New releases for 2019 are just starting to trickle in and one of the first out of the gates comes from Portland, Oregon-based band The Delines. A group whose members are from bands such as The Decemberists, Richmond Fontaine, Minus 5, and Damnations TX, The Delines was just in its infancy when it headed into a recording studio to make its 2014 debut called Colfax Avenue. The album blended alt country and soul and landed in the Ear Bliss and plenty of other best-of lists and was one of the hidden gems from that year. Talk about chemistry! Move to 2016 and with a follow-up album almost in the can and the band gaining steam, singer Amy Boone was hit by a car in Austin where she lives and severely injured effectively derailing everything. After two years of multiple surgeries and skin grafts and having to learn to walk again, she reunited with the band earlier this year to finish the album. Titled The Imperial, it dives deeper into the soul side of things and is right there with its predecessor. It gets the Ear Bliss look-see this week along with the late 2018 all-covers album from Austin-based roots artist Charley Crocket called Lil G.L.’s Blue Bonanza. Covers albums can be a dime a dozen, but this one from Crockett is a bona-fide keeper. Let’s get to it.
El Cortez Records
A late-night country soul haze hangs over the warm sounds of Portland, Oregon-based The Delines as found on the sophomore release from the band called The Imperial. It is a record a little of a long time coming. Let’s start by going back to 2014 when the band released its debut recording that year called Colfax Avenue. An album that divvied itself between alt country spunk and soulful benders, it was an easy-to-warm-up-to affair with the calling cards the songs of front man Willy Vlautin transcended in the comforting voice of lead singer Amy Boone and all set to a musical backdrop by a band of players that had been around the block a few times with groups such as The Decemberists, Richmond Fontaine, and Minus 5. The results were nothing short of gorgeous with the album receiving much critical acclaim. As the band was picking up more and more steam and close to finishing the follow-up to Colfax Avenue, Boone was involved in a horrendous auto accident in her home base of Austin, Texas. That was spring of 2016 and after many surgeries and extensive rehab, she finally had enough strength to rejoin the band last spring and finish that follow-up which is the newly released The Imperial. The dusky-voiced Boone is all soul on the 10 tracks comprising The Imperial. It marries perfectly to the character-driven songs rich in imagery and feeling and once again all written by Vlautin and most all set to a somber backdrop mixing guitars, percussion, pedal steel, keyboards and horns. The sum total is an album in The Imperial that’s every bit as captivating as its predecessor. Highly recommended. Visit www.thedelines.com.
Lil G.L.’s Blue Bonanza
Son of Davy Records
On the second album of all covers in his ongoing Lil’ G.L. series, Austin-based artist Charley Crockett clearly demonstrates his expertise in American roots music history cherry picking 15 songs from the catalogues of such revered old school types as George Jones, Ernest Tubb, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed, Charles Brown, Lavelle White, Ray Charles and delivering them with panache aplenty. Blue Bonanza follows the first in the Lil G.L. series called Honky Tonk Jubilee from 2017 and the two albums bookend Crockett’s excellent 2018 album of original songs called Lonesome as a Shadow. Blue Bonanza features an ace collection of pickers backing the singer and guitarist Crockett collectively nailing each and every song. Crockett learned his craft in large part the hard way busking his way from L.A. and New Orleans to New York City and Europe to Northern Africa and this series pays tribute to that journey, that being a set of songs of a quality that never fail to strike a chord in listeners. Crockett’s presentation is far from some tired old rehashing of the same old, same old. Rather, Blue Bonanza presents skillful reinterpretations of 15 carefully chosen classics balancing blues and honky tonk country with the ever-interesting voice of Crockett front and center and a backing combo that doubles as his road band that obviously know the in’s and out’s of these timeless tunes. The selections, most all with a bluesy hue underscoring them, span nuggets like “Good Time Charley’s Got the Blues” and “That’s How I Got to Memphis” to “The Race is On” and “Bright Lights Big City.” In other words, all killer and no filler. Recommended. Visit www.charleycrockett.com.
Charley Crockett will perform at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival.