It ends as it began: With me explaining that no matter how many albums I manage to hear and review, hundreds more slip through the cracks. Luckily, the holidays give me time to go back and nab some gems before they’re too far gone. There were plenty this year: It didn’t take me long to find more than 100 worthy titles that I missed in 2019. I’ve shared them all here over the past few days. Here’s the final batch (in alphabetical order, more or less). I’ve included Bandcamp links wherever possible so you can buy straight from the source. Better late than never, right?
Jazz Dispensary | The Dank D-Funk Blend
MY TWO CENTS: Put the cut back in your strut and the glide back in your stride with this compilation of vintage, obscure funk gems and jams by the likes of Richard “Groove” Holmes, Bernard Purdie, Houston Person, Idris Muhammad and the magnificently named Boogaloo Joe Jones. The cure for what ails ya.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The newest installment in the ongoing Jazz Dispensary series features a mind-expanding collection of rare and funky tracks from the ’60s and ’70s, culled from the Prestige Records catalog by guest curator Doyle Davis, co-owner of Grimey’s Records in Nashville. Jazz Dispensary: The Dank D-Funk Blend offers the highest-quality experience for the funk fan, with hard-driving grooves like the upbeat Message From the Meters by Funk, Inc., and Sing a Simple Song by Charles Earland.”
I Love VA Rocks
MY TWO CENTS: Nope, not a compilation of bands from Richmond. The VA here doesn’t stand for Various Artists or Virginia — though to be honest, I don’t really know what it actually does stand for (though I have my suspicions). I only know for sure that the Norwegian female power trio VA Rocks stand tall for all things rock ’n’ roll — crunchy guitars riffs, cowbell-plonk drum beats, and four-chord anthems about the code of the road, raising hell and how they have no fucks left to give. Gotta love that.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “VA Rocks is straight, uncompromising rock ´n´roll, covered in the best punk rock elements. Rough guitar riﬀs, hard drums, steady bass and a voice that will knock you out. The band is heavily inﬂuenced by bands like AC/DC, Ramones and The Runaways. At the age of 12 and 13 in 2006 the girls formed a band to escape the boredom in their small Swedish town. Since then VA Rocks has done hundreds of live shows and festivals.
MY TWO CENTS: More metal — this time from four L.A. headbangers who mix things up nicely on their debut full-length, crossing the swagger ’n’ sleaze of the Sunset Strip glam-rock with the harder-hitting power and anthems of arena-metal. Smarter than your average hair band.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Void Vator is a hard rock/heavy metal band based out of Los Angeles. The band describes its sound as “Riffs, Hooks and Leads”. After years of turmoil, the band truly took form when founding members Lucas Kanopa (guitar/vocals) and ex-White Wizzard/Gypsyhawk guitarist Erik Kluiber joined forces with Lucas’s childhood friend German Moura on drums and Sam Harman on bass. Piecing together their debut EP Dehumanized with Grammy-nominated hard rock producer Ulrich Wild (Pantera, Deftones, Metalocalypse) in 2017, the band had the world at their feet. With hardly a moment to breathe, Void Vator recently dove back into the studio with world-renowned producer Bill Metoyer (Slayer, DRI, Bodycount) in North Hollywood to record the 8 song LP Stranded. Determined to take the world by storm and driving to ever more twisted heights, Void Vator are balls out rock and roll and they are here to stay.
The Warp/The Weft
MY TWO CENTS: You would expect a band named after weaving terms to put together some intricate, colourful creations and patterns. And in the case of New Yorkers The Warp/The Weft, you’d be spot on. The absurdly talented and ambitious quartet’s latest full-length knits together various stands of psychedelia, prog, jam-rock and ’60s British folk — topped with literate lyrics and shivery wandering-minstrel vocals that you won’t soon forget. Greatness looms.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “The Warp/The Weft, active since 2012 in and beyond New York’s Hudson River Valley, has earned praise for its uniqueness and song-crafting from casual and devoted listeners alike. Blending traditional and avant-garde styles, the warmth of a good wool sweater and the sometimes-bleak cold of an upstate winter, the progressive folk and psychedelia that the band brings to bear is propelled by poetic lyrics and a “spirit-conjuring” lilting tenor that prompted psych-folk legend Tom Rapp (of Pearls Before Swine) to ask, “Can I have your voice when you’re through with it?”
Taking the World, By Storm
MY TWO CENTS: Swampy soul man Warren Storm is a Louisiana legend. And at 82, the vocalist and drummer can still summon the powers of greatness — and the help of VIPs like John Forgerty and Sonny Landreth — on this collection of re-recorded hits and highlights from his epic career.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Known as The Godfather of Swamp Pop, Warren “Storm” Schexnider is a Louisiana music legend with a career spanning over 70 years. To go with his recent memoir, he re-released some of his old recordings — straight to two-track tape, no digital overdubs, all in the room like in the good old days, LIVE. At Dockside Studios in Maurice, stellar musicians gathered — Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty, Marc Broussard, Sonny Landreth, Yvette Landry and many more. The resulting album has everything you’ll hope for — more great work from one of Louisiana’s iconic musicians, a consummate performer in the studio and a man who commands the respect and love of the many professional musicians who have had the opportunity to know him and work with him.”
Man of the Road
MY TWO CENTS: Bocephus and Hank III have the genes, but if there’s a true heir to the sound and soul of Hank Williams, it’s Austin troubadour Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Over the past quarter-century, he’s delivered eight albums of classic honky-tonk and western swing — a baker’s dozen of which are gathered on this all-killer, no-filler compilation. Take a trip down Wayne’s lost highway.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “A career-spanning collection of the finest honky tonk, country, and Western Swing tunes from Texas country legend Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Originally recorded and released with Bloodshot Records on albums from Wayne’s first decade in the stable: A-Town Blues (2001), South Austin Sessions EP (2001), Swing Time (2003), Hard Headed Woman: A Celebration of Wanda Jackson (2004), Tulsa (2006), and Viper of Melody (2009), including Wayne’s signature road dog anthem Thunderstorms and Neon Signs. Songs of the romance of the road, the grind, the drunks, the miles and the run-ins with Johnny Law. Full of band call outs and joyous, pure musicianship.”
MY TWO CENTS: Can’t say I love the band name. But can’t say enough about how much I love the classic power-pop and jangle-rock these Kansas City nostalgists dish up on their debut full-length. If you love Alex Chilton and Big Star, not to mention most of the Bomp! and Stiff Records rosters, you’ve come to the right place. Smells like victory.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Can you smell what The Whiffs are cookin? Hint: it’s not Phish, Meat Loaf or a String Cheese Incident. Nope – Kansas City’s prodigal sons of power pop are sticking to what they know on Another Whiff. Since 2017’s Take A Whiff EP, the band has been busy allowing their auditory aromas to ripen with the addition of Joey Rubbish (of The Rubs) for a fuller, more robust sonic bouquet. While the band can still get it up for Stiff Records – their pop-centric punk remains in full force – the album takes detours down lonelier roads in broken-hearted ballads from the heartland. No rocks left unturned on a journey forged by pioneers like Chilton and later Westerberg, the looming legacy of Petty and the cosmic country harmonies of The Byrds before them.”
MY TWO CENTS: The desert is a state of mind. For proof, look (and listen) no further than the sophomore album from Calgary power-trio Woodhawk. No stories of Stampede glory in the shadow of the Rockies here — just pedal-to-the-metal stoner-boogie anthems made to blast from your muscle car as you burn rubber down the blacktop through the High Mojave.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “From the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains hails Calgary’s rock n’ roll trio Woodhawk. Masters of the straight-ahead riff rock, Woodhawk blends classic rock influences of Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy with smooth grooves, cranked amps, and heavy-hitting drums. The coalescence of melodious vocals, catchy riffs, and dynamic instrumentation creates a vast soundscape for the listener to explore. With lyrical themes of science fiction and sorcery to more recent themes of struggles and triumph, Woodhawk wears their heart on their sleeve.”
MY TWO CENTS: How many albums and EPs do you own by legendary and sorely missed Scottish art-rock oddballs Yummy Fur? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Well, now’s your chance to plug that gap — Piggy Wings features 14 highlights from their too-brief career — including their demented ode to The Canadian Flag, baby!
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Beloved Scottish band The Yummy Fur have released a 14-track ‘best of’ album, Piggy Wings. Singer / guitarist John McKeown fronted the band from their 1992 inception (scores of cartoon melodies under a minute long delivered at high velocity) until their demise in 1999. Along the way they recorded three albums: Night Club (1996), Male Shadow at Three O’Clock (1998) and Sexy World (1999). Firm favourites of John Peel, they recorded two sessions for the much revered DJ and regularly featured on his show.”