Kaki King Junior Rounder Records
Openly gay and absolutely brilliant guitar player King continues to amaze on her latest album, “Junior,” which finds her pushing further into the sonic extremes she’s established on previous albums.
When King rocks out, she pulls no punches. Tracks like “The Betrayer” and “Death” bristle with an immediate and frantic punk-rock edge. “Falling Day” rocks just as hard but has a moody new-wave vibe that is bound to have audiences bouncing up and down. Even when King pulls back on the throttle — like on the poppier “Communist Friends” — her rock chops are undeniable.
As aggressive as some of the tracks are, King’s forte has always been lush, atmospheric songs that pull in elements of folk, new age and psychedelica. “Spit It Back In My Mouth” is a mesmerizing number peppered with up-tempo jazz beats. The wonderful “My Nerves That Committed Suicide” dramatically builds from a meditative acoustic workout into pulsing progressive-rock dirge. The sparser “Sunnyside,” which features only guitars and piano, is no less moving.
All hail the King.
Nicole Reynolds A Fine Set of Fools Independent
Folk songs probably don’t get any more direct and personal than “Like The Ocean,” the first song on Reynolds’ stellar new album. It’s pretty much a blow-by-blow account of the openly gay singer-songwriter growing up and finding her voice in an environment that was less than tolerant.
Delicate yet defiant, the song sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is as refreshing in its folksy old-school charm as any of Reynolds’ other albums — not an easy feat to pull off. In the spirit of full disclosure, here at the offices of PGN, we burn out on folk music hard, fast and often. But every time we get a new record from Reynolds, it’s like the first time and is always exciting.
In fact, if it weren’t for the gay-themed lyrics, we’d swear Reynolds has a time machine that she uses to travel back to The Great Depression to record her albums. She never ceases to deliver retro authenticity on solemn, introspective and at times romantic tunes like “Ghost Dance” and “Only Atoms,” as well as stomping barnburners like “Crazy As You” and the carnival-esque “Earthworms.”
If Reynolds stays on this path, her next album should be called “Oh Sister, Where Art Thou?”
SONiA & disappear fear Blood, Bones & Baltimore Disappear Records
Recorded live over the course of two days, the latest album from the out singer-songwriter SONiA is a heartfelt blast of bluesy fun.
Things get rolling in fine fashion from the start with the rollicking, saxophone-drenched “Honey Money.” It quickly becomes apparent that her backing band plays as a highly polished unit: There are hardly any rough edges for such a quick recording process. The smoothness of the delivery works wonders on laidback tracks such as the flute- and violin-laden “Gimme The Keys” and the slow blues of “You Got Me.” Even better are the more stripped-down tracks that feature acoustic guitars and little else, like “Call Me Sonia” and “Worried Man Blues.”
Elsewhere, the group could have dirtied up the more electrified songs a bit. “Biggest, Baddest Heart,” “Don’t Waste My Crime” and “Pack of Newports” are great blues-rock songs, but the delivery is a little too clean and nice for tunes that sound like they should be performed behind chicken wire in the movie “Roadhouse.”
Otherwise “Blood, Bones & Baltimore” delivers enough of its title elements to be well worth checking out.