Boom goes the New Release dynamite with the strongest field of albums so far this year. Kicking things off is thestevet latest from Houston’s own Steve Tyrell.  This time out the preeminent standards bearer in the American Songbook arena sets his Tom Waits meets Bob Seger vocal style on the second generation of The Great American songbook with the release of That Lovin’ Feeling, a set of songs that takes us back to the Brill building and the songwriters who influenced him back in the day as he was just starting out. With guest pop-ins from Neil Sedaka on “Laughter in the Rain,” Bill Medley on “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling,” and BJ Thomas for whom Steve produced the Ocsar winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and the most excellent Rock and Roll Lullaby, this makes for the perfect Valentine’s Day present for that music loving someone.

fatherjohnJosh Tillman under his moniker Father John Misty returns with I Love You, Honeybear, the more than stellar follow-up to 2012’s Fear Fun. This Laurel Canyon tinged record combines 70’s Pop with Orchestral Folk to create an earscape of pastoral beauty. With lyrics that evoke Randy Newman in places, and silliness in others, this effort is one not to be missed. Top 10 material, maybe not. If this were the playoffs, the album would just miss the post season, but for a lazy afternoon sitting in the sun drinking a wine cooler, this one might be just the ticket.

And now, ladies and gentlemen listen very carefully, this is not a drill.  Repeat, this is not a drill. Holding all the Roses, the latest from country rockers Blackberry Smoke is finally here.  One toke over the line between The Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynard and .38 Special, these guys are the real retro-rock 70’s deal. Don’t fear the every once in a while mandolin your ears are detecting, these guys are no hipster band, just look at them. The extended mid-song romp on the title track has a fairy dusting of The Allman Brothers on it, and “Rock and Roll Again” has hit single written all over it. If the old school Flying Burrito Brothers decided to become a rock band, this is what they would have sounded like.

You may not have heard of Gretchen Peters, but you know her very well. Having penned hit songs for Carriegretchen Underwood, Bonnie Raitt, Bryan Adams, and countless others, her songs have been part of your musical buffet for almost two decades.

A recent inductee into the Nashville writers hall of fame, this whirlwind of talent has stepped out from behind her quill to produce Blackbirds, a stunning set of tunes that feature gust drive-bys  from Jerry Douglas, Jason Isbell, Kim Richey, Jimmy LaFave, and Suzy Bogguss.

The narratives here are almost Springsteenian in nature with devastating stories of the common man like on “When All You Got Is a Hammer” a song that features Jason Isbell and tells the story of the problems a veteran faces after returning from war duty, and “Blackbirds,” the title track is simply epic.

“I left you lying there like rotten fruit upon the ground, and I lit a torch and burned the whole thing down.”

You won’t find better songwriting this side of Lucinda Williams.

If you have never heard of the band Peace, you now have been duly informed. This Birmingham, England band has a new school ambiance about them with a definite 80’s old school Post Punk vibe. Happy People, their latest has sort of a U2 meets Oasis feel to it with a lot of energy and moxie to spare.