CD reviews: Sadler Vaden, Bonnie Bishop, Graham Parker & The Rumour

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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Sadler Vaden
  • Bonnie Bishop
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    Bonnie Bishop

  • Graham Parker & The Rumour
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    Graham Parker & The Rumour

Sadler Vaden Radio Road/Shrimp Records

It’s been a pretty amazing past 18 months or so for local musician Sadler Vaden.

After fronting local rock powerhouse Leslie, Vaden left for Nashville, Tenn., when the group disbanded last year.

Before you could protest the breakup of that band, it was announced that Vaden had taken a gig as the lead guitarist of Drivin’ N Cryin’.

Vaden has spent much of 2012 recording and touring with Drivin’ N Cryin’, but he also has found time to record his first solo album, “Radio Road.”

For a bunch of songs that started out as home recordings, this debut solo album is pretty impressive.

Aside from a bit of pedal steel guitar, Vaden plays all the instruments on the album.

The leadoff track, “Wolf,” is a cover of a song by another local band, The Working Title, with which Vaden has a working history.

The first two songs on the album are pretty straight-ahead rock songs and benefit from Vaden’s top-notch guitar playing.

On Track 3, “Come Back Home My Dear,” Vaden starts the song with a Byrds-like guitar angle before settling into a decidedly country feel, complete with that aforementioned pedal steel.

Other standout tracks include the folky “Someplace New” and the last track, “No Love,” which features a wonderful three-part harmony between Vaden and fellow Shrimp Records artists Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst.

“Radio Road” is a satisfying release from a local musician who obviously loves what he does.

Key Tracks: “Radio Road,” “Come Back Home My Dear,” “No Love”

Bonnie Bishop Free/Be Squared

The first thing you notice about Bonnie Bishop is that incredible voice.

Sounding like a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, Bishop’s vocals are as powerful as they are beautiful.

On her latest CD, “Free,” that power is on great display on tracks such as “Shrinking Violets” and “The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts.”

That latter song likely was inspired by the recent breakup of Bishop’s marriage, and you can hear the heartbreak happening as Bishop sings, “Went back in the house and picked up this guitar/Somehow my fingers found their way to my heart.”

Her songwriting is every bit as strong as her voice, so it’s no surprise that Raitt chose one of Bishop’s songs, “Not Cause I Wanted To,” for inclusion on her recent album, “Slipstream.”

Bishop’s new CD is a tight eight songs, which leaves little room for filler. To her credit, she wisely included songs that held a certain amount of emotional weight to them, and on every track you can hear the singer-songwriter become emotionally involved.

This isn’t a songwriter sitting down to write about some life event that they can only imagine. Instead, “Free” is a document of the emotional ups and downs that Bishop knows all too well. That sort of musical passion can’t be faked, at least not well.

That isn’t to say that “Free” is all emotional, heavy stuff.

The tune “Bad Seed” is a lot of fun, and the CD includes both a full band version and an “unplugged” acoustic version featuring just Bishop and her guitar.

Bishop has been around the Americana music scene for a while, but based on the strength of the material on “Free,” she’s ready to take it to the next level.

Key Tracks: “Shrinking Violets,” “The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts,” “Bad Seed”

Graham Parker & The Rumour Three Chords Good/Primary Wave

If you had to pick a United Kingdom equivalent to America’s Bruce Springsteen in terms of a band with a blue-collar sound and an amazing live stage presence, the logical choice would be Graham Parker & The Rumours.

While Springsteen has achieved just as much fame in Europe as he has here in the U.S., it seems that Parker’s fame in England hasn’t translated quite as well on this side of the pond.

That’s a shame because Parker is every bit as good as The Boss when it comes to songwriting and performing live.

Now, after years of separation from The Rumour, the band with which most agree Parker made his best music between 1976 and 1980, he has reunited with the original five members for a new album, “Three Chords Good.”

While diehard fans of classic Parker albums such as “Squeezing Out Sparks” might be apprehensive about what they’ll hear from a band that hasn’t recorded as a whole in more than 30 years (various members have shown up on Parker solo albums over the years), the truth is that the new album is almost ridiculously good.

With a voice that sounds like a cross between the styles of Van Morrison and Elvis Costello, Parker and The Rumours seem to have fallen right back into their old groove on tracks such as “Snake Oil Capital of The World,” “Long Emotional Ride” and the album’s title track.

If R&B-infused rock ’n’ roll appeals to you, or if you were a Parker fan back in the day, then this album will make for welcome listening.

Key Tracks: “Snake Oil Capital of the World,” “Long Emotional Ride,” “Three Chords Good”

By Devin Grant