Cindy Lee Berryhill
The Adventurist (Omnivore Recordings)
Singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill burst on the burgeoning late ‘80s acoustic consciousness with Who’s Gonna Save The World?. The “anti-folk” performer blended her detail-heavy penchant for intimate storytelling within stark but memorable melodies. Her latest collection is a return to the scene from a sabbatical as caregiver. Four years ago her husband, noted music critic Paul Williams died following a lengthy battle with brain injuries and the onset of early dementia. From the despair of his departure, Berryhill has created what she calls an album of “tone poems about the experiential feeling of enlovement.” With an impressive cast of guest players including Syd Straw, DJ Bonebrake and Probyn Gregory, the result is an incredible journey into her relationship with Williams. Her first release in a decade is definitely a labor of love and the song cycle encompasses a wide swath of emotional snapshots from their time together. The uniquely orchestrated presentation recalls some of Brian Wilson’s best studio experimentations (and includes two members of his current band). Lush arrangements include strings, a horn section, some cleverly deployed marimba, found percussion materials and yes, even a dishwasher. From “Somebody’s Angel” to the heady intensity of new romance in “Contemplating the Infinite (In A Kiss)” to the wrenching “An Affair Of The Heart,” Berryhill’s endearing look at her own story of love, loss, and revival mark the disc as absolutely essential listening for anyone seeking the power of music as an outlet
Black & White Night [CD and DVD/Blu Ray] (Legacy Recordings)
The Roy Orbison special “Black & White Night” was a must-see by rock fans of all ilk when it first aired on Cinemax in 1988. The star-crammed supergroup special has long since been a PBS staple especially during pledge season. To celebrate the anniversary, Legacy Recordings is putting out a re-edited, re-mastered, and best of all, expanded version of that original special on DVD, Blu-Ray and CD. The set, recorded in black and white (hence the title), featured Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Elvis Costello, KD Lang, T Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, Jackson Browne, JD Souther and Jennifer Warnes, serving as back up to the Texas icon. The DVD is more than just a simply reissue though; there were hundreds of hours of unused footage thanks to seven cameras filming the set, so this new release features plenty of never-seen-before footage. The song order has also been rearranged on the DVD, putting it in the proper chronological order so viewers are finally seeing it play out the way the live audience saw it that night in the club. The 19-track CD, which is almost a greatest hits collection from Orbison, includes an alternate version of “Pretty Woman.” But, more than just an appeal to casual fans, Orbison sounds amazing on some of his lesser known tracks like, “The Comedians” or “Mean Woman Blues” making it worth the purchase for diehards as well.
Turbo 30 (Columbia/Legacy)
Raise those devil horns high – Legacy has just released a massive 3-CD set of Judas Priest’s three-decades old “Turbo” album, dubbed Turbo 30 (natch). The record, the band’s 10th, was definitely not without controversy; mainly because of the group’s use of synthesizers. For a metal band, being labeled by the Religious Right as devil worshippers was pure street cred, but being referred to as a synth-band, Jesus, that’s career suicide. But far from being a Depeche Mode clone, Judas Priest still was still armed with plenty of ear-shattering guitar solos and Rob Halford’s glorious banshee vocals all across this record and over time “Turbo” has managed to hold up really well (despite what that dude in the faded denim jacket and greasy mullet tells you). In the band’s defense, it was 1986 and if you didn’t live through that neon-soaked year, you have no right to question it. With a more melodic sound and relatable lyrical themes, “Turbo” is the band’s most obvious attempt at commercial success and despite a few missteps, there are a slew of great songs here, like the album opener “Turbo Lover” and the infectious “Parental Guidance” (how is it possible that this song wasn’t as big as Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock”?). This re-release also comes with a live recording of the band’s May 22, 1986 Kansas City show, spread out over two CDs. For any of the headbangers who turned their nose up at this one the first go ‘round, it deserves another listen.
Tambaleo (Already Dead Tapes)
For the past few years, Austin-based musician Matthew Squires has been turning out one great album of quirky indie pop after another and “Tambaleo” shows no signs that he is letting up anytime soon. Blending electronic and acoustic instruments underneath Squires distinct vocals gives the songs a truly unique vibe. You can hear snatches of everyone from XTC to They Might Be Giants popping up here and there, but make no mistake; Squires is truly unique. He and his band have been on a prolific jag lately, putting out three albums in 2013, another in 2014. With 15 tracks, the Tambaleo feels a tad bit bloated toward the end, but his idiosyncratic style and his way with lyrics is appealing enough to hold your attention for most of the record. It also happens to be one of his strongest releases yet, but to quote Squires summing up his music on his Facebook page: “Matthew Squires has been warmly recognized by many different critics. He’ll die, they’ll die. You’ll die, too!”
Scott H. Biram
The Bad Testament (Bloodshot Records)
Lone Star state native Scott H. Biram started blending punk rock, Blues and country years before anyone decided to christen the cobbled-together genre, folk punk. Across nearly a dozen releases, Biram has been one-man banding it since 2000, churning out one great record after another. And “The Bad Testament,” his first full length in about three years, is no exception. Across more than a dozen tracks (thanks to the tacking on of three songs from the “Lost on the River” EP), he tackles many of his tried and true themes like religion, struggle and perseverance. He deftly covers the old traditional “True Religion” and seems to have embodied Willie Nelson on a song like “Crippled & Crazy,” but the most amazing moment here is on the stunning “Righteous Ways”; rarely has Biram’s voice been as powerfully emotive and the lyrics so striking. Nearly two decades as a solo artist, with hardly a weak album to his name, Biram may have turned in one of his best efforts yet with “The Bad Testament.”