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Robert Randolph, Bamboo Kids, Mount Eerie 

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Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Lickety Split

Blue Note Records

File next to: O.A.R., Umphrey's McGee

Fans of Robert Randolph & the Family Band's early albums will enjoy Lickety Split immensely. After an uneven release (2006's Colorblind) and another that avoided the band's usual good-time jams (2010's We Walk this Road), they've recaptured their flair and energy. The rip-roaring rock of "Amped Up" is the perfect opener, "Born Again" and "Get Ready" have an undeniably infectious gospel rock vibe, and "Brand New Wayo" is a funky jam featuring Carlos Santana. Through it all, Randolph's pedal steel guitar skills are dazzling, while his band has never sounded so good. Lickety Split is a raucous, energetic tour de force. — Brian Palmer

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The Bamboo Kids

Safe City Blues

Drug Front Records

File next to:New York Dolls, Dead Boys

If you love real rock 'n roll, you need the Bamboo Kids' Safe City Blues. Across 30 songs, they crank out a rockin' amalgam of New York '77 punk, together with early '70s Rolling Stones, some New York Dolls, and even doo-wop. Along the way, they sing of a woman who's "Batshit Crazy," detail the deleterious effect of "Cocaine," and pay tribute to a Joan Jett-like "Rock-n-Roll Girl," all with guitars that sound like Johnny Thunders meets Keith Richards. Basically three albums for the price of one, Safe City Blues clocks in at 1 hour, 40 minutes. And yes, it rocks. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Mount Eerie

Live in Bloomington,September 30th, 2011

Crossroads of America Records

File next to: Elliott Smith, Mountain Goats

Phil Elverum, the rural Washington founder of two bands, the Microphones and Mount Eerie, has a reputation for weirdness that is only partially deserved. His song arrangements and album art may occasionally stray from the mainstream, but the song stylings of last year's dual albums, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, employed lush and melodic arrangements that might suggest Neil Young discovering Windham Hill. A decade ago, Mount Eerie released a stripped-down acoustic live show in Copenhagen. The new Bloomington set is a richer offering. It was recorded before the 2012 studio releases, but features many of the songs on those albums, performed with dual keyboards and backing vocals — but no percussion. This album might better be appreciated by those who have heard the studio works, but Elverum is hardly too strange for casual listening. In fact, his songwriting is downright beautiful. — Loring Wirbel

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