Social and political issues – especially racism – are the focus of singer/songwriter Rain Perry’s affecting latest CD, A White Album, which draws heavily on autobiographical material and includes a thank you in the liner notes to “everyone working to make this world a more just and compassionate place.” The record marks her fifth collaboration with Mark Hallman, who produced, sings backup, and plays most of the instruments.
Highlights include the pulsating “The Money,” which references the singer’s grandfather and addresses racism in the real estate world; the plaintive “Melody and Jack,” about a Black boy’s childhood crush on Rain’s mother; “This Is Water,” which a David Foster Wallace essay partly inspired; and a medley that weds Perry’s “Yarddogs” to a fine version of Bonnie Dobson and Tim Rose’s classic “Morning Dew.”
These musically absorbing songs paint pictures and tell stories, which is why it’s not surprising to learn that the multitalented singer (whose past projects have included producing and directing The Shopkeeper, a 2016 documentary about the music business) is working on a stage version of A White Album.
Jazz Singer Bobby Cole Deserves Attention
The late jazz vocalist, songwriter, and pianist Bobby Cole, who died in 1996 at age 62, worked as a musical arranger for Judy Garland and reportedly ranked as Frank Sinatra’s “favorite saloon singer.” However, he failed to attract many buyers for his records, which include 1967’s excellent and well-reviewed but poorly distributed A Point of View.
That album – which features a dozen self-penned songs and finds Cole accompanied by a bassist, a drummer, and, on five tracks, a fine vocalist named Kathy Kelly – remains relatively unknown. Perhaps that will change in the wake of this reissue, which adds an alternate take of one of the LP’s songs plus 12 more mid-sixties compositions that according to the liner notes “may have been outtakes from A Point of View or songs in development for a possible follow-up release.”
This newly unearthed material underscores what the original record suggests: that Cole’s rich, nuanced vocals and literate lyrics mark him as a gifted artist whose work deserves more attention than it received during his lifetime.
Giulia Millanta’s New CD Exudes Vulnerability
Woman on the Moon is the eighth album from Italian-born singer/songwriter Giulia (pronounced Julia) Millanta, who now lives in Austin, Texas (along with seemingly half the other musicians in the known universe). Like its recent predecessors, the CD showcases an eclectic folk-rock artist who exudes vulnerability and seems less interested in the physical world than in the emotions and stories that play out in our heads. She says this record is about “the masculine and feminine inside of us,” a journey “through separation and unity, sanity and madness, and conflicts and redemption.”
The well-sung material includes folk and rock versions of a song called “The World Is in Your Heart” that seems to touch all those bases, plus nine other originals, two of which were co-written by Gabriel Rhodes, who also co-produced and contributes electric guitar, bass, piano, background vocals, and (says the credits) “weird sounds.” Also here: Eliza Gilkyson’s previously unrecorded “The Way That You Are.”
Ronnie Earl Offers Spirited Blues-Rock
The energy never flags on Mercy Me, the self-produced 28th album from consummate guitarist Ronnie Earl, who mixes elements of jazz and soul into his solidly constructed blues-rock-based performances. He continues to work with the Broadcasters, the superlative band he formed back in 1988, which features a piano and organ player, a bassist, a drummer, and a female vocalist. Mercy Me offers a generous sample of their work: in fact, it clocks in at 79 minutes and 59 seconds, which is the exact current maximum playing time for the CD format.
Six of Earl’s own compositions share the tracklist with an equal number of covers. In the latter group are Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love” and Muddy Waters’s “Blow Wind Blow,” both of which feature guest baritone and tenor sax players; Dave Mason’s “Only You and I Know”; John Coltrane’s “Alabama”; “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” the 1967 Jackie Wilson hit, which features an exhilarating guest vocal by Tess Ferraiolo; and “ Anthony Geraci’s “A Prayer for Tomorrow,” with the composer on piano.