NowStreaming: Blue Light Bandits / Russell Dickerson / Kelly Clarkson

Blue Light Bandits / Blue Light Bandits

There is a real treat coming out of Worcester, and it can be heard on the Blue Light Bandits’ self-titled debut album. The 10-song effort is something of a rarity these days: an LP that has barely any filler and begs to be listened to over and over again. It’s a perfect start for a promising young band.

The Blue Light Bandits know how to put a song together. The groovy pop rock and jazz-infused DNA of many of the tracks here give layers to each song and will surely gain the appreciation of other musicians while still satisfying the radio crowd. The production is crisp, clear and tight without feeling fake. It’s hard to feel any sort of dishonesty with these songs; the rising chorus and soulful vocals on “The Sea & Moon” showcases nice songwriting chops while the light punch and waltz of “Back in Town” shows they can stay in the pocket and in control.

It’s hard to imagine these guys having as much suave as they do for a debut album, but on the outro to “What You Started,” you can’t help but think you’re listening to some seasoned lounge lizards with years of experience to their credit. The sometimes bluesy and atmospheric world they create perfectly envelopes the melodic lead guitar work without suffocating it, especially on “Call of the Sirens.”

While the vocals are fine and match the music appropriately, “Wash (outro)” cements the idea you’ll have halfway through the album that, if they wanted to, Blue Light Bandits could put together a killer instrumental release and do just as well. Blue Light Bandits are worth getting excited about, and this first effort proves it.

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Jason Savio

Russell Dickerson / Yours

As I may I have mentioned before, I am feeling the country music lately. I don’t know if it’s because it has kind of crossed over into more rock and pop than it used to be, but some songs just make my heart skip a beat or two. The album title song, “Yours,” by Russell Dickerson is one of those beautiful pieces. It’s a simple love song, but it (pardon the pun) hits all the right notes with me.

Dickerson’s voice is impossibly smooth, and quite honestly, it makes me swoon a bit. There is a charm about him that is hard to ignore and it comes through in his music. He has a good range overall, but the transitions are seamless. The melody “Yours” grabs you immediately, and you’ll be singing along after hearing the chorus once. With lyrics like, “You make me better than I was before/ Thank God I’m yours,” it is romantically honest.

Other songs on the album include “Every Little Thing,” which is an energetic and more pop-sounding song. The song “Billions” shows his sense of humor and, like its title suggests, is about ridiculous amounts of money and uses financial terminology to describe a relationship.

My favorite song on the album, other than the title track, is “You Look Like a Love Song,” which reminds me a little of an old-time crooner like Dean Martin when it begins, but then it switches to a faster-paced jam with a beat a bit reminiscent of a Meghan Trainor song.

I really like this album and think it is pretty solid effort for a debut album. If he stays on this road, and is as true to himself as an artist as he seems to be right now, I think he will be extremely successful.

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Jennifer Russo

Kelly Clarkson / Meaning of Life

Nobody with any musical acumen — or ears — has ever said that Kelly Clarkson cannot sing. But, it turns out that her previous seven albums only seemed to scratch the surface of her true depth and range. We always knew she could nail pop. On Meaning of Life, Clarkson manipulates her incredible voice so she’s reminiscent of the great soul singers of the past while simultaneously sounding current. On “Meaning of Life,” Clarkson’s eighth album, she’s more than a pop rocker with serious pipes; she’s mature and masterful. She’s Aretha Franklin incarnate.

Meaning of Life sounds and feels like a culmination of all her aspirations since being crowned the original American Idol 15 years ago. This album feel likes Clarkson is finally showing us her truth — what she’s always wanted to do and be — without the input of myriad producers tasked with making her a superstar.

There’s a modern electro-pop aesthetic beneath the tracks on this album, but Clarkson elevates each song beyond this level to be something truly special. “Love So Soft” has had its radio airtime, and while it’s a pop made for masses, it’s given true depth and passion by Clarkson because she so seamlessly blends old school with a contemporary sound, all while still sounding like herself. If you are a fan of this song, give others on the album a listen because you’ll find it’s full of gems. Clarkson’s voice can go beyond the rafters — no surprise there — but the passion in each lyric is so spot on, it stirs the soul.

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Mike Wood