Tag Archives: Andy York

New Album! Christine Ohlman

All Hail The Queen!

Fifteen years removed from her debut album, The Hard Way, the Beehive Queen has not only recorded her strongest effort to date, but an album that should pepper several best-of lists in December. The songs on The Deep End draw as much upon gospel and urban doo-wop as they do blues and Americana, perhaps reaching the apex on the hypnotic title track.

Ohlman and her band Rebel Montez (now Michael Colbath, Larry Donahue, Cliff Goodwin) are rock-solid, and if you’ve not heard Ohlman’s gripping vocals before, I can’t totally blame you. Despite enough industry cred to fill multiple warehouses, she might best be known for being a long-time member of the Saturday Night Live band. Of course, you’d have to be attending the taping to hear her; seldom will you see any of the non-sax playing musicians get highlighted.

I first discovered her thirty-odd years ago when I was enamored with the cast and crew at Big Sound Records, whose albums featured stellar musicians like G.E. Smith, Jon Tiven, Mickey Curry, Ivan Julian, Roger C. Reale and Ohlman, among others. Producer extraordinaire Thomas “Doc” Cavalier had a golden ear for quality, and his work on Big Sound was the stamp of approval for me in the same way that Motown or Stiff were when in their prime. Sadly, just about all of that music is out of print.

I like all of her solo work, but this one really speaks to me. Ohlman suffered two big losses in her life recently – guitarist Eric Fletcher and Cavalier are no longer with us – and the ache resonates in her voice. Stellar guests like Dion, Eric Ambel and Al Anderson provide great support, and Ian Hunter producer Andy York continues his string of sympathetic collaborations with his artists. But Ohlman and her band had this one nailed from the jump.

Read my review of this album at PopMatters.

VIDEO: “Like Honey”

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New Album! Ian Hunter

As we approach the year end best-of lists, I’ll post reviews of a couple of more contenders for best of 2009. This review ran in the print edition of Bucketful of Brains.

Man Overboard continues the winning collaboration between Ian Hunter and producer/guitarist Andy York. And while a notch below the brilliant Rant and Shrunken Heads – two of the best albums of the decade, mind you – it’s another consistently strong effort that grows with repeated listening.

The album is a juxtaposition of sorts – half angry social observation, half resigned acceptance – with music to match. “Way with Words”, “These Feelings” and “Win It All” find Hunter in his best balladeer mode, sensitive and emotionally naked, sentiment highlighted by supportively organic instrumentation. The closing “River of Tears” uses swelling piano and organ to understate its emotional message. It’s another reminder that Hunter doesn’t get enough credit for his storytelling. Even a tossed-off shanty like “Girl from the Office” is clever enough to hook you beyond the catchy refrain, much like the tale of the leaping lothario in “The Great Escape”.

But even if the musical pyrotechnics are mostly toned down, the emotions aren’t. Railing against hypocrisy, politics and the dumbing down of culture, he asks us “leave me out of this”. His Dylanesque moments used to be blatant, but decades of artistry have reduced them to ingredients rather than recipes. If Sir Bob spewed any vitriol as caustic as “Up and Running” or “Babylon Blues” lately (“don’t try pulling me down to your level / there ain’t nothing worse than a phony ass rebel”) I haven’t heard it.

“Hope I die before I get old”. You were wrong, Pete. There’s no hit single here, but Ian Hunter, at seventy, is at the top of his game. 

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