MUSIC REVIEWS

By John B Moore & Lee Valentine Smith

Sally and George
Tip My Heart (self-released)
The Tennessee-Virginia shared city of Bristol dissects two states and it’s a perfect metaphor and meeting place for two very diverse musicians. After meeting Della Mae bassist Shelby Means, Sol Driven Train guitarist Joel Timmons was so smitten with the attractive singer-songwriter he penned a song to commemorate the moment. A long-distance romance eventually bloomed and a number of country and rock injected songs were written and recorded over an intense two-year period. The now-Nashville-based duo, christened Sally & George in honor of Means’ grandparents, are releasing their full-length debut Tip My Heart as close to Valentines Day as possible. The genuine affection the two share is the real heart-warming ingredient of every track. With ruminations of love and life, the disc veers back and forth between the performers’ flavors of choice. The resulting collection is a strangely cohesive yet stylistically varied introduction to the new group. Highlights include “Pipedream,” the hopeful and plaintive song that Timmons first wrote for Means, and kinetic rocker “Love Electric.” The intensely likeable, self-released disc closes with the traditional-duo Music City vibe of “Hey Wow.” An inspiring listen for fans of modern Americana, late ‘70s California rock, raw acoustic country and - most importantly - the inspirational power of love.
Sally and George play February 23 at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Bob Dylan
The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert [2 12” LPs] (Columbia/Legacy)
There’s certainly no dearth of Bob Dylan live records out there. Thanks to the Bootleg series, just about every Dylan concert ever put to tape has found its way to the public (or likely will soon). “The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert” is the latest and one of the most curious in Dylan lore. It also happens to be a fantastic set.
Recorded in May 1966, not long after the release of “Blonde on Blonde,” for decades many thought they owned a copy of this London show. Unfortunately, the set originally going under the Royal Albert Hall name was actually a performance recorded in Manchester that had been mislabeled. The result, aside from being a pretty cool trivia answer, is the Legacy just rolled out a beautiful double album set of this show on vinyl. The sound quality is amazing and Dylan and his band rip through 15 tracks and sounding remarkable throughout. Among the songs played that night include a Bluesy “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” an aching take on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” the organ-drenched “Ballad of a Thin Man” and a haunting “Just Like a Woman.” The set here closes with a raucous “Just Like a Rolling Stone.” It may have taken decades for someone to get out the real recording of this show, but it clearly was worth it.

Aaron Lee Tasjan
Silver Tears (New West)
Aaron Lee Tasjan may be prolific, but he is anything but easy to categorize. He’s played guitar with the New York Dolls and Drivin N’ Cryin, started his own Glam Indie rock band and can still manage to pay homage to some of the great acoustic singer/songwriters of the ‘70s on his solo efforts. His latest, “Silver Tears,” tips a hat to everyone from Harry Nilsson to John Prine, in a collection that vacillates between tear jerkers (“Ready to Die”) and barnburners (“Dime”). The record, his first for New West, starts off with the very Nilsson-esque “Hard Life,” but the influences are pretty-varied after that and satisfyingly eclectic that. One of the highlights is also one of his quieter songs, the almost whispered “On Your Side.” Playing less like a standard album and more like an iPod on shuffle, scanning through a slew of different genres from folk and Americana to dusty rock and a little New Orleans-infused funk spread across a dozen tracks, “Silver Tears” is a modern-day jukebox of great taste and inspired influences.

The Legal Matters
Conrad (Omnivore Recordings)
Midwest-based group The Legal Matters is the power pop supergroup made up of members from bands you’ve likely never heard of (Hippodrome, anyone? The Phenomenal Cats? An American Underdog?). Regardless their collaboration in The Legal Matters is bound to bring the attention these guys clearly deserve. Drawing from bands like Big Star, The Posies and Jellyfish, their second effort, Conrad, is a reminder of just how few great power pop bands are left today. This record fills that void nicely. Crammed with jangly guitars and sweet harmonies, there is hardly a false step on the record, from the slow burn of the album opener, “Anytime,” to the bittersweet closer, “Better Days.” And in between the album brims over with earnest lyrics and hard-to-forget melodies. A promising start to the power pop revival.

Paul Kelly & Charlie Owen
Death’s Dateless Night (Cooking Vinyl)
Well, you can’t say Paul Kelly isn’t keeping himself busy. In the past few years, one of Australia’s greatest musical exports has put out a fantastic live album with Neil Finn (“Goin’ Your Way”), a record of Shakespeare sonnets put to music (“Seven Sonnets and a Song”) and now “Death’s Dateless Night,” a dozen cover songs tailor-made for funerals and wakes. Alongside guitarist Charlie Owen, Kelly lends a beautiful voice to a somewhat dark project.
There are some obvious goodbye songs here, like Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” and The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” but there are some also some inspired choices here, like Cole Porter’s “Don’t Fence Me In” and Hank William’s “Angel of Death.” While the subject may be a little morbid, it’s a conversation most will have at one time or another when planning that final send off. Kelly and Owen have simply set up a beautiful menu for anyone looking for just that right song to go out on.

Crowded House
Self-Titled, Temple of Low Men, Woodface, Together Alone and Afterglow (Capitol/Universal)
In the 11-year span of their first run, Australia’s Crowded House could simply do no wrong, churning out one brilliant album after the next at a rate of just about an album every other year until their split in 1996. The band has since reunited two times – between 2006 – 2011 and again in 2016 – but it’s hard to find a period as creatively solid as their first four records. Thanks to the cash cow that vinyl has become, labels are digging deep into the vaults to re-release albums to a new generation, or those who have simply gotten rid of their old albums when they were told CDs were the future. Capitol and Universal Records just put out the Crowded House back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl to mark the band’s 30-year anniversary. Along with the first four albums, they also released Afterglow, the 1999 album of rarities. Here’s a run-down of this collection:

Crowded House
Their 1986 debut remains their biggest seller in the U.S. and the favorite among many here. It was the Neil Finn’s first effort after disbanding Split Enz and took a lot of folks by surprise in part because the sound was pretty removed from the New Wave/Art Rock of his last group. Rather Finn and his new band had carefully crafted 10 brilliant pop songs, including a few that would go on to become MTV and radio staples, including “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” “World Where You Live” and “Something So Strong”.

Temple of Low Men
The follow-up did not sell as many copies as its predecessor in the U.S., but was praised even louder by critics here when it was released in 1988. The songs were in the same vein as the self-titled effort and sound as if they could have all been written at the same time. Among the stand out tracks here are “When You Come,” the feisty “Kill Eye” and the dreamy album closer “Better Be Home Soon.”

Woodface
Released in ’91, Woodface is arguably their best record. Lyrically and musically there is not one false step on this album from the hard-charging opener, “Chocolate Cake,” with its boozy piano and snarky lyrics to the expansive closer, “How Will You Go,” this is the band at its most comfortable and it pays off with every song here. In between are simply some of the smartest pop songs to come out of that decade, including “Fall at Your Feet” and “Weather With You.” This is as close to a perfect album as a band can make.

Together Alone
It’s most experimental release of the batch, Together Alone included the addition of touring guitarist/keyboardist Mark Hart as a full-time member. There are some great songs here, like the frenetic “Been Locked Out” and the mellower “Distant Sun,” but ultimately there are not enough tunes here that live up to the high bar the band set on their first three efforts.

Afterglow
The band broke up in 1993 and would stay apart for the next 13 years, but their label at the time had enough rarities and outtakes to put together this compilation album in ’99. Of the 13 songs, here, seven come from the Woodface sessions, and there are some gems here like “Recurring Dream” and “Left Hand.” It’s surprising that many of these didn’t find a home on Together Alone. Regardless, the record is still essential for Crowded House fans.

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