Album Reviews: Jack White, Larry McCray, Wuzee, and More: Local Spins

It’s a very diverse tour in early April of Michigan’s new albums, from blues to rock and hip-hop to adventurous classical music and cool gems from Angels and Brian Koenigknecht.

Eclectic Mix: This week’s album review report.

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Jack White
“Fear of Dawn”

What stands out: It’s only fitting that a track called “Get Back Me” announces the return of Jack White after a crippling pandemic and all manner of mayhem. It’s also fitting that the studio’s first two new albums announce that it will return with equal amounts of guitar-driven turbulence, brutal innovative effects, and clever keyboards.
And the wonderful twists and turns – not to mention the textures of world music, guest appearances by rapper Q-Tip (“Hi-De-Ho”) and zodiac-rock evolution (“Eosophobia”, “Eosophobia-Reprise”). The 12-song collection represents the inventive Detroit native at his fearless best, which may not please everyone at all, but continues his gritty and heavy-duty style that pushes boundaries.
Dig deeper: Bassist Dominic John Davis says that as a problem solver in the studio, it’s “all about processing” with White, who changes and tunes his songs as he goes to let the music tell him where to go. “If you don’t put something first, he doesn’t have anything to work with,” Davis says. He played most of the instruments on several tracks, and had a lot to work with on the always stunning “Fear of Dawn,” an altarpiece to the sweeter, more mellow song “Entering Heaven Alive,” which is set for release on July 22.
suitable for: Fist-pump, stomp, and spin in your living room with full-size speakers. – John Senkevix
Upcoming Offers: 6 p.m. Saturday (April 9) at the Masonic Temple Theater in Detroit; 8 p.m. Sunday (April 10) at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids (tickets available here). FYI: During his inaugural Friday show at the Masonic Temple, White got engaged and married on stage for Olivia Jane’s opening.)
Listen: “Phobia (repetition)”

Larry McCray
“The Blues Without You”

What stands out: There’s plenty of personal and autobiographical storytelling about “Blues Without You”—from “Arkansas,” which takes off with McCray’s smooth, trademark, electric blue guitar flames, to the sound and cut of “I Play the Blues,” all of which encapsulate dozens of songs later. They book what can only be described as a muscular, powerful, blues-fueled group of beloved Saginaw singer and guitarist, cleverly produced by genre icons Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, with fun guest appearances by Bonamassa, Warren Hines and Joanna Connor.
Dig deeper: There’s more to McCray’s delicious guitar work and sentiment-worthy vocals, with upstairs keyboard and horn accents, beautiful backing vocals and powerful percussion driving songs like “Good Die Young.” It’s McCray’s first album in more than seven years, so there’s also plenty of pent-up demand for new recorded music from a man who has long been a Michigan favorite and highly regarded nationally. McCray also explains that there’s more to come: “I’ll keep doing that until the day I die,” as he sings on the concluding track.
suitable for: Michigan Blues veteran and anyone who needs some inspiration at low tide. – John Senkevix
Next show: May 3 at Listening Room in Grand Rapids (tickets available here)
Listen: “Arkansas”

Grand Rapids Symphony
“Strauss and Villa Lobos”

What stands out: GRS Music Director Marcelo Lininger compiled three recordings of Richard Strauss and Hector Villa Lobos into his first commercial recording with Grand Rapids Symphony as well as his first orchestral recording in many years. Although it was recorded in front of a live audience at DeVos Performance Hall, it was exquisitely designed to sound like a studio recording. Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” is a massive feat with complex and interesting solos from just about every major player. Lehninger and a massive orchestra of 102 musicians provide a wonderful, heart-warming account of this epic melody poem. Exquisite brass woodwinds on and off stage and graceful woodwinds provide an emotionally rich experience. Concert Director James Crawford gives a captivating solo performance as the flirtatious, sometimes perverted, heroine in A Hero’s Life.
Dig deeper: Great music from Heitor Villa-Lobos. Guest soprano Jessica Rivera collaborates beautifully with the Brazilian-born conductor, merging into one instrument for two movements by Brazilian composer “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5. Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus joins the orchestra in Chôros No. 5. 10 “Rasga o Coração”, which translates to “tears of the heart.” The performance lives up to its title. It is as adventurous as it is exciting.
suitable for: Domestic GRS fans, but also fans of the most famous Brazilian composer, lovingly translated by a native son. – Jeffrey Kachmarczyk
Upcoming Offers: April 28-29 at DeVos Performance Hall for the Dvorak 7 + Sitar Concerto; May 19-20 at DeVos Performance Hall for Mahler’s Titan (Tickets Available Here)
Listen: Chôros No. 10 Heart Tears Part. 1 inch

Wuzee & Dusty Fingerz
“100 summer”

What stands out: Wuzee (Michigan) and Dusty Fingerz (NYC) team up on “100 Summers” to showcase Wuzee’s clever wordplay rhythms layered with mysterious and psychedelic. Each track seamlessly transitions between boom-bap beats with instrumental samples selected from emotional decades passed, with audio messages detailing the narration establishing some roomy, surreal textures. This release is a great addition to Michigan’s catalog of hip-hop music and was recently featured on Okayplayer in a batch of recent releases being promoted by the popular website.
Dig deeper: Anytime a hip-hop artist wants to collaborate, there’s an exciting moment of uncertainty. This moment of discovery arrives when two talented people come together and are thrilled with how each artist has worked to create record-breaking brilliance. Wuzee and all of the guest rappers in this edition provide great verses about this strong foundation laid by Dusty Fingerz. The fact that this record streams effortlessly is a testament to how well they worked together in the studio.
suitable for: Cool summer evening at a friend’s place, let the music blur with the surroundings and ride vibes late at night. – Dutchman Sneeker
Next show:Wuzee & Samil at The Pyramid Scheme on May 19 (with JRob & Bedrock and Les Creatif), part of Local Spins’ 10th Anniversary Celebration (Tickets available here)
Listen: “Surfer Ghouls” (feat. Lokye)

“My love is you”

What stands out: When pressed to play, the listener is automatically transported to another dimension as delicate blues flirt with the ears. Suddenly, you’re sitting in the middle of a faint misty club, hearing the clatter of glassware while the romantic scent of sweet bourbon and last year’s cigar smoke dances with your senses. One spot of light falls on the stage, illuminating the singer as buttery bliss flows from her lips. The baffling voice sings to you alongside a soul-rooted humming guitar, leaving everyone in the audience melting in a puddle in their seat.
Dig deeper: For 47 dynamic minutes, Zeeland songwriters Jennifer and Jared Adams send you a compelling journey. After opening a sensational album, the next song comes with a desperate piano and harmonious duet that not only complements, but also seems to communicate support and affinity towards each other. At 8-1/2 minutes with a bulbous build and guitar solo, the song feels like the end of an album rather than a second track. In a way, this choice seems to indicate the end of a chapter rather than the novel. Showcasing instruments such as trumpets, synthes, banjo, capasa, and mandolin, it offers a variety of textures and a variety of tones throughout, showing that these musicians have trained for rodeo many times before. The songwriting is intricate, the recording is polished, and the performance is emotional. Gospels describes her as one of the “renewed, authentic, most honest and vulnerable voices [they’ve] Ever “they hope the songs” move you–in your heart and at your feet. Filled with genre, with a sense of warmth and character, this eight-track adventure will end with bright rays of choral rays, saccharine harmony and upbeat swing that instills a sense of calm, peace and hope.
suitable for: Floating on a pontoon in the middle of a calm inland lake on a cool late-summer evening, dressed in a sturdy cabernet jacket, an oversized jacket and your favourite. – Jennifer Bartlett
Next show: June 17 at Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium in Grand Haven
Listen: “My love is you”

Brian Koenigknecht
‘dirty work’

What stands out: Brian Koenigsknecht returns with “The Dirty Work,” a record that continues to show why the Michiganders have such a strong presence among the region’s songwriters. Each track embodies a different mood, from dreamer to designer, all while displaying his delicious arranging and performance skills. No tone overwhelms its welcome, but rather invites the listener into a comfortable space to hear tales of love, life, and struggles that many have to overcome.
Dig deeper: Dirty Work embodies the spirit of storytelling, crafting persuasive and concise arrangements to help comfort and inform the listener. Each vignette captures a moment to learn from, and paints pictures of a dynamic life filled with moments of glory and shame. Koenigsknecht does an excellent job of blending art with originality, adding each track to the pages of a book that each audience member will continue to write with their own experiences, going back to previous chapters in search of nuggets of wisdom.
suitable for: Lovers lost and found, dreary nights and nights in town, singing in the rain and learning from pain. – Dutchman Sneeker
Next show: April 22 at Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo with Darcy Wilkin (get tickets here)
Listen: “settled in”

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