For this week, Ear Bliss takes a look at a couple of recent releases from the Easy Eye Sound record label. Begun by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame whose own 2017 solo album Waiting on a Song was the debut release for the label, perhaps the biggest tipoff to the aesthetic Auberbach is striving for as a label owner is the label’s name and particularly the word “Sound” in it. His approach is a return to the days of yore where a recording studio had a “house band” that provided accompaniment when an artist came through its doors to make a record. We’re talking legendary places like the Stax and American studios in Memphis and FAME in the Muscle Shoals area, each with its own distinct sound. With a crack collection of veteran Nashville players and writers at the ready, Auerbach has been doing much the same at his Easy Eye Sound Studio in Music City in going for a certain sound and style on the records he makes. Two recent solo releases from the British singer Yola and Oakland-based singer Shannon Shaw of Shannon & the Clams fame are proof positive that the Easy Eye approach is yielding excellent results. Those albums are in the Ear Bliss spotlight this week. Let’s get to business.
Walk Through Fire
Easy Eye Sound Records
British soul and country singer Yola has certainly been on the fast track since meeting Dan Auerbach (Black Keys, The Arcs) last September. It was the annual Americana Music Fest in Nashville and Yola’s management was able to get the word out to folks, such as Auerbach, that she was a talent worth checking out. Auerbach liked what he heard, so much that he signed her almost immediately to his Easy Eye Sound record label. By the end of October, she was in his studio with Auerbach’s team writing and recording songs for her debut album released at the end of February. Walk Through Fire is that album and boy did it come together quickly. With Auerbach producing and accompaniment by the who’s who of ace Nashville musicians who comprise his superb Easy Eye Sound house band, the resulting album is an exquisite collection of country soul and clearly establishes Yola as a force to be reckoned with. Recent appearances at the South-by-Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas in March followed by a performance on national TV on the CBS Saturday Morning news program later that month further solidified such a claim. Her passionate delivery across the 12 tracks comprising Walk Through Fire are dripping with deep soul and gutbucket emotion which from this vantage point results in one of the finest debuts these ears have heard in a while. Try to resist swooning over songs like the gorgeous “Ride Out in The Country” or the equally arresting “Faraway Look” with its dramatic surges. Credit the production work of Auerbach who deploys a rich mix of orchestral strings, fiddle, steel and tremolo guitar all combining to provide the perfect complement to Yola’s equally rich and evocative voice. It all makes for a lethally good tonic and a highly recommended one at that with the classic Dusty Springfield album “Dusty in Memphis” springing to mind at first listen. Visit www.easyeyesound.com.
Yola will appear at the Newport Folk Festival on Friday, July 26.
Shannon in Nashville
Easy Eye Sound Records
Shannon Shaw is best known for her work as leader of the punk pop band Shannon & the Clams. The album Shannon in Nashville represents her first foray as a solo artist. It thrusts her into the spotlight with the focus purely on her as a singer (& songwriter), and a terrific one at that. Checking in at 13 songs with each and every one attached to lush and layered arrangements courtesy of producer Dan Auerbach and his Easy Eye Sound “house band,” Shannon in Nashville is a return to the sounds of yesteryear. It’s equal parts ’60s Brill Building infectiousness with similar era Muscle Shoals grit and soul and with Shaw demonstrating as much blue-eyed soul as pop panache as a singer. Standout tracks are plenty on the album including “Cryin’ My Eyes Out,” the melodramatic opener “Golden Frames,” the terrific “Freddies ‘n’ Teddies,” and the heartbreaker “Cold Pillow” which steals a page out of some of the classic countrypolitan ballads of the 1960s. Make no mistake, Shaw’s voice is not some crystal-clear instrument. Her sandy and soulful rasp has plenty of backbone to it which marries up perfectly to the highly orchestrated pop arrangements filling Shannon in Nashville. Recommended.
Never a dull moment when the Commander Cody Band is in the house of eggrolls and blues. No doubt that will be the case on Friday when the Commander lands at Chan’s Restaurant (267 Main Street) in Woonsocket for a single show starting at 8 pm. The blues and more continue the following evening when Muddy Waters band alum John Primer & the Real Deal Blues Band roll into the venue for an 8 pm performance. Also in Woonsocket, Gary Puckett & Union Gap and the Grass Roots team up to stoke the memories at The Stadium Theatre (28 Monument Square), on Friday night at 8 pm.
Local hero Jon Campbell will be inducted into the R.I. Music Hall of Fame this weekend and given Jon’s history, how appropriate that it happen in South County. Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale (1764 Kingstown Road) is the place to be on Friday night at 7:30 to salute this mighty accomplishment by Jon!
On Saturday evening, the Ryan Montbleau Band performs at The Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (35 Railroad Avenue) at 8 pm, while up in Cumberland at the Blackstone River Theatre (549 Broad Street) the legendary Irish fiddler and all-time BRT favorite Kevin Burke headlines at 8 pm.
Also on Saturday evening, but over in the East Bay, the great Robbie O’Connell and Rose Clancy team up at the Stone Church Coffeehouse in Bristol (300 High Street) for a 7:30 pm show. Further north, the Duke Robillard Band entertain for your dancing pleasure at the German Club in Pawtucket (78 Carter Avenue) at 7 pm.
Looking into next week, Murder by Death and Sarah Shook & the Disarmers comprise an outstanding and highly recommended twin bill of indie Bloodshot Records artists at the Columbus Theatre in Providence (270 Broadway) on Wednesday night at 8 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.