Album Reviews: Three Little-Known Winners

By , Contributor

Here's my latest look at new releases from artists you’ve likely never heard of but might well enjoy.

Friday Night, Zora Young & Little Mike and the Tornadoes. A longtime fixture on the Chicago blues scene, Zora Young sounds as if she was born to sing this music. And her fluid, soulful voice isn’t this album’s only calling card. The spotlight shines equally here on the backup by New York-based Little Mike and the Tornadoes, a consummate blues outfit who have been rocking the joint since 1978. Every time you turn around, this CD delivers another killer guitar or piano solo, and the horn section cooks throughout. Mike Markowitz (aka Little Mike) penned four fine tracks here, and the program also includes such chestnuts as “Otis Spann’s “Country Girl” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “44 Blues.” (Fun fact: Young is related to Wolf.) I know this is a lot to say but Chicago blues doesn’t get much better than this.

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Waking Days, Jeff Crosby. Jeff Crosby isn’t pushing the boundaries of any genres on this album—he works well within the confines of traditional folk and rock—but that doesn’t mean you’ve heard it all before. This is unusually tuneful, well-hooked, and atmospheric music, and it comes supercharged with jingle-jangle guitar work, road-weathered vocals, and memorable, introspective lyrics. Tracks like “City Girls” and “Emily” will have you coming back for more of Waking Days; in fact, to borrow an old line from Lay’s potato chip commercials: bet you can’t play it just once.

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Rich in Love, Colin Linden. Colin Linden is no newcomer—his first album came out three decades ago—which makes his relative obscurity all the more difficult to understand. This first studio outing since 2009’s From the Water benefits from his warm, funky vocals, which recall the work of the late, great Jesse Winchester. Linden shines on guitar, ukulele, and mandolin and garners backing from a fine bassist and drummer and a variety of guests, most notably famed harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Best cut: “Delia Come for Me,” which was inspired both by “Delia,” the old country blues, and the 2011 execution in Georgia of a man who may have been innocent. Like everything in this all-originals program, the song has the same timeless feel as the Band’s recordings.

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Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com), a longtime magazine editor, has written about music, politics, and popular culture for more than 75 periodicals. His books include Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon as well as Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches and Encounters and Leonard Cohen…

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