Dig These Discs :: Phil Harding, Graffiti6, Trailer Trash Tracys, The Little Willies
From dance music to dreamy soundscapes, 2012 is proving to be a very hot winter. Norah Jones puts the jazz on the shelf and takes her country twang out for a stroll in The Little Willies new CD, "For the Good Times." Phil Harding drops a two-disc set of remixes from the '80s. Music bigwigs Jamie Scott and TommyD team up as Graffiti6, the band destined to lend their tracks to every new program on the current TV lineup. And newcomers The Trailer Trash Tracys set out to blow minds with their dreamy, ethereal soundscapes.
"For the Good Times" (The Little Willies)
Honey-voiced jazz chanteuse Norah Jones teams up with the boys -- Lee Alexander, Jim Campilongo, Richard Julian, and Dan Rieser -- as The Little Willies to release "For the Good Times," the follow-up for their eponymous 2006 debut that took Starbucks coffee shops by storm. The band that started up as an excuse for five friends to play a gig at New York club The Living Room has become known for its authentic American country sound. And although Jones is known for jazz, she admits, "I love playing country music. More than any other genre, it makes me feel at home." While their first album was a bit of a hodge-podge, "For the Good Times" seems to have a more deliberate set-list, including covers of songs from Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Lefty Frizell, and Dolly Parton. Jones starts the album of with Ralph Stanley’s "I Worship You," a sad chrooner. Cal Martin’s "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves" has a frenetic pace that seems destined to end up in a Quentin Tarantino film. A sweet twang envelopes Cliff Friend and Irving Mills’ "Lovesick Blues," and Jones dominates Loretta Lynn’s tough-talking "Fist City." Another highlight is The Little Willies’ cover of Johnny Cash’s "Wide Open Road", which possesses all the charm (minus that trademark Cash deep drag) of the original. Their cover of the title track, Kris Kristofferson’s "For the Good Times," seems like a truck driver’s dream, and Lefty Frizzell and Jim Beck’s "If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time" is a honky-tonk celebration filled with grit and pep. Jones caps off the discs’ dozen songs with a slow, spare cover of Dolly Parton’s "Jolene" that has twice the pleading lament and only half the frenetic urgency of the original. "I sure love to sing ’Jolene,’ and people enjoy it when we do it. It’s OK that it’s familiar -- this is an album of covers and it’s nice to have a few that people really know and love. It doesn’t bother me as long as it’s natural," said Jones. It is easily the best of the bunch, an homage to the Queen of Nashville if ever one was heard. (EMI Music)
"Club Mixes of the ’80s" (Phil Harding)
Where’s the beef? It’s in this collection of 25 dance-club remixes from the ’80s, the decade of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads. Phil Harding crams this two-disc set full of a plentiful bounty of well-known hits and obscure picks that will rock the dance floor down. Some winners include Dead or Alive’s "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)," Michael Jackson/ The Jackson 5 in "I Want You Back," Diana Ross’ "Love Hangover," and ABC’s "When Smokey Sings." The CDs contain haunting versions of The Four Tops "Reach Out I’ll Be There" and Basia with Aretha Franklin’s "Until You Come Back to Me" that will thrill the old-school crowd. The lineup also includes a number of hits by the deep-voiced Rick Astley, among them "She Wants to Dance With Me," "Til the Day That I Die," "Stay With Me Tonight," and "Never Gonna Give You Up," years before Rickrolling was ever a thing. There’s even Five Star in "Rain or Shine." But some of the "hits" dig deep into the bin, like "Fe Fi Fo Fum’s "Beat Your Body," a hit that I’ll assume is popular with the boys. Other head-scratchers include Godley & Crème in "Snack Attack," Holly Johnson’s "Americanos," and Pepsi & Shirlie in "Heartache." There are also several cuts by Jimmy Ruffin, including an inexplicably long extended remix of his "Easy Just to Say (I Love You)." Despite some odd inclusions, overall, "Club Mixes of the ’80s" is a winner, a welcome addition to any club rat’s playlist.
(Cherry Pop Records)
Singer-songwriter Jamie Scott and songwriter-producer TommyD team up as Graffiti6 for their debut album, "Colours," a mélange of pop, psychedelia, R&B, and British Northern soul. Their first U.S. single, "Free" hit 21 on AAA radio, and was pick of the week in "USA Today" for its melodic bass line and Scott’s falsetto breaks. (See the video at http://vevo.ly/pLPSXr). The song’s sad-sack likeability is not easily ignored, making it an obvious debut single. Although all the songs are quality -- one would expect no less of men who produced albums by Kanye West, Alicia Keys, and Jay-Z -- certain tracks do stand out. Among them are "Never Look Back," a fast, drum-heavy cut with a dub-heavy sound and clap-tracks. Via a dozen new tracks, the boys of Graffiti6 go far toward making a name for themselves. Scott’s falsetto opens "Over You", with lyrics like, "Lay down your armor baby/ no need to fight no more. Because I’ve been wondering if we should stop this war." The sad refrain of "It’s over now, this time is the last time" is meant to pull on heartstrings. "Annie You Save Me," released in July 2010, has a poppy, rapid-fire, made-for-TV sound that lead to its use in the hit show, "Covert Affairs," starring Piper Perabo as the titular "Annie." In fact, most of the band’s songs have been co-opted in television soundtracks for shows ranging from "Teen Wolf" and "One Tree Hill" to "CSI NY," "Parenthood" and "Basketball Wives." While not quite the breakout artists of the decade, or even of the year, if this wide TV co-opting is any indication, Graffiti6 seems well positioned to keep churning out hits for the foreseeable future. (Capitol Records)
"Ester" (Trailer Trash Tracys)
With their ethereal, dreamscape quality, the Trailer Trash Tracys have secured their place, somewhere between rolling soundscapes and ’50s pop. Part of this is undoubtedly due to them recording on a "solfeggio scale," a six-tone scale sequence of electro-magnetic frequencies to which Western guitars and pianos are not pitched. These scales, originally used for ancient Gregorian chants, were thought to impart spiritual blessings when sung in harmony. The Trailer Trash Tracys make the most of this to produce their dreamy songs. In fact, lead singer Suzanne Aztoria possesses those lighter-than-air vocals that, when laid on top of thrumming guitar riffs, seem almost like an incantation. More poppy on the lineup is "Dies in 55," a chimey/synth mélange whose upbeat sound undoubtedly belies much darker subject matter, "Strangling Good Guys," and "Los Angered," which smacks of old Kate Bush tracks, albeit with less angst. Drums pop and guitars shred on "Engelhardt’s Arizona," and "You Wish You Were Red" -- probably the best of the lot -- unveils a brooding side. "Starlatine" is delicate but at the same time oddball, meshing pinprick pops and Aztoria’s vocal stylings. "Turkish Heights" smoldering, slow burn epitomizes the sound of this off-kilter, dreamy band that reminds one of an early Goldfrapp, with fewer animal head totems. "Ester" won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but with it, the Trailer Trash Tracys seem destined to debut their old/new sound to a much wider audience. (Double Six Records)