Rant ‘N’ Roll: Dudley, Dolly, Soul, Blues, Rockabilly & Indie Rock

Dudley Taft rocks the blues like ZZ Top or Led Zep. Screaming In The Wind (American Blues Artist) is an apt name for his third album (after last year’s impressive Deep Deep Blue). With the addition of keyboards, Buddy Guy’s producer and his own Cincinnati studio/house that he bought from Peter Frampton, Taft’s 12 ball-busters include hard-driving takes on blues legends Skip James and Freddie King…but it’s his originals that strike hardest. Add the obligatory female gospel harmonies on one track and the Muscle Shoals Horn Section on another and you’ve got a rhinoceros loose in your living room.

Blue Smoke (Sony/Dolly) by Dolly Parton touches all her familiar bases from back-porch mountain music and bluegrass to her unerring duets (Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson). She’s alternately sassy, funny, tender and always entertaining. Dolly By The Numbers: 5 (career decades), 25 (gold or multi-platinum albums), 41 (Top 10 country singles), 110 (charting singles), 100 (million records sold). She may be an actress/comedian but there’s no denying the serious respect for this musician, composer, vocalist and philanthropist. Truly astonishing woman.

Frank Bey is a soul singer supreme: a singer’s singer. Anthony Paule is the producer/composer who, along with his wife Christine Vitale, wrote the gut-wrenching originals that go with some discreet covers on Soul For Your Blues (Blue/City Hall) by the Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band. Bey, originally from Georgia, used to tour with Otis Redding in the ‘60s. When Redding’s plane went down in Wisconsin, he left music, only to return in the ‘90s. Now he gigs frequently in New Jersey and Philly. To hear him wrap his considerable pipes around John Prine’s “Hello In There,” Willie Mitchell’s “I Don’t Know Why,” Wynonie Harris’ “Buzzard Luck,” Percy Mayfield’s “Nothing Stays The Same Forever” and even the Tony Bennett hit “I Left My Heart In San Francisco”—backed by an eight-piece band—is to know what true soul singing sounds like.

St. Louis Times (Black Hen Music) by Jim Byrnes is the singer/songwriter/actor’s 10th album in 33 years. For this project, the transplanted Canadian wrote some poignant originals to go with songs that he heard growing up in St. Louis by such St. Louis artists as Chuck Berry, Stump Johnson, Little Milton and Peetie Wheatstraw. The disc coincides with that town’s 250th birthday. John Hammond, Jr. is around to sing and add steel guitar and harmonica. Add jazzy clarinet, bluesy guest vocals by red hot mama Colleen Rennison and even some spoken-word poetry about the town he remembers from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and you’ve got quite the soulful travelogue.

Robert Gordon is back to rock that rockabilly aesthetic like a real Memphis Elvis. His new CD, I’m Coming Home (Lanark), is his first since 2007. Three of 12 are new originals. The covers are, in a word, sublime: Johnny Horton’s 1956 “Honky Tonk Man,” Dorsey Burnette’s 1959 “It’s Late” and the 1964 Johnny Rivers hit “Mountain Of Love.” With help from two of the Rockats, a Hooter and Marshall Crenshaw, Gordon has morphed into that which he originally emulated: a bona fide tried ‘n’ true valid rockabilly artiste. He might have started as a New York City punk rocker fronting Tuff Darts and knockin’ ‘em dead at CBGBs, but nowadays he’s our Johnny Cash.

Step right up and get your eccentric-yet-rootsy indie rock right here, folks. Boston’s The Big Lonesome has The Brothers Gosselin writing, harmonizing and playing their guitars like they’re an alt-country band from the Deep South. Undone is their self-released debut full-length—filled with songs about addiction and relationships that invariably go awry (thus their band’s name)—and it sticks to the brain like a tattoo. Greedily, I hope they keep losing in love because they make some pretty damn fine music as a result.