Release Day Picks: June 19th New Album Highlights
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 Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Phoebe Bridgers, Phish, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Mraz and Escaper. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways
The Scoop: Legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s first album of original material in eight years, the 10-track Rough And Rowdy Ways, is out now on Columbia Records. The 79-year-old’s last collection of new songs was 2012’s Tempest. Recent years saw a succession of covers albums featuring Dylan’s takes on Great American Songbook standards, as well as Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize For Literature. The new record, Dylan’s 39th studio album, was previewed by the singles “I Contain Multitudes,” “False Prophet” and the 17-minute “Murder Most Foul.” Among those contributing to Rough And Rowdy Ways were Fiona Apple and Blake Mills. Others purportedly appearing on the album were Dylan’s backing band members Charlie Sexton, Bob Britt, Donnie Herron, Tony Garnier and Matt Chamberlain, as well as Benmont Tench and Alan Pasqua.
Neil Young – Homegrown
The Scoop: Recorded between June 1974 and January 1975, Neil Young’s “lost” album, Homegrown, has finally been released through Reprise Records. Young’s frequent collaborators Ben Keith, Karl T. Himmel and Tim Drummond as well as Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm of The Band and Emmylou Harris are among those recruited by Young for what he calls “the unheard bridge between Harvest and Comes A Time.” The 12-track Homegrown contains seven previously unreleased songs (“Try,” “Separate Ways,” “Mexico,” “Kansas,” “We Don’t Smoke It No More,” “Vacancy” and the spoken word narration “Florida”) alongside original analog recordings of five songs that would later appear on other albums (“Love Is A Rose,” “White Line,” “Little Wing,” “Star Of Bethlehem” and the title track). Here’s Neil’s note regarding the long-awaited release:
I apologize. This album Homegrown should have been there for you a couple of years after Harvest. It’s the sad side of a love affair. The damage done. The heartache. I just couldn’t listen to it. I wanted to move on. So I kept it to myself, hidden away in the vault, on the shelf, in the back of my mind….but I should have shared it. It’s actually beautiful. That’s why I made it in the first place. Sometimes life hurts. You know what I mean. This is the one that got away. Recorded in analog in 1974 and early 1975 from the original master tapes and restored with love and care by John Hanlon. Levon Helm is drumming on some tracks, Karl T Himmel on others, Emmylou Harris singing on one, Homegrown contains a narration, several acoustic solo songs never even published or heard until this release and some great songs played with a great band of my friends, including Ben Keith – steel and slide – Tim Drummond – bass and Stan Szelest – piano. Anyway, it’s coming your way in 2020, the first release from our archive in the new decade. Come with us into 2020 as we bring the past.
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
The Scoop: For the follow-up to her acclaimed 2017 debut album, Stranger In The Alps, singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers again worked with producers Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska on the 11-track Punisher. Released by Dead Oceans, Bridgers co-produced Punisher with Berg and Gruska, about whom she stated:
I feel like the most important thing that happened to me is meeting Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska, who produced my first album. Going back and making a record with the same people has been so insanely cool. I feel like I totally dodged a bullet meeting them and making a record that I really loved, and now I really love Punisher. If people hate it, I’m not scared.
Since the release of Stranger In The Alps, Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus issued the self-titled, debut EP by their supergroup boygenius. Bridgers also released the self-titled, debut LP by her project with Conor Oberst, Better Oblivion Community Center. Baker, Dacus and Oberst can be heard on Punisher, whose credits also include Bridgers’ frequent collaborator Christian Lee Huston, Blake Mills, Jim Keltner, Bright Eyes’s Nathaniel Walcott, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s Nick Zinner, Warpaint’s Jenny Lee Lindberg and Bridgers’ band mates Marshall Vore, Harrison Whitford, Emily Retsas and Nick White.
Phish – Alpine Valley 1998
The Scoop: On August 1, 1998, Phish kicked what would soon be known as the “Summer Of Covers” or “Jukebox Tour” into high gear with a performance at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin that included a pair of cover debuts. The quartet reached into their vault to release official audio of the concert as Alpine Valley 1998, which is available for download and streaming today via LivePhish.com. Phish opened the show with their premiere version of the Led Zeppelin classic “Ramble On.” They went on to start the evening’s encore with their first ever cover of “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction. Alpine Valley 1998 is also highlighted by an 18+ minute “Tweezer,” a rare performance of “Magilla” that came within “Also Sprach Zarathrustra” and a powerful “Fluff’s Arrival” climax to “Fluffhead.”
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Work Hard And Be Nice
The Scoop: Michael Franti released Work Hard And Be Nice, the follow-up to his 2019 album, Stay Human Vol. II, today via Thirty Tigers. Franti recorded the LP with his band Spearhead in Nashville, Los Angeles and San Francisco with the help of co-producers Chris Stevens, Tim Myers, Nathan Chapman and Sean McConnell. The idea for Work Hard And Be Nice grew out of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s mantra “work hard and be nice to people.” The band eventually made the mission statement into a t-shirt, which became one of their best sellers and Franti realized there was something to the saying. “It was so popular that I decided to write a song about the concept,” Franti revealed in a statement. “Every song on the album is about the power of optimism to get us through our darkest moments and find the light in our loves, lives and for the planet.” Franti worked with a number of songwriters to craft each tune on the 17-track effort including Chris Stevens on the album’s opener “I Got You,” his son Cappy Franti on “Good Shit Happens,” Tim Meyers on the single “How We Living” and more.
Blackberry Smoke – Live From Capricorn Sound Studios
The Scoop: Georgia’s Blackberry Smoke are among the acts carrying the southern rock flag into the 2020s, so it’s only fitting the group were the first major band in 40 years to record at the recently renovated and reopened Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, Georgia. The band honored the long and storied history of the facility by recording six songs that have ties to Capricorn for their new Live From Capricorn Sound Studios EP. Included within are tunes by The Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie, The Marshall Tucker Band and more.
Live From Capricorn Sound Studios was recorded strictly using solar energy thanks to panels installed on the facility’s roof as part of the renovation. Blackberry Smoke enlisted The Marshall Tucker Band’s Marcus Henderson and Wet Willie’s Jimmy Hall to contribute to the EP, which also features backing vocals from The Black Bettys. Another connection comes from BBS guitarist/vocalist Charlie Starr using Duane Allman’s famed Goldtop Les Paul guitar on the band’s version of “Midnight Rider.”
Jason Mraz – Look For The Good
The Scoop: Jason Mraz returns with a new album through BMG, Look For The Good, his first LP in nearly two years since 2018’s Know. The Southern California singer-songwriter tapped Easy Star Records founder Michael Goldwasser (Toots and the Maytals, Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, Easy Star All-Stars) to produce the record which relates Jason Mraz’s career-long love of reggae music. As such, Jason welcomed reggae legend Sister Carol on “Time Out” and co-wrote the title track with Goldwasser as well as collaborated with Raining Jane, Abby Dorsey (MC Flow) and Jeff Berkley of the San Diego duo Berkley Hart. The song “You Do You” also features a guest appearance from film and TV star Tiffany Haddish. Ultimately, Look For The Good encourages the listener to do just that. “I’ve always been an optimist in my life and in my music,” Mraz said in a statement, “and my hope with this album is that it inspires others to look at these dark times and witness the good that human beings are doing for their families and for each other.”
Escaper – Apotheosis
The Scoop: Brooklyn based prog-jam act Escaper are back with their third studio album on Ropedope Records. Apotheosis features six originals co-produced by the band and John Davis at The Bunker Studio in their home borough. Escaper — which consists of guitarist Will Hanza, drummer Ricky Petraglia, keyboardist Phil Kadet and bassist Jay Giacomazzo — share songwriting credits for the tunes on their new LP.
“I’m hoping everyone will get it into their ears, now there’s vocals, songs with messages and important feelings that make a positive album,” Hanza told NYS Music of Escaper’s follow-up to 2018’s Edge Detection. “We’ve also tried to include the danceable part of it to have the experience and the grove as well since we’ve missed dancing with people at shows. Overall we’re very proud of the album, we hope it can help people “Escaper” a little bit.”
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.