Although guitarist and singer Robert Cray had been working with his own band since the late ’70s (and even had a cameo in the 1978 film Animal House as the bassist for Otis Day and the Knights), Cray didn’t really break into the mainstream until releasing his fourth album, Strong Persuader, in 1986. The album, which contained the hit “Smokin’ Gun,” earned Cray a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Over the last three decades, Cray has gone on to prove that not only is he a great bluesman with his feet planted in the genre (he’s even recorded with the great John Lee Hooker), but he can mix in soul as well, as he does on 2014’s In My Soul. He’s also released 4 Nights of 40 Years Live, a two-CD and DVD live album, in 2015. Jon Solomon
Rapper Lucki Eck$ — better known simply as Lucki — has a song called “Poker Face” on his 2017 release Watch My Back. But make no mistake, it’s not a cover of Lady Gaga’s hit from back in 2008.
Where Gaga’s track is about relationship drama, Lucki’s is a nod to Wockhardt, the pharma company that produces a codeine-laden cough syrup famously used to concoct lean, which blends the medicine with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers. And Lucki doesn’t seem to care about his songs reaching the same level of popularity as Gaga, as he notes in the track: “Baby rock-hardt, I feel like a Wock star / I don’t fear a thing but a cop car / Underground king, fuck your top chart.”
With that song, and his others, it takes a minute to focus on the lyrics because his vocal delivery is so laid back – mellow and, at times. hypnotic. It’s not surprising he’s collaborated with the trancey FKA Twigs. The beats below the words aren’t hyper either; they’re melodic and popping with energy, creating a balance with his low-and-slow singing style. Things get grittier when you do zone in on what Lucki’s saying, as he offers slices from his life, referencing topics from drugs to gang life. Amy Young
When German powerhouse vocalist Angela Gossow left Swedish metal band Arch Enemy in 2014, many justifiably suspected that the group’s best days were behind them. After all, Gossow is blessed with a voice that sounds like multiple demons gargling nails. Replacing her would surely prove impossible. In fact, Gossow hand-picked her replacement, Canada’s Alissa White-Gluz, and it was an inspired choice, enabling Arch Enemy to barely miss a beat.
Some fans might have been unable to get past the clean vocals on this year’s Will to Power album, but all of the aggression and energy is still there.
Contemporary thrash band Trivium put out their eighth album this year, The Sin and the Sentence, and frontman Matt Heafy has returned to the screaming vocal style that was absent from their previous record. The bands’ contrasting vocal trajectories should make for a fascinating metal pairing. Brett Callwood
The coming of the full moon each month has been an event that’s been celebrated for millennia, dating back to ceremonies performed by the Celts and Druids. In more modern times, there are events like the annual Full Moon Party in Thailand, which features a raucous, rowdy, and colorful celebration.
Here in the Valley, organizers of the Full Moon Festival get into the spirit of the occasion on Friday, December 1, with an evening of music and revelry at Unexpected Art Gallery.
The event will offer five separate stages of performances from dozens of local DJs, hip-hop artists, and bands, as well as fire-dancing and art displays. The lineup will include such names as rapper Benji Fly and jazz-pop band House of Stairs, as well as a slew of local DJs like Doza, Von Gold, Jak, Alaska, Frank Terry and many more. The event runs from 8:08 p.m. to 3:33 a.m. Admission is $15 and costumes and outfits that reflect the “magic and majesty of the moon” are encouraged. Benjamin Leatherman
¡Vive! Selena Friday, December 1, and Saturday, December 2
It’s been more than 20 years since Grammy-winning artist Selena Quintanilla was murdered by her former manager. Though her career was cut short, Quintanilla had already earned the unofficial title “Queen of Tejano Music,” as she was instrumental in bringing the Texan-Mexican fusion sound to the masses. Her prolific output included five solo studio albums and 27 singles, many of which ranked on a variety of charts, including pop and Latin music lists.
Though decades have passed, fans still can’t get enough of her songs. And the late pop star has been memorialized in multiple ways. There’s the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, statues, a musical movie about her life titled Selena, as well as a number of books. Most recently, a children’s book about the artist was released, colorfully outlining her early years singing for her family’s band, along with her rise to fame.
Then there’s ¡Vive! Selena, a tribute show that celebrates Selena’s songs, her fun sense of fashion, and her lively spirit. Hear an array of songs from her extensive catalog, including hits like “Dreaming of You,” “El Toro Relajo,” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Amy Young
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