Rosanne’s Cash Prize

Family counts. But talent helps as well.

Rosanne Cash

If you have both, like Rosanne Cash, there’s a chance you may stretch a career across four decades – and then reach your peak at the end of those four decades. With The River & The Thread Johnny Cash’ oldest daughter may have done just that. Her new album is almost without faults. Nearly every track lingers in my head long after I have listened to it. What is this? Country, soft rock, pop, folk? Or is Rosanne her own genre? I have picked seven tracks to help us reach an answer.

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega’s latest album has not caused nearly as much stir as Rosanne Cash’, nor is it as brilliant, to be blunt. However, there are a lot of wonderful tracks on Tales from The Realm of the Queen of Pentacles as well, some of them of the same quality as vintage Vega.  I really enjoyed listening to the album, and if you like the five tracks I have picked, try the rest as well. Or go back to Suzanne Vega’s brilliant back catalogue.

Benmont Tench

If you want to be a pop star, and your name is Benmont Tench, I would have suggested changing your name. You don’t have to have dyslexia to have trouble with a name like that. The funny thing is that his real name is Benjamin Montmorency Tench….  Benmont made his career by playing keyboards in Tom Petty’s band, The Heartbreakers. He has toured and recorded with a great number of artists, including coincidentally Rosanne Cash’ father. This year Benmont released his first solo album at the age of 61, proving that it is never too late. A reviewer called the feel of the album, I Should Be so Lucky,  “casual professionalism”. I couldn’t agree more. The music is relaxed and sophisticated, both the standards and the originals he has chosen to perform.

Henry Priestman

Sticking with artists around 60 who have been making a late debut, Henry Priestman is more famous as part of The Christians than as a solo artist. He has called his album The Last Mad Surge of Youth, perhaps pushing the term “youth” a bit too far. This is in no way a collection with a modern sound. Both the songwriting, the vocals and the themes of the songs bring memories of times past. But since this blog is for mature tastes, this album should fit right in.  Four great tracks are added, my favourite being “We used to be You”, about parenthood.

Switchfoot

On to the genuine youth, let’s start with a boy band (or alternative rock band as I have seen it described), Switchfoot, from my favourite Californian city, San Diego. I have myself been part of the music scene there, hundreds of years ago, and know that the city bustles with musical talent.

Most of Switchfoot’s new album, Fading West, reminds me of British and Irish bands of the 90s and 2000s, but some of the tracks are pushing the boundaries of the genre quite a bit, and these tracks are worth listening to.

Switchfoot started out as a Christian rock band, but happily decided to go mainstream after their first albums.I have left a taster of three songs, if you like them try the rest of the album, you might find more.

San Fermin

On to a genre not often heard about these days, baroque rock. Wikipedia describes the term as a pop rock music subgenre, a fusion of pop rock and classical music, particularly of the baroque period. They list Beatles, The Moody Blues and Procul Harum as exponents, not necessarily their complete catalogue, but more of the Eleanor Rigby equivalent. San Fermin might fall into this category, but this new band is hard to pin down, whatever you call the genre.  The band is the brainchild of Ellis Ludwig-Leone from Brooklyn, and their first album is made up of songs that are either on the pretentious side or really interesting and good.  I have picked a few examples of the latter, but if you would like to be known for your daring personality, test out the rest of the album as well.

Making Marks

Considerably more middle-of-the-road is the Norwegian indieband Making Marks. In a way the band name is slightly ironic, because at home the band hasn’t really made much of themselves yet. It took a British record company, Fika, to release their debut album, and I have read next to nothing about them in the Norwegian press. Uncut Magazine, however, reviewed the album favourably, and so do I.  I am really impressed with the soft, melodic touch of the songs on A Thousand Half-Truths, great harmonies and sombre orchestrations. This album is simply mood improving.

Artists leaving the blog list to make room are Boy George, Chip Taylor, David Rotheray, Dent May, Magic Brothers, Polly Paulusma, Prefab Sprout and Steve Harley. Thanks for the memories.

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