SAVAGE HANDS – ROCK BOTTOM (2023)
Maryland’s Savage Hands’ new EP is less a piece of music than a statement of intent: “It’s celebrating the small victories and respecting the long game.” Reckons singer Michael Garrow. From the opening of “Angel Dust” this is expertly played modern hard rock – think Atreyu and you’re in the right ballpark. The loud/quiet dynamics are in place throughout, but never more than on the superb “Black Clouds”. The title cut comes in with a Three Days Grace style arena rocker, and whether they hit those heights or not is open to question, but the ambition is there.
HANDSOME JACK – A GOOD THING (2023)
….And it is a really good thing that Handsome Jack are back.
According to singer Jamison Passuite, this is just the start, too. He reckons they are still honing their craft. “A Good Thing” itself is a superb retro rock thing that is exactly the sort of thing that Rival Sons should do, “Shop Around” does blues with a dollop of soul (and its particularly catchy), elsewhere, there’s some Americana on “Natural Thing” (a homage to keeping it real, which you imagine is the mission statement for the band) and some full on soul (as opposed to just the dollop) in “Nobody But You”, in a bit of an all sorts type of collection, but one which marks the trio as ones to watch, still.
BEAST EAGLE – BEAST EAGLE (2023)
At first you think: “Is there a grunge revival that no one told me about? If there is, then the Midwest’s Beast Eagle are set to be right at the centre.” But then, something happens. Comfortably the best song is the opener, “Heavy Bones”, all desert dry Soundgarden riffs, but with the brilliance of singer Kate Prokop, who really seems to have tapped into some Chris Cornell vibe. “Distorted” has a sort of Kyuss thing going on and there’s a bass groove on “Open Sky” that injects some urgency to what is generally mystical and unsettling. A long EP, there’s a suggestion here at much more to come, as the heads down, lets go air to the last track “Illuminate” indicates. There’s something off kilter and odd about this, it’s worth investigating.
TENILLE TOWNES – TRAIN TRACK WORKTAPES (2023)
On this five tracker the two-time Juno Award winner distils the troubadour life. On the standout “Pieces Of My Heart” she sings that “I am not afraid to stop, just I was born to go” and that’s the EP in microcosm. Across “Train Track Worktapes” she switches her gaze from the human condition to herself. “Landslide” is a fragile slice of folk, while this mostly acoustic work ends with “Wheels” which has a claustrophobic feel. On the opener Townes talks of home being a feeling, and in that case, her home is in these songs. Expertly created, not every troubadour needs to be hardcore (to paraphrase Steve Earle) and there’s plenty of power in the gently tugging tunes here.
MORGAN EVANS – LIFE UPSIDE DOWN (2023)
Morgan Evans has never sounded more vulnerable than he does on the first two songs here. “Over For You” and the superb “On My Own Again”, both written in the wake of his marriage breaking up. It was evidently cathartic for him too, given the way the mood changes in the last two. “Hey Little Mama” is US chart bothering country pop by way of Australia, and “All Right Here” is as happy as it gets. The power of music? Maybe. Whatever it is, this is Morgan Evans at his best, and it might be the best thing he’s ever done.