The best of the music reviews for the first half of the year

Hex City
Hex City

This year has brought a lot of older music, either reissued or issued with new tweaks.

However, enough new releases were out by mid-June to merit a list for the first six months of 2017.

All of the ones included here received four stars or above when they were originally reviewed earlier this year.

‘Shoot the Moon,’ Roger Street Friedman (The Playroom Records LLC)

This folk-flavored Jan. 13 release comes from 54-year-old R.S. Friedman, a husband/father of two children, and a singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist with numerous studio collaborators that flesh out the songs interestingly.

‘Things We Do for Dreams,’ Trinity River Band (Orange Blossom Records)

This Harris family bluegrass band (Sarah: mandolin, lead/harmony vocals, Joshua: banjo, resophonic guitar, lead/harmony vocals, Mom Lisa: doghouse bass/harmony vocals, Brianna: fiddle, lead/harmony vocals and Daddy Mike guitar/lead vocals) are loaded with talent. Sarah composed three of these songs, and multi-instrumentalist Joshua engineered this recording with mic mixing.

‘Swing Set,’ Eight O’ Five Jive (Red Rudy Too Tunes)

This Jan. 27 release comes from Eight O’ Five Jive, a Nashville-recorded set of swingers. Vocalist Lee Shropshire, hubby/guitarist Andy Scheinman, bassist Bill Bois, cocktail drummer Duane Spencer and saxophonist Patrick Mosser have written 10 tunes, then added an obscure cover song. The instrumentalists are all background singers.

‘Hex City,’ Churchwood (Saustex Records)

This CD came out mid-November 2016, when I was gift listing or something else. Churchwood (Bill Anderson/guitars, Joe Doerr/vocals and harmonica, Adam Kahan/bass, Billysteve Korpi/guitars and Julien Peterson/drums) is an Austin-based, experimental avant-garde “blues” band; and this is their fourth full-length release.

‘St. Mojo,’ Sweet Spirit (Nine Mile Records)

This April 7 recording comes from Austin’s Sweet Spirit, which plays unique, horn-augmented power-pop. Members are Andrew Cashen: lead guitar, lead/backing vocals; Sabrina Ellis: lead vocals; Joshua Merry: lead guitar/backing vocals; Jake Knight: piano, keys and cello; Jon Fichter: bass, backing vocals and acoustic guitar; Danny Blanchard: drums, percussion/backing vocals; Cara Tillman: backing vocals/synth; Leslie Matthews: backing vocals/alto sax and Samuel P. Rives: backing vocals/trumpet.

‘Jethro Tull: The String Quartets,’ Ian Anderson and The Carducci Quartet (BMG Rights Management-UK-Ltd)

Jethro Tull performances and recordings have been credited lately as “Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull.”

This recording features collaborative performances of Tull classic songs by Ian and The Carducci Quartet, with arrangements and additional material composed/orchestrated by keyboard wizard John O’Hara.

‘Tug Of War,’ Gina Sicilia (Blue Elan Records)

This eleven-song June 2 release is Gina Sicilia’s debut for Blue Elan Records, but she’s been recording since her 2007 debut and performing live since age 19.

She’s supported by co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Darling, bassist Ken Pendergast, drummer Scott Key, keyboardist Walter Runge and others. Despite Gina’s blues background, these tunes often don’t follow basic blues patterns.

‘Gone,’ The Mojo Gurus (MRI Entertainment)

This June 30 release comes from singer/songwriter/harmonicat Kevin Steele and his band (Vinnie Granese: bass, electric/acoustic guitar and vocals; Sean Doyle: drums and vocals; Doc Lovett: electric and acoustic guitars). Other talented friends add keyboards, strings and horns to this “concept” album where genres are meaningless.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com