Two Tulsa musicians have released new albums with diverse tunes that will undoubtedly stick with listeners.
JD McPherson, "Let the Good Times Roll"
JD McPherson burst onto the national music scene with his 2010 album “Signs & Signifiers,” a blistering set of instantly catchy, critically lauded roots rock that earned him a much-deserved “Artist to Watch” title from Rolling Stone magazine.
The Broken Arrow resident is certainly not suffering from the dreaded “sophomore slump” with his follow-up, “Let the Good Times Roll.”
In fact, he delivers a collection of retro-tinged songs every bit as compelling as his debut. The word “tinged” is important here, because though McPherson’s style is still heavily steeped in the ragged, warm, haunted sounds of dusty Sun/Stax/Chess 45s, his new tracks also manage to meld a subtle, modern edge into the mix.
The album’s stellar production brings a spaciousness and muscular bite to McPherson’s soulful howl, tightly churning rhythm section and textured guitar work.
Songs like the gorgeous “Precious” and “Bridgebuilder” (which was co-written with Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach and beautifully channels The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You”) benefit greatly from this nuanced treatment.
The rockers on this record — and there are many — jump through the speakers and slap you across the face ... in the best possible way. McPherson knows how to craft a catchy three-minute retro rave-up, most notably on songs like “It’s All Over but the Shouting,” “It Shook Me Up” and the shuffling, instant-hit title track.
However, “Head Over Heels” is a revelation, somehow managing to be equal parts modern rock and tremolo-drenched throwback guitar fest — a standout song nestled in the middle of a record full of fantastic music.
“Let the Good Times Roll” is an absolute winner.
John Calvin Abney, “Better Luck”
Tulsan John Calvin Abney has spent years as a guitarist and touring band member for fellow Okie roots music and folk artists such as Samantha Crain, John Moreland and Kyle Reid. By his own admission, songwriting came to him “later than some.” He’s making up for that delay, however, with his debut full-length CD, “Better Luck.”
You’d never know Abney is a newcomer to the craft of composing smart, personal, often wryly pointed American indie folk-rock in the vein of Elliot Smith and Conor Oberst.
His slightly weathered tenor vocals cut a lonely groove through 11 songs about loss, regret, burned bridges and yes, sometimes, love.
While it’s true these topics are the traditional lyrical fodder of a multitude of singer-songwriters, Abney approaches his music with a fresh innocence and tuneful confidence that propels his melodies and delivers legitimate, heartfelt emotion.
Spare, economic production throughout “Better Luck” provides an airy sonic space for Abney’s mostly acoustic music. However, the occasional bite of overdrive on some vocals and/or guitar punctuates a few tracks, such as the darkly compelling “Cut the Rope” and the album’s brooding closer, “Dark Horse Army.”
On the opening track, “Stepladder,” Abney charms with rootsy upbeat swagger, while “I Can’t Choose,” gives the theme of debilitating indecision a deep, midtempo groove and a lilting backroads melody that sticks in your head.
All in all, “Better Luck” may be a prophetic title for Abney’s career. A truly fine debut.
MAY’S best bets for live music
5/19 Mat Kearney, Cain’s Ballroom Pop songsmith Mat Kearney wrote and recorded much of his new CD, “Just Kids,” while touring in support of his last album, “Young Love.” Writing and recording in hotel rooms and studios from Los Angeles to Sweden, as well as his home studio in Nashville, Kearney self-produced a release that he says is “groovier than people would expect from me.” Doors open at 7 p.m. Judah & The Lion will open the show.
5/19 Weird Al Yankovic, Brady Theater This is one of those times when a random Tuesday becomes the most entertaining night of the month. If you’re not popping it up this evening with Mr. Kearney (see above) you simply MUST be in attendance as Weird Al Yankovic — the grand master of all parody songs, strange accordion medleys and general oddness — takes the stage a few blocks away. He’s a national treasure of musical camp. Seriously. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.