Tommy Malone of The Subdudes (whose Primitive Streak was one of the best rock records of 1996) and Ray Ganucheau of the Continental Drifters (cool collective with a Bangle, a Cowsill, a dB and a Dream Syndicate guy) have joined forces as The Batture Boys to self-release their debut six-song EP. Produced by Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty, Tedeschi Trucks Band), Muddy Water crawls alive right from the swamps of their home in New Orleans. “The Mighty Flood” borrows a John Lee Hooker riff to bemoan their post-Katrina fate. “Send The Bones Back Home” is about the death of bandmate Johnny Ray Allen. “Deepwater Horizon” is about the BP Gulf of Mexico 2010 oil spill. “You Had A Problem” is the last song Malone wrote with his departed mate. It’s about addiction. Through it all they rock organically in a Hard Americana way, enough to whet one’s appetite for a full-length.

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If I’m ever down Houston way, I’m damn sure going to seek out local hero Glenna Bell and her tales of Texas. She plays out a lot and you can catch her just about any night of the week. Her fifth self-released CD, Lone Star: Songs and Stories from the Heart of Texas, is possibly what Janis might have sounded like had she never left Port Arthur to become a big rock star. It’s an informal affair, filled to the brim with three chords and the truth, as they say. Actually, the chords are more plentiful than that but the truth, in this case, is unvarnished. You can dance to “Pig In Lipstick Blues” but most of this is intimate, have a sip and a toke, and listen, brother. Listen hard. “Shiner Bock & ZZ Top” might be her guilty pleasures but this gal will get to you. She covers Brit-Pop’s Keane (“Everybody’s Changing”) as well as Don Henley (“Heart Of The Matter”). She has friends from the bands of Asleep At The Wheel, Joe Walsh, Jerry Jeff Walker and Ray Wylie Hubbard on hand to spice up the mix but it’s her full-throttle yet vulnerable voice that carries the day. Lone Star makes a great companion piece to her last CD, Perfectly Legal: Songs of Sex, Love and Murder. Bell’s a ball. I wish she’d come Northeast.

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So Close So Far (Brooklyn’s so-cool MoonJune Records), by Indonesia’s incredible Dwiki Dharmawan, is the closest thing yet to the heyday of groundbreaking ‘70s fusion like Weather Report and Return To Forever. It’s so damn creative and surprising because you truly do not know where they’re going to go. Plus, all eight cuts give your system a good workout like a superhero movie in surround-sound. I sat and literally watched the music spill out of my big-time speakers. No one was home so I pulverized myself and when it was over, and I sat there stunned, the silence deafening. So I played it again. Louder. On that second listen, I discovered more. Dwiki composed, produced and is responsible for Fender Rhodes, mini-moog, clavinet, Hammond B-3, synthesizer, piano and voice. He’s got behind him bass, drums, two electric guitars, acoustic guitar, Asian bamboo flute and the violin of the long-lost Jerry Goodman who used to be in a band I loved called The Flock in 1969.

Dwiki is something of a national cult hero in Indonesia. He’s a peace activist and has been a cultural icon there for 30 years. He’s performed in 60 countries. Jeff Lorber mixed and mastered this ambitious progressive jazz-rock, accent on ROCK.

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After 30 albums and over 2,000 concerts, cellist/composer Joan Jeanrenaud left the acclaimed Kronos Quartet in 1999. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around her fourth CD Visual Music (Deconet Records) where her cello is aided and abetted by wood blocks, vibraphone, African thumb piano, electronics, flute and percussion. It’s seems all too static for me but I’m still trying. Good luck.

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