As promised, this is a fun little feature I’m calling quick hits: a paragraph or two (as opposed to full reviews) on new releases in 2018 from those artists who made up my previous top 5 lists from 2014-18. Rank has its privileges.
It gives me a chance to use my headings, too.
“I’m Not Country Enough” by Michael Van and the Movers
Follows on: “A Little More Country” (2016)
If you are a country fan, Michael Van and the Movers will definitely work out of your comfort zone with this one. But they are correct in subtitling this one “Cowboy Reggae and Other Atrocities.” (And yes, they do cowboy reggae – it’s really quite cool.)
Consider that I have the perspective of not being able to stand most modern country (i.e. not a country fan) and realize that I really enjoyed listening to the songs where MV&tM stretched the genre. (There are a share of tracks that are more reflective of classic country and bluegrass, too.) Those divergent songs will probably never be on country radio – at least not your formulaic “iHeartCountry” station most markets of any size have – but those who perform in the genre would do well to listen to this one and take notes.
“Weakened at the Asylum” by Midwest Soul Xchange
Follows on: “New American Century” (2015, reviewed 2016)
This one took a stab at being a rock opera, one set against the backdrop of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But I just don’t think they really pulled off the two most important parts: clear storytelling and memorably good songs. While they haven’t really changed their musical style, this one just didn’t grab me by the collar – in part because there’s no hook song on this one as there were on “New American Century.”
One thing I would advise is to listen to it in order and maybe you can figure out all the parts I missed. This was a definite step backward to me.
“The Last Ride” by The Magic Lightnin’ Boys
Follows on: “Stealin’ Thunder” (2016)
I tell you what: I sure hope the rumors of TMLB’s demise are just rumors. But if they are not, the four acoustic remakes of their previous work and the four new songs are a superb way to make one last ride and say goodbye.
There are a lot of bands over the years who have lived by straddling the line between blues and rock; sadly, they are becoming less and less prevalent these days as everyone wants to cross over to rap and hip-hop by making the drums and bass most prominent. I’m pleased to say the bass and drums are put in their place on this one, which shows great talent and musicianship. A formal review of this would have put the collection in my top 5 once again, so treat yourself and take a listen. Even Spotify knew better than to interrupt this one.
“Shadow of a Stone: Songs of Remembrance” (EP) by Geoff Gibbons
Follows on “Buffalo Hotel” (2017, reviewed 2018).
(Also being reviewed are two of his three 2018 singles, Rollin’ Free and Fall Girl. The third was the holiday tune Lonely Old Christmas.)
On Geoff’s two singles, he continues his smooth pairing of a classic country sound and adult contemporary vibe with a pair of songs that tell their tales of loss and longing well. But he tops this in a more biting way with the three-song EP “Shadow of a Stone,” using the theme of being a soldier to produce music that really should make him very successful in attracting discerning listeners. If you like mature music, Geoff may be the singer for you.
Something I’ve noticed about various bands is the emphasis they put on internet radio airplay. Instead, Geoff seems to have carved out a niche in performing live for a select few – I noticed on his calendar a particular place he plays several times a week. Maybe that’s where the veteran performer – whose eponymous first album came out 24 years ago – wants to be, but he has the musical ability to go a little further.
So that’s a look at what some of my “top 5” artists have been doing over the last year. Next week I have one other special review to do before I return to doing the reviews from my regular source two weeks hence.