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Sunday, January 28, 2018

John Gorka, Sarah Cripps, Barrence Whitfield and more in this week's New Music bin

John Gorka has been one of our favorite singer-songwriters since we caught him at a folksinger show in New York in the 1980s, so we were very glad to come upon his latest release, True In Time. Recorded in just a few days of "live" sessions in a Minneapolis studio, with his long-time producer Rob Genadek at the helm, the album is the next-best thing to one of his coffeehouse concerts. We're adding "Nazarene Guitar" to our New Music bin. It features backing vocals by frequent collaborator Lucy Kaplansky and pedal steel by Joe Savage, and opens with a typically self-deprecating, deadpan line: "The cool people had a meeting, decided that I wasn't one of them / So I took my Nazarene guitar and played it all the way to Bethlehem." Pennsylvania, that is.

Thanks to Canadian Beats for introducing us to Sarah Cripps, who just released her self-titled second album. Previously considered a country musician, she took a few years off from music and has reemerged as a singer-songwriter with a wide-ranging, dark-tinged pop sound. Cripps told Atwood Magazine she was "going through a turbulent transition" while making the album. The lead track, "Leave Behind," "is a reflection of losing myself and some of my lowest moments - ultimately, it’s the turning point that gave me the guts to just embrace the weirdness.” We're spinning that track, and will soon be adding more.

We have to admit our familiarity with Awolnation is pretty much limited to "Sail," the quirky 2011 single that managed to run up the charts several separate times. The third album from the Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist Aaron Bruno, Here Come the Runts, comes out this week, and the latest single, "Handyman," caught our ear. It jump-cuts from gentle acoustic passages to rumbles of distorted guitar, with lyrics that also jump around from wistful memories of love ("If only yesterday took place tomorrow") to a line about being afraid of the government.   

Of course, we like to mix up our music and jump from genre to genre, so let's turn next to the raucous roadhouse sound of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. This Boston-based outfit has been churning out its own blend of blues-rock, soul and funk since the 1970s. We were lucky enough to catch one of its local shows sometime in the mid-80s and were blown away by the band and its frontman's over-the-top energy. It's great to hear they've got a new album coming out, and ya gotta love the title: Soul Flowers of Titan. And the equally out-there title of the first single: "Let's Go To Mars." This rocket trip is powered by blasts of guitar, horns and the captain's commanding voice.

Denver-based Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats also has a reputation for great live shows, with its mix of guitar, horns, piano and sturdy vocals. Although their first album, and the single "S.O.B.," won the band a big following, it frankly didn't really grab us. But their latest tune, "You Worry Me," has worked its way into our ears and reaches our playlist this week. Its pensive lyrics are set against quick-paced, upbeat music that give them a hopeful mood.

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