Local Spins delves into brand new Michigan-made releases — from a jazzy and soulful new Erlewine project to a Lansing band hitting its stride. Read the reviews, listen to the music.
May Erlewine & The Woody Goss Band
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What Stands Out: Michigan’s beloved May Erlewine has pushed through the uncertainty of a global pandemic to release a sure-footed and confident new album, officially released today (Aug. 14). Teaming up with Vulfpeck’s Woody Goss for a second time, Erlewine takes another step in the direction of soulful energy to release a vibrant collection of songs. Beginning with the bright and sunny refrain of “Anyway,” the album sets an uplifting tone from the get-go with rhythmic piano, tasteful guitars and drums that stay in the pocket like fuzzy, funky dryer lint. Another single, “Days Go By” provides a tender picture of love with Erlewine’s voice shining as gently as the morning sunshine. A few songs later, “My Way Home” feels like a time machine to Motown. With its rocking bass groove and eclectic piano riffs, the upbeat song provides a welcome mid-album catalyst. Other highlights include the classic-sounding “Palm of My Hand,” a track with a lovely piano solo and one of the album’s sweetest melodies, as well as the most rock ‘n’ roll number, “Back Soon,” chock full of crunchy guitars and B3 organ.
Digging Deeper: Erlewine’s career has included plenty of genre detours, but this one feels among the most natural. Her spirited songwriting and mellow voice are completely at home amidst such lush instrumentation. The collection of songs could have easily been pushed to a more gut-punching soulfulness, but the intentional restraint employed keeps the song’s edges smooth and is far more impactful. (Read more about the project in this Local Spins Artist Spotlight story.)
Perfect For: Foot-tapping along in high heels; making exquisite lemon meringue pie from life’s lemons; lamplight living room dancing at midnight. – Ricky Olmos
“North Country Sky”
What Stands Out: Andy Baker’s “North Country Sky” floats its listener above the clouds for an introspective record backed by a soundscape of well-executed traditional instrumentation. “Second Wind” starts things off with a breezy shuffle that employs acoustic guitars, banjo, sparse percussion, and an unexpected (but entirely welcome) accordion solo. The sobering lines of “Sixteen” grapple with the nuances of terminal illness to the tune of little more than an acoustic guitar. Baker’s endearing voice provides snapshots of a young life impacted by cancer and a yearning for hope. Later highlights include “Tsunami,” featuring some of the record’s most tasteful percussion and a lonesome slide guitar. Then there’s “Fixer Upper Blues,” a rollicking riff-filled rocker with an extra serving of howling harmonica and dizzying B3 organ. Rounding out the album, “North Country Sky,” offers a wistful and joyous ode to the unpredictable nature of life — and of course, another heroic dose of accordion.
Digging Deeper: Andy Baker is the kind of songwriter who can almost disappear from his own songs – a quality akin to some of the most prolific writers. His storytelling is so natural and his voice so genuine that can become a true observer and narrator. The album’s production is another obvious strength, a component sometimes pushed to the wayside with folksy songwriters. Baker and this cast of top-notch Michigan studio musicians provide a truly pleasant Americana record.
Perfect For: Cloud watching, country cruising, back porch whistling. – Ricky Olmos
Listen: “North Country Sky”
From Big Sur
What Stands Out: Having played nearly 300 shows and put out five full-length original albums since 2009, this Lansing band hits its stride on this hard-hitting rock album for the summer. “Infinite Morning” covers a hefty collection of songs, including bonus tracks sure to win over their fans. Thematically centering on love and all that entails, starting with “Surrounded by Your Love,” From Big Sur navigates confidently through catchy tracks such as “Hold Me Down” and “Ear to the Ground.” Listeners seeking relatable topics of a troubled love life will certainly feel at home. Engineered and produced by band member Kevin Ream — and recorded at East Lansing’s Cut and Run Studio — the mix on this album gives the songs a fetching, classic rock feel.
Digging Deeper: From Big Sur hits the nail on the head with its sixth full-length album, getting a boost from special guests Jen Sygit, Brendan Fisher, Geoff Lewis, Sarah Stollak and Ron Tkazczyk. Impressive electric guitar riffs enhance each track, with “Ear to the Ground” standing out as a favorite. Keyboards add some needed ambiance, and the drum work throughout is superb. Indeed, From Big Sur hits on all cylinders with “Infinite Morning.”
Perfect For: Looking to be reminded of simpler times. – Jason Clark
Listen: “Infinite Morning”
“Where We Used To Live”
What Stands Out: Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Josh Garvelink’s recent release stands out as truly unique. Every song on the album represents a live recording utilizing all acoustics, infusing this collection with a smooth and relaxing vibe. Songs such as “Break The Spell” and “Boy Scout” leave an everlasting impression on the listener, even after the first play-through. Garvelink’s voice is an instrument in itself and meshes well with the arrangements. It all makes this project worthy of being called ear candy.
Digging Deeper: Listening through “Where We Used To Live” amounts to reading a book of short stories. Each track has its own pleasing aesthetic while still delivering important messages and raw emotions. Garvelink’s passion for his craft clearly shines through.
Perfect For: Taking it easy and looking at how far you have come in life. – Jason Clark
Listen: “Where We Used To Live”
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