A new solo release from The Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster leads off this week’s edition of Ear Bliss. Inferno is the name of Forster’s record and it has that deft pop-tune touch synonymous with his work with legendary and beloved Brisbane, Australia-based indie rock/pop band The Go-Betweens who disbanded in 2006 after the death of the other co-founding member Grant McLennan. It occupies the Ear Bliss spotlight this week along with the sophomore release from up-and-coming Nashville-based songwriter Mary Bragg called Violets as Camouflage. It’s a good one. Let’s take a look.
Indie rock veteran Robert Forster of The Go-Betweens fame is back with his seventh solo album (and first in four years) called Inferno. It follows his 2015 release called Songs to Play. A folk-rock sage as seasoned as they come when it comes to songwriting and music making, the nine tracks comprising Inferno have a personal quality to them which much like Foster’s previous solo albums, draw from everyday life kind of experiences. Forster demonstrates the deft ability to weave his words into taut, alluring melodies keeping the instrumentation basic to not draw away from the songs themselves. In other words, a craftsman at work displaying the magic touch of a veteran of the indie pop wars. Try to resist the radio-ready glow of tunes like the light jangle of “No Fame” and the pop explosion that is the centerpiece “Inferno (Brisbane In Summer),” or the summertime groove and strum of a sweet sentimental ditty like “Life Has Turned A Page” and the contemplative balladry of album closer of “One Bird in the Sky.” Recorded in Berlin in the summer of 2018 with producer/engineer Victor Van Vugt who has helmed albums from the likes of Beth Orton and P J Harvey and who previously engineered Forster’s debut solo album Danger In The Past in 1990, there’s a level of ease to these songs delivered by Forster in a manner as if he was almost just sitting on a porch on a quiet afternoon picking and singing. That’s a great feel not easy to achieve, but Inferno has it in spades. Visit www.tapeterecords.com.
Violets as Camouflage
“Writing is the most vulnerable state that I’m ever in,” says Nashville-based singer/songwriter Mary Bragg. “But there can be a real beauty in that vulnerability when you know you’ve written the strongest thing that you can, when you’ve paired a killer melody with a meaningful lyric that says exactly what you’ve always wanted to say.” Vulnerability and offshoots of it are at the core of the 14 highly melodic songs comprising Bragg’s new album, Violets as Camouflage. It follows her critically acclaimed 2017 platter called Lucky Strike and from what these ears hear, is clearly an album worth seeking out. Recorded in Bragg’s home studio, musically speaking it is an album which blurs the line between genres with backing from a stellar cast of musicians including guitarist/pedal steel player Rich Hinman (Ben Kweller, Rosanne Cash), bassist Jimmy Sullivan (Lee Ann Womack, Mark Collie), guitarist Anthony da Costa (Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz), fiddler Kristin Weber (Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church) and drummer Jordan Perlson (Kaki King, Becca Stevens). The music is an Americana blend – rootsy with dashes of country, folk, blues, and good ol’ indie pop. At the heart of it is the voice of Bragg, a sometimes evocative and oft-times versatile soprano with the emotional breadth to drive each song home. Bragg displays the ability to rustle the heart straight out of the gates with the slow burn country lament of “I Thought You Were Somebody Else,” one of multiple high points across the album’s 14 tracks, all written or co-written by Bragg. It is a classic piece of country songwriting with an old school feel that would be as at home in the voice of a Patsy Cline as that of Bragg. The following track, “A Little Less,” a folk tune with fiddle and pedal steel, is equally as captivating. The tempo ebbs and flows the remainder of the way with the noteworthy vocal work of Bragg skillfully dictating the emotional tact of each tune with particular standouts including “Fool,” the sweet ramble of “Trouble Me Anytime,” “The Right Track,” and the country rocker “Runaway Train.” Recommended. Visit www.marybragg.com.
The James Montgomery Band is certainly no stranger to the stage at Chan’s Restaurant (267 Main Street) in Woonsocket where they will be on Friday night performing a single show starting at 8 pm. The following evening, Texas guitar slinger/vocalist Willie J. Laws is in the house of eggrolls & blues, also at 8 pm. At the nearby Twin River Casino Event Center in Lincoln (100 Twin River Road) on Friday evening, Kool & the Gang rekindle the memories starting at 7 pm.
A terrific twin bill is in store at the Met Café in Pawtucket (1005 Main Street) on Saturday night where power pop trio Jukebox the Ghost and Los Angeles-based alt rockers The Mowgli’s perform with doors opening at 8 pm.
Award-winning fiddler Jane Rothfield and Scottish singer and guitarist Allan Carr (who doubles as Rothfield’s husband) bring their unique blend of traditional and original Appalachian and Celtic music to the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland (549 Broad Street) on Saturday night headlining an 8 pm show. Local heroes The Vox Hunters are in the opening slot.
Music ‘n’ More at Lily Pads in Peace Dale (27 North Road) presents actress/playwright/singer par excellence Rose Weaver at 7 pm on Saturday night for a special performance where she will present “Ethel Waters Still Rises,” accompanied on piano by Delbert Collins. The legendary Waters frequently performed jazz, swing, and pop music on the Broadway stage and in concerts.
Led Zeppelin legacy tribute band No Quarter comes to the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (3481 Kingstown Road) on Saturday night at 8 pm, while over in East Greenwich at the Greenwich Odeum (59 Main Street) that same evening, Atlanta-based Fleetwood Mac tribute band Rumours does its thing, also at 8 pm.
Down South, Roomful of Blues makes a stop at The Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (35 Railroad Avenue) on Saturday night at 8 pm for your listening, dancing, and dining pleasure.
This Sunday being the 5th one of the month, it means Southern Rhode will be playing bluegrass at the Wood River Inn in Richmond (1193 Main Street) beginning at 6 pm.
Looking into next week, stuff-of-legend singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell will be at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River next Thursday night for an 8 pm performance.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.