By Tom Reardon, April 2019 Issue.

As we slip into spring and the desert is starting to bloom, it seems only natural to look at three recent releases with local Valley of the Sun ties. Two of these artists have been around the block for some time now, with ties to folks like Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana, Neil Young, and Black Flag, and one is relatively new, but we shall see below if their recent output is worth the price of admission.

Meat Puppets — Dusty Notes

If you grew up in the ‘80s in Phoenix, or for that matter, any college town anywhere, you were probably aware of the Meat Puppets. The Kirkwood brothers, guitarist/lead vocalist, Curt, and bassist, Cris, were darlings of the college rock world after a brief dalliance with punk in their early days and the occasional bout with heavy drug addiction. They played shows with everyone from Husker Du to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and confounded many an audience with their unique take on underground rock. On Dusty Notes, they are joined by Curt’s son, Elmo, and keyboard player, Ron Stabinsky, and for the first time in two decades, original drummer, Derrick Bostrom.  While this is no Meat Puppets II, that doesn’t mean it’s terrible, which it is not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a bit all over the place, but that’s what the Puppets do best. Stabinsky’s keyboards and Bostrom’s unique style take this record to heights the band’s previous three or four albums have failed to hit. Who else could cover The Searchers “Sea Of Heartbreak” and have it fit right in? Only the Meat Puppets. Let’s hope this lineup has the chance to record a few more records.

Favorite tracks: “Nine Pin” and “Unfrozen Memory.”

LUAU — Nothing To Say EP

Sometimes the first few seconds of a record make me hate myself a little bit. The inner music snob says, “Turn this the fuck off!” but then I remember that I have a job to do and goddamn it, I have to keep listening. Frankly, I’m glad I did with LUAU. They are not typically my cup of tea, and opening track “Discrete Company” is the weakest of the four tracks, but there is something here on this new EP, Nothing To Say, that gives me an inkling they are going to be pretty popular in more places than Phoenix fairly soon. Singer/guitarist Evan Hallock has a supremely pleasant voice that will only mature and grow more confident with experience and his bandmates, guitarist Chad Bergman, bassist Chris Windsor, and drummer Joel Knight have the chops and charisma, as well as the boyish good looks to take this as far as they want to go. Equal parts soulful, indie-love balladry and tough(ish), fuzzy boisterousness, Nothing To Say actually has more than a few things to say for itself.

Favorite tracks: “Where’s The Ledge” and “How.”

Nils Lofgren — Blue With Lou

Holy ghost music, Batman, this album rules. Nils Lofgren delivers the goods on this twelve-song bluesy rocker with six of the songs being collaborations with the late, great, amazing, rock deity, Lou Reed. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently, Reed and Lofgren had gotten together in the late ‘70s and talked about collaborating after legendary producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd, as well as Lofgren and Reed) recommended that they do so. Originally the two rockers, each with an incredible pedigree, penned thirteen songs together. Over the next few years, they each selected a few of these tracks to put on their respective solo releases, including Reed’s highly underrated, The Bells, but six of the songs ended up being unreleased. A few years ago, after Reed’s death, Lofgren decided to revisit the project and has released these final six, along with another half-dozen originals. Lofgren, who lives in Scottsdale and has for a few decades, is an accomplished singer/song writer and guitar for hire who has worked extensively with Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Neil Young, just to name a few. On Blue With Lou, Lofgren shines, and on occasion, you can hear echoes of Reed’s iconic vocals as Lofgren stays true to his collaborator’s trademark phrasing. Highly recommend this album to anyone who loves rock and roll.

Favorite tracks: “Give,” “Rock Or Not,” and “Don’t Let Your Guard Down.”