Back in December 2019, as I did my final top 5 list for the long-running monoblogue feature, I promised, “if I get curious enough I may see what my twenty-odd bands featured as top 5 artists over the years are up to. But this will close out monoblogue music as a regular feature.”
Needless to say, we didn’t know at the time (the news broke just days later if I recall correctly) that China would unleash the CCP virus on the world and eventually decimate the music business, live and otherwise. So this promise was put on the shelf and, admittedly, forgotten – until I got an e-mail back in July from a young gentleman named Jake Eddy. Jake and his collaborator at the time, Steve Hussey, put out a record in 2016 called “The Miller Girl” that made its way into that year’s top 5, and artists occasionally acknowledge these reviews.
Thus, I’m on Jake’s list for media outlets and he wanted me to take a listen to his new EP, which is a compilation with several other artists (not including Hussey, who he’s perhaps parted ways with. I didn’t ask.)
The 7-song, 25-minute EP is full of traditional standards done in instrumental fashion – the only spoken words on the EP come at the very end, with a little post-song banter. I sort of wish they had added it to more songs because, while the playing is generally very professional, it doesn’t seem to have that feel one gets from listening to a live performance. I’m not a fan of jazz, either, and while it’s hard to explain I sort of felt like I was listening to jazz with bluegrass instruments, much like most of what passes for modern country is rock with country instruments and a twang. Depending on the competition, this may have been a fringe top 5/honorable mention performer if I was still doing full reviews. Fans of traditional music would probably embrace this better than I did.
So now we are caught up with what half of “The Miller Girl” duo is doing. In the long interregnum it’s taken me to do this post since I started it a couple months back, I decided to split things in half and see if I could move this along. Fortunately for format, Jake’s review came in 2016 so this first part will cover the artists and groups who put out albums I selected as top 5 albums from 2014 to 2016, the first three years I did reviews. Part two will cover 2017 to 2019, as more of them are active.
Back in 2014, I selected as my cream of the crop albums from five artists: Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders, Tomas Doncker, The Lost Poets, Monks of Mellonwah (my very first review), and Paul Maged.
I’ve never quite figured out Billy Roberts in more ways than one, but in this case it’s how he succeeds with little social media presence. It’s like he just puts out an album every few years and pours his heart and soul into what I suppose could be best described as alt-country. However, his last album from 2019, called “The Southern Sessions,” was remakes of his previous work so I’m wondering if the fire (or funding) is still there.
Tomas Doncker, on the other hand, is still collaborating with poet (and I always love trying to type out this name) Yusef Komunyakaa. However, his most recent solo single came out this year, called Wherever You Go, and it’s a nice slow bluesy tune worth checking out. Currently he’s over in Europe touring.
I really liked The Lost Poets, but a recent social media post has led to me to believe one of the duo has, sadly, passed away. It’s not been enough of a newsworthy item to progress beyond that post. I was definitely hoping for an Insubordia part 4, but, alas, that may never come. Their last single was River Runs Dry, which came out in 2019.
Never did figure out what happened to Monks of Mellonwah, as they disappeared from the scene. But Paul Maged has more than made up for it, wrapping up a trilogy of EPs in 2019 (that I reviewed) and putting out another angry album on Election Day of 2020 called “Culture War.” (With a song called Cult 45, you can guess who he probably voted for.) Yet since the election aftermath, Maged’s dropped off Twitter so I’m not sure what he could be angry about now.
Moving on to 2015, the Fab Five were Idiot Grins, The Liquorsmiths, Tumbler, Space Apaches, and Jas Patrick.
In 2018 (and more recently for a video), Idiot Grins put together an album called “Thoughts & Prayers.” Once I read the backstory for the video of Satan’s Jeweled Crown, the strangeness of the album make sense, as “Thoughts & Prayers” is a cover album of an old country gospel album (1959) called “Satan Is Real” by the Louvin Brothers. Without that, I was wondering if they were playing it straight or as a parody, but once I read the story I realized it was legit. Old country gospel isn’t my style, but I’m sure I know people who would enjoy the fresh remake. It’s definitely different from what I reviewed, but as I recall now there were some pretty abrupt changes in that album, too.
In the case of the Liquorsmiths, they really haven’t done new music in the last couple years but they have ventured out a little bit. During the pandemic they were doing livestream shows to keep going.
None of my other three groups from 2015 appear to be active anymore. I have no idea what happened to Tumbler after 2017, while the Space Apaches social media is now touting a group called Andrew Reed and the Liberation, which I’m assuming is one of the studio musicians who made up the group. Meanwhile, Jas Patrick has moved on from music to further his voiceover acting career.
So we move on to the 2016 honorees, which included Michael Van and the Movers, Midwest Soul Xchange, Jim Peterik, the aforementioned Hussey and Eddy, and Magic Lightnin’ Boys. I was really bummed about the demise of the latter group, which used to play a serious brand of Southern rock, but the others are still around in various forms.
Michael Van and the Movers, for example, hasn’t put together any new music recently (since 2018) but they are still playing shows around their northern California home.
A tour was the highlight of 2019 for Midwest Soul Xchange as they traveled around the (you guessed it) Midwest for several club shows. They also released a country-rock style single called Wonton Jesus late last year.
Jim Peterik hasn’t done any recent solo material, but in the months since I last did this there has been new albums from several of his groups: Ides of March, World Stage, and Pride of Lions have all put out new work since then.
And finally, while I covered Jake Eddy already, Steve Hussey got busy this year remastering some old work with a band called Luvbox and produced some new songs with his band Steve Hussey and the Last Hope. He started out promising a song a week and made it to February, which is better than most of my New Year’s resolutions.
So I’m going to try and do the second update for next weekend, but it’s been fun checking in so far. In looking at some of the newer groups already, they’ve been busy bees so the next segment may or may not be on time. I have some listening to do.