Friday, May 25, 2018

Short Rounds: Brinsley Schwarz, Eric Corne, Roger McGuinn & Shuggie Otis (2018)

Brinsley Schwarz's Live Favourites
New album releases in 150 words or less…

Brinsley Schwarz – Live Favourites (Vogon Records)
British pub-rock legends Brinsley Schwarz never released a live album during their brief time in the spotlight (roughly 1969-1975), and ‘tis more the shame. Any band that can boast of Nick Lowe and, later, Ian Gomm as songwriters is aces in my book, and band namesake Schwarz’s fretwork is uniformly superb. Why they never made a commercial splash over the course of half-dozen studio albums is a mystery. Live Favourites is a semi-legit release of a June 1974 show, shortly before the release of The New Favourites Of..., their final album, and it’s a spankin’ fine effort at that. Sound quality is good with clear separation while the setlist – which includes treasures like “Country Girl,” “Trying To Live My Life Without You,” and “What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” – displays the band’s deft alchemical mix of rock, country, and soul; highly recommended for any rock ‘n’ roll fan. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Eric Corne's Happy Songs For the Apocalypse
Eric Corne – Happy Songs For the Apocalypse (Forty Below Records)
In his role as studio engineer and producer, Forty Below Records founder Eric Corne has shepherded into the world some of the most essential blues albums of the past decade by legends Walter Trout and John Mayall. Few know that Corne is also a talented singer and songwriter in his own right, as attested to by Happy Songs For the Apocalypse, which offers an inspired blend of country-flavored folk-rock with blues influences. Corne’s “Mad World” is a lilting, folkish song featuring weeping pedal steel. The bluesy “The Gilded Age” reminds of Charley Patton with its high lonesome vocals, languid fretwork, and flowing harmonica tones. My favorite is “The Distance You Run,” a sort of country waltz with spry vocals and intelligent lyrics while the anguished “Forbidden Town” is wrought with emotion. With his sophomore solo LP, the talented Eric Corne delivers an altogether solid effort of primo-grade American music. Grade: B+   BUY IT!

Roger McGuinn's Peace On You
Roger McGuinn – Peace On You (Floating World Records)
The Byrds’ estimable catalog is revered, and rightfully so. As for Byrds’ frontman Roger McGuinn’s solo work, well, not so much…and for good reason, as many of his LPs are littered by lack of focus. For Peace On You, the singer/songwriter’s sophomore album, he’s backed by the cream of L.A. session musicians, including guitarist Tommy Tedesco and steel guitar maestro Al Perkins. McGuinn delivers a work that veers from the engaging folk-rock of his legendary band to weepy, subpar country-rock fare that former bandmate Gram Parsons would have hit out of the park. Part of the problem sits with McGuinn’s songwriting partner Jacques Levy, a pal of Dylan’s who never met a lyrical cliché he didn’t like. McGuinn has long blamed the musical excesses of Peace On You on producer Bill Halverson when he should have looked in the mirror. Although the album has its charms, it’s no Cardiff Rose. Grade: C+   NAH?

Shuggie Otis's Inter-Fusion
Shuggie Otis – Inter-Fusion (Cleopatra Records)
When everybody else in popular music is running, lemming-like, in a single direction, Shuggie Otis is veering off towards left field. For his first studio album in better than forty years, the songwriter responsible for soulful gems like “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Inspiration Information” delivers a mostly-instrumental set guaranteed to blow your  mind. Working with talented journeymen like bassist Tony Franklin and drummer Carmine Appice, Otis puts the emphasis on his flamethrower fretwork, contributing only a pair of songs to Inter-Fusion but leaving his fingerprints all over the grooves. A buffet of rock, soul, funk, and jazz, Inter-Fusion is a breathtaking collection of virtuosity and, when Otis opens his mouth to sing as on “Ice Cold Daydream,” there’s little rust in his voice, just silky lyrical flow. Inter-Fusion is proof that Otis has lost none of the chops, imagination, or innovation that made him a legend in the first place. Grade: A   BUY IT!

Previously on That Devil
Short Rounds, April 2018: Catfish, Jimmie Vaughan Trio, King Crimson & Memphis Rent Party
Short Rounds, March 2018: 6 String Drag, The Doors, the Nick Moss Band & Jack White
Short Rounds, February 2018: 6 String Drag, Tinsley Ellis, Mabel Greer's Toyshop & Wishbone Ash

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