All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

CD Review: Soundside - Seconds From Sunrise

Soundside - Seconds From Sunrise
2008, Soundside

New York City power-pop outfit Soundside released their third album, Seconds From Sunrise in 2008. The album is a return to the edgier rock sound from 2004’s A Day Without Change (their debut). Produced by Angus Cooke (The Ataris), Seconds From Sunrise places Soundside on the cusp of breaking free from their status as a regional band.

Seconds From Sunrise opens with My Bullet, My Baby. In spite of the slightly macabre title, this is a catchy, upbeat tune that has real radio potential. It establishes the sound that Soundside presents throughout Seconds From Sunrise: Big choruses full of harmonies, dynamic bridges and a high energy level that is infectious. I personally enjoyed Great Barrier Reef, a theatric piece of balladeering that stands out mightily. The crunchy guitar-pop of In Harm's Way is also quite welcome here. These three songs demonstrate the dynamic range that Soundside is capable of, and it is a range that most modern rock bands do not approach.

Soundside is part Collective Soul, part Gin Blossoms and part Pearl Jam. Add it all together and they really do not sound like anyone else. Soundside has created its own sound that should fare very well on modern rock and/or adult-alternative radio. Other highlights on Seconds From Sunrise include Espana, Driving On Empty, Catch Phrase, and Chasing The Real.

Seconds From Sunrise is a great rock and roll album. While many bands in today's market are creating hybrid sounds to try to catch a piece of market share, Soundside shows there's still life in rock.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Soundside check out You can purchase a copy of Seconds From Sunrise at

CD Review: Harlan Mark Vale - Bright Angel

Harlan Mark Vale - Bright Angel
2008, Pillars Of Light Music

Bright Angel is something of a sonic landscape. It's a series of watercolors in piano that represent the daydreams of Harlan Mark Vale. The compositions themselves do not so much take the listener anywhere as live in the moment and noodle where they may. The music is contemplative, like light rain in a puddle or dew on the grass. This is not music that will grab you, but music you must surrender control to in order to enjoy. There aren't specific highs and lows to point to. Bright Angel ebbs and flows like the ocean -- by the time you've noticed the crest you're part way to the trough, and vice versa.

Bright Angel is a mellow and reserved flash of beauty, lapping at your ankles as you walk along the water's edge. Harlan Mark Vale is but the curator, interpreting his vision into sound.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Harlan Mark Vale check out You can purchase Bright Angel at

CD Review: Carol Martini - The Rose In The Boxcar

Carol Martini - The Rose In The Boxcar
2005, Carol Martini

Carol Martini has been playing music since she was 11 years old, and continues to play weekly a coffee houses, college campuses, etc. The Rose In The Boxcar is her fourth album, and is a loving dedication to her father. The album requires a careful listen.

This is an album I have very mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it's a very honest and open album. The songs are straight from Martini's heart and raw. There's no artifice or pulled punches in her songs. This is refreshing in some respects, but the lyrics on The Rose In The Boxcar lack subtlety or panache. Some of the songs here have wonderful sentiment, but the lyrics border on annoying. A prime example is Bless This Heart, which should be a wonderful tribute to a Dad, but instead becomes difficult to listen to because of the lyrics.

Martini does find her voice on Never Going To Say Goodbye, which shows a somewhat more reserved and poetic approach to writing for most of the song. The other thing that detracts from the recording somewhat are vocal pitch problems that show up periodically from Martini. While this may be more authentic, it is not the sort of thing one expects on a professionally recorded finished CD. The other song highlight is A Storm Is In The Air, which is a plus song.

If you are into campfire folk music, or open-mike night burgeoning songwriters, then The Rose In The Boxcar might pique your interest. The emotional honesty and lack of pretension here will be refreshing to some, but for most readers it will be a pass. Carol Martini displays tremendous heart in this recording, and has a keen sense of good subject matter for her songs. Some lyrical refinement and additional time in front of audiences may help her to become a more well-rounded songwriter in the long run. There are flashes of humor here that suggest she might have the potential to be a Christine Lavin-like songwriter, but not yet.

Rating: 1.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Carol Martini at You can purchase a copy of The Rose In The Boxcar at

CD Review: Second Dan - Bringing Down Goliath

Second Dan - Bringing Down Goliath
2008, Second Dan

Second Dan was an Australian band that mostly got left behind. The band decided to move to New York City to try to make it. Singer/Songwriter Dan Rosen came first only to find out after he was here that the rest of the band wasn’t going to come. Rather than be bereft, Rosen rebuilt Second Dan from some of New York City’s finest musicians. Now 2008 sees Bringing Down Goliath, an aptly name return.

Bringing Down Goliath is a jumble of feel-good, guitar-driven rock & pop songs. It has a very organic feel, like friends sitting around and jamming on songs they all know and love. The listener is left with the impression of a band that is making music for the pure joy of making music. A prime example is I Met A Girl, with a crunchy guitar motif that drives the song like warm weather and good friends on a Saturday night. Bringing Down Goliath is chock full of feel-good Rock N Roll. Highlights include Love And Innocence, Everything Is Good, Forget To Remember and Duwachuwant.

Second Dan shines a bright light in an industry that seems to love its ironic, sardonic and vaguely depressed rock stars. Bringing Down Goliath displays the same sort of feel-good energy and down home comfort as the best of Bob Seger's recordings. It's a definite Rock N Roll Party record.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Second Dan at You can purchase Bringing Down Goliath at

CD Review: Kinderjazz - The One For Me

Kinderjazz - The One For Me
2007, Christobel Llewellyn

Kinderjazz has been offering up their brand of jazz for youth for many years. Part musical entertainment and part educational experience, Kinderjazz is truly something to behold onstage. Kinderjazz definitely leans toward the Latin side of the Jazz spectrum, and crosses the line into meringue and salsa at times along the way. The One For Me is a continuation of what they've done all along. That's Fine is a hot number that will have the little ones (and their parents) moving to the music. Playtime Blues is a little melodramatic, but a fair introduction to big band blues. Orange Pear Samba is a cute number and Secret Tuba Business has a James Bond for children feel to it.

The One For Me is a solid children's album. It’s definitely age appropriate for toddlers to tweens, although you may find the adults in the house like the album more than the kiddies.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Kinderjazz at You can purchase The One For Me at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CD Review: Drifting In Silence - fallto

Drifting In Silence - fallto
2008, Labile Records

Derrick Stembridge is an artisan of ambient sound. In the person of Drifting In Silence the Chicago native displays an affinity for looping rhythms and Floydian tones, backed up against new age soundscapes. On fallto, he ads to the lush sonic arc with vocal wash and contrapuntal rhythms. Derrick Stembridge is your tour guide on an ambient river where you might know the twists and turns, but the currents and eddies reach up to surprise you from the depths.

Ambient as a genre is an easy place to get lost. It is easy to become mesmerized with your own sounds and lose sight of the vision that led you there. Not so with Drifting In Silence's third album, fallto. Stembridge is 100% on his game in traversing the Ambient ocean and transporting the listener to new lands. Highlights include unknowndivide, which features Jess Hewitt of Drev, chameleon and closure.

fallto sees the continuation of a journey begun on 2005's Truth and continued on 2006's Laddertown. One suspects that the continued growth and flow of Stembridge's muse will open up new avenues of musical discovery in future releases. For now, sit back and enjoy the aural joy of fallto.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Drifting In Silence check out or You can purchase fallto at

CD Review: David Grissom - Loud Music

David Grissom - Loud Music
2007, David Grissom

You've heard David Grissom, or at least his songs, many times without knowing who he is. Grissom has spent years as a session guitarist for some of the elites in the music business. He has worked with the likes of The Allman Brothers, The Dixie Chicks, John Mellencamp, Joe Ely, Chris Isaak, Robben Ford, Ringo Starr, Buddy Guy, John Mayall and Montgomery Gentry (just to name a few). His songs have been recorded by the likes of Tricia Yearwood, John Mayall, Storyville and Lee Ann Womack. After years of supporting other artists, David Grissom decided in 2007 to release his debut album of original material. Loud Music is the result, and you better be ready to rock and roll.

Grissom is known for making intense music, and Loud Music does not veer away from his trademark sound. The album opens with the motivated instrumental Lonesome Dave, and moves quickly into the country rocker Loud Music. This song could easily be a top ten country hit, and would have real potential to cross over on the rock charts. (Let's just say that if someone like Garth Brooks ever covered this song it would sell a few million copies). Wide Lode is gentle shredder of an instrumental, working off a killer guitar riff and syncopated bass line to make you want to get up and dance.

Other highlights include the harmonica-laden Hi-Tex, Nothing Makes A Man Go Crazy, Boots Likes To Boogie and Midnight Drive. David Grissom is something of a revelation here. It is not unusual for session players with tremendous musical skill to not be able to transition to the front of the band, for any one of hundred reasons. Grissom has no such difficulty, and sounds like he was meant to be out in front and behind the mic. Loud Music should wind up on some critics end of year lists, and with the country/rock hybrid has the potential to appeal to different constituencies of music fans.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about David Grissom at You can purchase a copy of Loud Music at

CD Review: Darrin James Band - Thrones Of Gold

Darrin James Band - Thrones Of Gold
2006, Darrin James

Brooklyn’s Darrin James Band wastes no time. Thrones Of Gold bolts right out of the gate with Trivial, a seeming call out and beat down to a former colleague (I don't see you in any of my future bands). Trivial is a classic southern rock/rhythm and blues hybrid that would make .38 Special green with envy. Trivial will definitely get stuck in your noggin. Duct Tape moves on to a delicious R&B/blues vibe with some amazing Hammond organ work. The title track, Thrones Of Gold, has a bit of an alt-country feel to it that seems entirely nature for Darrin James, with some wonderful pick-guitar work.

James seems to have taken in all of the musical styles of the American South and rolled them into his own hybrid Americana. Even the vindictively misogynist Only A Woman grows from this musical patois without seeming out of place. Darrin James seems to write songs in the same ilk as Randy Newman, where the songs are more windows into the lives of others. James seems to capture the essence of a different person or personality with each song, a little like a short story writer who likes caricature.

Had Enough Of Me opens with Honky-Tonk piano and turns into a gin-joint blues tune that just won't leave you alone. The song is infectious and will traipse across your consciousness at odd times once you've heard it. Hate That Word is classic Americana that deals with a man's fear of the word "Love". Other highlights include B3 laden Crazy World, the Dust In The Wind like epic Herie, the bluegrass Dusty Road, and the ultimately hopeful Lucky Man.

After hearing all of the dark portraits that Darrin James paints on Thrones Of Gold, he reveals ultimately himself on this last song. Darrin James is part Randy Newman, part Bruce Springsteen, and 100% original. In a different time in the music industry James would be writing the terms of his own contract with a major label. As it is he's more accessible and writing incredible music. I have to admit that this CD surprised me, as the first time I listened to it I just didn't connect with it. But then I sat down and gave it a second listen. The lesson is that with the Darrin James Band you need to really listen to the music and to what he has to say. He's a little too deep to get on a casual listen, and just too good to miss. Add Thrones Of Gold to the list of Wildy's World's Desert Island Discs.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Darrin James Band, check out You can purchase a copy of Thrones Of Gold at

CD Review: Crocodile - The Great Depression

Crocodile - The Great Depression
2008, Crocodile

Cousins, a husband and wife, piano, synthesizers and a studio caught in the middle of an Oklahoma City gang war. This is the backdrop from which springs The Great Depression, the debut EP from Crocodile. Sweet syrupy pop ensues, sounding something like Kevin Hearn era Barenaked Ladies with a female vocalist. Crocodile has been lauded by CMJ and Sonicbids, and I guarantee that you'll be next.

Opening with The Dinosaur, singer Rachael Brown sets the tone, surfing the waves of synth and keyboard with killer vocals. August Is Over sounds it walked right off of a BNL record. We Speak For Everyone has an eighties sound to it, with synthesizer picking up the faux-guitar part while also providing carillon instrumentation.

Something To Be Proud Of of sounds more like a guitar rock tune that in this care is driven by synthesizers and distortion, all with a faux string section. Derek Brown pitches in vocals on Pageant (as well as We Speak For Every). This again has a strong 80's pop feel to it ala Mike & The Mechanics. The last track is called Two Other Numbers, and appears to be more of a sonic experiment that resolves into a song. The opening is a bit of cacophony that I didn't enjoy a great deal, but the song itself was quite pleasant to listen to.

Crocodile is a little bit different than your usual rock band. They have a bit of syrupy sweetness to them and great pop sensibilities. They seem to like to see what they can tease out of the various keyboards/synthesizers they play. This is almost a distraction at times, but on the whole the result is a rather tasty pop treat. The Great Depression is a classy if ironically named debut, and bodes well for the future of Crocodile.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Crocodile at You can purchase downloads of The Great Depression from Amazon, eMusic, Rhapsody or through the band’s MySpace page (link above)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CD Review: Mike Farris - Salvation In Lights

Mike Farris - Salvation In Lights
2007, INO Records

Gospel is the original music of praise & worship. Great examples of exultant music exist in the Anglican and Catholic traditions, but American Gospel music found a way to turn joy and sadness into an expression of love and worship that's been unmatched before or since. Modern gospel often misses the most essential elements of the classical form, as Gospel itself has become a marketing point. Luckily there are people like Mike Farris out there, who everyone once in a while bring us back to the roots of gospel. Farris goes one step further -- he returns us to the roots of Gospel and then modernizes it in a way that is fresh and yet stays true to the original vibe. Salvation In Lights displays how it is possible to keep the spirit of Gospel alive and vibrant in 21st Century America.

You may be surprised to know that Mike Farris is not only a former member of The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, but also of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. His fascination/love of gospel music grew out of his recovery from drug addiction. Farris seems to feel that God gave him a second chance in sobriety, and Salvation In Lights is in some ways his attempt at giving back.

Farris has one of the most soulful voices I've ever heard. The man can sing with the best of them, and brings a warm timbre that's part Seal and part Otis Redding to his witness. The arrangements on Salvation In Lights are original and full of life -- the perfect complement to Farris' voice. The set starts out with Sit Down Servant, with full gospel choir. It's an ideal choice to open with, as it will call you in whether your purpose is worship or just to hear great music. Streets Of Gallilee is a lively tune with some incredible jazz flavored piano playing underneath. Oh Mary Don't You Weep updates the gospel classic while staying true to the original.

Precious Lord, Take My Hand plays as a honky-tonk tune that seems just as at home on Saturday night as Sunday morning. Make sure to check out Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down, which starts out with a groove very similar to Mustang Sally. Other significant tunes here are Change Is Gonna Come, Selah! Selah!, and the Staples Singers I'll Take You There. Salvation In Lights closes with I'm Gonna Get There, a neo-Motown sound complete with Stax-style horns.

The material on Salvation In Lights is well-chosen. Not a song seems out of place. Farris himself is a force majeure; he is the sort of singer where you'd gladly pay to hear him sing the phonebook. Here he is both moved and magnified by the songs he sings and the result is magical. And let's not forget the supporting cast. You will not find a finer backup unit anywhere. If there is anyone who can bring Gospel music fully into the popular music realm its Mike Farris. Salvation In Lights is sublime -- a Desert Island Disc, and comes with Wildy's World's highest recommendation.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Mike Farris, check out You can purchase an autographed copy of the album through his website, currently for $9.99. It is also available at,, and most major music retailers, although it may be a special order.

CD Review: Cakehole Presley - Cakehole Presley EP

Cakehole Presley – Cakehole Presley EP
2007, Christopher Ridgeway

Cardiff, Wales is the home base of the unusually named band Cakehole Presley. Chris Ridgeway (vox, guitar, harmonica), Marke Huphres (bass, vocals), Al McLean (guitar) and Alka Jones (drums) make up this dreamy little folk-rock outfit. Starting from influences such as The Beatles and Woody Guthrie, Cakehole Presley craft songs full of the ugly bumps of life, and ultimately find a way to illuminate their beauty. Their self-titled debut EP, Cakehole Presley, is a journey into the real world as seen from the corner stool in your neighborhood pub. The results are sublime.

Cakehole Presley delivers a mellow folk-rock sound that is comfortable and fun to listen to. The EP opens with Skipping Clouds, a stripped down daydream of song that settles over you like a warm summer breeze. Gotta Know Your Name is the ultimate song of romantic fascination (I've got to know your name because I love your face / My how you brighten up this place). There's a Dylan-esque feel to this one that is only partly the harmonica. This is the sort of song that should appear in a romantic comedy about a chance meeting between the inevitable romantic couple.

Borrowed Time takes a little darker turn. I heard it as the musing of a sorrowful stranger at the pub down the road who wants to tell you his sad stories over a pint. It's actually quite a brilliant song. Me & You is a rueful tune that has a bit of a Traveling Wilburies feel to it. Sweet Dreams (Little Darlings) is a bit of a of a humanistic drinker's prayer, and could be sung by the blokes at the bar on a Saturday night after the young and glamorous have departed. The closer, Small Ideas, may be one of the most simple and gorgeous pop/folk songs you'll come across. Small Ideas is worth the cost of the disc, even if you don't like the rest. But you will.

There's a rueful sorrow that runs throughout Cakehole Presley's self-titled EP that is matched only by the sense of hope against hope. It's anachronistic and contradictory and flawed and ultimately beautiful, just like life. This innocent EP sits at the junction where music becomes art becomes life becomes music once again, all in twenty-six minutes. After hearing the debut EP I find myself incredibly impatient to hear what comes next. You will be too.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Cakehole Presley at You can purchase a copy of the Cakehole Presley EP at

CD Review: Rich Driver - Rich Driver

Rich Driver - Rich Driver
2008, Rich Driver

Sacramento, CA based singer/songwriter Rich Driver has released his debut album, entitled Rich Driver, in 2008. The songs here have been written over the past five years, and infuse alt-country, jazz and reggae into a traditional rock sound. Driver uses humor and adept songwriting to tackle issues pertaining to love, loss, the minutiae of day-to-day life and popular culture.

Rich Driver is not just a singer-songwriter; he is a performer. There is an effusive energy that one encounters with his self-titled debut. The disc is bright and warm with big jangly guitar, easy-on-the-ear vocals, and great melodies. The set opens with Holiday, and shows that Driver easily belongs in a class with elite singer-songwriters. Other highlights include Free Time, Messages and Don't Bother Me.

Rich Driver's self-titled debut is an absolute treat. Here's a place to find great rock songs in their simplest, unadorned form. The energy and musicality here is unusual for the recorded format, and suggests that Driver's live performances may be a must-see. Get your hands on this disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Rich Driver at There is a link on his MySpace page to purchase downloads of the album. At this time I cannot locate any links to purchase a hard-copy CD. Keep checking his website to see if that changes.

CD Review: The Midway State - Holes

The Midway State - Holes
2008, Equator Records/Interscope

Toronto's The Midway State is something completely different in today's Modern Rock environment. The first thing you'll notice is the amazing vocals of Nathan Ferraro. He brings a smooth and urgent sound to the microphone that is reminiscent of some of the big mellow-rock bands of the 1980's (A-Ha, Air Supply, etc.). Once you get past the voice (it might take a few listens), you'll hear the huge emphasis on piano. This brings fullness of sound that many guitar-driven rock bands miss out on or make up for with distortion and effects. The effect is a laid back wall-of-sound effect that will wash you away. The harmonies are amazing and perfectly complement Ferraro's lead vocals. Wait, there's more. The songwriting is confessional, heart-on-the-sleeve type stuff. What comes across is an incredibly unrestrained, emotional, dynamic band that you want to like right away. Holes is an invitation and confirmation, inviting you in and asking you to stay awhile. You'll want to stick around and hear The Midway State's stories in song.

Never Again is one of the more straightforward rock songs on the album, with a driving chorus based in Ferraro's soaring falsetto and a wave of beautiful harmonies. Change For You is the first snapshot of the real charm of The Midway State. Ferraro strips down to his most personal in the choruses, but returns to the soaring harmony-filled choruses in this near-perfect tune.

Far and away my favorite tune on the album is Fireflies, with it's Rachmaninoff-like piano opening turning into a full-on onslaught of keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. This is the song that replays itself in my head at odd times. Again, the signature harmonies return in the chorus, but this may be the most complex of the tunes on Holes. Unaware has a bit of that confessional singer-songwriter feel to it, and will likely be a concert favorite.

The other song I want to mention to you is Can't Stop Waking Up To You. It perfectly captures the angst and sorrow the follows a lost relationship, and probably could make a run at the singles charts with the right push and exposure. Other highlights include the title track Holes, Hold My Head Up, I Know and No Crying.

The Midway State is a band that could make big strides in the pop world, but is also something of a musician's band. You could spend hours picking apart this recording and find happy little surprises, particularly if you're a music geek like me. Holes is a virtuoso performance, and producer Gavin Brown deserves major props for bringing out the best in The Midway State. Of course, you can't bring out what isn't there in the first place. I suspect that The Midway State is at the forefront of an amazing journey. Join them.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about The Midway State check out Holes was released in Canada on July 22, 2008. You can currently purchase it across Canada, or outside Canada as an import for crazy prices (22.98 on However on the bands website is a link to the EMI Canada store, where you can purchase the CD for something like half that price.

Monday, July 28, 2008

CD Review: Prosevere - Versus

Prosevere – Versus
2008, Prosevere

Prosevere is something of a super group that grew out of the Memphis, TN rock scene. Vocalist Gary Segars and guitarist Eric Ashe both are perfectly capable front men, and the rhythm section of Matt Riley (on bass) and Rocky Griggs (drums) is one that any band could wish for. Prosevere is a fearless band, taking musical risks and having just enough chutzpah to pull them off. 2008 sees the release of Prosevere’s debut album, Versus. It’s one not to miss!

Versus is your prototypical big rock album. Driving guitar and big rock choruses abound here; with a bit of punk energy that sometimes evades the corporate rock crowd. Vocalist Gary Segars is atypical for a band this heavy, as he has something of a lyric voice. This stands in contrast to the often heavy guitar style that pervades Versus. My favorite song here is Believing, which shows the acoustic side of Prosevere. Other highlights include Shots, Sleepless and Versus.

Prosevere combines the best elements of heavy metal and lyric rock and roll to forge a sound that is very commercial and very accessible. Don't be surprised if Prosevere has a significant future in the music business. As it is, Versus is a stunning premiere.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Prosevere at Versus will be released tomorrow, July 29, 2008, and initially will only be available in the Memphis, TN area. Keep checking at their website, as Prosevere has a link for their own store, but it does not appear to be operable yet.

CD Review: Michael Stollaire - Trinity

Michael Stollaire - Trinity
2007, Michael Stollaire

Michael Stollaire picked up a guitar for the first time when he was fourteen years old. Influenced heavily by 1970’s FM radio bands and the Beach Boys, Stollaire has crafted a sound that is unique his own. In 2007, the Los Angeles based singer/songwriter released the EP Trinity.

The three song EP opens with Little Princess, a straightforward rock tune featuring 1980's era guitar solos and arena-rock harmonies, and is actually quite a decent tune. I Can't Let You Go is a guitar ballad that has potential, but doesn't quite meet it. Stollaire has a passable rock voice, but on softer material such as this pitch issues are very evident. Just Like Yesterday returns to the 1980's hair metal sound that seems to fit Stollaire so well. Again, the vocals are passable, but the harmonies are outstanding.

Trinity is a decent turn from Michael Stollaire. I suspect that a live gig with Stollaire would be quite enjoyable, as the energy level here is fairly high. In the longer term continued live play and collaboration will help to polish over some of the rough edges evident here.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Michael Stollaire at You can purchase a copy of Trinity at

Review: Johnny Lingo Band - Shake It Off

Johnny Lingo Band - Shake It Off
2008, onetime

Johnny Lingo is perhaps the next big thing. Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, the guy who always swore he’d never become a musician has become something more: an artist. Johnny Lingo behind the keys is something to behold. He writes with the bombast of Elton John or Ben Folds, and the pop sensibility of Billy Joel. His debut album, 2008’s Shake It Off, is something you’re going to want to hear.

Johnny Lingo is going to be compared heavily to artists such as Folds, John and Joel; due to the piano-driven rock style he writes in. The comparison is fair and warranted. Johnny Lingo benefits from the path they have cut in the rock universe, and he writes well enough to carry his own weight amongst such luminaries. Whether Joel-esque story songs (Step Outside), jazz-fueled rock (Foolin' Around), new wave (Fallen Angel) or Folds-style brashness (1in10), Johnny Lingo can do it all. Shake It Off is a how-to guide for making a great piano driven rock album. Other highlights include Marquee Move, This Man and Guess Again, which is the most starkly personal song on the album.

Shake It Off introduces Johnny Lingo to the world. This debut is more like a big bang than a cosmic whistle. Johnny Lingo is a rare talent who will not stay hidden. I'd like to hear another album before we truly put him in the circle with the likes of Folds, John and Joel, but he's making an argument you have to listen to.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about the Johnny Lingo Band at Their debut album, Shake It Off is only available as a download at this time, and can be purchased through Johnny Lingo’s MySpace page.

CD Review: Midori and Audioclique - Bring It

Midori and Audioclique - Bring It
2008, Midori and Audioclique

Midori and Audioclique hail from Santa Rosa, CA, and bring to us a new old sound.  Somewhere between the teen pop of the past decade and classic rock of the 70’s and 80’s is where you’ll find Midori and Audioclique.  Bring It is as much a declaration as an introduction.  The July 2008 release should be the first of many from this young band. 

Bring It is not nearly as confrontational as its title would suggest.  This album plays like the soundtrack to One Tree Hill, Dawson's Creek, Everwood, and dozens of other prime-time teen dramas.  Vocalist Midori Longo has a strong and supple voice that resonates throughout Bring It.  Musically, Midori and Audioclique walk the line between 1990's alternative rock and 1980's pop-rock.  The result is a vibrant album full of big hooks, harmonies and lots of guitar.  Midori rails with the best on I Can't Rely and Bring It, and brings on the hyper-sensuality on Swim In My Ocean.  Other highlights include Close Your Eyes, Go, and Take Me ThereTake Me There is my favorite track on the album, and would likely have been a major hit in the 1980's. 

Bring It is fairly even and sonically consistent throughout the album.  There are plenty of highs and lows in the flow of the music, but Midori and Audioclique never seem to lose sight of their musical vision.  This is one of those albums that is caught somewhere between good and great.  I will be curious to see what Midori and Audioclique do as a follow-up to this very strong debut.  Bring It is a snapshot from a band who could be around for a long time to come.  And it won’t be long before Midori Longo posters grace the walls of teen boys everywhere. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Midori and Audioclique at  You can purchase a copy of Bring It at

CD Review: Janet Martin - Step Inside The Dream

Janet Martin - Step Inside The Dream
2008, Janet Martin

Janet Martin is a career musician with five albums under her belt, along with several US and European tours. The fact that you might not have heard her name until now is not a mark of the quality of her music by any stretch. Martin's songs deftly navigate the waters where rock, folk, country and Celtic styles meet. Step Inside The Dream may be her most dynamic release to date.

Janet Martin has a voice that is reminiscent at times of Bonnie Raitt and Annie Lennox, which is to say that it is entirely her own and unlike anyone else you might have heard. It's not unusual to find artists with strongly idiosyncratic voices in pop music, but Janet Martin is the real deal -- she can sing. And write. The songs on Step Inside This Dream are dynamic, smart and inspired. Highlights include Move To Town, Down To The Graveyard, Mercy Mercy and Gypsy Soul.

To say highlights in this case is point out which of the thirteen tracks are currently highest in my mind, but in truth there isn't a weak song here. Janet Martin has crafted an album in Step Inside The Dream destined to become an Americana classic. At the very least, Step Inside The Dream should be a critical darling.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Janet Martin at You can purchase a copy of Step Inside The Dream at

CD Review: Brian Rolland - The Tide's In

Brian Rolland - The Tide's In
2007, Brian Rolland

Brian Rolland draws his musical inspiration from the world around him; whether from the sounds of the earth and sees to the color of the sky, all of this input is a direct influence on Rolland's music. Brian Rolland mixes jazz with world music, blues, and others to create a sonic tableau from which leaps the arcs of melody and harmony. 2007 sees the release of Rolland’s 3rd album, The Tide’s In.

There are several highlights on The Tide’s In, but my personal favorite is Rolland's take on the traditional Water Is Wide (with Collage). I also greatly enjoyed Tide's In and Ask Me Too. Rolland is an extremely talented jazz guitarist who can walk in many worlds musically. The Tide's In gives you, the listener, the opportunity to get to know Brian Rolland and appreciate his virtuoso guitar playing.

The Tide's In is the perfect album for a summer evening. It's mellow yet slightly challenging. This is definitely a disc that will go into rotation in your CD collection.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Brian Rolland at or You can purchase a copy of The Tide’s In at

CD Review: Amy Lennard - I Need To Love

Amy Lennard - I Need To Love
2008, Hold Your Own Records

Amy Lennard holds no secrets. Anything she is, anything she knows to be true, she lays out before her audience in song. Lennard is not so much a confessional songwriter as a cathartic one. On her debut CD, I Need To Love, Lennard offers up ten tracks of deeply personal, emotional urban Americana. The result is a riveting and intense album that will stay with you long after the music has stopped.

Walking a musical line somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, Amy Lennard can tear at your heart strings in one song and heal you the next. The album opens with I Wish It Were Mine, a plaintive statement of desire for a friend's life. Forever Tonight is a classic country ballad that should do very well as a crossover tune. Also check out Let Go, Holy Night, and the epic El Paso.

I Need To Love is just the tip of the iceberg. Amy Lennard captures the soul's dark and yearning moments and portrays them in song like few others have done. I Need To Love is an impressive debut, and we at Wildy's World hope it's the first of many albums from this up and coming star.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Amy Lennard at I Need To Love will be released on September 9, 2008. Check Amy Lennard's website for availability.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

CD Review: Virigina Coalition - Home This Year

Virginia Coalition - Home This Year
2008, Bluhammock music

Virginia Coalition started out in Alexandria, VA in the early 1990's. Three high school friends (Andy Poliakoff, lead vocals/guitar; Paul Ottinger, keyboards/percussion/guitar/vocals; Jarrett Nicolay, bass, guitar, banjo, vocals) who are still making music together 15 years, Virginia Coalition has undergone a lot of changes. Home This Year sees a departure from the bombast and jam-band gimmicks of the past for a more mature, introspective songwriting style. The change has been coming as a matter of the band's growth, but was a conscious choice as well.

Home This Year is an incredibly accessible and thoughtful album. There are echoes of bands like the Counting Crows here, but Virgina Coalition has very much its own sound. The title track, Home This Year is an ode to the loneliness and desire to get back to loved ones a band feels while on the road, and comes across as the most highly personal song on the album. Santa Fe is a wonderful story song with classic Americana elements. Stars Align is a mellow rocker with intricate guitar trim around the edges and a bridge/chorus that are instantly familiar.

Make sure to check out Not Scared, which was co-written with Ari Hest. Period instrumentation from the 1960's was used to capture a time-capsule feel to this song about the difficulties society sometimes places in the path of interracial relationships. Sing Along is this writer's favorite song on the album, and Same Page is a very, very close second. The rest of the album is in the same vein, closing out with a double of Look My Way and I Got This One.

Home This Year
is a watershed album for Virginia Coalition. Here is where they crossed the line from being a good band to a great one, as they've raised the level of their songwriting and performance another notch with Home This Year. It would be hard not to find something here to connect with, and I strongly recommend Virginia Coalition's Home This Year to my readers!

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

To learn more about Virginia Coalition, check out You can order a copy of Home This Year at

CD Review: Anj - When Grey Blushes

Anj - When Grey Blushes
2007, Andrea Granieri

Anj may be one of the more enigmatic singer/songwriters in popular music. A classically trained pianist, she writes songs in a style she calls "orchestrated jazz". In essence she is using jazz scales and progressions couched in classical song composition to create an incredibly unique framework for her poetic muse. 2008 sees the release of Anj's second album, When Grey Blushes. On When Grey Blushes Anj takes the step of adding instrumentation to her usual vocal/piano mix, with tremendous success.

The music on When Grey Blushes is stylistically similar to early Tori Amos material, in that it is piano driven and strongly based in classical composition with jazz and pop influences. From these you lose all comparisons, as Anj is truly unlike anyone else currently in the pop sphere. Her songs are deeply personal, musically intricate, and with a stark vocal style that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Former Stranger opens the set with an unsettling piano progression, counter-punching violin, and eccentric vocals. There are also a couple of passages where the most disturbingly beautiful vocal harmonies chime in. It is truly a memorable opening and one that lets you know this won't be your typical music experience. This musical distress resolves into the simple beauty of Bright Winter. I could run through every song here, because there isn't a tune on When Grey Blushes that isn't remarkable. For the sake of brevity I'll just mention a few songs of note. View Of The Few is starkly beautiful, literate and real. This is currently my favorite track on the album, but this is one of those albums where the favorite rotates from day to day or sometimes listen to listen.

Be sure to check out Praise (Happy Birthday Father), a highly personal and beautiful paternal tribute. The Rest Of Me is also noteworthy, building from a dark, brooding piano opening into an impassioned plea from one who gave all to a relationship and ended up with nothing.

Take away the sunlight at the end of the day and we are all left in shadow. It is here in the emotional dusk that Anj crafts stories about the apparitions and wraiths that trouble her heart. The result is one of the most striking and darkly beautiful albums of 2007. When Grey Blushes is sublime. It is a certified Desert Island Disc, and it gets Wildy's World's highest recommendation.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Anj at You can purchase a copy of When Grey Blushes at

Saturday, July 26, 2008

CD Review: Jim Boggia - Misadventures In Stereo

Jim Boggia - Misadventures In Stereo
2008, Bluhammock Music

Jim Boggia is a self-proclaimed music geek. You know the type – the guy in college who only separated himself from his guitar to go to class if there was a test. Or the guy who fawned over a new sound he’d discovered for days trying to see what else he could draw out of it. A lot of these guys get lost in the self-reflexive thought process and spend years creating sounds but little that could be called music. Then there’s the occasional guy like Boggia, who learned somewhere along the line to channel that wonder with sound into the creative process. Jim Boggia’s third album, Misadventures In Stereo drops on August 5, 2008, and it is a thing of beauty.

Jim Boggia's voice sounds like that of a young Rod Stewart. I spent several listens on this disc trying to figure out why his voice sounded familiar before I figured out why. Stylistically they're nothing alike, and the similarity is a little loose, but it's enough to create a comfort with his voice that's part deja-vu and part respect. Boggia can sing and emote with the best of them. Misadventures In Stereo is a breath of fresh air. Johnnie's Going Down is a catchy song that will get stuck in your brain. To And Fro is a frantic acoustic rock song that owes its roots to the Beatles. Boggia seems to have a gift for picking strings from popular music and creating something completely new from familiar themes, sort of like a bird building a nest.

No Way Out shows Jim Boggia at the top of his form as a songwriter. Lyrically impressive, the song's melody is imaginative and unusual for the pop realm. This one is going on my personal playlist, and is one of the most finely crafted songs I've heard this year. So is the ultimate goodbye ballad. Misadventures In Stereo is just plain full of great songs, and Jim Boggia has a special spark that makes you want to listen again and again. Other highlights include Chalk One Up For Albert's Side, On Your Birthday and Three Weeks Shy.

If Misadventures In Stereo gets in front of the right people, you will see it on some end-of-year critics lists for 2008. Jim Boggia's voice is memorable, and his songs get in your brain like a virus. They just won't go away. Neither will Jim Boggia.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jim Boggia at Misadventures In Stereo will be released August 5, 2008, and is available through

CD Review: Spinning Lucy - The Everything Pill

Spinning Lucy – The Everything Pill
2008, Spinning Lucy

“Here’s another happy song about death”. – Will Roberts, Spinning Lucy

Isn’t funny how many of the best songs juxtapose peppy music with depressing or dark subject matter? Bands like the Cure and The Smiths made millions with this contretemps of lyric and song in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and many bands have followed in kind. It’s not to say that this is gimmick (although it is for some), it’s just the spoonful of sugar theory. We all love dark matter, but if it’s hidden in the sweet confection of pop it’s much easier to swallow. So it is with Spinning Lucy. 2008 sees the release of their debut album, The Everything Pill, a dynamic rock album with much to say, all couched in form of infectious, hook-heavy pop/rock you just might find yourself addicted to.

Will Roberts is the primary lyricist for Spinning Lucy, and I have already developed much respect for the man. I would compare him to another of my favorite lyricists, Ron Hawkins, as he has a definite way with words (If you forgive me the monsters in me / then I’ll forgive the ghosts in you). Roberts also possesses a gentle yet pervasive voice that is comfortable to listen to and compelling enough to be memorable. Set this against the backdrop of an incredibly talented band consisting of Doug Johns (drums), Brian Pylant (guitars/vocals) and Dave Lash (bass), and you find a synergy that many bands dream of.

Before we get to the music I want to say one more thing about albums in general. Any band worth its salt can come up with 2 or 3 songs for an album that are good. The better the band and the better the songwriting chemistry, the greater the likelihood of a band writing/recording an album that is deep with good or great songs. Human nature leads people to put their best stuff up front, whether best is viewed from quality or commerciality or whatever. That’s why very often you end up buying an album because of a single you heard, and you end up liking the first 2 or 3 songs (if you’re lucky) and not liking the rest of the album.

I say all of this because I find that the best albums seem to get better as they go along, and I find I tend to enjoy the second half even more than the first half. I am not entirely sure why this is the case, but it is, and so it is with The Everything Pill.

The Everything Pill opens with Starsign, which is probably my least favorite track on the disc, and yet it is a strongly commercial lead song and probably a good choice for a lead track/single. That’ll Be The Day, on the other hand, is what you came for. It’s the sort of upbeat rock song full of strong hooks and great melody that is perfect for the slightly dark subject matter it contains. The song reeks of the pure joy that Spinning Lucy must feel as a band at making great music.

I’ve seen a lot of the comparisons made for Spinning Lucy (Cheap Trick, Jimmy Eat World, Fountains Of Wayne), but for my money they sound quite a bit like one of my most favorite bands, The Lowest Of The Low. Roberts’ vocals are quite similar to LOTL co-vocalist Stephen Stanley, and some of the sound achieved on The Everything Pill matches up quite well to The Lowest Of The Low. (This is a huge compliment). Hello and Lions are strong examples of the sound I am talking about. Other highlights are Ghost In You, Goldilocks, Letting You Down and Flavor Of The Weak.

Spinning Lucy are talented, and musically they show a cohesion and spark that most bands would kill for. Add in the songwriting talents of Roberts and you get something of a juggernaut. The Everything Pill is all you could expect from such a group. It’s smart, driven, melodic and full of great songs, with just a touch of magic thrown in. Now line up. It’s time for your medicine.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Spinning Lucy at, or You can purchase a copy of The Everything Pill at

Friday, July 25, 2008

CD Review: The Darbuki Kings - Lawrence Of Suburbia

The Darbuki Kings - Lawrence Of Suburbia
2008, Darbuki King Records

You know the Darbuki Kings, you just don't know it yet. Robin Adnan Anders (AKA Adnan Darbuki) is a founding member of the legendary Boiled In Lead, as well as 3 Mustaphas 3. Together with Antonio Albarran (AKA Antone Darbuki), they form The Darbuki Kings. The duo mix a wicked sense of humor with amazing musicianship to create Lawrence Of Suburbia, released in 2008 on their own label. Featuring sitar, Laouto, percussions and samples, The Darbuki Kings have created an album full of gypsy music with just a hint of a modern edge.

The album opens with Yasser Ubetcha, over seven minutes of rollicking misadventure that prepares you for what is to come. Highlights include Blues Eyes, The Silk Road, Timbuktu, and the frenetic Nine Time, which I can't get out of my head. The musicianship here is first class, as expected. Despite the tongue-in-cheek treatment re: cover art and title, this is serious music made by two top-notch musicians. Lawrence Of Suburbia is a pleasant surprise. While it's not the sort of thing I would listen to all the time, it's definitely one of those albums that will get pulled out from time to time for a listen.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about the Darbuki Kings at or You can purchase Lawrence Of Suburbia as a download from, or you can order a CD directly from Robin Anders. The contact information for ordering physical CDs is on Robin Anders’ website.

CD Review: Great Big Sea - Fortune's Favour

Great Big Sea - Fortune's Favour
2008, Great Big Sea Records

Great Big Sea has the distinction of being the biggest and best export that New Foundland has ever managed. Fifteen Years after the release of their debut, self-titled CD, Great Big Sea is back with their 9th studio album, entitled Fortune's Favour. Fortune's Favour is a watershed album for Great Big Sea, who placed themselves in the able and eclectic hands of producer Hawksley Workman.

Great Big Sea displays a newfound sense of largesse in their sound that suits the songs on Fortune's Favour very well. Opening with the buoyant and light-filled Love Me Tonight, Great Big Sea brings a new pop sensibility to their Celtic/folk/pop mix. The album's first single, Walk On The Moon, is a paean to having the courage to fall in love. England returns to the band's roots of New Foundland sea songs, but retains the pop sensibility that Workman seems to have inspired in the band.

Fortune's Favour is one of those albums that longtime fans are either going to love or hate. It is a step forward artistically as a band, allowing Great Big Sea to make their sound more accessible to neophytes while spreading their wings musically. Some fans will hear this as moving away from the sound that got Great Big Sea where they are, but if you've followed their career, this is just a continuation of the musical growth we've seen from them in the past.

In truth, I can't find a weak moment on Fortune's Favour. One happy surprise is the punk-tinged Oh Yeah. And don't worry if you are one of the longtime fans who feel a little put out by Great Big Sea's continued growth -- they still know where their roots are. The Banks Of New Foundland and Rocks Of Merasheen are as New Foundland as you can get.

Just make sure that you check out Company Of Fools. This is the halcyon moment on Fortune's Favour, at least for this writer. Company Of Fools may go down as one of the finest pop songs I've ever heard, and probably should be given full force as a single. It is definitely in the Celtic tradition, and has a catchiness to it that rivals REM's Its The End Of The World As We Know It.

Great Big Sea has reached platinum status before, but Fortune's Favor is the sort of musical moment that could catalyze into much greater success. Hawksley Workman's steady hand has definitely brought out the best in the boys from St. Johns.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Great Big Sea at You can purchase a copy of Fortune’s Favour on the band’s website, or at most US and Canadian retailers.

CD Review: Curtis Peoples - Curtis Peoples

Curtis Peoples - Curtis Peoples
2008, The Control Group/Galt Line Music

Curtis Peoples has a knack for getting under your skin. Whether on-stage, on MTV's SCORE, or in his roles on One Tree Hill or Walk The Line, he has an ability to connect with the audience on a personal level. Peoples also happens to have a knack for writing hook-filled pop/rock songs that stick in your mind long after the music has stopped playing. Aside from being a favorite of L.A.'s musical literati, Curtis Peoples was named on of Music Connection magazine's "100 Unsigned Artists To Watch in 2008". With all of the hype, I imagine you're chomping at the bit to get a listen to Curtis Peoples -- you don't have long to wait. His debut eponymous CD will be released August 19th, 2008. Get ready to hear a lot of Curtis Peoples throughout the rest of the year.

Peoples mixes a sense for catchy melodies, great pop hooks and 1980's flavored guitar-driven choruses to create one of the best pure pop/rock albums of the year to date. Curtis Peoples opens with Back Where I Started, an Americana flavored rock tune with a chorus you won't be able to get out of your head. Holding Me Down displays People's rock guitar sound and transitions to Tell Me I'm Wrong, which opens with a riff that Lenny Kravitz would be proud of. This is a great pop tune, and was co-written by Tyler Hilton.

Heart Will Fall is a great acoustic rock tune with a funk bass opening that resolves into an arena-rock chorus. For my money, however, All I Want is the true hit of the bunch. This is the sort of song that could corner popular radio for the summer. The sound is a little reminiscent of Five For Fighting, but is 100% Peoples. Exit Scene closes out the album with just a touch of country/pop flavor.

What is clear throughout Curtis People's self-titled debut is that the man knows how to write songs that connect with his listeners. His easy voice, accessible melodies and soaring choruses draw in the listener in a way many pop artists have failed to learn. Don't be at all surprised if this is one of the top debut albums of 2008. I expect you'll be hearing several of these songs in TV show soundtracks throughout the 2008-2009 television season. Peoples just has a sound that fits in anywhere. Check out Curtis Peoples before he gets as hugely popular as he has every right to be.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Curtis Peoples at Curtis Peoples' self-titled debut will be released on August 19, 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

CD Review: Salme Dahlstrom - The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade

Salme Dahlstrom - The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade
2008, Kontainer Music

Sweden-born New York City resident Salme Dahlstrom is about to light up your ears.  This classically trained musician first landed in The States in 1999, and made waves as part of the New York City underground band aboyandagirl.  Yearning for the freedom of a solo career, she set about writing and recording The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade in her NYC studio. 

Ever the hands-on producer, Dahlstrom took up every role on the album, with exception of a couple of friends who cameo here and there.The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade mixes a love of Fatboy Slim type dance music with classic rock and classic R&B flavors.  Salme Dahlstrom struts her stuff here for all it's worth.  Her sassy/sultry voice rocks, rolls and coos throughout. 

C'Mon Y'All is a real treat, and probably the most danceable track here.  It has the sort of simple refrain and catchy melody that could become a major dance club hit.  I also very much enjoyed Hello California.  The lyrics were a bit on the simplistic side, but it's the chorus is bright and airy and sticks in your head.  My favorite song on the album though is Thinking About It...Baby, with Reality Check a close second.  Both songs show that Dahlstrom is more than a talk-singer, but is a multiple threat as an entertainer. 

Look, this isn't music that's going to change the world, but it sure will get it dancing.  Salme Dahlstrom is a charismatic force majeure who should achieve big things with The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade.  It's one of the best dance/rock albums I've heard in 2008, and should end up on some critics’ end of year top-ten lists.  Hopefully the general public will get wind of Salme Dahlstrom, because if they do you'll be hearing her everywhere for the rest of 2008. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Salme Dahlstrom at  You can purchase a copy of The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade at  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CD Review: Timothy Cooper - Light On The Water

Timothy Cooper - Light On The Water
2008, Timothy Cooper

Timothy Cooper is a pianist, photographer and filmmaker, in addition to being the Executive Director of Worldrights, a human rights advocacy organization. Cooper believes in shining a light on world problems with his art, and the Light On The Water was recorded as a series of new age style improvisations reflecting on the 9/11 attacks and the healing that occurred afterward.

Light On The Water consists of 19 tracks of unstructured improvisational piano playing. The songs themselves flow from one to the other without significant variation in sound or dynamic, making this an ideal disc for meditation or for background music for a meal. It is difficult to discuss standout tracks as there is no one track here that really grabs the listener's attention. It is a solid recording and pleasant to listen to, but not particularly remarkable. Even changes in dynamic would create tension or conflict and resolution, but such dramatic elements are scant.

Timothy Cooper is obviously a multi-talented individual who is doing his part to make the world a better place. Light On The Water is a musical expression of some of the change Cooper wants to see in the world, but as an image it is uninspiring. The spark one might expect just isn't there. Light On The Water is a pleasant listen, but nothing more.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Timothy Cooper at You can purchase a copy of Light On The Water at

CD Review: Ramzi - Color

Ramzi – Color
2008, Ramzi Khoury

Ramzi Khouri moved from California to New York City in 2006 to try to make it as a musician, leaving behind office politics and the California Sunshine. Khouri brought a little of his own inner sun with him, however, and we get our first glimpse at it on his debut release, Color.

Color opens with When I Go, which might be the ultimate dysfunctional relationship song about a man who keeps trying to leave but gets sucked back in. Ramzi then moves on to Blows Like The Wind, an Americana-flavored folk/pop classic that would be a huge hit if it ever found placement in a prime-time TV show. This is the sort of song that rockets a singer-songwriter from unknown to a buzz-word. If anyone reading this is doing licensing for television or movies, you need to grab hold of this song.

Other highlights include Color, Words, and Breaking Free. Ramzi brings a rock troubadour's story-telling sensibility, a fresh voice, and some outstanding guitar work on Color. The songwriting is mixed, with some of it very polished, and some less so. What is clear is that this is a young artist who is learning and growing in his art, and Color is a strong starting point. Where Ramzi is totally on his game the music is sublime, and when he's off he's not off by much. I would strongly suspect that Ramzi will continue to grow into an accomplished artist. Color is his musical hello to the world, and it is very welcome!

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Ramzi at You can purchase a copy of Color at

CD Review: Lesley Spencer - Moments Musicaux

Lesley Spencer - Moments Musicaux
2008, Lesley Spencer

Lesley Spencer is an accomplished classical pianist, composer and producer based out of Chicago, IL. Her compositions/recordings are heard regularly on NPR's Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and has even had a composition placed in the Disney Film Stick It. She receives airplay internationally, and is acknowledge as a world class classical pianist. Spencer also has a flair for exploring melodies in a way that invites contemporary music fans to dig deeper into the classical realm. She has a gift for making classical music more accessible while staying true to the music's roots. On Moments Musicaux, Spencer presents 16 original compositions that dance, sway, twitter and spark their way into your imagination.

Moments Musicaux opens with Dance Of Life, which seems to portray the almost frantic, relentless quality that life has of reinventing and reconfiguring itself to thrive. You can almost here the musical metaphors for overcoming and becoming in every passage. The set moves on to Child's Play, which could have walked right out of a Charlie Brown cartoon (ala Schroeder). The song seems to explore the light and airy side of play, while acknowledging a darker undercurrent.

Moments Musicaux is full of highlights, from Fellini Waltz to Ode To Harry Potter to Scherzo, Spencer is on her game throughout. My personal favorite piece here is Pirouette, a dark and starkly beautiful melody over the backdrop of an incessant and plaintive waltz. If this were the only song on Moments Musicaux it would be worth purchasing, but Spencer has crafted an album full of beautiful, surprising and memorable moments.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Lesley Spencer at You can purchase a copy of Moments Musicaux at

CD Review: Jonathan Meek & The Mutes - Iron & Pity

Jonathan Meek & The Mutes – Iron & Pity
2008, Jonathan Meek/Meek And The Mute Music

Jonathan Meek is the son of a preacher man. His earliest musical influences were the hymns from his father’s church, and this ingrained a sense of melody in him from a young age. He quickly graduated to influences such as Nick Cave, Elvis Costello & Neko Case. He studied classical theory in college, but found his muse while busking on the streets of Santa Cruz. 2008 sees the release of Jonathan Meek’s first album, Iron & Pity. With the support of The Mutes, Meek has released an interesting and powerful debut.

Meek has a sound that runs somewhere down the line between idols Costello and Nick Cave, and occasionally veers into Jim Morrison territory. Meek’s songs aren’t big on pop hooks, but are more like short films in musical form. Meek writes strongly in images, that he conveys with his eccentric voice. Iron & Pity opens with The City I Love, which comes across as kind of a post-punk Doors tune. Spark & No Fire falls into the simple melody and simple sonic overcoat song construction that Meek seems to like. It’s a simple but infectious melody. Spark & No Fire is easily my favorite song on the EP.

From The West sounds like early Costello, while On The Way Down has an accessible melody with some great harmonies. The set closes out with Take A Look, which takes on a bardic quality, as if you’re listening to one of the last great Troubadours.

It’s way too early in Meek’s career to make that assessment, but keep it in mind. Jonathan Meek isn’t quite like anyone else in the pop scene at the moment. If I had to guess I wouldn’t say that Jonathan Meek & The Mutes would ever be the darlings of the music scene. I do seem them as being the sort of band that ten years on and 7 or so albums down the road has a fiercely loyal following that follow them around and keep them eating and living well.

Iron & Pity is a bit different from the usual pop/rock stuff you might here. It’s a little bit darker and a little more simplistic in construction than a lot of stuff out there. This less-is-more approach to writing creates starkly beautiful landscapes against which Meek can tell you his stories. If Iron & Pity is any indication, you’ll want to listen.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jonathan Meek & The Mutes at You can pick up a copy of Iron & Pity at

CD Reviews: Kush - The Temptation Sessions/Streams On Consciousness Vol. 1

Kush – Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1
2004, Kush

The Temptation Sessions
2002, Kush

Kush is a Toronto based Nu-Jazz ensemble that mixes free-form improvisational Jazz with ambient techno to create a new listening experience. Drawing on the best of the acoustic and electronic worlds, Kush finds an ability to craft unique and interesting sounds and compositions. Their 2002 release, The Temptation Sessions, was followed in 2004 by Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1. Both recordings are reviewed below.

Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1

Kush walks the line between New Age and Free Form Jazz with greater or lesser degrees of success on Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1. Broken into seven Sweets (sic), the album plays almost more like a mellow house recording that traditional jazz. It is apparent that Kush, as a band, has some real talent, but Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1 seems more the sort of music you might hear while on hold for the doctors office than something you'd go out and pay money to hear. That's not meant to denigrate the recording, but Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1 just doesn't have a lot of meat to it. It's very easy to listen to, but doesn't require much thought or interaction as a listener.

This recording will find a market. There are folks who very much enjoy this sort of new-age light jazz. There are some examples of the genre out there that manage to stay very interesting and full of energy while being unobtrusive, but Kush just never quite seems to find the vivacity in Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1.

Rating: 1.5 Stars (Out of 5)

The Temptation Sessions

The Temptation Sessions are another story altogether. Kush is still in the new age/jazz category here, but seems to have found a spark that eluded them on Streams Of Consciousness. There is a vivacity in the music here that is very repressed, but in some ways all the more interesting for that fact. New Life With Electricity is one of my favorites here, and Plaster Paris, Part One and Part Two are a definite treat.

Kush does relax a bit at times here, and the music becomes a little more of a wash at these points, but in general there is strong energy and repressed life in The Temptation Sessions. I was reminded at times of some of Andy Summers' best solo work (ala The Golden Wire). Give The Temptation Sessions a spin. Its great mellow party music, and an interesting listen.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Kush at You can purchase a copy of Streams Of Consciousness, Volume 1 at You can purchase a copy of The Temptation Sessions at

CD Review: Jon Hartmann - Pacific Electric

Jon Hartmann – Pacific Electric
2004, John Hartmann

Jon Hartmann is a musical magician of modern jazz, rock, funk and Afro-Cuban grooves (with some occasional reggae thrown in).  He walks the line between Avant-Garde jazz and a new provincial fusion that is all his own.  On Pacific Electric, Hartmann is at his best.  Pacific Electric is an ode to the Pacific Electric Railway, which was destroyed in the 1950's in order to ensure that more people bought cars (if you can believe that).

Jon Hartmann delivers ten songs of cool modern jazz on Pacific Electric.  There's even a little funk going on here, such as in They Laughed, probably the tune I enjoyed most on this album.  Other highlights include the soulful Hidden Agenda, It's Always Now and Gridlock.  The playing here is incredibly tight, and Pacific Electric manages to maintain a little bit of a live feel in the recording. Jon Hartmann's band is top notch, and he has delivered an excellent listen in Pacific Electric

Hartmann has an ability to push the envelope just enough to make it interesting, and not quite so much to lose touch with the essence that is jazz.  Pacific Electric is definitely worth a listen. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5) 

You can learn more about Jon Hartmann at  You can purchase a copy of Pacific Electric at

CD Review: Jon Hartmann - George Bush Sings

Jon Hartmann - George Bush Sings
2008, Jon Hartmann

Jon Hartmann is a consummate musician with a wicked sense of humor. Hartmann has strong roots in rock, jazz, reggae and Afro-Cuban styles, and he has recently started playing with electronic manipulation of sounds (splicing and dicing, as it were). Enter President George W. Bush, otherwise known as mal-a-props-R-Us. On George Bush Sings, Hartmann takes 7 years of misstatements and snarky condescension and turns into something that just might vaguely resemble the truth (per the artist)

Now I am not defender of George W. Bush, but this album is something of a hatchet job disguised as a comedy album. What is comes down to is that if you like the current POTUS, then you will not like this album. If you are one of the many who disdain Bush, then you will probably like this album, or perhaps even find it funny. Hartmann takes snippets of speeches made by Bush over the years and pieces them together into a new narrative. This new narrative is one that will ring true with those who dislike Bush or disagree with his policies, but it fails the humor test, and in the end it is one person's piecing together of another's words, so veracity, if attained, is likely accidental.

Musically, George Bush Sings is very strong. Hartmann uses a mix of rock, funk and jazz motifs as beds for the spoken word component. Hartmann is obviously a very talented musician, but the music is somewhat wasted here, as the concatenation of Bush speeches becomes more of an annoying distraction rather than something that enhances the musical experience. I think I would have enjoyed this album much more if it were instrumental.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jon Hartmann at You can purchase a copy of George Bush Sings at

CD Review: Jacky And Strings - New Era

Jacky and Strings - New Era
2008, Jacky and Strings

Jacky Ambroise and Strings released their 5th album in 2008, entitled New Era. New Era is an acoustic-electronic hybrid featuring the flamenco and Spanish guitar styling of Ambroise. New Era covers influences from pop, rock, reggaeton/dancehall, flamenco and Spanish guitars. Ambroise is a master of his art, and brings his guitar chops to New Era in full effect.

I was very much looking forward to this album when it came, and I was not disappointed by Jacky Ambroise on guitar. I wasn't as excited about the electronic/dance elements to the recording, which seem to detract from the virtuoso guitar contained within. Highlights include Rosa Maria, The Groove Is On Fire, Yanvalooh and A Brasileria. The latter is my favorite on the album.

Jacky And Strings are an incredibly talented group. The songs are danceable and intriguing, and Jacky Ambroise has a special flair with his guitar that is not often seen in popular music. New Era is a nice treat.

Rating: 3.5 Stars
(Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jackie and Strings at The website will offer a link where you can purchase New Era.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

CD Review: Marian Call - Vanilla

Marian Call - Vanilla
2007, Marian Call

Okay, stop what you're doing and pay attention. It's not often that you get the opportunity to meet an artist like Marian Call, and I want to make note of it so that years from now you can recall where you were when you first heard that name. Hailing from the great northern outposts of Alaska, Marian Call is the export Alaska has been waiting for to top Jewel.

If you're looking for a popular comparison for Marian Call, the closest I can come is Nellie McKay. Marian Call's primary instrument is the acoustic guitar rather than the piano, and she uses irony more than overt anger to get her point across, but her songwriting skills are in the same class. To add to all of this is the voice. Marian Call has a warm voice that sounds equally superior in either alto or soprano ranges. Her sound is unique enough to become iconic in time.

Vanilla is an amazing debut. There is not a weak track go be found on the CD. The music is diverse and dynamic and flows like an album should. Marian Call is very much in control from start to finish. Fret is the opening song, about the guilt the singer feels about not returning feelings in kind to a suitor. The lyrical construction of the song is remarkable, and is typical of the songs on Vanilla. Call has a singular ability to tell stories in her songs that are part stream of consciousness and part careful confessional. The twists and turns of lyric are those you'd expect from an accomplished lyricist, and are surprising and delightful from a newcomer.

The Volvo Song shows the vocal range and dexterity of Marian Call, as well as the complexity she can create riffing on a simple melody line. This is currently my favorite track on the album, but the favorite keeps changing. Flying Feels Like displays Call's willingness and ability to take musical risks with melody choices. The decidedly dark minor-key verses resolve into uplifting major key choruses that betray the singer’s true ambivalence.

Be sure to check out Sunday Afternoon and I'm Yours, the latter of which has "wedding song" written all over it. With the right push from a label, I'm Yours might become the most requested first dance song of the next decade. No kidding.

Stop What You're Doing is the sort of song Sarah McLachlan has been making millions on for years. It doesn't sound like anyone other than Marian McCall, but it made me think of McLachlan, particularly in the chorus. Your Fault is a stark confrontation set to music, and sounds like it might have walked off the soundtrack of some prime-time teen soap opera. Chelsea Morning is a gorgeous closure to Vanilla, and will be running through your head incessantly until you next pop the CD in.

Oh yes, the title track. Vanilla is a tragic-comedy of self-doubt, and is impressive because of how unabashedly honest it is. Fans often think they know an artist from their songs, and usually what you get to know is a caricature that is part the person and part projection. One gets the impression from listening to Marian Call that there is no subterfuge or misdirection in her songwriting. Marian Call can sing openly about herself because of a self-awareness that surpasses her years. Pepper this with the sort of insecurities that we all feel and seldom voice and you have the essence of Vanilla.

Look, there are singer-songwriters, and then there are artists who transcend their genre to become divas, icons, symbols, or whatever label you want to use. This doesn't happen in one album but over the course of time through repeated excellence and reinvention as an artist. There are a mere handful of such artists every generation, and some burn out before they ever get recognized for what they truly are. But if I were a betting man, I would put my money on Marian Call.

Vanilla is a Certified Desert Island Disc, and any other awards or monikers you can think to throw its way. It's the best thing I've heard thus far in 2008, and is one of the three best debut albums I've ever heard. Remember the day and time when you first heard about Marian Call, and get on the bandwagon soon. This star is going to burn bright.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Marian Call at, where you can purchase a copy of Vanilla. You can also pick up Vanilla at Also note that there was a limited edition release of Vanilla with the bonus track It Was Good For You Too. This is sold out, but you may be able to pick up a copy on