With December’s holidays fast approaching, here’s a Local Spins roundup of recent Michigan releases that make perfect stocking stuffers — and just plain satisfying listening.
There are only about two weeks to go before Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, so it’s the ideal time to roll out another batch of Local Spins recaps of new Michigan releases — perfect gifts for the music lovers on your shopping list.
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Check out the reviews here and listen to samples from each of the album. Then, come back next week for another roundup of late 2019 releases by local and regional artists.
What Stands Out: There’s literally no better Christmas gift for the music lover on your list than this two-CD compilation of startlingly powerful songs by Michigan-bred artists. The 33 tracks of eclectic music include previously unreleased tracks by The Accidentals, Political Lizard and Hannah Rose Graves, along with poignant, moving contributions from the likes of May Erlewine, who leads it all off with one of her latest singles, “Whole Again.” More important, the collection serves as a fundraiser for influential Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles, whose wife is battling cancer. So, it’s not surprising that so many artists from across the state would pitch in. But what’s truly impressive is the top-drawer songwriting displayed throughout this project, from tracks by well-known stars such as Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, The Crane Wives, Thornetta Davis and Seth Bernard to up-and-coming acts Stephie James, Lipstick Jodi and Political Lizard. And the tracks span the state, from northern Michigan artists such as Elizabeth Landry, Miriam Pico, Oh Brother Big Sister, Charlie Millard and Blake Elliott to stars from the east side of the state such as the Larry McCray Band, Will See and Remnose. And there’s a classic track (“One More Holiday”) from Bowles, too.
Digging Deeper: Incredible how quickly this two-CD compilation was pulled together considering some of the absolute gems the project unearthed, especially from female artists, including Graves’ “Breath to Sing,” the all-star Third Coast Recording Co. Studio Band’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Chain” and Liptick Jodi’s “do/SAY.”
Perfect For: Celebrating Michigan’s robust music scene. – John Sinkevics
Website/Links to Purchase: cdbaby.com, localspins.com
Listen: Hannah Rose Graves, “Breath to Sing”
Listen: Ralston Bowles, “One More Holiday”
Jack Droppers & The Best Intentions
“Three On Three EP”
What Stands Out: Mr. Droppers and crew confidently deliver a buzzer-beater of an EP before the conclusion of 2019, following “Bottled up Like a Neon Light,” an LP released earlier in the year by the collective. Standout tracks on the EP (No. 3 on the Local Spins Hot Top 5 Chart for November) include the wistful shuffle of “Dog Years” and “Magic,” a whimsical opening number that drops into the grooviest of outros. Closing out the album, “While We’re Still Young” (which originally appeared in shorter form on the band’s 2017 album, “I Just Wanna Play Rock & Roll With My Friends) offers a passionately inspiring refrain, during which Droppers bears his soul whilst rock ‘n’ roll fireworks dazzle.
Digging Deeper: Droppers’ ability to weave conversations and events of everyday life into intriguing songs is distinctly showcased. Musically, the record rolls and revs like a steady engine fueled by shapeshifting electric guitars and the rhythmic heartbeat of bass and drums. Meanwhile, dazzling keyboards float like stars overhead. (Now, Droppers moves on to take over in January as director of Calvin’s Student Activities Office.)
Perfect For: Rambling and roaming; foot-tapping and daydreaming. – Ricky Olmos
Upcoming Shows: Feb. 7 at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room and Feb. 21 at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion
Listen: “Found My Way”
What Stands Out: Several years in the making, “Bottle Makes Three” by the Kalamazoo songwriting duo of Matthew Borr and Carrie McFerrin resonates with a contemporary folk vibe, infused with a little country, and enhanced by melancholy fiddle work and the harmonies of two singers who’ve spent a lot of time on stage together. Standout tracks “Dreamed a River,” “Kathlene,” “Freight Train” and “Four Wild Horses” have that magical quality of transporting listeners to another place and time in their mind’s eye — proof of the duo’s songcrafting finesse.
Digging Deeper: Release of the album (recorded at Ian Gorman’s La Luna Recording & Sound and jumping to No. 2 on the Local Spins Hot Top 5 Chart for November) comes as the songwriters plan to pursue solo projects and performances in 2020.
Perfect For: Fans of The Civil Wars and Milk Carton Kids, and for watching snowflakes drift to the ground on a winter’s day. – John Sinkevics
Websites: https://carriemcferrin.com/music/, https://www.facebook.com/matthewborrmusic/
Listen: “Pick a Flower”
Listen: “Dreamed a River”
“Fresh Take” –
What Stands Out: With its first studio album since 2014, Traverse City funk band Medicinal Groove hits the ground floor running – and aims to fill the dance floor, too – with “Fresh Take,” nine tracks of infectious grooves that showcase the group’s considerable instrumental prowess. Singer-keyboardist Jimmy Olson, drummer Chris Burgess, singer-guitarist Matt McAlpin and bassist Jordan Moeggenberg say their latest project reflects “an up-to-date, refined version” of the band with a return to the original four-member lineup of the group that formed back in 2011. Four of the songs previously were released as singles; standout tracks include “Boogie,” “Can” and “Shake,” which are infused with throwback ’70s and ‘80s funk flavors blended with contemporary flair.
Digger Deeper: If this is “funk for your health” as the band claims, add this to your playlist and cancel that gym membership. Some tracks take awhile to get to the meat of the matter, but once they’re grooving, it’s definitely medicine worth taking.
Perfect For: Those with a penchant for Michigan-bred funk. – John Sinkevics
Upcoming Shows: Jan. 10 at The Livery in Benton Harbor, Jan. 19 at Creston Brewery in Grand Rapids, March 7 at Suds & Snow in Traverse City
Catfish & The Man
“Catfish & The Man”
What Stands Out: Catfish & the Man provides a soulful groove-train of textures. From the start of the self-titled album, “Yes It’s True” sets a rhythmic foot forward with smooth saxophone lines and flourishing guitar solos. The band conjures a carefully layered and composed body of songs that flow easily into each other. Other standout tracks include “Sweet Sweet Angel,” a swampy love song where harmonica riffs and guitar licks abound and “Good Thing,” a bluesy time portal.
Digging Deeper: It doesn’t take long to recognize a natural soulfulness to this record by a veteran bunch of Grand Haven-area musicians — Steve Weideman, John “Catfish” Stoneburner, Mark Meade and Joel Nieusma — who don’t get overly complicated with their mix of rock, blues and Americana. Although the vocals could be a bit more polished and refined, the authenticity and introspection of the LP outweighs all that.
Perfect For: Dancing in the living room, strolling through the backwoods or the backyard. – Ricky Olmos
Upcoming Shows: 3:30 p..m. Saturday (Dec. 14) at Tripelroot in Zeeland (part of the brewery’s five-year anniversary party which also features Dunegrass and Carter Lezman)
Listen: “Good Thing”
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC