New Music for Old People: NRBQ, Janiva Magness, Passenger, Carla Thomas and More

By , Columnist

Old-style R&B singers nowadays wear their wedding rings onstage and have a cord coming out of their microphone…

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.

June202014 by Willow on Grooveshark

1. "Guilty All the Same" — Linkin Park (2:54)

The Grammy-winning, 60 million album-selling band that started in 1996 is still here. They’ve been through every kind of change, including nu metal, rap-metal and electronica metal, but have returned to plain old heavy metal on this track from their latest opus The Hunting Party, out last week. I really like starting the column by bashing your freaking front door down.

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2. "Carousel Bar" — 7Horse (2:44)

Jumping off their second album, Songs for a Voodoo Wedding, just out June 10, this duo unashamedly gathers a handful of Keith Richard twigs and builds a fiery tribute to a drinking establishment they obviously have frequented a few times. You can tell that they have studied the five-string, G tuning guitar pranks that Keith made his trademark starting with "Honky Tonk Woman," "Tumbling Dice" and "Jumping Jack Flash." Fortunately, they don’t attempt Jagger, so there is something that is their own tucked in there somewhere. In this case, familiarity breeds instant recognizance and marching, charging feet.

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3. "The Architect" — O.A.R. (3:35)

This one tapped my shoulder because of the horn arrangement; it's not as derivative of BS&T or Chicago as the next generation of honkers, i.e. The Ides of March. Lyrically, I’m sorta scratching my head as the singer wishes to be acknowledged as per the title and left alone to build homes. I guess it's better than singing about groupies and being on the road for a change...

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I guess O.A.R. today stands for Ornate Architectural Ramblings … and all this time I thought they were about Skip Spence.

4. "B-A-B-Y" — Carla Thomas (2:47)

“Gee Whiz” was the first hit for Rufus Thomas’s dancin’ daughter, but I always leaned towards this one. She is such a great singer and the piano and organ are so tasty as well (usually Isaac Hayes and Booker T, respectively). The Stax-Volt catalog always stands the tests of times.

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5. "Don't Leave Me This Way" — Lee Fields (2:37)

This is a rarity situation. Elmer “Lee” Fields was born in North Carolina in 1951. He began his soul singing on record in 1969. North Carolina is one of the capital cities of preserving classic soul music or ‘deep soul.’ In 2003 Truth & Soul Records, which is based there, began recording Lee backed by a younger bunch of deep soul fans named The Expressions. This combo clicked due in equal parts to the old-style singing of Lee and the perfect backing for such a thing by The Expressions. Here’s a great example of what I’m wasting words saying.

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6. "With Love" — Janiva Magness feat. Dan Navarro (3:52)

They had a preview of her new album online and this track reminded me a great deal of the Memphis sound of the ‘70s, specifically the Hodges Brothers work on the classic Al Green tracks recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Recorders. The organist (no credits yet) specifically sounds exactly like the Al Green records. Janiva is no spring chicken. She was born in ‘57 in Detroit and had a rough childhood. She’s won a great many blues awards over the years and this album is her first of all original material, hence its title, Original.

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"Hey, Al — I may not be a spring chicken but I don't think YOU looked this good thirteen years ago with high heels and no pants on!"

7. "Whispers" — Passenger (3:05)

Now this is a complicated story, so pay attention. Michael David Rosenberg was born in the UK in 1984 to an American dad from New Jersey and an English mom. He took up classical guitar quite young and started writing songs at about 14. He left school at 16 to pursue a musical career. When he was 19 he co-founded the band Passenger with Andrew Phillips. They had one album in 2007 and broke up in 2009. When they split, he decided, as the group’s lead singer, to keep the name Passenger for his solo career. Early friends with Ed Sheeran, they toured together a great deal recently. His fifth solo album came out last week. This is the title song and I really like everything about it.

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"Jeez, I GOTTA get a new booking agent ASAP!"

8. "Love This Love We Got" — NRBQ (2:50)

So much to say, so little space. They have released approximately FORTY albums in a lifetime that began in 1967. Many have passed through the ranks of band members. The only original member is iconic keyboardist/singer/writer Terry Adams. With new personnel, a new album has just been released called Brass Tacks. The line-up is now Adams, Scott Ligon on guitar, Casey McDonough on bass, and Conrad Choucroun on the drums. This track, written by all except Conrad, is very Terry. The only unusual thing I noticed was that mistakes were left in — they’ve done that on live albums, but I can't recall that on a studio album. I consider it a statement. My favorite remembrance is a conversation I had once with the late blues pianist Johnny Johnson, where I asked him what he was doing lately. He said, “I just finished a big tour with that band (my spelling for Johnny’s pronounciation) En-ARE-ba-cue." Took me a minute, but I NEVER forgot it.

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"Terry? Al here — REALLY nice shirt but you better tell the new guys where ya bought it."

9. "Shadow" — Bleachers (3:38)

I get it now. After exhaustive research for the names of band members, I realized there is NO official band. This is merely the brainchild of ex-Steel Train member and current Fun member, Jack Antonoff. The “band” is booked solid over the summer and into the fall and I imagine Jack will put something together to simulate his one-man band (with help) album Strange Desires that has just come out. This track is a guilty pleasure for me. I don’t usually like music like this, but Jack’s Nile Rogers-like guitar figure is great and in a Daft Punk delivery, could be a big hit. I don’t think that eventuality would be fun for Fun, so meanwhile we’ll sit back and watch and listen.

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Rumor has it this is Donald Fagen's illegitimate child.

10. "Simply Beautiful" — José James (3:17)

Always loved this Al Green album track that got waaay covered over the years. Even I covered it, but never released it. This is a nice job as José pretty much sings it all in two- to three-part harmony which is different, yet appropriate. Big surprise is a trumpet (!) solo by, I’m guessing, Takuya Kuroda, who is featured in print. Ya don’t see many of those on rock or soul albums but it’s really perfect. Lovely cover and a nice way to leave you this week — simply beautiful...

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