Album Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – Truth is the Talisman

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Album Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: Truth is the Talisman

You know how we feel about Jimmy Lee Morris here at the Blog. He’s a singer-songwriter with an identifiable sound, a voice that can range from smooth and soft to that of an edgy rocker, and an ability to write in a variety of styles and voices, melding influences ranging from the obvious folk to multiple subgenres of rock ‘n roll and at times a touch of the blues.

His Truth is the Talisman release is a collection of 20 songs, spanning 40 years of songwriting, recorded by Jimmy during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. Album-opener “Moon Over Cairo” had its roots in 1980, while the title track is all 2020. The album itself was released in January 2021, so I’m a bit behind on sharing it with you, but please take a listen and enjoy. It’s an interesting trip, spanning a variety of times and influences, covering the many faces/voices of Jimmy Lee Morris.

Though I’ll skip around a bit and share thoughts on several of my favorite songs, there are no weak links on this album; you can depend on the quality of every track, with each of them potentially being one of your favorites.

Jimmy Lee Morris – Truth is the Talisman

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

Of course, the very first song, the aforementioned “Moon Over Cairo,” is one that’s particularly worth mentioning. It’s got an eerie, “Wicked Game”-ish opening, a compelling rhythm, and a delivery that pulls the listener in, as if revealing an important secret. With prominent pianowork augmenting – and occasional guitar noodling supporting – the relentless rhythm, this is a slower-tempoed rock song, recalling for me something you might hear from Peter Gabriel or Sting.

The title track, next, is more dead-center the sort of sonically-rich storyteller I’ve grown to expect from Jimmy. “Truth is the Talisman” is well-crafted, lyrically insightful, and thoughtfully delivered with a warm earnestness. As always, Jimmy sets a high bar for himself.

“Get Away” follows, a bit of a “travellin’ song,” lightly voiced, with a little faster tempo than the song before it but still motoring along at just a modest tempo, tossing in some neat little playful hooks and just a hint of psychedelic feedback.

Both musically and lyrically, “You’ll See It in Her Eyes” sounds like it could have been the lead song on the soundtrack of a ’70s movie about starcrossed lovers. The pianowork, guitar accents, and Jimmy’s voice all stoke the melancholy.

Jimmy Lee Morris

photo courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

“Atlantic Highway” has a light, Wilderness Wood-like classic Jimmy Lee Morris vibe, as best embodied on that disc by its title track and “Campervan Song.” “Atlantic Highway” is a cheerful number that’ll lift your spirits with lyrics like “Mr. Harrison said if you don’t know where you’re going, any road you chose to take will take you there. So let yourself go where the wind is blowing, and you will always find yourself somewhere.” In all, the song is laid back, with the purpose of having the listener grin along.

The rest of the disc falls within the parameters of the songs above, all centering around Jimmy’s trademark, central sound while continually exploring his various influences.

“Hold Me Close,” for example, is a sweet, soft, almost lullaby-tempo love song.

I’m also particularly fond of the broad, bright openness of “Giving It All Away,” a song that occasionally brings to mind a dash of John Mellencamp, both early on and in some of the in-song transitions, though the places it travels elsewhere in-between are more uniquely Jimmy Lee Morris.

“I’ve Been Sinking Down” is a versatile number that’s delivered with a bit of an off-balance vibe throughout and that, with some restructuring, I’d think could be performed in a variety of styles, befitting band formats ranging from a jug band to a blues outfit to anything in-between. In the case of Jimmy’s “original” version, it’s a toe-tappin’ strummer atop a low-level but solidly rich music bed. In its present form, it serves as a solid lead-in to “Someone Like You,” a mid-tempo guitar-rocker that leans on just a little distortion and a ’50s/’60s rock-inspired arrangement to augment its energy level.

Another favorite, “Tomorrow Is Too Late,” which follows “Someone Like You,” is similarly styled and keeps its predecessor’s energy going.

Also noteworthy is “Love Will Come Your Way,” a rich, warm, mid-tempo number whose smooth delivery makes it feel like you’re lying contentedly on a sunny patch of grass, despite the actual weather outside on any particular day.

The album’s penultimate track, “I Never Thought,” is a slower number, primarily with a rich, orchestral feel but with a few bluesy chords scattered throughout to provide its uniquely original character. Think slow-dance song at a big country-leaning dancehall.

Jimmy closes the disc with the raucous, rock ‘n roll “Hey Hey.” As if directly from a Happy Days sock hop or the Back to the Future “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance, if you didn’t know this was a Jimmy Lee Morris original, you could be convinced it’s a timeless rock ‘n roll classic. It’s a satisfying way to end the album.

And that’s it. I almost feel bad about skipping over some of the other songs on the disc, as they’ve become like old friends of mine during the last few months of listening, but they’re all along the lines of the songs I’ve written about above, with just enough variety to maintain interest, causing Truth is the Talisman to pass much quicker than you’d expect from a 20-song opus. It’s a solid disc, worthy of many. many listens, something that never surprises me from a Jimmy Lee Morris collection.

More From Jimmy Lee Morris

Jimmy has been busy since releasing Truth is the Talisman in January. In May, he released a four-song single featuring three additional tracks alongside “In the Diamond Rain”; and in August, he made available a nine-song LP entitled Homespun, which he notes on his Facebook page was recorded in 2007/08 with his late musical collaborator Andy Coote playing drums. As if that hasn’t kept him busy enough, he has branched out into some children’s book writing, as well.

Looking Ahead

There haven’t been any recent performances mentioned, but if and when Jimmy Lee Morris plays live, you can find those dates on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page.

Album Review: Space Cadet – Lion on a Leash

Space Cadet

photo courtesy of Earshot Media

Album Review of Space Cadet: Lion on a Leash (Wiretap Records)

The songs on Space Cadet‘s Lion on a Leash (available digitally and on vinyl) recall the jangly, energetic radio-friendly rock of Harvey Danger and Semisonic. Vocalist Matt Hock and guitarist David Walsh were two-fifths of punk rock outfit The Explosion, and a bit of that frantic punk energy can be found powering Space Cadet’s songs, as well. Within my personal music collection, the band whose sound most closely matches Space Cadet’s is Thought Beneath Film, whose 2014 release Cartographers preceded the launch of Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog by just enough time that I never reviewed the album.

Space Cadet – Lion on a Leash

image courtesy of Earshot Media

Lion on a Leash kicks things off energetically with “Forever For a While.” Its vibe is laid-back despite its uptempo beat and bouts of “la la la la la la” lyrical whimsy that’ll engender an easy smile and a bit of desk-chair dancing.

Perhaps the catchiest track on the album – though there are many, so it’s open for debate – is “Start Running Away,” which features a powerful rhythm, a prominent repetitive hook, and a guitar solo by Brian Baker (Bad Religion/Minor Threat) that adds that extra touch of texture to turn the song’s journey into something truly special. To put it in terms American Bandstand fans might understand: I’d give in an 85. It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

“If Only” is next, with a lush, grainy rock ‘n roll music bed atop an enticing, drum-led rhythm, while “No Accident” follows, guided by a more purposeful beat, a mainstream ’60s rock guitar buzz – with the music opening a bit for the beginning of the chorus – and a neat little bit of meandering guitar for a closing.

The tempo picks up again on “Scream for You,” sporting a catchy guitar hook and a bit of “hey, hey” lyric to grab the listener’s ear. This is a dancefloor-filler or, alternately, in a concert setting, the sort of song that’ll get the audience jumping up and down and encourage even those who’re hearing the song for the first time to join in on the aforementioned “hey hey” and the fun, singalong-worthy “the enemy’s on the inside” lyrics. I very much dig this tune.

There’s a bit of a sharper edge on “Bad Luck.” I could hear anyone from The Romantics to the J. Giels Band performing a version of this song.

“Safe and Sound” follows with one of the biggest jangly hooks on the record, a bit of a distorted, even-tempoed, storytelling suburban anthem.

“Lose Control” picks the energy back and’ll get the concert crowd moving once again. It’s followed by album-closer “Slö,” a mostly-instrumental track with some nice instrumentation mixed behind a heavy, lush wall of power-alt-rock sound. It’s hard to think of a better way to close this catchy, updated-throwback-’90s rock record.


Dig the catchy, jangly, punk-inspired, updated ’90s pop-rock Space Cadet delivers on Lion on a Leash. Pick hits would be “Forever For a While,” “Scream for You,” and “Safe and Sound,” plus “Start Running Away,” which is notable also for its guitar solo by Brian Baker (Bad Religion/Minor Threat), who appears on the track. It’s strong beginning to end, though, so you may find your own favorites.

Album Review: Popa Chubby – Tinfoil Hat

Popa Chubby

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Album Review of Popa Chubby: Tinfoil Hat

A couple years ago I shared the awesomeness that is a Popa Chubby live performance. Well, there ain’t nothin’ like one of his records, too. Popa Chubby is a one-of-a-kind blues cat, and to those who like their blues guitar-driven and rockin’, he’s one of the elite.

This newest album, Tinfoil Hat, is an ode to that weird year that was 2020, including those bits that have continued in 2021. It’s a folk-in-the-style-of-blues protest album. As Popa Chubby states in the album-ending number, “1968 Again,” “It’s 1968 all over again.” In the context of that song, he’s drawing comparisons between this past year of civil rights marches, protests, and loony politicians and the events of that sizzling, raw ’60s summer of change. In that vein, this album, Tinfoil Hat, is mostly one long, groovin’, bluesy protest album.

To kick things off, if you’re in-line with his pro-vax, pro-mask, pro-civil rights, anti-Trump viewpoint, you’ll find this album a rollicking, rousing musical protest romp. On the other hand, if you differ with Popa Chubby on one of those issues, you’ll have to choose your songs carefully. And if you differ on all of them, well, there are still three or four songs you’ll totally dig, but you’ll want to skip the rest.

I’ll actually kick off with those tracks (so you can skip the rest of the review if it’s likely to rile you up).

Popa Chubby – Tinfoil Hat

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

“Embees Song” is a bluesy crooning love song. Sweet, soulful, and rough around the edges. “I want to know that you want me, baby. Every morning you drive me crazy when you make my coffee and you shake it for me.” There’s a reason bluesy-growled love songs are the best. You can feel the heart in every gruff, emotionally-wailed lyric.

The instrumental “Boogie for Tony,” of course, with its lack of lyrics, falls into this everyone’ll-love-it grouping. The energetic number is reminiscent of the sorts of tuneful, melodic, high-octane instrumentals you’ll often find on Bob Malone’s rockin’ blues albums except, of course, that Bob’s are piano-driven while Popa Chubby’s instrumentals are guitar-powered. Doesn’t matter that it’s an instrumental, though; it’s so catchy you’ll soon find yourself “singing along.”

“Someday Soon (A Change is Gonna Come)” has an implied message in the context of the album, but as a standalone song, you can just rock to it, with its guitar runs and the occasional variance from its even-keel vocal sitting atop a churning, steady blues rhythm.

And, again if taken outside the context of the album, “Can I Call You My Friends” is an anthemic number that you can also just rock to. (Of course, the accompanying music video will quickly disabuse you of that notion.) The militarily rhythmic tempo builds as the lyrics intensify, and there’s some very cool guitar noodling in the bridges. This is one of the songs on Tinfoil Hat most likely to get stuck in your head.

Several of the songs are about COVID-19, particularly complaining about those who refuse the vaccine and/or who refuse to wear masks. Kicking things off is a song for anyone who doesn’t traffic in conspiracy theories – for those who cringe when they hear the term “do your own research.” The disc-opening title track, “Tinfoil Hat,” is a current events-driven blues-rocker mockin’ the crazies.

“Baby Put on Your Mask” gets the pro-masking point across with lyrics that, for example, rhyme “don’t make me spank that ass” with “baby, put on your mask.” Not exactly Robert Frost or, for a more recent reference, Amanda Gorman, but clever and effective.

“Another Day in Hell” is a heavy, slow-paced guitar rocker that could pass for a song solely about those who make our lives miserable at any time, if not for the opening reference to mask-refusing COVID deniers, though a deeper dig suggests it is, at its core, a reference to the monotony of remaining isolated during the height of the pandemic.

The reggae-infused “Cognitive Dissonance” is a very cool musical change of pace, one that, among other things, highlights the disparity of impact upon different segments of the population during the pandemic and the deference to the economy at the expense of human lives, including lyrics like “humans expendable, testing undependable” and “you say ‘my body, my choice,’ but a mask has no voice.”

Civil rights, which for most of the past year-plus has primarily revolved around addressing the disproportionately violent police response to minorities in the U.S., forms the basis of “No Justice No Peace,” reflecting the famous rallying cry. The song is driven by a heavy wall of sound and a plodding, undeniably forward-moving pace. Lyrically, the song can be summed up by its own lyrics, “You can’t turn the guns on your citizens and expect them to comply. It’s America, and the people say, ‘No more black men die.'” There’s also a long, shredding, wailing guitar solo that runs through the song’s midpoint that encompasses the full spectrum of anguish better than any vocal could. For this particular topic, “No Justice No Peace” is an exceptionally suitable, compelling, well-constructed, angry protest song.

“You Ain’t Said Shit” is a bluesy protest number with a catchy recurring guitar hook, and it’s quite obviously about a certain recent ex-president. And if you don’t catch on from early lyrics like, “Why don’t you just shut your mouth. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You got the best words, but you know that you ain’t said shit,” it becomes increasingly obvious as the song goes on with references to “stable genius” and, at the very end, “covfefe.”

I know I’ve taken the songs out of order. The disc-ender is actually “1968 Again,” which is an astute choice for tying together this collection of songs. Tinfoil Hat is the sort of top-shelf rockin’ blues you’d expect from Popa Chubby. It strays a bit farther from blues than usual in spots, with homages to the folky protest songs from a half-century ago and topical references to the last year – year and a half, actually, by the time I’ve finally written this review. Your enjoyment of this disc will depend upon whether or not you agree with Popa Chubby’s politics, but his position is very clear, as is (as always) his musical and songwriting talent.

Looking Ahead

You can catch Popa Chubby live at a variety of dates and locations. He has shows in the northeast U.S. (NY, NJ, PA, MA, RI, MD) in November December, and on January 1st. He’ll be in Brussels on FJanuary 19th and then will tour around France for the rest of the month. In February 2022, you can catch a few Florida dates. And in May 2022, he has a tour of Germany scheduled, with an opening date in Rubigen, Switzerland. Find additional details about these tour dates (and others, as they’re announced) on the “Tour” page of his website.

Album Review: Allan Holdsworth – Leverkusen 2010

Allan Holdsworth

photo by Rainer Leigraf; photo courtesy of Manifesto Records

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Allan Holdsworth: Leverkusen 2010 (Manifesto Records)

This is the fifth and latest release in a continuing series of posthumous classic live recordings by British guitar master Allan Holdsworth. This CD/DVD package features the legendary jazz-fusion guitarist in a 2010 performance at the Leverkusen Jazztage Festival in Germany. Along with Chad Wackerman on drums and Ernest Tibbs on electric bass, the Holdsworth trio captivated and mesmerized throngs of loyal jazz and progressive music fans.

The totally original 10 song set consisted of all instrumental material that encompassed the guitar maestro’s vast career from the ‘70s to the present. The opener “Leave Them On” greeted the attentive audience, with a mid-tempo and ethereal lilt. The rhythm section provided a smooth pocket that was taut, but open. There was great interaction from the trio, with Holdsworth unleashing out-of-the-box soloing.

Allan Holdsworth – Leverkusen 2010

image courtesy of Manifesto Records

A band mainstay and nugget from Holdsworth’s days with the New Tony Williams Lifetime, “Fred,” followed in brisk fashion. This tune really swings and displays a modern bop feel that takes your breath away. Wackerman and Tibbs do a brilliant job holding down the fort, but on the original ‘70s recording of this tune electric pianist Alan Pasqua added an essential sparkle and harmonic nuance to the piece. The absence of keyboards is sorely missed here. But this is only a minor criticism.

“Water on the Brain” follows and is filled with tricky and choppy accents and meters. Intricate melodies, riffs and cross-referenced harmonies abound. In particular, Tibbs really stands out, with a stellar and fluid bass solo.

The medley of “Madame Vintage,” “Above and Beyond” and “The Things You Do (When You Haven’t Got Your Gun)” is a big sweeping cavalcade of sound. This material really spotlights the strength and versatility of this band as the music goes from ambient and oddly harmonic to cinematic, with interspersed legato shredding. They are at the peak of their powers—dynamically, systematically and empathetically.

Allan Holdsworth

photo by Rainer Leigraf; photo courtesy of Manifesto Records

“Material Real” is another tune that keeps that vibe going and leads into the Wackerman composition “The Fifth.” This is an open swinging affair that features swift drum accents, lucid bass solos and some of Holdsworth’s most beautiful chord accompaniment.

A concert staple from the British guitarist’s early ‘80s period is a cut called “Letters of Marque.” It’s a very animated, technically astute and rhythmically complex piece. Meters would shift seemingly at will and provided plenty of space for inspired and impassioned solos from Holdsworth and Tibbs. Wackerman locked in the groove as the soloists took each other to greater heights.

The set concluded with another gem from the guitarist’s days with drummer Tony Williams called “Proto-Cosmos.” The encore piece featured a vibrant, angular melodic head that swung in jagged and asymmetric phrases. Holdsworth blows over rapid-fire changes as modern bop and rock ‘n roll meet head on.

This is an exciting package featuring candid live photos, exceptional liner notes and an audio CD of the concert as well as a DVD of the same, with additional current interviews where Wackerman and Tibbs reflect on Leverkusen and working with the Holdsworth band.