New Albums Celebrate Original Song Craft

by Robert Kinsler

The Mavericks, Les Stroud, and Chris Spedding return with masterworks, while newcomer Erik Neff impresses on his full-length debut. Elsewhere, an outstanding collection from Shout! Factory celebrates the role of folk music.

the-mavericks_mono Artist: The Mavericks
Titles: Mono (Valory)
You might like if you enjoy: Roy Orbison, Chris Issak, The Mavericks

Tell me more: In an age of over-produced, mass-marketed and auto-tune enhanced recordings, it’s fortunate The Mavericks know it’s all about the music. Since reforming after an eight-year break in 2012, the Florida-spawned outfit has been thrilling audiences at concert dates (including a wonderful outing at Stagecoach in 2012) and with the February 2013 release “In Time.” Now the quartet (singer Raul Malo, guitarist Eddie Perez, drummer Paul Deakin and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden) have defied modern-day trends to record an album in mono (the aptly-titled “Mono”). The result is a disc that blends the sounds of Tex-Mex, neotraditional country, tender ballads, ska and rock ‘n’ roll in the service of a dozen infectious and captivating songs. The Mavericks, currently on tour, will be among the featured performers at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, CA on May 16.  Information: TheMavericksBand.com.

PrintArtist: Les Stroud and the Campfire Kings
Title: Barn Sessions III – Off the Grid (Stroud Publishing)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Nils Lofgren

Tell me more: The heartfelt love song “Far Away Gone,” fiery environmental-minded rocker “One Giant Farm” (Stroud’s plea to save dolphins, whales, and the world’s disappearing natural places is especially poignant) and the probing “Wasted” were among the stirring originals recorded by “Survivorman” Les Stroud and a group of musicians and singers inside his Canadian barn. The collection also includes a revealing 62-minute bonus DVD showcasing the recording sessions for “Barn Sessions III – Off the Grid.” Information: lesstroud.ca.

erik-neff_at-the-end-of-the-dayArtist: Erik Neff
Title: At the End of the Day (Invent Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Train, Chase Bryant

Tell me more: Solid songwriting, vocals and guitar playing provide a good foundation for Texas country rocker Erik Neff on his full-length “At the End of the Day.” In addition to his first-rate original material (notably the modern rocker “Victory,” the acoustic guitar-anchored ballad “Don’t Fall” and country-rocker “She Don’t Know”), a dance-minded reworking of the Tears For Fears classic “Shout” shines. Across the 10-song LP Neff and his band (guitarist Andrew Supulski, bassist Rhys Johnson and drummer Steven Lane) effectively adorn their contemporary country music soundscape with elements of rock, blues, pop and folk. Information: ErikNeff.com.

chris-spedding_joylandArtist: Chris Spedding
Title: Joyland (Cleopatra Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Johnny Marr, Roxy Music, Robert Gordon

Tell me more: Famed lead guitarist Chris Spedding (Roxy Music, Jack Bruce, John Cale) teams up with a who’s who of notables on his new collection “Joyland.” Things kick off with British actor Ian McShane (HBO’s “Deadwood”) providing some spoken word dramatics, while elsewhere Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and rockabilly hero Robert Gordon weigh in across the wide-ranging 12-song set. Information: ChrisSpedding.com.

the-only-folk-collectionArtists: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, more
Title: The Only Folk Collection You’ll Ever Need (Shout! Factory)
You might like if you enjoy: Bob Dylan, Donovan, Joan Baez, The Byrds

Tell me more: Shout! Factory’s two-disc “The Only Folk Collection You’ll Ever Need” provides a wealth of influential and timeless folk songs stretching back from modern times to the 1930s that is sure to please both casual and serious fans of the genre. The role of singer-songwriters is at the core of many of the greatest songs penned over the last century, as evidenced by the wealth of gems collected here (Lead Belly’s “Rock Island Line,” Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” to name a few).  Information: ShoutFactory.com.

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