Friday, December 1, 2017

Ian C. Bouras - Absence (live looping)


Ian C. Bouras - Absence (live looping) 


Absence (live looping), the latest release from New York City based guitarist and songwriter Ian Bouras, demonstrates a potentially neglected side of his skill set – his talent as an engineer and producer. Bouras has an understanding of sound quite unlike many other musicians of his generation and it finds unique reflection in his highly atmospheric and melodically substantive compositions. It is obvious that Bouras put a great deal of thought into the individual tracks and overall running order, but it isn’t the sort of attention that inevitably robs the songs of their spontaneous spirit; instead, it gives these performances a surprising level of intimacy. Absence (live looping) is the next fourteen song chapter in a career that, since first beginning in the early years of the century, has consistently maintained an enormous capacity for satisfying surprises. Ian Bouras’ latest solo album is his best yet and sets the table for his run at future albums.  
 
“While You Were Gone” lays down one of the album’s key templates with absolutely no discernible fat on the performance. Instrumental music, sometimes, has a tendency to meander when placed within a popular music context, but Bouras’ compositional approach makes no such distinctions. This opener and the next two songs “Trappings of Oblivion” and “The Cruelty of Dreams” live and die with this take on Bouras’ musical vision and provide evidence of his ability to sharpen and elaborate on those elements. “Silent Life” is one of the album’s braver numbers in terms of manifesting an unique feel removed from typical considerations of melody and structure. The guitar effects that are a hallmark of his work on the album are definitely capable of creating distance for listeners unfamiliar with the style, but Bouras always leaves varying degrees of melody throughout the collection. “Words Never Whispered” is the album’s longest track by quite a bit and the extended running time doesn’t challenge Bouras’ ability to hold the audience’s attention. If anything, it gives him a chance to stretch out and strengthen this relatively epic number with even greater musical substance and tangible atmospherics. 
 
“Fear of Sleep” has a strong structure and a growing sense of dread conjured through the playing that Bouras never cheapens. The deft touch he uses in bringing about such a mood is a signature quality of the release on a whole, but finds its greatest expression with this number. “Haunted by the Memory of You” continues a theme of the songs addressing lost love of some variety and the hazy romanticism of the playing and melodic ideas certainly suggest vulnerability and often exquisite sensitivity. “Touch the Heart (Ocean Blue)” manages to balance delicacy with a welcome degree of forcefulness and the album’s final song “Until We Meet Again” closes Absence on an expected elegiac note with just enough ambient grace to tie it with some of the album’s other experiments with sound. This is a substantive and unusual musical release from a musician whose career clearly indicates he’s capable of playing any style that captivates him. Absence (live looping) is another involving release from a fantastic creative force in the indie music world.  


Scott Wigley

Sunday, November 19, 2017

FXRRVST - May XXVI



FXRRVST - May XXVI 


The powerful dramatics of Toronto’s FXRRVST come across effortlessly on each of their debut’s nine songs. May XXVI in a way that will likely prove surprising to many listeners. Matching up the atmospherics of guitar fueled alternative rock with a strongly melodic character unlike anything else currently on the scene. They are just as convincing presenting the lyrical side of their character as they are guitar muscle and their abundance of both qualities is well defined by a production mix that seems to coalesce organically rather than as the result of time consuming effort and thought. The intimacy of these performances is a significant part of their appeal. Many of the tracks prominently feature acoustic guitar and it invariably provides a sturdy spine for Matthew Fuentes’ electric guitar excursions. There’s some flashes of extra instruments, some unexpected, a few nods to ambient textures, and a willingness to slightly subvert listeners’ expectations about melody.
 
There’s a classic singer/songwriter feel surrounding the opener “Road to Nowhere” spiked with a brisk pace and some unusual rhythms for this kind of material. While there is definitely a sense of the familiar with this song, Forrest and Fuentes bring a fresh quality to the style with this song’s character and Fuentes’ lead guitar has some fiery moments alternating with brief lyrical runs. “Picture Frames” highlights Forrest’s talent for an emotionally affecting lyric. There’s little question that her words pick up added force thanks to the superior phrasing she puts to work in this song and others, but the writing stands on its own as well. “Drown Me” might not be the most uplifting lyrical fare, but coupled with the closest thing on May XXVI to a straight ahead rocker, the rather dark sentiments make for a punchy tune, especially on the chorus. “Tidal Wave” is cut from similar commercially minded cloth, but it sports its appeal without ever pandering to listeners. It’s little wonder that Forrest and Fuentes chose this number to be their first single as it is both representative of the album’s deceptive ambition while also presenting their accessible musical character in the best possible light. 
 
There’s a slightly elegiac quality to the song “Lovely” and the slow wind of both the music and Forrest’s vocal accentuates that vibe, but the following song “Safe House” takes on a much less whimsical tone and, instead, impresses listeners with a restrained, deeply melancholy acoustic guitar line whose repetition will definitely stick with listeners. There’s a basically equal mix of the duo’s folksy, singer/songwriter side and their rock inclinations on the album’s last cut “Roofs”, but they sweeten the pot further with an air of daring quite unlike anything else earlier on the release. This is a restless song, musically, and Forrest’s singing seems genuinely inspired by its creative energy. It ends May XXVI on the best possible note and poises this remarkably satisfying tandem for further future success. FXRRVST (pronounced forest) might seem initially unusual based on their band name alone, but even a cursory examination of their talents points to uniqueness of a whole other order. 


Montey Zike

Friday, November 3, 2017

Phil Varca and the SlamJammers



Phil Varca and the SlamJammers 


Phil Varca and the SlamJammers are aces in a blues genre that’s built largely around the talents of its respective singers and guitar players. That’s no different with Phil Varca and his band mates – Varca is ably supported by Tom Porter on bass and Russell Stone on drums. It’s the latest and longest standing iteration of a band that’s been gigging and recording since 1989 – they’ve established themselves as one of the fiercest and most soulful practitioners of this classic form working today. There’s never any overly reverential treatment of blues from these musicians. The pedigree of performers they’ve opened or shared stages with like Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, and Robin Trower illustrates their own direction as a hard-hitting unit keyed around Varca’s dramatic guitar and vocal style surging with passion that’s all their own. Their new singles “Don’t Push Me” and “Cash” embody all the best qualities of their music and point the way towards an even brighter future for this veteran trio. 
 
The years of recordings and live performances come across in their new music – few studio recordings could claim to harbor the same visceral live feel that you hear on the band’s new songs. “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me” are cut from a distinctly different cloth, both in pace and feel, but remain close enough together that they sound very much part and parcel of the same band. “Cash” has a more straight-forward, average bent, particularly in subject matter, and is a much busier musical piece than the second song. Despite the busier nature of the recording, Varca and his band mates never overwhelm the listener and there’s a laser-focus to the arrangement that maximizes its impact. Varca’s vocal brings its customary gritty realism to the singing, but he also bites deep into the song’s inherent lasciviousness without ever laying it on too thick. 
 
There’s a jagged knife edge thrust to the mid-tempo blues rock of “Don’t Push Me” that musters more energy and power than the earlier song ever quite manages. This isn’t intended as a slight to “Cash” – it’s a great song, but “Don’t Push Me” is even more powerful and has a muscular force generated by both the drumming and guitar alike that makes this a crisp, hard-hitting musical experience. Varca’s vocal is more than up to the challenge and builds great drama on top of the foundation provided by bassist Tom Porter and drummer Russell Stone and, all the better, he gets over the indignation of the lyric without ever straining for effect. It’s an impressive combination from this longstanding musical unit. Phil Varca and the SlamJammers have scored again with “Cash” and “Don’t Push Me” and shows no signs of slowing down almost three decades into their career. The ride is still streaking along at this point, so if you’ve never heard the band before, there’s still time to take a trip on their musical roller coaster.  


Shannon Cowden

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Flatt Lonesome - Silence in These Walls


Flatt Lonesome - Silence in These Walls 
 

The unique beauty of Silence in These Walls, the fourth album from critically lauded six piece band Flatt Lonesome, isn’t solely explicable thanks to their mastery of the classic country/bluegrass style. It’s their talent for placing a meaningful piece of themselves in these time tested forms and transform them into something uniquely their own that makes the twelve songs on Silence in These Walls stand up and be noticed. The band’s songwriting axis revolves around the twin creative forces of Paul Harrigill and Kelsi Robertson-Harrigill. Both make enormous vocal contributions to the album, but it’s Robertson-Harrigill who really makes her presence felt with a handful of tour de force vocal moments that show a truly great singer gets by every bit as much on how they sing, when they don’t sing, and how they tailor their approach to the music of each song.
 
Much of Silence in These Walls has a serious bent. The wont of modern performers and writers in this style is that they approach the genre quite literally – the extent of their artistic vision encompasses dire or despair narratives and precious little else. “All My Life” certainly qualifies as serious but the weighty listen is mitigated by the lush musicality of Kelsi Robertson-Harrigill’s voice and the support she receives from the band’s other backing singers, particularly Charli Robertson. It is a much more solidly bluegrass tune than much of what comes later, but there’s a mix of influences that make this a potent brew. “Build Me a Bridge” is some truly clever songwriting that the band gets off crisply and with great feeling. They bring together a combustible blend of country and blues to make this acoustic fare pop in unexpected ways. “I’m Not Afraid to Be Alone” is the album’s best ballad and a resolute statement of purpose against the vagaries of love. It’s far and away Charli Robertson’s most convincing vocals. 
 
The tempo is much more controlled, deliberate, on “Draw Me Near” and this inspirational tune penned by Robertson-Harrigill finds a fantastic interpreter in Buddy Robertson’s singing. He shows the same emotive skill and patient attention to detail on this ballad that Charli Robertson shows on in the aforementioned track and it makes for one of the finest moments on Silence in These Walls. Their penchant for giving time on their releases to inspirational or spiritually minded songs presents listeners with another satisfying side of their musical character. “Where Do You Go?” is a track the band draws from a 1970 Glen Campbell release and one cannot help but idly wonder if, with his recent death, the selection isn’t intended as some sort of tribute. Regardless, it is another peak on a release that provides a lot of rewarding moments. The last third of the album includes a couple of more upbeat numbers and a cover song for the finale. The first two songs are playful relationship oriented cuts, the first full of some optimistic yearning and the second an outright love song. 
 
 “Happy ‘Til He Comes” brings out the toying side of Flatt Lonesome’s musical character while “Falling” embodies a romantic side that’s certain to pick listeners up out of any malaise. “You’re The Reason” has been a hit in previous versions and could prove to be one again. It’s one of the few outright commercial moments on Silence in These Walls that could play on country radio and they’ve done it while remaining true to their musical vision. It’s a remarkably confident and detailed approach to making music that fills this album. Flatt Lonesome, with this release, can lay firm claim on being one of the best roots music associated acts working today.


Montey Zike

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Trevor Drury – Trip To The Water

 
Trevor Drury – Trip To The Water 


The current single by Trevor Drury – Trip To The Water, comes out of his deep well of music that he’s been at ever since he began taking lessons and soon became thoroughly obsessed with the art. He later went on to study vocal performance at San Diego State University. And that’s just the music side of life for this artist, as he also became an international model in the-midst of forging a career at his first passion.

His influences range from Elvis to Radio head, but he can be compared to any of his peers if you’re up on today’s flavors of the form. He stacks up well with everyone helping him produce a great single.

Something classy this way comes, with Drury getting as good as it gets on this amazing story of sorts, with a realistic feel that won’t stop once you turn it off, because it stays in your head, so why keep it there for all it’s worth. You don’t hear this unless you’re looking for it, and that’s just putting it mildly with ballads you either love or loathe. But I don’t want to give away the pace, I’ll just say that is comes in the shape of more than one speed. It’s safe to say that if you don’t do well with ballads, you can also look into his other songs like “Childhood Friend” and Water In The CafĂ©” – speaking of “water.”

At first it doesn’t demand your attention so much, but then it gets interesting once he gets past the first few chords and lets a verse by. The pause it goes through doesn’t entice, but then everything comes alive and you’re hooked. It’s a cerebral treat once you’re under the entire spell he weaves. I wasn’t sure myself where he was going to go, and that reveals enough about it to hopefully entice before hearing it, so readers don’t give up before they more than likely become enormously impressed. That’s where it gets incredibly cool and I leave it up to recommendation.

 
He’s is never boring or sappy, but his voice does go through a few changes that throw you off, but he wins you back over if you don’t give up and turn this precious tune off. You can weed out what you don’t like about it and there will be enough left to please you ten times over. Let’s put it that way. It’s hard to deny from the first note to the last and plays like an anthem for the state of the nation, but that’s just one way to look at it. The theme has nothing to do with politics, it’s about the human condition and where to find peace and tranquility, which is where the water ultimately comes in.

It’s not hard to connect the dots yourself, because that’s what the single is about doing, one way or another. The way it plays out is just through his trip to where he draws the light from. You can apply it to wherever you believe the source comes, and that’s the best thing you can do with any piece of good music.

Trevor Drury has his aim in the right direction, following the right path to his own destiny, and he’s taking people with him. But it’s also not his only path, and that’s a testament of what he has to offer the world in more than one industry, which he’s proving can go hand in hand.


Jeff Turner

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Romeo Dance Cheetah - Magnificent Man

 
Romeo Dance Cheetah - Magnificent Man 


Missouri born songwriter and vocalist Romeo Dance Cheetah is a singular performer in a day and age when carbon copies rule the roost The comedic sensibility he puts forward on many of Magnificent Man’s tunes is quite different from anything you’ll hear in modern performers and has an individualistic streak that runs a mile wide. Cheetah brings a visual sense to his lyrics and music alike that’s also manifested in his busy YouTube channel that’s used as a platform for his short music and sketch comedy films. There’s nothing going on in modern music today that blends the same tendencies in comedy with occasional dashes of seriousness and a heart that shines through under every context. Magnificent Man features a lot of rock music, circa 1988-1994, but there’s more here and the sensibility that goes into making these songs what they are has a surprising, perhaps, amount of nuance.
 
Magnificent Man’s title song provides the song’s opening curtain number and it gets things off to a heavy start. It’s a song that couldn’t possibly sound bigger and Cheetah’s ambition, cloaked in a clown’s mask, is quite clear. It’s a mistake to not take him a little seriously because he is doing more than just entertaining audiences; songs like this are making the case that a musical form thought shallow and dated can be made to live again in a modern context. There’s no doubt, however, that the lyrics for this opener are unexpectedly careening, weird fun. “35 Year Olds Dancin’” is a little more conventional so far as songs spoofing a subject go and it has some hard pushing guitars that give the words and vocal a lot of extra impetus. “Party Poopin” might have a sophomoric title, but it’s actually another intelligently constructed tribute of sorts to eighties AOR and arena rock with its echoing drums pounding out a simple tempo that the vocal and accompanying instruments fill out with a rough edge. “The Air Guitar Song” is cut from similar cloth and has an even sharper sense of humor that really captures the silliness sometimes present in its subject matter.
 
“Gone with the Wind” could have been a heavy handed failure in the hands of a lesser band, but Cheetah makes this heavily plotted out performance work despite its obvious turns. The sheer force of his personality really aids in this. “Laser Beam Makeup” has some pretty goofy lyrics that his delivery also redeems – the straight tone of voice he takes seems to normalize it some and allows listeners the distance to laugh. The final song “Live the Dream” has a much stronger pop sound than any of the aforementioned tracks and the decision to abandon the rock posturing defining much of the album gives it a different slant at its ending. Romeo Dance Cheetah’s Magnificent Man shows the promise of a performer who’s graced national television programs, entertaining scores via YouTube, and his promise seems boundless at this point.  


Montey Zike

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dynamos - Shake, Rattle, & Roll


Dynamos - Shake, Rattle, & Roll 


Dynamos emerged from the Southern California area with one of the boldest blasts of modern rock in recent memory with the release of their EP Cold Comfort and are now following its success up with the single “Shake, Rattle, & Roll”. Vocalist Nadia Elmistikawy, the beneficiary of vocal training from a very young age and an extensive musical education through her youth, gives the band a physically stunning and vocally superb presence who inhabits the band’s songwriting like a possessed presence. There’s no question, ever, that she’s involved with every word and she’s thankfully supported by musicians who bring just as much commitment to bear. “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” might draw its title from rock’s ancient history, but there’s nothing staid or retro about their presentation. Instead, Dynamos come out of their corner swinging and “Shake, Rattle, & Roll” is just the knockout punch fans of modern rock are looking for to remind them the guitar slingers and bluesy singers of the world aren’t an extinct species quite yet.  
 
The vibrant life coursing through the veins of the song is connected to the true and righteous spirit of rock and roll. It comes through so clear. The drumming and bass playing is simply on point and doesn’t settle for rote patterns – instead, both the bass and drums are exploring from the first and laying a steady, yet fluid, base for everything else this song has to offer. Jacob Mayeda and Carlos Barrea’s guitar work is a good fit for the rhythm section because they present a consistent sound that dovetails nicely into the bottom end and play with the same accomplished, yet rambunctious, sense of skill. The song is written to an ideal length and Dynamos emerge from this performance, musically, as a band loathe to waste the time or test the listener’s patience in the name of self indulgence. Instead, they come across as focused and intense as any five star rock band we’ve ever heard. 
 
Nadia Elmistikawy’s vocals and lyrics alike are the song’s crowning achievement. The singing, especially, does a bracing job of bringing rock and outright blues together while the lustful wail in Elmistikawy’s voice contrasts nicely with her more nuanced moments when we get a real sense of the “speaker” behind this lyric. It might reference old time rock and roll using this title, but it’s clear that “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” is, at its heart, totally their own and expresses its theme with boisterous rock and roll bite. Dynamos experienced a lot of much deserved success with their initial EP offering and, if this tune reflects the overall quality of their current songwriting, listeners can be sure that the next album or EP from this crew will expand on the promise heard in the aforementioned EP and set them up for further and bigger success down the road. They are a powerful outfit and there’s only way for them to go from here – up, up, up.  


Dale Butcher
 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stranger Friends


Stranger Friends  

Two award-winning Nashville songwriters have teamed up to form the masterful new band, Stranger Friends. With a musical style that combines the harmony of the Everly Brothers and the grit of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stranger Friends will release their self-titled, self-written EP on October 20. Band members Jamie Floyd and John Martin met through a mutual friend in 2010. To their surprise, songs came naturally, as though these strangers had been friends all along. And their vocal blend was instantly, undeniably special. Since that time, they have followed their musical instincts.

Those activities have all led to great things, such as, recording the 12-song soundtrack for a Burt Reynolds movie, “Dog Ears,” before recording this five-track EP to be released this month, before said movie in 2018.

That’s pretty- big for this hard-working duo, but seven years is a long time to develop and when you stay at it you get such results and they are living proof. The EP kicks off with “Country Song” to put it all into proper order from the word go. And I give this opener all the green light it deserves, as it stand-apart from the others the way any good opener should, and remains the right choice once all five songs are over.

They follow in good country style tradition with “Secret Garden” and it too is one of the top placements on the EP. This is such a good song you’ll wonder how it’s the same players on it, as it advances in the instrumental department without skipping a beat. The folk essence can’t be dismissed on this track, with its usual acoustic charms. This plays out like a walk through any garden in any lavish or humble estate. It’s probably the best all-round track of the five, to my recollection after several listens. But it depends on your cup of garden juice, so to speak, and that can be said about any track on Stranger Friends.

 
“I Ain’t Dead” takes you to another place and time with a ballad that blows most attempts as such down to the ground here. This embodies everything that country is about in one fell swoop. The only thing it never does is swing into anything with a beat. It’s not that kind of son, so no harm there. No need to swing when you can sway, because it does however allow that as it goes from slow moving, to loud and back again. There is no repeating the refrain they go into on this, but perhaps there is no need because some things are better left as is.

I’m not completely sure that’s the gospel on this, but the track itself carries a gospel feel, so put them together and maybe it’s the right call.

But you also get the more-quiet sounds of “November & June” to go with it, and you won’t be eating the same meal with every track. This follows a less serious approach to their music, but provides a feather-light touch at the right time on the EP. You’ll want it after the latter, and you’ll get everything you’ve been patient for by listening to it all and finding the closing track “Don’t Get Back Up” to compete with every note you’ve already heard.

Brion Stephen

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Souleye – Wildman



Souleye – Wildman 


Souleye has traveled a long since his school days as a star athlete and his life today, with fatherhood and marriage to one of the world’s most popular singers of the last quarter century- Alanis Morissette, has informed the unique message he pushes with his songs in a way few artists in any genre can claim. He has invited an assortment of featured artists, other vocalists, to work alongside him on Wildman and their appearances are invariably steered to the right songs where their influence ratchets up the intensity and overall quality several notches. Wildman owes its musical virtues to a broad based understanding of electronica and other common elements heard in EDM, but the substance filling each of Souleye’s songs is undeniable. Labels be damned – Souleye’s Wildman is one of the most compelling releases from any genre of music this year and will likely stand as one of his seminal works from this point forward. 
 
It kicks off with a memorably energetic start thanks to the song “Dream Come True” and surges along thanks to the steady percussion driving it forward. Souleye’s voice takes on a lot of different shapes during this performance. The different sounds are, naturally, thanks to some post production touches and thankfully never go overboard. “Classic” dispenses with such moves, for the most part, and definitely puts more of the onus on a consistent groove to carry the outing. It has a couple of guest singers with the inclusion of Chachillie and Chantal Kreviazuk’s voices in the song. Lynx adds a lot as well during the title-song “Wildman” without ever really taking up too much of the running time. Moments like this bring unexpected bluesy and soulful notes to songs that don’t always announce their melodic virtues to the listener. There’s a lot going on musically in these songs however for the committed listener will to unpack their riches. 
 
“Miles Away” has many of the same musical strengths setting the best songs on Wildman apart from the rest while still manifesting a surprisingly cinematic side that makes this one of the more emotional impactful songs on the album. There’s a strong soulful edge to the song “Fountain of Youth” but there’s an interesting amount of attitude here noticeably different than what we hear in earlier songs. Much of that difference is attributable to the influence of Wade Morissette on  the song’s development. It’s noticeably different from the song “Snow Angel”. Alanis Morissette’s contributions to this song are relatively limited but she brings a different character to the song than it would otherwise possess. Wildman will entertain hardcore hip hop fans who value intelligent material and casual fans as well thanks to Souleye’s broad based talent and commitment to writing and recording top shelf albums. This will likely end up being remembered as one of his absolute best and brightest moments thanks to its mix of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical quite unlike anyone else working today.  


Montey Zike

Ashley J – Unbreakable


Ashley J – Unbreakable

In a time where industry seems to get tougher and tougher as time goes by, uniqueness, well, that’s something very tricky. Usually I would go saying that being original would draw much attention to you, but unfortunately that’s partially true as there has been many creatively unique bands and artists that have found themselves drowned in the sea of talent inside and outside the industry. Sometimes they happen to be very unique that they fall into the niche hole. So I think the key for success would have to be originality but also be relatable. Have your own voice, but also be able for others to connect with you.
“Unbreakable” by songstress Ashley J has all the right elements to conquer the hearts of many. It’s infectious and has Disney pop centric melodies that are made for young listeners, which at the end of the day are the ones that consume more music. The powerful message in the song is very much needed in this times of despair and hopelessness. Be yourself. Don’t let others to define who you are. You might find yourself in very dark corners, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
On a negative note, for me the song sounds way too familiar. As I mentioned on the first paragraph, they key to make it through is not only be very lucky but also have your own identity. There can be a very limited amount of artists that sounds like a highly popular one, ya know? There can only be too many Britney Spears, or Bridgit Mendler, etc. And even those artists have found the way to eventually redefine themselves. So hopefully, sooner than later, Ashley J would find her way to be herself. To take some risks, have some fun playing with other styles and blending them together.
Overall, there’s the determination, the potential and of course, the talent to make it through. This single serves as a great introduction for a, fingers crossed, emerging star. Hopefully she embraces her own message and finds the needed strength to take some risks in the future and keep chopping her skills. Luckily she will encounter with a production team that may help her push her boundaries as well, not saying this one doesn’t... but ya know what I mean.
Rating 8/10
RJ Frometa

Electric Illusion - Dizzy Box Nine

 
Electric Illusion - Dizzy Box Nine 

The debut CD – Electric Illusion from Dizzy Box Nine, featuring the single “Good” is a pop album to keep an ear to as it unfolds with some of the best songs I’ve heard in years. This CD reminds you of everything that was good about pop music, with songs that hold their own with the best. There are so many influences here, that you can’t quite seem to nail them all down, but it doesn't matter because you’re too busy enjoying the unique style of Dizzy Box Nine.

You can call it what you want, but whatever you call it, there’s much to call on this CD. Electric Illusion has just about everything going for it except for a million dollar-mass campaign behind it. But that’s ok, Dizzy Box Nine seems to like to do things their own way, and it’s only a matter of time before more listeners get exposed to this group. Word of mouth can be a powerful factor in breaking bands into the mainstream, and there is definitely that type of potential with this band. What you get here is the real thing—fast-paced, melodic songs that leave you wanting to hit the repeat button a few times. It’s all upbeat pop and rock with soulful, positive, and relevant lyrics. The kind songs you used to be able to count on from pop bands of the past.


The band seems to center around the skills and vision of Randy Ludwig, who plays most of the instruments on this record. Lawrence Dunlap is also featured on drums on several of the songs. The guitar playing of Randy Ludwig is top notch and it’s cool how he fits so many different guitar parts into each track, and still ends up finishing these songs within about 3 minutes or so. Randy’s vocals are a perfect fit for these types of pop tunes. And the supporting vocals add richness to the music that is favorable.   
 
There are several standout songs on this record, from the face-paced charmer “Oh Yeah!” to the hypnotic melodies of “When I Look At You” and “Good”, there’s a lot to offer music fans of all genres. I can see these guys opening up for a band like Train, but I can also see them opening up for Tom Petty or Blink 182. That’s just how it goes. These songs just kind of work.

There are some twists with songs like “Fantasy,” “Rosie” and “Crazy Superstar” with their more esoteric lyrics and storylines. And it all becomes complete with the laughter of “Punk Rock Girl” with its zany attitude, and even bigger bombs like “Samantha” which is a perfect ending to this record. Dizzy Box Nine may not be mainstream yet, but that doesn’t seem to prevent them from making memorable, melodic songs that seem to instantly hook you with the first listen.  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

John Brownlow - The Summertime



John Brownlow - The Summertime
In my past few years writing reviews for a wide range of bands and artists, I have had the pleasure to meet and enjoy some really great and touching records by some phenomenal bands - on the other side of the spectrum I have encountered some plain down, simple and boring as hell materials. So say I was a bit worried for the next record, is to really say the least. 29 songs?! "Boy", I was praying, "I hope this would be fun ride".
Luckily for me, The Summertime by John Brownlow is an inspiring and great record that brings back some great memories for me and many of the audience that will likely listen to this record. The album echoes the sound of great iconic and pretty much staple names from the Britpop era (where Brownlow can be considered quite an underdog veteran) like Oasis, Blur and other older names as Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, The Clash, etc. However, calling Brownlow a rock musician wouldn't be correct, and this album shows he's one of those rare acts that aren't afraid of jumping into different wagons and the way, the ease how he does this is pretty remarkable. He goes from Powerpop (Burn Hollywood Burn) to Bossanova (Asteroids), old school Rock and Roll (Government Work) and Punk (Bullet To The Head) is very impressive. There's really something for everybody who's up to open their musical minds and explore a wide range of sounds. The production value also helps showcasing the greatest potential of everyone involved, especially Brownlow dynamic vocals, in a time where nothing hears or sounds real but rather way too perfect, the rawness in the tone and often missing notes instead of working against him it does serves on his advantage.
There isn't too much of a criticism for the record, perhaps the number of tracks might cause some listeners to not give it a shot. In a time where we are always in a hurry and would like to listen a bizzillion different songs in zero time, this big number seems like it wasn't a good idea, especially when you are a relative new artist trying to make it into the industry and get yourself heard.
In the end, John Brownlow's The Summertime is a fantastic journey through the mind of an artist that has compiled all of his influences into one magnum opus.
Rate: 8.5/10
by RJ Frometa  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Barbara Jo Kammer - One Song at a Time

 
Barbara Jo Kammer - One Song at a Time 


There’s a lot of personal meaning in this collection and, certainly, anyone who has experienced the punishing lifestyle that defines the life of an addict will find much here to relate to. It isn’t the whole story about Barbara Jo Kammer’s solo debut, One Song at a Time, however. The vibrant musical tapestry she weaves with her collaborators makes this an entertaining listen from the first and that spark never dims over the course of the album’s ten songs. She maintains a level of energy ably matched by her band mates and they respond with on point performances that help these tunes reach their fullest potential. It’s all presented against the backdrop of a superbly rendered production job that doesn’t sound like the product of an independent operation whatsoever, but rather top flight professional and with a keen ear turned towards balancing her voice against the instruments. 
 
“I Can See Clearly” is an ideal example of what Kammer is capable of covering other artists. She recasts this iconic pop tune as a high-stepping bluegrass tilt and the definition the individual players achieve is quite impressive. Their unerring accuracy reveals itself in every minute of this tune and it results in one of the album’s most complete performances. “Choices” joins its company, as well, in that regard while coming from an entirely different place musically. This is a song pulled directly from the classic country tradition and its decidedly adult lyric about struggling with alcoholism is surely one that affected Kammer profoundly the first time she heard it. She delivers a wrenching performance here that goes beyond just hitting her marks and has a transformative quality all listeners will respond to in some way. “Hard Promises to Keep” is another deep nod to country music tradition as it sets itself up as a classic ballad and duet between Kammer and the fine vocalist Greg Blake. Blake’s lower register smoothness has its own emotive quality, but it’s different enough from Kammer’s that the juxtaposition of their voices takes on a compelling aura.   

“In a Cabin on the Mountain by the Pine” is written by Robert Backlund, a friend of Kammer’s, and this well honed invocation of rural life and its peaceful qualities comes across quite nicely thanks to the wealth of specific detail and Kammer’s expert reading of the song. “The Winning Side” embraces a more modern country vibe without surrendering any of the traditional instrumentation that gives the album such a vintage sound and Kammer’s singing for this particular performance ranks among her best outings on a great album. She wraps One Song at a Time up with an equally involving performance of the Jimmie Rodgers classic “Mule Skinner Blues” and, while it was written for a male voice, Kammer doesn’t let that get in her way of owning the song completely and making it sound like the tune was written with her in mind all along. This is one of the best traditional releases of 2017 and we can only hope that Kammer follows it up with an equally powerful sophomore effort or something even better. 

RELATED ARTICLE: https://newmusicweekly.com/one-song-time-barbara-jo-kammer-releases-debut-cd-62/ 


Scott Wigley
 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sighs – Wait On Another Day

 

The Sighs – Wait On Another Day  


The Review: Massachusetts bred The Sighs has one of those sounds that’s familiar but yet you can’t quite put your finger on him. The closest I could place it would a cross between The Beach Boys and The Beatles without the rock n’ roll bombast.  

The Sighs are finally back with their highly anticipated third album, Wait On Another Day which really took a decade or so to come to fruition. The result is a rich musical stew, with ingredients from righteous power pop rock to heavy riffs and everything in between.  

The CD starts off with “It's Real” an explosive opener painted with gloomy vocal harmonies, threatening lead guitars and likewise menacing drum and bass lines. Track 2 “Words of Love” follows through nicely, moving from the angsty roars from the first single with captivating guitar lines and psychedelic undertones. The first 4 tracks really show how well these cats can really play outside the a-typical Pop embellishment of today, bringing some of that magic that made this genre so amazing back in the days. Speaking of nostalgia, "Summertime Roses" smells like Oasis everywhere, bringing those layers that made Brit Pop so great. Slowly but surely you are introduced to inviting baritone voice via more great music. As you may realize by now, this is really an album that enjoys diving into different eras of Rock music. From time to time, the record also shows great depth on the writing, they aren't exactly very meaningful but catchy in the way other classics used to be by sounding familiar, commercial but never manufactured. You feel there's a life, a soul behind those lyrics. As I listened to these songs over and over again, I noticed how fluid all of the arrangements really were. The whole CD moves from one moment to the next, one transition /track to the next. And despite the lack of ‘jolting moments’ to catch you off guard, all of all the tracks manage to grab your attention with its often gentle, lighthearted style that changes when you less expected. 

Most good pop songs have what I call a “sweet” higher tonal registry within the melody. While LaRoche never hits those big notes, the vocal work never feels odd. Though I would have loved the band take some risks. It sometimes feels like they were playing it too safe.  

“Wait On Another Day” by The Sighs rounds out an exceptional 11 Track CD presentation delivered by a talented group of musicians and songwriters who has definitely honed their craft over the years.

RELATED ARTICLE: http://austintownhall.com/2017/07/10/the-sighs-return-for-third-album/  

Jamie Russell