Give the Gift of Music
When it comes to popular music, it is easy to find the artists that are topping the charts.
Their PR machines have them on the airwaves ad nauseam, and while some of the music is good, much of it is an inch wide and an inch deep.
As with all years, there is great music being made that may go unnoticed, yet is superior in every way. Here, I am going to provide a blatantly subjective list of albums that I think would kick up your stockings a notch or two.
Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives – ‘Nashville, Part 1 – Tear the Woodpile Down’
In this day and age of country music that is corporate-driven, predictable, formulaic and better described as Nashville Pop, there are cats like Marty Stuart that are still recording country music that is real and powerful. On this latest album, Stuart, Harry Stinson, Paul Martin and hot-shot guitarist Kenny Vaughan not only bring forth good, boot-kicking honky tonk and true-life story songs, but Stuart and Vaughan also kick into a couple of guitar duels that are nothing less than smoking.
Larry Graham and Graham Central Station – ‘Raise Up’
For funk music aficionados, Larry Graham is a legend on the bass guitar. Even Bootsy Collins, a funk bass legend in his own right, gives up props to Graham, who first came on the scene in the late 1960s with Sly and the Family Stone. In the early 1970s, Graham broke free to create the super funky group Graham Central Station. Now, in 2012, Graham is back with a revamped band and his funk chops intact. From the slamming title cut to the appropriately titled “Throw – N – Down the Funk” to an on-fire version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” this album is a rump shaker. And, the ubiquitous and elusive Prince shows up to add some purple funkiness to three cuts, as well.
Stereophonics – ‘Graffiti on a Train’
Long-time friend and High Country wine rep extraordinaire Lynne Lear has been trying to get me hooked on the band, Stereophonics, for years. Finally, in recent months, I have taken the bait and have learned to appreciate this interesting rock band that is probably new to you, as well. The odd thing is, as good as they are, Stereophonics have yet to break through here in the United States. Over in the UK and elsewhere, the Welsh group is an arena-filling band, while here, they are a small- to mid-size venue draw. Hopefully, that will change with the impending release of their new album, “Graffiti on a Train.” It is not easy to categorize Stereophonics, as they are not really alt rock or modern rock, but they do have a sound of their own. Think Radiohead, except much more earthy and guitar-driven. While the new album isn’t out yet, there is plenty to choose from, including five previous albums that went to No. 1 on the charts in Europe.
The Henry Girls and The Fox Hunt – ‘Mountains to the Ocean’
“Mountains To The Ocean” is a brand new collaboration between The Fox Hunt, a West Virginia-based string band, and the Henry Girls, a trio of harmonizing roots music musicians from County Donegal, Ireland. There has always been Celtic influences in American old-time and bluegrass music. But, this album is more a matter of young Appalachian pickers coming together with three young artists from Ireland to create fresh, new sounds. Here is your chance to appreciate and support wonderfully-talented independent musicians who are not on a major label. You can find the album here: questionablerecords.bandcamp.com/album/mountains-to-the-ocean.