The three releases reviewed below are loosely grouped under “Americana,” but come from three distinctly different musical camps.
‘Three Black Crows,’ Hope Dunbar (Independent Release, ☆☆☆1/2)
Despite similarity of title, this Oct. 6 recording isn’t a reformation of the great band helmed by the Robinson brothers, but a much-mellower, occasionally dark recording from Hope Dunbar and various supportive friends (Melissa Bach/cello, Jacob Gordon/bass, Josh Lava/percussion, Charles Murphy/electric and acoustic guitars, Chris Walz/mandolin and various others on backing vocals/percussion).
The opener, “Charlottetown,” seems to contain pedal steel and has a lyrical darkness that manifests itself more on other songs. My other favorites are “I Write,” where Hope details the life of a not-best-selling singer/songwriter; and the sad “Living After Losing,” which will strike a chord with readers who have lost someone, which is almost everybody.
This one’s mellower than I like, and “The Shooter” and “Revolver” are somewhat upsetting; but acoustic-music fans may enjoy it.
‘Angels And One-Armed Jugglers,’ Chris Barron (Chrysanthemum Records,☆☆☆1/2)
This Oct. 20 release comes from Chris Barron, lead singer of 1990s hit band The Spin Doctors, which wasn’t enjoyed by yours truly. Here, he sings and plays guitar, supported by producer Roman Klun, guitarist Andrew Garillo, bassist Jesse Murphy, drummer Shawn Pelton, keyboardist Rob Clores, saxophonist Erik Lawrence, tuba player Jeff Nelson, violin/viola player Jonathan Dinklage, cellist Anja Wood, accordionist Kevin Bents and various others.
The “musician list” above assures listeners that this album isn’t as quiet as the one above, but the songs were originally envisioned for presentation with just guitar and voice.
Favorites include the horn-laden, lyrically witty title song, the rhythmically interesting “April and May,” the slow-paced “Gonna (Need Someone)” and the nifty “Raining Again.”
I like this one more than I was prepared to, give it a listen.
‘James,’ Elliot Bronson (Rock Ridge Music,☆☆☆☆)
This recent release comes from singer, acoustic guitarist, mellotron player, harmonicat and keyboardist Elliot Bronson. He’s supported here by producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Cobb, electric/slide guitarist Bret Hartley, bassist Brian Allen, drummer Chris Powell and backing singer Kristen Rogers. At times, this one sounds a lost Ryan Adams album.
Favorite songs include “The Mountain,” which uses the mellotron to great effect, the twangy “Rough Ride” (featuring great guitar work), and a great alt-country weeper with both mellotron and pedal steel, “Hard Times.”
This one is my favorite of this week’s releases, but readers will want to listen to each and make up their own minds.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at email@example.com.