New Music for Old People: NRBQ, Bill Champlin, Big Wreck, Andreas Varady and More

By , Columnist

Which came first — the chicks or the eggs? E contemplates breakfast…

This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.

July252014 by Willow on Grooveshark

1. "Getting to Know You" — NRBQ (2:01)

What a perfect opening song for this column — and what’s great about any version of NRBQ is they can usually tackle any genre of music and make it their own. The latest version of the band—with the only original member, pianist-singer-character Terry Adams—decided to tackle a Rodgers and Hammerstein chestnut from The King and I from back in 1951. And if you have an open mind (or a hole in your head) you’ll be unconsciously singing this while you’re in the shower within two days of hearing it here. I’d bet on it...

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Terry Adams second from right. The guy on the left doesn't get the joke — kinda like American politics nowadaze … just kidding.

2. "Come What May" — Big Wreck (3:02)

This was a band that was formed at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1994 by Canadian singer Ian Thornley and guitarist Brian Doherty. They got a record deal in 1997 and put out their first album. It scored better in Canada because of Ian and a second album in 2001 did not increase their popularity so they broke up and Ian went solo. In 2011 Ian and Brian got back together and restarted Big Wreck. An album resulted that same year and Canada paid attention. Now here is their fourth album, Ghosts, which came out last month, and Al really likes it. It reminds me musically a bit of KingsX, a big Kooper favorite. This is my favorite track and I’m hoping YOU will like it.

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3. "Agatha Chang" — Eels (3:10)

Mark Oliver Everett (nicknamed "E") is the boss here. Since 1996, band members have come and gone, but E rules. His ballads are Randy Newman-esque because of vocal similarities and a disdain for common musicalities. I have always considered him a very underrated songwriter and feel he is right up there with Newman. This is from his latest album, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, which was just released. It’s a double album and a great place to start if you’ve never had the pleasure. This track jumped into my Eels top ten as soon as I heard it. This is an example of GREAT songwriting — lyrically and musically, it is quite original in its quiet way. Wish I’d written it...

4. "Devil on the Loose" — Mavis Staples (3:04)

The Staple Singers ceased to exist when patriarch Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples ascended to Heaven, but daughter Mavis keeps her spectacular vocals alive in clubs and concert halls everywhere along with a great young band. This is from her 2004 album Have a Little Faith, and thanks to Mavis and a few others I have a great deal of faith in Mavis turning out great album after great album for the rest of her formidable life.

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5. "Our Demons" — Ages and Ages (3:07)

This is a wonderful group made up of seven everyday-looking people who just enjoy playing and singing. They have influences, and yet have become their own thing. Make sure to watch the video of them with a children's choir in a small room for an NPR radio/video concert featuring the title song of their new album Divisionary.

6. "Never Let You Go" — Bill Champlin (2:49)

In San Francisco, before there was Tower of Power, before there was Cold Blood, before there was Sly and The Family Stone, there were the Sons of Champlin. And man, were they great! Part of my inspiration for BS&T came from them. And then when they broke up leader Bill made solo albums and lo...they were also great! So now iTunes has them ALL online and most for just $5.98. I didn’t realize how many I DIDN’T have and bought ‘em all up. I just started going through them, and this was the first track that bent my mind. I suspect all the background voices on this are Bill but there are no credits (no thanks to iTunes) so I’m just guessing, but what a great R&B composition musically and a great production. Jump in Lake Champlin NOW!

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7. "I'm Not the Only One" — Sam Smith (3:16)

He’s a repeater in this column and getting huger everyday, sellin’ CDs and downloads like crazy. Here’s just one reason why.

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8. "Holding On for Life" — Broken Bells (2:47)

This duo’s second album, After the Disco, was released earlier this year and this is the single. Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (The Shins) were mutual fans and got together in 2011 and released their first album. They work in the studio as a duo but use a full band on the road. There's good singing here as it progresses and a nice arrangement.

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9. "Baby's Gonna Kick" — John Hiatt (2:57)

Well, now the whole album is out and there’s some great simplistic groove stuff on here. The combo of that groove and Hiatt’s usual twisted lyrics is certainly fine with me. How ‘bout ‘choo?

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Whoever is listening: Hiatt should open on Neil Young's next tour; at this point they really complement each other and it would be a great night of music … but not hair.

10. "Let the Good Times Roll" — Andreas Varady (2:48)

This is NOT the usual story. Hungarian-born on July 24, 1997 (happy birthday, Andreas!), this 17-year-old started playing at four and, after his family moved to Ireland, starting getting a great deal of attention. He was the youngest headliner in history (13) at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, and was signed up by Quincy Jones recently. He has a new deal with Verve Records and a new self-titled album out now. This is bluesy for him—he’s usually more jazz-inclined—but if I could play like this I wouldn’t be sitting here typing on my computer now. The vocal is by usual jazzer Gregory Porter, who favors a cross between BB King and Cab Calloway here. I’m hoping/guessing Quincy did the horn charts. They don’t really make tracks like this anymore. At any rate, Andreas steals the show from some pretty talented “older folks.” It's scary for a teenager to play like this. See ya next week. I’m gonna go practice now.

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Jeeez! I wish I could afford that guitar! I guess he's not a hungry Hungarian. I got better shirts and jackets, though…

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