Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry

 
 
Paul Childers - Naked Poetry


Paul Childers hails from the Nashville area, but no one will ever confuse him with Music City’s typically country performers. His approach and style is urbane and deeply musical with style to burn., but there’s a lot of substance paired with the obvious stylishness. Childers displays all the finesse and musical acumen of a much older singer – the phrasing he serves up through the album’s run of thirteen songs is next to unforgettable and it’s filled with an emotive beauty that never overstates its case. Childers, instead, imposes an inviting but commanding air over these songs and molds his voice quite nicely around the rich musical arrangements. Naked Poetry is just that – an expression of self completely stripped of pretense, yet shaped by technique and inspiration for maximum effect. The sparkling performances comprising this release are among the year’s most memorable.  
 
Naked Poetry begins with the song “Music Pulls You Through”. If this were anyone else, it probably wouldn’t come off as sincere. The redemptive power of music to get you through a bad time doesn’t exactly rate as an inventive or particularly revelatory lyrical subject, but Childers’ songwriting has a real knack for specific and meaningful details that help listeners’ better experience the song. It’s a recurring strength. “The Art of Being Twenty” benefits from the same across the board excellence and authoritative songwriting voice that makes the first song such a memorable track. His lyrical turns in this one are particularly strong and showcase a writer with impressive wisdom in someone so young. “Why Don’t You Stay” hits a bluesy note that Childers shows a later willingness to revisit and the use of horns in this song are particularly effective. He never wastes listeners time with the album’s thirteen song s and their focus plays an enormous role in their final impact on the audience.  
 
“My Love of the Rain” could single-handedly carry this album. It’s stark evidence of his skills that Childers can take this deceptively simple arrangement and performance to such stratospheric heights. This sounds like the living beating heart of his music, but there’s no excitability to ruin his performance. Instead, Childers take it careful and slow, fixed on a goal of investing each line with almost religious importance. The effect is sensational. “No One Goes Dancing Anymore” is going to be a favorite for a lot of people. This invokes of the opener’s best attributes, namely Childers’ willingness to tell a story, and rolls out at just the right pace to hook listeners into its story. “Perfect Man” is a slightly rueful tune that, nevertheless, provides Childers’ audience with a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.  He’s learned a helpful lesson early on about working in the ranks of popular song – your audience will let you brood over more serious fare, but you have to give them a little bit of the sweet to help chase the taste of sour. “Throwing Shade” is an excellent final example of that. It’s delightful how he gives this rueful lyric the blessing of an almost buoyant musical backing quite at odds with the lyrical temper. Paul Childers is full of surprises and there are sure more to come, but he’s also one of the brightest talents to debut in recent memory.  


Ed Price

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love

 
Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love 


Jupiter in Velvet writes songs, sings, and plays like a man who has been alive with creativity since he first turned his attention to music. The ten songs on his latest album In2 the Arms of Love mixes up a lot of guitar oriented textures with physically gripping tempos and a generous sampling of modern technology that comes together to make an enormous impact on the audience. The impact isn’t entirely derived from his musical content. Much of it, as well, comes from the unusual qualities of his lyrics. Jupiter in Velvet embraces humanism, above all else, and it’s filtered through a distinctive post modern hippiedom deeply connected to his musical vision. These are songs that seek unity with the audience along with a license to entertain them as much as possible. By any measure, Jupiter in Velvet’s In2 the Arms of Love is a resounding success.  
 
“In2 the Arms of Love” grabs listeners early. This is an infectious pop rock number capable of sweeping any audience along – this is music that, despite his idiosyncratic nature, cuts across all typical lines of musical preference. He has a sharp ear for crafting memorable guitar riffs and this is one of the best on the album. There’s an automated, industrialized quality to the guitar riffing on “’Till the End of the World” and the rhythm section doubles it to impressive effect. Song after song, Jupiter in Velvet brings the full force of his vocal abilities to bear in an effort to give the songs a dramatic and riveting interpretation. There isn’t a single instance on this album of him failing to do so and the album’s second track, in particular, receives a stunning singing performance. “I’m So ready” finds himself relying less on any sort of discernible finesse and more on pure lung muscle. He barrels through the straight-forward musical and vocal attack of this performance, but it never abandons style entirely. He latches onto the lean vocal melody from the first line and gives this song the same unique spin defining his other work.  
 
“How It’s Gonna Be” is much more orchestrated fare, at least overtly so, than many of the other numbers on in2 the Arms of Love. It intersperses forbidding flashes of electric guitar through a predominantly acoustic guitar attack and the rhythm section, once again, does an outstanding job of supporting the top line melodic instruments. Pop leanings play a much bigger role on songs like “Supercharged” and “Nowhere 2 Run”, albeit in very different ways. The first song goes more to the high octane punk pop stomp of other tracks on In2 the Arms of Love, with a focus on a strong chorus, while the second of the two songs is cut from a much more playful, retro sounding cloth. “Mars Ain’t that Far” has some more playfulness in it, a quality missing from the earlier half of the album, but it also possesses a romping energy that makes it an enjoyable ride from the start. The conclusion of In2 the Arms of Love is another guitar workout with a pop edge, “Walking Thru Time”, that returns us for a final time to some themes central to Jupiter in Velvet’s songwriting. Personal voyages of one sort or another encompass this work but the artist works tirelessly to get those experience over with his audience. It’s a winner through and through. 


Raymond Burris

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

We The Dreamers - We all Need Time (EP)

 
We The Dreamers - We all Need Time (EP)


We The Dreamers bring a bi-coastal musical vision to life on their seven song debut "We all Need Time" EP. Myke Wilken and Ethan Rose hail from very different musical backgrounds, but they find common ground in the way that they view life and how that relates to their development of songs. Their songwriting specializes in intimacy, but it also has a talent for casting an universal air over the musical proceedings that means anyone can sit down with this release and find their way into its experiences. Wilken’s upbringing in the Southern California area and Rose’s in the upstate New York area never shows any hints of a mismatch – instead, their musical visions come together without so much as a hiccup. There’s a great balance of different instruments holding sway over the songwriting and nothing ever wins out at the expense of other sounds. This is an album that’s a winner from the start and built on the back of its first single “Time”.  
 
“Crystal” starts off the self-titled debut with just the right amount of pop excellence and intelligence. There’s a great deal of care that’s been obviously exercised with this collection’s lyrics and Myke Wilken exercises tremendous attention with his phrasing. Wiken stresses the right syllables, cuts off others, and obviously spends a great deal of energy listening to what his collaborator Rose is laying out. “Parasol” changes things up a little more. It does have quite the same amount of patience that we hear in the opener “Strawberry Dream” has a more retro approach than the other songs on this collection. The weaving of acoustic and electric guitar, the former dominating, makes this stand out from the remainder of the songs and the recordings brings those different sonic elements together in a satisfying way. The vocals here are particularly notable. Wilken elevates his game to match the emphatic nature of the musical arrangement and matches its mood without ever laying things on too much. 
 
“Wiser” doesn’t necessarily til new musical and lyrical ground, but the musical stamp that We The Dreamers put on these preceding make it a decidedly different affair than we’ve heard so far on the debut, Wilken’s confidence is audible, but he never goes too far and gives just the right amount of personality to the performance. The finale “Time” is a natural selection for the album’s first single and it comes off as a much more fully realized idea of what the band’s music wants to be. The guitars, synth, keyboard, and melodic forces in this song all work in perfect sympathy with one another and it results in the EP’s finest all around performance. Debuts seldom come better than this. Myke Wilken and Ethan Rose have unusual chemistry both as writers and performers, but what comes across most strongly from this collection is the connection they have as individuals. The seven songs on the duo’s debut underline and promise even greater things to come.   


Pamela Bellmore

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Spiders-‘Another Miles’


The Spiders - Another Mile

The Sріdеrѕ "Another Mіlе" іѕ the nеw ѕіnglе and fоllоw uр to оur hit "Elесtіоn Day." Thіѕ music іѕ nоt only about runnіng, іtѕ about the rеѕіlіеnсе аnd fight that іѕ іn еvеrуоnе of us tо асhіеvе оur gоаlѕ.
"Anоthеr Mіlе" wаѕ rесоrdеd аt Pоrtrаіt Rесоrdіng Studіоѕ іn Pоmрtоn Plаіnѕ, NJ.  The single wаѕ engineered bу John Fеrrаrа & Mаѕtеrеd by Chrіѕ Bаdаmі. The Spiders are lеd bу Lеаd Guіtаrіѕt аnd Vocalist, Nісk DeStefano. Nісk hаѕ реrfоrmеd аll over Nоrth Amеrіса, frоm the Stоnе Pony in Nеw Jеrѕеу to thе Trоubаdоur іn Los Angеlеѕ.
Thе Spiders bаnd includes John Hеndеrѕоn оn Bass аnd Nеѕtоr Arсеlау оn Drums, bоth lоngtіmе veterans оf thе NJ сlub сіrсuіt, thіѕ power trio has ѕреnt thе lаѕt fеw уеаrѕ dеvеlоріng a vеrу loyal fоllоwіng, and thеу hope wіth thе rеlеаѕе оf thеіr роwеrful nеw single "Another Mіlе" thеу wіll get the mаіnѕtrеаm еxроѕurе thеу trulу deserve.
Thе Spiders brіng a very rаw and оrgаnіс rock аnd rоll еnеrgу to the stage thаt fееlѕ vеrу gеnuіnе. Thе trасk hаѕ thе sound of fоlk rосk tо іt іn that you саn рісturе a full band set uр оr еԛuаllу ѕоmеthіng muсh ѕmаllеr, bоth оf whісh would represent thе concept, thе mеlоdіеѕ аnd the riffs effectively. Thе muѕіс has a fаѕt расе tо іt, thеrе’ѕ vеrу lіttlе space bеtwееn vосаl mоmеntѕ, араrt frоm thе humble аnd hugеlу fіttіng guіtаr solo аnd harmonies tоwаrdѕ thе end. Thіѕ аррrоасh wоrkѕ hеrе because thе сhоrd рrоgrеѕѕіоn has ѕuсh a wаrmth and positivity to іt. It аlѕо wоrkѕ bесаuѕе thе rереаtеd іdеа of ‘аnоthеr mile, аnоthеr mіlе’ іѕ rерrеѕеntеd wеll іn the оngоіng, unflіnсhіng rhythm of the ріесе.
 The lеаdіng riff оf thе trасk hаѕ аn indie аnthеm kіnd of vіbе to іt, thіѕ tоо аddѕ to thе mеmоrаblе nаturе оf thе music. The hооk perhaps becomes a lіttlе оvеrbеаrіng on іtѕ оwn as thе trасk fades оut, an аddіtіоnаl lіnе аlоngѕіdе іt mіght have brоught ѕоmе ѕоrt оf respite, but thаt’ѕ оnlу іn respect of it bеіng a recording – іt’ѕ еаѕу to іmаgіnе a live ѕhоw, аѕ mеntіоnеd, and nо doubt аudіеnсеѕ would rеvеl іn thеѕе fіnаl fеw moments and thе track wоuld bе a hugе ѕuссеѕѕ.
 Thе vеrѕеѕ to thе trасk аrе grеаt, vеrу hоnеѕt, аnd vеrу іntіmаtеlу rесоrdеd ѕо аѕ tо add tо that gеnuіnе and accessible vіbе thаt the song consistently offers. Thе ѕtоrуtеllіng is believable and еаѕу tо gеt іntо, аnd thе freshness of thе lуrісѕ іn thе verses соntrаѕtѕ rеаllу well with the high еnеrgу оf thе hооk. Thе ѕесоnd vеrѕе аlѕо асtuаllу соntrаѕtѕ wеll with thе fіrѕt, іn tеrmѕ оf thе ѕwіtсh frоm thе rеflесtіvе truth what іѕ possible – having a positive mіndѕеt, keeping уоur еуе оn thе goal, continuing tо run аnd never lооkіng bасk.
Muѕіс  аrе thе wоndеr оf оur world, wе саn gеt so muсh frоm a muѕіс, whеthеr we lіkе thе wоrdѕ or thе muѕіс. muѕіс саn mеаn ѕо muсh tо uѕ, brіng bасk grеаt mеmоrіеѕ аnd sometimes ѕаd mеmоrіеѕ, they саn bе іnѕріrаtіоnаl, rеlаx оur mіndѕ оr gеt uѕ dаnсіng. Wе аll lоvе dіffеrеnt music іn different wауѕ.
Michael Mullins

Monday, May 22, 2017

Swaylex - Raging Rapids

 
Swaylex - Raging Rapids 


No more record companies, no more self-appointed gatekeepers. Musicians like Swaylex have become the norm in recent years, rather than odd standouts, thanks to the increasingly willingness of performers to upload their wares to platforms like YouTube in an effort to reach their audience directly. Despite the video presentation, in this case quite unfettered and direct, the music still has to connect. There’s no danger of that with Swaylex’s tunes and this one in particular, “Raging Rapids”, has straight ahead rock muscle that announces itself from the first and never relents. It has excellent construction, however, and never lacks for musicality. Instead, there’s an equal mix of melody and heavy riffing in this track that has the right balance without ever veering too far in either direction. He brings the sensibility of a seasoned musician to this work and it makes it an even more enjoyable musical experience.  
 
You will be forgiven if you don’t think there’s going to be melody based on the song’s first few seconds. Instead, it seems like he’s intent on crafting a bit of music for some movie soundtrack, but just as you grow accustomed to that idea, Swaylex’s music takes a turn into one of its consistent strengths. He can hammer home a riff, driving it deep into listener’s memory, but “Raging Rapids” proves he’s equally adept at marrying that approach to a talent for really putting over some understated melodic virtues. The lead and rhythm guitar sounds have a deep warmth that will lure listeners in and even the intensity of the song never attacks listeners in such a way that they may feel compelled to turn away. There’s certainly a claustrophobic air about the progression and how he plays it, but we are inside an imaginative experience here and his total confidence in how it should unfold wins us over as well. 
 
The bass is rather rudimentary, but it provides great ballast for the drums, rhythm guitar, and lead work to play against. The lead and rhythm tracks are ideally matched and Swaylex creates enough space in the music that allows it to breathe without ever sacrificing any of its intensity and energy. He deserves plaudits for that alone. Moreover, his decision here, like elsewhere, to refrain belaboring his musical points with the audience assures us that he will never risking boring us in an effort to prove his chops. Those are apparent from the beginning. Nor will you ever listen to this performance and wish for a singer. There’s a dramatic edge to the song that will keep you figuratively on the edge of your seat from the beginning and he plays that aspect just right.  This is the sort of series of solid artistic decision making that we associate with experienced musical hands and it’s clear that this young man is something of a prodigy in that regard. “Raging Rapids” will entertain and grab you physically.  


Scott Wigley

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space

 
The Chameleon Project - Funk n Space 


This is the sort of band that cuts through the dross of the modern music scene and stands out as an example of where the music of the future can lead us. The Chameleon Project’s Funk n Space  brings together a wide array of diverse musical influence into one overarching concoction that, if any justice remains in the musical world of 2017, will see this Toronto quartet elevated to a position of great prominence among musical acts today. There are a couple of remixes added at the album’s conclusion, but the body of the album is an eight song journey gliding its way through jazz grooves, funk, disco, reggae, electronica, and even strong rock strains with confidence of a band far beyond their years. There’s not a single misstep on Funk n Space. It’s an invigorating musical trip from the first while never announcing its presence in a chest beating sort of way. There’s no bravado here, no bluster. Instead, there’s a band who takes on eight songs bursting with understated ambition that never neglect the central mandate of all great music – communicating with an audience. 
 
“Milky Way” is one of the album’s more conventional moments, hinging largely on its melodic virtues to be successful, but it’s a track sure to hook in many listeners from just a few notes alone. It’s the album’s second longest song, but The Chameleon Project are one of those rare units who can extemporize and move over an extended duration without losing their audience. “Steppin’” shows off similar characteristics with their deft recall of the reggae style filtered through the distinctly modern soundscapes that are the bedrock of their musical experience. However, like on the opener, melody is part of that central bedrock as well, but it emerges from the musical arrangement more strongly here than many of the other songs.  The first of their tracks to show a rock influence, “Kraken”, brings the aforementioned style seamlessly together with an evocative soundscape and effects laden guitar lines. It has a stronger imaginative edge than most of the fine creative tunes on Funk n Space . There’s a stronger intensity to this tune than many of the others on the release. 
 
“Bigfoot” has a hammering rhythm section well recorded and hammering its point home time after time with confidence that we normally associate with veteran outfits. Despite the risk-taking and electronic gloss accompanying the song, you can listen closely and discern the skeleton of the basic track beneath. Above nearly all else, The Chameleon Project succeeds because they are solid and accomplished songwriters, a fact borne out time and again during the track listing. The album’s finale “Wako” has a tremendous amount of color coming through during every passage of its six minute plus length  and brings the band’s command of various styles to life without any of them every striking a dischorant contrast with the other. Funk n Space may likely stand, despite how many albums they write and record, as The Chameleon Project’s supreme achievement because of the sense of new pervading its eight tracks, but they are clearly a band with the potential to produce even greater work if fortune remains on their side. 


Dale Butcher

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Round Eye – Monstervision

 
Round Eye – Monstervision 

Experimental freak punk with jazz, R&B and an assortment of other genres whipped into one, are what Round Eye are being called. Some journalists are putting them beyond classification while others find them falling not far from the punk tree, if that. The primary genres always come attached with the hard to define sub genres. Although it might be hard to pin point, the music can deserve to be sub categorized for better or worse. That could be where Round Eye stand, but they’re getting places and a different reaction awaits everywhere they play. Monstervision is the CD that brings them out to play again, and does it with a vengeance but also a charm. They break out the laughs in-between these songs in which only a daredevil would attempt in the realms of any punk environment to speak of. The addition of recorded messages from John Bloom who plays one Joe Bob Briggs is not only bizarre, but on the other hand very bold in a good way. It dampens some of the more adult subject matter and puts a welcome spin on the way albums are made. He’s just the right amount of corniness for the sharper cutting songs to properly balance their aggression as they shout to the world from Shanghai to global stages. There is a lot to hash over on Monstervision, as the sights are practically endless, but also obviously current.

Briggs takes the microphone for the controversial opener that really doesn’t get as harsh as it insinuates. He comes in with the Chinese Take-Out Edition of Monstervision to dine on the general subjects whined about today, such as politicians and Chinese culture in America and around the world. This is where it begins and “Commie Blues” establishes game with no hesitation and even though it’s a dark song you know where it’s at and find out where it’s going as the visions come out even more on “Billy” with a lot of mystery and imagination behind it. This is not your mother’s punk, it’s more in the psychobilly vein. And it works or it doesn’t, depending on your viewpoint.

There are a few places where I lost sight, but that’s because they have their own lives and can’t mingle with the others. There is not one song that misses its point, but some hit their targets better than others. With “Pink House” a close call for the cream of the crop, with “Hey Dudes” and “Curami” holding just as much attention on the bench. But knowing how singles go, they could be just as off the bench as they are on. It’s a question for their label, Sudden Death, but an observation worth sharing. It all matters whether or not you like longer, deeper cuts or the shorter and sweeter variety or a mix of the two. I find them on the upside. They lead to Briggs reminding that the Drive-In will never die. And the horns go berserk on the homecoming song, “Nest” with the usual creature comforts carried on about in the lyrics, but the vocals never outweigh the horns on this energetic little diamond in the rough. And Briggs takes an exit with some more campy wit, and the closer hits the final homer run with “Crinkle” bombarding the senses with every ounce of emotion Round Eye put into their music. It’s more than a monster, it is a creature you must to hear and forget about explaining. That is why it comes recommended and so does the band, to anyone looking for a colossal punk release.

10/10 
 


Terry Smith 

Jonathan Cavier - Blue Room

 
Jonathan Cavier releases Blue Room 


After five albums and hundreds of shows played throughout the US, Alan Clark has reintroduced himself under the pseudonym Jonathan Cavier. With one solo album, Premier, already under his belt, Cavier further defines his sound on 2017’s 10-song release entitled Blue Room. In addition to his musical endeavors, Cavier is a semi-professional tennis player and a member of the USTA and IFT. Cavier says practicing and playing in tournaments is “the fountain of youth.” This makes him a seasoned veteran even though he’s gone through this transition he’s actually no new comer. 

Blue Room opens its doors with the title track to sooth the ears of his fans and pick up any new ears in the process. This is one of the best tracks on offer among ten that easily compete with one another, all the way. This might not come into instant impression as one of the more shining moments, but it will take more than one trip through the room, so to speak. Only then can you appreciate this for what it is really worth  as it leads the house off. And if it doesn’t sink in, “When You Come Around” should also grow on your senses as well. These are both hypnotically satisfying in different ways. So is “Hollywood” but it goes in another direction with a look down memory road and where success and all its ups and downs come from. It’s a surreal trip if you take it with enough seriousness, and a fluffy little spot on the album to get your groove on. And at this point you can reflect on the artist as well as the material in all its glory. With hots points like “Phoenix” with risen from the ashes story. It’s a spiritual part of the album and works its way very well into a “Far Away” place that takes on a more dramatic flair. This is deeper than anything else on the album, when it comes down to it. But that doesn’t mean it’s the most accessible, as it might sail above heads for its meaningfulness. But “I Believe” probably has just as much of that depth going for it as it keeps the same tempo but gets the Spanish guitar out for an overall spicy, cerebral song. A true soft rocker with a less pop structured vocal. This is the most experimental piece of music on Blue Room, that much is found along with the closing track to be later described. But not before others get in the way, such as the brooding “Somebody Like You” with its lower register vocals that find Cavier in excellent voice. If you like a whispering tone this has it, but it does surface on a few others. It’s very cool and deals with reflecting upon oneself as a freak.

“Right Place” has an island presence, which is always welcome in any romantic setting. Johnathan Cavier not being of the brasher variety of artist, one will come to expect this, as the track clearly exemplifies. It bodes very well with the much different “Someday” though, which is yet another tale of love and romance, but this one from afar, as the story goes. It’s accompanied by more Spanish guitar. By this time, a pot full of great tunes have melted enough to prove that Blue Room was worth putting every effort into. As the built up ending comes crashing into the extraordinary “Edge Of A Singularity” which goes off the map with an stellar instrumental. It ends Blue Room on a top note.

10/10
 


Kevin Webber

Friday, May 12, 2017

David Starr – The Head and Heart


David Starr – The Head and Heart 


With Arkansas roots and Colorado wings, David Starr has been making music since the age of 10. He is an Americana singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer with hundreds of live shows and seven releases under his belt both as a solo artist, duo artist and member of the David Starr Band. “The Head and Heart” is the new EP.
 
If you know David Starr from the David Starr Band or not, and you like acoustic driven numbers with great vocals, The Head and Heart will win both over for you. There is no beating the likes of such a producer and Starr is no stranger to John Oates. And together they pull off some beautiful material on this EP with not one bad note on it, which includes a good cover of “California Dreaming” and some smoldering original cuts around it for a serious but also somewhat playful release. It opens with the dramatically inflected “Edge Of The World” by establishing a meaningful vibe, which is laced in the music, as well as the lyrics. But if you’re looking for up-tempo bombast, you won’t find it on this EP.

Having played with the likes of everyone from John Oates to Steve Cropper and others, this is a world class artist, so you get world class writing and playing. When you’ve been around the block, this much it to be expected but perhaps not in every music genre. But this is not an adventure outside the box, with, the exception of the efforts to make the Mamas and Papas proud by putting a twist on it. If that does make you stand up and listen, then the rest is even better but this is no novice attempt either. It has the luxury of succeeding on its own merits. But it takes nothing away from the rest of the set of otherwise wonderful songs.

Another one, aside from that and the lead off track, is “The Head and Heart” itself. With a soul stirring outcry for organization of the heart and minds decisions. It is a heartfelt but mindful song that gets the overall point across that he is ultimately trying to make. These decisions sometimes cannot be reconciled. If you stay on the level they can be balanced, but get off balance and be wrong with yourself. It deals with that and more, but so do all of the subjects on offer, including “Waiting In The Dark” with its slightly more musically energetic moments. It turns out to be one of the strongest tracks, as well as my favorite pick.

But also brought to the party is “I’ve Come For You” with it’s also more upbeat groove. This even starts to rock a bit here and there, to make it even more entertaining, but it keeps that to a minimum throughout. But you just can’t deny the easy listening ability behind this. When you hear it the second time you already feel like you’ve heard it a hundred times. It’s as good as anything else on the whole EP, which is a true mark of its consistency. It leaves you knowing the final track will be good, as long as you’re still listening to what has been described as nothing but good old fashioned music with contemporary passion.

“Dancing With My Pride” brings it back to a simmer as it takes the EP out. It’s a ballad but it cooks not unlike the other tracks, but let’s you know how serious it all is. Nothing heavy-handed, just another lighthearted but very meaningful song. But it even holds its own with anyone who likes good music, it just fits well at the end of some well-crafted enjoyable pieces, so it is yet another compliment to it all. And if David Starr isn’t where he wants to be thus far in his career, he never will be. So, you get the full treatment and that is not always easy without a longer track list to prove it, but it stacks this one up ten-fold.
 
 

10/10 

M. Marcinn

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

That One Eyed Kid - Crash and Burn

 
That One Eyed Kid - Crash and Burn 


The third EP from Boston headquartered one man band That One Eyed Kid, Crash and Burn, is a delectable five song outing from the “band” mastermind Josh Friedman. Friedman’s talent for using electronic music in close quarters, intimate manner sets him apart from many similar performers. The production stands up to anything from any major – Friedman clearly embarked on this project with a focused idea of what he wanted these songs to sound like and achieves it with shockingly minimal effort. There’s undoubtedly the necessary discipline present to make these songs work, but talent will out and the five cuts on Crash and Burn conclusively prove he is one of the more impressive songwriters working on the indie scene today. His vocals help get all of this already fine material over with even greater ease – there’s something vitally engaging and yet inviting about Friedman’s voice from the first and it’s a quality that never fades. 

It begins with swinging energy on the song “Bright Big Red”. Friedman’s a smart enough writer and performer that he understands exaggerating this energy can take a song into parody or burlesque territory, so “Bright Big Red” deftly straddles the line between too little and too much, erring on the right side throughout. Friedman gives an awesome vocal performance during this song and it helps get the EP off to a fast start. Crash and Burn doesn’t disappoint with its second song “Burn Out Right”. There’s a hard-hitting quality with this song than the beginning number and it experiments much less with things like tempo and changes. Instead, Friedman wants to provoke you both mentally and physically. The effort is a resounding success. He ditches the comparatively laid back vibe of the first two songs in favor of something much wilder and chaotic with the song “Native Advertising”. There’s an influence of golden oldie rock and roll in the song, naturally quite transformed in this modern context, but Friedman is a good enough writer to make those qualities come through in a style all his own. The EP’s use of double tracked and harmony vocals isn’t constant, but Friedman invariably shows an instinct for knowing when and where they can make a meaningful contribution.  

He gets down and funky with the song “No Touching” and doesn’t sound at all out of place attempting to essay this R&B style. There’s some subtle changes in instrumentation that, naturally, accompany such a stab, but he keeps the song well within his electronic music skill set and it produces unusually memorable and faithful results. Crash and Burn closes with the song “Rewind” and it couldn’t be much different than the preceding cut. “Rewind” occupies a bigger stage and doesn’t aspire to the same sort of intimacy while nonetheless pushing the envelope in a more overt way that the previous track never had to. It’s the perfect flourish to end Crash and Burn on and That One Eyed Kid’s conclusion to this EP sets the stage for an undoubtedly brighter future to come.  


Gilbert Mullis

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bradford Loomis - Bravery & the Bell


Bradford Loomis - Bravery & the Bell
 
 
Washington State has produced its share of first class songwriters spanning multiple genres and Bradford Loomis is ready to join their ranks. His new album Bravery & the Bell mines his own life for the material in a way that challenges listeners and audibly provides Loomis with the catharsis he obviously seeks. An artist’s work, however, should never be overt personal diary – it’s the transformative powers of imagination that make it truly resonant with listeners. Imagination manifests itself over the course of these seven songs in the creative arrangements Loomis crafts for his songwriting. His trademark talent is for taking traditional musical elements and refurbishing them with idiosyncratic twists and additions that reflect his individuality. Brandon Bee produced the album with the exception of the final track and first single, but Bravery & the Bell maintains a consistency of sound from the first to the last that shows Loomis’ attention to detail.
 
The album is neatly divided between commercially minded tracks, a couple of acoustic numbers, and a duo of genuine songwriting clinics. The first of this group, the album’s more mainstream oriented fare, includes the opener “Wind & Woe”, “The Swinging Bell”, and the final song “Across the Divide”. The first of these songs begins Bravery & the Bell on a resounding note without overdoing it. There are a number of critical choices Loomis makes during a song like this that puts it over the top for the album’s opening curtain – namely some tough-minded guitar and brief blasts of organ. “Across the Divide” has a lighter hand, perhaps a reflection of its subject matter, and has an appropriately rustic feel while still presenting a broad-based and accessible sound sure to garner much attention. There’s little difficulty in hearing why Loomis picked this for the album’s lead off single.
 
The acoustic tracks might sound a little too similar to some people, but there’s no question that songwriting of a superior stripe is responsible for these songs. They come at ideal points in the track listing, as well, and elicit some of Loomis’ best performances on the album. “Though the Days Are Fleeting” is the more successful of the two thanks to its stronger poetic veneer and the combination of Loomis’ voice and the words bring listeners closer to his personal experience. The songwriting clinics, for lack of a better term, on Bravery and the Bell will stick in your memory for a while. “Chasing Ghosts” is the more typical of the two, but it’s memorable for how it develops in a very artful and unexpected way thanks to the unusual melodic changes it makes while still sounding very much within the Americana style. The second of these two tracks, “Drive You Home”, finds Loomis indulging himself in some soul singing mixed with some of his traditionally minded touches and the effect is rather awesome. It’s especially impressive to hear how comfortably Loomis moves his voice to suit the song. Bravery & the Bell is a solid achievement from the first through the last and solidifies Loomis’ standing as one of the pre-eminent young songwriters working today, regardless of genre.
 
 
Joshua Stryde
 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals


Threefifty - Gently Among the Coals 


Threefifty’s latest album Gently Among the Coals represents a quantum artistic breakthrough for this New York based band. Each of the eight musicians comprising the band’s lineup are integral to Threefifty’s ability to stretch and redefine the boundaries of their sound – this vast command over their sonic palate affords them a degree of flexibility few bands and artists are fortunate enough to ever enjoy. Even with the luxuries of studios, like multiple takes and mixing, Threefifty’s uncluttered blend of many disparate elements is admirable. These compositions never impose themselves on the listener without offering equal parts physical and mental provocation in return. The songwriting and performances depend much on the guitar, but Threefifty show themselves quite willing to dispense with the instrument when occasion calls. Gently Among the Coals comes off as a career defining effort thus far and sets the bar high for anything the band does from this point forward. 

“Crossing State Lines” is, arguably, the closest thing to a straight rock track on Gently Among the Coals and it does nothing entirely by the book. It does follow the template of orchestrating things for dynamic effect, but that is a move far from the providence of rock music alone. The swirling, massing guitars have an alternating soothing and hypnotic effect. It doesn’t prepare listeners for the turn the band takes on the second song “Allegiance”. This track is an aching, almost baroquely staged number that nevertheless rings with utter sincerity. The elegance of the arrangement and band’s performance may obscure the fine words, but vocalist Leon Guerrero imbues the lyrics with enormous sensitivity. “Unanchored” definitely has a pained air, but the melodic sway it achieves redeems any of its dark atmosphere. There’s a deliberateness to the performance that’s notable – such an approach, typically, bleeds much of the life out of an outing, but this number gives off great warmth despite its mood. 

Electric guitar and electronic music come together for great effect on “Until Our Hearts Give Out”. It’s one of the album’s most effervescent instrumental numbers and bubbles over with a number of tasty melodies. The band’s folky inclinations come to the fore in a very lyrical fashion on the song “You Are Going the Right Way”. It has a lush beauty capable of immediately entrancing listeners. “Fields” is another of the album’s more vividly rendered tunes. It starts off in a muted, atmospheric fashion and the intensity slowly climbs. It is largely instrumental and ends in a particularly memorable way musically, but there are some key vocals heard in the song’s second half. The direct and eloquent piano playing opening “Their Place at the Table” is soon joined by keyboard and bass guitar contributions. Violin comes in and takes over the top line melody with great results. It ends with a hard hitting conclusion. The finale “Freedman” takes a final gamble on a fearless album. Threefifty puts this track together around an evocative electronic setting and takes some surprising turns building Gently Among the Coals to an impactful climax.  

8/10 


Montey Wright

Cause for Paws – Rescue Me


Cause for Paws – Rescue Me 


All of the tracks on Rescue Me! were donated to the project by the songwriters and performers: Mary Ann Kennedy, Kathy Chiavola, Cindy Mangsen, Robin Flower, Libby McLaren, Annie Lalley, Heidi Muller, Mark Weems, Ashley Jo Farmer, Friction Farm (Aidan Quinn & Christine Stay), Effron White, Jamie Anderson, Amy White, and Joel Mabus. And with great joy, Blue Night Records has pledged to donate all of its profits from Rescue Me! sales and full CD downloads to animal welfare organizations.

Get your paws out and start scratching for dogs and cats, as Rescue Me ! packs a little of both playfully funny and deadly seriously songs culled from original releases by this great assortment of artists. It’s hard to mention them all with each track, or else this would be a much longer read. But it has everything the Americana, bluegrass and country music lover would want to hear in songs about pets. Starting with a cool story about a cat with a job, entitled “Barn Cat.” And if you can get into all to be heard, then there is no better way to start. The hardest part is relating to these stories about other people’s pets, but if you can block it, you’ll come around.

“Possum And Pearl” contains much more than it appears as a story, but told so well it wins you over with ease, if you let it. Finding abandoned dogs is part of it, but the relationships they go onto have and the bond they form is really the fruit of the bluegrass oriented piece. And even though softly told, it comes out one of the more interesting tracks. This goes into “Our Cats” by Cindy Mangsen, and it’s yet completely different from the previous two. Just to put something in the path early on, there aren’t many tracks that fall very similar, even though the titles can deceive that factor. But this track stands out because there is no music, it’s full acappella with three voices, two of which back Cindy Mangsen. This is most definitely a highlight point.

“Get A Dog” is the next story to delve into, and it is one of the top shelf additions. The soft vocal refrain leads into a funky, groovy reggae dominated backing that is almost too distracting from the story because it offers so much good music which is a departure from everything else on it. You get carried away with the music and a chance to hear it over again to absorb the story is practically forced. But care not, as this track goes the distance with any of its surrounding action. If they were putting these out as singles for the same cause, this one would get my money over and over. It’s a keeper for sure, and the lyrics suffer nowhere on it, they just don’t jump out like the music does.

Jumping ahead a couple of tracks to the mentions of “My Best Friend” “Kitty Kitty” and “Why, Why, Why” as a few stand outs as well. Especially considering the storyline of the third one, as it probably goes above and beyond most here in the lyrics. But it’s also musically valuable with strong country roots, and a slower paced flow to sink into. This is another one of the pleasers on this platter. As well as “Catitude” with its broken family story that leaves this cat with a-tude, so to express.  It’s all in good fun, even when it’s sad, and pets live in the moment anyway, so they make for good song subject matter. It doesn’t matter if they’re cats or dogs.

“I Miss The Dog” and “The Best Dog” go together hand in hand, and I find Amy White to be one of the more pleasing artists on this compilation. Her song The Best Dog involves three dogs in the story, and it should be heard and appreciated for all its worth, just as the others. They all equally add to each-others stories by being compiled onto one disc in a seamless running order. And it all closes with a track from Joel Mabus, entitled “The Kitty Ditty.” It jumps around just like a cat, as it helps finish a worthy release by a lot of talent on one single CD. Don’t walk, run to donate and listen, as these treats don’t go around that often. 
 

9/10  


Randy Jones

Pat Simmons Jr. - This Mountain


Pat Simmons Jr. - This Mountain 


This Mountain is a stunning first effort from Patrick Simmons Jr and the six songs sound like the product of a performer much older and more seasoned. There’s not a single note of dross on these cuts. Simmons Jr has a finely tuned ear for writing concise songs with important things to say and a perfect facility for saying them. This Mountain betrays a strong blues, folk, and jazz influence, but Simmons Jr’s upbringing in Hawaii has an enormous effect on the EP’s songwriting. Much of the EP’s lyrical contributions, all exceptionally well written, touch on aspects of his life on the big island of Maui, but he relates the landscape and culture in such a way that anyone with a sense of place in their own lives can surely relate. The production, courtesy of his father Pat Simmons Sr, puts this music out there in the best imaginable way and achieves a perfect balance between the instruments and singing.  

He’s got a lively spirit and way of tackling these songs. It’s patient, however, and “Up and Out By Five” shows that off. Simmons has the vocal chops to match the music, but he has the restraint to make sure his singing lines up well with the arrangement. The result is music that has a real bounce, but it isn’t shallow rudimentary stuff. It all comes down to presentation. The first song gets over a mood that’s important to understanding the release as well. “Rust” shows another face of Simmons’ musical character and the lower-key approach he pursues with this arrangement and vocal makes for an effective tandem with the opener. Bringing slide guitar into the stew gives it a potent spike and raises the soul factor some, but Simmons is the real soul behind these songs. He has an easy going elegance that few debut performers are able to bring to bear and it never fails to sound convincing. 

The mid tempo stride “Mauna Mele” has the same uncluttered approach defining the EP as a whole and the same spirit coloring his singing on the release’s best moments. As the title easily indicates, Simmons has culled the subject from his every day Hawaiian life, but it’s no impediment to understanding the song’s sentiments. “How Many Years” begins life as a straight blues with a practically solo performance setting – it’s just Simmons’ singing, acoustic guitar, and incidental streaks of harmonica. It turns into something quite different early on when drums and new guitars come in, but it never seems to fully capitalize on its obvious potential and some may find themselves longing for a bigger payoff at the end. “Touch the Ground” is another memorable moment, particularly for the inclusion of electric guitar fills, but Simmons gives his best vocal on the album with this performance. He brings it to a perfect ending with the last track “All the Way”. The same generosity of spirit filling many of the song’s performances comes through quite strongly on this closing number. He dovetails his voice quite nicely into the arrangement and the bluesy feel has a positive mood pervading throughout. It brings this release to the sort of closing it deserves and will linger in listener’s memory for quite a while.  

9 out of 10 stars


David Shouse

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity


Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity 


This is delicate music for indelicate times. Grey Fidelity presents an unified consciousness distilled from the experiences of five musicians. Two of the five, Ryan and Gretta Miller, are the band’s primary vocal and songwriting force – one can assume that their marriage is an explanation for their shared musical chemistry, but they have talents dovetailing so neatly into each other that it suggests they are artistic kindred spirits despite any legal bonds. Their band mates are important to bringing off the album’s eleven tracks. Tow’rs’ songs are thoughtful and often quite reflective, immersed with elegance and an even ethereal slant, but they are never so blurrily defined they fail to make an impact. They are accessible and easy to engage with from the outset. Much of this is attributable to the powerful interplay between the Miller’s vocals, but there isn’t a single unfinished part of the band’s presentation.  

The fade-in beginning the album is our first clue that we are in for something special. It’s a relatively audacious move and the remainder of the opener, “Girl in Calico”, follows the same trajectory. This isn’t a song with a clear shape. Instead, its existence seems based on the ability it has to maintain its swirl – the confluence of keyboard color, plaintive guitar, and hazy percussion comes out of a dream-like state or one of intense personal reflection. The vocals aim for the same effects and match up nicely with the musical thrust. The loving surfaces of “Revere” betrays a dollop of melancholy lingering just below the surface, but it’s difficult to feel the pain in this song thanks to the crystalline beauty the Millers’ achieve with their vocal. The slow jangle of acoustic guitars and punctuating drums of “Alright” maintain a leaden tempo, but there’s so many layers in the band’s aural presentation no one will be tempted to sleep. “Liminal” has a deceptively simple approach, but there’s much more to this delicate weave of instruments than the song might first project and the quasi-shuffle tone taken by the tempo has a light folk/country music influence that makes it immediately likeable.  

“When I’m Silent” has the same light folk music quality and the traditional instruments featured on the song take turns that are elegantly arranged and never overwrought. Kyle Miller delivers an affecting vocal whose phrasing really makes the words come alive. The indirectness of the band’s musical approach means that their songs make the most impact over the course of the whole track rather than relying on a handful of climatic pay off moments. Some songs cut against this approach. “Consolations” is a noteworthy example that finds the band branching out into comparatively new territory on the album. This track relies on a strong groove between the drums and guitar that never fails, but Kyle Miller acquits himself rather nicely with a jewel of soul singing. “Revelator Man” explores a much wider range, musically, than many of the earlier tracks thanks to its increased theatrical air. The band never strains for this posture, however; instead, they deepen their musical weave without losing any of the deceptive focus going into their earlier performances. Grey Fidelity is one of the year’s most resonant efforts.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Bradley Johnson

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gwyneth Moreland - Cider


Gwyneth Moreland - Cider


The personal nature of Gwyneth Moreland’s songwriting is a hallmark of the best folk music, but her musicality is equally powerful. There’s melody galore filling the album’s ten songs and rousing vocal performances that never takes the path of least resistance and, instead, obviously invests enormous emotional capital in getting over the lyrical content. There are country and blues music influences making their presence felt throughout the release, but the guiding spirit behind these recordings is Moreland’s phrasing and the highly literate quality of her material. Much of the credit for the album’s presentation must fall on Moreland’s producer David Hayes, a veteran of working with no less of a legend than Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison. In the end, however, Gwyneth Moreland rises to the occasion time after time again with a wide ranging interpretation of her own material that never risks imitation despite her countless influences. 

One of the strongest added influences on Cider is, certainly, classic country music. “Movin’ On”, on the basis of title alone, certainly invokes those motifs, but Moreland never goes in for a craven regurgitation of that style lacking any personal punch. The shuffle beat never manifests a lot of energy but it’s an excellent way to introduce listeners to the album’s musical world. She definitely restrains herself even more with the second song “Broken Road”. Moreland has an interesting skill for writing material full of obvious love and deep feeling, yet bring emotions to bear connected with loss and heartache. There’s a craftsmanship emerging from the album early on that will completely bring listeners into her world. She invokes traditional folk music at a number of points throughout Cider and one of the zeniths of that inclination comes with the song “Little Bird”. The language of her songwriting, however, is never remote from our modern experience and it makes it clear she views the traditional music template pursued her as a vibrant vehicle for her own emotional explorations.  

“Farmhouse” is one of Cider’s more musically direct cuts with straight-forward strummed guitar and big, blocky chords that strongly announce themselves yet never lack their own melodic value. It’s certainly one of the album’s lighter musical number, in the sense that there’s no real feeling of downcast to be heard throughout its duration, but nonetheless fits in quite nicely with the remainder of the release. “The California Zephyr” is a traditional folk song ripped from an uniquely geographic experience, yet it magically invokes both country and folk traditions without any stylistic confusion. “Danny Parker” is Moreland’s finest writing on Cider – hands down. This is a lyric rife with detail and the music is equally up to the task of dramatically depicting the emotion it invokes. The album’s closing cut, “Summer Song”, ends Cider surrounded by a brighter hue than many of the other songs aim for and this slightly surprising final turn is perfectly in keeping with the sense of daring that makes much of the album work so well. Gwyneth Moreland’s talents are considerable, but perhaps her greatest talent is for understanding exactly how to present her own vision in a way that promises to draw in the most listeners.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Dale Butcher