A simmering new melding of Southern rock and R&B arrives with the new JJ Grey album, while the Replacements and Shuggie Otis — yeah, you read that right — return with their first new music in ages.
Willie Nelson displays his utter command of the songbook era, issuing an album that recalls the glories of 1978′s Stardust, even while mixing it up some.
Three separate Jeff Lynne-related reissues are also on tap, including his only solo effort, the most recent original studio effort credited to the Electric Light Orchestra and the band’s last live date.
Elsewhere in the reissue pile, we find an ultra-rare early-1980s soundtrack from Tony Banks, one that helps connect the dots for fans who wonder where the Genesis stalwart’s more recent interest in classical themes came from.
In new jazz, we have a new collaboration between Ken Fowser and Behn Gillece, and something from Will Martina. We’ve also got the hard stuff from Iced Earth, Skid Row, Spiritual Beggars, and Flotsam and Jetsam — who are seeing their recent self-issued album get a wider release.
Then there are things that largely defy categorization, like Beatallica (Metallica meets, yes, the Beatles) and Churchwood (punk meets country).
Still, nothing here is as surprising as the return of Shuggie Otis (who’s back with a reissue and a host of previously unreleased stuff) and the Replacements (whose last official release arrived back in 1990) …
Alan Wilson – The Blind Owl (Blues)
Ana Popovic – Can You Stand The Heat (Blues)
Andy Snitzer – The Rhythm (Jazz)
Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (Folk)
BEATALLICA – ABBEY LOAD (ROCK/METAL): Beatallica returns with more mash-ups of Metallica and Beatles classics, and the results are always entertaining and often hilarious. There’s even something of a Lulu “tribute” included. — Fred Phillips
Biv and the Mneumonics – The Pace (Pop/Rock)
CHURCHWOOD – 2 [Vinyl] (POP/ROCK): A tasty mixture of greasy blues rock, deranged intellect and mudhole-stomping Texas attitude, Churchwood once again illustrates what a post-punk Skip James might have sounded like had he gotten into the lysergic weirdness of 13th Floor Elevators. Hard on the heels of 2011′s mind-bending self-titled release, 2 is in many ways an even more potent blast of post-punk roots rock — as co-founding guitarist Bill Anderson simply lashes the Beat-poet stream-of-consciousness lyrics of singer Joe Doerr. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
Drivin n Cryin – Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock EP (Pop/Rock)
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – LIVE; ZOOM (POP/ROCK): Zoom was the 2001 all-star album issued by Jeff Lynne, while Live is a rare concerts performance from an aborted tour that was to follow. The Zoom reissue, from Frontiers Records, has been expanded to include both “One Day,” an unreleased cut, and a new live version of ELO’s “Turn to Stone” — recorded live from CBS Television City. The former has the aching melancholy of classic ELO cuts like “Telephone Line,” while “Turn to Stone” returns a little more synthesized but otherwise no worse for the wear. (More here.) — Nick Deriso
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock N Roll (Pop/Rock)
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM – UGLY NOISE (ROCK/METAL): The self-produced latest record from thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam gets an official release by Metal Blade Records, and it’s everything that I hoped it would be. While their last album, The Cold, was something of a comeback, this one ranks among their best, drawing on the more progressive bent of Drift, as well as some heavier thrash tunes. (More here.) — Fred Phillips
Frankie Valli – Hits (Vocals)
Harry Belafonte – Calypso [Gold Disc] (Pop/Rock)
ICED EARTH – LIVE IN ANCIENT KOURION (ROCK/METAL): I was interested to see how new vocalist Stu Block would sound live, sans the studio touch-ups and effects found on the band’s last album Dystopia. To my disappointment, what I’ve heard from this one sounds more like a studio album than a live album. — Fred Phillips
Iron and Wine – Ghost on Ghost (Pop/Rock)
Jane Monheit – The Heart of the Matter (Jazz)
Jeff Berlin – Low Standards (Jazz)
JEFF LYNNE – ARMCHAIR THEATRE (POP/ROCK): Fans will want to check out a previously unreleased bonus track from this new reissue called “Borderline,” which begins as a lean rocker — underscoring the rockabilly influences that have always been part of Lynne’s core sound — before eventually taking on the hooky propulsion of the best Traveling Wilburys tracks from the period. Refurbishing 1990′s Armchair Theatre is part of the flurry of new activity for Lynne, who released two albums last October — Long Wave, a tribute to songs that impacted him as a youth; and Mr. Blue Sky, which featured newly re-recorded versions of classic tracks from his Electric Light Orchestra days. Before that, Armchair Theatre had been Lynne’s most recent solo effort. (More here.) — Nick Deriso
Joan Baez – Play Me Backwards (Folk)
John Coltrane – Sun Ship: Complete Sessions (Jazz)
JJ GREY AND MOFRO – THIS RIVER (BLUES): Combining the heartfelt dynamism of Otis Redding and the scuzzy grooves the Allman Brothers, JJ Grey and Mofro are reanimating a memorably greasy turn-of-the-1970s Deep South vibe for a new generation. If anything, this sixth studio effort drills even deeper into their backwoods influences. The tracks were played live, with everyone in a a single room, and put to tape in nearby St. Augustine. What producer Dan Prothero captures is a band at the peak of its powers, fully in command of its towering influences, and ready to put its unique stamp on them. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
KEN FOWSER AND BEHN GILLECE – TOP SHELF (JAZZ): Continues the progression of NYC’s dynamic duo of mainstream with another strong set of originals — stronger yet than on the prior DuoTone — and the freshness from yet another completely different backing band. Steve Einerson (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass) and Rodney Green (drums) are the latest group of vets to round out the Fowser/Gillece sound. They’ve got one more other thing going for them this time: Michael Dease sits in and shares the Fowser/Gillece front line for half of the tracks. As the heir apparent to Curtis Fuller as straight jazz’s top trombonist, he brings more pizazz, more sonic heft to the already substantial hard bop. That extra dimension often puts songs over the top. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron
Michael Feinstein – Change of Heart: The Songs of Andre Previn (Jazz)
Rachel Bitton – Rhythm of the Heart (Jazz)
Sarah Brightman – Dreamchaser (Vocals)
Shannon Mcnally – Small Town Talk (Folk)
SHUGGIE OTIS – INSPIRATION INFORMATION; WINGS OF LOVE (R&B): Long a shadowy figure, Shuggie Otis had become known more for his absence than for psychedelic soul successes like 1974′s Inspiration Information and writing songs like Brothers Johnson’s No. 5 1977 hit “Strawberry Letter 23″ — that is, until he suddenly reemerged last year. Hard on the heels of a European tour in late 2012, we are treated to both the release of a deluxe reissue of Inspiration Information as well as a newly constructed collection of 14 heretofore-unheard live and studio tracks recorded between 1975 and 2000. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
SKID ROW – UNITED WORLD REBELLION, CHAPTER 1 (ROCK/METAL): After a strange last outing that was more novelty record than anything, Skid Row returns to its classic sound on the first of a series of EPs that will constitute their latest album. It’s better than anything they’ve done since Sebastian Bach left, but yeah, you’ll still miss him. — Fred Phillips
SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – EARTH BLUES (ROCK/METAL): Who would have thought that some death metal guys could pump out such great 1970s blues rock, but Michael Amott’s (Arch Enemy, Carcass) Spiritual Beggars keeps on delivering. — Fred Phillips
STEVE EARLE – THE LOW HIGHWAY (COUNTRY): The lead single was a devastatingly impactful tale called “Invisible” that found Steve Earle, as is his way, getting beneath the bromides and the easy assumptions about the homeless, in a harrowing new song that digs out the hard-won scraps of remaining pride. Certainly seems to bode well for this new project. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
The Flaming Lips – The Terror (Pop/Rock)
The Mighty Mojo Prophets – Flyin’ Home From Memphis (Blues)
THE REPLACEMENTS – SONGS FOR SLIM (POP/ROCK): Anyone who was a fan of their dangerously debauched brand of college rock, so long gone now, would have thought that chances of the Replacements getting back together were roughly the same as the odds they’d cover a Gordon Lightfoot song. They’re doing both, with a very good cause being the thing that finally smoked out erstwhile leader Paul Westerberg. He’s joined by fellow ‘Mats vet Tommy Stinson for a new take on “I’m Not Sayin’” as part of a benefit for ex-guitarist Slim Dunlap — who suffered a debilitating stroke last year. He was hospitalized for nine months, and remains partially paralyzed. It’s broken and yet somehow beautiful — right down to Lightfoot’s utterly noncommittal lyric, which couldn’t be more perfect. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man (Pop/Rock)
Tony Banks – The Wicked Lady (Classical)
Ugly Kid Joe – Stairway to Hell (Rock/Metal)
Various artists – The Sun Blues Box: Blues, R&B and Gospel Music In Memphis 1950-1958 (Blues)
WILLIE NELSON – LET’S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE (COUNTRY): Once again, the erstwhile country outlaw applies his subtle and deeply emotional vocal style — set among these tasteful flourishes of Spanish-tinged guitar — to tracks from the likes of Irving Berlin (the title track, “Marie”), Frank Loesser (“I Wish I Didn’t Love You So”), Mack Gordon (“You’ll Never Know”) and Al Nevins (on the perfectly calibrated new take on “Twilight Time”), among others. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso
WILL MARTINA – MODULAR LIVING BY DESIGN (JAZZ): Performed mostly as a trio that includes Jason Lindner and keyboards and Richie Barshay on drums and percussion, Modular is a quiet, meditative record (except for the initial track) — not really jazz, at least, not in the swinging sense. Melodies are for the most part simple folk strains made interesting by contrapuntal arrangements or ruminative flow. Martina’s gift is to make this a successful strategy for compelling listening. (More here.) — S Victor Aaron
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito (Pop/Rock)