Today’s New Albums: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Coldplay, Zac Brown Band, Lilly Hiatt + More
Norah Jones, Pokey LaFarge, TK & The Holy Know Nothings, David Crosby and The Beatles also have new releases out today.
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 Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Coldplay, Zac Brown Band, Lilly Hiatt, Norah Jones, Pokey LaFarge, TK & The Holy Know Nothings, David Crosby and The Beatles. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – Georgia Blue
The Scoop: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit are joined by an all-star cast of guest musicians on the charity album, Georgia Blue, that’s available today with proceeds going to nonprofit organizations Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight and Georgia STAND-UP. Isbell proposed the idea for the album in a tweet on election day 2020, writing “If [Joe] Biden wins Georgia I’m gonna make a charity covers album of my favorite Georgia songs – REM, Gladys Knight, Vic Chesnutt, Allmans, Cat Power, Precious Bryant, Now It’s Overhead, etc… And damn is that gonna be fun.” When Georgia went blue, Isbell and his bandmates fulfilled the promise by covering 13 songs that draw from musicians associated with Georgia. Others featured alongside the band on the album include Julien Baker, Brandi Carlile, Béla Fleck, Steve Gorman, Peter Levin, Brittney Spencer, Chris Thile, John Paul White and Adia Victoria, as well as the group’s own Amanda Shires and Sadler Vaden. Isbell shared the below note regarding Georgia Blue:
“Georgia Blue is a labor of love. On election day 2020, when I saw that there was a good chance the state of Georgia might go blue, I came up with an idea: to record an album of Georgia-related songs as a thank you to the state and donate the money to a Georgia-based non-profit organization. I will admit my motivations were a bit selfish. For years, I’ve been looking for an excuse to record these songs with my band and some friends. The songs on this album are some of my favorite Georgia-related songs…We have roots and blues and R&B, so we enlisted some brilliant artists to help us pull off songs by Precious Bryant, James Brown and Gladys Knight. My favorite part of the Georgia Blue recording process was having the opportunity to work with these very special artists, and I thank them: Amanda Shires, Brittney Spencer, Adia Victoria, Brandi Carlile, Julien Baker, Bèla Fleck, Chris Thile, Steve Gorman, Peter Levin and John Paul White. I hope you enjoy listening to these recordings as much as we enjoyed making them. Keep listening to good music and fighting the good fight.”
Coldplay – Music Of The Spheres
The Scoop: Coldplay released their ninth studio album, Music Of The Spheres, today via Parlophone in the UK and Atlantic Records in the U.S. The cosmic-themed follow up to the band’s 2019 LP Everyday Life, Music of The Spheres saw Coldplay teaming back up with renowned pop producer Max Martin (The Weeknd, Taylor Swift), who helmed two tracks on Everyday Life. Martin has co-writing credits on all 12 Music If The Speheres’ tracks which include lead single “Higher Power” and follow-up singles “Coloratura” and “My Universe,” the latter a link up with K-pop group BTS. Coldplay also collaborated with Selena Gomez on “Let Somebody Go” as well as Jacob Collier and We Are King on “Human Heart.”
Zac Brown Band – The Comeback
The Scoop: Zac Brown Band’s seventh studio album, The Comeback, arrived today on Warner Music Nashville/Home Grown Music. Frontman Zac Brown co-wrote each of the 15 songs featured on the follow-up to 2019’s The Owl with a variety of collaborators including Marcus King, Luke Combs, Ben Hayslip and Jonathan Singleton. Brown co-produced The Comeback with Ben Simonetti, who also earned a co-writing credit on every track.
“The Comeback celebrates our collective resilience as a community,” explained Zac Brown. “This music is about standing together and rediscovering our roots and what makes us human. We feel incredibly blessed to be back out on the road again, sharing these new songs with our fans. The only good thing about getting knocked down is The Comeback when it comes back around.”
Lilly Hiatt – Lately
The Scoop: Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt today released Lately, a 10-track studio album, via New West Records. The daughter of acclaimed musician John Hiatt co-produced the follow-up to 2020’s Walking Proof with drummer Kate Haldrup. Lately was recorded at East Nashville’s Death Ladder studio. Lilly began work on the highly personal LP towards the start of the pandemic shortly after Walking Proof came out to critical acclaim. Hiatt tackled what she was feeling head-on in crafting the record and described the process as “therapeutic.”
Hiatt shared the following regarding Lately:
“Last year was tough. That’s an understatement for certain. Tears were shed, lives were lost, and lonely was a way of life. I have always felt lonely, but never gone to the depths of solitude that I had in 2020. The irony of that is, I was not alone at all in that space. Everyone had lost something, and we all were trying to rebuild our lives as we knew them. As a means of keeping sane, I started to write songs. Some of them sucked. I kept doing it though, because I had nothing else to fill my cup.
“Depression was a big part of fall and winter. I forgot how down I could feel. But I also felt hope in that light that came from a memory of a past adventure or a stranger’s smile while walking down the street. Little things lifted my spirits. I missed my friends. I missed my family. I was devastated by the grief our country was facing, as well as the world. I felt unified in knowing that I was not on my own in that mentality. Many were questioning a lot of what was happening and though ideologies and understandings were fractured and opposing, most people I know craved to be together again. I realized that my heart was full of everything I loved and that would carry me forward for the time being. Eventually we would all get back to one another.”
Norah Jones – I Dream Of Christmas
The Scoop: Grammy-winning musician Norah Jones spreads cheer on I Dream Of Christmas, her first holiday album. The 13-track collection is out today on Blue Note Records and features six originals mixed with such timeless holiday classics as “White Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “Run Rudolph Run.” Leon Michaels produced I Dream Of Christmas which finds Jones backed by an ace band featuring Michaels on various instruments, pedal steel wiz Russ Pahl, bassists Nick Movshon and Tony Scherr, drummer Brian Blade, Marika Huges on cello, trombonist Raymond Mason and Dave Guy on trombone.
“I’ve always loved Christmas music but never had the inclination to make a holiday album until now,” Norah said in a press release announcing the LP. “Last year I found myself listening to James Brown’s Funky Christmas and Elvis’s Christmas Album on Sunday’s during lockdown for a sense of comfort. In January 2021, I started thinking about making a Christmas album of my own. It gave me something fun to work on and look forward to.”
“When I was trying to figure out which direction to take, the original songs started popping in my head,” added Jones. “They were all about trying to find the joys of Christmas, catching that spark, that feeling of love and inclusion that I was longing for during the rest of the year. Then there are all the classics that have that special nostalgia that can hit you no matter who or where you are in life. It was hard to narrow down, but I picked favorite classics that I knew I could make my own.”
Pokey LaFarge – In The Blossom Of Their Shade
The Scoop: In The Blossom Of Their Shade is the new album out today on New West Records from singer-songwriter Pokey LaFarge. The 10-song release was produced and arranged by LaFarge and Chris Seefried. Recorded recorded in Chicago and Los Angeles, In The Blossom Of Their Shade serves as the follow-up to last year’s Rock Bottom Rhapsody. The new album was written by LaFarge while on lockdown in East Texas in March 2020. LaFarge described the influence of the pandemic-forced isolation on the album, telling NPR’s All Songs Considered:
“This album is a result of my 2020 experience. Before the pandemic, I was in a dark place but the pandemic actually created the much needed space for me to reflect. Turns out that being completely sedentary for once was a good thing. I found peace in the stillness. I was able to recalibrate what it is I do and why I’m doing it. Who I’m to do it with and most importantly, who I’m doing it for.”
TK & The Holy Know Nothings – The Incredible Heat Machine
The Scoop: Portland, Oregon-based rockers TK & The Holy Know Nothings return with their sophomore album, The Incredible Heat Machine, today via Mama Bird Recording Co. Led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Taylor Kingman, TK & The Holy Know Nothings — featuring Fruition‘s Jay Cobb Anderson on guitar, drummer Tyler Thompson, bassist Lewi Longmire and keyboardist Sydney Nash — recorded the follow up to their 2019 full-length debut, Arguably OK, live with no overdubs at the OK Theatre in small Eastern Oregon town of Enterprise.
“The Incredible Heat Machine takes the band’s ‘half-facetiously’ self-described “psychedelic doom boogie” and delves further into the struggles of the working-class musician with themes of substance abuse and redemption, companionship as salvation and the ever-present shadow of disillusionment,” press materials for the LP noted. The band previewed the record with “Serenity Prayer,” which features clever wordplay from Kingman who sings “Grant me the serenity to pay for this in change” and “Grant me the wisdom to know I owe the difference” on the on the 12-step program prayer parody. TK and company fittingly followed with the single “Bottom Of The Bottle.”
David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (50th Anniversary Reissue)
The Scoop: As the title suggests, If I Could Only Remember My Name (50th Anniversary Issue) is legendary singer-songwriter’s David Crosby’s debut solo album, reissued today in honor the 50th anniversary of its 1971 release. If I Could Only Remember My Name was recorded by Crosby at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. Crosby started working on the album soon after the tragic death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton. Members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others — a collective loosely known as Planet Earth Rock And Roll Orchestra (PERRO) — joined Crosby at Heider’s. The album features contributions from Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell, David Freiberg, Gregg Rolie, Grace Slick, Phil Lesh, Jack Casady, Graham Nash, Bill Kreutzmann, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Mickey Hart.
The album’s original engineer, Stephen Barncard, oversaw the new remaster using Plangent Process for restoration and speed correction. The bonus disc compiles 12 previously unreleased alternate versions, outtakes and demos. Included within are tracks Crosby recorded at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Recorders on March 28, 1968 with producer Paul Rothchild as well as tracks from the Heider sessions. Of particular note is a take on “Cowboy Song” featuring a Neil Young solo in place of what Garcia added to the version that made the album. Journalist Steve Silberman, a JamBase contributor who teamed with Crosby for the Osiris podcast Freak Flag Flying, penned the liner notes for the reissue.
The Beatles – Let It Be (2021 Mix)
The Scoop: The Beatles’ 1970 album Let It Be is the latest from the legendary band to receive the remixing treatment and arrived today as part of a special edition package via Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe. Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, and engineer Sam Okell remixed the album in stereo, 5.1 surround DTS and Dolby Atmos “guided by the original ‘reproduced for disc’ version by Phil Spector and sourced directly from the original session and rooftop performance eight-track tapes,” as per The Beatles official website.
The Beatles released Let It Be on May 8, 1970 a month after they officially disbanded, but captured the album in early 1969 — partially in their legendary rooftop concert — ahead of their final recorded LP, Abbey Road. While sessions for Let It Be are notorious for the tensions that would lead to their breakup, The Beatles are still at the top of their game, helped along by a rare guest musician in keyboardist Billy Preston. The LP boasts amazing songs from all three primary songwriters including Lennon’s “Across The Universe,” McCartney’s “Get Back,” and Harrison’s “I Me Mine” along with additional standouts like “Two Of Us,” “Dig A Pony,” “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “The Long And Winding Road” and the title track.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.