Today’s New Albums: Page McConnell, Cheap Trick, Taylor Swift & More
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Page McConnell, Cheap Trick, Taylor Swift, Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley, Justin Mazer and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Page McConnell – Maybe We’re The Visitors
The Scoop: Keyboardist Page McConnell of Phish took a new approach to his first solo album in eight years. McConnell made Maybe We’re The Visitors, out today via Keyed Records, exclusively using synthesizers. Page began work on the follow-up to 2013’s Unsung Cities & Movies Never Made during a January 2020 trip to Reykjavik, Iceland. He then completed the LP while locked down in Burlington, Vermont after the pandemic took hold.
The music on Maybe We’re The Visitors is described by journalist David Fricke as, “fully electronic pieces created on location, in response to the epic landscapes, dramatic weather, and geologic fury that he experienced in Iceland.” Fricke noted the narrative flow of the album is, “exploration, colony and, finally warning; that, as Icelanders already know, we are only stewards here and nature always has the last word.” Yet it was late in the process when that narrative flow came to McConnell. “But I always knew there was something alien about these pieces,” Page told Fricke.
Cheap Trick – In Another World
The Scoop: Cheap Trick released their 20th studio album, In Another World, today via BMG. The new LP — described in a press release as containing “indelible rock ‘n’ roll with oversized hooks, mischievous lyrics, and seemingly inexorable energy” — follows the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers’ dual 2017 releases We’re All Alright! and Christmas Christmas. In Another World sees the band — guitarists Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Daxx Nielsen — teaming back up with longtime associate Julian Raymond, who produced the LP. Cheap Trick heralded the album with the tracks “Light Up The Fire” and “Boys & Girls & Rock N Roll.” The group also welcomed guest musicians like Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie for harmonica on “Final Days” along with former Sex Pistols guitarist, Steve Jones, on the only cover on the album, a rendition of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth.”
Taylor Swift – Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
The Scoop: Last year, in response to Taylor Swift’s early-career master recordings being sold to Shamrock Holdings (after being acquired by music executive Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Ventures), the singer-songwriter revealed her intent to re-record and reissue new versions of those recordings. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is the first of the revised editions, featuring redone recordings of the 19 songs on the platinum edition of Swift’s 2008 sophomore album, Fearless. The 2021 update comes with six bonus “From The Vault” outtakes as well as the single “Today Was a Fairytale,” from the soundtrack to the 2010 Swift-starring feature film Valentine’s Day. Singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat once again appears on the track “Breathe,” having also re-recorded her part from the 2008 original release. Taylor featured singer-songwriter Maren Morris on the “From The Vault” recording of “You All Over Me” and country star Keith Urban appears on the outtake “That’s When.” Jack Antonoff and The National‘s Aaron Dessner co-produced Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The pair also contributed to Swift’s 2020 albums folklore and evermore, the former recently winning the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.
Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi – They’re Calling Me Home
The Scoop: Singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens paired up with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi for They’re Calling Me Home, a studio album released today by Nonesuch Records. Giddens and Turrisi recorded the 12-track LP at Hellfire, a small studio in Dublin, Ireland — the city the duo have called home since the pandemic began. The follow-up to 2019’s there is no Other was completed in a mere six days.
Giddens and Turrisi are each expats who are natives of America and Italy, respectively. The new album is said to speak of “the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical ‘call home’ of death, which has been a tragic reality for so many during the COVID-19 crisis,” as per press materials announcing They’re Calling Me Home. Rhiannon and Francesco co-produced the album with Ben Rawlins serving as engineer and Kim Rosen mastering. Both Irish traditional musician Emer Mayock (flute, whistle and pipe) and Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu contributed to They’re Calling Me Home.
Matthew E. White & Lonnie Holley – Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection
The Scoop: The seeds of Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection were planted in November 2018 when Matthew E. White held a recording session at Montrose Recording in Richmond, Virginia with seven other musicians, Pinson Chanselle (drums, percussion), Daniel Clarke (synth, piano, additional keyboards), Devonne Harris (synth, piano, additional keyboards), Brian Jones (percussion. Mica Sonic), Alan Parker (guitars, Arp sequencer), Cameron Ralston (bass, percussion) and Giustino Riccio (congas, percussion, DSI Tempest). The “Electric Miles Davis”-inspired results were shelved while White went on to work on other material. White and the same group of musicians from the Montrose session were tapped to back the 70-year-old Lonnie Holley at a concert in Richmond in April 2019. Another performance was scheduled in Durham, North Carolina and the following day the 38-year-old White and Holley, who both have strong ties to Alabama, met at Soundpure Studio to listen to the recordings from Montrose. Holley immediately selected the ones that resonated with him and, pulling from his notebook of lyrics, instantly sang what became the songs on the album. The finished work contains only slight edits and few overdubs.
Justin Mazer – Controlled Burn & Discourse
The Scoop: Guitarist Justin Mazer dropped not one, but two surprise new albums today, Controlled Burn and Discourse. Both albums were remotely co-produced during winter 2021 by Mazer and Marc Friedman (The Slip, Ryan Montbleau, Natalie Merchant). The records are Mazer’s first releases under his own name, after previously performing alongside Ryan Montbleau, Cabinet, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, Leroy Justice, Electron and American Babies, among others. With Mazer handling the bulk of the instrumentation, recording sessions were held primarily in Philadelphia, with additional tracking done in Burlington, Vermont. Guest musicians who took part in the recording sessions include guitarist Pat Finnerty (Son Little) and drummers Pat Berkery (War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks) and David Butler (Lee Scratch Perry, Marco Benevento, Guster), Alex Smith (Hiss Golden Messenger) and Nathan Graham (Midnight North, Phil Lesh & The Family Band). Friedman supplied bass parts as well.
“These are not ‘companion’ albums, but rather distant cousins at best … recorded at different times in a variety of ways in two very different headspaces,” Mazer stated. “For now, I am calling this stuff ‘lo-fi instrumental concept rock.’ Songs can be enjoyed individually but listening straight through either album from front to back is encouraged for the most optimal experience.”
“In a world insanely distracted, Mazer made two albums that shatter reality and beg individuals to relax and listen,” Friedman said. “The music was seamless to help produce, mix and add parts to. It reminds me of my band The Slip: instrumental music made by clearly dedicated musicians that use their skills to welcome and comfort the listener, challenge but not intimidate. You’ll walk away thinking different and inspired.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Live At Knebworth ‘76
The Scoop: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Live At Knebworth ‘76 arrived today via Eagle Rock Entertainment. The live LP and concert film captures the legendary rockers’ historic August 21, 1976 performance at the Knebworth Festival in England. While footage from the festival slot was included in the 1996 film Freebird…The Movie, it was intercut with interviews and is now available uninterrupted and in its entirety for the first time. The concert features the classic Skynyrd lineup of frontman Ronnie Van Zandt and the three-guitar attack of Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Steve Gaines as well as drummer Artimus Pyle, bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboardist Billy Powell and The Honkettes backing vocalists Cassie Gaines, JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins. Lynyrd Skynyrd previewed the release with “Saturday Night Special” and the set also boasts Skynyrd classics like “Gimme Three Steps,” their version of JJ Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Free Bird” and more.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.