I never drank the Kool-Aid but I’ve been downing some Tang this week and loving it. Truth be told, I’ve always been a sucker for bassist Bonnie Parker who has, for me, epitomized the sexy hard-rockin’ glam bitch who I’d gladly let dominate me. She was front and center in The Bonnie Parker Band but in Tang on Blood & Sand (self-released, tangnyc.com) must yield to the strength—both melodically, vocally and compositionally—of multi-instrumentalist producer Denny Colt, her longtime partner-in-crime. With slaveboy Mark on drums, these two larger-than-life wonder women are Rock Stars, as they traverse territory usually reserved for Alice Cooper, Doro, vintage Benatar, Cheap Trick, Iron Maiden and T-Rex, but with an added punk sneer which they wear well.
Eliane Elias has been playing piano, composing and singing for 30 of the 34 years she’s been in America from her native Brazil. Her new Concord CD, though, Made In Brazil, marks the first time she’s ever recorded in Sao Paulo (with symphonic overdubs done at Abbey Road Studios in London). Soft, with the free-flowing rhythmic thrust of samba and bossa nova sung in Portuguese and English, it smoothly moves and sensuously slides along taking its sweet time. Half original and half covers of three generations of legendary Brazilian composers, Elias is quick to remind us, “it’s not retro. It’s contemporary yet with the tradition and authenticity of Brazil: it’s music of the world with Brazilian DNA.” Thus, “Brasil” (1939), “No Tabuleiro de Baiana” (a 1936 Carmen Miranda hit), “Voce” (in which author Roberto Menescal strums and croons with her) and “Rio” (1963) are beautifully etched like a Joaquin Sorolla beach scene painting. When Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote “Aguas de Marco” in ’72, he thought he was in the twilight of his career. Its wistful tone is given new hope via her arrangement with gospel/pop group Take 6 providing sumptuous harmony. Start to finish, after these 12 mellifluous tracks, you’ll think you’re on one of Rio de Janeiro’s nude beaches sipping a Caipirinha.
Guitarist Arlen “Master Of The Telecaster” Roth hits the sweet spot every time. We both fell in love with Johnny Winter at Woodstock in 1969. I got to meet the late legend. He got to record with him for this album, Slide Guitar Summit (King Mojo/Garage Door). It would be Winter’s last session. “There was an incredible feeling [in the studio]. I couldn’t believe there I was, playing ‘Rocket 88’ [the first ever rock ‘n’ roll song] with him.” Roth also gets to play with Lee Roy Parnell, whose vocals ratchet up Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken” and Robert Johnson’s “Dust My Broom” a few notches. It’s a summit meeting, alright. From David Lindley and Rick Vito to Jimmy Vivino and Greg Martin, there’s flying slides all over the place, enough to make this hour go by quick like a party you don’t ever want to end.
The rugged wisdom of singer/songwriter James McMurtry comes to the fore on Complicated Game (self-released). For his first CD in six years, his usual astute observations on life, love and the lack thereof has been honed into a world-weary subversive humor offset by a surprising lack of cynicism and buoyed by a sardonic snarl. He also shows a vulnerable side as it seems the defenses he established as a younger artist in the early ‘90s have been melted away by the passage of time. For his 12th album, instead of asking “Where’d You Hide The Body” like he did in ’95, he’s now asking “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” and realizing about “These Things I’ve Come To Know.” Fellow Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen has already covered “Levelland” and “Out Here In The Middle” so it’s a stone delight to hear them for the first time by their author. He’s been hailed as an Americana giant, a folksinger in the truest sense, an alt.country darling and even a protest singer like early Dylan when his 2011 “We Can’t Make It Here” bristled with righteous indignation. Whatever he is, he’s back with this collection which should make a few Top 10 lists at the end of the year.