Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Echoes from another era reverberate through much of Everybody, Anyone, the latest offering from the Midlands-based Stone Foundation. The 11 songs conjure, at times, Traffic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Steely Dan, War and similar groove-heavy acts of yore, as well as the Chi-Lites, Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison, yet the influences never overwhelm the music, which sounds fresh and immediate.

Neil Jones (guitar/vocals) and Neil Sheasby (bass/backing vocals) cowrote the songs, with an assist from Paul Weller on “Next Time Around.” Weller also plays on several tracks. (Which makes sense, given that the set was recorded at his Black Barn Studio.) There are additional guests, too, including Weller’s former Style Council mates Mick Talbot and Steve White. Singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams provides a sweet counterbalance to Jones’ grainy timber on “Don’t Walk Away”; and Hamish Stuart, formerly of Average White Band and Paul McCartney’s Flowers in the Dirt-era band, lends his distinct vocals to “Only You Can.” 

Yet the guest spots matter not. The “stars” here are Jones’ expressive voice, the band, and – most importantly – the songs themselves. They feature taut rhythms and lyrics that strive for something more than the rudimentary reflections that make up much of today’s mainstream music. They’re metaphysical musings of the highest order.

Here’s one highlight: the aforementioned “Don’t Walk Away.”

And another: “Give the Man a Hand.”

And another: “Next Time Around.” 

And, finally: “Heavenly Father.”

In short, I’ll be playing Everybody, Anyone again and again for quite some time.

The set is available to stream and buy at all the usual outlets, as well as from the band’s website. (The package I picked up from them comes with a cool making-of documentary, as well as autographed LP and CD.)

The track list:

My original plan was to review this album alongside the disposable camera I ordered from Mikaela Davis’ web store, but the camera was delayed…and then processing the film took two weeks. (Are there no more one-hour photo shops in this land?) And then…well, I didn’t want to rave about this while damning that. It didn’t seem fair.

Make no mistake: Delivery is a superb set. Echoes of the Day-Glo 1970s can be heard throughout the grooves of the full-length debut of the Rochester, N.Y., singer-songwriter (and harpist!). She stirs a sumptuous sonic stew that, somewhat similar to the Staves-branded brew, is spiced by sounds that are simultaneously retro and modern. Her recipe, however, is a tad more funky than theirs. 

And, like theirs, it’s quite addictive.

The title track is a good example. The opening chords conjure Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” but morph into a Dylanesque parable about self-doubt (“I’m not in control/I’m not cut out for this/So I took it back to New York/and cried to my mom, oh/I thought I’d know me by now…”).

I’ve featured it before, of course, along with the propulsive “Get Gone.” In another era, both would be getting played to death on radio.

The deceptively breezy “In My Groove” is another highlight. A strong undertow flows beneath its seemingly gentle current. “I’m not the one who’s gonna change the world/or change the way you want to live.”

Here she is in the Paste Studios performing it:

“All I Do Is Disappear” explores love and self-doubt, of pulling away instead of leaning in to commitment. (“My love is like the setting sun/It doesn’t wait for anyone/But how can I make myself clear when/All I do is disappear?”)

Since I mentioned the Staves up top, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the sisters Staveley-Taylor lend their angelic harmonies to two songs. The stark “Emily” explores what happens when a broken heart leads to a broken mind. The sublime “Pure Divine Love,” which closes the album, features a George Harrison vibe alongside Mikaela’s swirling harp.

In short: Seek out Delivery. I’ve been enjoying it since its July 13th release, and enjoying it more with each listen – always the mark of a strong album.

I am not a film critic, nor do I play one on TV. In fact, these days, I rarely go to the multiplex – the last film I saw in a theater was Jason Bourne (my choice) and before that Love & Friendship (Diane’s choice), and before that Indignation (mine), Spotlight (ours), and whatever the final Harry Potter film (Diane’s) was called. And, at home, despite having an array of options thanks to cable, Netflix and Amazon Prime, I rarely click play on a movie. I don’t care about animation, live-action comic books, or crass comedies, which are pretty much all that the Hollywood studios crank out these days.

In fact, before Here I Am, the last “new” movie I watched was Lady Bird on Amazon Prime, which Diane wanted to see. I found it insightful, poignant and funny, and enjoyed its nuanced, slice-of-life story. 

Written and directed by Cynthia Mort, Here I Am is also a slice-of-life tale, though it’s a music-based drama that includes a layer of metaphysical musings. The plot is straightforward: Successful singer Tommy Gold (Shelby Lynne), who’s been rocked by guilt and self-doubt since a tragic death, deals with the pressures of life while recording a new album and preparing for a tour. In some respects, the film has a cinéma-vérité feel – we’re plopped into the middle of an ongoing story, and it’s left to us to sort certain things out.

As Tommy, Shelby Lynne radiates pain – but also the magnetism that’s made Tommy a star. You believe her in the role. The supporting cast is also strong: Ally Walker plays Walker, who’s either Tommy’s manager or former manager-turned-record company executive, as well as a former lover – aside from Tommy’s internal demons, she’s the main antagonist. Elisabeth Röhm costars as Tommy’s agent, Gail, who defends and explains her boss to those who only see her as a product. Hugo Armstrong plays Colton, a sympathetic record-company man. 

I found it an insightful look at this thing called human existence, and recommend it to anyone interested in adult stories. (And by “adult” I mean “grown-up.”) Don’t get me wrong: Shot on a barebones budget over 15 days, it’s not a perfect film. But the story and performances are compelling enough that you’ll overlook the flaws.

You can buy it and the soundtrack via Shelby Lynne’s web store.

The soundtrack, I should mention, features songs written by Shelby Lynne as well as Shelby and Cynthia Mort. My only criticism: At present, it’s only available on vinyl from Shelby’s store, which means I can only listen when I’m here, at home, and not on the road. Here’s one of the songs, which I’m leaving unlisted on YouTube, as performed at the Ardmore Music Hall a few weeks back:

A few days after the show, Shelby told me via a tweet that the title is “Looking at the Moon/Revolving Broken Heart,” but that doesn’t match any of the songs listed at the end of the DVD or on the film’s website…and our LP, which we picked up along with the Here I Am DVD at the show, doesn’t list titles on the jacket or label. Late tonight (8/12), she said it’s “My Mind’s Riot.” Whatever it’s called, it’s a stirring ode to the downside of love – losing it, or the fear of losing it. It’s the kind of song that lingers in the mind long after the album is over.

And the rest of the soundtrack is as good. Here’s another track, “Off My Mind,” which was released as a single earlier this year.

(To learn more about Here I Am, visit Shelby Lynne’s website.)

Late last Sunday afternoon, we were hoverin’ beneath an awning on Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore, Pa., trying to find a dry place to stand. A heavy rain was falling off and on, and the Ardmore Music Hall had yet to open its doors. But it seemed we heard a voice calling “it’s all right” from inside. It was a rainy (and humid) night in Pennsylvania, in other words, a few hours before Shelby Lynne’s show in “almost Philly” – aka a suburb about eight miles outside of the city line. It felt like it was raining all over the world.

It was a rainy night in Pennsylvania, but a sun shone inside the hallowed hall.

I’ve seen many shows in my lifetime. I’ve raved about most. (To quote the bard Van Morrison, “rave on, John Donne, rave on.”) But I’ve witnessed few artists as magnetic as Shelby Lynne. Accompanied by Ben Peeler, she wove a sublime 90-minute set that mixed and matched memorable songs from throughout her career. The dramatic “Leavin’,” about walking out on a loved-one, was an early highlight. It sounded like a long-lost Dusty in Memphis demo, just about.

Another highlight: “Johnny Met June.” While introducing it, Shelby mentioned the many legendary performers she’s been lucky enough to meet and get to know, including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash, and asked, “Who are we going to replace these special cats with?” 

I should mention that, until this night, we’d never seen Shelby on her own – an oddity, to be sure, that has more to do with time, circumstance and ignorance of her Philly-area appearances than anything else. Astute readers will remember however that Diane and I saw Shelby and her sister Allison Moorer deliver a sterling set at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia last August, and were so besotted that we saw them again at the Sellersville Theater in February of this year. The main difference between those shows and this one: she shared the spotlight at those concerts while she was the spotlight here.

One case in point: the performance of “Looking at the Moon/Revolving Broken Heart,” a sublime song from her film Here I Am (which I plan to review in the weeks ahead). She sings “I can’t find the beauty in dreaming/I wake up believing you’re leaving…” and whether she was in character or not, you believe her. It’s a stark, beautiful ballad that quivers and aches. (At present, it’s available on the movie soundtrack – vinyl only – that Shelby’s selling at her shows and via her website. It’s well worth the purchase, as is the film itself.)

“Where I’m From” (aka “Alabama Frame of Mind”) and “Black Light Blue” were both, as one might expect, wonderful…

…as was what followed: A marriage proposal. No – not to or from Shelby, but from one fan to another. Very sweet. “Dreamsome” will forever be their song.

But the proposal wasn’t as sweet as Shelby’s song for Allison, “I’ll Hold Your Head.”

As I said at the outset, I tend to rave about performances that I enjoyed, so I won’t clamor on. But know this: Shelby drew the audience in, and held us in her sway. There were songs she didn’t sing that I would have liked to have heard – anything from her Dusty covers album, Just a Little Lovin’, for instance, especially “Breakfast in Bed” or “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore”; “The Killin’ Kind” or “Off My Mind” (another Here I Am song that was released as a single), both of which Diane hoped would make the set; or her poignant rendition of “Rainy Night in Georgia” (a bonus track on her Suit Yourself CD), which seemed to fit the night. But, that said, there weren’t any songs that I wished she hadn’t sung, or would have swapped out.

As I tweeted after we got home, “She should not be missed when she comes to your town. One of the most hypnotic shows I’ve had the pleasure to witness. (And she let my wife hug her afterwards, so there’s that.)” And I know it wasn’t just me. Diane says she now places Shelby in the same class as Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder as a live performer. Which says a lot.

One last thing: Pete Donnelly opened. In the past, he’s played with NRBQ and he still plays with the Figgs (and, in that capacity, once backed Graham Parker). The highlight of his short set was “American Town,” the title track to an EP he released a few years back. For part of the song, he eschewed the mike and sang from the edge of the stage. It was riveting.

Shelby’s set:

  1. 10 Rocks
  2. I’m Alive
  3. Leavin’
  4. Down Here
  5. Johnny Met June
  6. Life Is Bad
  7. She Knows Where She Goes
  8. Sold the Devil (Sunshine)
  9. Looking at the Moon/Revolving Broken Heart
  10. Lookin’ Up
  11. Why Can’t You Be
  12. Where I’m From
  13. Black Light Blue
  14. (Marriage Proposal)/Dreamsome
  15. I’ll Hold Your Head 
  16. Iced Tea

[Update: My review of Here I Am, the film and soundtrack, is here.]