here they are:
"Black Is the Color" by Rhiannon Giddens: No other black female musician has sung about being a "country girl" quite so convincingly, and nor has any other attempted to mix bluegrass instrumentation with hip-hop beats. Qualities like this put Carolina Chocolate Drops' lead singer, Rhiannon Giddens, in a truly special category! She ups the ante on musical diversity with her debut solo song, "Black Is the Color", which is somewhat reminiscent of the harmonica laden soul tunes that Stevie Wonder has become known for. "Black", in this case, does not refer to race, but to the actual color, as it describes Rhiannon's "true love's hair" (well actually, not HER "true love", as people like Nina Simone recorded versions of the song before she did). A truly sublime treat from an equally sublime musician!
"Every Minute" by JJ Grey and Mofro: Moving on to a contemporary soul influenced group of a grittier variety, "Every Minute" is probably the smoothest song JJ Grey and Mofro have put out so far. The song gives more of a romantic, warm summery vibe than most of the grimier material in their catalog. That is, until halfway through the song, when horns start to blare, and guest guitarist Derek Trucks makes his guitar more audible! It starts to mellow out again after about 10 or 20 seconds, but towards the end, the instruments kick into full gear and louder tone once again!
"Gold" by Chet Faker: Notice that "F" in his name. This is not Chet Baker, the romantic singer from days of old, this is a contemporary "trip-hop" musician from Australia who goes by the moniker of Chet Faker, mixing lounge atmosphere and soothing instrumentation with hip-hop beats. Chet Faker isn't faking anything, though! He is quite talented at what he does. His breakthrough song, "Gold", weaves a tale of love gone wrong that is somewhat offset by Chet's mesmerizing, beautiful vocals. Not really sure what he means with the recurring line, "made of gold". Perhaps it has to do with how he might be sensing transparency within his relationship. Maybe if I listen to the song more, I'll be able to figure out the meaning of that line!
"It's A Longer Road to California Than I Thought" by The Wind and The Wave: Guy-girl folk-rock duo, The Wind and The Wave, hail from Texas, so perhaps California really IS a "long road" for them. For me, though, it's where I live! In comparison to their last hit, the bluegrass-rock stomper, "With Your Two Hands", "It's A Longer Road to California..." uses more instruments than just acoustic guitar. That instrument is used in this song, but it also uses keyboard in the background occasionally. The opening line of the song seems to rely on stereotypes about my state, with its "I miss smoking pot and playing guitar" line. Not everyone smokes that stuff in California (I don't)! And not every Californian who plays guitar smokes it either (once again, I don't smoke it - I do play guitar, though). Lucky for me, the rest of the song talks about the more natural aspects of California, like "rolling yellow hills" and "blue skies and the moon out in the distance and a sunset few and far behind". I'm proud to call California my home state! For those who don't live here, though, not all of us are burned out hippies.
"Let the Good Times Roll" by JD McPherson: JD never fails to please me! It's like he's able to channel the ghost of Elvis (before he got drafted into the army) every time he puts out a new song! That being said, it shouldn't come as a surprise that JD's latest tune, "Let the Good Times Roll", does exactly what its title says to do! What might come as a big surprise, though, is the condition he was in when he wrote it. Apparently he was ill when he wrote it, and the fact that he was watching an episode of "Frasier" where Niles finds a skull and holds it up didn't exactly make things any better for him. Isn't life ironic sometimes?!
"Made Up Mind" by The Brothers Landreth: Our last song of the week comes from country-rock group, The Brothers Landreth. Not to be confused with the Tedeschi-Trucks Band song of the same name, "Made Up Mind" a slower, mellower number, dominated by acoustic and steel guitar, with a blues-y electric guitar in the background. The lyrics can be quite poetic at times (especially the recurring line, "serenade of a made up mind"), but the song itself just seems okay to me so far. Not a bad one, though, and perhaps it'll grow on me over time, as many of these songs have.