Johnny Black

Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Now this is very special indeed. Joy Kills Sorrow are a contemporary folk-bluegrass Boston quintet and this, their debut album, is unutterably superb. Not only is the banjo and mandolin playing astonishing, but the singing (both in terms of soloists and harmonies) is gorgeous, and the songs themselves are true earworms – they get in there and lodge themselves firmly, demanding that you take the CD to the car and play it out there as well. Making bluegrass sound new, fresh and exciting is certainly a challenge these days, but Joy Kills Sorrow do it with ease.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Everything about Dark Hope was screaming ‘No!’ at me. Opera singer covering rock songs? No, it never works, never ever. Well, I reckoned without the good taste of Fleming and producer/arranger David Kahne. They’ve re-interpreted fabulous contemporary songs by Band Of Horses, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie plus a sprinkling of classics from Jefferson Airplane, Peter Gabriel and Leonard Cohen.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Courtney Love’s return, says the press release, has been ‘feverishly anticipated’. I feel I have the right to ask, ‘Who by?’ Certainly not me. This album is as cheap and premeditated as anyone with more than half a brain would expect it to be. Courtney snarls and drawls like Marianne Faithfull on Ritalin through a mess of bitchy faux-grunge pop ditties, most of them knocked up by song doctor Linda Perry, probably on a afternoon when she wasn’t writing hits for Pink, Gwen Stefani or Christina Aguilera.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
This Brighton-based combo get points because on their website it says they ‘enjoy sitting on the beach, engaging in semi-meaningful relationships’. So should we all. This debut album was produced by Dave Eringa, famed for his work with everybody from the Manic St Preachers to Kylie. Good man that he is, he’s had the good sense to let these eccentric, quintessentially English songwriters breathe, so that their peculiar charms are presented in all their haphazard glory.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Welcome to the world of ‘alternative tropical punk’. No, I’ve no idea what it means either, but that’s how Los Angeles quartet Abe Vigoda (named after an actor) describe themselves. They don’t really hit their stride until the title cut, ‘Crush’, track 4, but its crazed polyrythmic intensity forced me to listen more closely to everything that had gone before. It’s far from easy-listening but, once you get the hang of it, it’s like a thrill ride through a long, twisting, dark cave, from which you emerge with a pounding heart, feeling strangely euphoric.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
This sparkling Motown homage should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers that Collins’ first UK No1 was his 1982 cover of The Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. It’s more a question of why he left it so long. For the most part, he’s chosen to faithfully recreate the sound and arrangements of 18 ’60s classics, even drafting in members of Motown’s revered Funk Brothers session crew to get it spot-on. Even so, the voice is unmistakeably Collins, and his passion for the material is unmistakable in the effervescent zip of every track.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
By the time your average band gets around to celebrating its 20th anniversary, they’ve usually slowed down and are headed out to pasture. Ireland’s Saw Doctors, thankfully, have never been your average band, so their seventh studio album is, if anything, more vibrantly tuneful than ever. The core of the band remains intact but the arrival of powerful new drummer Eimhin Cradock has significantly upped their energy levels and his contributions as a songwriter beautifully complement those of founder members Davy Carton and Leo Moran. Shamelessly sentimental, unrepentantly traditional, The Saw Doctors also remain kick-ass rockers and tunesmiths extraordinaire.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
I fondly remember the thrill of hearing the band’s eponymous 1976 debut album, so I wished for something a little more exciting from their first reunion in eight years. Petty has attempted to get back to his roots by writing a bunch of blues and r’n’b flavoured songs but, although things start well with the punchy ‘Jefferson Jericho Blues’, a drift towards pastiche sets in fast and there’s a lack of energy that no amount of laidback finesse can replace. ‘Candy’, for example, is entertaining but insubstantial, just another reworking of the venerable Memphis riff with Petty overdoing his down home vocal. More passion and a little less journeyman cool would be welcome here.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
This Portland, Oregon, trio have released three albums prior to Mines and, I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t heard any of them. That’s all going to change though, because this is a corker. At first listen, Mines might seem a bit angular and disjointed, so may I suggest that you start your listening experience with the most instantly mind-obliterating tour de force, ‘Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such A Big Boy’. With its triphammer percussion, melodramatic keyboard riff, mood switches and powerhouse vocal surges, it’s one of the album’s several stratospheric high points.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Fresh (well, relatively fresh) out of San Diego, California, comes the ace second album by this spirited, soulful Americana quintet who subtly combine elements of straightforward Jayhawksy country rock with hints of the experimental tendencies of Wilco. Known for their use of unconventional instrumentation, including trash-can lids, orchestral bass drums, drones and quirky choirs, Delta Spirit are blessed with a belter of a vocalist in former busker Matthew Vasquez, but the whole band is tight as all get out and the songs demand that you sing along after just a couple of listens. So that’s my in-car listening sorted until the last of the summer sun is gone. Sound Quality: 90% .

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