All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CD Review: Julie McKee - What A Woman Shouldn't Do

Julie McKee – What A Woman Shouldn’t Do
2008 Julie McKee

Look out. Here comes Julie McKee. Julie McKee has created one of the finest collections of jazz imbued pop you’ll hear in all of 2008. What A Woman Shouldn’t Do combines gorgeous music, intelligent and witty lyrics, and a voice you pray just won’t stop singing. Imagine if you took genetic material from Annie Lennox, Fiona Apple and Jane Siberry and mixed them all up together: You’d find someone not entirely unlike Julie McKee.

Songs range from highly personal, such as the hauntingly beautiful Nine Years Old, to the downright comical (Eric Marlow). Julie McKee will surprise you with subject matter (Mount Vesuvius), or with her lyrical prowess, such as in All About You (I tried to listen/to hold your hand/but all you wanted was a sycophant). The title song, What A Woman Shouldn’t Do, finds McKee closest to her jazz roots, discussing 1950’s attitudes about the roles of women in marriage over an accusing samba beat.

This is a gem. I don’t throw around the “Desert Island Disc” label very often, but it applies here. If you had to be stuck on an island for the rest of your life and could have only 5 CDs with you, What A Woman Shouldn’t Do would be a must. Expect big things from Julie McKee. I had a similar reaction to this album as I had many years ago listening to Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes. Both are classically trained pianists with a penchant for gorgeous melodies who music is informed by many different styles. Where the comparison ends the truth is clear: Julie McKee is a talent in her own right.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Julie McKee at, or on MySpace. What A Woman Shouldn't Do can be purchased at, at, or as a download through iTunes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CD Review: Peter Paul Parker - Stepping Up

Peter Paul Parker – Stepping Up
2008, Metro Publishing

Peter Paul Parker has crafted a collection of sonically beautiful songs on his debut CD, Stepping Up. This is a mellow rock album with solid melodies, beautiful harmonies and memorable hooks. Peter Paul Parker includes the Beatles, the Who and the Kinks among his primary influences, but I was most reminded of the great Alan Parsons listening to this album. Peter Paul Parker has the same sort of understated delivery and sense of sound.

This is a true solo project, with Mr. Parker writing and producing all songs, performing all instrumental work and providing all vocals. The result is an uplifting and unique recording that captures an optimistic and hopeful spirit. Songs like In My Hands, Sad But True and Landslide scope out the sonic landscape and give the listener an idea of the borders in which Mr. Parker writes. Walk Away is perhaps the most powerful and moving song on the record. Letting Me Down reminds the listener that Peter Paul Parker knows how to rock a little as well.

Stepping Up is a very well-rounded rock album. The very mellow approach in production makes for an easy listen (ala Cowboy Junkies) without losing the energy of the songs. It’s a fine effort that is worth a listen or six.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Peter Paul Parker at, where you can purchase a copy of stepping up. You can also grab a copy at CDBaby.

Monday, April 28, 2008

CD Review: Rachel Scott - Blow

Rachel Scott – Blow
2008, Townie Productions

Rachel Scott. Remember the name. She brings her own brand of blue-eyed hip-hop/R&B from Weymouth, England, and it’s worth taking a listen to. On Blow, her second album, Ms. Scott bounces back and forth between straightforward Hip-Hop/Rap to tuneful pop dance songs.

Some of the material here is absolutely infectious, such as Wish You Were Mine or Sugar Pot. These two songs for me are the absolute class of the album. Don’t Dream Away and Everything are also highlights. Rachel Scott is very talented as a singer, writer and producer, and highlights here skills in all three areas here. She uses strong melodies and pretty harmonies to bring out the sugar sweetness in the pop songs here. The Hip-Hop tunes are a little more generic, and the same level of energy doesn’t quite come through on these, but even these songs are an enjoyable listen.

Rachel Scott is an artist following her own muse. You may not appreciate every song depending on your tastes, but you’ll certainly appreciate the musical journey she takes you on. I give Blow a strong recommendation.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Rachel Scott at here bebo home page . You can purchase Blow on CD Baby.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

CD Review: Lazy Poker - The Real Deal

Lazy Poker – Positively Blue
2004, LP Records

Pop in Lazy Poker’s Positively Blue and you’ll think you were just transported to the Mississippi hills, perhaps to a swanky little roadhouse where the beer on tap is cold and the music is hot. Positively Blue is a fiery debut from this Scottish trio, and very much worth your time and money.

Opening with Gypsy’s Curse, you’ll find yourself hooked from the first notes of the opening guitar riff. This is music you can listen to, dance to, party to – you name it. Stuck in the middle is an absolute gem, a cover of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. It’s a little more upbeat than the standard treatment, and is fresh and welcome. Swing Thing may be the highlight of the disc however, with it’s walking bass line and Les Paul inspired guitar.

Lazy Poker is a rare gem. Depending on your mood when you listen you could be transported to a different time and place, or rock out and boogie down, or just relax and enjoy some great rockin’ blues tunes. This disc can be multiple experiences for your over time. This is music as art.

Rating 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Lazy Poker at You can purchase a copy of The Real Deal at Blues Matters (

Saturday, April 26, 2008

CD Review: Lazy Poker - Positively Blue

Lazy Poker – Positively Blue
2007 Blues Matters Records

The heart of The Blues is in… Scotland? Strangely enough it might just be true. Mixing electric blues with a southern rock sensibility, Lazy Poker will knock your socks off with their second album, Positively Blue.

This three-piece from Carnoustie is comprised of Jamie Harper on Guitars/Vox, Grant McConnachie on Bass/Vox, and Drummer/percussionist/vocalist Mel Ross. They weave blues magic on songs such as Heartbreak Road, Looking After Number One and Come on In Mr. Blues. The most impressive thing about Lazy Poker is the organic feel to their music. One has the sense that Lazy Poker has obtained a collective consciousness musically that allows the music to grow and spread of its own free will.

This sort of magic is found rarely by bands, and it makes Lazy Poker a particular joy to listen to. It’s almost like listening to one functioning organic unit rather than three musicians. Positively Blue has also charted on iTunes as a top ten blues album, and Lazy Poker has already participated (and even headlined) several international blues festivals. If you are not familiar with this wonderful band, the time is now!

Rating 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Lazy Poker at, where you can purchase a copy of Positively Blue in their online store!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What's coming up!


We're having our own little British Invasion right here at Wildy's World! In the next week or so we'll have reviews from Lazy Poker (2), Rachel Scott and Peter Paul Parker! Submissions are still coming in, but don't hesitate to send your disc along!

Just send an email to for the submission address!

And hey, it's a tough world out there. Everything from food to gasoline is getting much more expensive pretty quickly. Society is reacting in ways to protect itself, which means crime is up, suspicion is up, and the dog-eat-dog world spins round and round. Let's just remember that we're all in this together.

Be good to each other. Not nice. Good.

That's all.


REVIEW: Plunky & Oneness - Cold Heat

Plunky & Oneness – Cold Heat
2006 N.A.M.E. Brand Records

J. Plunky Branch is a veteran musician in the Afro-Jazz category with 20 prior albums under his belt. His twenty-first, Cold Heat, is a testament to his consistency and talent as a saxophone player. There is a definite groove here, and you’ll find yourself moving to the music for the entire sixty-plus minutes. Plunky is a world-class saxophonist, and his sax performances are flawless.

The material itself is a little too recycled and over-produced for my taste, but is intended for a dance club where such distinctions do not really matter. On Cold Heat, you will find much that is familiar, even if you can’t place where you heard it before. You’ll hear hot saxophone and cool beats. Originality will not be high on your list of discoveries of here, but it is an overall pleasant music experience.

Check out Drop and What It Is Is What It Is, my personal favorites.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Plunky and Oneness at You can buy a copy of Cold Heat at CDBaby.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

POLITICS: Obama, Hillary, Pennsylvania and terrorists

For Pennsylvanians, today is the day to tell the rest of us what you want. All of the polling and punditry goes out the window starting at 7:00 AM EST. For residents of North Carolina and Indiana, your time is coming shortly.

The question is what do you want?

We’ve spent a lot of time in the past six weeks hearing about issues manufactured and real. Much of the political discussion has not been about how to make America a better place, but about how Obama’s association with Rev. Wright will hurt him in the general election, or how about Hillary’s lying to the American Public on the campaign trail only serves to remind voters that there is a general perception about the Clintons in general, and her in particular, that you can not trust what they say.

Let’s take a look at these issues for a moment, shall we? Let’s start with Barack Obama. The big issues about Obama that have surfaced in the past six weeks are the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his past association with Bill Ayers of The Weather Underground (so deftly referred to as John McCain as The Weathermen), and the so-called “bitter-gate”.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright – Hillary Clinton has stated, particularly in ABC New’s laughable “debate” of last week that Obama should have left his church because of the controversial comments of Rev. Wright. At issue is a particular line from one of Wright’s speeches that is certain to be general election fodder for the Republicans “God Damn America”. There were also comments about the US bringing 9/11 upon itself and being responsible for the start or spread of AIDS in the black community.

The AIDS issue has long been debated. There is significant literature available out there that suggests that AIDS may have crossed into humans through vaccine research experiments performed in Africa. Vaccines are generally developed in cultures that involve organs from Animals (pigs are most common), but monkeys have been used in the past. SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) is thought by some to have been introduced into human populations through such experiments, many of which were funded by the US Government and the CDC.

I am not taking a position on the truth of this thinking, simply stating that this is a not-uncommon belief that is passed around in circles of parents who decide to forego or delay vaccinations for their children. Official statements from the CDC belie such ideas, but official statements from the government should always be viewed with a critical eye within the politics of the moment.

As for America bringing 9/11 upon itself, this is also a not uncommon thought in some circles. The thinking is that the US has long practiced an international interventionist military strategy, and that some folks around the world don’t want us involved in their internal affairs. The thinking is that if you mess with people’s interests long enough, sooner or later one of them will find a way to attack you. Kind of like if you pester the family cat long enough you’re liable to walk away with a scratch on your nose.

Again, I am not taking a position on such thoughts, just trying to explain the thinking.

As for leaving the church, this is not doctrinally sound. The individual Church is a family of parishioners. If a member of that family (even the priest/pastor) is acting out of line, you don’t leave. Instead the family pulls together around that person and tries to bring them back to the path of the righteous, if you will. The thoughts expressed about HIV and 9/11 are in themselves protected by free speech. You can disagree with them; you can disavow them (as Obama has done), but such ideas are not the basis of deciding to leave a church. They are also not necessarily a reason to cut ties with an individual. Obama has likened Wright to a crazy uncle. Who doesn’t have a relative or family friend with some unusual ideas about the political process, the government or the world? Who doesn’t have a relative or friend who expresses ideas that might be distasteful at times (whether racist, sexist, ageist, or some other ill-thought category).

Do we necessarily cut ties with such people? No – we take them on balance. There are people out there with nutty or even disturbing ideas that also have some great qualities, or mean something to us because of our family lives and history. We can disavow what they say but still find value in them (love the sinner, hate the sin).

As for the “God Damn America” part of the speech, this is not in any way unpatriotic. What you have here is a message from a pastor that has been told in almost every church pulpit in America at one time or another, just in very blunt terms that make us uncomfortable (and if you’ve ever been to an evangelical church you know that there are no mincing words from the pulpit). What Rev. Wright was saying is that America is on the wrong path. America condones and conducts acts internationally that allow for the killing of people for no good reason (he cited various examples of military operations either conducted by or supported by the US). He’s talking about the neo-conservative idea of pre-emptive military actions. He is stating that we are all responsible for what our country does or doesn’t do. Whether you agree with the specific instances that he sites, he is basically saying that America is full of sin (again, this message has resounded in every evangelical pulpit since there’s been an America). So “God Bless America? No! God Damn America!”

Again: very brutal and blunt language from a priest, but it conveyed the message that he was trying to get across to his flock. Does it make us uncomfortable? Yes, it certainly does. No one wants to think of themselves, or their country, as being damned. People do not want to think of themselves as being responsible for the actions of their country, but on some level we all are.

Bill Ayers: Bill Ayers was a member of the 1960’s radical group the Weather Underground, a protest group that, among other things, bombed the Pentagon. The Weather Underground conducted and supported homegrown terrorism as a way to bring attention to issues. Bill Ayers has even said that he wished they’d done more bombing.

He is now a liberal democrat who is active in Chicago party politics, as well as being an English professor. He lives in the same Chicago neighborhood where Barack Obama was living when he first decided to get into politics. When Obama was running for State Senate, the then-incumbent whose seat he was running for took Obama to a meet-and-greet to get to know some of the players of Chicago politics. Mr. Ayers was part of that group. Because of their involvement in local politics, they know each other. They have even worked together on some projects over time, but there is no formal relationship between the two. Mr. Ayers is not an advisor to Mr. Obama, he is not part of the campaign, and he would not be part of an Obama administration. This is an instance where the Clinton campaign is grasping at straws for anything they can find.

“Bitter-gate”: I’ve already written on this previously. To sum it up: Mr. Obama gave a speech to San Francisco fundraisers about how to lift up people economically. He addressed why people will vote for politicians who will not work in their best economic interest. Obama stated that people believe that their economic concerns will not be heard by politicians, and so voters turn to and cling to wedge issues as a way to be heard. Those issues can include religious issues, gun rights, abortion, and things of that nature.

The McCain/Clinton campaign has tried to portray this (successfully it seems) as saying Obama said people cling to their religion for comfort because they are bitter (rather than because of the tenets of their faith). Obama said no such thing. Go out on the net and find the speech (the link is in my previous post on the subject). If you hear the whole speech it was quite uplifting and addressed real economic issues and ideals. But one or two lines taken completely out of context have been twisted into something that Obama has never espoused (or believed).

As for Clinton, I think there are two things that have come out of late which are of significant concern. One (the Tuzla sniper-fire issue) has received a lot of airtime; the other (her terrorist fundraiser ties) has not received much attention.

Sniper Fire: Hillary lied – plain and simple. She can say she misspoke, she can say she was tired, but she used the same story five or six times during her campaign. Hillary said she landed in Tuzla under sniper fire and they had to run from the plane in flak jackets etc., etc. Only when CBS news produced file footage from the landing and the ceremony that followed did Clinton recant her story. There was also a story that Clinton told on the stump about a young woman who died because she had no health insurance. When the truth came out the woman did in fact have health insurance and it appears that she delayed treatment for a condition for other reasons not relating to her insured status. These issues highlight a long known fact about the Clintons in general – they’ll tell you what they want you to think, and they’ll repeat it until it’s such a part of the collective consciousness that no one doubts the veracity.

It’s called lying.

Terrorist Ties: Dick Morris wrote an interesting opinion piece along with Eileen McGann over at I know this is not everyone’s favorite outlet, but Morris was a longtime advisor to the Clintons and knows their business better than most people who talk about her publicly. Check out the article here. It talks about all of the terrorist money that has gone into her campaigns, and how many of the major terrorists organizations actually want Hillary to be president. (That’s something to think about, isn’t it?)

In the end, Pennsylvania, it’s all about what you want (you too, North Carolina and Indiana). I think the big question is do you want to return to the lies and poll-driven politics of the Clinton years, or do you want someone who envisions a better life for all of us?

You decide.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

REVIEW: Tara Tinsley - Sail Away

Tara Tinsley – Sail Away
2007, Tara Tinsley

Tara Tinsley went all the way to Japan to record here second album, Sail Away. The result is a nuanced collection of folk & rock tunes about love and heartache. Dancing back and forth between the painfully honest vibe of Jewel and the gritty determination of Emm Gryner, Tara Tinsley has crafted an album full of highs and lows and some great songs.

Don’t Tell Me is perhaps the best song on the album (for this reviewer). Other highlights include More Than I Should, Where To, Controlling Me, Just Because and Roommate. These songs display just a bit of a punk attitude. These songs are concise and convey their message in a tight musical package that is fun to listen to. Some of the more vulnerable songs (More Than I Should, Sail Away, When You Leave Me) sound a little young too me. They convey the feelings of loss and regret in love that we have all felt, but have yet to acquire the distance and narrative that capture a listener’s empathy.

So what we have here is a worthy effort from a songwriter who, at 23, is still learning her trade (and learning it well, I might add). Ms. Tinsley is a very capable songwriter who has produced some great folk-rock songs on Sail Away. Her voice is perfect for the material she has written, and her backing band is more than proficient. She reminds me quite a bit of another Indie folk-rocker by the name of Jess Klein.

Any problems with this recording are not a matter of talent or production, but of maturity. This recording is uneven in the same way that Jewel’s first release, Pieces of You was uneven. Both recordings balance great folk-rock songs that we are perhaps a little young in their perspective and are therefore given to an emotionally honest but immature perspective that is more interesting to the person feeling it than the person hearing about it.

Given the talent of Ms. Tinsley for writing songs, this issue will take care of itself over time. This is a worthy effort, and should be a great stepping stone on her way to the Rolling Stone cover she so very much desires. This is an opportunity to watch a young singer-songwriter with great talent develop into a great artist. Don’t miss her on the way up.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can check out Tara Tinsley at, where you can purchase a copy of Sail Away. She also has a presence on My Space.

Friday, April 18, 2008

REVIEW: Thoroughfare - As Yet Unborn

Thoroughfare – As Yet Unborn
2007 Rockpie Records

Thoroughfare is a young and uber-talented rock band from Knoxville, TN. Their full-length debut, As Yet Unborn, is a sonic treat. Featuring rocking tunes and soaring anthems, they seem a perfect fit for Adult Alternative, pop-rock, and even “edge” radio formats. As Yet Unborn is one of the more commercial Indie projects to come across my desk this year, and has great potential for success.

It is very clear that Thoroughfare knows how to rock. They serve notice on the opening track, Is It Right, which opens with Van Halen-esque keyboard riff and vocals that resolves into a moderate rocker. This song is radio-ready eleven times over and just needs placement in a prime-time TV show to be a monster hit (as that seems to be how these things work nowadays). Other highlights include The Value, Let It Out, Reverie, and Why Don’t You. The production values are high and musicianship is superbly tight.

If there is any complaint about this release at all, it’s that the production values are so high. As Yet Unborn is extremely well-produced, but it makes me wonder if those production values don’t in some way mute the sound and energy of the songs. Thoroughfare strikes me as a band that might set the stage on fire in their live shows, and that just doesn’t quite come across here. Still, As Yet Unborn is an outstanding record that should be the beginning of a long and successful career for Thoroughfare. Well done.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out Of 5)

You can learn more about Thoroughfare at, where you can purchase a copy of As Yet Unborn. You should also check out their My Space Page.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

REVIEW: Brian Severn & Those Victorious - The Wonderboy E.P.

Brian Severn & Those Victorious – Wonderboy
2007, BDS Music, LLC

From a young age, Brian Severn knew what he had to do: Write catchy pop/rock songs with melodies that invade your brain and stay for days after the CD stops playing. Brian Severn & Those Victorious’ debut EP, Wonderboy, is full of them. The Frederick, Maryland based quartet is working hard to make sure these songs get heard, touring currently in the northeast US to support this release.

Wonderboy is at once both upbeat and introspective. Drawing on personal experiences, Severn displays an ability to write great uplifting pop songs that support thoughtful lyrics. Paddy Mayonnaise and Chris “Playboy” Martin make up the impressive rhythm section, and Brian “Briany Tiny Hands” Tessier chips in on guitar and backing vocals to help Severn complete his musical vision.

Steady Set Ready Now is radio-ready right now. This is the sort of pop song that could catch on in Alternative formats and be a minor hit – the sort that gets a band noticed by the majors as well as a good core group of fans. Dumbfound, On Love, The Glory Days, and Crazy round out the set, all great, listenable songs. Wonderboy is a very promising debut from Brian Seven & Those Victorious. Check this out. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Rating: 4 Stars
(Out Of 5)

You can learn more about Brian Seven & Those Victorious at, where you can buy a copy of Wonderboy. You can hear the songs at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

REVIEW: Woodward - But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It

Woodward – But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It
2007 – Woodward the Band Publishing

If there were ever a band destined for super-stardom, it’s Detroit, Michigan based Woodward. I’m not talking about MTV and top-40. I’m talking about selling out Wembley Stadium or Yankee Stadium or even Maracana stadium; several nights in a row. I don’t mean to be overly effusive with my praise for Woodward, but if ever there were a perfect package in the rock world it might be called But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It. Drawing on sonic influences that transcend the 1970s and 1980s FM Rock genre, Woodward has built a modern sound that is equally welcoming to young rock fans and their parents (perhaps even young grandparents).

This is a quintessential rock and roll album. Starting out with “All Over (Washed Out)”, Woodward leads off sounding like Billy Joel singing with the Ramones. The fun isn’t over there. “Find The Words” sounds like it might have been lifted from an early Queen album. I actually found myself returning to the Queen reference several times throughout the album. What makes this album such a treat is that even when Woodward sounds like someone else, they are distinctively themselves.

“Find The Words” is easily my favorite track here, but there isn’t a weak track here. “Did I?”, “Take It Back”, “Days You Come From” and “Far From Home” are all outstanding. This CD actually got loaded to my iPod and has been on near-continuous play at work for the last three days. It’s that good.

Woodward delivers a set of hook-heavy modern retro-rock songs that are a sonic pleasure. The songwriting is top-notch, the vocals are perfectly fit to the songs, and the harmonies stand up with the likes of Queen or Styx. Add to all of this Woodward’s reputation for electrifying live shows and you know that these guys are going somewhere. Don’t be surprised if a few years from now theirs is the concert ticket you can’t buy anywhere but on eBay. But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It gets my highest rating, and then some.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out Of 5)

You can learn more about Woodward at You can purchase their CD at CDBabyor at CD Universe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Politics: Elitism - The McCain/Clinton presidential ticket smears Obama again.

The MSN Encarta Dictionary defines “elitist” as “belief in concept of superiority: the belief that some people or things are inherently superior to others and deserve preeminence, preferential treatment, or higher rewards because of their superiority”, or alternately as “belief in control by small group: the belief that government or control should be in the hands of a small group of privileged, wealthy, or intelligent people, or the active promotion of such a system.”

I am highlighting this definition because of the discussion in the US Presidential race and charges being made that Barack Obama is elitist. Politicians are great at throwing around charged political words on the stump, but it is important as thinking people that we take a look at what is being said and what the words actually mean. The Clinton and McCain campaigns have double-teamed Obama on his statement that people in small towns who have been hurt by the economy feel like the government is doing anything for them calling him elitist and out of touch with the people.

Here are the quotes that have been picked out by Clinton and McCain:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them,"


"And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I am not going to discuss the greater context of the speech. You can find info on that here. What I want to focus on is what Obama actually said above, as opposed to what Clinton/McCain want you to think it means.

The first statement is absolutely true, and not just about Pennsylvania. There are many cities across the Midwest (including my home of Buffalo, NY) that used to rely on manufacturing that have been floundering for the past 25 years as jobs have evaporated or relocated to places like Mexico, China and elsewhere. Obama then goes on to highlight that both Clinton the First and Bush the Second promised to improve these conditions and have not done so.

Obama then indicates that many of the people in these communities feel bitter. Merriam Webster defines bitter as “expressive of severe pain, grief, or regret”. Tell me what family that has seen their jobs disappear and gone from living the American Dream to just holding on does not feel bitter about how their lives have turned out? This is hardly out of touch with reality, but would seem to be an accurate reflection of the anger in the working class of America. How many times have you heard people talking about the state of the nation and saying that we need to take our country back? How many times have you heard people happily talking about the price of gas or heating their homes or inflation in food prices. Are people happy about these things?

The Clinton campaign in particular has hit Obama hard about the “clinging” portion of the above speech. What Obama said is that because people do not feel they will be heard on economic issues they end up voting on wedge issues. “The economy isn’t going to change, but at least we can keep those damned illegal immigrants out”, or “The economy sucks but they won’t take my guns away”.

The sad part of all of what he said is that he is exactly correct, and he is the only politician running for major office who is being honest about it. He is in touch with reality and with the feelings of the electorate. Clinton and McCain can not go down this road because they are beholden to corporate interests, unlike Obama. So they pick out pieces of his speech and attack him sound-byte style. But they have nothing. Both Clinton and McCain are just trying to hold on to the old reins of political power. The problem is that there’s a new politics out there, and it’s up to us to make sure that those who represent us, the people, have a chance to make it happen.

So don’t take my words as unerringly true, and certainly don’t take the McCain/Clinton camps words as true. If you want to know what Obama really said, go online and find the full recording and listen. You can find it through

REVIEW: The Beautiful Girls - Ziggurats

The Beautiful Girls – Ziggurats
2007 Controlled Substance

The Beautiful Girls have come calling, and they mean business. On Ziggurats they mix rock and reggae elements in a near-perfect concoction that is reminiscent of the best work of The Police. Mat McHugh’s melodic, mellow vocals are a perfect contrast to the tightly controlled energy running through The Beautiful Girls songs, and the rhythm section of Paulie B and Bruce Braybrooke keep things moving more than efficiently.

The songwriting is inspired, from the politically conscious “Royalty” to “Under a Southern Sky”, which may be the gem of the album. Other highlights include “Dela”, “Dealer Wins” and “I Thought about You”. The Beautiful Girls have been developing their sound for some time now, and Ziggurats has placed them in position to take America by storm (with the right breaks, of course). Practicing a DIY ethic that lets their music speak for itself without significant pop promotion, The Beautiful Girls should build a solid following in the US/Canada. If they manage to score the coveted song placement in a popular teen television show or movie it could rocket them to stardom here.

The Beautiful Girls are very much worth taking your time to get to know. Ziggurats is a strong album to get to know them by, and I highly recommend it.

Rating: Buy it Soon!

You can learn more about The Beautiful Girls at, or Their CDs are available at major retailers or at

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Review: Slightly Stoopid - Chronchitis

Slightly Stoopid – Chronchitis
2007 Stoopid Records

Slightly Stoopid has been making great records for twelve years now. They have very quietly built a catalog mixing punk rock songs with mellow reggae-rock grooves. In the process Slightly Stoopid has established themselves as one of the pre-eminent Indie party jam bands in the music industry. Each album from Slightly Stoopid has seen an evolution in their sound, and Chronchitis is no exception. Here Slightly Stoopid has thoroughly abandoned the punk rock edge that helped them burst onto the Indie scene in 1996 and has transformed into a thoroughly mellow reggae jam band.

The music is a pleasant listen, but isn’t challenging or particularly interesting. For me it equates to background music: Something to have on at work when I am trying to concentrate and don’t want to be disturbed or provoked by the music. I could also see this is background at a very mellow party.

I am all for transformation in music. Stagnancy in an artist is an unforgivable sin, but it would seem that Slightly Stoopid has given up an essential element of what made them Stoopid in the first place. A large part of the draw has always been the melding of punk/surf and reggae. Unfortunately the sharp edges have been worn away, leaving a smooth stone that is pretty, but not remarkable.

Rating: Borrow it from a friend.

You can learn more about Slightly Stoopid at, or You can purchase Chronchitis in most major music retailers or on the band’s website for $11.99 plus shipping.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Review: Dennis DeYoung's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

Dennis DeYoung – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1996, Grand Illusion Music

This recording has been kicking around for a number of years, but a review is warranted as the musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame will be making its Chicago, Illinois debut in May at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. Dennis DeYoung (formerly of Styx) released a concept recording of this show back in 1996. It has never been released in stores, but has been available at shows or at his website.

“Hunchback” is the story of a tragic love triangle between Esmerelda (a gypsy dancer), Father Frollo (a priest) and Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral. Dennis DeYoung has penned a moving and powerful presentation of this classic story. “Hunchback” includes all the elements of a great Broadway production. After your first listen you’ll walk away from this recording humming or whistling melodies that just won’t get out of your head.

Some of this is classic DeYoung balladeering: “Paradise”, “With Every Heartbeat”, “Beneath the Moon”, and “While There’s Still Time”. Three of these songs have made appearances either on Styx albums or Dennis DeYoung albums in the past. “Who Will Love This Child” may be destined to be a Broadway classic. This is the sort of song that people will appear in Best of Broadway shows and compilations for the next forty years should “Hunchback” actually make it to Broadway (and it should).

There are other gems here as well. “Alms for the Beggarman” is my favorite track from the show, displaying the lascivious and dishonest nature of the beggars in the show. This is DeYoung’s “Fugue for Tinhorns”, and also is a potential classic. “King of Fools”, “Hey Quasimodo”, “This I Pray” and “Bless Me Father” are also all great songs. And you can’t walk away from this without falling in love with DeYoung’s take on Ave Maria. You’ll get chills.

All songs on the CD are performed by Dennis DeYoung, with the incomparable Dawn Marie Feusi singing the part of Esmerelda beautifully. The album was produced by longtime Styx producer Gary Loizo.

A lot has happened to Dennis DeYoung in the last 10-15 years. While this project has been out there for a long time, it is a clear testament to his talent, perseverance and knack for writing great theatrical rock songs. This recording gets my highest recommendation. Whether you enjoy Broadway, or just great pop/rock songs, this recording is definitely a must-own. And if you happen to be in the Chicago area between May 8 and July 6, 2008, check out the show at the Bailiwick. When “Hunchback” is a smash on Broadway in a few years, you’ll be able to say you saw it first.

Rating: Buy It Now!

You can learn more about Dennis DeYoung at You can also purchase copies of The Hunchback of Notre Dame there. While you’re there, also check out his Canadian released solo album “One Hundred Years From Now”. If you’re a Styx fan you’ll love this disc. And if you’re interested in attending a performance of “Hunchback” at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, you can purchase tickets at

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Review: Break Of Reality - The Sound Between

Break Of Reality – The Sound Between
2006, Break Of Reality

New York City based Break Of Reality is a rare gem in the world of popular music. These 4 Eastman School of Music alumni (3 cellists, 1 percussionist) weave gorgeous driving rock chamber pieces unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Their debut album, The Sound Between, blurs the line between chamber music and rock and roll.

The nearly visual landscape of sound cut by Break Of Reality is infectious and stirring. Their blend of instrumental “Chamber Rock” will fascinate you and draw you along. The weaving/layering of the cellos and driving rock beats are likely to broaden your appreciation for both classical music and rock and roll. Song highlights include “Beyond Recourse”, “A Blind Purpose”, and “Scarred By Duty”.

Just as a personal note I was introduced to Break Of Reality’s music by a live performance in Central Park last spring. If they come within driving distance of you it’s worth the trip to check them out live. The Sound Between is very much worth your time and effort.

Rating: Buy It Soon!

You can learn more about Break of Reality at, where you can purchase either the original version of The Sound Between or a two-disc version. As an aside, try to track down a copy of their original demo Voiceless. I do not believe it was ever officially released but was sold at shows and on their site until last year. It’s very hard to find but also very much worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

REVIEW: The Hollyfelds - Saratoga

The Hollyfelds – Saratoga
2008, The Hollyfelds

Alt-Country. Americana. Folk/bluegrass/pop. Call it what you will. The Hollyfelds have made one of the finest alt-country albums of the past 10 years.

Drawing on sounds from classic country to Appalachian folk, Saratoga is a musician’s dream. Start with the dueling vocals of Eryn Hoerig and Kate Grigsby. Their vocals wrap around one another in harmonies so tight they’ll make you want to cry, laugh out loud and jump for joy. You’d be happy listening to bathroom cleaner jingles as long as they were sung by these two.

Luckily, the material here far surpasses bad ad campaigns, and the rest of the band is sufficiently talented to effectively balance the two leads. Keith Hoerig and “Magic Sam” Spitzer create a tight rhythm section, while Tim Mallot fleshes out the sound with an old-country charm. Musically they walk the line between The Be Good Tanyas and Over The Rhine (not bad company).

The songs? This is where it gets really interesting. These are some of the most finely-crafted country songs you’ll run across west of Nashville. Luckily The Hollyfelds have not been tainted by the country/pop mania that has engulfed Music City, but are writing the next generation of country standards (or what should be, in a perfect world). “Indecision”, “I’m Gonna Feel Tonight”, and “Burned” are major highlights, but I would challenge any reader to find a weak song here.

Saratoga excites me for the future of The Hollyfelds, and for the future of country music. It’s unfortunate that the current iteration of country radio is not friendly to bands like The Hollyfelds, because they deserve to be heard by as many people as they can reach. Let’s face it. People deserve to hear the Hollyfelds.

Rating: Buy It Now!

You can learn more about The Hollyfelds at www.thehollyfelds.comor You can purchase MP3s through their My Space page, or you can get a hard copy of the CD at

Monday, April 7, 2008


One of the major tenets of the Hillary Clinton Campaign was her "Ready on Day One" speech/line/slogan. It has become something of a talking point for all of the candidates, even if it is rarely mentioned explicitly. I'd just like to take a moment to look at this statement for each of the candidates still in the race (sorry, Ralph Nader doesn't count).

Hillary Clinton Ms. Clinton made "Ready on Day One" a part of her stump speech for much of her campaign, and the line still shows up from time to time. The process of the political campaign itself has belied this statement, however. A true leader who is ready to be president would also be ready/prepared to run a political campaign. The Clinton campaign took a daunting lead from a year ago and appears to be in the process of turning it into a primary loss. Clinton had the advantage of the backing of the Democratic political establishment, the donor list from her husband's presidency, and very high name recognition from her prior position as First Lady. She also had strong feminist backing as the first politically viable woman candidate for president.

What has happened since then has been a string of losses and messes brought about by a warring internal campaign staff, which finally culminated in the booting of Mark Penn this past week (I believe this was highly politically motivated, but more about that later). The Clinton campaign is deeply in debt, trying to bend every rule possible in their favor to salvage a poorly run campaign, and along the way has increased the negative ratings for Hillary Clinton in terms of likability and trustworthiness.

Hillary Clinton presides over her campaign, and is ultimately responsible for the management of it. Fiscally the campaign has been very irresponsible and blew excessive amounts of money on non-necessities early on. It has had to endure a public loan from the candidate herself, and at times working on a shoestring since Super Tuesday while waiting for donations to catch up. It has also allowed significant debt to roll over month to month to improve its cash on hand numbers. This allows the campaign to look more healthy than it is.

If this is the sort of fiscal and management responsibility we could expect from her as a president, then there is no conscionable justification for voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

John McCain John McCain's campaign was dead in the water in November of 2007. He was broke and had suffered major internal turmoil amongst staffers. He retooled the campaign and fought back from behind the scenes to take New Hampshire. He has marched onward through Romney, Thompson, Guliani, et. al. to the Republican Nomination. Still it is very clear from statements McCain himself has made that he knows little about the economy. McCain is a throwback in that he will be a President for the Military-Industrial Complex. He cavalierly joked about bombing Iran in a stump speech last year "Bomb Iran" sung to the tune of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann". Have people forgotten about this?

Now I am all for a strong military. I also believe that you do what you can to avoid a fight as long as it doesn't weaken you. Name calling, posturing, etc. is all standard playground behavior, and doesn't necessarily call for a violent response (there are multiple levels to diplomacy that can take care of many things). When a punch is thrown or a weapon is drawn by your adversary, then the rules of diplomacy go out the window. At that point it is a matter of survival, and you use whatever tools are at your disposal to win.

John McCain, like George Bush, believes in preemptively taking out the bully. While there are circumstances where this may be justifiable, in general it is a very poor approach. Combine the extremely hawkish nature of McCain with the lack of an economic grasp in the middle of a major economic downturn, and McCain is very much not the right candidate.

Barack Obama Barack Obama is the wild card in this race. For some it's a simply matter that he is neither of the other two candidates. He is not an establishment candidate in the traditional sense. He is speaking to the country at a time of economic uncertainty that comes after a major expansion (very similar circumstances to when JFK took office). He brings a positive message of what we can be as a nation instead of pointing out what we aren't. There are perhaps legitimate questions about his readiness for the presidency, but in a field where none of the three remaining candidates can claim real experience that qualifies them for the presidency (being a POW, or picking out the china patterns and curtains for the White House do not prepare one for the presidency) this is a moot point.

The campaign of Barack Obama is a very telling representation of the man as candidate. I am not talking about the slogans or stump speeches, but about the organizational completeness of the campaign. The Obama campaign has been on the ground in every contested state earlier and with greater organization than Clinton, McCain or any of the other erstwhile candidates. The level of detail in campaign management bespeaks of a man who has put together a crack team of talented managers, but political and real world managers, who have helped keep the campaign on track for many months now. The campaign was able, for the first time, to harness the power of the internet in the political process. They have brought millions of new voters into the political process for the first time, and have excited an electorate that had until this year only shown up to vote less than 40% of the time.

Obama has also shown the ability to rise up at times of peril and soothe the wounds (like with the Reverend Wright fiasco). He has also benefited from timely missteps by the Clinton campaign. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt who is better prepared from an organizational management standpoint.

And what is the Presidency, if not the manager of one of the largest organizations in the world?

Friday, April 4, 2008

REVIEW: Kylie Edmond - Weak

Kylie Edmond – Weak
2007 Kylie Edmond

Kylie Edmond came to New York City in 2002 on a wing and a prayer to meet her muse. Now it’s your turn. Dancing down the pop alley crafted by artists such as Michelle Branch, Maren Ord and Paula Cole, Kylie Edmond is writing songs you will hear, must hear, and have to hear.

Weak is a three track EP that serves as ample introduction to a talented singer/songwriter. Working with New York City guitarists/producer Griffin, Ms. Edmond has crafted a little bit of pop/rock magic. All three songs are radio ready. “Weak” and “Endless Days” could easily be pop/rock radio staples. “Oh No No” is a poignant song about domestic violence that could become anthemic for a generation of survivors.

Kylie Edmond provides the lyrics and melodies, while master-musician Griffin provides the musical scores to envelope her words and melodies. This partnership should be very fruitful. In a perfect world you’d hear Ms. Edmond on your radio twice an hour. In today’s music market it’s anyone’s guess how things will turn out, but Kylie Edmond very much deserves your attention.

Rating: Buy It Now

You can learn more about Kylie Edmond at You can purchase downloads of individual tracks or a hard copy of the EP on CD at her site as well.

REVIEW: Nightdancers - Montana Crossings

Nightdancers – Montana Crossings
2007 Gera Clark/John Sarantos

New York City based Nightdancers is Gera Clark and John Sarantos. This duo met as part of a Renaissance of the Native American Flute (RNAF) workshop and formed a lasting musical partnership; the fruits of which you will see (and hear) on Montana Crossings.

This is not a pop record, and it will not be for all tastes. The music here is gentle and soothing and ideal for meditation or relaxation. Montana Crossings is firmly grounded in Southwest Native American tradition, but also dances on the edge of Japanese Shackuhachi flute melodies at times as well. The mix is intriguing and will keep you engaged if you’re interested in such things.

All in all this is very listenable CD, but is probably (at least for me) more of a “mood” thing than part of a regular musical diet. If you are a fan of flute music, Native American music or New Age then this is definitely for you. If you have never been into any of these genres but are looking for an introduction, this is a good place to start.

Rating: Buy It Eventually

You can learn more about Nightdancers at You can purchase the CD at

Thursday, April 3, 2008

REVIEW: Mashed Buddha - Zen Conspiracy

Mashed Buddha – Zen Conspiracy
2008 John Corda

When John Corda steps into his alter ego, Mashed Buddha, magical things begin to happen. Eschewing the derivative nature found in much electronica, Mashed Buddha relies on extensive piano/keyboard skill and an inimitable groove to create a sonic sphere to envelope the listener. There are no tricks here. John Corda has an understanding of musical composition that escapes many of the tech-heads who dabble at their computers in the wee hours of the morning.

The music is cerebral and danceable at the same time. “Zen Conspiracy” will leave you feeling like Coleridge when it’s over: You will play it again and again trying to recapture the vision of Xanadu that is both there and not there. Add in the musings of Uri Geller on “Hype”, and the artwork of Peter Kuper (Spy vs. Spy), and you have one tasty recording. In spite of not being a big electronic fan, I have to recommend this highly.

Rating: Buy It Now!

You can learn more about Mashed Buddha at You can purchase copies of Zen Conspiracy at

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

REVIEW: Nate & Kate - Fame By Frame

Nate & Kate – Fame By Frame
2007 Nate & Kate Music

When you first look at a CD you never quite know what you’re going to get. The packaging can be extremely misleading at times. Nate & Kate’s Fame By Frame is housed in a cover modeled on “American Gothic”, and is only a hint at what is inside.

In the vein of another once-Ithaca, NY-based duo, Once Blue, Nate and Kate take a sometimes tired musical form and breathe magic and life into it. Americana/folk has never sounded so good. Nate (Nate Marshall) is a dynamic singer-songwriter with unusual lyrical ability and a perfectly imperfect voice. The ever eponymous “Kate” brings the mellow, sometimes dancing sound of her cello and her lush voice to enhance the sonic landscape of Nate & Kate.

The highlights here are many, but “Faith, Hope & Love” may be one of the most moving songs you’ve ever heard. Songs such as “Like Dandelion Seeds To The Wind”, “The Dark Side Of The World”, “Pissin’ Into The Wind”, “Freight Train Play That Chord”, and “When Our Day Is Done” will have you hitting repeat time and time again. Many albums lead with the strongest material and peter out from there. Fame By Frame keeps getting stronger song by song.

This is an absolute keeper; a desert island disc. Nate Marshall’s songwriting rivals that of Jesse Harris of the aforementioned Once Blue. (Jesse Harris won a Grammy for “I Don’t Know Why”, recorded by Norah Jones). Kate is the perfect counter and harmonic balance (although it would be a treat to hear a little more of her on lead vocal once in a while).

I can’t recommend this strongly enough.

Rating: Buy It Now

You can learn more about Nate & Kate at You can purchase a copy of Fame By Frame at

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

REVIEW: Inverse Room - Pieces For The Left Hand: 100 Songs

Inverse Room – Pieces For The Left Hand: 100 Songs
2005 Bright Small Songs

Inverse Room is the musical outgrowth of J. Robert Lennon’s imagination. On Pieces For The Left Hand: 100 Songs, Lennon offers 100 musical short stories for your listening pleasure. Every possible genre/sound is covered here, generally in 30 seconds or less.

I can not review this in the traditional sense, as these are more like musical thoughts. It would be like reviewing paragraphs rather than a book. What I can say is that when played on shuffle as the CD itself recommends, it can make an interesting backdrop for a rainy Sunday Afternoon.

This recording isn’t for everyone. It’s more of an aural experiment by the artist than anything else. If you enjoy Inverse Room, or if you like J. Robert Lennon’s writing, then you’ll likely enjoy this for what it is.

Rating: Buy It Eventually

You can learn more about Inverse Room at You can learn more about alter ego J. Robert Lennon at

REVIEW: Inverse Room - American Recluse

Inverse Room – American Recluse
2007 Inverse Room

Inverse Room is the musical alter ego of novelist J. Robert Lennon. Aside from writing four critically acclaimed novels and numerous short stories, Mr. Lennon has been trolling musical waters for years with some success. As half of the electronic due Bemus Point, and now as Inverse Room, Mr. Lennon continues to plumb his creative muse for interesting and unique musical stories.

On American Recluse, Inverse Room comes across as a somewhat garage sounding Michael Stipe on several tracks. The music is varied and thoughtful with the occasional flash of humor. “I Wouldn’t Die” is perhaps the standout on the album. The key to the music here is that J. Robert Lennon brings his skills as a novelist to his lyrics. He has an ability to bring characters to life for 3 ½ minutes in a way that makes them personal and real. The only other musician I know with this particular talent is Randy Newman.

That’s not to say Inverse Room is the second coming of Randy Newman. The music itself does not recommend itself as sonically outstanding, but serves as efficient backdrops for the stories J. Robert Lennon would tell you. This is not another example of a writer delving into music, but of a multi-talented artist with a lot to say and several mediums in which to speak. Check it out.

Rating: Buy It Soon!

You can learn more about Inverse Room at You can learn more about alter ego J. Robert Lennon at