Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roadcase Royale - Get Loud


Roadcase Royale - Get Loud 


One gets the feeling listening to “Get Loud”, the first single from Roadcase Royale, that this is a perfect song for this moment in time. The new band, featuring the talents of vocalist Liv Warfield (Prince’s New Power Generation band) and guitarist/songwriter Nancy Wilson (Heart) brings together top shelf talent in a band that sounds much more organic and natural than assembled. There’s a glow of true inspiration burning off this material and the production captures that glow with a crispness and sense of balance that makes it an invigorating and entertaining listening experience from the outset. Joining Warfield and Wilson in the band are the touring musicians from Heart’s current incarnation – bassist Dan Rothchild, keyboard player Chris Joyner, and drummer Ben Smith. Warfield’s musical direction Ryan Waters completes the six piece on lead guitar. This unique confluence of talents produce a song that is fresh and yet distinctively recognizable; they fuse light guitar powered rock with light strands of R&B to magnificent effect. Let’s hope, side project or not, that a band this good stays together for a long time to come.  

Liv Warfield really owns this tune. Her singing prowess never relents and guides this song in such a way that it sounds like she’s been waiting to sing this song all her life. Her voice never tackles a line the same exact way twice and, instead, she responds to each music moment with artistry that’s impossible to ignore. Warfield never overshadows the arrangement and players entirely; instead, she sings as the singer in a band rather than a vocalist soloing with incidental accompaniment. The lessons she learned during her time with Prince, life, and a career since then serves “Get Loud” well and the exuberance she brings to every line makes the song’s message all the more inspiring and convincing.  

The lyrics are never preachy, never heavy handed, and make their point in direct language. “Get Loud” is about making sure the world hears your voice and it has an across the board application – this is just about resistance, it’s about asserting your identity and refusing to be anything else than who you are and what you believe. The musical backing for this is ideal. The rhythm section work allows Warfield to exert her influence over the verses and the entire band comes together for an amazing chorus. Wilson and Waters play great together – as a longtime Heart fan, this might be one of the best pairings on guitar Nancy Wilson has ever enjoyed. The aforementioned rhythm section creates a great groove for the song and, undoubtedly, it makes Wilson and Waters’ job all the more easier. This band couldn’t have asked for a better debut. Roadcase Royale is a band with legs, not some lark intended to consume time between Heart tours, and Liv Warfield deserves the moment in the spotlight that this band promises to bring her. “Get Loud” will be exactly what the band’s growing fan base will do with further singles.   


Scott Wigley

Monday, March 20, 2017

Leah Capelle – Joshua


Leah Capelle – Joshua


Produced by the same man helming her self-titled debut, Jeff Bova, Leah Capelle’s second EP Joshua re-establishes her as one of the most promising singer/songwriters working today and shows a clear evolution in both her performing and songwriting skills. This should be expected. The prodigy-like musical talents she showed at the age of six coupled with her extensive music education and a generous reservoir of passion come together to give her an edge in every area that her contemporaries and peers are often missing. The three songs compromising Joshua never adopt the same sound and, instead, come at the listener from a variety of angles while still showing shared characteristics. Capelle’s talents have earned her a place on many respected stages in the Chicago area and her talents have garnered raves from many quarters. Joshua proves that praise is fully justified. 

The title song proves it alone. “Joshua” is wide ranging, both musically and lyrically, and retains a sharply honed intelligence without ever losing sight of its mandate to entertain listeners. This ear-catching balance of priorities is something few performers or writers can pull off, but she’s shows considerable aplomb with doing so here. Nearly aspect of the musical performance deserves singling out for its excellence, but the guitar playing and drumming deserve particular notice thanks to the skillful way they pull the song in opposing, but satisfyingly complementary, directions. The guitar, especially, gives the song a lightly melodic touch that is quite memorable. Capelle’s vocal never shows any difficulty handling the phrasing and her voice stresses all the right details to help her audience understand and connect with the song. The second track, “Out Now”, is a song of survival that never over-exerts its need to resonate with listeners and drag the entire endeavor into histrionics and melodrama. It achieves a strong effect on the audience thanks to how well it varies between just the right amount of light, uncluttered space set against the song’s more dramatic and instrument-laden passages. The chorus, like elsewhere on Joshua, is very strong and brings home the song’s message with great vigor. 

The EP’s final track, “Who I Am”, is the true musical revelation on this release. Capelle’s songwriting takes on a much stronger rock and roll vibe here, but it’s solid Heartland rock that doesn’t overwhelm listeners with raw guitar muscle. The song isn’t long, but it shows the same patience and attention to layering we hear on the earlier duo of songs and it says a lot about the flexibility of her musical vision that she’s able to incorporate these alternative sounds into her singer/songwriter aimed compositions and they work without a hitch. Few artists can claim such a command over their own material, but it is clear that Capelle has outstanding chemistry with her collaborators and came into the studio for this release with a clear of how and what she wanted to accomplish. Joshua’s three songs attest to the clarity of that creative vision and bode well for her future.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Dale Butcher

The Spider Accomplice - Los Angeles: The Abduction


The Spider Accomplice - Los Angeles: The Abduction 


This is the sort of rock release that makes you believe again. It has everything. When questionably sage figures like Kiss bass player Gene Simmons are pronouncing the death of rock music, Los Angeles based trio The Spider Accomplice bring everything to the table. They have the songs, vocals, and presentation to make them a profound force on the modern music scene. These songs transcend mere rock labels, though they will undoubtedly appeal to a broad base of rock fans. Instead, these songs are never abrasive enough, pulse with enough fury, and push listeners along with compelling melodies to win over countless fans of every genre. This is deceptively sophisticated music delivered in a direct way and the songwriting has a focus that never lets up. Los Angeles: The Abduction is the second EP in the band’s Los Angeles Trilogy and the six songs compromising this collection deserve your attention. 

You know you’ve encountered something special from the EP’s first cut alone. “Bromlaid” lays out much of the EP’s emotional mood without ever biting off more than it can chew, but it’s clear from the expansive guitar textures and fiery interplay between the players that there’s more than a little ambition here to burn. They carry it off quite nicely, however, and it’s clear from her emphatic and highly skilled performance that vocalist VK Lynne is an integral part of the band’s presentation. It’s seldom clearer than on the album’s second song “Messy Vampire”. Lynne tears into this dark tale as if her life depended on it and the band plays with equal artful, but lusty, abandon. It’s one of the best rock songs on the EP, but there are even stronger cuts to come. “Behold the Day” and “You Still Lie” are quite a study in contrasts. The first is an unusual and highly atmospheric song with memorable guitar work and another outstanding vocal from Lynne that keeps a tight focus on what the song needs. The second song, “You Still Lie”, has a much more commercial thrust without ever sinking into just offering up clich├ęs and poses for listeners desiring such a track. It also plays like one of the EP’s more personal cuts and Lynne’s awesome passion underscores that without ever being too overwrought.  

“Going Over” is another notable contrast. This is, perhaps, as sensitive as The Spider Accomplice gets on this release, but that doesn’t mean it stands out as some misconceived anomaly on the release. Instead, it offers listeners a chance to hear this unit confidently take an unique turn. The ending number “Hollywood Hotel” begins with an extended spoken word introduction, complete with ambient sound effects, before it blisters the skin with a furious rock attack that makes the earlier “Messy Vampire” sound wimpy. That’s not an easy feat. There’s plenty here on this EP, however, that’s easy to like despite the challenging nature, outside the box, of the material. Dedicated musical fans will welcome this outside the lines approach to the rock genre at this late date and it’s equally likely that those who’ve never heard this trio will be just as impressed. This is an exceptional release on every count. 

9 out of 10 stars 


Bradley Johnson

 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Angie and the Deserters – Stay


Angie and the Deserters – Stay 


“Stay” is a great, sensitivity felt piece from Southern California’s Angie and the Deserters. This new single from the band’s EP You finds the band successfully shifting gears from the amped up and countrified blues rock marking some of the material in favor of a much more low-key, but equally impassioned, approach that results in some of the best music you’ll hear this year. Bruyere has a versatile voice capable of invoking raucous honky tonk and nuanced emotion with equal skill, but her band is equally talented and adopts the principle of doing more with less. The Deserters never have to employ an assortment of instruments to make the song work; instead, with only a few colors at their disposal, Angie and the Deserters conjures up a world of feeling and emotion within the relatively small confines of this track. This is a powerful performance by any standard.  

The heart of its power lies in Angie Bruyere’s vocal. This Potsdam New York native has Mississippi Delta soul in her vocals, burnished with a bit of rural charm, and she’s so good she’d likely make singing a grocery list compelling. She has a truly distinctive touch; despite possessing pipes capable of taking over any song, any style, Bruyere is very careful to mold her performance according to the song’s requirements. This means there’s an utter lack of self indulgence and showboating in this vocal. Her phrasing gives the lyrics an added dramatic layer that, divorced from her performance and music alike, turns relatively commonplace sentiments into the stuff of pure performed poetry. She sounds confident throughout and the way her voice complements the violin and string instruments alike further illustrates how closely she tailors the performance to the music surrounding her. “Stay” is, largely, all about her vocal and the message it delivers.  

The message is one we’ve heard before, but Bruyere’s lyrics firmly place it in the context of her own life while still tying it to our individual experiences. She unleashes her interpretation of the lyrics in such a way that one might be lead to believe she thinks this is the first time anyone has ever felt this way, but it’s that once in a lifetime quality to her performance that will inspire admiration in the minds and hearts of this song’s future listeners. She chooses her words with a keen ear for what “Stay” needs and the same rigorous discipline applied to the musical arrangement guides the lyric writing as well. Neither element squanders opportunities or lays things on too thick. Instead, everything is focused and tailored to the goal of creating a memorable musical world for the listener and instruments like the violin and mandolin help Bruyere transport her audience, for a time, into a different world. There’s very little of Southern California or her native upstate New York background in this song. Instead, there’s just Angie Bruyere and her band, stripped of all pretense, and earnestly communicating from the heart with a hopefully large audience. “Stay” should get her a ton of praise and every word is deserved. 


Montey Zike

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kirbie - Human


Kirbie - Human 

“Human” is the first single from Kirbie’s second album, Melon Soup, and announces the next stage in her development as both a performer and songwriter. She’s achieved, at an early age, artistic success that others never achieve after decades in the trenches. Having one’s own sound and style in a world where the path of least resistance is, inevitable, more rewarded stands out as a truly remarkable thing about this performer. She certainly has her influences, but they are so deeply woven into her own identity that they become indistinguishable from her own voice. She sings with unfettered passion, always tempering her voice with a workable amount of finesse, and surrounds herself with a bevy of equally tasteful collaborators who definitely believe that the notes really mattering most are the ones you don’t play. “Human” has a powerhouse talent at the center of its performance and an artful, understated backing that allows the song plenty of room to breathe. 

You can immediately hear that amiable, loosely confident quality. The composition kicks off with some echo-laden drums swinging like mad before the production clears and the song begins in earnest. It’s dominated musically by keyboards, but “Human” slowly changes as the track progresses by orchestrating the drumming approach, incorporating some percussion breaks, and further coloring from guitar flourishes. Kirbie’s songwriting brings these various musical strains together in a greater whole and it effortlessly flows from the beginning onward. There’s no hesitancy in the playing or straining for effect; Kirbie’s backing band are on point throughout the entirety of this performance and they play with equal parts skill and deep feeling.  It makes for a satisfying outing by any stylistic or technical standard and Kirbie’s collaborators provide her songwriting with a first class backing that helps realize the song’s potential. 

Her vocals are fantastic from start to finish. She emerges as a confident singing in the first line and winds through the lyrics and phrasing with confidence that’s never strident or overstated. The character she fills the lyrics with, however, is full of conviction and rightly so – “Human” has a lyrical message that’s timeless and has a calm assurance about its vision of the truth. She milks the right emotional peaks in the song for all their worth and shows careful attention to the lyrics at other key points that modulates the emotional rise and fall of the song. The plain-spoken wisdom in the lyrics will win over listeners, but going a step further with a stunning vocal brings out even more of the truth and empathy strewn throughout the lyric. “Human” explores serious subjects with spartan, to the point language that drives to their heart of its depicted experience. There’s a lot more to win over listeners on this performance and Kirbie is clearly intent, from the outset, to communicate with her audience in the most dramatic terms possible, but yet with immense artistry. It’s virtually impossible to not like this song. Kirbie wins us over thanks to her skill and sincerity.  

Lance Wright
 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Flashpot Moments - s/t


The Flashpot Moments - s/t 


The eleven song debut of The Flashpot Moments will stick in your memory after even one listen. Singer, songwriter, and occasional drummer Tim Cawley has released a powerful reminder of melodic hard rock’s ability to connect with audiences in an age when other forms occupy more of the popular consciousness. His vocal and songwriting talents are considerable, but he’s never risks self-indulgence on this release. The songs are tightly focused and geared to entertain, but there’s a lot of intelligence going into these cuts that makes the songwriting even more memorable. The Flashpot Moments leans more to the melodic hard rock end of the spectrum, but Cawley isn’t afraid to take the gloves off at the right time to hit listeners with uncompromising blasts of hard rock that swing like a mofo. This is a great debut by any stretch of the term and it’s apparent that the extended time Cawley invested in its writing and recording has paid off with quite a memorable debut. 

“Places Unknown” is the clearest anthem on the album and sends the collection straight into the stratosphere from the beginning with a wonderful approach to vocals and guitars that enthusiastically support the singing. The second track “Strangers Dance” is the audience’s first deep glimpse into the range of Cawley’s songwriting talents. His ability to write songs that have universal meaning sets him apart from many much more labored practitioners of this form because he never feels like it’s a stretch – instead, Cawley’s singing and songwriting seems to sense these patterns characterizing all of our lives, these flashpot moments in our own lives, and he understand how to depict them in song. “On Some Awful Night” is our first hint of how convincingly he’s capable of rocking out and setting his melodic concerns on the backburner. The chorus isn’t quite as catchy, on purpose, as the earlier songs, but the passion in the tune is the same and you’ll be hard pressed to not listen again. 

The real rock muscle of this release emerges for the first time on “The Learning Curve”. This is a balls to the wall, sleek rocker with great guitars and a particularly effective rhythm section performance, but it seems even a little pale compared to the full on fury conjured by his riffing in the track “Hands Up!”. He takes a common phrase here too and invests it with all kinds of meaning; the pay off line of each chorus is delicious and Cawley delivers it with obvious playful relish. The final rock-strained track on The Flashpot Moments, “Can’t Wait to Find Out”, has enough cynicism to power an entire album and the point of view is surprisingly sour, but he has the good sense to give it an appealing musical slant that keeps the experience from being unenjoyable. The album’s conclusion “The Last Stand” will wow many and its extended length isn’t daunting in any way. The same imagination making the rest of the album soar is in full effect here and puts a memorable exclamation point on this great album.

9 out of 10 stars
 


Gilbert Mullis

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jeremy Poland & Lantz Dale - Timeless Soul


Jeremy Poland & Lantz Dale - Timeless Soul 


The acoustic duo of Jeremy Poland and Lantz Dale’s first album together as performers, Timeless Soul, is a natural outgrowth of their collaboration together on Poland’s debut album Southbound Heart. These talented artists discovered they have a rare rapport and, not wanting to turn out a set of songs that might have been heard as a carbon copy of his initial release, Poland opted to pursue a more laid back approach on this release. Despite the acoustic sound, however, Timeless Soul gives up nothing in the substance department. These seven tracks are every bit as meaningful and meaty as anything on Southbound Heart and there’s an impressive completeness to the tracks despite their relative simplicity that’s the kind of stuff important music is made of. The vocal aspect of the release is equally memorable. It’s not often that you hear two voices tie so effortlessly into one another, but many of the songs on Timeless Soul are marked by the effervescent harmonies Poland and Dale conjure together. 

Some of those harmonies come into play on “All Yours Now”, the opener, but they will get even glossier treatment as the release progresses. This is one of the standout tracks on Timeless Soul for a couple of reasons, at least. The first is the chorus – it skillfully incorporates the energy level and propulsive force rock listeners crave from their music while maintaining the sort of catchiness one might expect from a Jeremy Poland song. The other obvious strength is how well the verses wrap into the chorus, never sounding like two otherwise unlike passages married together for effect, and it suggests something about the naturalness with which the two performers composed the songs for this release. “All Over Again” is the sleeper cut on the album that shouldn’t be overlooked. It shows a little more musical diversity than many of its counterparts, tackling a style that doesn’t appear to be a ready made fit, but Poland and Dale prove to be ideal for. “I’m a Wreck”, however, is a perfect all-around fit for their talents from the outset and provides listeners with the album’s most transcendent moment. The contrast between the beautiful arrangement and agonized lyrical content couldn’t be sharper, but it’s a shrewd move from any standpoint. The choice allows the duo to shape the song’s message in such a way that it goes down easier with the audience rather than leaving them mired in the singer’s despair.  

“Where Did It Go?” is another song cut from the same cloth as the opener, but it has more consistent energy rather than sharply amping the intensity up a gear for the chorus. The album’s concluding track, “Timeless Soul”, is everything a meaningful title song should be. It’s longer than any other song, not by a lot but enough, and has the slowly developing drama that the extended time affords. It ends the release on an apparently deeply personal note and that’s in keeping with the album’s feel as well – Timeless Soul feels like a bit of a musical love letter from Poland and Dale to the world at large and, judged on those merits alone, succeeds wildly.

9 out of 10 songs 


Montey Zike