The Stellas: (EMI)
This is the debut album from the Toronto based married couple MaryLynn and Brad Stella—hence the act’s name that might confuse some people who think this was an all-girl act.
The duo is a mature couple with pre-teen kids and they have had a later than usual start at a music career, but this solid retro country album and their recent tour gigs prove they are real talents on the rise.
The Stellas have just come off the very successful national tour with Johnny Reid and now they are about to embark an another national tour opening for Terri Clark.
The Stellas have scored a handsome but minor hit with Perfect which is a lovely cover of the late ’80s song by the UK act Fairground Attraction whose original made No.1 on the British charts.
Unfortunately Fairground Attraction never had another hit and I am sure The Stellas are hoping for a much longer career and I like their chances. They have strong self-penned songs and Mrs. Stella has a natural, effortless and crystalline voice.
In spite of his rockabilly outfits and her early kd lang-like apparel, The Stellas are more ’60s retro than alt-country but an act you will want to see.
Jake Owen: Barefoot Blue Jean Night (RCA)
Jake Owen, like some of his contemporaries such as Luke Bryan, Dean Brody, Gavin Degraw, even Keith Urban to a degree, sing the praises of down home, small town, rural life with great river beaches, pickup trucks, mobile homes, cold beer etc., but their music is aimed for arena-sized audiences with arena-produced music.
Case in point—Jake Owen has a huge hit with his album title track Barefoot Blue Jean Night where the twinkling stars he sees from his night driving around dirt backroads tells him “we were shining like lighters in the dark in the middle of a rock show.”
So much for rural imagery and that has been somewhat controversial for country fans who decry acts which aim for big audiences with country that mixes rock and pop.
The rest of this third release from Owen is fairly predictable with a power ballad or two, some sensitive love songs and a few guitar-driven country rockers, the best being Nobody Feelin’ No Pain.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Winterland (Sony)
I am sure I have mentioned before that Hendrix died after releasing only two studio albums and one live collection. Since then there have been scores, if not hundreds, of Hendrix albums released and many of them are not worth wasting your time hearing.
But after decades of legal wrangling the Hendrix family now owns the entire catalogue and they are trying to set the record straight with more credible albums. The most recent has been the Winterland concert offerings.
I was sent the single 11-track CD which approximates a Hendrix gig very well. These Winterland sessions were taped over Hendrix’ three-day, sold out, six-concert bookings in San Francisco in October of 1968 at the famed Winterland Arena (an old hockey barn built in 1928 seating 5,400).
This re-issue also comes as a four CD box or an eight vinyl album set but they are for the confirmed fan only. There is a lot of repetition from gig to gig and who wants to hear six versions of Foxy Lady.
The odd thing is, Hendrix’ next new album, the brilliant double Electric Ladyland was soon to be released but he played next to no songs from it other than Voodoo Child.
Also, Hendrix complains to the audience just how tired he was and in the contemporary era no act with Hendrix stature would be forced to or agree to such a crazy, grueling schedule.
Anyway, if you haven’t heard enough live Hendrix yet here is the opportunity.
Patti Smith: Outside
This is a superb single CD, 18 -track overview of new wave, punk poet Patti Smith’s recorded career.
This compilation has just been released as her autobiography of her ’60s and ’70s relationship with controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is about to be released in paperback. Smith is currently working on a film script retelling the times.
All of Smith’s best known material is here, including her apocalyptic cover of Van Morrison’s Gloria, her lone hit a cover of Springsteen’s Because The Night and her minor hit of The Byrds’ So You Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star which puts a whole new spin on the song.
There is a fine booklet with Smith’s notes to each song while fans will want this for her radio edit of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.
An excellent retrospective.