monoblogue music: “Head Above Tide” by Jason Vitielli

April 7, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

For four-plus years I’ve been reviewing albums, I’ve run across a number that grabbed the listener’s attention and kept it throughout. I hate to say it, but this effort by the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Jason Vitielli is not one of those albums. After awhile it becomes a musical version of white noise, and that’s a shame.

While he considers himself as “art rock” I thought he veered in the direction of rock-jazz fusion, if anything. Now listen, it made a pretty good career for Steely Dan but those songs were interesting enough to make radio playlists and charts. It’s obvious Jason has put a lot of thought and effort into this one, and he enlists a host of helpers: seven others are given credit, including two other lead guitarists, two female backup singers, two percussionists, and another bassist – Vitielli himself is credited with keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, alto sax, bass guitar, and “sampler.” Yet the songs don’t seem all that complex.

And maybe it’s that reason “Head Above Tide” ends up seeming too repetitive toward the end, as my attention began to wander. To me, it seemed like 16 tracks [14 songs and the brief (descension) and (ascension)] was about four to six too many. But this is a trend – since I reviewed this January release from the dreaded Spotify playlist, I found out Jason had put out a 14-song album called “No Photographs” back in 2009.

Toward the beginning of this record, this is a very representative song called The Persecuted.

In watching and listening to the video, perhaps you’ll get my point: this album is sort of like a musical version of “Seinfeld” as it was a show about nothing. I have no doubt that Jason Vitelli has his fans and friends, but this was a review I just couldn’t get into. But then I always advise people to listen for themselves since your mileage may vary.

monoblogue music: “Buffalo Hotel” by Geoff Gibbons

January 27, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Buffalo Hotel” by Geoff Gibbons 

This full-length album by Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Geoff Gibbons makes for an interesting combination. While the imagery and sound evokes whiskey-soaked country, the lyrical content and tempo is more reminiscent of fine wine and romance. Gibbons may fancy himself a “country” artist, but I don’t think there is a song on here that would fall under the classification of the modern country that dominates the genre’s radio airwaves.

If anything, he makes his nod to the style that was in place a half-century ago. I thought Back To You was a song lifted directly from that era, for example. Back then the country industry seemed to be obsessed with erasing the line between country and pop music, and Geoff succeeds best with songs like Blinded By Tumbleweeds, City From The Stars, and Where Midnight Rolls – the latter giving me the thought of country meeting Springsteen for some unknown reason.

Another facet of “Buffalo Hotel” that makes it different is Geoff’s embrace of something different. While he doesn’t have a backing band to speak of, his use of “a tight community of first call studio musicians” and a backing trio of singers called The Sojourners to provide harmony here and there provides the interest, particularly where he steps off the country reservation for songs like the haunting melody of Lonesome Angel, The Other Side, and the gospel vibe of Me And Buffalo Bill. Gibbons also claims a love for bands like The Eagles, and that influence is strong on the lead track Ain’t Goin’ Back and Hard Hard Rain, the video to which is below.

But to me the best part of “Buffalo Hotel” is the storytelling. You actually need to listen to tracks like the hard-luck tale Carolina Bound, Pictures Of Adelaide, or the overly long Ever Get To Georgia. (One big difference between Gibbons and some of his musical influence: the songs are twice as long, and sometimes it’s too much.)

I don’t ever really see Geoff putting together a band and playing in the honky-tonks with his style of country. But if you like mature music with a dollop of country influence, this is a pretty good choice. As I often say, though, don’t take my word for it – listen for yourself.

monoblogue music: following up in 2018

January 6, 2018 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: following up in 2018 

Like I did last year I resolved to follow up on the acts which have made my top 5 review lists from 2014, 20152016, and now 2017. I was curious to see if they were still making music and whether it was still good stuff. So over the last couple weeks or so I have been checking things out with these 20 acts and this is what I found.

From 2014, it should be noted that Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders (#5) had “Greenbah” finally come out toward the back end of 2017. It’s a very mature evolution of their rockabilly sound, and would have been a contender for the top 5 had I formally reviewed it. So they are still making music, and still difficult to pin down on social media. The only drawback: you still have the acquired taste of his nasal voice to deal with and it doesn’t work on every song.

Rpresenting a different foreign shore, The Lost Poets (#3) have put out a new, cool single called Vulture (The Duel) (with an almost disturbingly morbid video) as well as one back in January called Riviera Keys and are still seeking venues for the short film “Insubordia pt. 3”. They are honing that sludge rock sound, to be sure.

Meanwhile, my New York-based top 5 artists Tomas Doncker Band (#4) and Paul Maged (#1) are keeping very, very busy. Considering the Doncker “band” is just part of the Doncker “brand” we find he’s doing a lot – performing on more tribute albums such as a project commemorating Curtis Mayfield, working with longtime collaborators, writing music for upcoming off-Broadway plays, and running his record label. A really busy guy, and that’s just his recent social media feed. And since I recently reviewed the first of a planned trilogy of EPs that will make up Maged’s next full-length, it’s obvious Paul’s making more music. The next phase, called “The Glass River”, comes out in February.

The only downer is that my top 5 slot seemed to be the kiss of death for Monks of Mellonwah (#2), whose trail has gotten colder since they last put out music in 2015.

My 2015 crop has gone off in a number of different directions. There are the more traditional, like Idiot Grins (#5) who put out a new album called “State of Health.” To me it was a throwback to the 60’s thanks to their guests, including the backing harmonies of the Byrd Sisters. They had a couple whipsaw changes in direction with this one back and forth from a Motown style to retro country, but they seem to have found their groove this time. Down the California coast, the Liquorsmiths (#4) didn’t follow up their 2016 release “All My Friends Are Fighters” with any other new stuff, but they keep playing a regular schedule of gigs around the San Diego area.

Even farther down south the Pacific, almost to the end of the world, is the subject of a single Tumbler (#3) put out in August called Ushuaia. Richard Grace of the band explained that it was a retrospective of the lost native Yamana tribe from the region, which had a rich but only verbal language and was wiped out from smallpox and other diseases when Westerners found the area and settled on Tierra del Fuego.

The Yamana’s story is of two cultures meeting. We wanted to reflect that in the way we recorded the song. Mostly though, we wanted the song to tell the story of these people’s disappearance – of how terrible and tragic it is and, worst of all, of how little we actually truly care.

Even farther out are the Space Apaches (#2) who seem to have disappeared into the ether, but the guy who went in the most interesting direction was Jas Patrick (#1). While he may not be doing music anymore, he has succeeded in his new field of voiceover work. In 2017 he received one of the Voice Arts Awards for his work on a radio commercial, which led to new representation. I suppose in the grand scheme of things winning a national award and being #1 in your craft is more important and lucrative than being #1 on my chart. But I still like the songs.

If anything, my 2016 crop is still doing things the conventional way – with one exception. It’s also a matter of scale: Michael Van and the Movers (#5) played every so often near their California base, Midwest Soul Xchange (#4) and Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy (#2) each did a string of shows over the summer with MSX touring around the upper Midwest and Hussey and Eddy holding court in venues in West Virginia and Ohio, and Jim Peterik (#3) doing shows with his band the Ides of March, including a current gig on a Moody Blues cruise. Tough life if you can find it for the purple-haired one.

But the sad news to me was the demise of The Magic Lightnin’ Boys (#1) who announced in September they were calling it quits. They promised to finish some recording commitments for digital release and played as part of a Chris Cornell tribute show in October. It sounds like they will go their separate ways, though.

Since I just did the 2017 top 5, there’s not much to add with them – an upcoming show apiece from Revolushn (#5) and Justin Allen and the Well Shots (#3) are the extent of their future plans at the moment, although Revolushn just did the “Good Acid Tour” to San Francisco, the New York area, and Los Angeles in November. Meanwhile, there’s a focus on upcoming studio time for Rich Lerner and the Groove (#4), but Free Willy (#2) is promising a new album early this year called “Too Cool For The Room.”

Finally, Freddie Nelson (#1) is pleased about getting airplay for his album on satellite radio. I guess I will have to check that out.

In so many words, that’s an update on some of the best bands featured on monoblogue music. Hopefully I’ll have more to review this year.

monoblogue music: 2017’s top 5

December 30, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · 1 Comment 

Again I was a little disappointed that I had fewer than 20 records to review. This was a year where the top 10 of those all had a shot at being top 5, with the top group standing out somewhat from the rest for a number of reasons.

After going back through all my 2017 reviews and reminding myself why I liked these albums, here are your top 5 for this year.

5. “Further!!” by Revolushn

Original review: October 14.

If you were really into the psychedelic rock era, this one is a worthy latter-day successor. Certainly the band reflects a Bay Area (that would be San Francisco, not Chesapeake) mindset and politics, but good, fun music is still that.

These guys have been around for a little while and they’re perhaps on the cusp of breaking out into a little more commercial success, assuming they truly long to be sellouts. They may just like their status as an “American protest band” better.

4. “Push On Thru” by Rich Lerner and the Groove

Original review: August 5.

A band that almost defies classification, the appeal of this album was the variety it possessed. These guys seemed right at home transitioning from a Grateful Dead-style jam to more straight country to a serious blues number. You may not like every single song on this one, but Rich Lerner and the Groove hit more home runs on this one than they struck out.

Not necessarily the touring type anymore, they have an impressive cover list when they do play and host a benefit concert each year.

3. “White Oak & Kerosene” by Justin Allen and the Well Shots

Original review: February 25.

There’s a lot of honesty in Justin’s music; the sort of thing that only comes about when you get your degree from the School of Hard Knocks. While this is only a five-song EP, I’m sure Justin and his supporters hope and pray it’s the bridge to something much bigger.

But Justin may have a choice to make, since it’s tough to straddle the line between country and rock. He walks that tightrope pretty well on this EP, but I’m hoping he doesn’t just slide into the idea of just being another country artist without kicking and screaming about leaving the world of boozy, bluesy rock behind.

2. “Remember The Alamo” by Free Willy

Original review: September 16.

What carries this album to its lofty position is the unique and talented musicianship shown by the artists on this record. Free Willy didn’t play every bluegrass festival, country bar, or local honky-tonk watering hole, but they sure sound like they did. In terms of technique and song structuring this is probably one of the best albums I’ve ever reviewed, even if it’s not a genre I listen to an awful lot.

After I did my review and as I was trying to find more on each band, I found more of the backstory on Bill Jones (“Willy”) on the Bluegrass Today website. Definitely worth the read.

1. “Shake The Cage” by Freddie Nelson

Original review: July 29.

I think I outdid myself with the opening lines of this review, which really sum up this compilation:

When I went to check out this just-released album from Pittsburgh-based rocker Freddie Nelson, for three minutes and 55 seconds I was transported back to 1987. Back then you could have taken a tape of the lead song on this CD, called Turn You On, to any A&R guy in the country worth his salt and he would have given you cash money to take you to the band’s next show.

If you just want to straight-up rock, this one is the album for you. I’m definitely partial to bands that draw heavily from classic rock, and this is certainly and enthusiastically one of them. These songs, they stick with you.

I began 2017 with a look at where some of the bands I’ve reviewed over the years have gone, and in the next week or two I’m going to revisit that post with updates. Like I said last year, that should be a fun post to put together as we all combat the post-holiday blues.

In the meantime, I hope to get the finishing touches next year on a couple albums that could make the 2018 top 5 list when finished, both from alumni artists: Matt Townsend did the first half a proposed two-part project this past year and 2014 winner Paul Maged began the release of what he envisions as a trilogy of EPs that will create his next full-length.

While I have pretty well backed out of the day-to-day political game with this site, I still like to do the music reviews. Here’s hoping I have a better pace in 2018.

monoblogue music: “True Dimension” by Seneko

December 2, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “True Dimension” by Seneko 

This is one of those situations where the cover doesn’t define the book.

Behind this somewhat plain brown wrapper – at least in a metaphoric sense, anyway, since it’s a deep blue – is a sophomore EP, released just weeks ago in October, that is brimming with possibilities for the artist in question, Seneko. (Outside the studio, this Connecticut-based musician goes by the name Stan Olshefski.)

I say this because the six-song EP straddles a line between country and adult contemporary pop that can have a broad appeal. I’m not going to say Seneko’s blazing any new trails here, since as I listened I would think of comparisons based on my musical background as a rock listener like Tom Petty, The Eagles, or even a smidgen of U2 in some of the arrangements. But then I could hear in my mind’s ear a song like You To Save Me as a more straight-line modern country song with some instrumental tweaking.

The thought on Tom Petty came from the second song on the EP, Pierced Lip Smile. While some may argue the fuzzed-out alternative sound of the lead title track may be the better single, I would contend Pierced Lip Smile is the more appealing song. While I liked the sound of True Dimension, the song’s flaw to me was a muddy-sounding mix. I know that’s done intentionally at times, especially to create that sort of sound, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Another thing Seneko will learn as he hones his craft is how to shape songs better to his voice. I saw Mind The Violets as a bit of a missed opportunity in that regard, but it is still a song that would appeal to the adult contemporary crowd.

Still, there is a lot to like about this EP. There’s the playful little song My Little Curioso as an example of just going against type and enjoying it, and the closing song Take Me Indigo is a good, moody wrapup to the set with excellent instrumentation, particularly the organ parts. This is not a long EP by any means – the entire thing runs less than 20 minutes – but if you are into the intersection of country and pop I think you will like this one.

The only things you may not enjoy when you listen for yourself (as I always encourage you to, don’t just take my word for it) are the annoying Spotify commercials. Or check him out on social media if you wish.

Postscript: After reading through Seneko’s social media, I guess his local alternative radio station is agreeing with me: they are playing Pierced Lip Smile as the single.

monoblogue music: “Light Years Away” by Paul Maged

November 18, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Light Years Away” by Paul Maged 

I have been doing music reviews for about 3 1/2 years now and I thought originally this would mark a first: the first time I’ve reviewed the follow-up to one of my #1 albums from a particular year and it had a shot to be back-to-back #1’s. You probably remember that Paul’s last full-length “Diamonds & Demons” impressed me enough to be my top album reviewed in 2014, and I was led to believe that a Maged single I reviewed last March called The Wild was a prelude to this new work.

So I was a bit disappointed in two respects with “Light Years Away” but heartened in another. First was the fact that I opened the website where I listen to music for my review and found only seven songs there, which as a whole went off on some tangents I wasn’t quite expecting from the earlier work. (It’s one of those things that’s a bit jarring at first listen but oftentimes grows on you as you adjust.) But then I learned the reason there were only six full-length songs (the seventh is a reprise of a portion of the song Moment of Strength) is that this release is part of a planned trilogy that will comprise the three legs of his follow-up to “Diamonds & Demons.” That means I get another 10 to 12 songs, give or take, to judge this album by before I see whether it will be a number one release next year. (By the way, that approach is not unprecedented: the album Maged barely edged out for top honors in 2014 was put together the exact same way.)

So what is there to like about “Light Years Away”? I think Paul makes a great first impression with the humorous but radio-friendly PC Police. All he needs is a lyric video because I suspect some people may find the song laugh-out-loud funny. (Considering Paul’s background in stand-up and sketch comedy, it’s no stretch to figure out he can write humorous lyrics – and the riff of the song is pretty good, too.)

In that same musical vein – maybe a touch more on the heavy side – but with less controversial lyrics is the title track of the EP, which is the third song. Placed in between is the aforementioned Moment of Strength, which flows through several shades of a rock/funk fusion which I later read Paul described as “Billy Joel meets The Killers meets Michael Jackson.” I can buy that – in fact, the bridge with the female background vocals seems a little too derivative of the King of Pop – but they sometimes seem to meet in the most unusual ways and tempo changes. This tune is one which may grow on you, though.

Song number four represents one of those significant tangents I warned you about. When I first heard the harmonica in the opening bars of Ashley Jane, I was expecting more of a blues number. Instead I got a song I honestly wasn’t quite sure how to peg until I reread the review for The Wild and saw at the time he was working on a song he called “quite Beatlesque.” “I’ll bet this was the one,” I thought to myself.

The upbeat mood of the EP, which began to slide back on Ashley Jane, really goes away with the somber Half Moon. But once you get over the change in attitude, it’s a very good song that actually could be at home on some radio playlists where serious songs are played. That’s another one which is growing on me pretty quickly.

Paying tribute to the late Chris Cornell, Paul takes the Audioslave song Like A Stone and makes it uniquely his own. Everyone has a particular vocal and musical style and tone, and Paul did a masterful job shaping the arrangement of the song (and playing the instruments) to his. I’m not sure why Paul chose to follow that with the short reprise of the chorus to Moment of Strength (or if that snippet will make the final LP version) but Like A Stone may be better suited to just be the final song.

Just going by what’s here I couldn’t say with certainty that Paul would defend his “title” but there are 10 to 12 songs to go and it is a promising start. This little album has a couple of the best songs I’ve heard all year. But don’t take my word for it – just listen for yourself and see.

monoblogue music: “A Sequence of Waves” by Patrick Grant

November 11, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “A Sequence of Waves” by Patrick Grant 

This is one of the more unique selections I’ve come across in recent months because there are so many categories involved, not to mention the fact it’s almost entirely instrumental. But don’t let that scare you.

Let’s start with something somewhat familiar, even though it doesn’t begin the album: rock fans would find Breaking Butterflies Upon a Wheel the most accessible song, but there’s a prog rock flavor to Driving Patterns. Nor is Butterflies too far from the rock/jazz fusion of the even more uniquely titled To Find a Form That Accommodates the Mess. On the flip side of that is a number that’s called Primary Blues, which is a very classically-minded treatment of the blues – as I said a week ago, rock’s only been ripping off chords and progressions from them forever.

Or let’s say you like your songs as a trilogy. Okay, this trio isn’t one in the classic sense but the three songs do play off each other sound-wise with an old-timey feel (although the last one is more ’60s modern to me) and since they are titled Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms there is no coincidence here.

Grant works in a more classical direction on some songs as well, with the best examples being the aforementioned Primary Blues and Lucid Intervals. I could even count the guitar-based preludes (called as such despite the fact they are over 2 1/2 minutes apiece) Prelude I and Prelude II as classically-influenced, too.

But just when you thought this compilation was stuffy, you find a lot of technical wizardry as well. Sometimes it’s a bit much, like all the sampling on One Note Samba, but Grant can do it right, too. The best case in point is the vocals on Seven Years At Sea, which were recorded originally from a trio of sisters in 1930’s rural Louisiana and are in the public domain. Grant overdubbed them on the track to a superb, nearly haunting effect.

Another song which begins in a desolate mood and ends up borrowing a bit from electronic music is Lonely Ride Coney Island, a track that has drawn the most attention of the thirteen songs on the CD, which came out back in August. This is the type of music that isn’t going to have the chart appeal that others do, but it is a well-crafted piece of work. And you don’t have to take my word for it – just listen for yourself.

monoblogue music: “World Gone Mad” by Kris Heaton Band

October 28, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “World Gone Mad” by Kris Heaton Band 

Kris Heaton has been around the world and back again, sporting the voice to prove it. Over the summer he put out this appealing album, at least if you like your music on the power-pop end of the musical world.

And a world gone mad is a theme of the bookend songs of the album, at least. Take the opener Who Let The Bullets Fly and the title track, which lament the state of the world, as does the penultimate track Way of the World. So what would he do about it? Listen to the last song, Better World, which exploits the old “if I were king for a day” theme.

But the eight songs in the middle generally come across as having a pop base with a variety of influences, mainly the synth rock that had its heyday in the late ’70s and early ’80s along with the power ballads that “graced” the end of the decade of Reagan and Rubik’s cubes. Particularly reminiscent of that time is the song I Want You, which is the heaviest and hardest of the lot, although the dabbling in a reggae-style sound that started in that era continues here with the track The Moment.

You can understand the sound of the record even more when you learn of Kris’s previous collaborations and incarnations. Originally a member of the band Control Group (a five-piece band not to be confused with a more recent trio out of New York called The Control Group), Kris played with them for nearly a decade before taking time off to raise his family. After that hiatus, Heaton apparently felt called back to the studio and has since put out a series of albums over the last eleven years, of which this is his seventh – and fifth after dropping the “Blues” from the Kris Heaton Blues Band name in 2009. (Heaton actually has a better voice for blues than rock, in my opinion. The description I read later on of “whiskey-soaked” seems most appropriate.)

A longtime collaboration with The Brandenberg State Symphony Orchestra continues on this album on the track Something New, although the group doesn’t get front cover credit as it did on 2016’s Heaton release called “Stand Up,” A previous one which perked up my ears, so to speak, was The Smithereens lead singer Pat Dinizio, who helped out on Heaton’s 2012 album “Law of the Jungle.” There’s some of that pop-alternative feel to this one as well.

There are two members credited for this album: Heaton and “long time bandmate” Ace Foster, who handles percussion, as well as a few guests not necessarily credited, such as the female vocalist on Better World. So these two, as well as another guitarist they keep for live performances, play a variety of shows and benefit performances around Connecticut, where Heaton calls home. (One staple is a regular event the KHB headlines called Hopefest, which had its twelfth incarnation earlier this year.)

Overall, I liked this one for the most part, although it would be interesting to hear these with a different singer. And here’s a little of the social commentary, which fortunately doesn’t clutter up the whole album regardless of how you feel on the issues.

Otherwise, I encourage you to do as I always tell you: listen for yourself – but be advised Spotify will sneak some ads in on you. That can be rectified by just buying the record if you really like it.

monoblogue music: “Further!!” by Revolushn

October 14, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Further!!” by Revolushn 

It’s a good thing I listen to the music first before I read the profile, because I would have judged this record differently based on the stage names and political persuasion of the participants in this San Francisco-based band.

What I actually listened to, though, was a band that really would have been at home in the 1970s. Take for example the opening track Dinosaurs, which begins like a acid trip, gets heavy, and ends on that same acid trip note. Listening about halfway through to the progression of chords I was transported back to that great album rock of a bygone era when people who weren’t into disco were treated to heavier stuff like Deep Purple or Blue Oyster Cult. The River also has that same vibe.

On the next track, Wierd Little Mind (not sure if the misspelling is intentional, but that’s how it’s listed) I began to wonder: how did they find so many strange notes and chords yet make the song go together in a halfway-coherent fashion? Things get a little more conventional on Man Who Knew Everything, but that transitions into the the dreamy You Will Go. It’s almost like rock on Quaaludes. It gets even a little more strange (and brassy) with Dog Gets High.

Again reverting back to reality, you get All Is As It Should Be before the hypnotic title track kicks in. The album wraps with a neat if slightly overmodulated song called Time + Travel = Time. This is definitely one you should listen for yourself before you judge. Or you can start by watching this:

So this is the band that doesn’t do things the conventional way. It makes for a bit of a challenging listen, but doggone it I enjoyed most of the songs, the first two in particular. In my mind’s eye I was taken back to my room in the early 80’s listening to my boom box on low to the deep cuts the local rock station would play at night. The music had that sort of feel to it.

But I didn’t think those bands were this strange. Revolushn is one of those bands that is strange, or perhaps one may call it unique. Either way, it’s worth a spin.

monoblogue music: “Northern Cities Southern Stars” by Phil Lomac

October 7, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Northern Cities Southern Stars” by Phil Lomac 

After a long string of reviewing actual bands – even if they were only created in the studio – I return to a DIY effort in this seven-song EP from musical nomad Phil Lomac. On his latest release, which came out a few months ago, Lomac takes the experiences he’s had with a number of bands and ends an eight-year hiatus from recording his own music to put this album out. Lomac plays all the instruments on this except for programming the drums.

(That’s one of the few downfalls to this album, as the drum parts don’t always seem to work out just right with the rest. Since I listen to the album then read the liner notes now I can understand why and it makes me wonder how this would sound with a full band.)

The semi-title track Northern Lights starts this one like a house on fire. It’s upbeat to start yet after the bridge it moves in a direction that’s almost haunting. And fans of a wailing guitar (like me) will like the payoff at the end. (“Southern Stars” is referenced in the lyrics of the final song, Don’t Give Me Those Lines.) And once you get past the lengthy intro of World of Pain, you find a song that straddles the imaginary line between adult contemporary and active rock. It’s funny, though, that the long buildup comes to an abrupt end.

“Northern Cities” turns more melancholy with Read the Message, a slower song that almost has a country feel to it. That’s the letdown you need (so to speak) for the downbeat and emotional pair of tracks Don’t Know What Love Is and No More Troubles. These songs might just break your heart, particularly the bluesier Don’t Know where Phil wails, “I don’t know what love is/I just play the game.”

Talking to Myself brings us out of that mood a little bit, but it comes across as a complex song which begs to be stripped down a little bit. That may be a casualty of literally self-producing the album rather than the standard model of running it by the band and then having the producer carve it up or add other pieces, depending on what the band and market may want.

This brief (a little less than 25 minutes’ running time) set closes with Don’t Give Me Those Lines, which makes for a rousing rockabilly closer and an outro that lets Lomac play for a bit without singing in his world-weary voice.

The title would likely be influenced by Lomac’s oscillating between two places as he recorded this in Chicago, the home of his most recent previous band Lovely Tyrants, but now calls North Carolina home. On the whole, I thought this was a solid effort but wonder how it would have gone with an actual band behind him to help out. But you don’t have to take my word for it, listen for yourself and see what you think.

monoblogue music: “Not About Nightingales” by Eric George

September 30, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Not About Nightingales” by Eric George 

The thing that struck me about Eric George is that he’s an increasingly prolific songwriter. Now that may not be as hard to do when you’re an aspiring folk musician whose songs are relatively simple compositions and can be completed with just a little bit of instrumental help, but then the question becomes whether the quantity is translating to quality. In this case, the unevenness of George’s fourth album in three years (and second full-length this year) leads me to say no.

In listening to “Not About Nightingales” I had the impression that Eric writes and records when the mood strikes him, nor is he limiting himself strictly to a particular genre. While many of these ten songs would be at home categorized as acoustic folk, he takes Thought You Had A Home to electric mode yet veers into weeply old school country with Friends With Silence. Frankly, though, I wasn’t sure what to make of the last song Some Times and it’s not the impression I would have wanted to leave with a listener.

And it’s not just the musicianship: consider the nursery rhyme-like lyrical quality of Cure For The Soul or the hymnlike title track as departures from a vocal style and range that compares to Dylan and the Guthrie family.

In case this seems a little harsh, I took the time to go back and listen to his self-titled 2014 release. The genre is still the same, but those songs seem to be more muscular and thoughtful. Granted, this would have been through a much longer period of introspection and polish, but there’s also something to be said for experience, and some people can fall out of bed and write a good song.

That leads me to something interesting I read on Eric’s social media: “I decided to go with the wind on this project, and rather than record songs already written, I’m going to write and record a song each day, guided by the Storycards (a friend of his) found at a yard sale.” So it sounds like the next album is already in the works, and perhaps Eric is going for the hat trick this calendar year (as this release is about a month old.) But will the songs be very good?

Obviously some musicians enjoy writing music and even if those songs don’t bring them success they are enjoying life regardless. I looked at Eric’s roster of upcoming shows and apparently there are people who want to hear him perform around his home state of Vermont because he’s booked quite a bit in the coming weeks. So perhaps I’m not getting the full story (as always, don’t just take my word for it: I encourage you to listen for yourself) but this one simply didn’t come across as well as others I’ve reviewed recently.

monoblogue music: “Waltz To The World” by Giant Flying Turtles

September 23, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Waltz To The World” by Giant Flying Turtles 

If you were in a record store and received this CD today as part of the new releases, the thing you may have a hard time doing is picking a category for placing this one. At times a folksy, country shuffle but a song or two later a blues-based rocker or jazzy adult contemporary number, you may just have to file it under new releases and hope for the best.

I’ve had pretty good luck over the years with bands and performers who hail from the Big Apple, and this Brooklyn-based quartet is no exception. “Waltz To The World” is the kind of album that, particularly in its first half-dozen numbers, careens perilously close to self-destruction on their songs only to patch it together and save the day. I don’t want to say it’s rough around the edges because the musicianship is very taut, but there were a few facets of this diamond in the rough that could have used more polish.

But from the opening bars of No Turning Back, an inspiring song a little reminiscent of U2, Giant Flying Turtles takes you in many different directions. They get a little bit funky with Stay Out Late, then veer off at a double-time sashay with The Devil And Me. Yeah, it’s like that through most of the first half of the record. The more conventional One Of A Kind sets the listener up for a slowdown with River Runs Dry, only to be rocked anew with Train Song, a track that would have been at home as a deep cut on a Blue Oyster Cult record. They were always a little bit quirky in song structure, and this was too.

As it turns out, a slightly different shift comes out in the next three songs: Three Shades of Blue is the quick-step song, but then things are turned down for Hold The Flag and, in an almost jarring whipsaw, back to a country-flavored turn with Banjo. My cynical favorite Good To Be Alive is the penultimate song on the record, which concludes with the title track. If variety is the spice of life, you get that quality in spades here.

I had thoughts of suggesting the next album be called “Box of Chocolates” because you never know what you’ll get, but after thinking about it a little you really do know what you will get because all the songs are good in their own way. Maybe they’re not your cup of tea in terms of style, but in terms of musicianship I had very few minor complaints.

I think this is the second time I had the happy accident of scheduling the review for the release date, so you can get this hot off the press. But as I always say, don’t take my word for it. Listen for yourself and if you like it be advised this is their second album and the first is there as well.

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