Yvette Landry & The Jukes, ‘Louisiana Lovin’’
From the album’s first piano notes, on the Jack Greene classic “I Need Somebody Bad,” it’s clear that Eric Adcock will be a standout player on “Louisiana Lovin’”: Joyful and unabashedly old-fashioned, his keyboards play the role of plutonium-powered Delorean, delivering you directly into a 1950s southern juke joint before you can say “Great Scott!”
But Adcock has plenty of competition for album MVP — especially Landry, whose sultry vocals on tracks like the opener and “Daddy Daddy” combine the playfulness of Wanda Jackson with Loretta Lynn’s lucious heartbreak. It’s a perfect match with the cherrywood-smooth voice of collaborator Roddie Romero, who proves an able sparring partner with Landry on duets like the smoky “Homesick Blues,” and provides sweet harmonies on tracks like Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind.”
Throw in Derek Huston’s honking sax and you have what may be the most lovable vintage throwback of the year.
Giulia Millanta, ‘Conversation With A Ghost’
There’s something spooky and beautiful about the new album from Millanta, who comes to us from Florence, Italy by way of Austin, Texas and -- judging from her eclectic musical choices — every cabaret, music hall and opera house along the way.
There’s nothing predictable about the chanteuse’s breathy meditations, replete with touches of torch-song longing (“Coney Island”), noirish twang (the chilling “Hourglass”) and even a touch of Shirley Bassey brass (“Enough is Enough”). And lyrically, Millanta isn’t shy about painting dark, striking pictures — often in several languages — of a troubled and troubling world on tracks like “Violence” and the melancholy, flamenco-tinged album closer, “Space.”
Liz Frame & The Kickers, ‘Sparrow in a Shoebox’
Frame, a longtime staple of the New England music scene, simply has one of the most striking voices out there — a perfect country quaver imbued with just the right doses of melancholy and hard-earned resignation. Throw in lyrics that are equal parts evocative and thought-provoking and you have her group’s latest offering, which offers up no shortage of stunners.
There’s the title track, a twangy slice of country folk about long-held dreams that, like the bird of the title, are not dead yet; the deceivingly rollicking bluegrass of the unhealthy-relationship ditty “I Used To Be Your Slave”; and the sad, biting nostalgia of “Ungrateful Girl,” on which a spurned woman qualifies her advice to her ex’s new lover by noting, “I’m an ungrateful girl, what do I know?”
Frame and her Kickers — John Webb on lead guitars, Sean Hennessy on bass and Pete Whitehead on drums — take some dark paths on “Sparrow,” like on the turbulent “Little Brown House,” about a woman trapped in domestic turmoil who “wants to sleep for 1,000 years.” But by the time they get to the album’s closer, the sweetly resigned “I Don’t Worry No More,” you’ve been treated to a tour through a beautifully produced, poignantly delivered Americana landscape that leaves behind more hope than heartache.
Kingsley Flood, ‘Neighbors & Strangers’
Maybe it’s the timing, but Kingsley Flood’s latest feels like the perfect culmination of the band’s thoughtful approach and the country we find ourselves living in. Punctuated by frontman Naseem Khuri’s gritty vocals and Gloucester guitarist George Hall’s fierce licks, these are rollicking and melodic tracks with serious musical heft that paint a decisive portrait of Trump’s America.
“Call me a trespasser and untrue, and I’ll tell your history better than you,” Khuri sings on standout track “Fifth of July,” which feels particularly prescient given what’s been going on at the border. The churning “Little Man,” meanwhile, is a cathartic rave-up that seems aimed squarely at the commander-in-chief: “Won’t you tell me what I’m itching to hear? Won’t you show me who I’m itching to fear?”
Of course the turns of phrase wouldn’t matter if these weren’t great songs overall, and they are most definitely that: From the noir rock of album-opener “All That Gold” to the introspective closer “Never Been Home,” the mix of clever percussion, perfectly complementary horns and keyboards, striking licks and Khuri’s urgent vocals make for what may be Kingsley Flood’s best collection yet.
— Peter Chianca (firstname.lastname@example.org) is news director for Wicked Local North of Boston and author of “Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums.” Follow him on Twitter at @pchianca.
Album reviews: Recent & recommended music for August
Yvette Landry & The Jukes, ‘Louisiana Lovin’’