Tuesday Tunes 26: New Music – Part 2

This week, Tuesday Tunes is showcasing music videos for another five songs which have been released in the past six months, since lockdown/quarantine began. There will, however, be seven videos – you’ll see what I mean shortly. Again, as last week, these are ‘regular’ videos, as distinct from the home sessions or live streaming which have become our new norm in recent months. And as last week, these are all songs which are on new (or forthcoming) albums or which have been released as singles.

Question: what do you do if you haven’t released anything in fourteen years, apart from a live concert recording, a couple of compilations and a few collaborations, and you need to announce your return? Answer: hit people with an absolute belter of a track:

That is the title track from the Chicks’ latest album, which was released in July. To date the album has peaked at #3 in the US and #5 in the UK, and will hopefully continue to sell. Their previous three albums have all been US #1, and all five of their studio albums, including Gaslighter, have been #1 on the US Country Albums chart. You may have spotted their name change: this was an acknowledgement that their original name had connotations with which they felt uncomfortable. No doubt it was greeted with the same disapproval from the redneck morons who burned their CDs after Natalie Maines criticised President Bush, but as far as I know they haven’t been sent any death threats this time. In Trump’s America that is, I’d have thought, quite likely, but I hope it doesn’t happen. With over 6.6m video views in five months I think their fans are still with them!

I’ve said before that Walk Off The Earth (WOTE, for short) are my favourite videos band, so I just had to include their new single in this piece. My only problem was in choosing which video: typically, for them, their creativity has been at work and they have so far released three for this song! At the risk of overloading this post, I’m going to be self-indulgent and share all of them. Bear with me, there are some other tunes coming too! This lyric video, which features Sarah and Gianni’s son (the one with the very long, slightly darker hair) was the first:

There followed the ‘official’ video:

And just a few days ago, they gave us an A Capella version with some friends:

That one really highlights their harmonies, and is probably my favourite. They are all lovely though: I think it’s a really nice song with a message for us all to ponder: when did the simple things get so complicated?

Last week I shared one of the songs from Molly Tuttle’s new album of cover songs, But I’d Rather Be With You, which is a fabulous album. Back in May she also released a single of another cover, which was aimed at raising funds for the WhyHunger charity. Her voice is lovely, and she really does justice to one of my favourite Neil Young songs:

I think that is beautiful: it’s as if the song was written for her, and the video is powerful in conveying its message in support of a charity doing such good and, sadly, necessary work.

You may well have noticed that Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) are credited as featuring on that last track. They provided the musical backing and the harmony vocals, and it is their leader, Ketch Secor, who you can see on the video. OCMS and Molly share close links – I’m guessing they are friends, as they have collaborated before. Most recently this was on another charity single, this time OCMS’ one in support of disaster relief after the tornados that struck Nashville. Although the band aren’t Nashville natives they have mostly lived there for twenty years or so, and Ketch was moved to want to do something for the community of which he had become  part. This song is also rather good:

As he says on the song, that is now his home town, and the strength of feeling is clear. Did you also spot a rather serious looking Molly playing guitar with the band?

I hope both charity songs have raised some much needed funds – they deserve to.

The last song in this week’s mini-marathon is brand new, having only been released last Thursday, and having already achieved nearly 1.4m views. Not many could do that, except perhaps The Boss:

That is the lead and title track for Bruce’s new album, which is scheduled for release on 23rd October. I, for one, can’t wait – a new album from him is such an event and, judging from this first song, he and the E Street Band are on form!

That’s a wrap for this week’s bumper crop of tunes. Have fun listening to them – as usual, they are the fruits of my impeccable musical taste, and all songs come highly recommended. By me, anyway.

Have a good week, everyone. I’m off to try and decipher what the latest changes to the rules on socialising here in the UK mean for me, and for the plans I have been making to see daughters and granddaughter. Wish me luck! See you next time.

Tuesday Tunes 25: New Music – Part 1

A few weeks back in this series I ran a couple of posts featuring music videos that had been created during lockdown (or quarantine, if you prefer). These were a mixture of new songs, back catalogue and cover versions, and often involved the use of video link apps to bring the participants ‘together.’ These posts, in case you missed them, were numbers 19 and 20 in this series. They were well-received, and it struck me that despite all the problems there has still been a lot of new music released recently, so I’m doing a couple more. This time I’m concentrating on music videos which are more of the ‘usual’ kind you would expect for single or album releases: the only criterion I’m using is that they have been released within the past six months. There is a lot of good new stuff out there! Four of today’s five selections are tracks from new or forthcoming albums, the other is as yet solely a single, but I would expect it to be on an album before long.

Cat Stevens released his fourth album, Tea For The Tillerman, in November 1970, and it reached #8 in the US, #11 in Canada and #20 in the UK – for some reason, most of his records have fared better in North America than in his home country. To mark the 50th anniversary Yusuf, as he is now, has re-recorded the album in its entirety, and it is due for release on Friday week, 18th September. This is the first of the two tracks which have been previewed, with a specially made video:

Just as meaningful and lovely as it was fifty years ago. I think that bodes well for the album – I’m looking forward to it. I saw him play live in 2009, in a concert as part of Island Records’ 50th anniversary celebrations. He played this as his second song, after opening with one of his new ones – not a dry eye in the house.

I included Kate Rusby in both previous lockdown music posts: she is one of my favourites, after all! As well as one of her lockdown specials, there were two of the tracks from what is now her recently released album, Hand Me Down. This is a selection Kate made of songs by other artists, covered in her unique style. Since those posts, several more videos have emerged, including her cover of what I think is the best song by The Cure. Based on the simple theme of the people and things that we love, this is beautiful. It’s ‘something in the eye’ time again:

Kate’s album was released on 14 August, and made its debut at #12 in the UK album chart. This is a stunning achievement for a folk musician – it isn’t the coolest of genres – and was, unsurprisingly, Kate’s best ever chart position (unless you count the single she made with Groaning Ronan). The album was also top of the UK iTunes singer-songwriter chart in its release week. It stayed there for the next week too, and is currently still at #2.

The three remaining artists haven’t been featured here before, and I’d hazard a guess that some of them may be new to you. The first is a duo I found by accident on YouTube. I’d clicked a link to another song and this one came up as an advert – unusually for an ad they gave us the whole song. It was so good that, by the time it was over, I’d forgotten what I’d been planning to listen to. See what I mean:

Carolina Story comprises a married couple, Ben and Emily Roberts. He’s playing acoustic and harmonica in the video, the other guys are their seemingly anonymous band. I can find very little information about them: they don’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry and their own website and Facebook page give little away. Their record company is a bit more forthcoming, but not much: there’s an opportunity there for a PR/promo company, I think! That song was the lead (but not title) track on what I believe is their third album, Dandelion, which was released last Friday – I’m hot off the press with this one, folks! They have been together since meeting at college in 2007, and have been touring, writing songs and releasing albums since 2009. The band name derives from their being on tour in Carolina at the time they realised theirs was more than a professional relationship – isn’t that sweet? I’ve found a reference to a 2013 album called Carolina Story: Parts 1 and 2, which appears to be their first album, but have yet to track it down – it’s not on iTunes, or Bandcamp, my two usual sources, nor is it on Spotify or Amazon. Their second (I think) album, Lay Your Head Down, was released in 2018. With songs like that, a voice like Emily’s, and some decent promotion I think they could be a big success. Remember, you heard it here first…

Another singer-songwriter that I found from YouTube is Caroline Jones. Again, she isn’t a household name and may well be new to you, too. But she has garnered some notable supporters – the likes of Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band, for example – and may well become huge after the current craziness is over and acts can get out on the road again. She has been playing a lot of solo shows on Facebook and Instagram during lockdown, and has recently released two new songs. Of the two, this is the one I prefer:

What a view, indeed! I guess social distancing isn’t an issue when you live near scenery like that. To date, that has only been released as a single but as Caroline’s sole main label album to date  – Bare Feet – was released two years ago I’m wondering (and hoping) that there might be a new album in the offing. Bare Feet reached #13 on the US Country Chart, and there were also four earlier self-released albums – which I can’t find! As well as the album, Caroline has also released a couple of EPs since signing to Jimmy Buffett’s record label – Chasing Me, in 2019, and All Of The Boys, earlier this year. The latter is remarkable for comprising four tracks, all of the same song, but in markedly different versions – this lady has talent!

So far there has been a strong female bias in this week’s tunes, so maybe I should redress the balance… ah, sod it, let’s go for broke! Last one for today is from Molly Tuttle, one of those artists who gets labelled as bluegrass or country, but is developing a much wider range than those labels might suggest to you. She is 27, has been playing guitar since she was 8, and first appeared onstage with her father and the family band – The Tuttles – when she was 11. After playing in other bands, her solo career to date comprises a 2017 EP, Rise, a 2019 album When You’re Ready, and her new album But I’d Rather Be With You, which was released on 28 August. Like the Kate Rusby album, this is a set of cover versions of some of Molly’s favourite songs, all given her unique treatment. She is an amazingly talented guitarist and banjo player, and her reinventions of these songs are the best kind of cover versions: those that take the original and add a new dimension to it. The one I’m sharing will be familiar to you as a Rolling Stones track: it was one of their gentler songs, a love song. This is how Molly has done it:

Molly has suffered from Alopecia Areata since childhood, and wears a wig most of the time. She has said in interviews about how being stared at in public from an early age has enabled her to develop an inner strength, and to become aware of what feminism means for her. Some may not like the stance she is taking in that video: I applaud her for standing up and supporting others, and for her caring nature. And her version of the song is absolutely gorgeous.

That’s it for another week. I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of new music from – mostly – under the radar and emerging artists. I think they’ve proved that you don’t have to be a household name to make good music – a lot of those ‘household names’ could learn a bit from these, in my view. They can all sing and play and don’t need autotune, for starters!

Stay safe, keep well, and I’ll see you again next week.

Tuesday Tunes 24: Strength

I’ve seen much recently in the news, in social media, and in tv shows about how people’s strength is supporting them and others in these pandemic days. It gave me the idea that this might be a good theme for one of these posts: I had been pondering ‘empowerment’ as a theme but thought that might become overtly political, which isn’t my aim. I just want these to be fun, but I may come back to that one at some point.

There are a great many songs I could have chosen, both those that talk of being strong for oneself or for someone else. I’ve managed to keep the selection to what is becoming my usual four tunes, which probably means that I’ve left out some you might have chosen. But that’s the beauty of music: it would be very boring if we all liked the same things! My selection features two songs that speak of staying strong in oneself, and two about being strong for someone else – that’s my attempt at balance!

This week’s first tune is very much of the ‘I’ve survived because I’m strong’ type:

That song was on Reg’s seventeenth album, Too Low For Zero, released in 1983. The album reached #7 in the UK and #25 in the US. I’m Still Standing was released as a single, peaking at #4 in the UK and #12 in the US. It was, he said at the time, his response to feeling that he had become less relevant after the rise of disco, punk and the New Romantics. The video was filmed in Cannes and has been viewed more than 92m times – it did much to garner airplay and contribute to both the single and the album being successful. For him that was a real statement of personal strength, which he needed after a poor run of performance in the singles chart.

My second choice this week is of the ‘I’m here for you’ type. I featured the Boss a few weeks ago, but make no apology for doing so again – he has, after all, made many great records in a career going back to 1973. This is one of his gentler ones:

The song was on Bruce’s eighth studio album, Tunnel Of Love, released in 1987. This was the follow up to Born In The USA so it tends to pale by comparison. I bought it at the time – it was actually the last vinyl album I bought – and I have always loved it. In my view it has been underrated, though it has sold well over 5m copies, which most acts would die for! This was the fourth of five singles released from the album. It didn’t chart in the US but reached #13 here: I guess most who wanted it had bought the album by then, as that was #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.

There have been several covers of Tougher Than The Rest, one of my favourites being that by Shawn Colvin on her 2015 album Uncovered. That leads me neatly into my next selection for this week which is by, you guessed it, Shawn Colvin. It’s almost as if I plan this, isn’t it? One of her cover versions appeared in my previous post, but this is one of her own. It is another of those ‘use my strength’ songs:

Apologies for the static video but with a song as good as that, who needs pictures anyway? The song featured on Shawn’s second album, Fat City, from 1992. She has never been one to make huge dents in the charts: that album got as far as #142 in the States and didn’t chart here at all. In fact, her best chart performances have only been a #39 in the US and a #67 here – and not with the same album. Her singles haven’t fared much better, either. This one didn’t chart anywhere, as far as I can tell, and she has only ever hit the top 100 once in the US, with Sunny Came Home in 1997. That reached #7 there and #29 here, but at least we’ve got six of her other singles into our top 100 too! I’ve heard it said that some music is too good for the charts: if that is true, Shawn is a case in point, as her output has been uniformly excellent.

For this week’s final choice I’m returning to one of my favourite artists, ever. Somehow I’ve reached the 24th in this series without him, and it’s long overdue that I fixed that. I’ve written about his music before, in particular when I marked his passing with my tribute. This song didn’t feature in that tribute – I had so many to choose from! – but it is still one of my favourites, of his or anyone else’s:

That is just so good! Not a bad backing band, either. The song was on what was officially Tom’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989, though members of the Heartbreakers played on several tracks, particularly Mike Campbell, who you saw playing guitar in the video. The album was #3 in the US and #8 here, and has sold over 6m copies. Three of its tracks, including this one, were released as singles – this one peaked at #12 in the US and #28 here. Its message of strength and defiance against the odds is a perfect fit for my theme this week. It has also been used by a number of US politicians as music at their campaign rallies, most notably in June this year by the orange moron, who received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from Tom’s family, saying that Tom had always wanted his music to bring people together, not divide them. And so say all of us – well, apart from the aforementioned moron, that is.

A little footnote for you, too. As Wikipedia notes: ‘The song has become a tradition at Florida Gators football games at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Petty’s hometown. Petty died unexpectedly on October 3, 2017, and at the next home game the following Saturday, the song was played between the third and fourth quarters after the traditional university song “We Are The Boys From Old Florida.” It has been played at that time at every subsequent Florida home game, with fans singing along and holding aloft cell phones to fill the stadium with lights.’

Here is that first time:

That, for me, is a perfect example both of the strength and power of music, and of its ability to unite us. A suitable place to end this week’s tunes, I think. Take care, be safe and stay strong.