monoblogue music: “Further!!” by Revolushn

October 14, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comment 

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 · Comment 

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.

monoblogue music: “Remember the Alamo” by Free Willy

September 16, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Remember the Alamo” by Free Willy 

This may be one of the most upbeat albums I have ever reviewed, and certainly one of the least pretentious. Hailing from the hill country of east Texas, these mainly veteran musicians are their own sort of jam band, and they don’t take each other too, too seriously.

While they fit neatly into the bluegrass/alt country/Americana category – and how can they not be in the latter with their rather unique rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that employs musical breaks from America The Beautiful – Free Willy has an unusual way of developing their music that they describe thus:

W. B. Jones had a vision to create what he calls the “Free Willy Sound” which involves the lead instruments playing “over top of each other” on the breaks, rather than having the instruments “take turns”, and to inject lead breaks throughout the songs, including during the vocal parts.

As far as songwriting and arrangement goes, by no means am I a musical expert. Any resemblance I have to one of those highbrow music reviewers is purely coincidental and far more likely than not accidental. To borrow one of their song titles, my reviewing style is that It’s Good If You Like It. So whatever they did technically to make their sound isn’t as important as the fact that I was impressed with the musicianship and the arrangements.

The band also has a very uplifting lyrical style, without the slightest hint of angst. In fact, I would say that unlike many artists who pine about lost love, Jones is one who writes more about found and lasting love. Take the lyrics of Not Your Everyday Love Song or a song he wrote years ago for his wedding, Meant To Be, as examples. There’s also touches of humor in tracks like Amazing Gracie, God Has A Name, the homage to working people Another Day Another Dollar, and the requisite road song Get in the Car or “train song” Down The Track. Even the bittersweet title track doesn’t make you feel bad. Heck, there’s even a song based on a poem (As A Man Thinketh) and an instrumental called Sugar Baby to hold the listener’s interest.

It’s a collection Jones describes as favorites of his written over the last 40 years, so apparently all he needed was a group to play them out. That story reminds me of a band I reviewed awhile back called Tumbler, which performed a catalog of songs written over years of family jam sessions (and a good one at that, since it landed in that year’s top 5.) It’s not far-fetched to think this one could be so honored this year because it’s one of the more honest, hardworking, and fun records I’ve listened to in some time. Pretty good for a band that was “born” in a recording studio last fall.

Finally, the band states that they are looking to record a follow-up this fall, although who knows about that timetable with the recovery needed from Harvey. If you want to help them out, listen for yourself (note they are using Spotify, though) and if you like it snag a copy.

By the way, it looks like my musical hiatus is over as I have “stacks of wax” to go through now. This is the first of five I’ll be doing in the coming weeks.

monoblogue music: “Push On Thru” by Rich Lerner and the Groove

August 5, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Push On Thru” by Rich Lerner and the Groove 

If you were to ask me just how to categorize this latest release from this North Carolina-based group, which they put out in May, I would just have to shrug my shoulders and say “I dunno.” It’s not really country, not really rock, has some elements of blues and even a touch of brass, but honestly comes across more like just what the band felt like playing at the particular moment in time they were writing the song.

That doesn’t make this a bad album at all – just one where the reviewer has to think a little bit. My first impression upon hearing the title track that leads the album was that these guys wanted to sound like the Grateful Dead. Nothing wrong with that, they were a trailblazing group for many a jam band. But then that wasn’t the vibe I got when She Kept My Room Warm began playing, because for some odd reason that brought me back to thinking of that sort of pop-country hybrid that was popular for a bit back in the day when I was a kid and my parents had the radio on.

Since I wasn’t the greatest fan of that genre, I was relieved to hear the classic call-and-respond blues-rock styling of It’s Always Something, a hard-luck tale that has a nice lick and coda to it. Lyrically it finds its mirror with the second song afterward that I’ll get to in a moment, but instead the band follows up with a more piano-based bluesy slower jam called Lord Have Mercy. Then it’s You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down, which is a musical kitchen sink of sorts with plenty of piano and sax thrown in (each gets its own bridge) and some fuzzed-out vocals added for good measure. It’s one of the two songs on the set that runs over six minutes; with the exception of She Kept My Room Warm and the final track Lemonade Blues, all of the songs run over four minutes.

The band gets just a tad funky to start the back half with the quirky Love Monkey, and has next perhaps its biggest misstep of the bunch with Soul Sistah. Normally I’m a fan of backing harmony, but in this song it just doesn’t work well. I think it’s because the lyrical runs seem too short, so the repetition on the harmony comes too quickly. I see why it was done on this song (which is the only one with a female backing vocal) based on concept, but it could have done without.

They redeem themselves on the next track, though, which I think is the best of the set: an inspirational tune called On The Mend. I really loved the great chorus line where “I looked the Grim Reaper in the eye/And I told him ‘Nice try.'” This leads into a song called West LA Fadeaway. It starts and ends with a lyric line, but in between it’s sparse patches of (sometimes quite strange and obscure) lyric between some very nice bridges that make up the bulk of the six-minute-plus song.

Finally, we come to the last simple acoustic number called Lemonade Blues, which is just vocals and guitar and runs only about 2 1/2 minutes. But I can just see Rich sitting on a barstool in a club singing this as the break song for the rest of the band during a three hour show. (He got his break on the last song with all the bridges.)

There are some people I can think of who would probably be big fans of these guys, who don’t seem to be the touring type anymore but are in the promoting business around their home base of Greensboro. (Case in point: they headline a charity event they call Groove Jam, which will have its sixth rendition in September. Years ago I posted about how musicians are often the most willing to give their time and talent, and it’s not just here on Delmarva.)

As I always do, though, I encourage you not to take my word for it, but listen for yourself. (Spotify doesn’t bite, I have it on my laptop.) You may take it or you may leave it, but you will find it rather interesting.

monoblogue music: “Shake The Cage” by Freddie Nelson

July 29, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Shake The Cage” by Freddie Nelson 

Freddie Nelson - Shake The CageWhen 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.

There are a lot of great hooks like that on this 11-song set, a collection where Nelson plays everything but the drums, piano, and keyboards (but does handle the B3 organ.) Just take two back-to-back examples buried farther within the compilation: My Girl and Let You Go are both the catchy-type songs that made rock and roll what it was back in its heyday.

And if you have a lot of older rock albums, like I do, you realize there is a bit of a formula to put them together. Nelson stays fairly true to this successful way of doing things, putting in the bluesy ballad called The Show, the somewhat more mellow and acoustic song Monster In My Room, and another bluesier homage called Keep Running. It seemed like every good rock album had a few songs that departed from the norm in some little way, just to prove the artist could do it – almost as if he’s playing around with the listener, not taking this too, too seriously. After all, this is supposed to be fun here, isn’t it?

You see, this is where a highbrow music reviewer might say you can’t write a song called For Those Who Die and make it upbeat. They would whine that All Night Long exhibits too much of the alpha-male, testosterone-fueled bravado that was so wrong about hair metal, or that Light is a little too derivative of Freddie Mercury and Queen at its best, or that Never Fight Alone uses the trickery of sampling to ask the question, “Whatever happened to decent music?”

Well, guess what? I’m not that reviewer and I happen to think this IS very decent music, the way rock and roll is supposed to be. As Nelson noted in a statement accompanying the release, “The record is called Shake The Cage, because I feel that a lot of music has become one dimensional with tools such as pitch correction and formulated songwriting.  There is no substitute for hard work and honing your craft, and it’s time to challenge mediocrity.” Damn straight it is.

This is the latest video from the album, a song called Hey Doll, which leads me to one more observation.

Just listening to the arrangement and the lyrics, I would make a bet that if you worked in a banjo, changed the key, and had someone like Luke Bryan sing it, this song would sell by the truckload. To me it veers in a rockabilly, country-rock direction, and that’s not unusual for someone based out of that region.

So I think my friends and neighbors should get over their animus about all things Pittsburgh (aside from Buxy’s in Ocean City) and check it out – but don’t take my word for it, go listen for yourself.

monoblogue music: “The Drifter and the Dream (Part One)” by Matt Townsend

May 20, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “The Drifter and the Dream (Part One)” by Matt Townsend 

Matt Townsend - The Drifter and the Dream part 1I’m going back to a monoblogue music alumni on this one.

Back in 2014 I reviewed Matt’s effort, done with a band he called the Wonder of the World. In it, I noted that Townsend had an unmistakable vocal resemblance to Bob Dylan, but added, “fortunately for this listener, it’s really only the voice which is reminiscent of Bob Dylan because Matt forges his own musical direction.” (He also contributed to a more recent album I reviewed from the Asheville Symphony Orchestra.)

In some respects, that musical direction remains true with this release but I also think it’s a far more politically-pointed effort. I normally don’t read other reviews before I do my own, but I couldn’t help noticing on Townsend’s Bandcamp page as I was listening to the five songs that make up part one of what is supposed to be a two-part effort that he’s being compared to Bruce Springsteen and Woody Guthrie – both noted leftist icons. That leaning is unmistakable in the opening song, called The Great American Madness, later on in Freedom Is Calling Again, and it’s also a little bit there in Came Down From The Mountain if you listen between the lines.

And listening between the lines is something you really need to do with this EP. With the exception of the final song, Katie, the other four songs are well-composed, complex arrangements. Townsend obviously spent the 2 1/2 years between “Wonder of the World” and “Drifter and the Dream” honing his musicianship and songwriting ability, as he has learned well how to craft songs in a style that suits his voice and the genre he’s choosing to work within. (I should say, however, that Katie is not a bad song by any stretch – it’s just a far simpler acoustic number with guitar, harmonica, and poignant vocals.) This ability shines the most on Roaming Twilight, a ballad which I think shows Matt at his best.

I wasn’t originally aware that this EP had been out for a few months (it was actually released back in December) so once I noticed that I got to wondering how work on part two was going. To be honest, I couldn’t find out much about that but I did learn that Matt was (obviously) successful in raising the $12,000 he needed to bring this project to life through crowdfunding and maybe had enough initial success with sales (or enough ambition) to do a quick tour around Florida and Georgia earlier this year. (He has only one show on his current docket at the moment, fairly local to his North Carolina home.)

As a bottom line, if you were to look at the evolution and growth as an artist and craftsman of song between his 2014 release and this more recent one, you would see from Matt a serious upgrade and dedication that is reflected in the work. It’s music that is invigorating and refreshing in its honesty. I don’t have to necessarily agree with the lyrical content or the politics of the singer to appreciate the music, so (knowing the political composition of my core audience) baffle the other side and listen for yourself with an open mind, too.

monoblogue music: “Let Go Or Be Dragged” by Silver Lake 66

April 29, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Let Go Or Be Dragged” by Silver Lake 66 

If you are really into old-line country music with male/female harmony – think of the great duets of yesteryear like Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn or Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – you just may like the first release from this otherwise unassuming-looking couple pictured to your left. I’m not going to say that this duo will make you forget these long-ago Nashville legends, but you should enjoy the slice of Americana presented by Maria Francis and Jeff Overbo, otherwise known as Silver Lake 66.

They tell a personal tale that could make for its own country song – originally from the Midwest, the couple toiled in Los Angeles for nearly a decade before trying their luck in the most unlikely musical hotbed of Portland, Oregon. It’s not Nashville, but I have noticed over my time of doing album reviews that a lot of roots/Americana/country music comes from that end of the country.

So when you listen to the opening track called Bury My Bones in Arkansas, be warned that it’s the first of twelve tracks that put a relatively modern spin on the tried-and-true formula of male/female harmony. The nice thing is that both spend time in the lead, which freshens up the collection – however, it seems Maria gets the bluesier songs such as Magnolia, Change Your Mind, or Price You Pay, while Jeff leads the more upbeat and humorous tracks like Arkansas or San Francisco Angel. All but one track features some harmony, but it only seems right that Maria handles Treat Me So Fine by herself.

As a group, though, I think the best songs are the ones which are most true to the duet styling: Devils Looking For Me, Do You Ever (perhaps the best example of this), and End of the Day. They also get everyone into the act on the last song, Doctor, which is a fun closing track suitable for an adult beverage of choice.

It’s a bit hard to believe this one’s been out awhile, as it was released last July. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity or just a comfortable (or, conversely, shall we say working-class?) stage in life but Silver Lake 66 doesn’t stray all that far from their Portland base – they subsist on the somewhat occasional show as opposed to getting the gang together and traveling around the great northwest (or any other part of the country, for that matter.) Yet you don’t have to travel that far to sample their wares – as I often say, don’t take my word for it, just listen for yourself. As I said, if you really like the classic country you’ll probably be glad you did.

monoblogue music: “Empty Mansions” by C. K. Flach

March 25, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “Empty Mansions” by C. K. Flach 

I’m here to tell you this is one of the most unusual releases I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.

While C. K. Flach is not a complete stranger to the music business – the New York-based singer/songwriter’s bio states he’s performed for a few years in a band called The Kindness, which put out an EP in 2015 – his first solo album is a nine-song, one-poem stream of consciousness about life. As he describes the recording process, Flach did most of it himself, but “recruited friends and family as needed to complete certain songs.” One of them is an unnamed female singer who provides harmony vocals on some of the tracks, but apparently he played most of the instruments.

In my mind’s eye I can picture Flach holed up in a little apartment/studio someplace in upstate New York, spending hours making sure every note is just so. If anything, the album seems to me a bit fussy. It starts out well enough with the song Lazurus, which let me know that Flach has a voice that reminds me of a country singer but plays songs that have an acoustic sensibility combined with a feel for the adult contemporary genre. In that same vein, he bills Boxcar Dancing as the single; a song that melds a nice lyric line with an almost contrived “sha-la-la” ending.

There are also songs on “Empty Mansions” though that make for hard listening – not hard in a musical sense or as terribly bad songs, but songs that make you wonder just what kind of upbringing and influence were there to drive him to write such music. These are songs with simple titles like Munich, Tranquilized, and Calamity. And besides the spoken word final track called Firmament, there are spoken word interludes in Munich and Queen Caroline, an almost bluesy ballad about a “sad, sad girl.” Flach definitely falls in the mold of one who believes lyrics are poetry, and sometimes music just gets in the way.

Flach shows some different sides on some of the songs – being quite sarcastic on The Officer, putting together an antiwar screed on Machine Gun, and revealing that’s he’s “sick of Elvis, sick of politics” on the title track. Empty Mansions is perhaps the most accessible song from a radio standpoint, but it falls in the midst of Flach’s social commentary side of the release. There may be listeners who don’t make it that far because there is a sameness to the songs that may turn off some who would check it out, and this may be a by-product of doing most of the work himself as opposed to having a band with several different opinions on how songs should be crafted.

This is an album that would appeal to people who like their music challenging and thought-provoking, as it’s 180 degrees away from most of the mindless pop that permeates the commercial airwaves. “Empty Mansions” is definitely an album that falls under the category of acquired taste, but if you want to listen for yourself, Flach has set up sites to do so.

monoblogue music: “White Oak & Kerosene” by Justin Allen and the Well Shots

February 25, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · 1 Comment 

There are two things Justin Allen has going for him in my estimation: like me, he’s from Ohio but set out to make his fortune someplace else, and the other thing is that he’s a talented songwriter who seems to have found a niche at the intersection of rock and country. Of course, I don’t think he’s the only guy to ever try this combination.

But when the “someplace else” Justin chose to travel to is Nashville, it’s a natural that he would lean just a shade to the country side. Yet it’s not quite the modern country that’s giving the genre a bad name; instead there’s just enough other flavor to keep the listener’s interest. A good case in point is the lead video from Justin’s five-song EP release from last month, called Angelina.

I have to admit, the video itself is a little bit strange but then again a guy who’s worked as a pedicab driver yet can write a song lyric like “I don’t care if we go to hell/And Bon Scott greets us when we arrive” – he’s definitely not your average Joe. (That track, called Feeling Alright, is a rockabilly song with a definite influence from – and vocal style of – old John Cougar.) In fact, the best asset of “White Oak & Kerosene” is the variety of styles put into the compilation, which checks in at over 24 minutes for a five-song EP. Justin certainly doesn’t cheat on song length.

The country aspect comes through more on Angeline and also Come A Little Closer, but like I said earlier these aren’t exactly the modern country anthems that seem to be all about drinking beer, driving pickup trucks, and chasing women, in one order or another. Whether it’s the hint of western swing that Angelina has, the country-fried blues of the title track, or the more heartfelt Come A Little Closer, those who like country can enjoy this sampler.

But since I come from a rock n’ roll background I really got more into the other two songs: the aforementioned Feeling Alright and the lead track, Hard Luck Man. That song slowly builds up a head of steam but by the end you’ll want to crank it up.

Now if I had a quibble about this album, which is the debut for Justin and his band, it’s that he seems to oversing some of the songs. It sounds to me like he exaggerates the drawl a little bit for effect, so it comes out as if he’s trying to be a parody of a Southern rock singer. Perhaps in a live setting he lets it naturally flow a little bit more, which will improve the songs over time. As singers gain experience, they also learn to shape the songs to their singing style and I think Justin will, too.

And speaking of live shows, Justin and his very tight backup band, the Well Shots, have played a few dates already as support for the EP and it wouldn’t surprise me if they wandered this way. I’d be interested to hear what songs they cover to fill out the show; something tells me they wouldn’t be what one would expect. But don’t take my word for it, as they have three of the five songs up on their website so you can listen for yourself. If you like them, sign up for the mailing list and it may pay off in a tour stop – you never know.

monoblogue music: “The Asheville Symphony Sessions” by various artists

February 4, 2017 · Posted in Music Reviews · Comments Off on monoblogue music: “The Asheville Symphony Sessions” by various artists 

For decades it’s been rare to see symphonic music on the mainstream record charts, and as a genre classical music has been banished to isolated corners of the radio dial, such as public radio. But at the same time purveyors of popular music have seen the need to “legitimize” themselves as artists by collaborating with classical ensembles: two prime examples are the Moody Blues 1967 album “Days of Future Passed” (which spawned the single Tuesday Afternoon), and two decades later Metallica’s performance of many of their most popular songs to that point with the San Francisco Symphony, recorded live and released as the album “S + M” in 1999.

The concept behind the Asheville Symphony Sessions wasn’t precisely the same, though. Instead, it was more of a collaboration between a wide variety of artists spanning a number of genres with a musical ensemble that has performed in that region of North Carolina since 1960. In some respects, it was a very glorified jam session as some of the bands took previously released songs and others made new music for the occasion.

Perhaps the most famous of these groups in their own right is Steep Canyon Rangers, a Grammy-winning group that’s also known for backing comedian (and banjoist) Steve Martin in his musical exploits. They contributed the already-haunting song Blue Velvet Rain, with the orchestra actually smoothing some of the rougher edges of it.

On the other hand, the song For Now, We Are by Matt Townsend sounds like something he envisioned from the start, as if it was just natural that the mood of the song needed the touch of the ASO to succeed. I realized after looking into this that I have previously reviewed an album Matt did with his band as one of the first few reviews I did. He still has the distinctive voice but has further perfected the craft of writing to it.

The artists determined how much of an effect the various ensembles had on their music. In some cases, such as the songs No Expectations by soulful singer Shannon Whitworth or the world music beat of Circle Round The Flame from Free Planet Radio (featuring singer Lizz Wright), a light touch was all that was really needed. The melody the ASO provided for the Doc Aquatic song Last Monday also made that song better. Yet to me where the collaboration really shone was on two tracks: a solid alternative tune called Pontiac from the Electric Owls and this almost Beatle-like track from Lovett called Don’t Freak Out.

The video also gives an idea of just what went into this compilation, which I’m sure was fun for both sides and gave everyone involved a chance to musically stretch their legs.

Out of the eight tracks, the only one I didn’t get any enjoyment out of was (unfortunately on my listening source) the very first track. It’s an anti-capitalist screed by a female duo called Rising Appalachia called Filthy Dirty South. (They did an EP with that name some years back, if my checking their website is correct.) I just had a hard time reconciling protest music with the beauty of a symphony – it was a track that didn’t work well.

All in all, this was an interesting project that showcases the artistic community of a relatively small city (about 80,000 call the city home) and brings it to the attention of others who may marvel at its outsize influence on the musical world. There aren’t many places twice the size that could pull this off, so the effort is commendable to say the least.

Next Page »

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.