Reviews

Summer Roundup 2024 with Pokey LaFarge, Noelle and the Deserters, Sugaray Rayford, Jared Deck and Chris Kasper

By Brian Rock

Ready or not, summer is upon us. As the temperature heats up, so does the music scene. Here are some of the hottest new releases to fire up your summer festivities…

 

Americana

Pokey LaFarge Rhumba Country

This album hits all the high notes of summer: the anticipation, the fun, the freedom. Fully marinated in the sun-drenched sounds of the Caribbean, the music is elegant, exotic, and enchanting. From the Calypso influences in “One You, One Me,” to the Reggae vibes of “Run, Run, Run,” to the Afro-Cuban soul of “Sister Andre,” the album dazzles and surprises with each new track. Like a Fourth of July fireworks spectacle, each song pops and sizzles with excitement. 

Hot as July Track: “It’s Not Over”

Fun, flirty and festive, this song captures the optimism of the early sixties. Irresistibly catchy and eminently danceable, the song is four minutes of technicolor, CinemaScope joy. Urging you to join the fun, Lafarge sings, “It’s not over till it’s over. Don’t stop now we’re getting closer. Everybody knows that you can’t close Heaven’s doors.” Not even the pearly gates have a fanfare better than this.

pokeylafarge.net  |  fb  |  buy

 

Country

Noelle and the Deserters High Desert Daydream

This debut album features classic Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette vibes with richly textured musical arrangements. Noelle Fiore and company get their boots scooting on the honky tonk rousers, “Our Love’s Got A Cold,” “Church of Dog,” and “Some Men.” They meld girl group melodies and Texas swing rhythms on, “Watching Billboards.” “Taos,” captures the tex-mex flair of Linda Ronstadt. The band also pulls at your heartstrings on the ballads, “A Way Back,” “Canyon,” and “Wonder Why I Wander.” “Now I’ve Got You,” plunges deep into foreboding country noir. Noelle’s voice is powerful, passionate, and poignant throughout. Evocative pedal steel adds emotional depth and classic country texture to each song.

Hot as July Track: “Born In The Morning”

The lead song from the album begins with a roar and a rumble. A blistering outlaw country takedown of an unfaithful lover; Fiore confronts her cheating lover’s lies by reminding him, “I was born in the morning, but I wasn’t born today.”

noelleandthedeserters.com   |   fb   |   buy

 

Blues

Sugaray Rayford Human Decency

“Soul Blues Male Artist of the Year” award winner Sugaray Rayford returns to form on his latest release. Half soul and half blues, Rayford combines Memphis and Chicago stylings and brings them to life with his commanding Curtis Mayfield meets Robert Cray voice. He comes on large and in charge in the Chicago influenced, “Falling Upwards,” “Dirty Rat,” and the sexy, slinky, “Hanky Panky Time.” Raford breaks out the horns and organ for the Memphis inspired, “Strawberry Hill,” “Aha,” and the yearning, “Human Decency.” He even dabbles in James Brown style funk on, “Stuck Between.” 

Hot as July Track: “Ain’t That A Man”

Full tilt Memphis soul turned up to eleven. Rayford pokes fun at “manly” stereotypes, singing, “Ain’t that a man; just a hopeless sinner. Ain’t that a man; always needs to be a winner. Ain’t that a man; always swimming up river.” But he also offers his advice to turn things around in time to become “Mr. Right.”

sugarayrayford.com  |  fb  |  buy

 

Americana

Jared Deck Head Above Water

Jared Deck truly embraces the big tent philosophy of americana. No two tracks on this ten song album could be categorized as the same genre. There’s the folk/blues of “Three Things,” the guttural gospel of “Head Above Water,” the Memphis Soul of “Loose My Mind,” the Afro-Cuban rhythms of “Amorita,” the Funk of “Fired Up,” and that’s just the first “side” of the album. Deck also works in hues of folk on “Moutain Vally Road,” cajun/country on “All Out of Answers,” power ballad on “Song About Love,” and surprisingly, touches of ragtime on his cover of Garth Brooks’ “Two Of A Kind.” The one constant through this musical kaleidoscope is Deck’s commanding, soulful voice. He is powerful, yet poignant; intense yet intimate. His voice is as diverse as his musical arrangements as he sings about love, life, and the angst of this modern age.

Hot as July Track: “Midamericana Blues”

Straight up rock and roll. This song captures the glory days of greasy, bar rock bands like Faces, T. Rex, and J. Geils Band. Complete with crunchy guitar licks, Hammond organ and soulful background singers, the song fires on all cylinders.

jareddeckmusic.com  |  fb  |  buy/listen

 

Singer/Songwriter

Chris Kasper Sunight In An Empty Room

Combining the mellow, California rhythms of Laurel Canyon with the gently rolling tones of the Piedmont region of Virginia and the rustic twang of the hill country of Texas, Kasper creates a one-of-a-kind, tri-coastal sound. Sometimes introspective, sometimes celebratory he examines life with keen insight and a killer backing band. “Cold, Cold World,” “Shuffle on Through,” and “The Only Ones,” highlight his Laurel Canyon influences. “Summer in the City,” and “Ain’t it a Shame,” showcase his Piedmont chops. “When it’s Gone,” “Books from the Jailhouse,” and the Guy Clark-esque “Cry Me a Creek,” let his inner Texan shine through. Engineer Brook Sutton adds touches of cosmic cowboy and subtle Jazz syncopations to add depth and texture throughout.

Hot as July Track: “Getting Right”

Kasper achieves a blissful state of oneness on this Piedmont blues inspired gospel track. It’s a perfect “porch song” that rolls along on barrelhouse piano and staccato percussion and slide guitar. Exuding good vibes, he sings, “There’s a river on the other side. It’s the holiest one I know. It carries the gospel from New Orleans to Chicago. They say Muddy walked on water, they say Lightning walked the line, They teamed up and turned that holy water into wine.” Conflating the musical with the mystical, Kasper celebrates the divine harmony that connects us all.

chriskasper.com  |  fb  |  buy

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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