Reviews

TJ Summer Roundup 2022: 49 Winchester, Nicki Bluhm, The Muffs, Cristina Vane, Izaak Opatz and Jack Broadbent


By Brian Rock

Summer’s here and it’s time for new clothes, new vacations and new music. As you wrangle over what to wear and where to go, here are a few, new can’t miss albums that accessorize with every outfit no matter where you’re headed.

 

Outlaw Country

49 Winchester Fortune Favors The Bold

Rising Country stars raise the bar for what modern Country could and should be. With imaginative arrangements that highlight traditional Outlaw Country rhythms, but with touches of Beach Boys vocal harmonies, Memphis soul organ, and Southern Rock guitar and piano, the music fires on all cylinders. Lyrically, the band tells great stories of love and loss and life on the road without ever leaning on over-worn cliches. Fantastic musical storytellers, 49 Winchester can make you laugh along with the Jerry Reed Country Funk of “Hillbilly Daydream.” They can draw out a tear on the heartbreaking Country Soul of “Second Chance.” They can make you feel the warmth of love’s embrace on the tender “Russell County Line.” They can make you dance your cares away on the Southern Rock anthem, “All I Need.” Part poet, part prankster, front man Isaac Gibson is a revelation. It’s time to reveal this band to a larger audience.

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “Fortune Favors The Bold” Buy Now

Let’s start by saying you can’t drop a needle on this album without landing on a great song. That said, this song captures the excitement of a summer road trip and the anticipation of heading out on a new adventure. Pulses of Hammond organ add a soulful flair to this Outlaw Country anthem. Gibson and company urge us to get out and live life to the fullest while showcasing their wit with lines like, “Every dog has its day. Mine is the 13th on a Friday.”

  

Americana

Nicki Bluhm Avondale Drive

Fourth solo album from soulful Americana genre-bending artist finds her in top form. From the girl group harmonies of “Learn To Love Myself,” to the introspective ballad, “Mothers Daughter,” to the southern rock energy of “Wheels Rolling,” to the Spaghetti Western rhythms of “Fools Gold,” to the playful, Sheryl Crow melodies of “Friends (How To Do It,)” to the soulful balladry of “Sweet Surrender,” Bluhm is a cashmere chameleon of song, moving smoothly and effortlessly from genre to genre. But no matter the genre, there is always a poignant undertone of soul in her delivery.

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “Love To Spare” Buy Now

Shades of Dusty Springfield’s seminal Soul classic, “Dusty in Memphis.” Bluhm is at her sultry best. Purring an offer of “love to share” for the right man; she makes it clear she doesn’t have time to waste on anyone who’s just fooling around. The backing band does a great recreation of the Stax house band of the 60’s with Hammond organ, piano and backing vocals. Pure Soul gold.

 

Alt Rock

The Muffs Really Really Happy

The passing of lead singer, Kim Shattuck in 2019 made us really really sad. This expanded edition reissue of their 2004 album is a fitting tribute to her legacy. Fusing Power Pop with Punk, The Muffs straddled the line between New Wave and Punk. One of the few Rock bands to be fronted by a woman, Shattuck didn’t just sing what the band gave her; she wrote, sang, played guitar on, and often produced the songs. Full of energy and attitude, she was part Joan Jett and part Johnny Rotten. Songs like “Freak Out,” “Really Really Happy,” “Everybody Loves You,” “And I Go Pow,” and “My Lucky Day,” remind us how fun Rock and Roll can be when it’s played fast and furious. This release contains the full original, remastered release with a generous helping of 22 bonus tracks and alternate versions. If this album inspires a new generation of female rockers, that would make us all really really happy indeed.

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “The Whole World” Buy Now

Pounding drums, snarling guitar, and Shattuck’s alternating pop then punk vocal deliveries are just plain fun. The lyrics mock an anonymous “Mr. Crazy” who does nothing as the whole world is watching him. Ostensibly, a bitter break up song, the melody is just too catchy to waste time dwelling on the mistakes of the past. Instead, this song surges full speed ahead, leaving the past in its wake.

 

Country

Cristina Vane Make Myself Me Again

Cristina Vane has a Joanie Mitchell voice and sings Emmylou Harris style songs. Her sophomore album finds her growing in confidence and charisma as she finds her musical stride. Incorporating blues, country and folk, Vane creates a surprisingly diverse and satisfying sonic soundscape. She combines country and folk on the introspective, title song and “Old Enough.” She takes a more assertive tone on the folk-rock fusion of “Sometimes Baby,” “Little Bit of Me,” and “Strange Times.” She plays straight bluegrass on “River Roll,” and “Time For Leaving.” But she really dazzles on her Piedmont blues numbers: “How You Doin,” “Small Town Nashville,” and “Little Black Cloud.” With a crystal clear voice and clever lyrics, Vane is a rising Americana star.

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “How You Doin” Buy Now

A playful, bouncy Piedmont blues tune punctuated by syncopated harmonica; this song shows off Vane’s finger picking skills. Trying to understand the machinations of her man-child love interest, Vane sings, “I’ve been reading hard between the lines. Consequences are some wasted times.” Not a heartbreak song, and not a love song, this tune celebrates the cat and mouse of the courting phase. Whatever the outcome, this song makes you want to just go along and enjoy the ride.

 

Folk

Izaak Opatz Extra Medium

Quirky, cunning and occasionally comical, Izaak Opatz creates multi-textured folk songs that demand repeated listenings. Like They Might Be Giants or Pokey LeFarge, Opatz finds the humor in life’s ups and downs. And Like Sgt. Pepper era Beatles, he packs a ton of delicious musical effects and textures into his music. Breathing technicolor life into the often black and white realm of folk, Opatz is a master storyteller and musical arranger. Electric organ, synthesizer, horns, and exotic percussive instruments populate his folk-rock numbers. “Chinook Wind,” “Handholder,” “You Don’t Look At Me The Same,” “Wild-Eyed George Bailey Heebie Jeebies,” and “Married With Kids,” “Blue Pilot” and “Shampoo” all exude a playful exuberance that’s cheerily contagious. His slower, straight folk offerings, “Passenger Seat,” “Big Sandy,” “East of Barstow,” “Mag-Lev Train,“ and “In The Light Of A Love Affair,” still manage to surprise with occasional flourishes of accordion or steel guitar. And when not comical, his lyrics are poignant and poetic. 

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “Chinook Wind” Buy Now

A rollicking Folk Rock tune that recalls Corb Lund at his most energetic. Comparing his love to the infamous “snow eater” Chinook Winds of the northern plains, he explores the joy of the sudden warmth and the danger of the deluge of suddenly melted snow: “You swept in like a Chinook Wind, blowing warm through the woods. A pulse of June in the middle of the winter can do more harm than good.” Choogling guitars and pulsing horns accentuate the joys and dangers of new romance.

 

Blues

Jack Broadbent Ride

British guitarist Jack Broadbent celebrates the Heavy Blues of late 60’s fellow countrymen Alexis Korner, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton on his fourth album. The title track roars down the track like an out-of-control freight train. “New Orleans,” “Midnight Radio,” and “Grace” ease into a more relaxed, Texas blues groove. “Baby Blue” incorporates an urban, Chicago style blues. While “Hard Livin’,” and “Who Are You?” slow down to ballad tempo, while still maintaining their blues edge.

Sizzlin’ Summer Single: “I Love Your Rock n Roll” Buy Now

A perfect summer song that celebrates the joy of life, love and music. With fuzzy rhythm guitars and searing lead guitar, the song cruises along like a convertible Mustang on a wide-open freeway.

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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