Canadian rock band Sulfur City‘s new album features frontwoman Lori Paradis enjoying a bit of musical ecstasy, an image that evokes a Janis Joplin LP cover. It’s a clever strategy in making that connection as it highlight the band’s greatest asset, their superlative lead vocalist. Thing is, Sulfur City really are a rawk band, not blues/soul band, so Grace Slick is really a better comparison point as Paradis shares Slick’s graceful enunciation and more restrained sense of energy and drama. Did I mention this is a serious rock ‘n’ roll record, something that’s vanishing faster than bees these days? Sulfur City is a really honest to goodness working class rock band, the kind you can unwind to with beers and pool games at the local pub. Paradis even possesses the requisite career history as she’s been a construction worker, house painter and trucker. Those are careers that make you tough and give you the right rock ‘n’ roll mindset.
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Sitar master Anoushka Shankar, who was trained on the instrument from an early age by her father Ravi Shankar, has created a protest album of sorts with her latest release, Land of Gold. Deeply concerned about the plight of the world’s refugees, Shankar felt she needed to make an artistic and political stand against the shameful injustice of poor people fleeing violence and finding no home. She says, “the seeds of Land of Gold originated in the context of the humanitarian plight of refugees, it coincided with the time when I had recently given birth to my second child. I was deeply troubled by the intense contrast between my ability to provide for my baby, and others who desperately wanted to provide the same security for their children but were unable to do so.”
Willie and the Giant were named “New Band of the Week” by the Guardian last year… and then they broke up due to creative differences. This happens all the time and it’s often because a lead artist in a group has other ideas they’d like to explore. That’s the case with Birmingham, Alabama’s Will Stewart who has stepped away from his old group to emerge as a compelling solo artist this year with a new EP, Faultline, releasing on April 15th. “Keyhole” appears on the new EP and it’s a banger of a single that rocks hard like a great slice of heartland rock ‘n’ roll. Recorded in Nashville and conceived in Birmingham, Stewart’s new music is super catchy, exciting and energetic.
Basmala walks the line between hip-hop and electronic music, visiting the realm of avant-garde jazz, all in an effort to create forward-looking, experimental music that he dubs visionary soul. You may know Basmala as Hasan Atiq, the moniker he records under when performing hip-hop vocals or as Autolect, the name he used between 2005-2010 to create five albums. Basmala is a whole new project. “Basmala is the intention behind everything I am doing,” he explains. “When you’re making music, especially in different genres, and writing lyrics, the process can become convoluted. Projects fall apart, and the cohesiveness of what you’re trying to achieve is lost. Basmala brought that wholeness back with focus. It allowed me to remove, or trim, the ego a bit in order to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, multi-project-wise. Basmala is, for lack of a better word, objective, aligned with decree/goals.”
Jamil Rashad, a/k/a Boulevards, is part of the batch of new indie soul musicians lighting up the music world and bringing some serious grooves back into contemporary popular music. In Boulevards’ case, he is all about the funk, but whereas Dâm-Funk creates a more dreamy, cerebral brand of nu funk, Boulevards goes in for pop-influenced funk party jams that are meant to rock the house and the dancefloor, while putting a smile on your face and lighting your fire. Boulevards perfectly titles his new album releasing this week Groove! with that all-important exclamation point, just in case you were wondering what this music is really about. Not just grooves either, but some serious sultry, sexy, sometimes witty and always fun grooves. Interestingly, Rashad spent his teens listening to metal and punk and he brings a great deal of that visceral energy into his sound with Boulevards. Seriously, tee up the cocktails or a bottle of Hennessy, pop this album on the player, and invite all your friends over… it’s going to be a memorable evening.