All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Monday, January 28, 2008

REVIEW: Howie Newman - Trust Me, You'll Like It

Howie Newman – Trust Me, You’ll Like It
2006 Major League Records

Boston-based singer-songwriter Howie Newman has put together one of the best backing bands in the Boston scene, including members of the Swinging Steaks, the new Black Eagle Jazz Band, and a member of Aimee Mann’s touring band who also formerly played with Mary Chapin Carpenter). We’re talking major league talent here, and that’s appropriate, because Howie Newman is a major league performer.

Trust Me, You’ll Like It is funny, sometimes poignant, and entertaining. It runs the gamut from bizarre (an ode to former Red Sox 1st baseman Doug Mientkiewicz) to sweet (“Middle Age Love”), with all stops in between. Some might almost call this a comedy record, but I think a better assessment would be to say that Howie Newman is a musician who tells you some funny stories about life.

Most anyone over 30 will understand the sentiment of “Weekend Warrior”, whether you are one or not. “Never Say Never” is a look at growing up, and how we sometimes we pass by our greatest pleasures in the name of being mature. Re-discovering those pleasures can re-kindle the fire fore life.

Mr. Newman even throws in a shill, “Please Buy My Record”. The humor on Trust Me, You’ll Like It is wry and self-effacing. “Snow” displays how a childhood boon becomes an adult burden. “Big In Belgium” is a funny musician’s answer to anyone who asks “why are you still doing this?”

Trust Me, You’ll Like It is a great family album, perfect for kids from 1 to 92. It is a mirror in which we all might find a little of ourselves, our family, and our day-to-day. The music is excellent. The songs are funny and warm. You’ll find yourself pulling this disc out from time to time when you need a step back. Definitely a keeper!

Rating: Buy It Soon!

You can learn more about Howie Newman at You can order any of his recordings there (he has several), and he’ll even autograph them for you! Single songs are also available for download on iTunes for $0.99 a song.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Review: Evan Harriman - Wave To The Satellites

Evan Harriman - Wave To The Satellites
2007, Self-Produced/Released

Sometimes you hear a record for the first time and you just completely do not know what to make of it.

Evan Harriman is a Boston-based singer-songwriter who has played in/with/opened for/collaborated with just about everyone on the Boston music scene. He plays rock and roll piano/keyboard with a tinge of blues like nobody's business. His first solo CD has a very Dylan-esque feel to it. There is also a bit of a They Might Be Giants feel to it at times as well. The songwriting is very good, but the subject matter at times is a bit odd (Bucket of Blood, If I Was a Ballplayer, Mambo Jumbo). There's nothing wrong with odd subject matter, these just aren't the sorts of things you generally expect to hear on a rock album.

Overall the effect is a very good one. Mr. Harriman's strong and eccentric vocals combined with his keyboard styling give Wave To The Satellites an original and memorable sound. That being said, this recording isn't going to be for everyone. Musicians will like or at least respect this recording for the musicianship and writing, which are top notch. The only drawback is that it may be a little too eccentric for some.

That's too bad really, because Evan Harriman is a very talented songwriter, and the songs here are generally very good. Houseboat, Animal Or Vegetable, Special Agent, Weekend Condition and Sh!t For Brains are highlights. Backing vocals provided by Laurie Sargent are a real treat as well. Evan Harriman is worth a listen folks. You can download individual tracks from his website,, as well as purchase his CD.

Check him out, he's worth the time.

Rating: Buy It Eventually

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review: Mike Ford - Satellite Hotstove

Mike Ford – Satellite Hotstove
2007 Mike Ford
Produced by Mike Ford & David Matheson

Mike Ford will surprise you. Long one of the crown princes of Moxy Fruvous (but not the King of Spain), one might expect a disc full of silly yet biting fun, but Mike Ford shows incredible depth on Satellite Hotstove, his third solo release since Moxy Fruvous disbanded. Featuring songs written while traveling on the Trans-Canada train, as well as on a freighter from Sept-Isles to Hamilton to Thunder Bay. The disc also includes a gem from his Moxy Fruvous days (Huge On The Luge).

Mike Ford is the consummate folksinger on this album, highlighting some of the more interesting parts of Canadian geography (Eastern Gap, The Credit, The Seaway, and The Island). The standouts on the album are the previously mentioned “Huge On The Luge” and “Late Of October”. “Huge On The Luge” is a fun story about how grandpa broke the speed of sound. “Late Of October” is my favorite on the album, and is joyous celebration of (presumably) Mr. Ford’s favorite time of year.

There isn’t a weak song here. The only complaint from this reviewer is the relatively paltry track listing of eight songs. It’s just not enough.

Rating: Buy It Soon!

You can learn more about Mike Ford at You can purchase Satellite Hotstove, as well as his other releases at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Reviews

Just a note...  I will have several more new reviews coming up this week.  I have an EP from an upcoming project from Monica Attell, and full length releases from Mike Ford, Howie Newman, Brother Dan Palmer, Evan Harriman and Break Of Reality!  There are also a number of releases that I have been contacted about but have yet to receive.  There's a lot of great music out there you've never heard of but need to hear.  That's what we're all about.
Good night.

Politics: Election 2008 - Fear of a black president

It strikes me that there is a tremendous amount of fear in the establishment right now on both sides of the political spectrum. The reason for this fear? A movement, if it can be called thus, spearheaded by Barack Obama. Others (particularly on the Democrat side) have picked up his clarion call for change, but Obama was there first, and I suspect will be there after the others fade away (regardless of whether he wins his party's nomination).

The fear is so deep that Hilary Clinton has called out her husband to attack and engage Barack Obama on the campaign trail. She is using the weight of the former president's opinion to try to sway the minds of voters who are at least intrigued by Obama, while she stays out of the fray. Obama brought a tough fight to the primary process, one that was not expected by the Clintons. When it got tough, Hilary backed off and let her husband do the difficult work. If this is what we can expect from a Hilary Clinton presidency then we have much to think about.

On the other side of the spectrum, I heard Sean Hannity the other day comparing the cult of personality surrounding Barack Obama with those that brought to power the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. Mr. Hannity's perspective is that we need to be very careful getting on the train for anyone with as much personality as Obama. He as much as stated that Hitler, Stalin and Mao all rode similar oratory skills and excitement to power, and then used their powerful personalities to inspire their countries to do horrible things. The equation of Barack Obama to three of the most ruthless and murderous dictators of the 20th century is preposterous, and reeks of desperation and fear. Any thinking individual can make valid arguments against any political candidate given time, thought and facts, but this kind of fear mongering indicates an establishment in fear of what it doesn't understand.

Everyone saw Obama coming from the 2004 Democratic National Convention on, but no one took him all that seriously. The conventional wisdom for a long time is that a black man couldn't carry enough white voters to win the nomination for his party, much less the presidency. In 2008, the Iowa Caucuses turned that idea on its head. Suddenly the inevitable Clinton machine was scrambling to fight off this threat that was never anticipated for an inevitable candidate.

The Clintons figured out that Obama might just be able to beat them. The Republican establishment is afraid of the same thing.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jason Yudoff - Tragic Hero

Jason Yudoff – Tragic Hero

Jason Yudoff just cracked the list of my twenty favorite songs, and that's saying a lot. Tragic Hero is a melding of diverse musical styles, including jazz, funk, R&B, and southern/prog rock. That combination could either be an unpleasant mismatch or a bit of musical genius. Let's just say that Jason Yudoff comes out looking pretty smart.

Tragic Hero opens with a Casio keyboard progression that makes you think, "Oh no, not again." Just as you're finishing that thought, the aural landscape explodes around you. All too often tragic heroes are judged on first impressions. Here we learn just fifteen seconds in what a fool that can make of all of us. "Good Enough" opens sounding like something Phil Collins might have written in the early days of his solo career before being bitten by ballad-itis.

With clear easy vocals and a keyboard style that falls somewhere between Ben Folds, Andy Creeggan and early Dennis DeYoung, Jason Yudoff paints a musical landscape that is unusually complex and diverse in popular music. Tracks such as "Get Up", "Room To Breathe", "Too Late Janie" and "Locked In The Box" make you want get up and dance. "You Should Be My Girl" is an optimistic plea, whereas "5 More Minutes" might fall on the same relationship arc much later on, where pain and longing merge into desire for one more chance.

Far and away the standout track for this reviewer is "Dirty Deed". This little gem starts out with acoustic guitar, drum and cowbell as a sparse counter to the charged narration of man caught up in an obsession he can neither obtain nor relinquish. "Dirty Deed" is one of the most radio-ready tracks I've had the pleasure to review thus far, and I would not be surprised to hear this song top out in Top-40, Adult Contemporary and Modern Rock formats.

Tragic Hero is a worthy opening salvo from an artist I am sure you'll all be hearing more of in the future. The reviews I have done up to now have all been on worthy artists which niche sounds. Jason Yudoff has a sound that will appeal to the masses if things break his way. Get on the train now, and you can say you knew him when…

Rating: Buy it Now!

You can purchase Tragic Hero at You can learn more about Jason Yudoff at , or Jason will be playing at The House Of Blues in Los Angeles, California at 9:30 PM on Thursday, January 17th. He will also be gracing the stage at LA's The Mint on Saturday the 19th. Check him out if you're in the area!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ron Hawkins - Chemical Sounds

Ron Hawkins – Chemical Sounds2007 Ron Hawkins
Ron Hawkins has long been part of the Toronto Indie Rock Scene, whether as part of The Lowest Of The Low, Ron Hawkins & The Rusty Nails, or on his own. He has always had an ability to write incredibly catchy alt-rocks songs. More than this, the man has a unique lyrical gift. I once referred to Ron Hawkins in another forum as the Bob Dylan of our generation (albeit lesser known). I still stand by that assertion.

Ron Hawkins’ newest release, Chemical Sounds has done nothing to mitigate my esteem of his songwriting abilities. If anything Mr. Hawkins has always shown a maturity beyond his years as a lyricist. On Chemical Sounds he takes a turn toward even greater depth.

While the songs may have mellowed just a bit from his earlier releases, the emotional wallop delivered by “Anonymous” and “A Brief History” is undeniable. “Anonymous” is perhaps the most poignant love song I’ve ever heard, and yet avoids saccharine sweetness or cliché. “A Brief History” is the song I want played at my funeral, and manages somehow to sum up the meaning (or lack thereof) of life in three minutes and forty seconds: “And the simple truth resounds that our time goes by so fast. From the frightening first until the sweet, sacred last.”

It is hard to pick a true standout track here, as I have yet to hear Ron Hawkins pen a bad song. For rockers, “1-800-Radio”, “Smile And Wave”, “From The Alto Loma Hotel”, and “Out Of The Black” are where it’s at. For more mellow introspection, check out “Anonymous”, “A Brief History”, “1994” and “Flickering”. These songs will turn you inside out.

This is songwriting so far removed from his peers, performed by a consummate performer with an incredibly tight backing band. You must own this CD.

Rating: Buy it Now!

You can learn more about Ron Hawkins at You can purchase this and other releases at

Jason Plumb & The Willing - Beauty In This World

Jason Plumb & The Willing – Beauty In This World
2007 Soccer Mom Records, Canada
If you do not already know Jason Plumb then you have been missing out. As the head of Saskatchewan pop quarter The Waltons, Jason wrote some of the hookiest and (sometimes) most melancholy songs to come out of Canada in the 1990’s. Jason Plumb is a songwriter’s songwriter who deserves any and all acclaim that comes his way, and it is unfortunate that he is so little known outside of Canada.

Beauty In This World is something of a renaissance of Jason Plumb. This is the first record he’s produced himself. His last solo album, Under & Over, was produced by Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, a longtime friend. This time Jason Plumb took a step back and did everything himself, giving him complete control over the end product like he never had in the Waltons days. The end product is beautiful and uplifting and heart-wrenching and unlike anything you’re likely to find in pop music today.

There are nods to Crowded House and the Eagles California country sound, but this record is pure Jason Plumb, with some amazing orchestral arrangements backing up Jason and his band, The Willing. The title track is worth the price of admission. There honestly isn’t a weak track here, although “Starlight, Starbright”, “I Do”, and “Drive” stand out. “Hope She’ll Be Happier”, a Bill Withers cover, closes the set. Jason even manages to make this his own, ripping you down to shreds and building you back up as hope soars through sorrow.

There’s even a little self-deprecation here and there, such as “Protest Song”. This is Mr. Plumb’s wink to those long-time listeners who perhaps have come to understand just a little bit about where he’s coming from. It’s worth it for you to take the time to get to know him. You may never find Jason Plumb on the grand stage anywhere. He’s settled down from his early days with the Waltons, preferring home and family to the pressures of the music biz, but a songwriter will always write, and always perform. And in this reviewer’s opinion what he writes is far and away among the cream of the crop in pop music today.

Rating: Buy it Now! (Actually, don’t wait that long).

You can find out more information about Jason Plumb & The Willing at You can order his CDs at Good luck catching him live, but it’s worth the wait.

Black Suit Youth - Out Future Is History

Black Suit Youth – Our Future Is History2006 Black Suit Youth

I have just listened to one of the most promising hard rock discs to grace my CD player in a long time. The band formerly known as “The New York Dynamite” is a dynamo, a powerhouse you can’t, or shouldn’t, ignore.

The fact of the matter is that in a day and age where many hard rock bands have converted to Creed-esque balladeering in order to gain radio airplay, Black Suit Youth is making music to please themselves. In the process they may have made a CD incredible commercial potential. Black Suit Youth market themselves as “alternative/post-punk”, but I think the mistake is trying to put a name on it at all. The songs are catchy and they rock. This is pop music with a hard edge. Think Spacehog ala “Resident Alien”, with the frenetic energy of early Police recordings, and you’re at least in the neighborhood, if not the ballpark.

Black Suit Youth plan on making their way on their own. They have a very strong DIY bent, and have toured the East Coast extensively.

Highlights are ‘We Are Lions”, “Generation X”, “Five One Six”, “Who’s To Blame”, and “Here Goes Nothing”. The opening guitar riffs of “You’ll Never Die In This Town Again” signal that Black Suit Youth have not just come to entertain you. They plan to mesmerize you, carry you off and make you serve their evil purpose. The ride will be worth it.
Rating: Buy it Now!
You can get the full album or any of the individual tracks on I-Tunes. If you want more information on Black Suit Youth, including gig dates, check out: Also note that a new Black Suit Youth album is expected in 2008!

Monica Attell - Band Geek

Monica Attell – Band Geek
2006, Monica Attell

Monica Attell has quite the pedigree. She holds a masters degree from the Boston Conservatory of music in Flute Performance. She previously fronted the band Zeta Bane, one of the hottest bands in the Greenwich Village scene the first part of this decade. Of course there is also the family connection: performing runs in the family, with big brother Dave Attell setting the standard.

Perhaps not THE standard; Monica Attell has standards of her own to set. From the opening of Band Geek, her solo debut, it is very clear that there is more than one artistically powerful voice in the Attell clan. Band Geek is a musical oddity. The musicianship is incredibly tight, and includes perhaps the best rock flute this side of Ian Anderson. The lyrics are funny and jarring ala Ben Folds, and Ms. Attell’s vocals are powerful and cutting. There is literally no one quite like her in pop music today.

From the opening notes of “Be There For You”, it’s very clear that this is story telling on Ms. Attell’s terms. “Be There For You” describes that friendship we’ve all had with someone we truly can’t stand but for some reason continue to associate with. “In My Head” starts out sounding like something out of the Elton John songbook. “So True” is built on top of a driving piano intro that resolves into this incredible jazz/funk influenced chorus. Other highlights include “Nineteen”, “Drunk Girl”, and “Don’t Really Know”, and my favorite so far, “Rising Sun”.

In truth, there is not a weak song on Band Geek. This CD should be in the hands of the masses, and is a workshop for all who would be Indie Rockers. The music sounds like it was written and performed for the love of the music, without agenda, and without a specific plan to say something. The end result is an honest and authentic work of modern rock/pop.

No one can guarantee fame or riches in the music business, but Monica Attell deserves the stage and your attention. Catch on to her now, before her star takes off!

Rating: Buy it Now!

You can purchase Monica’s CD through CDBaby ( or pick it up at one of her shows!

Notes: Monica Attell will be performing live at Rain Ultra Lounge in South Norwalk, CT on Friday, January 25, 2008 at 9:00 PM ( for more info). Ms. Attell will also be performing at an industry showcase in New York City on February 5th, 2008. If you want additional details you can catch up with Monica at

The reviews begin!

My first review will be published here today, and I just wanted to explain the ground rules before I start. First off, I will only review hard media (CDs, DVDs, etc.). I will be happy to take a listen to your myspace or sonicbids page and offer my opinion, but to post a formal review I do require submission of a screener copy. I prefer to live with the music for a few days before I opine, as often my opinion after 5 listens differs than my initial impression. Besides, I just don't spend that much time in front of the computer.

If you'd like to submit a CD for review, please contact me at for the mailing address.

I am happy to post information about upcoming gigs, etc. in the reviews, so don't hesitate to forward such information when available!

As to the rating system, I am not out to trash any one's music/dream. If I don't have a nice thing to say about your recording, I just won't say anything. To that end, here is my rating system:

Buy it Now! - Don't wait on this recording or artist. You need this disc/DVD/MP3/other format! This star is on the rise, so get on the bandwagon this instant!

Buy it Soon! - Okay, so you don't necessarily have to have this in your hands right this second, but don't wait too long!

Buy it Eventually. - A great recording that deserves its proper place in your collection. This one can wait a little while if it has to, but is definitely worth owning.

Borrow it from a friend - There are some great tracks, or something particularly unique about the recording. You probably want to own this anyway, or will once you've heard it a few times. I still recommend buying it, but worse can scenario borrow it from a friend and give it a try. You'll likely own it eventually.

So let's get started! Today we're going to start off with Monica Attell's "Band Geek"! I also have a demo of hers that we'll be discussing later in the week. I expect to also have reviews for Black Suit Youth and Jason Yudoff this week!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I will occasionally discuss political issues here, although I will try to avoid backing specific candidates in this forum.

There is a lot of discussion in the political realm right now of "change" versus "experience". No one on either side of the issue, whether Republican or Democrat, seems willing to clearly elucidate what sort of change they are looking for, or what sort of change they've led the way on in the past. At the same time we have candidates that throw around their experience without any clear credentials to back up their claims. I have a favorite at this point in time, based on my perception of who is least likely to be lying to us (or at least not lying to us as much as the other candidates). I do hope the rest of the country catches on to this, but voting is a risk as well as a responsibility.

We always end up with the candidate we deserve, no matter how poorly we choose. :)



Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Musical interests

Being that I am putting myself out here as a reviewer of music, I suppose it is only fair to tell you a little about my musical interests.

I don't think that there is a single style of music that I can say that I out-and-out dislike. The stuff I listen to is all over the map, although I will admit that there is a high concentration of Canadian artists in my CD collection.

I never got into contemporary music until the 6th grade. I sang in a church choir (treble/castrasti) and we went on a choir retreat when I was 12. My friend Aaron introduced my to three pop culture icons of the 80's on this trip - Styx, the Police, and Eddie Murphy. Up until that point I was a talk-radio listening pre-teen. The music I had heard at home consisted of my mom's Grand Ole Opry and Elvis Presley records. I loved the Police (and still do), but Styx got to my heart and became my favorite band. Within a short time I had graduated from Mr. Roboto to owning all of their albums, and marveling at their quasi-classical construction and harmonies.

When I got to college I was still very much in my Styx/Police/Yes mode. Styx was still very much my favorite, but had been on hiatus for nearly five years by then. Dennis DeYoung, Tommy Shaw and James Young had all put out solo albums in the meantime, but it wasn't the same. The rise of Damn Yankees and the return of Styx without Shaw in 1990 was a plus, but I had been listening to Styx for 7 years without new material and I think I was starting to look for a little different sound.

I found it in a quintet from Ontario and a little yellow tape they were selling. My friend Tom asked me to listen to this tape he had one afternoon, and I absolutely loved it. I was hooked about a minute into the first song. The music was incredible, the lyrics were funny and intelligent, and there was this irreverent spirit that I very much enjoyed running through the music. The Barenaked Ladies had won my musical heart.

Through BNL I became acquainted with a number of other Canadian bands. My first BNL show involved an opening act named the Waltons. Little known in the United States, the Waltons were an incredibly melodic folk/rock band with intelligent lyrics and a melancholy, if not downright depressed outlook. Their lead singer and spiritual leader, Jason Plumb, is still doing wonderful things. His most recent work, "Beauty In This World" is an absolute must-listen. I was also introduced to bands like The Lowest of the Low/Ron Hawkins (my generation's Bob Dylan), Sarah McLachlan, Moxy Fruvous, Spirit Of The West, Great Big Sea, Captain Tractor, Weeping Tile/Luther Wright & The Wrongs/Sarah Harmer, The Skydiggers/Cash Brothers, Dig Circus, Big Rude Jake, Big Sugar, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir and others.

These are all artists who either went the independent route at some point in their careers, or had enough of an independent start to craft their own sounds before a record label got hold of them. The music I heard on CFNY (RIP) in Toronto while I was in college blew away what was being spewed by American radio. It's not that I had a problem with the grunge era... some great music came out of the early 90's, I just got tired of hearing the same 20-30 songs in rotation all the time.

I grew up in a time of great pop music (the 80's), and I believe that it may have been the last golden era of pop. It was a time when the music industry was putting out good product in spite of itself. Now we are in an era where the industry itself is bloated and self-reflexive and incapable of growth. That's not a comment on the music of today, but on the major record labels. I think music is thriving today as much as ever, in part because the labels are dying a slow, protracted death. Many artists today are going the independent route. The internet in general, and sites like YouTube and MySpace in particular are making it easier for bands to market themselves and stay independent. This makes smaller bands more financially viable in the long run because they maintain control and ownership on their songs and sound.

That is why I am here. If I can help out independent artists in gaining some exposure, and along the way help to promote music that is original or unique or laden with talent, then I want to do my part.

Submissions may be sent to:

Wildy's CDs
PO Box 562
Buffalo, NY 14207-0562

Please remember that screener copies will not be returned. Other promotional materials are welcome, and I will be happy to mention upcoming gigs, etc., in reviews!