This is what passion sounds like!

Gritty, raw, real, unrehearsed and dirty…That’s how to best describe James Scott Bullard’s: “The Star-Crossed Sessions.”  The 1st of two albums released on the same day this year. Even the country songs on here sound like they crawled out of the gutter…but it’s brilliant!…

…Then we have album # 2; “Sunsets & Cigarettes.” An album of all acoustic songs so well written that you find yourself hearing some new piece of genius every time listen to it. Lyrics so good that you find yourself waiting for a conversation to use them in, and a sound so lonesome on each track that you find yourself lost and never wanting to return…

Finally…this is what it’s all about!

To say that Bullard has struck gold again with the double release of: ‘The Star-Crossed Sessions’ and ‘Sunsets & Cigarettes’ is just a gross understatement.

In an era where rock, country and blues have fallen into the hands of talentless scum and big brother corporations, these two records make all those genres worth listening to again.

In fact, there are only 2 reasons for anyone not to own them;

A.)   They’re homeless and can’t afford the $20.00.

B.)    They’re just musically retarded!

…Most people fall under category B!

As for the rest of you; Rejoice ye wretched sinners, your musical savior has arrived!

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Forecast not as bright!

Jack White has no lack of ideas, or people willing to help bring them to fruition.

At one point I considered White the savior of rock and roll. From the White Stripes, to the Racontouers, to The Dead Weather’s first release: “Horehound” I was always amazed at how easily he made music so raw, real, and new. I once heard it said that Jack White was able to turn the riffs that most people use while tuning their guitars into entire songs and that’s where his genius lie…Possibly, but I also saw him live and had to appreciate the raw power and soul that came from just his mere presence. He plays and sings like he’s trying to save his soul when he’s the frontman. However, with The Dead Weather, he chooses to take a backseat for most of the songs, going back to his original instrument choice as a teenager; drums. Letting Alison Mosshart of ‘The Kills’ take the helm as frontwoman. And she does so with as much ferocity as White does in his other projects…She is every inch his female counterpart. However, as sad as I am to say this; I feel that The Dead Weather’s newest release: “Sea of Cowards” falls a little short of their debut “HoreHound.” It starts the engine and checks the wings, but never quite gets off the ground. It does hold a few gems, “Blue Blood Blues”, “Die By The Drop” and “Jawbreaker”, but as an overall album, I’ll stick with “Horehound.” Out of 10 stars I’d have to give “Sea of Cowards” a 6. It’s just too experimental in some places for my taste, and not in a good Tom Waits kind of way, but more: “how weird can we get before people start to dislike it” kind of way. Good for a once over and maybe it’ll grow on me after a few listens, but I base all my reviews on first impressions, and if I were to meet this record in person I bet it would have a weak handshake.

Fine tuned Machine!!

David Rawlings has been a face and name synonymous with the alternative country/newgrass scene for at least 15 years…I first heard of him in the infamous argument about Morrisey between he and Ryan Adams on Adams’ solo debut; “Heartbreaker.” Then as the driving force behind Gillian Welch’s high-lonesome sound for many years to follow as her twangy guitarist/backing vocalist. And then there’s his producing talents on several acts in the genre. Rawlings is a bit of a renaissance man.

He was also a face that kept popping up in a lot of odd places in the Americana world; some of you hardcore fans may even remember his appearance alongside Gillian Welch in The Old Crow Medicine Show’s: “Wagon Wheel” music video, in which Rawlings and Welch play a pair haggard carnies at an otherwise abandoned fairground…Probably not a far stretch from the truth as lifestyles go.

However, after many years of wondering when he was going to break out of his shell and blow our minds, it finally happens! With the release of “A Friend of a Friend”; Rawlings proves his chops…(Not that he had to.)  Rawlings enlists his friends (Welch especially) to co-write many of the 9 tracks, and I was surprised to find several covers on here: (From Neil Young all the way up to the more recent works of Bright Eyes.) However, Rawlings takes these tunes and makes them his own. Not so much the way Johnny Cash did with Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, but more in a way that if you had to choose which version to play while driving through the desert at dusk, you’d have to choose Rawlings’ versions. There’s even a cover of the tune that ensues on Ryan Adams’ album after the Morrisey argument; “To Be Young, Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High.” Done with a more bluegrass feel as opposed to Adams’ rockabilly version, it breathes new life into the song, like every other cover Rawling’s has chosen to do…And even the originals on here are a thrill. So much so, that I now can’t wait for a 2nd effort from Rawlings, hoping that he will actually write the whole record. I know it’s in there just waiting to get out.

In the meantime, I must say I’m quite satisfied with “A Friend of a Friend.” I highly suggest it to any and everyone. Wheather it’s a Sunday afternoon drive, or a Saturday night pity party; The Dave Rawlings Machine brings you the much needed goods to get the job done! Nominated for several AMA awards this year, they are all well deserved!

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