Monday, November 20, 2017

Short Rounds: Tommy Castro, NRBQ, Radio Moscow & the Replacements

Tommy Castro & the Painkillers' Stompin’ Ground
New album releases in 150 words or less...

Tommy Castro & the Painkillers – Stompin’ Ground (Alligator Records)
Blues veteran Tommy Castro made his bones with Bay Area roots-rockers the Dynatones before going solo in the early ‘90s. Castro has since become one of our most popular contemporary blue performers, his association with Alligator Records beneficial for artist and label alike. Stompin’ Ground is Castro’s fourth Alligator release, a joyful collection of fierce blues-rock originals and inspired covers wrapped in velvety R&B tones. Castro has always been more than another Strat-toting pretender to Stevie Ray’s crown and, as a vocalist, he’s found inspiration in the soul giants of the ‘60s. Tunes like the quietly raucous “Blues All Around Me,” the grits ‘n’ gravy boogie-rock of “Enough Is Enough,” or a funky, rollicking cover of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” (with guest Dave Hidalgo of Los Lobos) display a reverent throwback vibe honed to a razor edge by uplifting instrumentation, blasts of horn, and Castro’s electrifying fretwork and dynamic vox. Grade: A   BUY IT!

NRBQ's Happy Talk EP
NRBQ – Happy Talk EP (Omnivore Recordings)
It’s too bad that pop music isn’t more like the stock market, where a band’s fortunes could rise or fall on the basis of their most recent product. Sure, bloato-hype would still move units, but artists would have to deliver the real goods to grab sales and chart position. Recently celebrating 50 years in the trenches, rock ‘n’ roll stalwarts NRBQ have seen their stock rise in the wake of their High Noon career retrospective as a fresh generation of investors…er, fans…discovered the band’s immense charms. The five-song Happy Talk is a stopgap between the box and a full-length album, but you won’t find a more entertaining way to spend seventeen minutes. Tunes like “Yes, I Have A Banana,” “Blues Blues Blues,” and a cover of Roy Orbison’s classic “Only The Lonely” display what the band does better than anybody – mix rock, pop, country, and blues into a heady brew. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Radio Moscow's New Beginnings
Radio Moscow – New Beginnings (Century Media)
I’ve been following these guys for a couple albums now, but they’ve been knockin’ around since the mid-2000s with a half-dozen releases to their name. Radio Moscow’s latest, New Beginnings, follows the same sort of electro blues-drenched classic hard rock jams as their recent work, albeit with less psychedelic drapery and more street-walkin’ cheetah ferocity. Singer/guitarist Parker Griggs fronts a classic power trio, and New Beginnings displays the man’s uncompromising six-string skills that, while deeply-rooted in the ‘60s, offer up hi-watt tonnage more akin to Leslie West’s Mountain than Eric Clapton’s Cream (two obvious reference points). If you’ve wondered where loud ‘n’ proud old-school rock ‘n’ roll disappeared, look no further than Radio Moscow. Songs like the shimmering instrumental “Woodrose Morning” or the flamethrower dino-rocker “Last To Know” will singe your eardrums, kick yer ass, and trigger Jimi flashbacks like no other band rockin’ the scene today. Grade: A   BUY IT!

The Replacements' For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986
The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino Records)
The Replacements have a long-standing reputation – depending on which night you saw them perform – as either the best or the worst band in rock ‘n’ roll. The rabid fanboy mythology that has grown up around the ‘Mats is a large part of the band’s reputation as well, and well-deserved. Which begs the questions…why has it taken 30 years to release For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986? The first legit Replacements live album, this double-disc set captures the band firing on all cylinders and cranking out 29 red-hot slabs of joyful noise. From favored originals like “I Will Dare,” “Left of the Dial,” “Answering Machine,” and “Unsatisfied” as well as their raucous reading of the Kiss gem “Black Diamond” and unexpected covers of Sweet’s “Fox On the Run” and the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man,” each performance here shines with reckless abandon and the ramshackle charm that was the Replacements’ trademark and legacy. Grade: A   BUY IT!

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