Here’s thinking the prevailing thought out there amongst Nora Jones fans is any new album from her, even if it consists of songs not necessarily recorded with the intention of releasing them as a complete work, is better than no new Nora Jones music. That new “album” is called Begin Again and it brings together a collection of singles that Jones recorded over the past year with a variety of collaborators. It gets the Ear Bliss look-see this week along with the latest solo release from Tyler Ramsey of Band of Horses fame. Ramsey’s run as lead guitarist and co-songwriter for Band of Horses lasted three albums before he departed in 2017 to resume a solo career that he originally began in 2004. The new For the Morning is his fourth solo release. It is a lush affair with plenty of ear appeal.
In addition to our look at new albums from Jones and Ramsey, Ear Bliss this week continues its periodic series of “festival alerts” for some of the finer large-scale music events happening in the region this summer. The annual Green River Festival, which happens July 12-14 on the campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA, gets the look-see this week. Let’s get to it.
Blue Note Records
The new collection called Being Again from multiple Grammy award winner Norah Jones is an eclectic affair that brings together a mix of singles with various collaborators that Jones began releasing last summer, along with a collection of previously unreleased songs by the singer. Those collaborators are a who’s who of sorts that includes Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame, singer/pianist Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a Doveman), noted jazz drummer Brian Balde, trumpeter Dave Guy of the Dap-Kings and Budos Band, and saxophonist Leon Michels. The seven songs find Jones in a creative spirit spreading her wings a bit. Says Jones, “I felt inspired to record and try different things. Quick and fun and easy and low-pressure. It’s a great way to collaborate with other people. Just a day or three in the studio and that’s it.” The material moves from the experimental maneuvers of opener “My Heart is Full” and later on “Uh Oh” to the jazzy soul of the title track, the New Orleans vibe of “It Was You,” and the simple and spare pop purity of her collaborations with Tweedy on the tunes “A Song With No Name” and the twangy “Wintertime.” With a soulful and warm voice, Jones is one of those singers for which there really is no bad song. That is clear and evident on Begin Again. Visit www.bluenote.com.
For the Morning
On his latest solo release called For the Morning, former Band of Horses lead guitarist and songwriter Tyler Ramsey delivers a genre-blurring collection of expansive and dreamy roots pop. Ramsey cites the changes in his life – birth of his daughter, a retreat to the mountains outside of Asheville to lay stakes, and a general moving away from the touring grind of a musician – as providing newfound inspiration for this creative burst. Taking stock in his new surroundings plays into the overall feel of For the Morning. Like a hike in the woods, it is meditative in its many sounds, lush and languid but thankfully devoid of any overproduction to get to that place. Guitars, piano and pedal steel with Ramsey’s tenor voice gently sweep into a soundscape often as striking as his newfound views living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Standout tracks include the luxuriant “A Dream of Home” written on an off day during a Band of Horses tour, “Breaking of a Heart” and “Evening Country” each featuring harmony vocals by Thad Cockrell and Molly Parden, and the beautifully spare “Cheap Summer Dress” featuring spot-on harmony by Joan Shelley. For the Morning is Ramsey’s first solo album since 2011’s The Valley Wind. It finds him in a good place and in a groove all unto his own. Recommended. Visit www.tylerramsey.com.
Ear Bliss Festival Alert: Green River Festival
Cited in past years by both the New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine as one of their must-see summer music festivals, the Green River Festival held each year on the bucolic campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, Massachusetts (a comfortable 2-3 hour ride from the Ocean State) is always a good time mixing top talent with the terrific vibe of its Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts locale. This year’s festival happens July 12-14 and once again features an outstanding lineup with something for everyone. Music kicks off Friday evening on three stages and then transitions to four stages running continuously both Saturday and Sunday beginning at noon each day. Friday evening performers include Lucinda Williams, Parsonsfield, Heather Maloney, Lakou Mizik, Upstate and Ladama and more. Also happening Friday will be the Next Wave Stage showcasing some of the best up-and-coming talent from the Pioneer Valley area. Featured performers on Saturday include The Wood Brothers, Tyler Childers, Angelique Kidjo, Remain In Light, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Low Cut Connie, The Suitcase Junket, Samantha Fish, Red Baraat, Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward, Session Americana, Ali McGuirk, The Stone Coyotes, Sean McConnell, and more. Sunday’s lineup includes The Devil Makes Three, The Record Company, Rhiannon Giddens, The Suffers, Fantastic Negrito, Mipso, Eilen Jewell, Cedric Burnside, Philip B. Price, The Gaslight Tinkers, The East Pointers, and Mapache. Camping is available at the nearby Franklin County Fairgrounds which offers over 40 acres of flat, open camping area and includes RV electric hook-ups, multiple bathrooms with showers, and a weather emergency shelter. For more information and tickets, visit www.greenriverfestival.com. Information on area accommodations can also be found at the festival web site.
The 2019 Blues Music Association nominee for Best Emerging Artist Album, Amanda Fish, performs at Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) on Friday evening for a single show starting at 8 pm. The following evening is the annual Gemini birthday bash for Greg Abate. The club will celebrate the Prince of Be Bop’s new recording titled “Gratitude” made with the Tim Ray Trio who will be on hand to back Greg that evening. Show time is 8 pm.
Perennial South County favorite Cheryl Wheeler returns to the area for a performance at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (3481 Kingstown Road) on Saturday night at 8 pm. At Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale (1464 Kingstown Road) that same evening, Boston-based Celtic group Fellswater plays at 7:30 pm. Also, in South County on that same evening, the Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (39 Railroad Ave) plays host to a twin bill featuring The Hoolios and Chris Ross & The North at 8 pm.
Looking into next week, make plans to be at Bold Point Park in East Providence (555 Waterfront Drive) as it kicks off its outdoor concert season with a bill featuring the Robert Cray Band, Marc Cohn with Blind Boys of Alabama, and special guest Shemekia Copeland. Show time is 6 pm.
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.