Today’s New Albums: Mavis Staples & Levon Helm, Craig Finn, Zero & More
Widespread Panic, Midnight North, Seth Walker, Rebelution, Courtney Jaye, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Train also have new releases out today.
By Team JamBase May 20, 2022 • 6:15 am PDT
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 Mavis Staples & Levon Helm, Craig Finn, Delta Spirit, Zero, Widespread Panic, Midnight North, Seth Walker, Rebelution, Courtney Jaye, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Train. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Mavis Staples & Levon Helm – Carry Me Home
The Scoop: ANTI- Records released Mavis Staples and Levon Helm’s collaborative live album Carry Me Home today, captured in Summer 2011 at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York as part of Helm’s legendary Midnight Ramble series. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the performances from which Carry Me Home are taken marked Staples and Helm’s final collaborations together. The record is also one of Helm’s final recordings before his death on April 19, 2012.
“It never crossed my mind that it might be the last time we’d see each other,” Mavis recalled of her time with Levon. “He was so full of life and so happy that week. He was the same old Levon I’d always known, just a beautiful spirit inside and out.”
Mavis Staples and Levon Helm hail from iconic groups The Staple Singers and The Band respectively but would go on to have successful solo careers later in life. Carry Me Home’s 12 tracks include Mavis and Levon — backed by a mix of both artists’ bands — on songs recorded by Nina Simone and The Rolling Stones as well as Bob Dylan’s “You Got To Serve Somebody,” The Band classic “The Weight,” The Staple Singers-recorded “This May Be The Last Time” and more.
Craig Finn – A Legacy Of Rentals
The Scoop: The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn released his fifth solo album, A Legacy Of Rentals, today through Positive Jams/Thirty Tigers. Finn recorded the follow up to 2019’s I Need A New War in May 2021 with renowned producer and musician Josh Kaufman and engineer D. James Goodwin. A Legacy Of Rentals also features contributions from saxophonist Stuart Bogie, drummer Joe Russo and bassist Michael Libramento as well as backing vocalists Cassandra Jenkins and Annie Nero. Additionally, the new record boasts a 14-piece string ensemble with arrangements by Trey Pollard.
“The title A Legacy Of Rentals acknowledges that we can never completely hold any of our possessions and that our bodies are merely a temporary residence for our souls,” Finn said of the new LP. “All moments are fleeting. After the destruction of the past few years, I believe that there is joy in each and every living action, however mundane – walking to the kitchen, missing a train, spilling coffee, cleaning it up, meeting a friend for a meal. We all want to be remembered. We all want our time here to be consequential. In taking these daily actions, we engage in hope, and we guarantee our unique place in history.”
Delta Spirit – One Is One
The Scoop: Delta Spirit return with One Is One today via New West Records. The San Diego-born rockers co-produced the follow up to 2020’s What Is There with Jason Kingsland (Band of Horses, Belle and Sebastian) and tapped Matt Pence (Jason Isbell, The Breeders) to handle mixing.
“One is One ponders big questions through poignant, plainspoken lyrics uplifted by moments of sweeping rock ‘n’ roll,” press materials for the new album noted. “It documents the most important moments [the band has] lived and key lessons they’ve gathered along the way.”
“One is One essentially says, ‘What is life all about? Here are some observations,” frontman Matthew Logan Vasquez added. Delta Spirit previewed One Is One with “What’s Done Is Done,” the title track and more.
Zero – Naught Again
Thirty years ago Bay Area institution Zero held a historic run at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. While portions of the run were issued in 1994 as Chance In A Millon, previously unreleased audio from the concerts are out today on the new Omnivore Recordings live album Naught Again. Co-founders Steve Kimock and Greg Anton were joined by pianists Nicky Hopkins and Vince Welnick, tenor saxophonist Martin Fierro, vocalist Judge Murphy, keyboardist Pete Sears and bassists Liam Hanrahan, Bobby Vega and John Kahn. Additionally, Grateful Dead lyricist and longtime Zero collaborator Robert Hunter gave the evening’s prologue and epilogue.
Brian Risner mixed Dan Healy and Don Pearson’s recordings from the original multi-track tapes. Naught Again features 13 songs including covers of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” as well as such Zero staple originals as “Gregg’s Eggs,” “Cole’s Law” and “Tangled Hangers.”
Widespread Panic – Miss Kitty’s Lounge
In 1990, Widespread Panic assembled at John Keane’s studio in their hometown of Athens, Georgia to record demos to be shopped to interested labels. The 14-track collection finally gets an official release today and gives a glimpse at early versions of such classics as “Holden Oversoul,” “C. Brown” and “Barstools And Dreamers.” The lineup at the time — guitarists John Bell and Michael Houser, bassist Dave Schools, drummer Todd Nance and percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz — were augmented on certain songs by Keane on pedal steel, Phish keyboardist Page McConnell and saxophonist Randall Bramblett.
“This was Widespread Panic un-filtered – or, at least self-filtered – filling in almost every cranny with sound and movement,” noted Bell. “They provide an interesting snapshot of where the band was at the time; more stripped down and guitar-oriented prior to the addition of a full-time keyboard player,” added Keane.
Midnight North – Selections From Levon Helm Studios
Bay Area Americana act Midnight North put out a new live album today, Selections From Levon Helm Studios, through Americana Vibes. The 10-track set features highlights from the group’s November 9, 2019 concert at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York. Selections From Levon Helm Studios includes a mix of originals such as “Under The Lights,” “Wind And Roses” and “Playing A Poor Hand Well” with covers of Jason Isbell’s “If It Takes A Lifetime,” The Band via Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Do It” and “Luxury Liner” by Gram Parsons.
“It is still one of our favorite shows we’ve ever played and a pristine recording that we’ve been holding on to ever since in order to find the right time to release this music,” explained Midnight North guitarist Grahame Lesh. “It was a night filled with special moments. We had our dear friend Jason Crosby with us on keyboards for the whole show, plus we co-headlined with the Cris Jacobs Band and had all of those amazing musicians join us. We also debuted Elliott [Peck’s] classic song ‘Coyote’ around one microphone, and we felt like Levon & our Woodstock family were with us the entire time. This album captures the magic of that night, and we are so excited to share it with you all.”
Seth Walker – I Hope I Know
Singer-songwriter Seth Walker is back today with I Hope I Know, his 11th studio album. The Royal Potato Family release marks the North Carolina-based musician’s third studio collaboration with producer Jano Rix of The Wood Brothers. Each of the original songs on I Hope I Know was written during and informed by a tumultuous period for Walker in which he endured a romantic breakup, moved from Nashville and Asheville and withstood the pause in touring and hardships brought on by the pandemic.
“This last year and a half has personally cracked me open. In many ways, for the first time, I’m observing myself and how I relate to the music, how I sit with the feeling, the emotion, my shadow and light,” explained Walker in a press release. “I have always been in this place of action, and finally, when all this happened, I found myself in a place of relinquishing—an active state of inaction.” I Hope I Know features three songs written with Oliver Wood as well as covers Bobby Charles’ “Tennessee Blues,” Van Morrison’s “Warm Love” and Bob Dylan’s “Buckets Of Rain.”
Rebelution – Live In St. Augustine
Rebelution dropped a new live album, Live In St. Augustine, today through Round Hill Records. The reggae band recorded Live In St. Augustine on September 16, 2021, at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. The concert featured the full seven-piece Rebelution lineup, rounded out by a horn section. The 23-track collection showcases live versions of several songs off the band’s 2021 studio album, In The Moment, including “Satisfied,” “Old School Feeling” and “2020 Vision.” The career-spanning setlist also included favorites such as “Roots Reggae Music,” “Sky Is The Limit,” “Safe and Sound,” “Feeling Alright,” “Count Me In,” “Fade Away,” and from the band’s 2016, Grammy-nominated album, Falling Into Place, “Lay My Claim.”
Courtney Jaye – Hymns And Hallelucinations
Singer-songwriter Courtney Jaye today released an adventurous new album, Hymns And Hallelucinations. Jaye dedicated the album to her late friend Randolph Isaiah “Ikey” Owens, a keyboardist for The Mars Volta and Jack White. Owens had encouraged Jaye to make a “gospel record,” offering to produce the project prior to his death in 2014. Described by Jaye as “spiritual music for weirdos,” the 10 songs on the album were co-written by Jaye and Kenny Childers. Hymns And Hallelucinations was produced by Jaye and recorded at 444 Studios in Nashville with musical director William Tyler on guitar, The Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence on bass, Loney John Hutchins on keyboards, Mikaela Davis on harp, Luke Schneider on pedal steel guitar and Austin Hoke on cello. An accompanying film, directed by Joshua Shoemaker, was also released today.
“I poured everything into making a record about the near-death experiences — personally, artistically, and professionally — that led me to understand myself in the hopes that it can help others going through the same thing,” Jaye said. “I want them to know they are not alone, that these trials life puts us through do have purpose.”
Jaye further detailed the Hymns and Hallelucinations film, describing it as “an introspective, meditative, psychedelic exploration into the soul of a woman: her rage, her confusion, her sadness, her sexuality, her defiance, her darkness, her strength, and her light.” The film tells the story of a woman, “discovering the deepest parts of herself as she faces her fears head-on,” Courtney continued, “evolving along the way and becoming illuminated to the Ultimate Power behind it all.”
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Dirt Does Dylan
Veteran roots rockers the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tackle the catalog of Bob Dylan on their new covers LP, Dirt Does Dylan. The album was recorded by longtime band members, guitarist Jeff Hanna and drummer/harmonica player Jimmie Fadden, as well as keyboardist Bob Carpenter who joined the group in 1980. The 10-song collection is the first Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album to feature newcomers, fiddler Ross Holmes, bassist Jim Photoglo and Jeff Hanna’s son, guitarist Jaime Hanna. Sessions were held with producer Ray Kennedy at Room & Board Studio in Nashville. “The Times They Are A-Changin’” features special guests Jason Isbell, Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle and The War & Treaty. The band was also accompanied by Larkin Poe on “I Shall Be Released.”
Train – AM Gold
Train returned with their 11th studio album, AM Gold, out today via Columbia Records. AM Gold is the band’s first new album of original music in five years since the release of 2017’s A Girl, A Bottle, A Boat. The 11-song album was previewed by the title track lead single. The song “Cleopatra” features Sofía Reyes. Train also recruited Jewel (who will tour with the band this summer) to contribute to the album track, “Turn the Radio Up.” Frontman Pat Monahan detailed recording the new LP throughout the pandemic:
Writing songs is hard. Not compared to so many things I suppose, but it’s difficult to create something that you love and then other people love as well. Writing songs for two and a half years in front of video screens instead of being in the presence of other humans has been a long, strange trip. And now here we are. It has to start with love. Love that goes into work comes out of work. We love this song, this album, and our fans. Thank you for waiting so long for us. I think it was worth it. AM Gold! Here we go!
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.