Colleen Rennison, 25, knows a good song when she hears it. The sultry Canadian—when she’s not acting—is singing…and it may be time to give up her day job. There’s something about her voice that only the greats have. Piaf. Lady Day. Ronstadt. You can’t exactly put your finger on it or describe it in any meaningful way. You have to feel it. And Colleen Rennison makes it hurt so good. See The Sky About To Fall (Black Hen Music) is the stunning debut.
And those songs? Spoiler alert: Maybe I was so knocked out loaded upon hearing the iconic openings of these songs that it made an indelible impression. The “shock of recognition” is strong and heady stuff that elevates your own personal nostalgia into a more concrete musical experience (for, after all, nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake is a wimp’s way). I suggest you traverse the same road as I and not know what to be in store for. Just trust me. For those of little faith, fine, if you really have to know…
She takes on The Band (“All La Glory” and “Stage Fright”), Joni Mitchell (“Cayote”), Townes Van Zandt (“White Freightliner”), Leonard Cohen (“Why Don’t You Try”), Bobbie Gentry (“Faney”), Tom Russell (“Blue Wing”), the Neil Young title song and Booker T. Jones (“My Crew”) amid the 12 tracks. It’s sublime. Magic. She’s got the best of the Canadian best backing her up. She’s even got Nashville legend Tim O’Brien on fiddle and mandolin.
Make some room on your 2014 Top 10s.
Mystery Girl (Legacy/Roy’s Boys) by Roy Orbison (a CD-DVD package) celebrates the 25th anniversary of the late singer’s final album. By 1988, this ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll giant was reaching new heights of creativity. The cream of the ‘80s crop of rock stars all loved this man enough to want in so its songs are by Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and U2. His voice was still a soaring tenor instrument of seemingly limitless capabilities. Then add The Memphis Horns, guitarist Steve Cropper, producer T-Bone Burnett, George Harrison, Al Kooper, Roy’s three sons, pianist Benmont Tench, bassist Howie Epstein, drummer Jim Keltner, multi-instrumentalist Mike Campbell plus Petty on backing vocals/guitar and Lynne on guitar/piano/bass/backing vocals.
The CD features the original 10 tracks plus nine never-before-released studio demos. The DVD has four Orbison videos, and a star-studded documentary on the making of this album.
Who needs Chris Robinson anyway? For Black Crowes lead guitarist Rich Robinson, on his third solo album The Ceaseless Sight (The End), the answer is, most assuredly, not he. Rich is a perfectly capable singer as well as an absolutely stunning axman, songwriter and producer. The Ceaseless Sight is, in a word, fantastic (and as good as any Black Crowes album).
Kelley Hunt is from Lawrence, the same small Kansas town that gave the world beat writer William S. Burroughs. Although Hunt may not be as profane as Burroughs, she too skirts conformity in an effort to reach for the stars. In her case, it’s her sixth album, The Beautiful Bones (88 Records), a deeply profound—almost dark—CD because of her way with words. All 12 tracks are originals and are haunting reminders that there’s some beautiful music being made in the heartland these days.
Her lyrics are so good, they could stand as poetry. The title song has environmental overtones. “Simplify” may be a life lesson. “Gates Of Eden” warns the listener to always pay attention as its protagonist is at the wheel glancing away from the road, barely avoiding death. “The Sweet Goodbye” is the fitting closer. But it’s her voice, and her piano, on track after track, that is so starkly filled with gospel intent. This is deeeeep soul.