Luther Russell: Medium Cool (2019)

One of my favorite albums of the year, and a perfect listen on a sunny August day in the car with the windows down, especially for Big Star fans.  Usually the comparison means chiming, jangly power pop, and while there's a lot of that here, Big Star also had some stirring hard rockers -- think "Feel" and "When My Baby's Beside Me" and a lot of the Chris Bell solo album.  And that's the vibe on this album -- just your good ol' rock and roll, like some great lost early 70s power pop album infused with some UK pub rock.

Plus Russell, an L.A. musician who's been around a while (I can't claim a lot of familiarity with his prior work, but I'm gonna check it out), has his Big Star bona fides, playing in Those Pretty Wrongs alongside Big Star drummer Jody Stephens.  More than anything, Russell's vocals here often make him a dead ringer for Alex Chilton (though he occasionally channels early Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker as well).

And not to drive the Big Star thing into the ground, opening track "Deep Feelings" borrows the guitar sound straight from "Oh My Soul," but gives it a nice rousing twist.  Infectious "Corvette Summer" has a nice little guitar riff, with Russell a little more in Elvis mode vocally.  "Have You Heard" circles back to the opening track for its vibe; if you told me it was a leftover track from Chilton's post-Big Star Bach's Bottom solo sessions, I'd have no reason to question you. 

There are also a couple really nice acoustic ballads, a little rough around the edges, like the Replacements in Westerberg's more introspective moments.  And somewhere in between is
"The Sound of Rock & Roll," a jaunty mid-tempo tune that manages to suggest both Chilton and Westerberg, and it's a total joy to hear.

For all the above comparisons, I don't want to suggest it's derivative; it's a really nice record on its own terms.  But, that said, if you like Big Star, and Paul Westerberg, and My Aim Is True, you're gonna be pretty cool with this.  (Go buy it on Bandcamp.)

Here's a video for "The Sound of Rock & Roll":
 And here's "Corvette Summer":