Mature, Stylish, Graceful and Classy Songs of the Heart.
It appears that singer-songwriter Dan Navarro was a big deal in the USA Music Biz in the 1980’s and 90’s as one half of a duo called Lowen & Navarro (14 albums in 20 years must count for something!) plus he had a hand in writing quite a few hit songs too…… yet I’ve never heard of him, until now…… his debut solo album in 2019. In fairness, now I’ve played SHED MY SKIN a couple of times I’m more than happy to make this a starting point; as he not only writes an interesting song; he has a husky and ‘world weary’ voice that hooked me in right from the first verse of opening track, Shed My Skin. Much like the album itself; this song sits comfortably alongside many of the artists that came out of Laurel Canyon in the 60’s and 70’s; but also the tightly wrapped music that came from Townes Van Zandt and his merry band in the early 70’s. While many of those songwriters were ‘old beyond their years’ Dan Navarro writes his songs after a ‘life well lived’ and with the wisdom that can only be found, ‘looking back;’ which is what makes Straight To The Heart of Me and Ghosts very special indeed; as each demand your time and effort to get the best from them. For a Singer-Songwriter album that sounds quite simple and easy on the ear; Navarro gets to thank a multitude of people for their help in the making of the record; but thanks to Steve Postell’s mixing and producing nothing ever gets to take you away from Navorro’s heartfelt approach to his bittersweet love songs Bulletproof Heart, Hard For Me Now and especially the cinematic and claustrophobic Let Her Ride too. For an Americana album like this, Navarro includes two fascinating choices of cover songs; Billy Idol’s Sweet Sixteen which now becomes a mean ‘n moody Acoustic Rocker, which I didn’t recognise at all, partly because it now includes some amazing fiddle from Aubrey Richmond, Dobro from Doug Cox and some sensual and breathy harmonies from Grace Pettis (what’s not to like?) and the other gets to close the album; a fairly maudlin rendition of Wichita Linesman which just about perfectly closes the proceedings. Although I’ve been smitten by both those songs, two others have totally captured my heart; the lucid Arrows which conjures up it’s own windswept imagery in a way I’d normally associate with someone like Jackson Browne; and the other is the song that actually is my Favourite Song Here; You Drove Me Crazy, an intensely powerful duet with Janiva Magness that really proves Navarro’s songwriting is up there with the very best; and the way that the accordion, guitars and mandolin interweave behind their voices is quite unnerving at times yet incredibly beautiful at the same time. As I alluded to earlier; Dan Navarro’s songs are all pulled from a world of experiences that only a ‘man of a certain age’ can attain and articulate; and Dan Navarro does it with style, grace and class.
Roses & Cigarettes Echoes and Silence Self-Release
Passion Ain’t No Ordinary Word For These LA Rockers.
As per my usual way; I had played this album a couple of times before bothering to read the accompanying Press Release; and that’s quite fortuitous as I’d more than made up my mind about the songs before reading the ‘back story’ of LA musicians Jenny Pagliaro and Angela Petrilli, who take their ‘Band Name’ from a Ray LaMontagne song. Basically I liked the album cover and was vaguely aware these girls were ‘Rockers’ of the West Coast variety; and within 30 seconds of hearing Fast As I Can in the car on a sun soaked Wintry afternoon I knew I was in for a treat. Tightly wrapped guitars, punchy drumming, a diesel powered bass and a singer who could charm the birds from the trees……. what’s not to like? As is the way with West Coast Rock; there’s a few very personal ‘Power Ballads’ like Bye Bye Blackbird and Back To You interspersed between some good ‘ole foot on the accelerator Driving Music. Roses and Cigarettes manage to slip and slide between both genres with consummate ease, and it has to be said when I heard Feel The Fire and California Going Home, that afternoon and again today ………CLASS too. It would be all too easy to say Roses & Cigarettes sound a bit like Whitney Rose or the Bangles (they do); but for us of an older generation there’s a lot more of Pat Benatar and Melissa Etheridge in here too…….. listen to the title track Echoes and Silence and you too will be taken back to a time when curly hair and stonewashed jeans were de riguer for a man about town, like yours truly! Not that these songs sound ‘dated’ in the slightest; no, no and thrice no! Pagliaro and Petrilli can write a song that’s simply timeless but with 21st Century Roots-Rocking ‘bite’ to the lyrics and perfect for playing either in the car, or late at night when you are wooing or being wooed. Tucked away in the middle is a cracker of a duet with ‘Guest Star’ Marc Broussard; Stranded……… it’s the type of song that you’d expect to close the CMA’s or Americana Awards and not leave a dry eye in the house. Two particular songs really show Roses and Cigarettes special talents, yet come from opposite ends of the Soft Rock spectrum; the gorgeous tearjerker of a ballad Love Song and the atmospherically windswept Whispers in the Wind (Stacie’s song) which closes the disc, are both very special indeed. There’s no better reason for buying this album other than it’s a damn fine bunch of songs that will appeal to every generation of guitar based Country Rock/Soft Rock. Or is there? *Here’s the ‘kick in the teeth’ that I discovered from the Press Release. After getting some pretty good major league support slots following their 2015 album release singer Jenny Pagliaro was diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer; but following intensive treatment and a battling personality she ‘beat it’……….only for it to come back even more violently while recording these songs ……….. and she is now in hospital with Stage IV of the same bastard of an illness.
Jesse Kinch I’m Not Like Everybody Else Curb Records
Truth and Beauty By A Star Rising From The Ashes
It’s all too easy for my ageing generation to sneer at the myriad of Talent Show Winners who litter our lives these days; but every so often one or two are genuinely talented……. Leona Lewis, James Arthur and Olly Murs to name but 3 in the UK, and where would Kelly Clarkson be without her leg up from a TV talent show? So kids, forget Musical Snobbery and let me tell you about this album from a winner of ABC’s US Rising Star IN 2014; he’s a lot more talented than you’d imagine….. and in his defence he walked away from his Prize contract with Capital, because ‘this’ is the album he had wanted to make and not just any old Pop-Pap……….so, give him a chance. Obviously I didn’t know his background when I first heard the hip-shaking and head-banging opening track Preaching Like The Pope…… Hell…I just wished I could grow my hair long enough to enjoy it to the Max…Dude! While Kinch cites many and various bands and singers as influences; RMHQ will throw another name into that hat…….. Ian McNabb ex of the Icicle Works. Biff! Bang! Pow! This four minutes of Rock infused Country is straight from Mac’s Merseybeast template…… and it crops up again on the much gentler and more melodic ballad How Do I Reach You? Which follows, and these two songs alone highlight an amazing talent who can slide seamlessly between both worlds with ease. Presumably the handsome young man with the angelic locks isn’t really being directed at my age group; but with quality songs from his very own pen like the raggedy Rock & Roll of Tamed, the ultra-passionate Nighttime In New York City and the winsome and string drenched After All These Lovers will endear him to music fans of all ages and persuasions surely? I’m led to believe his choice of songs to cover in the show where his own; and if that’s true…… Jesse Kinch has impeccable taste and was brought up in a very eclectic household. Kinch cleverly changes the arrangement on I Put a Spell on You to make it sound more like Jose Feliciano than anyone else I can think of; and on RMHQ Favourite I’m a Man he goes all Spencer Davis; which is a name no one under 55 will know of; but hopefully enough youngsters will Google the name and discover a whole garden of earthly delights on You Tube. Jesse drops in a beautiful musical time bomb on yet another classy song from the RMHQ memory bank; the Beatles This Boy, which now has enough pathos to re-float the Titanic, and a song that made me make Mrs Magpie sit down and listen to with no distractions. And…… that’s not even the best cover version here…… that accolade goes to a marvelous re-invention of Billie Jean, which I didn’t even come close to recognising as Kinch plays it on the acoustic guitar with a whole lot of echo; and wow…… I can easily understand why it took America by storm. And…… that’s not even the best song here…… or to be more precise….. not even my favourite song here……. that goes to…..the exquisite title track, and a rare Kinks album track to boot, I’m Not Like Everybody Else. Back in the day this would have been called a Power Ballad; and it still is to some extent, but by jings Jesse Kinch has somehow crafted a very clever Rock song that wouldn’t have been out of place at the top of the charts in any decade across the the last 50 years! There’s a whole lot to like here, with Kinch first and foremost showing himself to be a cracking singer and very accomplished songwriter, plus the inclusion of 5 cover versions certainly isn’t a weakness, as his arrangements show a great talent at work in that area too. # When I first played her the album, Mrs Magpie asked “Is he the guy from A Star Is Born?” Which he obviously isn’t; but methinks will have a very similar demographic of fans of that soundtrack who like quality Rock Music with intelligent and occasionally sensitive lyrics and stories.
Released USA March 16th 2018 Released Europe Jan 18th 2019 (LP & CD) Download and Streaming all areas now.
I still smile at my ignorance when I received Hansard’s 2015 album DIDN’T HE RAMBLE; presuming he was a new kid on the block and I wished him well; only to discover (minutes before publishing) that he had been a key figure in legendary Irish Rock band The Frames for 25 years and was the cool guitarist in the Commitments PLUS he had written and performed the music in Mrs Magpies favourite film ONCE!
A hasty re-write meant no one would ever know.
Which all brings us today and his latest release; which has taken six years to cull together all of the pieces and only a couple of weeks in the studio to complete; and both timescales make perfect sense.
The opening track Roll On Slow is one of those songs that completely stopped me in my tracks. The Irishman’s gravelly lived-in voice reminds me of many of my favourite singers but is his own distinctive tones; and the hypnotic drum and bass reeled me in before some searing guitar and a classy brass section swing and shimmy the song into the dark of night. I love it!
Oddly things slow right down for an acoustic ballad Why Woman; which finds Hansard at his smouldering best on a lovely bittersweet break up song? (Mick Hucknall will be gnashing his teeth when he hears it; as it’s the type of song he’s famous for but never recorded anything quite as beautiful).
A couple of songs later Reckless Heart makes an appearance and again; I had to stop what I was doing and turn my head towards the speakers to pick up every nuance of this incredibly sad song; which finds the singer crooning in a cracked voice over a gentle guitar, drums and string section; and I defy you not to have to cough a tear away when the trumpet makes an appearance.
For a man with such an inestimable track record Glen Hansard still has the ability to surprise; Wheels on Fire is a bit of a passionate Soft-Rocker; but delve deeper and there is a political thread weaving through the fire and brimstone lyrics. Later Time Will Be The Healer is so clever you can listen on at least two levels; as it can be a plea to a lost love or if you are a cynic like me it just may be a commentary on the world we live in today and the politicians who govern us.
Favourite song? I’m pretty sure that will change every time I play this record; but today I will toss a coin between the ever so maudlin song about unrequited love, Lucky Man and Your Hearts Not In It; which is one of those perfect songs you find and keep for a midnight drinking and crying session when only ‘that song will do.’
Glen Hansard has nearly done the impossible here by making a timeless and classy Rock Album that will sit very comfortable alongside Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Lucinda Williams and in our house Roger Chapman; but it’s also so very contemporary and will appeal to young adults who have never heard of those four singers.
Expect this to be nominated for and win numerous Awards later in the year.