Single Review: 3Mind Blight feat. Trysette – “Situations”

3MindBlight and Trysette

photo courtesy of Trysette

Single Review of 3Mind Blight feat. Trysette: “Situations”

This song is a pairing of two seemingly disparate musical talents whose commonality is as versatile songwriters and performers. 3Mind Blight is a longtime music producer and award-winning songwriter who launched his career as a solo recording artist in 2018, combining influences ranging from rap to metal, orchestral to pop, and beyond. Trysette (who we’ve reviewed at the Blog several times over the years) is an Australian singer, songwriter, and pianist whose solo performances have made her one of the Blog‘s favorite artists, though she may be best recognized by those who don’t subscribe to Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog as a backup singer for Bob Malone and for John Fogerty; also, as a co-writer of “Under My Skin,” a current chart-climber released by Nashville recording artist Nate Smith.

3Mind Blight feat. Trysette - Situations

image courtesy of Trysette

On “Situations,” 3Mind Blight leans more heavily, though not exclusively into the rap end of his repertoire, musically and lyrically intersecting with Trysette’s soaring, high vocals to tell a tale of emotions.

The song kicks off with an alien, deep-sea-echoing music bed one might expect in dream pop, with 3Mind Blight delivering rhythmic rapping vocals that he extends into more tuneful, soaring spoken word, then giving way to Trysette’s higher, spoken-sung reply atop a lighter more airy musical backdrop.

As the song progresses, the vocals trend more toward traditional singing, while the floating synth extends a feeling of uneasiness, until Trysette’s vocals and 3Mind Blight’s late-song rap resolve the internal lyrical conflict that was reflected by the music.

3Mind Blight

3Mind Blight; photo courtesy of Trysette

The song’s sudden ending suggests perhaps a solid resolution to the lyrical message, though the uneasy music bed that lasts right up until the very final note hints that perhaps a clean resolution isn’t so easy.

It’s a well-crafted song with a radio-ready length, coming in easily under three minutes. The song was released a couple weeks ago, and it’s no surprise it has started garnering attention for this pair of talented artists. No foolin’.

Looking Ahead

You can keep up with 3Mind Blight’s music on Spotify, and you can see what he’s up to via his Twitter account.

Trysette

Trysette; photo courtesy of Trysette

In addition to her songwriting collaborations during COVID-19, Trysette has recorded a series of cool “Shoot the Breeze” videos on YouTube, chatting with some of her “rock star friends,” and she generally shares any new goings-on with her fans via her Facebook page. Also, when she’s back on the road again, you may be able to catch her performance schedule on the “Tour Dates” page of her website.

Looking Back

To continue your new-music discovery tour, if you’re not already familiar with Trysette’s catalog, don’t forget to check out some of the Blog‘s other reviews of her music. Most recently, I reviewed her multi-artist collaboration TRX+J. A few years before that, I reviewed her album of covers, Shadowgirl. And back in 2015, I reviewed her full-length release of originals, Feel So Pretty.

Single Review: Urban Ladder Society – “Juke Joint Lover”

 

Urban Ladder Society – "Juke Joint Lover"

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Single Review of Urban Ladder Society: “Juke Joint Lover”

Urban Ladder Society dubs itself as an all-star band, and you sure can tell by the tight musicianship, the musical twists and turns, and the experienced touch of knowing just when to turn on the heat and when to dial it back. The band is comprised of Victa Nooman, Henry Roosterman Stevens, Chris Gill, and Jante Mayon.

The song itself, “Juke Joint Lover,” is an instant classic. It is a steady, rhythmically-progressing classic blues tune, structured to easily fit solos and jams that I assume could stretch for several minutes when performed live. The beat is smooth, dripping with attitude befitting the lyrics, “I can be your juke joint lover. Let me love you like no other. I can be your juke joint lover. You can call me your big brother. If you’ sick ‘n tired of your man, darlin’ just give me your hand, and we can.” This five-minute, six second tune chugs along like any other smooth blues joint until the 3:07 mark, when… boom! If you hadn’t already known, you realize this song lives at the intersection of blues-meets-hip-hop, and ULS includes a top-shelf rapper onboard in Victa Nooman. Rhythmically varied, the word-heavy rap atop a classic blues musical backdrop with texture-adding guitar riffing dancing throughout, does most of the vocal heavy lifting the rest of the way, guiding this tune to its conclusion. It gives Urban Label Society a unique element not found in most blues bands, an original sound whose individual ingredients are blended deftly together to appeal to a broad audience. This song is my first introduction to Urban Ladder Society, but I’ll definitely be back for more.

Album Review: Falling Doves – Electric Dove

Falling Doves

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Album Review of Falling Doves: Electric Dove

Sporting a sound reminiscent of ’80s/’90s-era Enuff Z’Nuff, with a hint of Mr. Big, maybe, a dash of screeching blues-based rock guitar, and some heavy melodic punk, the Falling Doves deliver a distorted, powerful rock ‘n roll album. Bands the Falling Doves have shared the stage with include Echo & The Bunnymen, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Fastball, and Gilby Clarke. Yeah, that sounds about right.

Falling Doves – Electric Dove

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

And yet, second song “Hello Stars” sounds like a hard rock song that might be heavily influenced by shoegaze, with a loud, buzzing rock and roll sound field and crunchy guitars driving a well-structured song that keeps acting as if it’s about to meander off, but it doesn’t. It’s a neat trick, and an engaging song. “NYC” is kind of like this, too. And until putting the pieces together while analyzing this album, I never realized that Enuff Z’Nuff actually has a bit of the heavy rock-meets-dream pop vibe in several of its songs. Of course, Enuff Z’Nuff predated shoegaze, so… well, I have to wonder which foundation musician in that musically distant genre was a secret EZ’N fan.

But I digress. Back to Falling Doves, and one step back to the album-opener, “Art of Letting Go”, which is an aggressive, disc-launching melodic hard rocker, with drums, crunchy guitars, distorted guitars, and vocal wails befitting a hard rock band, a catchy song and quick favorite that’ll cause unintentional – though definitely not undesired – headbanging whenever you listen to it.

Falling Doves

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

“Dialing You!” is another straightforward rocking favorite on the disc, with a steady rhythm, vocal snarl, and a couple mean guitar hooks. “Strange Love” stands out for its guitar wails during a couple short bridges and a wall of music backdrop so complete that it almost seems like some static fill had been included specifically to ensure there are no gaps.

“December Took You Away” is a driving straightforward rocker with the vocals and guitar adding just a hint of side-to-side rhythm. There’s perhaps a smidgeon of Green Day-like defiance mixed in, with a classic guitar run in the middle of the song playing a major role in redirecting it forward – it’s subtle but very cool once you notice it.

“Something About Her Ways” – particularly the opening stanza – exhibits the strongest old-school alt-hard-rock influence on the disc, adding the sort of small variances of ingredients from song to song necessary to provide an enjoyable full-album listening experience.

After “NYC,” mentioned earlier, distorted, disjointedly rhythmic rocker “Changes,” old school alt-pop rock-seasoned “Tomorrow Night” (depending on my mood, I alternately hear hints of Human League and Blondie when I listen), and the raucously, punkishly hard rocker “Don’t Have the Time” solidly drive the disc to a close.

In the end, Enuff Z’Nuff fans won’t be able to unhear the stylistic similarities, and I mean that in the most complimentary possible way. For the rest of you, this is a solid hard rock album with catchy rhythms and a hint of the ethereal echoing in the music, particularly in the vocals. Good stuff.

Falling Doves

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

More Recently

During the pandemic, the Falling Doves have added several releases on Bandcamp, including a couple of “virtual tour” releases and a cool EP of covers, Electrafixation.

Looking Ahead

Keep an eye on the band’s website and/or the “Events” tab of its Facebook page for upcoming shows.

Album Review: Johnny Never – Blue Delta

Johnny Never – Blue Delta

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Album Review of Johnny Never: Blue Delta

I’ll admit that, while I am a blues fan, I’m not well-versed in identifying the specific styles of blues, nor do I have an awareness of their varied histories. But I enjoy it, and I know what good blues sounds like. I also know Johnny Never plays a very specific style of blues, and that he is an exceptional purveyor of his style of blues. Still, I’ll have to accept the press information that this is Delta Blues but played in a Piedmont finger-style. I include that for readers to whom that means something. For the rest of us, Johnny Never’s Blue Delta is an absolutely top-shelf collection of a very specific style of blues.

You’ll find eight originals and five covers on this album.

Disc-opener “Blue Delta Blues,” a Johnny Never original, kicks things off with the sort of crooning warble, something you might recall if you’re old enough to have played your parents’ (or grandparents’) old 45s, with a warmth yet an almost grainy quality reminiscent of sitting in front of the speakers while listening to AM radio. It has a cool groove, a toe-tapping rhythm, and a nostalgic catchiness.

A harmonica drives another original, “Black Smart Phone,” while some guitar plucking provides texture behind Johnny’s somewhat gravelly croon.

Among the covers, I enjoy the almost vaudevillian flavor of Johnny’s energetic rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal.” Johnny adds a shaky howl to his delivery of Son House’s “Death Letter.”

Original “Shake It Up and Boogie” is bit of a jam, with harmonica wailing and loose guitar picking supporting a number befitting a mid-sized room and a stage, especially as you picture the backup singers leaning in to echo “shake it up and boogie.” Its album placement is clearly by design, as it shares a similar rhythm to Johnny’s rendition of Tommy Johnson’s “Canned Heat.”

“Falls Off the Bone (Blues in 7/8)” has an intriguing rhythm, with Johnny’s vocals seeming to run long at times, start late at others. He seems to ignore the expected vocal pocket throughout the song but artfully, in a way that makes the song a compelling listen. And again I suspect song placement on the album was purposeful, as it almost seamlessly flows into Johnny’s version of Roosevelt Sykes’ “44 Blues.”

The disc continues with strength and variety, with the big blues sound of “Witherin’ Heat Blues,” the heartbreaking dirge-like emotion of “Whiskey Glass,” and the intricate picking-driven sway of “Dark Night Blues (Murdoch Blues).”

The penultimate track on the album, Johnny’s version of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hey Hey,” has a nice travelling-song feel, an energetic near-final number that leans into Johnny’s hoarse vocal delivery – sounding as if he’s tunefully hoarse at the end of a long night of singing the blues – to deliver a tune that’ll get the joint hopping just before last call.

And that last call, Johnny’s original “Blue Eyed Girl,” can perhaps be that song of lament that sends you home at the end of the night. Or on to the next album (or Blue Delta on repeat) because, you know, this is a record and not a late night at the club.

Beginning to end, Blue Delta is constantly on-point. Especially on the more sparsely-instrumented numbers, I can see Johnny sitting in that folder chair on the beach, as on the album cover, just strumming, plucking, and crooning, though these songs are all equally well-suited to 2:00 in the morning at a dimly lit blues joint. Blue Delta is a solid recommendation for blues fans, regardless of whether or not you know “Delta blues” by name.

Single Review: Victoria Bailey – “Skid Row (Acoustic)”

Victoria Bailey

photo by Stefanie Vinsel Johnson; photo courtesy of Skye Media & Rock Ridge Music

Single Review of Victoria Bailey: “Skid Row (Acoustic)” (Rock Ridge Music)

Last year, Victoria Bailey released her album Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline. “Skid Row” was one of the songs on that album. This acoustic version of “Skid Row,” however, is a standalone single; it does not appear on the album.

Victoria Bailey - Skid Row (Acoustic)

image courtesy of Skye Media & Rock Ridge Music

The song is a terrific introduction for those of us who maybe haven’t heard Victoria before. A strong, steady strum provides a firm backdrop for Victoria’s voice. And what a voice! She has an old-fashioned warble but a modern firmness, perfect for bringing an old-fashioned dancehall number like “Skid Row” to modern fans.

Victoria showcases her storytelling skills in the mostly-sung but also-a-little-spoken verses, crooning amiably and memorably in the verses.

I decided to review this song with an uninitiated ear, so I haven’t gone back to check out Jesus, Red Wine & Patsy Cline, but after a couple dozen listens of this track… well, I’m a-gonna! Victoria is a rare memorable voice in a crowded Americana field. Give her a listen. And this acoustic version of “Skid Row” is a great place to start.

Upcoming Performances

Victoria Bailey

photo by Stefanie Vinsel Johnson; photo courtesy of Skye Media & Rock Ridge Music

You can find Victoria’s upcoming live performances at the “Live” page of her website. There is currently one show listed, OC Music Presents Music on the Runway at Hangar 24 in Irvine, CA, on Saturday, April 3rd. There’s additional detail on the Facebook event listing. Of course, I always suggest calling ahead when heading out during the pandemic because situations can change quickly.

Victoria has done some live-streamed events. The next one I’m aware of is Friday, April 2nd at 6:00 PM PDT (9:00 PM EDT) as part of the “Live and Socially Distanced” series on The Boot’s Facebook page. I’m a little concerned that I can’t find it mentioned anywhere online right now, but keep your eyes open for it.

Album Review: Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band – Prince of Poverty

Kristian Montgomery

photo courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

Album Review of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band: Prince of Poverty

The sound. It’s such a unique, original sound, yet comfortable and familiar. Or perhaps uncomfortably familiar. A uniquely specific blend of rockabilly, country-rock, and blues influences, on Prince of Poverty, Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band deliver energetic, fast-paced numbers, soulful, heartfelt ballads, and catchy mid-tempo songs in-between.

This album grabs the listener quickly, with the seething, growling, barely-concealed rage of “They’ll Remember My Name” making an instant impression. The churning power of the rhythm supports Kristian’s understated, edgy vocal snarl, with surreptitiously catchy lyrics driving the chorus, with some soaring guitar wails judiciously thrown in to maintain a somewhat frantic flavor to the soundbed. In the end, even if you don’t listen closely enough to hear the rest of the lyrics, you’ll unconsciously sing along to “They’ll remember my… they’ll remember my… they’ll remember my… they’ll remember my name.”

Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band - Prince of Poverty

image courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

Next up is another song that’ll wend its way into your musical memory bank, “Tired of Being Tired.” With a tempo and vocal delivery that perfectly conveys desperate exhaustion, it’s a well-written piece of bluesy, sway-along, hauntingly relatable Americana.

“Working Hands” picks up the energy with, well, energetic picking. Just that hint of hillbilly energy adds an off-kilter edge to this raucous knee-bouncing foot-stomper.

“A Warm Grave” takes the mood and tempo down a bit, dipped in pensive, thoughtful melancholy: “Some things can’t be replaced. We’re gon’ die someday. It will be a disgrace if all we leave behind is a warm grave.”

“Don’t Call Me Baby” has an old-school rock flavor, reminding me of, among other music comparisons, a more ragged, rough-and-tumble version of a Georgia Satellites tune. The song’s uptempo, energetic motor and especially hooky lyric that begins “She’s a bitter pill to swallow lately…“, combined with Kristian’s gravelly, urgently insistent vocal marks this as another of the album’s many memorably catchy tunes.

Slow, heartfelt thoughtfulness describes the mellow “Soul For Soul,” though some raw, gritty guitar riffs add hints of a stormy undercurrent.

Kristian Montgomery

photo courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

“That Kind of Love” resumes the rattly, jangly, bluesy mid-tempo country-rock vibe with keenly insightful verses build around the chorus: “That kind of love can kill a man, they say. That kind of love can make a coward brave.”

“I’ll Find My Way Home” has a defiant independence that drives the song straight forward, with a fun recurring riff that adds plenty of texture while helping give the song its swagger.

Finally, Prince of Poverty closes with two energetic, memorable, hooky numbers that are likely to become quick favorites.

The first of those, “American Fire,” is a lament of America’s recent direction, highlighting some of the dangers and missteps of turning a blind eye in the name of patriotism. It’s a wicked catchy git-along song, too, so I’m guessing some people will find themselves singing along before they realize whether or not they agree with the sentiment.

And the album closes on yet another high note, a fun number with almost a John Cougar Mellencamp-does-the-Opry feeling to it, “Just Driving Around.” It end the collection with a good, warm feeling: “Some people get slowed down, stuck in these dead end towns, but I’ve got it figured out ’cause I met a girl who’s happy just driving around.” In the end, this might be the most country song on the disc, at least in its content, as it revels in the sentiment that the best things in life are the simplest. But it’s not corny; it’s simply a full, memorable little ditty that’s “gonna haunt your ass.”

In closing, as I said in the beginning, there’s something so familiar about the style of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band. And yet, the precision of the songwriting, talent of the musicianship, and sincerity of the delivery insists this is something special. You’ll have some immediate favorites upon first listen, but that will evolve over multiple listens, as Prince of Poverty is a disc with staying power from a talented artist worth getting to know.

Looking Ahead

Prince of Poverty is the second “pandemic album” from Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band, a follow-up to The Gravel Church. And, in the spirit of “let no dust settle,” Kristian is working on a third. As a fun of really good music, I can only be excited by the prospect of his creative talent continuing to flow freely. To mix in a sports metaphor, all he does is score touchdowns.

Single Review: Joëtta – “Talk to Me”

Single artwork: Joëtta – "Talk to Me"

photo by Ayla Maagdenberg; photo courtesy of Joëtta Zoetelief

Single Review of Joëtta: “Talk to Me”

You first read about Joëtta at this blog when I reviewed “Better Than Me,” the single from Wiens Lief, the Netherlands-based trio of which Joëtta comprised one-third.

Joëtta’s sweet, wistful voice at the beginning of “Talk to Me” quickly shows a warmth and texture. The song itself is somewhat staccato, haltingly moving forward, dripping like water and like the lyric’s thoughts through most of the song, allowing even a small rush of tempo and addition of richer instrumentation to feel like a significant build in power. “Talk to Me” uses its expansive musical open space to create intimacy, and it’s over all too soon. A house concert, a coffeehouse (but hopefully a quiet one), even a larger performance space with great acoustics; these would all be ideal locations to hear this song performed live.

Looking Back: “Here”

Joëtta

photo by Ayla Maagdenberg; photo courtesy of Joëtta Zoetelief

“Talk to Me” is Joëtta’s second single; it’s a follow-up to “Here.” After a sparse 15 second intro, “Here” is a bit more uptempo and gets the blood flowing a little following “Talk to Me.” Joëtta uses a richer, fuller – yet still high and sweet – vocal on “Here.” The lyrics, as well, are interesting: “Hasn’t been easy feeling lonely. So many things I’ve been avoiding. So relieved when I am on the mend. Then you’re back again.” From a listening standpoint, the strength of “Here” is amplified by placing it after “Talk to Me,” so I quickly decided to order the two songs in this manner on my playlist.

Looking Ahead

From Joëtta’s website, these appear to be the first two songs en route to a debut solo EP. One reason did a two-in-one review above is because a vocalist like Joëtta is likely to emphasize different elements of her talent on different songs. For that reason, it can be difficult to capture an artist properly in a single review. For the very same reason, I’m looking forward to hearing her full collection.

Also, you’ll find upcoming performances listed on the “Shows” page of Joëtta’s website. Currently, due to COVID-19, there are none scheduled.

Album Review: Last Year’s Man – Brave the Storm

Last Year's Man

photo credit: Tyler Fortier via Broken Jukebox Media

Album Review of Last Year’s Man: Brave the Storm

Last Year’s Man is the nom de plume of Eugene, Oregon-based producer and songwriter Tyler Fortier. And since Brave the Storm was released in November 2020, I guess you could call it last year’s album. However, the crisp, detailed songwriting, the raspy voice that seems to understand the plight of the everyman, and the timeless style that rests somewhere along the line between singer-songwriter and folk could just as easily make this every year’s album.

With all of the very talented singer-songwriters out in the world, I tend to be selective about which singer-songwriter albums I share with you. Brave the Storm is mellow and laid-back enough that it’ll sneak up on you before you realize what a well-crafted classic it really is. I suppose the same could be said for its creator, Last Year’s Man.

Last Year's Man – Brave the Storm

image courtesy of Broken Jukebox Media

The album begins pleasantly with a rich, full-band folk sound – I love a warm, filled-in sound bed – that recalls a river flowing, later joined by Fortier’s comfortably raspy vocals, then uplifting strings and Anna Tivel’s sweet harmonies, as the title track “Brave the Storm” kicks things off humanly and hopefully, a welcome introduction that sets the stage for the disc, hinting that this is a collection you’re likely to be able to settle into and play on repeat.

Next up, “No Eye on the Sparrow” adds a haunting, mellow element, with a “Wicked Game”-ish sadness in the strumming and a foreboding tinge to the vocals. Sneaky-good, after a few listens, this grew into the most memorable song on the album for me, one whose lyrics I’d find myself singing hours after I had last heard the disc.

“My Own Ghost Town” (featuring Anna Tivel and Jeffrey Martin) maintains that haunting aura, with a little bit of a by-the-railroad-tracks flavor mixed in, with occasional vocal power adding energy to a song whose tempo and softness might otherwise encourage mellowness.

“Guide You Back to Me” doesn’t stray far, either, though the ambient music undercurrent and slightly more melancholy tone give the song a newness and originality, subtle enough it takes a few listens to really appreciate it.

“Wild Wild Heart” (featuring Field Report) again leans hard into Fortier’s rasp, climbing aboard a soft, distant music bed that recalls water slowly rippling along a dock, perhaps a boat in the harbor. But it very definitely provides the feeling of relatively – but not quite completely – calm water.

“The Dark End of the Road” (featuring Jesse Terry) has a bit of an energetic, though subtle, guitar hook – yes, Last Year’s Man excels at subtlety. In addition to the first two songs on the disc, this is likely the third of my trio of favorite songs on Brave the Storm.

“Feet of Clay” (featuring The Hackles) seems inquisitive and maybe hopeful, if also tired and worn down.

And “The Valley of Jehoshaphat” closes the album memorably and emotionally. These are the lyrics that will stick with you: “Don’t send your daughters to war. Don’t send your son. Don’t send your baby. There ain’t no chosen one.”

If you’re looking for a well-composed, tightly-assembled, collection of soft, rich-music-bed-driven folk music, this is exactly what you seek. Last Year’s Man, with his comfortable rasp and song-craftsmanship, has assembled just such an album with Brave the Storm.

Album Review: Ne-Yo – In My Own Words

Ne-Yo

photo by Lourdes Suakari; photo courtesy of Reybee

Album Review of Ne-Yo: In My Own Words (15th Anniversary Digital Deluxe reissue) (UMe/Def Jam)

Even though I’ve reviewed a couple recently, I’m not a big fan of writing about reissues. This time it’s different. Ne-Yo broke out of his behind-the-scenes hit-songwriter role and into the public consciousness as a hit performer 15 years ago, very early in my hiatus from music journalism, during a time when I was almost completely not discovering new music. So, for me, this was a chance to dive into discovering a huge record that launched a big, new star during a brief blindspot in my musical history. So please indulge me, if you will.

This reissue, released on February 26th, contains all thirteen original tracks, plus “Girlfriend,” which was a previously just a retail exclusive track. In addition, you’ll find a remix of “Stay” that was released on the Japanese version of In My Own Words, acoustic versions of “So Sick” and “Sexy Love,” and instrumental versions of “So Sick” and “When You’re Mad.” In total, 19 tracks.

Ne-Yo – In My Own Words

image courtesy of Reybee

Giving this a full listen after 15 years – for me, my first full listen beginning-to-end and my first exposure to many of the songs that weren’t hits – you can see why this album broke Ne-Yo so big. Seriously, though, I don’t need to explain why this massive pop/R&B star is so huge. You know his voice, his hooks, his clever turns of phrases, his catchy musical dances around the rhythm. So I guess I’ll just mention which songs are my favorites, and you can agree, disagree, or perhaps listen to some of those favorites you might have missed if you just cherry-picked the hits.

First, though, let’s start with the hits.

“So Sick” was my own personal favorite the first few times through this disc, though that could be because I already knew the song so well. It was the one number one hit on In My Own Words. If this were a horserace, that’d be the equivalent of betting on the favorite.

After several listens, though, I came to appreciate the clever lyrics and mildly unpredictable rhythms of “When You’re Mad,” which only reached #15 on the charts back in 2006. (Yeah, I heard it. “Only”?)

Meanwhile, “Sexy Love,” which reached #7 in 2006, with its almost Michael Jackson-ish opening and Ne-Yo’s crisp vocals lines and “oh baby” interjections, riding a smooth music bed and hypnotic underlying rhythm. (Yes, I sing along with the background rhythm.)

Ne-Yo

photo by Lourdes Suakari; photo courtesy of Reybee

Beyond the hits, “Stay” was the first single, a minor R&B hit at the time of its initial release, and its musical turns, while they keep the song interesting from a music critic standpoint, rather than going down a more direct musical path, may have kept some casual listeners from latching on quickly enough to make the song a mega-hit, especially since it was Ne-Yo’s very first single. Still, “I just can’t help myself…”

Personal favorites among the non-hits include “Let Me Get This Right,” where an relatively unstoppable steamrolling rhythm merges well with Ne-Yo’s bursts of vocal power. And “It Just Ain’t Right,” for similar rhythmic reasons, though the music bed helps me picture myself perhaps on a beach this time, and the impressive but restrained vocal gymnastics on a particular “ohhh” toward the end are fun, too. Then there’s the jazzy opening of “I Ain’t Gotta Tell You,” on which Ne-Yo sings all around the pocket, speeding and slowing his vocals; when done well, it’s unavoidably entrancing. And there are the rich wall-of-vocals that powers “Get Down Like That.” Of course, as is the case with album cuts, you’ll likely have your own favorites.

Among the bonus tracks, I’m kind of partial to the acoustic versions of “So Sick” and “Sexy Love.” The instrumentals, on the other hand, primarily just highlight for me how much this album relies on Ne-Yo’s killer vocals and lyrics. They seem surprisingly pedestrian – they really are just the music beds, not instrumentally souped-up reimaginings – though they’re perhaps quite fun if you want to use them to sing “So Sick” or “When You’re Mad” on your own.

Even before reading this review, I’m sure most of you already know whether or not you dig Ne-Yo’s music. If you’re a fan, this reissue may be worth it for access to the bonus tracks. And if you’re like me, and you somehow missed snagging this hit album when it was initially released, here’s your chance. In My Own Words is worth your attention. The very best crystal clear, top-shelf R&B vocalists’ records always are.

Looking Ahead

Ne-Yo doesn’t currently have any live performances scheduled, but when they are, you will be able to find that listed on the “Tour” page of his website.

Single Review: Travellin’ Blue Kings – “Live Your Life”

Travellin' Blue Kings

photo courtesy of Naked/Big D Bookings

Single Review of Travellin’ Blue Kings: “Live Your Life” (Naked)

“Live Your Life,” is a rollicking blues number from the Travellin’ Blue Kings, comprised Stephan Hermsen (vocals, harp) and Marc Gijbels (drums), previously from the Dutch band the Electrophonics, Jimmy Hontelé (guitar) and Winne Penninckx (bass), formerly of the Belgian outfit Howlin’ Bill, and Patrick Cuyvers on Hammond organ & piano. Combined, these fellas seem to have found an impressive groove as the Travellin’ Blue Kings.

Travellin' Blue Kings – "Live Your Life"

image courtesy of Naked/Big D Bookings

With this song, the Travellin’ Blues Kings serve up an old-fashioned, harmonica-driven, soaring, gospel-tinged blues number. A jangly blues rhythm atop a steady beat and gruffly commanding blues vocal style lead the way, hinging on the key vocal line, “Live your life, each and every day.” Colored by a short harmonica solo and background harmonies, with the music bed moving between sparse and full as the song’s power requires, the three minutes 24 seconds flies by. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for extended jams during the song, plus a rhythm that would serve well as a backdrop during said jams, so I’d not be shocked to hear much longer versions during live performances.

On the whole, “Live Your Life” is a fun jam, a well-constructed blues tune performed with enthusiasm and energy. It has definitely found a place on my long-term personal playlist, which is why I’ve chosen to review it. Be sure to check it out.

Travellin' Blue Kings

photo by Freddy Vandervelpen; photo courtesy of Naked/Big D Bookings

Looking Ahead

There are several spring and summer festival dates listed on the Travellin’ Blue Kings’ website – scroll down a bit on the main page of the website – three in Belgium, two in France, and one in the Netherlands, stretching from March through August. Of course, if you see a date near you, it would be smart to make the appropriate inquires to ensure the festival will be held this year.

Travellin' Blue Kings – "Gotta Get Away"

image courtesy of Naked/Big D Bookings

Tomorrow, March 19th, the Travellin’ Blue Kings will drop their next single, “Gotta Get Away.” Keep an eye and an ear out for this testifyin’ vocal-driven blues jam.

“Gotta Get Away” will also be the first single from a slightly revamped line-up. Originally comprised of Dutch and Belgian musicians, COVID-19 made cross-border travel difficult enough that the Travellin’ Blue Kings are now a fully Belgian outfit. The full line-up you’ll hear for the first time on “Gotta Get Away” is JB Biesmans (vocals, saxophone, harp), Jimmy Hontelé (guitar), Patrick Cuyvers (Hammond organ, backing vocals), Winne Penninckx (bass), and Marc Gijbels (drums). So, essentially, JB has stepped in for Stephan. Wicked lotta talent in this band.