Sunday, August 31, 2008
Kav - Blaggers N Liars
2007, The Feeling Records
Kav is a singer/songwriter from Leicester, England who carries himself with the swagger of rock and roll monolith. Called a modern-day Jagger by The Guardian, Kav Sandhu projects himself as a prince of rock and roll. His debut EP, Blaggers N Liars was released in April of 2008.
Blaggers N Liars opens with Lizard King, a garage sounding rock tune with layered guitar parts and crunchy distortion. It sounds as if an entire band sings every lyric throughout the EP, which for me is a bit distracting. Up next is the title track, Blaggers N Liars, which starts with a dual percussion part between drums and bass and morphs into a straightforward guitar rock sound. There is such a chasm between the vocals and the music here. Because the lyrics are sung in chorus style, the energy that the songs call for is lost or muted. Even where the music is vibrant the singing kind of kills the energy.
It's not that the singing is bad; it's just nondescript because of the style it’s done in. The music itself has a punk energy to go with the quasi-mellow guitar experimentations. Musically promising, Blaggers N Liars never quite gets off the ground to fulfill its promise. Kav has strong potential, and there are signs of it here, but not enough to get me excited about this particular CD.
Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Kav at www.myspace.com/kavsonic. You can download Blaggers N Liars through iTunes.
Hillbilly Hellcats - Our Brand
1998, Rockin' Cat Records
The Hillbilly Hellcats are one of the more interesting bands I've come across this year. The influences you can hear in the music are a virtual who's who of classic rock and roll. The easiest way to describe them is a cross between The Stray Cats and The Traveling Wilburys, with a little Johnny Cash thrown in for good measure. Derivative to the point of originality, there's no one quite like the Hillbilly Hellcats out there right now. Our Brand is a great introduction!
Our Brand opens with Road Rage, an ironic look at dysfunctional road relationships. Everybody There Was Drinkin is a fun tune in the rockabilly tradition. Hillbilly Love is an example of sense of humor of the Hillbilly Hellcats. Be sure to check out Train To Nowhere, which fits into the hybrid Punktry (Punk Country) genre quite nicely. Other highlights include Cats Like Us, Rockabilly Rebel, I Never Thought, Double Time, Better Be Some Drinkin' and My Baby Drives Me Crazy.
Our Brand is classic rockabilly with just a hint of humor. The Hillbilly Hellcats are a very talented trio who manage to take an old genre and make it sound new all over again. I can only imagine what a live show would be like with these guys. Incredible. The Hillbilly Hellcats are definitely a band to watch out for.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Hillbilly Hellcats - Rev It Up With Taz
1996, Rockin' Cat Records
Rev It Up With Taz opens with Hillbillies On Speed, which is punk bluegrass at its absolute finest. White Trash is a nifty tune that combines rockabilly with a Louis Prima style call and response motif. I Like Whiskey is an ode to all substances frowned upon under drugs laws and is quite catchy. Other highlights include My Baby Moved, Crazy Little Baby, Tom Grey's Dream, the politically incorrect Slappin' My Baby Around, Mudflap Baby and the frenetic I Dig Jazz.
There really isn't much here not to like. There is a definite anti-PC vein in the Hillbilly Hellcats' music, and that may offend some, but it's really all tongue in cheek. This is a great party record, or great for listening to you when you want to be inspired to get up and go. Rev It Up With Taz is definitely worth a listen.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about the Hillbilly Hellcats at www.myspace.com/hillbillyhellcats. You can purchase a copy of Our Brand at www.cdbaby.com/cd/hellcats2. You can purchase a copy of Rev It Up With Taz at www.cdbaby.com/cd/hellcats.
Laura Roppe - Girl Like This
2008, Laura Roppe
San Diego’s Laura Roppe is determined to stand country music on its head. Moving back and forth between classic country and honky-tonk styles, Roppe brings a classy, soulful-alto voice that is much more powerful pure than your typical country crooner. On her 2008 debut, Girl Like This, Roppe unleashes a tidal wave of color and emotion that transcends her genre and raises her to a level that has legs far beyond the bounds of Nashville.
Girl Like This is a rockin' country opening that sets the tone for all that is to come. Mama Needs A Girl's Night Out is anthemic for young mothers everywhere and sounds like it might be a marketer's dream song. Free is workhorse of a song that crosses over firmly into rock and roll. Little Daughter will tug at the heartstrings particularly if you're a parent. Also be sure to check out Ooh La La, Sing A Love Song and Crazy About You And Me.
Laura Roppe is the sort of singer that could be singing most any style of music. The material here even ranges into easy listening/vocal genres at times. Girl Like This is a dynamic and winsome debut that could develop quite a following with the right breaks. Roppe's songs are very commercially viable without being commercial, and Roppe herself is a charming and warm voice. Make sure that Girl Like This is on your want list.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Laura Roppe at http://www.lauraroppe.com/, where you can purchase a copy of Girl Like This either on CD or as a download.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Boiled In Lead - Silver
2008, Omnium Records
Boiled In Lead has been creating a joyous patois of Celtic, Gypsy and American Folk/Rock music for many years. Neither the fall of years or changing of personnel has deterred them from creating fanciful and esoteric art-rock/folk. 2008 sees the return of Boiled In Lead with Silver, a satisfying return to form from this great band.
Silver opens with Apple Tree Wassail, an alms tune that seems to announce that Boiled In Lead are returning to their roots. Jolly Tinker is another example of this step back in time, even with modern embellishments. Come In From The Rain is a classic reel that grows from a Spartan and dark opening to a lively end. Other highlights include Berber, the gorgeous Death on Hennepin, the dark and lovely Corner House and The Rushes Green.
Whatever is happening in the world -- no matter what travails Boiled In Lead have encountered, you can always count on them for making great music. And the live shows? Please! If you have the chance I highly recommend a Boiled In Lead Show. Short of that, be sure to pick up Silver, one of the better recordings I've heard from Boiled In Lead.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Boiled In Lead at http://www.boiledinlead.com/, where you can purchase and many other fine recordings!
Claire Hayek has a vocal sound that is reminiscent of Cher without the gross vocoder fabrications that she adopted later in her career. Hayek has the same sort of dark timbre to her voice and is very distinctive and easy to recognize (once you know the voice). Intention is a modern rock album that mixes straightforward songwriting with the sort of electro-effects that have become common in rock albums that look to break the dance barrier. 2008 sees the release of Hayek's debut CD, Intention.
If Only I is one of the gems of Intention. Stripped down to just guitar and voice, you can start to see the true potential of Claire Hayek. Without all of the effects to step over or around, Hayek relaxes and delivers a stunningly beautiful performance. Just Another is a great soundtrack tune, probably for a nighttime teen drama or reality show. Also check out Baby Girl, which wants to be a great song but can't quite escape the producers and becomes merely a good song. Nevertheless it aptly shows off Claire Hayek's voice quite effectively.
Also worth a listen is What About (Mother), written with a baroque opening that opens up into Claire Hayek and piano. The song is pure theater and allows Claire Hayek to paint a very different picture with her voice. This is where you'll decide that you have to buy absolutely anything the woman ever puts out. Is it a hint that Hayek has a strong future in musical theater or at least more dramatic pop rock? Perhaps. What it clearly states is that Hayek is better than at least half the material on Intention. If you're not convinced yet, then check out Redemption Song. You'll weep.
Intention wants to be much better than it is, if only to satisfy the talent and reach of its artist. Instead of earning a place on everyone's Desert Island list, Intention becomes a pretty good album by an incredible artist. In American Idol terms, it's about song selection. The producers share some of the blame in this as well. Production is about bringing out the best in the artist and the song. Sometimes a plain song can be elevated to greatness based on the performance of the artist. The addition of novelty sounds to make a song more palatable is never a good idea, and here backfires completely in a few cases. Nevertheless, a worthwhile album. Claire Hayek should be around for a long time to come. Talent like this never stays hidden.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Claire Hayek at www.myspace.com/clairehayekmusic.com. You can purchase a copy of Intention at www.cdbaby.com/cd/clairehayek.
2008, Omnium Records
Felonious Bosch treads some of the same waters as Boiled In Lead. Both bands come from the Minneapolis music scene, although Felonious Bosch definitely has a darker sound. On 2008's New Dark Ages, Felonious Bosch accentuate their strengths with (primarily) Celtic influenced folk/rock tunes
Far and away the class of New Dark Ages is Behind The Wall Of Sleep, which sounds appropriately like an Irish Funeral Dirge. The stark and stagnant beauty of this tune is powerful and alive and will stick with you long after the last strains of its melody have died away. Other highlights include Valle, Better Days, Ode To Billy Christ and Drunken Brawl.
Felonious Bosch may be something of a niche band. They are a little too dark for your typical Celtic and folk fans but are incredibly talented and can turn a tune in amazing directions right before your ears. New Dark Ages is a bit uneven but generally successful. If you like Boiled In Lead (see review of Silver), then you'll probably like Felonious Bosch, even if it is a few steps further down that road. Check out New Dark Ages, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Felonious Bosch at http://www.feloniousbosch.com/, where you can purchase a copy of New Dark Ages.
Friday, August 29, 2008
2008, CBS Records
Los Angeles' Keaton Simons is sitting on a goldmine. A gifted singer, songwriter, guitarist and performer, Simons has been wowing audiences in LA for years, and has spent several years on the road introducing himself to artists around the West and Midwest. 2008 saw the release of Simons' full length debut, Can You Hear Me on CBS Records. Simons' offering can best be described as thoroughly original, with nods to Dave Matthews and John Mayer.
Can You Hear Me is a dynamic and wonderful record. I sat down to listen to Simons with certain trepidation. The album cover was strong on image, and the press materials sounded to me like more form over substance. How wrong I was. Keaton Simons just might be the first wave of the next generation of singer-songwriters. Without Your Skin is a poignant song about human need. I thoroughly enjoyed To Me, a mellow yet moving soft rock ballad. Good Things Get Better should be plastered all over the airwaves. This song is highly marketable and could make Simons rich on its own. Other highlights include the country flavored Misfits, Burch Mog, Joseph, and the eerie Unstoppable (my favorite song on Can You Hear Me).
Keaton Simons has quite the history behind him: A failed record contract with Maverick Records, drug use/abuse, and years toiling in front of small crowds in LA. With Can You Hear Me Keaton Simons comes fully into his own. I would suggest that many readers will have a hard time putting this disc down.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Keaton Simons at http://www.keatonsimons.com/. You can purchase Can You Here Me at Amazon.com, on iTunes as a download, or through most major music retailers.
Jack Jezzro is perhaps one of the most heard guitarists in the world. His recordings have sold over 10,000,000 copies worldwide. His songs have been played on Friends, J-A-G, Martha Stewart Living, A&E Biography, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, E! True Hollywood Story, Oprah, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and many others. If you've flown United, Delta or U.S. Airways there's a good chance you've heard his music.
As a member of the Nashville String Machine he played with some of the biggest recording artists alive, including Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, The Beach Boys and Amy Grant. NSM also provided music for motion pictures such as Pocahontas, The Green Mile, The Rookie, and Conair. Additionally, he's produced 200+ albums over the years, had one Grammy Nomination, seven Dove Award nominations, and won one Nashville Music Award. So you've likely heard Jack Jezzro before even if you have no idea who he is.
Who he is: Possibly the premier guitar player in the Nashville Music scene, and perhaps the heir to Chet Atkins' throne as the greatest guitar player alive. Jezzro can play absolutely anything, and well. What distinguishes him from so many other guitarists is a sense of taste and refinement and a contrapuntal style that is difficult to master. Jack Jezzro was always something of a natural, even in his early days growing up in Rivesville, West Virginia. Today we look at three recordings from Jezzro spanning a nine year period.
1998, Jack Jezzro
Brazilian Nights is a South American flavored album that garnered significant critical acclaim for Jezzro upon its release in 1998. At first listen it sounds like typical dinner music, but Jezzro is an artist even more so than a musician, and Brazilian Nights is a meal unto itself. From the opening strains of Brazilian Nights to the closing notes of Midnight In Rio, Brazilian Nights is an absolute feast. Jezzro brings all of the class and panache of early Herb Alpert recordings along with unbelievable smooth guitar chops. Highlights include Fiesta Espanol; Paqueta, Isle Of Love, and The Beach At Ipanema.
This early offering from Jack Jezzro is an extremely enjoyable listen. Brazilian Nights will carry you away.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
2002, Hillsboro Jazz
Jack Jezzro tries his hands at Jazz standards and should-be-standards on 2002's Jazz Elegance. His emotional take on My Funny Valentine is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and itself worth purchasing the disc. Other highlights include Night And Day, Jake's Tune, Stella By Starlight and 'Round Midnight.
Jezzro outdoes himself on Jazz Elegance. This is a master class in jazz guitar.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
2007, Village Square Music
Opening with I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good, Jezzro early establishes his ability to bring a sense of newness to classic standards. This is a song that is difficult to pull off as an instrumental. Jezzro brings a melancholy life out of the song that is not what you would expect, but after hearing it you have a hard time imagining it any other way. Other highlights include Make Someone Happy, Autumn Leaves, I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face, Body And Soul and The Nearness Of You.
Jack Jezzro gets inside the music on Solitude like few other musicians have ever managed. His music is a gift. Solitude is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Jack Jezzro at http://www.jackjezzro.com/, where you can purchase these and other fine recordings.
2008, EMI Music
I struggled with how to classify The Ponsonby DC's for my readers, and then I realized that many of you may have heard their cult classic G'Day Mate. Release in 1986, G'Day Mate was something of a novelty splash in the US, as well as in the band's native New Zealand. Like most Americans I know little of the New Zealand Psyche, but The Ponsonby DC's did as much to define New Zealanders for US audiences as the Jacko did to provide us a national consciousness of Australians. For good or for ill, The Ponsonby DC's decided in 2007 to have an in-studio reunion without much rehearsal or forethought, just to see how it would go. I am happy to report that the resulting album, entitled That's What All The Girls Say!, is more than we could have even hoped for.
The Ponsonby DC's are comprised of Gavin Buxton (Polyvocal Hyper Jive, The Membranes); Keith Dion (Corsica, 3:05 AM, Martial Law); Jay Foulkes (The Finn Brothers, Bic Runga, Martial Law, Shona Laing) and Christ Watts (The Newmatics). Accordingly The Ponsonby DC's are something of a super group. If you can imagine The Beautiful South having their genes spliced with They Might Be Giants and Wilco then you'll have a vague idea of the sound here.
That's What All The Girls Say! is a sonic treat of 16 songs mixing mellow rock, Americana and reggae with humor and panache. Highlights include Pluto's Not A Planet Anymore, Girls!, Pink Flamingo (McCartney), Eat Dirt and Little Baby You're Mine. Above and beyond highlights, check out Son Of A Street Fighting Man, which may be one of the finest pop songs I've heard this year.
Interestingly enough I didn't like this disc on first listen. I popped in a couple of weeks ago got about five songs in and took it out. I don't know if it was a mood thing or the fact that I was at work and not able to give it full attention, but I was more than pleasantly surprised when I sat down to listen to it again and found myself enjoying it like crazy. The moral of the story is to give That's What All The Girls Say! a couple of listens before passing judgment. It's just got this great groove to it that draws you in and holds on tight. The Ponsonby DC's have made a special album, almost by accident. This is definitely a disc you want in your collection.
You can learn more about The Ponsonby DC’s at http://www.corsicaband.com/. Keep checking back for purchase information!
Corsica - Sight Of The Sun
2008, 3:05 AM Music
Corsica is something of a San Francisco/New Zealand supergroup, with former members of Martial Law, Tripsychord, 3:05 AM, The Corleones and The Sneetches. They offer up a brand of acoustic folk rock that is reminiscent of The Moody Blues. High in melody and lush acoustic instrumentation, Sight Of The Sun is a fulfilling sonic experience.
Beautiful Remains is a moving little rock tune with big ideas. Fleshed out in electric instrumentation this would be a monster guitar rock song. As it is Beautiful Remains is will get you moving in your seat. Sunspell is also quite enjoyable, featuring Sandy Poindexter (Dizzy Gillespie) on violin. Into The Amber has a Gin Blossoms down home feel to it. Safe Harbor is a sea shanty of the first magnitude. Other highlights include Lights Of Tuscany, By Nightfall and River Of Sand.
Sight Of The Sun is a very strong recording. Corsica is a bundle of top-notch musicians doing what they do best. I highly recommend this to my readers.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Corsica at http://www.corsicaband.com/. I was not able to find a purchase point for Sight Of The Sun. I would recommend you contact Corsica through their website for more information.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Pete Groch - No Frills
2008, Pete Groch
One of the greatest joys of doing this review thing is when I get to introduce my readers to someone who is truly new. Not just someone who’s been out there awhile and you’ve never come across, but someone who is truly new and talented and exciting. Haverstown, Pennsylvania’s Pete Groch is just such a guy.
Pete Groch fits nicely into the space between folk and rock and roll. He has a keen ear for melodies and a seeming "less is more" approach to songwriting. The music exists simply to support and move the song along. In this Pete Groch proves to be nothing short of brilliant. No Frills is ten songs full great melodies, strong hooks and snappy lyrics.
My personal favorite is Going Blind, which is a neat little toe-tapper that you'll want to keep replaying. Traveling On and Answering Dreams are other highlights selected from ten great songs! Groch finds a way to maximize the life in each one, welcoming you into the story rather than leaving you on the sidelines. There is a talent for engagement that some singers just seem to come by naturally. It can be learned, but it works on a much deeper level if you have it naturally. Pete Groch does.
No Frills may be a musical philosophy as much as a song title. Pete Groch’s straight forward story telling and enchanting melodies make No Frills a must-hear CD. Don’t miss out on this guy. This is the sort of quiet beginning that sometimes ends up as something huge.
Rating: 4.0 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Pete Groch at www.myspace.com/petegroch. You can currently download No Frills through http://indietorrent.org/v1/catalog/albums.php?artist=15. It is not clear whether Groch is currently selling CD copies or not, but you could always message him through his MySpace page to find out!
2008, CueZone Records
Ben Senterfit has performed on better than 20 albums since hitting national spotlight as a member of The Wayfarers in the late 1980's. His CueZone Records has been a prolific supporter of Indie music since its inception in 2000. After all of this it is somewhat surprising that 2008's Liberty is only his second solo album. On Liberty, Senterfit fields an eclectic mix of singer/songwriter and rock and roll tunes.
Liberty is a hit or miss album. The songs that worked for me really worked, and the ones that did not I found myself wanting to skip over on subsequent listens. Generally in the review process when I find such songs I make myself listen to them several more times to make sure I am not missing something (sometimes a song will grow on you). With Ben Senterfit the initial reaction seems to be the right one. On balance, I really liked most of the album. Tollman is my favorite song on the entire disc. There is a complete Dylan vibe here, and the song takes on a life of its own. Liberty is built around a lively bass line and some Andy Summers style guitar work. Other highlights include Everyday Come and Streets Of New Mexico.
Liberty is a smart and musically diverse album. When it works, it's a great record. On the songs that didn't work for me the skip button ended up being my best friend. Senterfit is obviously a very talented musician with some strong songwriting skills. I really got into five of the eight tunes here, and I imagine the album will find a solid following. Check out Ben Senterfit - he's worth your time.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
WW: Okay, so you have this 12-year career with Moxy Fruvous, and you all reach a point where you have other things you want to do. How difficult a transition was it from being part of a band to going solo?
MF: It was certainly scary at first. I have the blessing of a wonderful partner (Therese) who believes and supports what I do – that was HUGE. But still, coming from the scheduling ‘auto-pilot’ that being in a full-time band requires, it was hard just to get up and at it. I found myself in Libraries a lot, gradually building the approaches and concepts that now define what I do. Also, live performance is vastly different. With Fruvous, one could just coast every now and then for part of a show, knowing the others would be there. Solo is quite intense.
WW: How did you come to writing songs about people, places and events in Canadian History? Was this a conscious choice or did it find you somehow?
MF: This came and grabbed me. The two biggest reasons were My Dad and Touring. In my teens and twenties, my Dad ran his own business creating Audio-Visual educational resources, much of it about aspects of Canadian History. So there was an office at the house I could wander into and pour over images, books, maps. I was hooked. After high school, I travelled across Canada for French Immersion, Mountain Climbing, Tree-Planting, and just general exploring. This, followed by a decade of very intense Fru-touring, introduced me to amazing places, people and stories across Canada, so the songs just started coming out. That I’ve embraced it so fully is in no small part due to my feelings that we suffer in Canada from a great lack of historical awareness and interest, which becomes a great weakness as regards civic participation, the common good, ecological health, personal freedom, minority rights, etc.
WW: Can we talk about the creation process for a moment? Did you sit down and decide to write songs about someone like Joey Smallwood, or did you have a melody/progression that suggested Joey Smallwood as a good subject?
MF: With my history songs, it almost always starts with the thematic concept, and some simple lyric sketches – then it goes back and forth between music and lyrics until it’s done. A few of the tunes on the new CD (Creeping Barrage, The Giants) were melodies I had around for a while and came back to mind while I was studying the historical themes.
WW: Are there more tunes from the Canada In Song project that we've yet to hear?
WW: Your last album, Satellite Hotstove, included some songs from The Laker Music Project. Can you tell our readers a little about that?
MF: David Francey is an amazing songwriter – one of only two performers I’ve ever written a ‘fan-letter’ to. (The other is Pete Seeger!). He’s become one of the most sought-after musicians on the festival and folk scenes all over the English-speaking world. He’s a wonderful guy, and as a result of that fan letter, Therese and I have become friends of David and his wife Beth. A few years back, David decided to pursue his love for the great Lake Boats of the Great Lakes, by getting to stay on one. I’ve always been fascinated by the Lakers as well, and the immense Lock system that carries them into the heart of our continent. With some arts funding help, David and I where ably to live 2 weeks on a 720-ft Laker (The Algoville) as she sailed from Montreal to Thunder Bay and back. Awe-inspiring. Since then, we’ve been writing songs all about the Sailors, Freighters, Ports and Locks of The St. Lawrence and Great Lakes. We’ve done some Laker shows, with our stories and projected photos, and later this year we’ll be recording them all on one Album, and then performing Laker shows through 2009 – the 50th anniversary of the opening of the modern Seaway. It’s something we are both extremely passionate about. The whole world of it, the people, the structures, the vast inland sea itself, is endlessly fascinating – and yet almost totally ignored in modern media. The album and shows, by the way, will also feature two multi-instrumentalists, Craig Worth (who is David’s musical partner) and Geoff Somers – brilliant musicians. We look to be recording as a foursome this Winter.
WW: What's it like to live on the water for a (period of time) and just focus on writing songs?
WW: You've been in the public eye for a number of years now in one capacity or another. What is one thing that fans might be surprised to learn about you?
MF: I eat a lot of Pastries. A. Lot. Of. Pastries. Well maybe it’s not that surprising. Also, I used to be a baker. Probably a good thing, girth-wise, that I got out of that line of work. Another bit of info probably not widely known is that I am one of 9 children (which probably helped gird me for those long tours in the Frubus!)
WW: Are there any other projects on the horizon for you? Or is there anything new musically that you'd like to tackle eventually?
MF: Two that I’ve alluded to herein. I am extremely excited about getting to record the Laker Project songs with David Francey – this winter if all goes as planned. We want people to be taken on a journey with this Album – a journey into the oft-forgotten, oft-ignored Inland Sea at the heart of this continent. It’s a major thrill to be able to work with David (and Craig and Geoff). Another project, simmering on the back-burner, is the creation of my first French language CD. It will be called “Le retour d’Étienne Brûlé” – a historical person who is usually referred to as the first non-indigenous person to see Southern Ontario, Toronto, The Great Lakes, etc (he lived in this area from 1610 to roughly 1630, left behind his European ways for a ‘Native’ life. The second half of the Album will be about an imagined return by Brûlé to our present era, and his impressions on our modern life. So, in song, I’ll be exploring a whole range of ideas. The fact that it will be my first ‘long-form’ creation as well as entirely en francais does set it up as a hefty challenge, I suppose.
WW: On the new album you have a song entitled "Canada Doesn't Need You". This seems reflective of conversations going around the world about "illegal immigration", and attempts for countries to control who comes through their borders. The song is very melancholy and almost ashamed in tone, whereas the previous "Canada Needs You" was the consummate sales pitch. Do you find yourself emotionally invested in this issue, or are you just a neutral observer in this case?
MF: Unless one is an Indigenous ‘Canadian’, then immigration has figured in one’s presence here. Until quite recently, being let into this country, or the circumstances under which one was let in, was a matter of race. The song “Canada Needs You” is a bit of a spoof on the gung ho sales pitch of 100 years ago. While studying that theme, it became quite clear that the free 160 Acres et al was actually only being offered to pink or pale –hued people. The song ‘Canada Doesn’t Need You’ looks at the same theme in three different snapshots – verse one is Canada’s total refusal of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Europe at the start of WW2. Verse 2 is about the internment (and total property theft) inflicted upon almost every single Japanese Canadian after Pearl Harbour. Verse 3 is about the forced removal of the vast majority of First Nation’ (Indigenous) children from their homes and put into residential schools in order to, in the government’s words “kill the Indian inside the Indian”. There are many lessons to be learned from these atrocious segments of Canadian history. As someone who sings about that history - the happy parts, the quirky parts – I’ve definitely got to focus on these swept under the rug parts as well. Interestingly, I find that those stories are the ones that get the biggest welcome – suggesting that there is a great readiness to understand and act on these themes today. Also, my wife’s family experienced first person the scenarios of Verse 2 above. Hearing their stories inspired me to research and write.
WW: I know a lot of your songs both as a solo artist and even in your Fruvous days had political themes -- some of them very passionate. Do you think you'd ever have the stomach for politics?
MF: I’m certainly fascinated by Party and Mainstream politics, and come election time, I’m often found canvassing door-to-door for a candidate I believe in, but no, I don’t ever see myself taking that kind of plunge. On the activist/educational side, I’m often quite involved politically. When I’m at work doing Songwriting workshops in the High Schools, I like to think I am facilitating political expression – the results from the students are astounding.
WW: If you had to pick one issue in the political realm that means the most to you, what would it be and why?
MF: Justice for Indigenous Peoples. I don’t think it’s ‘bleeding heart’ to admit that the rapid conquest of this continent (through the 16, 17 and 1800’s) was based on thievery, deception, lies, broken promises, and most glaringly, European concepts that the Indigenous were not fully human. I can only really speak to the Canadian situation. The majority of Canadians are hugely uneducated as regards First Nations history, society, and the EXTREME poverty faced by perhaps most of these communities today. Among other things, Land Claim Issues will not simply vanish, and need to be faced, understood and equitably resolved if there is a future for this country. It’s about justice that can’t be continually run away from. I also believe that the conquest mindset of the preceding centuries is alive and well today and at the heart of our ecological crisis, not to mention the apparent feeling that lives lost around the globe to starvation or disease are somehow lives less worthy than our own lucky ones. Okay I’ll shut up now.
WW: Okay, a couple of lighter questions now. Of the songs you've written, what is your favorite at this moment?
MF: Probably “Open For Business”, my subterrainian-homesick-blues-esque commercial for the wonders of neo-con-Sell-Canada-to-the-highest/lowest-bidder-ology! It’s fun to sing and play.
WW: What's the worst song you've ever written, regardless of whether anyone has heard it or not?
MF: Hmmmm. I don’t mind the song “Half As Much” on Fruvous’ Thornhill, but my singing on it is atrocious. Making it my least favourite! The other guys must’ve been just being polite in the studio. I mean, take a breath and sing less annoyingly, lad!
WW: Who are your musical heroes/influences?
MF: Stevie Wonder / Jacques Brel / Gilberto Gil / Randy Newman / The Band / Beau Dommage / Felix Leclerc / David Bowie / Joni Mitchell / Stevie Wonder / David Matheson / Alf Claussen / La Bottine Souriante / Bob Dylan / Israel & Jacob Gershowitz (the Gershwins) / Loudon Wainwright III / Ron Sexsmith / Puccini / Sheesham & Lotus / Sinatra / Caetano Veloso / David Francey / Stevie Wonder etc…..
WW: If you could share the stage with any one performer, living or dead, who would it be?
MF: Stevie (Wonder), circa 1973. I’d be playing the shaker.
WW: Obviously your Canada In Song cycle plays well with Canadian audiences. Any thought of ever taking your act on the road south of the 54-40 again, or are you done with big touring?
MF: Actually. I’ve only been North of the 54-40 3 times in my life (twice to Yellowknife NWT, once to Whitehorse in the Yukon. But if you mean ‘touring into the USA’ , I look forward to appearing at a few festivals next summer, stateside, if all goes well, and I’m hoping to land gigs in Ann Arbor and Buffalo before then. As you notice, very timid in terms of touring – but alas, we did an awful lot of it through the 90’s and I’m much happier closer to home. But…we’ll see.
WW: Okay, one more politically charged question that I have to ask. On Canada Needs You, Volume 2, there was a Moxy Fruvous reunion of sorts. Is there ever any thought of reviving Fruvous even for a few shows for old times sake?
MF: I sure hope so. I wasn’t a big fan of our band the first few years we existed, but once we got touring, I think our sound and abilities really clicked. Frick, by the end, I though we were AWESOME. So, yes, even for a few gigs it would be great. Hmmmmm….
WW: Okay, last chance. The last question is whatever you want to say to the world, to your fans, to a public figure, anything. Tabula Rasa and all that.
MF: Here comes Autumn – pile the leaves high, run through them, skip off work, stare out at the Lake / Ocean / Puddle. Make Art out of refuse. Stay out in the woods all day. Pack a Lunch. Include Martinis.
Mike Ford has released eight albums as a member of Moxy Fruvous and four more as a solo artist (including Satellite Hotstove and Canada Needs You, Volume 2, both of which have been reviewed on Wildy’s World). For additional information about Mike Ford please check out www.mikeford.ca. You can order any of Mike Ford’s solo CDs through MapleMusic.com.
2008, Duane Andrews
You can take someone out of Newfoundland, but Newfoundland can never be removed from the heart of a native. I heard someone use a much more scatological version of that saying on a trip to the University of Western Ontario in the early 1990's, but after meeting a few residents of that island I tend to agree. Duane Andrews seemingly proves the point on his third album, Raindrops. Andrews left Newfoundland to study jazz at St. Francis Xavier University, and went on to study composition in Paris and Marseilles, but some part of his heart has always stayed true to the music of his home. Raindrops offers us a glimpse of Newfoundland's musical traditions interpreted in the style of the great Django Reinhardt with some help from the Atlantic String Quartet.
Andrews is incredibly inventive in both song construction and in performance. If you want to know how Jigs and Reels sound with jazz treatments, check out the sublime Bees and Flowers / Joe Smallwood's Reef. Andrews covers all of the influences in the patois that makes up New Foundland's musical language, including Celtic, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Highlights include Bell Island, Indifference, DD's Blues and Raindrops.
Raindrops is an album for Jazz enthusiasts, Newfoundland folk music fans, and fans of great music in general. I know there are some great guitar players out there, but I would put Andrews up against any of them. Raindrops is a must-hear.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Duane Andrews at http://www.duaneandrews.ca/. You can purchase a copy of Raindrops at www.cdbaby.com/cd/duaneandrews3.
2008, Koch Entertainment
Now this is the sort of big guitar rock album you've been looking for. Toronto's The Joys rock it old school on 2008's Unfold, putting the rock back into blues-rock. There's just a little bit of Janis Joplin in lead singer Sarah Smith who might be the best blues-rock voice to come along since Michelle Malone.
The Joys are not content with just one style of music however. The delicious rock of Soul On Your Sleeve, Storm and Fly is detoured by the country/Americana of Keep Trying To Try, a gem of a ballad. The Joys move easily from genre to genre without a blink of the eye, all the while carrying the big-rock swagger that is tempered by the vulnerability of vocalist Sarah Smith Other highlights include Don't Look Back, the swanky Come Alive, I'll Be Here and Unfold.
The Joys walk the line between rock and roll swagger and contemplation. The result is a delicious mix of styles and sounds rooted in blues/rock and Americana. Add in the utterly amazing voice of Sarah Smith and you have a band that should gain a lot of attention very quickly. Unfold is cold slap of musical reality that will leave you looking at your surroundings differently than before. The Joys are that type of band.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about The Joys at http://www.thejoys.ca/. You can purchase a copy of Unfold through CDPlus.
2008, Ruffiano Records
Riviera is Tim White, Joe Crowley and Brian Neubauer. The Colorado trio mix atmospheric effects with mellow rock to create a sonically interesting hybrid on their 2008 release, Save Yourself.
Lyrically strong, Save Yourself suffers from a general lack of musical energy. Atmospheric doesn't need to mean bereft of energy, it simply means that the energy runs in deep currents that are not always immediately visible but are distinct and measurable. Rivera does find this energy on the last two tracks: Division and Brighter Day. These two songs are strong entries and very much worth the listen. The first three tracks are passable, but just don't fly out of your speakers like Division and Brighter Day do.
I actually very much enjoy what Riviera tries to do here, but the first 3/5 of the EP become hard to listen past the first time. The last two tracks save the CD, and are hopefully a sign of bright things to come from Riviera. Definitely check out Save Yourself, even if only for the last two songs.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Riviera at www.myspace.com/iheartriviera. You can purchase a copy of Save Yourself at www.cdbaby.com/cd/rivieratunes.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
2008, DABB Music
The Wag are troubadours. They meld themselves from song to song based on the style, tempo and mood. You can almost convince yourself as you listen to Soundtrack To A Silent Movie that there are several bands within the band. One vocalist sounds vaguely like John Linnell of They Might Be Giants. In all there are three lead vocalists in WAG and each could front a band of their own.
On top of three top notch vocalists, The Wag has some serious songwriting chops. If all of this talent creates a bit of an identity crisis in the sound at times, it's a problem that any band would be happy to have. Soundtrack To A Silent Movie opens with the funk-laden Everyday. Listen to it. I dare you not to tap your feet. You just can't do it. Already Gone has a Spin Doctors groove to it, with crunchy guitars and sweet harmonies. I Know Now is one of several favorites from this disc. Vocalist Alicia Van Sant is a presence with her powerful alto. Long Years is another personal favorite, and Everybody Said is a definite keeper.
Writing On The Wall has a J. Geils feel to it, and Barely Legal is a fun little tune caught in a 1970's time warp. Fear is an instant classic as well. This is one of those albums that is so wide ranging that it's a little bit difficult to classify. Listening through it I was a little bit on the edge of my seat wondering what style The Wag would pull out of their collective hats next. This is the same sort of enjoyment and mystique that followed bards from town to town in the middle ages. Soundtrack To A Silent Movie carries a sense that there's something magical to be discovered around each turn. The Wag are purveyors of high art in the form of some classic rock and roll. This album is a must have - A Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc!
Rating: 5.0 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about The Wag at http://www.thewagband.com/. You can purchase a copy of Soundtrack To A Silent Movie as well as their two other CDs, Long Story Short and Ordinary Day through their website.
2008, Missy Gossip And The Secret Keepers
Missy Gossip And The Secret Keepers sound like a band you'd come across in some little roadside gin joint just outside of Nashville. Dancing through the entire lexicon of country music styles, Missy Gossip And The Secret Keepers seem equally comfortable (and capable) on classic country as they are on rockabilly, country rock or Americana. The self-titled debut EP from this Atlanta band is a treat.
Lauren Staley (Missy Gossip herself) has a tremendous country voice, reminiscent of Margo Timmons (Cowboy Junkies) with a twang. The lo-fi garage sound on the debut is a refreshing change from the overly polished and produced Nashville clique. This is the sort of country music you'll listen to even if you're not overly fond of country music. Pale Green Lights has a classic Americana vibe, while Grimace Sisters is more of a classic 1970's tear-jerker. Ankle Twister is the sort of country rock tune that will get the whole crowd up dancing, and Little Crimes is a nod to classic country. When You And I Were Young has a dirge-like quality about it. This was probably my least favorite song on the album, and it’s still a decent tune. The album closes out with Beat It, a Michael Jackson cover you have to hear to believe. Even though this is a little bit cheese inducing, Lauren Staley’s voice makes you forget about any misgivings.
Missy Gossip And The Secret Keepers are a great band for a Saturday night. Their debut EP is a fair introduction and is quite enjoyable. Hopefully there will be more to come.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Missy Gossip And The Secret Keepers at www.myspace.com/MissyGossipAndTheSecretKeepers. You can purchase a copy of the EP through their MySpace page.
Akiva started out to be a brain surgeon. This was a dream that took him to Europe and back. In the end though we can’t deny our hearts and Akiva’s heart is in music. 2005 saw the release of Akiva’s The Hermosa EP, the follow-up to his 2003 debut.
The Hermosa EP reveals a pop sensibility similar to that shown by Jason Mraz. Akiva shows strong songwriting skills and a great sense of melody. Lyrically he is adept although at times a bit wordy. His talk/sing style is made more palatable by his pleasant singing voice. Highlights on The Hermosa EP include Holler Hermosa, Six Miles, and Figment on The Fringe.
Akiva is very talented, and The Hermosa EP is a tasty little snack, or a decent brief introduction to him. If you’re in or around New York City I highly recommend you check out a live show. Otherwise, pick up one or both of his CDs. They’re worth the expenditure.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Akiva at www.myspace.com/akiva. You can purchase a copy of The Hermosa EP at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/akiva2.
Akiva - Bueno y Sano
Bueno Y Sano is an interesting mix of styles and sounds. This is a very poppy album with a lot of commercial potential. Babylon has a very radio-friendly vibe to it, and I could hear this getting significant attention on top-40 radio. This Is Life starts out on a DMB-esque riff and moves into a straightforward pop/rock tune with a positive message. Akiva seems to have a gift for snappy lyrics. The music is very variable in style, although it doesn't break any boundaries. The music is not particularly challenging but wraps perfectly around Akiva's lyrics.
Check out Laughing Tuesday's Gone, one of two choices for my favorite song here. Bueno y Sano closes out with Faithful, an incredibly nuanced and mature song that is either an ode to one's own sense of self or to a higher power, depending on how you listen to it. This is my other favorite song on the album. From the songwriter perspective it is miles removed from the rest of the album: A true flash of genius.
Bueno Y Sano is a solid album with some really great moments. It would easily fit into almost any CD or MP3 collection based on the diversity of styles and sounds within it. Akiva is a very talented singer/songwriter: One to be watched. Bueno Y Sano may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
2008, Suburban Noize Records
OPM has been drawing from the well of reggae rock for a number of years now. 2008 sees the return of OPM on Golden State Of Mind. Special guests on Golden State Of Mind include Pato Banton, Sen Dog, Johnny Richter, Nig B, Dj Product and Jamie Allensworth. The party groove is definitely on.
OPM keeps the energy high from the outset of Golden State Of Mind. There is nothing here that is earth shattering or mind bending, but if you are looking for a great party then this would make a good soundtrack. Highlights include Square Peg (Feat. Pato Banton, Family & Friends (Feat. Big B.), Honey (also Feat. Big B.) and Every Minute, which is more of a punk-rock tune.
Golden State Of Mind is a feel-good fifty minutes of modern reggae rock. While not original or ground breaking, OPM’s latest effort is definitely a good time listen. Golden State Of Mind will be released on September 2, 2008.
Monday, August 25, 2008
2008, Lost Soldier Music
The Los Angeles band Lost Soldier finds some nice moments on their self-titled debut. The opening song, I Don't Believe, has some great hooks to it, but seems to be lacking some of the energy that sounds like it wants to burst right out of the song. No Chance sounds like a song right out of the Southern Rock library.
Personal favorites include With Fishing In Mind, Raining In My Brain and Saturday. The music here is a pleasant listen, but something bubbles beneath the surface throughout Lost Soldier, something that wants to come out and light up your CD player. It never fully happens on CD in the way I suspect it might in a live show. This helps turn a potentially great CD into a good one.
Wildy's World recommends Lost Soldier's debut CD, Lost Soldier, but suggests that if you're near a live show you go check them out as well.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Lost Soldier at www.myspace.com/lostsoldier. You can purchase a copy of Lost Soldier at www.cdbaby.com/cd/lostsoldier.
2008, Jimmy Lloyd
Jimmy Lloyd is to music what HBO was to prime-time TV a few years back. Lloyd takes the usual subjects of day to day life: love, lust, family, dysfunction, hard times and detached rage and places them under the light of truth. Instead of the smarmy ironic lyrics common in popular music, we get the dirty, unvarnished truth, Texas style. Add to this a tremendous ear for great pop hooks and you'll understand why Jimmy Lloyd has built a ravenous following in the New York City/Tri-State area. Jimmy Lloyd released his self-titled debut in 2008, managing to capture all the grit and verbal assault that is key to his live performances.
Half Human is a peppy look at a woman with very poor self-esteem. My Baby's Mother is a comic look at the sort of flash violence that sometimes infects even the most genteel of neighborhoods, particularly in a post-Jerry Springer society. Siddhartha In A Chevy may be the most nuanced song on Jimmy Lloyd, keying on how easy it is to get caught up with the wrong person when you're lonely. Also notable is Your Mother's Boyfriend, which encapsulates a typical two hour Lifetime Movie of the Week into a five-and-a-half minute ode to suburban rage.
Be sure to check out Something's Got To Give, a sociologic explanation for the folks whose neighbors end up on the six o'clock news saying, "He always seemed like a nice gentleman...” The album closes with I Never Say Goodbye, a compelling musical stalker soliloquy.
Jimmy Lloyd has rough edges galore, and occasionally he bombs (Cop Bar), but in general he's right on the money. Jimmy Lloyd is a very talented songwriter who has found a uniquely 21st century American voice in much the same way Dylan found a voice for the 1960's. The tableaus he paints aren't often pretty, but they're compelling and disturbing and are imbued with the beauty of truth, however dark. Jimmy Lloyd is one to watch.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Jimmy Lloyd at http://www.jimmylloyd.com/. You can purchase a copy of Jimmy Lloyd at www.cdbaby.com/cd/jimmylloyd.
2007, Spark The Fire Records
Kira Fontana journeyed from her San Francisco Bay roots to the Eastman School of Music and later Yale graduate school to perfect the art of composition. Somewhere along that path she realized that the essence and being of composition is not in the structures and rules of composition but within the heart of the composer. The catharsis of that discovery is Still, the third track on The Inner Revolution. The Inner Revolution is Fontana's debut album, and it places her firmly in the same ballpark as composers such as Tori Amos, Sinead O'Connor and Kate Bush.
Fontana's songwriting is intense and personal - akin to reading a musical diary. Fontana is neither apologetic nor regretful in telling her stories. The Inner Revolution works because the songwriter is looking into her own eyes as she speaks, and telling tales from the only place that truth resides. Home gives the impression of time slipping around the listener, like a remembrance that is part yesterday and part today. Bloom is a disturbingly beautiful ballad that sounds a little bit like Evanescence without the heavy guitars. The aforementioned Still is the most straightforward ballad on the album, with a quiet beauty that accentuates Fontana's sensuous alto.
Always is a nearly nine minute musical exploration of Fontana's compositional creativity. This is jam music for the classically inclined and is really quite brilliant. Interlude was somewhat lost on me, as it sounds more like a writing exercise than a song. It would make pleasant background music but really didn't have anything to say to me musically. Love is a classic pop/rock ballad. Kira Fontana has a breezy voice here that is hopeful and vulnerable all at once. The album closes with Spark The Fire, a plaintive acoustic guitar ballad that is initially reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan but later devolves into effects-laden exploration.
The Inner Revolution is an extremely intriguing album. Fontana is an artist in the truest sense of the word, as such, sometimes her musical choices may seem a little out of place. This is just Fontana being true to herself as a musician rather than writing for pop glory. While we might not always get the choices, the bravery to make those choices instead of falling prey to an easy pop hook is what music is all about. The Inner Revolution is an excellent introduction to Kira Fontana, from whom I have no doubt there will be much more to hear in the future.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
2008, Arden Music
Mary Arden Collins has been making music for some time on her own. In 2008 she formed Arden of Eden with musical partner Mark Gorman. The duo moved cross country from Rhode Island to Los Angeles in order to broaden their musical horizons. Incorporating drummer Jay Bellerose of drums (Robert Plant, Allison Krauss, Beck), they found the mix that created Love Street, due September 23, 2008.
Love Street saunters from the musically mundane to the sonically brilliant. Someday is a beautiful melody enhanced with gorgeous harmonies and full orchestration. It is easily the most beautiful four-and-a-half minutes on Love Street. Listeners also get a treat in hearing the inestimable Keb' Mo' sit in on Mississippi. Collins brings a scratchy-sweet sound reminiscent of early Rebecca Martin on this slow blues tune. Other highlights include the straight forward rocker, Free, the 1980's sounding Strangers, Better and Powerless. Powerless opens with a plaintive cello that is joined by some sweet acoustic guitar work. The only distraction here is that the additional percussion actually detracts what has the potential to be a still, quiet musical miracle.
Arden Of Eden has already had music featured on Joan Of Arcadia and Criminal Minds, as well as the films The Thing About My Folks and Solstice. Mary Arden Collins has a voice that lends itself to obsessive listening, and the material here is lush and beautiful. Love Street is definitely worth checking out.
Rating: 4.0 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Arden Of Eden at www.myspace.com/ardenofeden. Love Street will be released September 23, 2008. Keep checking Arden Of Eden's MySpace page for ordering information!
Saturday, August 23, 2008
2008, Jazz Junk
Pasadena’s Jazz Junk comes across as rather tongue-in-cheek on their demo. Loser is either an attempt to be funny or a mean-spirited rant. It fails the humor test and instead of charming comes across as just a bit crass, lyrically. That being said, Emily Burns’ vocals are outstanding and the musical arrangement is tight. Neglect was pleasant but not terrible memorable, sounding more like a jam progression than a song. Is One Woman Ever Good Enough? returns to the smart, tight arrangements noted on Loser. This song also comes across as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but is a little more successful as an ironic viewpoint. This is my favorite song on the disc and sounds like something that could be part of a musical. The demo CD closes out with Voices, the most rock-oriented tune on the demo. This is a track with commercial potential, although the mix needs to cleaned up just a bit.
Jazz Junk shows a lot of promise. Emily Burns is an extremely talented vocalist, and I look forward to hearing more of her. The band is top-notch as well, and I would expect big things from them in the future. A good producer could really help bring the best out of Jazz Junk. I believe there are a lot of gems to be found here.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Jazz Junk at www.myspace.com/jazzjunk. It appears that Jazz Junk have recently released an EP entitled Creatures Of Habit. I do not have any purchase information for this disc, but if message Jazz Junk through their MySpace page I am certain they’ll be happy to hook you up.
200 Lurkers - The Music Of 200 Lurkers
2008, 200 Lurkers
The Music Of 200 Lurkers is very quiet and repressed in the same way that the Cowboy Junkies have always come across. Musically very talented, 200 Lurkers relies on understatement and quiet passages to draw you in closer. The downside being that if you're not listening closely you'll never have a chance to get this Cologne, Germany band. 200 Lurkers write songs that aren't exactly mournful, but don't exactly make you jump for joy either. The Music Of 200 Lurkers is contemplative and intelligent, with mellow, melancholy musical backdrops that will either lull you in or turn you away.
Highlights include The Pilot, Breathing Water, The Little Lighthouse and the live version of Space Walk that closes out the disc. This is an interesting disc, as I can see listening to it in the right mood. It's definitely not something I'd want at the gym or for an active day. I'm afraid if I listened to it at work it might lull me to sleep. But for a rainy afternoon or a quiet evening on the back deck it's perfect. The melodies are quite lovely, in general, and the arrangements are well-constructed and well-played, this is just a little too low key for a lot of situations.
200 Lurkers get high marks for intelligent lyrics, great melodies, and great songwriting. This is definitely a niche disc -- you'll either love it or not fairly quickly into your first listen, but many rewards lie beneath the still surface for those who will listen. The Music of 200 Lurkers is a worthy effort.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about 200 Lurkers at www.200lurkers.com. You can order custom CDs from the 200 Lurkers website. Just check out the streaming audio, e-mail them to arrange payment and they’ll create a custom CD based on the tracks you’ve chosen.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Kati Mac - Poseidon's Son
2004, Baby Munsta Music
Kati Mac is a New York City songwriter who makes the rounds of the music business. She works as a session vocalist for live talent and commercials as well as writing music for television. Her real love is for writing and performing her own material. The latest product of that love is Poseidon's Son, 15 tracks of poppy and poignant music.
Featuring Only Love, the new theme from CBS' The Guiding Light, Poseidon's Son is destined to be a commercial darling. Only Love gets the full gospel treatment and sounds like a potential #1 single with the right push. I'll admit it sounds a bit too positive to be a soap opera theme, but what can you do? It's a tremendous song - who can blame the folks at CBS for licensing it? Of The Center is a gorgeous melody that sounds seriously familiar in spots. Kati Mac's voice is exuberant throughout and carries this song in a way many artists could not.
Poseidon's Son is just Kati Mac and piano, and is starkly beautiful. Kati Mac gives it the full ballad treatment, running from soulful soprano to sensuous alto as easy as taking a breath. Don't be surprised if this song gets licensed for some show or movie in the not too distant future. Ditto I Keep Dreaming, a busy and soulful song full of the remorse of love lost.
Isyawitme? is a bluesy funk-disco concoction that should be a nightclub hit, and again has an extremely licensable sound. Other highlights include the gorgeous It's Only Love, the ironic I Heard You Twice The First Time, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not, and Like I Could. They don't end there. At 17 tracks, Poseidon's Son is full of musical gems. At The Edge Of The Pond is a sweet little folk number, and Freaky Deaky is another funk-laced dance tune.
Saving Grace is one of my personal favorites here, a pure country ballad with a beautiful melody that will ring in your ears long after the last musical strands of Poseidon's Son have died away.
Kati Mac has a talent for writing hooky pop songs with memorable lyrics and strong melodies that have a way of sticking in your head. Add to this her silky, soulful voice and you have a recipe for great things. Expect to hear many of her songs on primetime television, and expect to buy the album anyway because despite her commercial appeal, Kati Mac is a little bit deeper than your typical pop fluff. Don't be entirely surprised if Poseidon's Son catapults Kati Mac into the national consciousness. All she needs is the right break and this album could sell millions.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Kati Mac at www.katimac.com, where you can purchase a copy of Poseidon’s Son or any of her other three CDs. You can also download single songs through her site.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Ingrid Olava - Juliet's Wishes
2008, EMI Records
Norway's Ingrid Olava runs the gamut from starkly beautiful piano ballads and lushly orchestrated aural landscapes on Juliet's Wishes, her debut album. There is serious classical training in Ms. Olava's resume, and it bleeds over into the song construction in what may turn out to be a break out album.
Juliet's Wishes opens with Stars, a sparse yet lovely song that introduces you to her gorgeous alto voice and amazing sense of melody. The song is full of a quiet yearning that is unresolved and unrepentant. Headlines is one of several songs here that will make you think of early Tori Amos material. Back To Love is one of several favorites here, a rueful song about running away from love.
The song William made me do a double-take. Olava sounds so much like Canadian chanteuse Sarah Slean on this song its frightening. This is more of a freeform poem sung with a musical background, similar in form to a recitative in an opera. The title track, Juliet's Wishes is another favorite here, and will draw comparisons once again to Slean. And definitely do not skip Slippery, the closing track. It has the feel of dusk on a fall day when puddles are ringed with ice crystals and you can smell the first snow coming.
Ingrid Olava appears to have a talent for finding hope within sadness and light within darkness. Her music is intensely personal and beautiful. Juliet's Wishes is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful exposition into the mind of Ingrid Olava. (Like an enemy waiting to strike / heartache remembers my name). It’s not an upbeat album, and you won't dance to it, but my guess is it will occupy your cd/record/mp3 player for some time to come.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Ingrid Olava at www.myspace.com/ingridolava. Any of the sites I could locate that appear to be selling the CD are either in Norwegian or Japanese. This is a major label release in Norway, and so you should be able to order it through your local Borders or Barnes and Noble (maybe). If anyone finds a good source for this disc please let me know, and we’ll update this information accordingly.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Ladies and Germs, it’s a Wildy’s World EXCLUSIVE!
How would you like to win a signed copy of Beware Fashionable Women’s self-titled debut album (See review here)? Besides the fact that it’s free, it will be signed by the band, and there’s probably some extra DNA material on there you can use to grow your own version of the band if you are so inclined! (We at Wildy’s World do not condone the practice of cloning bands).
“But Wildy, how do I win?” you ask. Right-O! What follows is a list of questions that you must answer and submit to Beware Fashionable Women by messaging them on their MySpace page! (This will require you “friend-ing” them first). Beware Fashionable Women’s personnel will take time off from planning world domination to review each answer individually. The respondent with the most correct answers will win an autographed copy of Beware Fashionable Women, and the ardent admiration of all their friends and neighbors. What’s more, the band will even mail it to you for free!
All responses must be received through Beware Fashionable Women’s MySpace page no later than Friday August 29th at Midnight, Eastern Standard Daylight Savings Time-ish. This offer void where prohibited.
1. What was the name of the first album by The Violent Femmes?
2. What was the name of the original drummer for the Beatles?
3. Who wrote the song “Hallelujah” (as performed by Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright?
4. How many people were in Ben Folds Five?
5. In what year did the Beach Boys originally release Pet Sounds?
True Or False: Beware Fashionable Women is your new favorite band.
And for our Canadian neighbors to the North…
Best of luck to everyone! And no worries, Beware Fashionable Women friends everyone on MySpace. Except Me. They’re still mad because I didn’t give them 5.5 stars out of 5.
Enda Reilly - Oxygen 21
2008, Enda Reilly
There is a fine, fine line between brilliance and insanity. The fact that Enda Reilly appears to surf both rims of the pipeline on Oxygen 21 is neither frightening nor surprising. Reilly leaves nothing off the table stylistically, and does not appear to shy away from any particular subject matter either.
Oxygen 21 is a celebration of what we breathe every day, with references to the trees provides it and the windmills that may harness it. The quasi-cabaret, quasi-bluegrass arrangement is unique and interesting. Strangers On A Train discusses an erstwhile pact made with a stranger (think Throw Momma From The Train). It's humorous and well-arranged. Just when you're starting to think "novelty record", Enda Reilly busts open a song like Hidin' Away, a beautiful and poignant song based on some serious acoustic guitar work. Reilly returns to the lighter side somewhat with I'm Doin' Fine Just The Way I Am.
Somewhere in here you realize that Enda Reilly isn't a comedian, he's more of a musical magician who happens to hit the funny bone on occasion (ala Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman). Other highlights include the stream of consciousness Hear The Cries, the bizarre Nut In The Hut and I'm Not Crazy ; and Why We Can't Live In Peace. We even get a glimpse of Reilly's live sound in the last track, Henry.
Enda Reilly has an amazing voice. It's a clear tenor with flashes of warm baritone and amazingly clear tone. Reilly handles the guitar very well and appears to have a knack for well-written songs with just a bite of humor. Oxygen 21 is an absolute treat that will make a permanent home in your CD or MP3 collection. So is it brilliance or insanity? You can argue about it, I'm going to go listen to the CD again.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Enda Reilly at www.endareilly.com. You can purchase a copy of Oxygen 21 at www.cdbaby.com/cd/endareilly. You can also purchase downloads from Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, iTunes, Napster and other such sites.
2008, Woodshack Music
Alex Woodard sends a message in the opening notes of his self-titled debut. The CD starts out with the plaintive wail of a pedal steel for about two seconds before it’s stomped on and kicked to the curb by distorted country-rock guitar. Whether it’s an ousting of the old, or just the briefest nod of where country came from, Alex Woodard suggests he won’t be bound by the old. This act of rebellion from the former surfer and childhood actor is a sign of things to come in the music. Woodard doesn’t stay pegged to one genre on his debut, Alex Woodard. He bridges the gaps between Rock, Country and America just as easily as he might surf the pipelines of the Southern California Coast.
The absolute highlight of this album is Reno, the duet with Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins. This is one of the most traditional country sounding songs on the album, and Woodard’s voice works with Watkins’ so well you’d think they’ve been singing together for years. Other highlights include The Table, Photograph, Beautiful Now, and the touching Heather’s Prayer.
Alex Woodard is a talent. He has an easy sound (vocally) that goes down like sugar water. He’s a plus songwriter and I suspect he’ll continue to develop that talent as time goes on. Alex Woodard (the album) is a very strong debut, and should be a sign of great things to come!
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
To learn more about Alex Woodard, check out www.alexwoodard.com. Alex Woodard arrives on August 19, 2008. Here’s a treat! If you pre-order the album through http://www.adrenalinemusicgroup.com/CD_AlexWoodard_PreSale.php, Alex Woodard will write a song about you (plus you’ll get some other neat stuff). Pre-orders must occur before August 19th. How cool is that? (Now if we can just get him to write about the reviewers... :)
Kari Tieger is a singer, composer and producer from Rhode Island who is bilingual for French and English. Her compositions have been on everything from A&E to the O! Network to MTV. She has a very eclectic style that encompasses pop, Broadway, classical and jazz. She shows a dramatic flair in her writing that is at times inspired. Today we are checking out four of her recordings.
In general, Tieger has a very distinctive soprano voice, and is as authentic a Francophone singer as you’ll find in the coffeehouses and concert halls of Paris. She has a very Broadway flair about her at times, and writes somewhat in this vein. You can close your eyes and picture many of her vocal pieces sung under the proscenium at The Winter Garden in New York City or another such venue. While her vocals are strong, composition is her bread and butter. Tieger seems to dance her away around the staves and finds a way to coax magic from the mundane. Like all composers she occasionally misses the bar, but even the misses are interesting.
Nos Mots (2008, Kari Tieger)Nos Mots
is Tieger’s most recent release. It started out as a collection of poems of her friends that she set to music. After recording the five initial tracks for what was to be an EP, Tieger added some compositions of her own and Vos Mots became Nos Mots. Highlights here include Brouillard, Sonatine pour violon et piano and Tout de meme.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Zazen (2007, Kari Tieger)
Zazen is essentially a practical guide to Zen Buddhist meditation, with narration by Tieger. The concept and text is a collaboration between Tieger and French Buddhist Monk Eric Lagarrigue. It is relaxing, and instructive if you are interested in Zen meditation, but is the weakest of the four discs reviewed here.
Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
En Francais, S’il te plait (2001, Kari Tieger)
En Francais, S’il te plait is a French romantic’s dream: twenty-three gothic French songs about love and romance. Sung entirely in French, this album will be a tough listen for some, but it is a perfect for any true lover of French language and culture, and should be must listening for any intermediate or advanced student of the language. Tieger’s theatricality pays off in a big way on En Francais. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Touch Of Magic (1998, Tiger Sound)
Touch Of Magic is recorded in both French and English, depending on the song. This is theatrics at its best. Tieger’s mix of songwriting and performance create a kind of alchemy here that is better heard than described. This is where to start if you want to get to know Kari Tieger’s music. This is Kari Tieger’s watershed album.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Kari Tieger at www.karitieger.com. To purchase copies of her albums, please click on the links below:
En Francais, S’il te plait
Touch Of Magic