Album reviews: Faux Ferocious, The Cowboys, Good Dog Nigel, and Yola

Yola's new album is defined by retro-soul with country and gospel touches. Publicity image. Yola’s new album is defined by retro-soul with country and gospel touches. Publicity image.

Faux Ferocious

Pretty Groovy (Burger)

When this Tennessee quartet played a C’ville house party back in 2012, they absolutely tore it up—apologies if you were there and I yowled in your face about the spirit of rock and roll. Faux Ferocious kicks out punky jams and bluesy boogie grooves and is supernaturally tight, like a four-piece rhythm section, and the band’s “Striking Distance” was catchy enough to land in a T-Mobile commercial. Hopefully this release on storied garage-punk label Burger will attract wider attention—Oh Sees fans will surely dig “Feeding Frenzy” and “Solvency,” plus lead single “Price of Progress,” a caustic take on rapacious real estate developers that sounds like the Stooges at double speed. ****

The Cowboys

The Bottom of a Rotten Flower (Feel It)

Bloomington, Indiana’s prolific Cowboys serve up 16 blasts of melodic, scruffy power pop on Rotten Flower, released by Richmond’s ascendant Feel It Records. It rips, though there are also old-fashioned moments executed with almost alarming skill, like “Doghouse Rag,” which sounds like a demo from Nilsson Sings Newman. And there’s more humor than snarl in Keith Harman’s voice—he sounds like a nice kid almost embarrassed to air his frustrations, and his songs sound like roughed-up gems. ****

https://feelitrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-bottom-of-a-rotten-flower

Various

If I Had A Pair of Wings: Jamaican Doo-Wop Vol. 1 (Death is Not the End)

A welcome if not-quite-essential reissue of Jamaican doo-wop from the turn of the ’60s. Prevalent horns hint at the ska style that would take Jamaican pop music global, but here the cultural flow is definitely from the States, and not much distinguishes these tracks from American doo-wop. Still, it’s neat to hear reggae legends Alton Ellis and Jimmy Cliff in these early stages, and there are some golden moments, like Keith & Enid sounding like Mickey & Sylvia on “Send Me.” ***

https://deathisnot.bandcamp.com/album/if-i-had-a-pair-of-wings-jamaican-doo-wop-vol-1

Good Dog Nigel

Implied Sunrise
(Infinite Repeats)

Good Dog Nigel is the project of 22-year-old Parker Emeigh, and Implied Sunrise conveys an exuberance that may come with his youth, but is more likely just sheer joy in making music. Emeigh evokes ’70s rock and twang without being too on the nose, in the vein of early Dr. Dog and Foxygen, and when he floats into his upper register on “All the Right Places,” I’m reminded of Charlottesville’s late, lamented Invisible Hand. Songs shift tempo and texture but never lose momentum, and chunky but crisp production seals the deal. Good Dog Nigel is a band to watch, and since the charismatic Emeigh’s based in Lynchburg, we should have our next chance soon. ****

Yola

Walk Through Fire
(Nonesuch)

Wow. On paper, Yola’s debut album Walk Through Fire looks familiar and almost played out: retro-soul with country and gospel touches, made in Nashville with all-star session cats and The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at the console, firing up fiddle, organ, and pedal steel in the right spots—more organic comfort food for hit radio refugees of a certain age. But Yola transcends formula—a talking point is that she’s British, but she doesn’t need the novelty hook; her powerful, smoky, velvety voice conveys depth and authority while avoiding histrionics, and her songs range from the really good to the glorious (“Faraway Look” and “Rock Me Gently”). ****