It isn't until "Thousand Mile Stairs" that the light seems to break through the clouds, as this bayou style folk song slinks by like an easy summer afternoon.