Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Hoodoo Gurus – “Hung Out to Dry” single – The legendary Australian band has been 3-for-3 on the singles front since reforming after nearly a decade’s absence, and “Hung Out to Dry” is the right song for the wrong time. “Glue your hair down one more time,” Dave Faulkner snarls on what he calls an “I hate you song” to Donald Trump. Too bad the band will not get play it live this year in a planned U.S tour done in by the pandemic.
Foxycontin – This Time You’re On Your Own (Sister Raygun) –Philly-based Foxycontin brings together garage, punk, pop, and glam sounds, excellent songwriting, and cool covers like “Little Willie” and Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins.” Tip-top originals include the raging “Alive in Interesting Times” (indeed), ” “Headlines,” “The Whole World Knows I’ll Never Get Over it Now,” and “It’s Starting to Show,” which lead singer Rich Kaufman performed previously with his old band The Rolling Hayseeds. One of my favorite debuts of the year.
Various Artists/Garland Records - Pacific Northwest Snuff Box (Sundazed) – This is the latest in a series of releases unearthing the archives of Salem, Oregon’s once basement-based Garland Records. The set features the honky tonk side of a label better known for garage and psychedelia, but the Snuff Box sizzles with an abundance of charm and twang.
Cascade Sweethearts offer terrific male-female harmonizing on three songs led by a cool, rolling cover of Bobby Harden’s “Tippy Toeing” and the nifty original “Hard Workin’ Woman.” Chuck Wray’s big vibrato jumps right out of the jukebox with a fine cover of Stonewall Jackson’s “Don’t Be Angry.” Meanwhile, Fuzz Box alumni The Heard bring swagger and swing on a rig rockin’ cover of Nat Stuckey’s “Sweet Thang.”
Gasoline Lollipops – All the Misery Money Can Buy (Self-released) – Clay Rose’s confident, soulful vocals might be this Denver’s band fiercest weapon, but it has plenty more firepower: a tough, exciting sound; passionate, relevant songs; and a classy but juiced sensibility that prevents the music from becoming overwrought or stale sounding. “Get Up!” or the righteous, album-ending cover of “Sinnerman” will stir you up big time.
Indonesian Junk – A Life Of Crimes (singles and rarities 2009-2018) (Rum Bar) – 2015’s Iggyish “Crimes,” probably my favorite single from Milwaukee’s Indonesian Junk, gives this excellent 13-song collection its name. The Kiss cover “C’mon and Love Me” (“She saw my picture in a music magazine”) that leads off the comp comes from the Darkness Calling EP from 2018. But there’s quite a bit here that is absolutely worthwhile that falls under previously unreleased like “Pillbox” and the moody “Since That Day” (great guitar) or from frontman Daniel James’ previous band the Daniel James Gang (“Nothin’ I Can Do” and “What Do You Want” are highlights).
Little Richard – The Rill Thing, King of Rock and Roll, The Second Coming and Lifetime Friend (Omnivore) – I recently watched the 1973 documentary Let the Good Times Roll on TCM and the footage of Little Richard giving every ounce of himself during a performance and turning the crowd into maniacs was insane and inspiring. Three of these albums come from this same early ‘70s period while Lifetime Friend was originally released in 1986. They find Little Richard in excellent form, slowed slightly from his orgy-filled, rockin’ days of the mid-1950s but funked up heavily and ready to sweat all night long – see epic version of “Dancing in the Street” on 1971’s King of Rock and Roll and many, many more shining examples over these four essential albums. Bonus tracks abound on each album, including singles, alternate tracks and soundtrack songs. All four reissues were produced for release by Milwaukee native Cheryl Pawelski.
Bill Kirchen – The Proper Years (The Last Music Company) – Quality and fun (too much? Shucks no!) abound on this 38-song, double-disc collection of songs Kirchen recorded over a decade at Proper Records’ Specific Sound Studio in London. Kirchen is probably best known for his guitar slingin’ ways, but his Dave Dudley-like baritone is quite appealing, and he is a superb songwriter and creative interpreter. Bonus tracks include a joyous, Obama-era rip through Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changin’” that Kirchen says he included as a message of hope amidst 2020’s terribleness.
Red Meat – Live at Jack’s Sugar Shack (Ranchero) – Some bands might overstay their welcome over 34 songs on a live album, but San Francisco’s Red Meat make you wonder where the time went. You find yourself absorbed in their California honky tonk world filled with good humor, good songs, and excellent musicians. This double disc set offers an exciting twirl through the top-notch Red Meat songbook with fabulous originals like “The Show Must Go On” and “Girl With the Biggest Hair” from their 1997 debut album and crowd-pleasing covers like “Streets of Baltimore” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
Kenny Roby – The Reservoir (Royal Potato Family) – After reuniting with 6 String Drag for 2018’s triumphant Top of the World, North Carolina’s Roby returns with this wonderfully engaging 16-song solo effort, a playful yet personal collection produced by Dave Schools of Widespread Panic. Favorites include “Vampire Song (Whatcha Gonna Do),” and “History Lesson,” which both showcase Roby’s robust skills as a clever and fun songwriter, as well as the heartbreaking “Old Love” (written as his 20-year marriage was coming to an end) and the tender, jazzy “New Strings.”
The Lurkers – Sex Crazy (Damaged Goods) – Four decades in, the Lurkers are Sex Crazy and still pounding out delightfully buzzing, beer-sloshing, unpretentious punk. Songs like “Fits You Like a Glove,” “The Boys in the Corner,” and “Tracey vs. Julia’ are smart, heartfelt, and soon to be stuck in your head.