It is once again time for AME to present another edition of Chris’ Pick Six. The Holidays are upon us many of us are gearing up to overload on turkey and gravy and we are once again being bombarded with everything Christmas way to freaking early. So what better way to handle all this crap than with some good music? Here is November’s Chris’ Pick Six with six more records for your listening pleasure.
Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune
With each release from legendary songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard listeners are guaranteed a batch of unpretentious songs that strip back the layers of life and unleash the parts people don’t want to face. The Ruffian’s Misfortune is no different and when you hear the raw bluesy guitars and Mr. Hubbard’s gravelly vocals crawl from the speakers on the opening track “All Loose Things” there is nothing else to do but proceed through the briars and prickles of his songs. The haunting “Hey Mama, My Time Ain’t Long” finds Hubbard’s vocals slithering through raw guitar riffs singing about death, heaven and the devil. Things get kicked up a notch on “Chick Singer, Badass Rockin’” as Hubbard sings about women in music. Music quality does not rely on a person’s sex; yes she may be a hot chic, but more important she is a badass musician. “Down by the River” is a brilliant song that shows off Hubbard’s lyrical brilliance. The churning track is a violent tale about drugs, death and lost souls. “Undertakers they look like crows, red-eyed and dressed in black” and “nobody flinch when the shots ring out, stealing the young souls vital signs” scratch the surface of the depths of this tune. Like fine bourbon Ray Wylie Hubbard’s music just gets smoother over time. The Ruffian’s Misfortune fits in Hubbard’s vast musical collection as some of his finest.
Banditos – Banditos
Birmingham’s Banditos has given music loving folks one of the more entertaining records of 2015. As the six-piece band weaves through an album loaded with rock, country twang, folksy roots, swamp boogie, and a hint of gospel the Banditos deliver stories about relationships and personal choices. Each track offers up something aesthetically different. The jangly “Still Sober (After all these Beers)” walks listeners through a wealth of booze aided choices, the countrified “Waitin’” is a rowdy number about finding a man that sounds like something June Carter Cash may have sung and “Blue Mosey #2” is a swampy duet questioning life. From the blistering opening track “The Breeze” to the haunting final song “Preachin’ To The Choir” the Banditos give listeners everything they could want in a record. New discoveries await with each listen due to the vast musical layers and depth of the songs.
2Ton Bridge – Digital 45
The two song tease – Digital 45 – gives listeners a sample of what 2Ton Bridge has to offer the world of Americana music. Side A offers a serene musical landscape that is constructed around Alexander Wright’s deep vocals that picks up pace as the song progresses. “Pennies On the Shore” draws listeners in with sparse banjos as Wright sings about a good life credited to a happy relationship. Added mandolins and accordions pick up the pace drawing out the joy in Wright’s vocals. The addition of Taylor Brasheer’s soft vocals compliments Wright’s big voice and they seem as if they are singing to each other. Side B – “I’m A Hoot Owl” – possesses a big sound loaded with the twang of pedal steel, mandolins and an undercurrent of percussion. The vocals are an integral part of the tune not just to relay the lyrics but they work in unison with as part of the sonic aesthetics. For just two songs there is a lot going on with Digital 45. While it does not reach out and grab you from the start it is on the second and third play that the musical nuances are uncovered making it hard to stop listening.
John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat
Biting lyrics and sparse arrangements are the staples of John Moreland’s emotional music. The Oklahoma troubadour has made a name for himself the last few years for writing gut wrenching songs about the down side of life that many face at one time or another. His latest High on Tulsa Heat is another collection of songs that will grip your soul and drag you willingly into Moreland’s downtrodden soundscape. As he gently strums his guitar, “Cherokee” is the perfect example of Moreland’s talents as he morns/reminisces about an important part of one’s life is gone. Loss and wanting are reoccurring themes on the record and songs like “Cleveland County Blues” and “You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry” hammer this point home. A song that may be one of Moreland’s best is “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars”. Gentle guitars cradle Moreland’s fragile voice as he sings about letting someone go. Through the tone of his music, his vocal delivery and his lyrical aptitude John Moreland’s High on Tulsa Heat is an album that will stir up a wealth of emotions in all that listen. While the songs are melancholy this is not a sad album but a look into life and how it isn’t always the best.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
The self-titled record from Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats is an example of why there should never be rules or set patterns in music. Rateliff and crew take folk flavored music, kick it up a notch with a bit of rock then smother the hell out of it with smooth Southern soul. The icing on the cake is the soulful vocals from Rateliff, who is very likely Sam Cooke reincarnate. The album is a step back in time pulling from the soul music popular during the 50’s and 60’s but like other bands popular today they add new twists and turns. While the heart and soul is the rhythm section, horns and Rateliff’s vocals the rocking guitar solo on “Howling at Nothing”, the pedal steel on “Wasting Time” and a jazzy beat on “I’d Be Waiting” are simple nuances that keep the album from being “copycatish”. The track “S.O.B.” may be the highlight of the record. A gospel tinged number explodes into an upbeat party about sobering up. Lyrically it is a solid outing with Rateliff waling about life, ladies and lovin’” like few others have. From start to finish the record never skips a beat leaving listener wanting more of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club
After a few years off the Bottle Rockets have climbed back into the saddle and released one of the more entertaining albums of 2015. A lighthearted look at life South Broadway Athletic Club is full of tunes about love, dogs, hard work and building cars. Opening with the jangly “Monday (Every Time I Turn Around)” the band sings about how fast we go through life. Ignorance is bliss on “I Don’t Wanna Know” about not knowing what is going on outside of a relationship is better than knowing. The brooding guitar driven “Building Chryslers” peels back how jobs in America have evolved into being more about that money than pride in workmanship. True love and loyalty isn’t that hard and the humorous metaphor of loving a dog proves that point. The song “Smile” is a simple song about smiling making things better. Whether in a relationship, with friends or just in everyday life smiles are infection and can make things better. South Broadway Athletic Club is one of those records that can be listened to over and over. The songs are fun to listen to, make you want to sing-a-long with them and under the lightheartedness and humor are lyrics that make you think about life. After listening to this album you can’t help but be in a better mood.