CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (July 20, 2023) — It’s been a few months since I’ve taken a moment to appreciate some current local releases. In that short amount of time, this robust music scene has continued to produce and release a number of singles, EPs and full-length albums.
Here are a handful of recent albums from some East Bay artists:
“Maybe Someday.” The debut album from Martinez singer-songwriter Shelby Helburn is a very well-produced record of mostly upbeat indie rock of the Americana variety. It’s loaded with references to driving and chasing dreams, and active listeners will find themselves sitting shotgun with Helburn in his 11-song journey to a place of existential acceptance. Expect elements of Tom Petty, Kurt Vile and The Shins. “Maybe Someday” will be released widely on July 21.
“Down to the Fat – Grease Dealer Live!” This hard-hitting live album of instrumental funk fires off with little warning and relentlessly persists with ferocious energy and remarkable precision. In fact, the Oakland-based quartet plays so tightly, it can be hard to believe that you’re listening to a live recording. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume that all the instruments were individually tracked in a studio, the best takes of each all spliced together, and then crowd noise added in post-production. However, having seen them live, I can attest that these guys really are just that tight. Shout out to the sound guys at Art Boutiki in San Jose – where “Down to the Fat” was recorded – for knowing exactly how to capture this kind of lightning.
“Broken Promiseland.” Since forming in Los Angeles in the late ’80s, The Uninvited have been churning out their blend of alt-country and catchy pop rock on a half dozen albums, before taking a 15-year break. Now based out of Pleasant Hill, the band is back at it with their newest release. Some locals may have recently had the chance to catch the full band perform live at WiseGirl in Pleasant Hill, or perhaps just the core duo – founding brothers Steve and John Taylor – performing at various events and venues around Diablo Valley. The band considers “Broken Promiseland” to be their best work to date and wants everyone to know they’re “Not Dead Yet.”
“What We Watered.” One of my personal favorites of 2023, “What We Watered” is a must-hear for those who enjoy listening to entire works front-to-back. Berkeley singer-songwriter Maya Elise and her very talented band The Good Dream are clearly having a blast, both on the record and on the road, as they continue to tour parts of the United States in support of her third full-length album. “What We Watered” is beautiful and imaginative, with inviting melodies, rich vocal harmonies, intimate delivery, exquisite production and some fun artistic left-turns. Headphones recommended.
“Hurt.” Released earlier this month on the seventh anniversary of his cancer diagnosis, “Hurt” is the second full-length album from Orinda singer-songwriter Daniel Ray Hilsinger. Like its predecessor “Everlasting,” the new album is a collection of hyper-personal ballads, delivered with sincere emotion, through DIY low-fi recordings. While his previous work embraces acceptance and hopefulness, much of “Hurt” explores some of the darker elements of the human condition: pain, anger, resentment and grief. Far from unproductive wallowing, Hilsinger uses these negative emotions as an alternate way to connect to listeners – to remind us that all we have is now, and that we should all do whatever we can to “Fly like a bird with no care in this world … because the end will come sooner than you think.”
Find links to the aforementioned albums and countless other local releases at ConcordRockCity.com.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.