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Friday, October 31, 2008

Review: Zealousy - Complications


Zealousy – Complications
2008, Zealousy

Los Angeles DIYers Zealousy ride quite the buzz into the release of their first full length CD, Complications. The Los Angeles quartet has been around since 2005, falling together like leaves off a tree. Vocalist/keyboardist Amarie Darvai has been nominated for a 2008 L.A. Music Award in the category of Best Female Vocal Performance, and has been recognized for her powerful vocal style. Christopher Cody (guitar/keys), Chris Babin (bass) and Bunny Brooks, Jr. (drums) fill out a band that plays more like an organic being than a collective of four musicians. Complications reflects the struggles of an independent band in dark overtones and irreverent epic jams, driven through by the incisive and artful lyrics of Darvai and Cody.

Let’s start with Amarie Darvai. The word is amazing. If Kate Bush and Grace Slick had a love child they’d hope she’d sound as good as Darvai. Amarie pouts and preens, scowls and screams, and very will sings her tuckus off on Complications, proving that one talented artist can carry a band. Not that Zealousy needs to be carried. They’re tight as anything and create a diverse and amazing series of musical tableaus against which Darvai’s voice is amply featured. The album opens with Girl On The Edge, which sways in the wind musically just as the lyrical protagonist does. So I Am is a straight forward pop/rock tune.

Wanting is a driven, angst-filled rock song that is a must hear, but Everything is the centerpiece of the album. This is the song you came for. From the driven chorus full of reproachful anger to the angst filled verses, Everything has hit written all over it. Drop is another delicious pop/rock tune that could be very commercially successful for Zealousy. Other highlights include She Fires The Gun, Wrong Man and Chemical Imbalance.

Zealousy is a band waiting to explode. If you like bands like Evanescence and Garbage, then you need to pick up Complications to see how it’s supposed to be done. Complications is required listening. Zealousy is one break away from being huge.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Zealousy at http://www.zealousy.net/ or www.myspace.com/zealousy. You can purchase a download of Complications at Amazon.com.

Review: Wounded Buffalo Theory - El Brome

Wounded Buffalo Theory – El Brome
2008, Wounded Buffalo Theory


Wounded Buffalo Theory is an experimental rock band from Brooklyn, NY. Using big guitar sounds, jam band tendencies and quirky pop hooks, Wounded Buffalo Theory crafts a sound that is unique and wonderfully ambiguous. Their latest EP, El Brome (to be released in the near future), captures an underlying pop sensibility that would seem to run at odds to their jam band/guitar rock sound.

El Brome opens with Neckface, a progressive rock monster with big guitar work and heavy solos. The six-and-a-half minute jam moves through Malmsteem style rock progressions with a care and ease that can only be captured live. Wounded Buffalo Theory is mostly together here, although the seams do get a little dicey at times. Bodies has a very relaxed, fuzzy opening that turns into a pop-centric Prog tune. Didn’t Go Outside has a heavy garage sound full of fuzz and buzz with a great pop theme running through it. This song is almost radio ready and a top-notch producer would have a field day turning this rough cut into a diamond. The Under Over (live at Southpaw) is 7 ½ minutes of pure progressive jam with some Pink Floyd ambience thrown in for good measure. The Pledge (live at Southpaw) shows that finicky, pop-centric streak that runs through Wounded Buffalo Theory’s progressive, jam-band tendencies. Coming in at over eleven minutes, The Pledge does become derivative after a bit, but the basic core of the song is pop gold.

Wounded Buffalo Theory are diamonds in the rough. The potential here is staggering: Buried deep inside the muddle harry crossbreed of Prog and jam band styles beats the heart of a slick pop outfit. El Brome is a great introduction to both sides of the band (often simultaneously). If Wounded Buffalo Theory ever manages to truly harness that pop sensibility and melodic talent they possess they might just rule popular music. Until then they’re a pretty affecting listen. El Brome is very much worth your time.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Wounded Buffalo Theory at www.woundedbuffalotheory.net or www.myspace.com.wbt. El Brome is not yet available, and I could not locate a release date on any of their web outlets. I would recommend interested readers contact Wounded Buffalo Theory through their MySpace page for more info.

Review: Knox Bronson - Pop Down The Years


Knox Bronson - Pop Down The years
2006, 2008 Tangerine Sky Music


The Bay Area's Knox Bronson creates pop music by running away from pop music. Delving into influences that include 60's pop, classical, jazz, blues and electronica, Bronson creates a musical stew that is different than anything you've heard before, and yet amazingly catching and close to the heart. Bronson writes according to the philosophy that all songs already exist, reaching out into a sort of musical super conscious to bring back bit by musical bit until some pure confection is completed. In this way Bronson creates music that stirs the lifeblood the way Rock N Roll did in the 1960's; the way rap did in the 1980's. Pure creation and pure music blend together to fuel Bronson's first released album, Pop Down The Years. Bronson's muse is true to the long line of tempo-setting pop/rock bands to come out the San Francisco Bay area.

Bronson has this odd air about him that’s part Jim Morrison and part David Bowie, almost as if Ben Stein decided to sing. The result is a jarring listen as your mind tries to wrap itself around his unconventional sound. Pop Down The Years opens with Hey Little Earthgirl, an electronic ode to pop music that is quite catchy. The vocals are buried in effect and heavy synthesizer work, but the music is infectious and will have you tapping your toes. Old Man Cold Man has a stilted vocal style that isn’t monotone but suggests that sort of effect. Take Me Down has the same sort of Jim Morrison on downers affect to it. The style is interesting, but does begin to wear on the listener after a bit. Other songs of note are Bordertown, Celeste and Pop Down The Years.

Knox Bronson is unusual. His depressive Jim Morrison style vocals leave little room for middle ground. You’re either going to fall in love with this record right away or you’ll dislike it on personal terms. The rub is that whatever you think of the delivery, Bronson is a fabulous lyricist. His story-based songs are poetic and masterfully told. Unfortunately the delivery does get in the way at times. Pop Down The Years is a unique creation that should help establish Bronson with sort of folks who like(d) The Cure, Depeche Mode and any of the other semi-depressed Brit bands of the 1980’s.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Knox Bronson at http://www.knoxbronson.com/. You can purchase a copy of Pop Down The Years at www.cdbaby.com/cd/knoxbronson, or you can download it from iTunes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: James Morrison - Songs For You, Truths For Me


James Morrison – Songs For You, Truths For Me
2008, Polydor

James Morrison, at all of twenty-three years old, has already captured the hearts and minds of British Pop fans. With a soulful voice and a mien that belies his age, Morrison has the formula of great songwriting, a soulful delivery and substantive lyrics that make for a great listen. James Morrison’s second album, Songs For You, Truths For Me, works hard to overcome the dreaded sophomore slump. He succeeds.

Songs For You, Truths For Me opens with The Only Night, with Morrison sounding like Rod Stewart in his heyday. The Only Night has a strong Motown vibe supplemented by outstanding harmonies. Save Yourself is an upbeat pop number that would have been a major AM radio hit in the 1970’s or early 1980’s. Be sure to check out Broken Strings, my current favorite on the CD. The highly personal and confessional song strands out for a guarded delivery earthed in minimalist pop aesthetic. Morrison gives his best performance here. Oh yeah, and it’s a duet with Nelly Furtado.

Nothing Ever Hurt Like You goes back to the Motown sound that Morrison seems to do so well, sounding a bit like Stevie Wonder in the process. Morrison’s easy-going delivery is a plus here, modling himself easily to the style. Other highlights include Once When I Was Little, Fix The World Up For You and Love is Hard.

James Morrison is cutting a path in the rock world with new material that is the progeny of 1960’s R&B and its pop derivatives. The vocal similarities to a young Rod Stewart make for a familiar-yet-new sound that will ingratiate him to a lot of listeners in the adult contemporary and pop markets. Morrison is a talented songwriter whose specialty is in the lyrical flow of his songs. Songs For You, Truths For Me reflect the outgrowth of creation where artists often learn more about themselves from the process than from the finished product. To that end the album was a dual success. James Morrison should be with us for some time to come.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about James Morrison at http://www.jamesmorrisonmusic.com/ at www.myspace.com/jamesmorrisonmusic. You can order a copy of Songs For You, Truths For Me at Amazon.com. In a Wildy's World exclusive, I will take the first ten responders to wildysworld@gmail.com who email with "James Morrison contest" in the subject line and randomly select one of them to win a free copy of Songs For You, Truths For Me.

Review: Blue Rabbit - Separate


Blue Rabbit – Separate
2008, Blue Rabbit


San Francisco’s Blue Rabbit goes for Baroque. Mixing the devilishly delightful harmonies of Heather Anderson, Arami Reyes and Sarah Rocklin with cello, drums and Celtic harp, Blue Rabbit delves into Baroque style art-rock that fits perfectly in the San Francisco rock tradition. Blue Rabbit drives their songs with strong lyrical content and melodies you can’t shake. Their debut EP, Separate, is a feast for the ears.

Separate opens with Sleep, an intense somnolent muse with powerful rolling rhythms, quirky instrumentation and gorgeously arranged vocal harmonies. Sleep could be the manic rant of a soul inflicted with intense insomnia. Getting Away mixes electronic and orchestral instrumentation. The music takes a back seat to the vocals here, as the voices of Heather Anderson, Arami Reyes and Sarah “Bangin’ Booty” Rocklin soar like angels and intertwine like golden braids. Separate renews the Baroque Rock push with an intricate and beautifully arrangement musical tableau.

My favorite song on Separate is Missing Piece. The song features voice and cello and has a torch song feel to it. The minor key harmonies make this a haunting piece of music that will stick in your mind long after the CD ceases to spin. The minimalist arrangement makes the most of Blue Rabbit’s collective vocals while allowing the song room to move and breathe of its own volition.

Like I’d Like You To sounds like Sarah McLachlan with a dark aspect. The song lilts and sways through the neurotic midnight of emotions infused in a dysfunctional relationship. This might actually be the best written song on the album. It doesn’t have the same pop sense that some of the other songs on Separate have and so doesn’t stand out as much on first listen. Subsequent listens illuminate the song more and I suspect this will eventually be my favorite song on the disc. Stupid Flag is a fairly generic, pleasant listen. Love Secret returns to the dark, Baroque splendor that seems to infuse the best of Blue Rabbit’s songs on Separate, playing piano and cello against one another in support of perhaps the loveliest melody on the album.

Blue Rabbit is unique. Cello in pop/rock bands is generally relegated to the background, or becomes the raison d’être for bands like Break Of Reality. On Separate the cello is front and center as one of the prime musical movers. Intermixing cello with piano, percussion and the haunting vocals of Anderson, Reyes and Rocklin, Blue Rabbit has found a winning musical combination that will take you by surprise and quickly win you over. Separate is a brave and exciting album that takes big risks and wins. Dark, melodic folk/pop songs with credible weight and depth await you.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Blue Rabbit at www.myspace.com/bluerabbitmusic. You can purchase a copy of Separate at www.cdbaby.com/cd/bluerabbit.

Review: Ryan Farish - Selected Works


Ryan Farish – Selected Works
2002, Farish Music International


Ryan Farish is a testament to how Indie/DIY can work. Starting out on his own, Farish became one of the most popular artists in cyberspace via the old MP3.com. 1.8 million (yes, million) downloads later, Farish had established himself as one of the most popular artists in that site’s history. His songs reached the #1 download spot for his genre 38 times, and led to his music being used on The Weather Channel, and by a number of different movie and television production companies licensing units. Selected Works is a collection of early, rare recordings from his MP3.com days.

Selected Works is a collection of pop/instrumental tunes based heavily in piano/synth, with electronic beats and loads of ambient texture. Call is nouveau new age; mellow disco/dance tunes with lively rhythms and fairly simplistic melodies driven through variations and reprisals. The set opens with Night Winds, a bass-line driven ambient composition that works well as an electronic slow-jam. As A Child has a pure pop-radio sound. You could picture Kylie Minogue or someone of that ilk laying vocals over the top of this piece. If Only is one of the standouts here, sounding like something that might have occurred had John Tesh collaborated with Tangerine Dream.

Dreams In Essence D has a dark-timbered ambient flavor to it, but withers somewhat on the vine. Run To You is pure nightclub material and would do well in that environment. Ancient Dreams is a song you could envision in a motion picture as environmental music. The mix of Native American style flute sounds (electronic) and primal drumming rhythms (again, electronic) speaks well of the composer’s intent, but ultimately becomes something almost cliché. Going Home takes the lite-jazz approach to electronic pop.

Ryan Farish is talented at what he does. In a musical sense, much of Selected Works is fluffy, down-tempo dance pop. While it’s all very listenable, much of Selected Works falls into the category of pleasant but not terribly exciting. Its great music for the background, but not something I’ll feel compelled to pull out and listen to again and again. It just doesn’t express itself as essential.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Ryan Farish at http://www.ryanfarish.com/. You can purchase a hard copy or download of Selected Works at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Review: Ryan Calhoun - Everything That I'm Not


Ryan Calhoun - Everything That I'm Not
2008, The Ascot Club


Ryan Calhoun is a southern Californian who did his time in New York City and returned home. A young artist from what's called the Hotel Cafe scene in Los Angeles, Calhoun has shared the stage with Switchfoot, the Cary Brothers and Jack's Mannequin. His 2nd album, Everything That I'm Not hit the shelves in October of 2008. Produced by Bill Lefler (Gym Class Heroes, Ingrid Michaelson), Everything That I'm Not has that highly polished Indie sound that seems to be the taste of the moment, particularly on prime-time television.

Everything That I’m Not is a sharp collection of Brit-influenced pop/rock songs. Calhoun brings a strong melodic sense and easy harmonies to eleven songs full of big pop hooks and strong lyrical perspective. The album opens with Sometimes Sorry Is The Wrong Thing. It’s a catchy, upbeat tune with slightly depressing subject matter. Slipping Away has a similar motif. Calhoun has a cool, clear voice and a sharp vocal delivery that is reminiscent of Tom Landa of The Paperboys. His approach is very straightforward. Calhoun’s songs are confessional in nature. Right About Now finds Calhoun wearing his heart on his sleeve in a song with strong radio potential. The repetitive nature of the verse serves as a comforting reinforcement that lulls the listener in, making you feel like you’re part of Calhoun’s romantic angst.

Who We Are is something of a departure for Calhoun. The piano-based ballad is more personal and stripped down than much of the rest of the material on Everything That I’m Not. The simplicity works well, giving Calhoun’s voice a perfect chance to shine. Underneath is another great pop song with strong commercial potential. Expect to hear this song on prime-time television. My favorite song on the CD is Hope (“Do you ever feel like you’re all alone / And do you ever feel like you’re the only one who can feel the pain? But you act okay…”). The neurotic love of pain and loss will hits close to the human condition.

Ryan Calhoun has an easy-going vocal delivery that should play well to both radio and video. His heart-on-the-sleeve, depressive lyrics wrapped up in pop/rock candy is a recipe for pop music success. The theme has been done so many times in pop music and yet never seems to go out of style. Everything That I’m Not is a fine debut. Calhoun lays his psyche out in music for the world to see and hear. Check it out; you’ll like what you hear.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Ryan Calhoun at www.myspace.com/ryancalhounmusic or www.purevolume.com/ryancalhoun. You can purchase a copy of Everything That I’m Not at store2.bandfarm.com/ryan.

Review: Ace NoFace And The Misdeals


Ace NoFace And The Misdeals – Ace NoFace
2008, Ace NoFace


Ace NoFace is a term from the card game Euchre that allows a player to trade in a hopeless hand for a new one. Ace NoFace is also a songwriter/recording artist who’s been dealt a difficult hand. Instead of casting it in he’s chosen to stand, face into the wind and fight for what he’s always dreamed for himself. Ace NoFace was a bassist with a touring band when he learned he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Ace chose, in the face of adversity, to realize his dream of being a songwriter. Working for hours on adaptive equipment in his home, literally picking out one key at a time, Ace NoFace composes incredibly personal and inspired rock and roll that walks the line between Ben Folds and Keane. Ace has not release an album, but does allow download of songs from his website based on a PayPal donation (you decide what the song is worth to you). Once you’ve made payment you receive download instructions. Ace has submitted a demo of recordings to Wildy’s World for review. Here we go…

Ace NoFace opens with Whiskey Bottle, a song inspired by seeing the Eye of God on a Whiskey Bottle label during a manic episode. The song is somewhat haunting and is built around some unusual piano progressions and dark harmonies. Ace NoFace has a very smooth and pleasant voice that sets you immediately at ease as a listener. The harmonies he performs with himself on the recording conjure a sound that could never be replicated by a group of singers. It makes sense, but his unique tone in triplicate is chilling. Ego has a sound to it that is reminiscent of Billy Joel’s middle career. The song is comprised of minor key changes and dark, depressive lyrics. The song very much works, but is a bit of a bummer.

Snakes has a definite Ben Folds sound to it, although the Indiana Jones reference gets a bit cornier each time it’s mentioned. Ugly Stick is a great pop tune and makes me think of some of Kevin Hearn’s (Barenaked Ladies) solo compositions. Weird Idea (Of Having Fun) is built on a great series of piano hooks, although the song ends up being a little on the rough side. Other highlights include Spend A Dollar, Crazy Brave and What Kind Of Rock.

Ace NoFace has been dealt a hand that none of us want. Rather than wallowing in self-pity or self-doubt, he’s chosen a path that fulfills his dreams. The music on Ace NoFace has its ups and downs. Most of the songs are well constructed, with the occasional rough-edge tune thrown in. Two or three songs here are truly sublime and show the sort of heights we can hit when we go after our dreams, regardless of the circumstances. Ace NoFace has a voice you could listen to all day, a hauntingly beautiful tenor voice that will haunt your dreams.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Ace NoFace at http://www.acenoface.com/ or www.myspace.com/acenofaceandthemisdeals. You can learn more about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis at http://www.alsa.org/. Ace NoFace does not publish his songs on CD, but maintains a Pay-What-You-Can philosophy on his website. Donations are made through PayPal (via http://www.acenoface.com/) and once the donation is made you receive e-mailed instructions on how to download your particular song. The donation is per song but no minimum or maximum donation is indicated.

Review: Underride - One Of Us


Underride - One Of Us
2008, Underride

Underride are looking to revive the Seattle sound in their own image. Building on the legacy of grunge, Underride take it to the streets in a raucous and crazy fashion. Rev, El Barto, Double A, Rex Nomad and Pondscum put you in the mood to crank it up to 11, hit the streets and see what's cooking' The band's 4th release, One Of Us, aims to put them squarely on the American hard rock map with 14 songs of kicking-in-the-windows and doors rock.

Sounding a bit like Poison and a bit like Whitesnake, Underride brings back rock the way it was meant to be played. One Of Us plays like a bit of 1980’s hard rock/hair band memorabilia. Candy Girl is the sort of song that would have made for a great video in the early days of MTV. Full of big guitar hooks and big, harmony-filled chorus, Candy Girl is a hit that should have been. On The Radio follows in the same vein, bringing that 1980’s brand of hard pop back into focus. She Gets Paid takes a harder turn, toward a more driving rock experience (although still with a certain pop sensibility). Throw It Away sounds more modern, coming across as a modern rock anthem (ala Pearl Jam/Soundgarden).

Be sure to check out Kink In My Heart, with a great guitar hook you won’t be able to shake. Road To Nowhere would be a great concert tune, and is probably my favorite track on One Of Us. My Little Hell returns to the dark, driving guitar, and is currently my 2nd favorite here. Other songs of note are Lights Off Baby, Shotgun Breakdown (sounds like Ratt), Riot Stick and No Means No.

Underride deserve some serious credit here. The courage to play a style of rock that has gone out of vogue is rewarded in the fact that they do it so well. This is the sort of album that could rekindle an interest in the best hair-metal from the 1980’s. One Of Us is an absolute keeper. No low moments, no catering to pop radio with syrupy ballads or acoustic-based alt-rock divergences. Just pure heavy rock with a sense for hooks and great phrasing. You need to hear this.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Underride at http://www.underride.net/. You can purchase a copy of One Of Us at www.cdbaby.com/cd/underride, or you can download it from iTunes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: David Cosma - Hanging From Aldo


David Cosma – Hanging From Aldo
2008, Regal Records


David Cosma grew up idolizing music from the 1950’s and 1960’s. He so much liked Paul McCartney that he started playing his guitar left handed (on a right handed guitar). Cosma learned to play the guitar backwards without restringing it. This has led to something of a signature sound and technique. The Melbourne, Australia based musician previously fronted a popular local band called Mistamash. 2008 sees the release of Cosma’s first solo album, Hanging From Aldo. It is the culmination of Cosma’s decision to leave his full time job in 2007 and devote himself entirely to music.

Hanging From Aldo opens with Sentimental Shoe, a mellow tune with a great chorus. Cosma displays a keen atmospheric sense in his writing. He’s fairly low energy at times as a vocalist, but juxtaposes that against musical creations of distinct tension and angst. The end result is very interesting listening that is nuanced and discreet. What You Just Said is a great acoustic guitar-based tune wrapped around the dysfunctions in a relationship. Cosma’s mix of melody and lyrical genius here is amazing. This is the sort of song that will definitely be a concert favorite, but will find currency in all sorts of fans at different times in their lives: this song seems to speak to emotions that we’ve all been through at one time or another.

Bryant Reserve is a great little blues/country hybrid that shows some of the soul shadings in Cosma’s voice. Up In The Clouds is a slightly repressed pop tune with a great melody and very simple composition. It sounds like the sort of tune The Traveling Wilburies might have run off in a recording session. This is my personal favorite on the album. A close second is Now It’s Time. Great harmonies and a melody to die for make this song unforgettable. There is a slight alt-country-rock feel to this that reminds me of The Waltons/Jason Plumb. Other highlights include Out Of Me, Ninety Days, the colorful Letter Home and Take It As It Comes.

Hanging From Aldo took a few listens for me. This is not a casual listen disc. There’s too much going on, and much of it is beneath the surface of the still musical waters Cosma projects. What sounds mellow and relaxed is really full of angst or tension or a deep current that won’t express itself on first glance. This is a very rewarding CD for folks who give it the proper time and attention. David Cosma creates on a level with someone like Daniel Lanois. Finely crafted pop songs with country or Americana trappings are the rule here. Gorgeous melodies supported by uncomplicated structure and lots of musical nuance and intelligent lyrics are the shadings and nuance that will keep you listening time and time again.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about David Cosma at http://www.davidcosma.com/. You can purchase a copy of Hanging From Aldo at www.cdbaby.com/cd/davidcosma.

Review: Social Clash - Demo


Social Clash – Demo
2008, Social Clash

Social Clash is a young, energetic rock band ripping it up on the Toronto scene. Young and inexperience, they make up in energy and chutzpah what they’ve yet to acquire. Frank (Vocals), Carlos (guitars), Jon (drums), Davin (bass) and Mike (guitars) don’t waste your time onstage. They launch into their big, heavy rock tunes with abandon and panache. Social Clash submitted a demo for review. Here’s what we heard.

Social Clash has that hungry energy that allows bands to rocket to stardom. Even on CD they come across full of a rambunctious kick that would play wonderfully well live. Big guitar rock songs built on strong, pesky hooks and melodies that are very hummable makes for a great start. They’re not lyrically intense or original, but sufficiently succinct and understandable enough to add to great post-punk pop/rock songs. Opening with Give Me A Chance, Social Clash goes right for the throat with a fast paced, stripped down rocker. The Lo-Fi effect works particularly well in creative a live sound what makes for great listening. Count You Out is probably the most commercial song here, and with a little mastering is probably radio ready right out of the box.

One On One is built on a great guitar riff. The song is very melodic and Frank is in fine vocal form. The guitar/bass builds tension in the verse until resolving either into a sun-shiny bridge or a driving chorus. Manners Matter is the heaviest song here and is definitely not for lightweights, even as it retains the pop sensibility that Social Clash displays. For More is a mellow turn at a ballad that sounds somewhat out of character for Social Clash. The song is quite good, although the vocals here are mix way too low. Restless is another highly commercial song (as in The Edge or other modern rock format). It’s the sort of song you might hear on a horror film soundtrack, and still maintains that inspired pop underbelly that seems to run through Social Clash’s songs.

Social Clash brings it, there’s no other way to put it. A heavy rock band that walks the line between pop/metal and progressive rock can be either a disaster or a joy to listen to. Social Clash is the latter. They retain the slightly disheveled sound that marked the best of the punk bands and the driving energy that makes for a real shot at success. Social Clash’s demo is a snapshot of a band on the way up. It’s just a question of how high.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Social Clash at www.myspace.com/socialclash. If you sweet talk them maybe they’ll sell you a copy of their independent demo.

Review: Joshua Jesty - Finally, Joshua Jesty Is Famous, All The Hits, Volume 15


Joshua Jesty – Finally, Joshua Jesty Is Famous, All The Hits, Volume 15
2008, Joshua Jesty


Your first impression of Joshua Jesty might be that he’s a funny guy. To look at the title of his CD or listen to the first track, a rap tune called The Master’s Back, you’d expect he’s a novelty act. Far from it. Jesty is a brooding songwriter who plays in dark and sometimes muddy tones until he finds a seam of beauty and then he rides it for all its worth. Jesty has an album of 21 songs called Finally, Joshua Jesty Is Famous, All The Hits: Volume 15. You can’t buy the album in stores, but you can download all of the songs off his webpage. Jesty has a unique set of payment options. You can donate to him what you think the album is worth, if you’re broke you can forward the page to however many people you think it’s worth ($10=10 people), or you can donate to a charity and tell him about it.

So Joshua Jesty is unique, but what about the music? Take a look at the epic that is The River Curves, comparing the curves of a river to those of a beloved. The tune sounds like something Radiohead might have written, and has a very repressed sadness that underlies it. The quasi-Lo-Fi sound helps in setting this mood, as does the layer guitar/piano/bass wall of sound Jesty captures on the disc. Jesty’s website says he wrote it while going to the bathroom. Just thought you’d like to know. Stephanie is another song full of regret, balancing its sweetness with controlled fear.

My favorite song here is Ms. Closed Off. It’s a great Matchbox 20 style song. Very musically interesting and introspective; A quiet opening turns into a heavy guitar motif that is very tuneful and full of great, mellow hooks. This song has commercial potential; I could see it placed in a movie or television soundtrack with great ease. Junk Your Head is a great rocking tune with angular guitar work and frenetic energy. The song is part punk and part pop and would do well on radio. Other highlights include Turf The Law, The One Inside Your head, Get To You and That’s When She Smiles.

Joshua Jesty is refreshing. There are no pop filters here. No distinct attempts to be commercial. Joshua Jesty captures the innate sense of musical creation. He’s writing for himself, not pop radio. The results are mixed. A handful of the 21 tracks offered here are sketchbook material. Most of them are good to really good listening material, but there are three or four tracks on the CD with significant potential. The willingness to create for himself and not take himself too seriously bodes well for Joshua Jesty. The results of his writing and performance make for good (and sometimes great) listening. I suspect these abilities will grow over time and he will become a complete songwriter (with a slightly warped world view). Finally, Joshua Jesty Is Famous, All The Hits: Volume 15 might just be prophetic.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Joshua Jesty, download Finally, Joshua Jesty Is Famous, All The Hits: Volume 15, get a free monthly song fix, or learn the neurotic impact of having your birthday be two days before Christmas at http://www.thejoshuaweb.net/. Be sure to check it out. This guy really is quite entertaining.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Review: Mary Ann Rossoni - Timber & Nails


Mary Ann Rossoni - Timber & Nails
2008, MWM Records


Mary Ann Rossoni is Providence, Rhode Island's resident Renaissance woman. The designer, painter and musician has her hand in many pots and seems to make things bloom wherever she touches. After a five year break in recording, Rossoni returns with Timber & Nails, a highly introspective and personal collection of songs that are thoughtful and sleep, even sometimes witty. Rossoni has grown as a songwriter in the last five years, providing great depth and breadth to the material, along with the a good instinct on how deep to dive with each subject.

Mary Ann Rossoni mixes wit, consummate story-telling skills and a fine sense of melody on Timber & Nails. Pop the disc in. Fourteen songs later you'll feel like you've just had a Musical Experience. Rossoni brings a heartfelt honesty and warmth that many singer/songwriters wish they could convey on stage, much less on the relatively cool medium of the CD. Mary Ann Rossoni delivers her songs with the same sort of insular warmth as Dar Williams. Starting with the title track, Timber & Nails, Rossoni calls into question her own existence and beliefs with a cutting yet elegant honesty. How does a home become just a house, she seems to ask. The song is sweet and touching and way more than the sum of its parts.

Red Shores Of France smacks of reminiscence by an old relative and the desire and inspiration that is sparked in a younger member of the family from the relating of old stories. EmmaLee displays the "grass is always greener" effect of our life experiences, and highlights the tendency at times to overstate the abilities and gifts of others while failing to see our own. Be sure to check out Wondrous Impression as well. This is an amazing tune. I feel like I can't say enough about it and yet I can't find the words to properly convey its beauty. You just need to listen.
That said, my favorite song on the CD is Follow The River. It's a country tune with a Celtic heartbeat. The melody here will follow you for days after you've heard the song, and the positive message is both hopeful and full of a passive regret for not finding the truth sooner. Other highlights include To The Sky, Other Woman, the ironic and witty Everything Needs Fixin' and Soft As Sorrow.

Mary Ann Rossoni is a singular talent. She has a warm, rich voice that's an absolute pleasure to listen to. She writes intelligent, honest and sometimes funny lyrics and wraps them in gorgeous arrangements. Most of all she projects a warmth and personal reality that comforts the listener and urges you to let your guard down and really listen. Again, this is on CD. If this effect is at all more tangible in concert then her shows could literally be life changing experiences. Timber & Nails is a watershed musical experience, the coming together of musical and lyrical talent, a distinctive and honest performing style, and the maturity and grace to tie them all together into one dynamic, quietly earth shattering package. Timber & Nails is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Put it on your holiday list. Someone you know deserves this CD.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Mary Ann Rossoni and order a copy of Timber & Nails through http://www.rossoni.com/. You can purchase a copy of Timber & Nails at www.cdbaby.com/cd/rossoni2.

Review: Various Artists - Irish Hip Hop Volume 1


Various Artists - Irish Hip Hop, Volume 1
2008, 80 Million Records

Are you ready for the next big thing? Yes, that says Irish Hip Hop. Don't be embarrassed if you've never even considered the concept, but within the next few years you might not be able to escape it. The Irish Hip-Hop movement grew out of attempts to blend traditional Irish music with hip-hop beats. The genre has become a tour-de-force in Ireland and England; has begun to spread to the rest of Europe and even across the pond to the United States. Steeped in a respect and love of Irish culture, Irish hip-hop eschews the fake glamour and gangsterization of American hip-hop for honest representations of real life through the eyes of the artists. MC Ammunition, one of the biggest stars of Ireland's hip hop movement compiled 20 tracks for Irish Hip Hop, Volume 1, to spread Irish hip hop to the world.

The collection opens with Rira's 25 O'Clock In The Morning, a rousing party anthem (I just wanna split riffs with the gifted / hit spliffs, get blitzed and keep liftin' / No pausin', no stallin' / keep it goin' til 25 o'clock in the mornin'). This song should make a killing for Rira in dance clubs - it has mega-hit potential. Up next is CMC with Home. CMC has a rhythmic and lyrical style similar to Eminem without the extreme level of dysfunction that Mr. Mathers lives in. Rob Kelly chips in with Take A Look, an ode to the Irish everywhere.

MC Ammunition (Or Ammo) adds Irish Dreams to the mix. This is a downbeat rap tune with some 1970's style samples and a mellow rapping style. Irish Dreams conveys a love of Ammo's country that is missing from most American music (rap included). Be sure to check out Shaymin and Lassie, which samples a jig and pays homage to Shaymin's "Irish chick". The rap style here is closer to Sublime than NAS and carries a positive message about being true to the one you love. Other highlights include Redzer's Gritty City (Featuring Jambo); Project 77's Takin' On The Planet; The Informatics' Wake Up and the jazz influenced Revolutionary by Ophelia.

Irish Hip Hop Volume I is an amazing collection from left field that will shock and amaze those on the pond's West End. Irish Hip Hop seems to restore the energy and authenticity of Hip Hop/Rap music. The Irish are keeping it real, where most of the American hip hop establishment forgot what real was right around the time they bought their first bling. Songs about family, work, love and everyday life; There’s nothing more street than that. Definitely recommended.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Irish hip hop at www.myspace.com/irishhiphopvolume1. You can currently download Irish Hip Hop Volume 1 through Amazon.com or iTunes. No word yet on hard copy (CD) availability.

Review: Sue Brescia - Hope Rising


Sue Brescia - Hope Rising
2007, Gentle Spirit Records

Sue Brescia's story reads like a Lifetime Movie Network feature. The Middletown, Rhoda Island singer/songwriter was bitten by the music and acting bugs early on, singing in a top-40 band. Summer stock theater engagements brought her an Actor's Equity card and she began pursuing a Broadway role. A rare form of cancer sidelined her career for a time, but the creative juices did not stop flowing. Brescia turned to songwriting both as an outlet for her creative gift but also as a therapeutic outlet in her recovery. Today she is a successful recording artist with a talent for writing uplifting songs, as well as a composer for the silver screen. Brescia's second CD, Hope Rising is full of uplifting and beautiful songs that will touch your heart and your spirit.

Sue Brescia has been through a great deal and has used her experiences as inspiration to write. She has a distinctive talent and sweetness that comes across in her recordings, sometimes almost to a fault. I tend to think that Hope Rising is a niche recording. Some fans will actually be turned off by such a passively forceful sunny perspective; either by confusion or by an inability to understand the novelty that loss or near-loss can paint upon the mundane. As a songwriter Brescia is talented. Her subject matter varies from amazing lyrical perspective to nearly adolescent perseveration.

A Lifetime Of Weekends
is a joyous song full of the sort of giddy energy that comes with new love or love re-discovered. Angels In Our Midst is a thing of beauty. It rises above the obvious clichés associated with angels and touches the heart and soul of the listener. Passage Of Time is a tuneful exploration of the progression of life. It reflects the acquired understanding that comes to us all in time, and mixes a hopeful yearning for each coming stage with a quiet, near-forgotten regret over not learning sooner. These are the true highlights of Hope Rising. Most of the rest of the disc is decent but not earth shattering. A couple of songs here cross the line of too much, but on the whole, Hope Rising is a worthy effort.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Sue Brescia at http://www.suebrescia.com/, where you can purchase a copy of Hope Rising.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Announcement!

First off, Wildy took today off, and we'll be back with more reviews bright and early tomorrow morning.

On Sundays between now and the end of the Holiday Season, we'll be featuring CD releases that would make great holiday gifts. Some are ones we've previously reviewed here, and some will be brand new things we haven't talked about before. So if you're looking for great music ideas for that special someone (or for yourself), then check back here on Sundays! The rest of the week will continue to be reviews, and we've got a bunch of great ones coming up, including: Joshua Jesty, James Morrison, Blue Rabbit, Brooke Miller, Leah Randazzo and Ping Trace, just to name a few!

And keep those submissions coming! If you've got a special set, box set, etc. that you'd like to have considered for our gift recommendations, get them in ASAP!

Be well.

Wildy

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review: Joe Parillo Trio w/ Jay Hoggard - Segments


Joe Parillo Trio with Jay Hoggard - Segments
2008, Neoga Records


Joe Parillo is a master on the piano. His grasp of jazz and classical styles and the ability to meld the two into new and exciting directions sets him apart from the crowd. Parillo brings a sense of joy into his writing and playing that is infectious. The Grammy-nominated songwriter/musician (for the song One Day In January from the movie Sandbox) is a Steinway Artist and is currently the director of Jazz Studies at the University of Rhode Island. He's released several albums with his trio (bass player Bryan Rizzuto and drummer Eric Platz) and has continued to grow musically at each step along the way. Parillo's most recent recording, Segments, with Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard is nothing short of visionary. Parillo blends gorgeous melodies and lively rhythmic confections into a jazz/classical patois that will hold listeners in awe.

My favorite tune here is the final track, Aura. Forget the fact that it sounds like it came right off a major movie soundtrack. Forget that the musical imagery melds the concept of a person and the light/energy of a living being into a conceptualization is both and neither. The images conveyed are both larger than the life they portend and smaller than the mind can conceive. The maturity and compositional construction displayed here mix with an articulate sense of melody and tension that will blow the studied listener away. Clouds is an upbeat, sunny meeting of Parillo and Hoggard. The interplay of piano and vibraphone is as old friends who meet on the street and enjoy pleasant reminiscence while the minutes of the day turn to evening as clouds passing by overhead.

The sultry bossa nova of Crying Moon turns to the Vince Guaraldi style Turn Around Back. You can just picture Woodstock and Snoopy on one of their adventures to the gentle trills of the laughing piano line. Other highlights include the bluesy Where Are You Now and the almost pop/Broadway melodic sense of One Day In January.

Joe Parillo and Jay Hoggard each are talented and accomplished in their own right. As a pair they achieve a sort of pentatonic alchemy that spills forth from their respective instruments. Segments is a glorious listen, soft enough for dinner or relaxation and full of enough life to distract you from both. The Joe Parillo Trio with Jay Hoggard have hit a homerun with Segments.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about the Joe Parillo Trio at http://www.joeparillo.com/. You can learn more about Jay Hoggard at http://www.jayhoggard.com/. You can purchase a copy of Segments at www.cdbaby.com/cd/joeparillo5.

Review: Midnight To Twelve - Midnight To Twelve


Midnight To Twelve - Midnight To Twelve
2008, JKH Entertainment

Midnight To Twelve has been working for eight years for a moment like this. After playing hundreds of live shows in the LA market and opening for acts such as Buckcherry, Jimmy Eat World, Evanescence and Joan Jett, Midnight To Twelve appear to be on the precipice of stardom. The band's first single, Slam was featured on hit show One Tree Hill. Another song, How Bad was featured in this year's Stanley Cup television coverage. In June of 2008, Midnight Twelve released their self-titled 2nd album. It's only a matter of time before this thing catches on.

Midnight To Twelve opens with How Bad, a middle-of-the-road rocker full of effects that sounds designed to curry favor at modern rock radio. It's a fairly generic opening that will play well to radio but not terribly memorable. Ditto Future and Story, moderate tempo hard rock ballads that seem to lean heavily on a commercialized sound. Burnin' turns the corner in a barn-burning rock-and-roll performance. Burnin' shows all of the hunger and tenacity that were produced out of the first three songs on Midnight To Twelve.

Midnight To Twelve slows things down a little with the rock ballad anthem Slam. This is perhaps the most commercial song on the disc, but commercial based on its quality rather than an attempt to mold the song to a demographic. (GMA) Good Morning Again continues the musical reality in a piano-based ballad that is destined for mix tapes and probably some serious licensing agreements. Rhyme Or Reason has a deliciously dark tenor that stretches across the rhythmic framework of drum, bass and bruising guitar. Other highlights include Contain It, Remembering, Too Much and Moment.

Midnight To Twelve is an extremely capable rock outfit. I would guess from listening to Midnight To Twelve that the first three songs were heavily produced and managed to target musical/radio demographics, while the rest of the album was written in the spirit of the band. The delineation is very clear between attempts to be commercial and attempts to write music. Songs 4-12 are a first class album while the first three tracks are fairly typical modern rock formula songs that are listenable but not overly memorable. The fact of the matter is that Midnight To Twelve likely has more mass commercial appeal when they are writing for themselves than for a certain audience. A very strong debut either way.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Midnight To Twelve at http://www.m212.com/ or www.myspace.com/m212live. You can purchase a copy of Midnight To Twelve at Amazon.com or wherever music is sold.

Review: Matt Singer - The Drought


Matt Singer - The Drought
2008, Family Records


Matt Singer is a funny guy. The NYC based singer/songwriter’s first musical composition as a four year old was an ode to eating toothpaste. Singer is someone who wears his heart and soul on his sleeve. There are no filters. The Mid-Atlantic Songwriters Contest Director’s Prize winner is back in 2008 with The Drought, a collection of eclectic and oddly touching songs.

The Drought opens with The Poet, a dysfunctional, lyrically obtuse perseveration on the failings of a relationship. Matt Singer's voice is exceedingly pleasant and his low key delivery works perfectly with this material. Bird Song is a musical still life centering around a dead bird and the power of belief. The chorus to Bird Song is hauntingly beautiful, and implores the listener to open up their mind to possibilities that extend beyond that which one can see ("If you pick me up / If you would just believe / I would show you a thing up my sleeve / Believe / I Would show you a thing up my sleeve / I'd fly away".) The genius in this song is the counter-intuitive turn of events on the basis of the belief of those who witnessed the bird's "demise".

Stacy J. is a humorous story-song about the dangers of dating beautiful musicians (or ugly ones, for that matter). The song also includes an American Idol inspired subplot about getting up off the floor and trying again. Also notable are We Are Not Small and Dynamic Public Speaker. Everything We Do is a pleasant listen but it becomes difficult for the listener to discern what it's about.

Matt Singer writes to amuse himself, and that's a good thing. His perspective is delightfully warped with a strong wit and wrapped in gorgeously melodic songwriting. He's not a novelty act, but more an act who finds novelty in the mundane, similar to writers like Randy Newman or Lyle Lovett. He's a bit brash and the language at times is not for sensitive ears, but Singer is very good at what he does. The Drought is a misnomer. This is definitely worth taking the time to check out.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Matt Singer at http://www.matt-singer.com/. The Drought has been released but is currently only available at shows. Contact Matt Singer through his website for purchasing details.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Review: Krysta Youngs - Stories


Krysta Youngs - Stories
2008, Vibrant/Krysta Youngs


Krysta Youngs is a product of Detroit who has spent the last six years in Boston. She has developed a reputation as a candid, articulate pop-songwriter with and edge. A strong talent for storytelling and the ability to craft rock-oriented pop confections that are as welcome on the stage as in the nightclub has created a significant buzz around Youngs. Her debut album, Stories consists of fifteen songs full of stirring, in your-face lyrics and a pop savvy that would turn Madonna green with envy.

Stories opens with Once Upon A Situation, a spoken word piece to music that leads into It's Going Down. It's Going Down has top-40 dance single written all over it. Dance beats and driving guitar in the chorus urge you to get your feet moving. Leave Me Alone is the most confrontational song on Stories; a lyrical scream for space in an enclosing life. Silly Lives is one of the finer displays of Youngs' songwriting talents. This is a pure pop song that would have sounded entirely at home on a Dawson's Creek soundtrack. Youngs' sultry voice helps to spark the atmosphere here as well, creating a sensual comfort in the overall sense of disconnected grace.

Sophia opens as a gorgeous piano/cello duet and becomes a confessional song about the loss of a relationship. Youngs projects Sarah McLachlan here in style, but the voice and tenor is entirely her own. The title track, Stories is another pure pop confection that could almost cross over to R&B as well as pop/rock. Be sure to check out Untold and Impossible as well. Youngs ends with a remix of Untold by George Vala.

Krysta Youngs is a talent. She has a strong pop sensibility, an ability to write interesting and lyrically intense songs, a look that works for television and a toughness that stands in stark contrast to her moments of vulnerability. Stories is a revelation. With the right breaks, you're looking at/listening to one of our next major pop divas. And she's good enough to survive the inevitable fall from that position to singer/songwriter as time and wisdom overcome novelty and beauty. Don't be surprised if Krysta Youngs makes an inpact on more than one generation.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Krysta Youngs at www.myspace.com/krystayoungs. You can purchase a copy of Stories from www.cdbaby.com/cd/krystayoungs.

Review: Mark Williams - Shallow Eyes


Mark Williams - Shallow Eyes
2008, Mark Williams


Mark Williams is all of sixteen years old, and yet has already shared a stage with such diverse talents as Les Paul, Will Lee, Phil Woods and B.B. King. This Warped Tour veteran has been playing guitar since the age of 5, and began study at the Manhattan School Of Music at ten. He is equally versed in jazz, modern rock and even Hendrix-style blues/rock. This conglomeration of styles all mixes up in his mind and results in songwriting that is modestly like all of these styles and thoroughly unlike any of them. Mark Williams is an original. His latest EP, Shallow Eyes, marks the next step in Williams' musical development. Get ready to be rocked.

Giving Up opens Shallow Eyes with a bang. Full of big hooks and a memorable melody, Giving Up carries a catchy chorus with guitar work that will remind listeners of Rush at times. Secrets chronicles a friend's drug addiction in a dark and somewhat muddled musical painting. Airwaves carries a strong pop sensibility while maintaining a hook-heavy rock and roll sound. The guitar work here is interesting, as Williams solos in every key under the sun. The solo is more dissonant than consonant and almost becomes a distraction, although if you listen to the solo on its own it's quite interesting fretwork. Squeezebox is a fairly straight forward rock ballad, full of cliché. Whisper is a strong commercial attempt with perhaps the best guitar work on the album.

Mark Williams is young. He's very talented. Like many young talents he overreaches at times in his songwriting, but the talent and enthusiasm steam off of him like steam off a volcano. Williams makes up for his inexperience with enthusiasm, but you can picture a future where the fire of youth is tempered by the wisdom and perspective of experience. When that time comes, I suspect Mark Williams will already be recognized as an outstanding songwriter and a virtuoso on guitar. For now, he is a rising young star with exceptional talent. Shallow Eyes has its uneven moments and its flashes of brilliance, often thrown up against one another. It's a fine introduction to Williams, and a benchmark that he can move forward from as he continues to grow and mature as a songwriter. Shallow Eyes is a definite must-have.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Mark Williams at http://www.markwilliamsmusic.com/. Shallow Eyes appears to be only available as an mp3 download. You can get it on Williams’ site, on CDFreedom or on iTunes.

Review: Portal - Blood Red Tape


Portal – Blood Red Tape
2008, Resonance Industries

Edmonton’s Portal take a different tack in making music. Their studio is as likely to be dominated by computer towers and monitors as it is by amplifier stacks. Rosco Brooks, Kevin Hoskin, Kenton Thomas and Bill George strive for the art of creation above all other virtues on Blood Red Tape, which manages to make one of the finer melds of organic and electronic music we’ve heard this year.

Blood Red Tape rises slowly from the primordial silence into a heavy guitar/bass driven rock song called Jebel Moon. Kenton Thomas is not your typical hard rock vocalist, with a smooth sound that stands in stark contrast to the dark, crunching guitar rock. Jebel Moon relies on minor key verses to set a dark mood that resolves into major key choruses that soar without escaping the song's dark temperament. Splitzkrein will appeal to Metal and pop/rock fans alike. The guitar work here has been muted somewhat by effects or production, but the sound and energy would be at home on an early Metallica album.

Your Kettle is a highly commercial tune that builds interesting harmonics and keys around a heavy, driving guitar/bass riff. It takes over a minute for the vocals to kick in here and that's a plus. There's very interesting stuff going on underneath if you listen for it. Six Degrees is the requisite hard rock ballad. Other highlights include The Simple Things, Back In The Day and The Light.

Portal brings techno rock into the light of day with the exciting and musically challenging Blood Red Tape. The disc is highly commercial in sound and broad enough in scope to appeal to fans from outside the commercial marketing cone. Northern Canada continues to be a consistent breeding ground for original and distinctly alternative takes on popular music. Blood Red Tape is a must-hear.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Portal from http://www.portalband.com/. You can purchase a copy of Blood Red Tape at www.cdbaby.com/cd/portal5.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Review: The Catillacs - Meow Mix


The Catillacs - Meow Mix

2008, Richard Bean

Meet The Catillacs, an Americana trio from La Center, Washington. Consisting of Richie Bean (Vocals, guitar), Susan Costa (drums) and George Burton (bass), The Catillacs are like a Super group born of the Portland music scene. Originally conceived as a rockabilly outfit, the Catillacs quickly realized that this genre limited them too much and branched out to include a full array of American roots music. In August of 2008 The Catillacs released their debut CD, Meow Mix, described as a "mixed bag" of sounds and styles including blues, country, folk, rock and rockabilly.

Meow Mix opens with Boogaloo, a Commitments style R&B jam. Boogaloo sounds like a perennial concert favorite, the sort of song that really gets a set moving. Bean is in fine voice here, and the interplay of Costa and Burton set a tight framework for Bean's classic guitar work. Soul Survivors has a Moody Blues feel to it, with lush acoustic guitar based music. Queen Of Denial is a southern-fried country rock tune that calls out someone living a lie (or a series of them). It's a great tune, very well written. The song does stretch Bean's vocals beyond what sounds comfortable for him at times however.

Ain't No Middle Ground opens with an interesting and unique acoustic guitar monologue that resolves into a remorseful country ballad. Deep Blue Sea starts from a delicious blues guitar hook and becomes an upbeat and lively blues rocker. The blues/rock material seems to be where The Catillacs excel the most, perhaps because this material seems the best fit for vocalist Bean. Whatever the reason, I found myself anxiously anticipating the blues tunes on Meow Mix.

Deep Blue Sea and Love Bank are pretty ballads but really exposes the idiosyncrasies in Bean's voice. As much as I like his voice on the blues and rock songs, the ballads can be a tough listen on the higher notes. The easiest way to describe these moments is to liken him to Neil Young. Bean is a good singer, and a great singer on the write material, but his tone on slower, higher passages can be a difficult listen. True Love Figurine moves clearly back to the blues sound that Bean and The Catillacs do so well. This tune has a bass line and boogie spirit that will mow you down if you don't get away. Bean's guitar-work here is filthy good and worth the price of the disc in its own right.

Me & The Devil Blues (Robert Johnson) is probably the best pure rock tune here, sounding like a cross between Chuck Berry and Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is blues influenced Rock N Roll at its best. On In The Fall Bean ends up truly sounding a bit like Neil Young. This song works in the context of Bean's sound and the distinct musical arrangement of the song. My personal favorite on Meow Mix is the Surf guitar antics of Hoodoo Laveaux. Dick Dale takes his hat off to The Catillacs on this one. The album closes out with Headlights, a Doors-sounding story song about a lost soul.

The Catillacs serve up a classic plate of Americana with Meow Mix. They are a tight, well-wound trio jumping the fences between rock, blues and country. Vocally, Bean it outstanding on the blues tunes. His sound does seem to become less even as he moves to the higher parts of his vocal register. This works on some songs and not so much on others. On the whole a very strong debut. Meow Mix is a fun and diverse listen, the aural picture of a band finding its feet and embarking on their great adventure. When they click they're unstoppable.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Catillacs at http://www.thecatillacs.com/ or www.myspace.com/thecatillacs. You can purchase a copy of Meow Mix at www.cdbaby.com/catillacs, or you can download tracks at iTunes. The Catillacs will be touring in 2009. Get your requests in now!

Review: Owen Duggan - An Elephant Never Forgets



Owen Duggan - An Elephant Never Forgets
2008, OLDmusic Productions

Canadian expatriate Owen Duggan makes his home in San Antonio, TX, where he is a father, an elementary school music teacher and a director of a church music program. With all of his spare time he managed in 2005 to record and independently release An Elephant Never Forgets. Mining the finest of folk and jazz traditions as well as the catalog of classic children's songs, Duggan's album won awards from Parents' Choice Foundation and National Parenting Publication Awards (NAPPA). In 2008, Duggan revisited An Elephant Never Forgets with producers R.B. Blackstone and Fred Remmert to remix and remaster the album. The end result stands on a par with releases by such children's music luminaries as Laurie Berkner, Raffi and Trout Fishing In America.

An Elephant Never Forgets is the sort of album that not only the kids will like, but the parents will get a kick out of it as well. Duggan keeps things upbeat in a folk style with sound effects and supporting vocals fitting the character(s) in the songs. Big rhymes, clear and easy melodies and fun subject matter make this a CD your kids will sing/dance along with, and you'll find some of the melodies getting stuck in your head as well. The title song is the most well known, but songs such as Farmer Joe, Tugboat Ted, The Marvelous Toy, The Biplane Evermore and At The Codfish Ball are memorable and make this a disc you and your children will listen to again and again. (And as a parent who's listened to copies of certain children's CDs to be unnamed hundreds of time I can tell you that An Elephant Never Forgets wears better than many in the genre).

Owen Duggan is a highly talented writer/arranger and instrumentalist. His voice is pleasant and clear and his manner is perfect for a children's album. You can't go wrong with this disc. Your kids will love it. You will to.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Owen Duggan at http://www.owenduggan.com/. You can purchase a copy of An Elephant Never Forgets at Amazon.com, or at brick and mortar outfits such as Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Borders.

Review: Benn Clatworthy - The Decider


Benn Clatworthy - The Decider
2008, Benn Clatworthy


Benn Clatworthy is a Los Angeles-based saxophone impresario originally from England. He has a reputation for frantic and passionate saxophone and flute playing, and has shared a stage with the likes of Cedar Walton, Larry Gates and Lionel Hampton (among many others.) Clatworthy teams up with Chris Colangelo on bass and Ryan Doyle on drums for the delightfully melodic The Decider, a mix of alternate takes on jazz classics and some original material as well.

Clatworthy opens with John Lewis' Afternoon In Paris, giving it a Latin jazz flavor that may just improve on the original. Clatworthy starts out with a sense of economy that unravels into a coloratura waterfall of runs. Thelonius Monk's Off Minor gets similar treatment, where Clatworthy chats up the original melody before disenfranchising it in a shock and awe style sax explosion. The Decider receives similar treatment, starting out at parity with a melodic sentiment and quickly devolving into chaotic variations.

The Latin melancholy of Bossa Mia starts out as a lovely musical idea but quickly dissolves into the running off at the mouthpiece that Clatworthy favors. This trend holds up over most of the album, and in the end if comes down to what sort of jazz you're into. If you're a Miles Davis fan, or if you're a fan of newer jazz that is more concerned with technical proficiency and guitar-solo style instrumental solos, then Clatworthy is right up your alley. If your style of jazz concentrates more on melody and traditional forms, then The Decider probably isn't for you.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Benn Clatworthy at http://www.bennclatworthy.com/. E-mail Benn through his website to get ordering info!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Trout Fishing In America - Big Round World


Trout Fishing In America - Big Round World
2008, Trout Records


Sometimes it's easy to lose track of the fact some children's musicians are incredibly talented. As a parent with young ones, you can be subjected the same CD or same song hundreds of times over. The daydreams one can have where a CD flies majestically through the air, shimmering in delicious sunlight just seconds before shattering to bits against a rock or wall become the reverie of parents at times. It is incredibly refreshing when an act comes along who make music that speaks to children rather than speaking down to them. Trout Fishing In America are just such an act. This three-time Grammy nominated duo of Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood have traveled back and forth across North America many times over playing shows for kids, families and even the occasional adult show (their non-children's albums are amazing to hear). 2008 is a banner year, seeing Trout Fishing In America's 20th release, Big Round World. Several of the songs here were developed from songwriting workshops held with children, which allows the band to capture the perspective of some of their biggest (and littlest) fans.

Trout Fishing In America have always been based in a folk-rock sound and occasionally add other flavors. On Big Round World there's a slight Afro-Pop lean, and the end result is a sound that is immediately comfortable and full of energy. Both Keith and Ezra are very capable singers and instrumentalists. They have a talent for tuneful songs that easy to sing along with. Their collective sense of humor pervades their writing and you won't find a more authentic, honest stage presence anywhere. I had the opportunity to catch one of their shows a number of years back and their rapport with the kids in the crowd was amazing. The most amazing part of that show was realizing that the only way to differentiate the kids from adults was size. The adults were as into the show as their children.

Big Round World (the album) keeps up the tradition of great songwriting. Big Round World (the song) has a vaguely Celtic feel to it and seeks to expand the horizons and imaginings of the listener. My Favorite Jeans is a song that children of all ages can appreciate and had its genesis in one of the children's songwriting workshops mentioned above. A Tiger And A Monkey And Me is a fine example of the fantastic use of imagination that Trout Fishing In America can call into reality in their songs. In four minutes they manage to capture the wonderful gestalt of layering the pretend world of young folks over the reality of everyday.

Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks is a tribute song that was also a product of a children's songwriting workshop. Fourth graders at Sonora Elementary School in Orange County, CA came up with the ideas that drove this musical history lesson and homage. The song craft is undeniable, and for a subject song with educational tenants it's amazingly un-cheesy. Other highlights include the humorous Too Good To Be True, Always Chew Your Food, The Alarm Clock Rings, There's A Rumor Going Round and It Must Be Halloween.

Big Round World is a first class offering from Trout Fishing In America. The kids will love it, and adults won't feel embarrassed if you're caught listening to it without the kiddies around. Trout Fishing In America are successful because they somehow remember (or perhaps have never forgotten) how to see the world through the eyes of a child. Their music appeals to so many because we all want to remember. Big Round World is (in a first for a children's album) a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Don't miss it!

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Trout Fishing In America at http://www.troutmusic.com/, where you can purchase Big Round World and many of their other fine recordings. They’ll even autograph it for you free of charge! You can also find their CDs at stores such as Barnes and Noble, Borders and FYE. And yes, they’re on iTunes too!

Review: Winter Dance Party...Holiday Greetings To You


Winter Dance Party - Holiday Greetings To You
2008, Day Old Records

February 3, 1959 is "The Day The Music Died", as memorialized in Don McLean's American Pie. On that day the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson crashed, ending The Winter Dance Party tour abruptly and breaking the hearts of millions of fans. For many baby boomers this tragedy was their first brush with mortality, and the loss of these three young Rock N Roll icons would haunt the music industry for years. We may never know what musical legacy Holly, Valens and Richardson might have left behind if this accident never happened, but we've been given the opportunity to relive the golden moments of that tour. Winter Dance Party... Holiday Greetings To You captures the essence and spirit of the Winter Dance Party tour on CD for you to enjoy.

John Mueller plays the role of Buddy Holly, having starred in the US touring version of Buddy... The Buddy Holly Story. John Mueller has been personally endorsed by Holly's widow Maria Elena Holly. Jay Richardson plays his father in a role both emotive and personal. Ray Anthony (of Las Vegas' "Legends Of Rock and Roll" show at the Imperial Palace) rounds out the trio as Richie Valens. They are backed by the Winter Dance Party Band (George Mueller - lead guitar; Ed Maxwell - bass; Sammy K - drums, and Mike Acosta - saxophone). Produced by Grammy winner Michael Acosta (Brian Setzer - The Dirty Boogie), Winter Dance Party... Holiday Greetings To You sticks with original spirit of Rock N Roll - fun!

Be sure to check out the early rock take on Let It Snow (Holly) and the Big Bopper-ized Frosty The Snowman. Feliz Navidad borrows the opening hook from La Bamba and is very faithful to the classic version you hear on the radio each holiday season. The Christmas Song is a mellow, lilting tune as arranged here, and Run Rudolph Run returns to the R&B roots of Rock N Roll. Other highlights include Santa Looks A Lot Like Daddy, Silent Night, Twelve Days Of Christmas and O Come Little Children.

Winter Dance Party... Holiday Greetings To You is good-time piece of musical memorabilia that should be a big hit this holiday season. Folks who mourned at the loss of Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper will recall fond memories listening to this disc. For folks too young to remember, this is a great introduction to a period of innocence in Rock N Roll that has long since moved on. Highly recommended.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Winter Dance Party at http://www.winterdanceparty.com/. You can purchase a copy of Holiday Greetings To You at www.cdbaby.com/cd/winterdanceparty.

Review: Lordi - The Arockalypse


Lordi - The Arockalypse
2006, The End Records

Helsinki, Finland's Lordi has ascended to the upper echelon of heavy rocks in two short years. The 2006 Eurovision Contest winners have owned European rock charts and have even begun to make significant inroads in the Americas. Rock and Roll domination can't be far behind. Leader Mr. Lordi and his compatriots have been featured on a credit card, in books and graphic novels and will even be on display in a motion picture called Deliverance which will release in October, 2008. Today we're going to take a listen to Lordi's debut release, 2006's The Arockalypse, available as both a single CD and a special edition that includes a DVD.

Lordi harkens back to the sort of theatrical rock productions popularized by the likes of KISS, Alice Cooper and Styx. Their sound is pure classic 1980's rock. Lead vocalist Mr. Lordi growls like the meanest modern heavy metal singer, but the songs are amazingly melodic and well constructed. The camp runs high as the band performs in full costume, appearing as the sort of characters that have made Wes Craven a multi-gazillionaire. Lordi can certainly rock hard when they want, but even in their roughest moments there is this supreme musicality that runs through everything they do.

The Arockalypse opens with Bringing Back The Balls, the roughest and toughest tune on the album. The song starts out as a thrash anthem with pounding rhythmic guitars and gravelly vocals, but in the chorus Lordi's musical sense sets in with big triad harmonies. The Deadite Girls Gone Wild is a heavy rock classic. The Kids Who Wanna Play has a big-80's sound to it that would fit in on a bill with a band like Motley Crue.

Probably the best time on the album is Who's Your Daddy?, a tongue in cheek bit of lyrical camp surrounded by big guitars and pounding rhythms with one of biggest top-40 hook laden choruses you're likely to hear. Hard Rock Hallelujah is also a winner, opening with pipe organ devolving into a dark, guitar-heavy crusher. Other highlights include The Chainsaw Buffet, Good To Be Bad, The Night Of The Loving, Would You Love A Monsterman and Evilove.

Lordi stands at the musical crux between Motley Crue's unintentional camp, Styx's art-house rock symphonies and Green Jelly's tongue-in-cheek musical dementia. The Arockalypse is the musical equivalent to a horror movie. There are themes here that you'd never entertain in the light of day, but in a darkened theater the elements of shadow become entertainment. So it is with Lordi. The Arockalypse mixes all that's good about classic rock, heavy metal and musical theater into a stew you'll love to taste.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Lordi at http://www.lordi.fi/. You can purchase a copy of The Arockalypse at Amazon.com or most major music retailers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CD Review: Teddy Presberg - Blueprint Of Soul


Teddy Presberg – Blueprint Of Soul
2007, Ropeadope Records

Teddy Presberg is a St. Louis native (and recent repatriate) who spent a number of years living in Portland, Oregon. Long known as a gifted guitarist with a talent for improvisation, Presberg set out to recreate Portland in song. The result is 2007’s Blueprint Of Soul. Blueprint Of Soul is all about improvisation and being in the (musical) moment. This reactionary album was generally recorded in one take with one additional take to overdub. Presberg has succeeded in capturing a live, breathing instrumental sound with lots of spirit and double the funk.

Blueprint Of Soul seems to dance around between rock and roll, blues and even jazz. The jaunty Foster Fatty is one of the liveliest songs on the record and was inspired by Portland’s Foster Road. The funk grooves and jazz chords spun around the laughing bass line make for a party in a song. Sunrise On St. John’s has a thoroughly live feel to it that will have you grooving where you stand. 82nd Ave Strut was inspired by meth-induced stumble witnessed on the named street, and has a quasi-psychedelic feel to it. The song itself sounds like the sort of jam you might hear on an early Police record. Other highlights include Beneath The Burnside, Free Love and Colonel Summers.

Teddy Presberg brings in the funk of Blueprint Of Soul. This disc is an enjoyable listen from start to finish. It’s not an earth-shattering recording and doesn’t cut any new ground musically, but it will keep you solidly entertained and wanting to get up and dance throughout its 33 minutes. Blueprint Of Soul is definitely worth a listen.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Teddy Presberg as well as purchase a copy of Blueprint Of Soul at http://www.outrightmusic.com/.

CD Review: Andrea Ramolo - Thank You For The Ride


Andrea Ramolo – Thank You For The Ride
2008, Andrea Ramolo


Andrea Ramolo is a name you should know. I rather suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more of her over the next few years. Ramolo is a Toronto singer-songwriter with a penchant for gritty country/rock story songs in the vein of Emmylou Harris. If you saw Disney’s Once Upon A Mattress then you’ve seen/heard her before. Ramolo played one of the Dancing Ladies in the made-for-TV movie alongside the likes of Carol Burnett and Tom Smothers while recording two songs for the soundtrack. The former lead vocalist of Toronto’s Stifler’s Mom and co-lead of Oliver Piggot and the Dropshire Daddies greets October of 2008 with her debut album, Thank You For The Ride.


Ramolo has an earthy voice that’s sensual and fiery and full of life. She can project the vocal gravity of Stevie Nicks, the homey comfort of Emmylou Harris or the pure raw energy of Janis Joplin, often within the same song. As a songwriter Ramolo is a first-class talent, using the broad brush of lyrical narrative to infuse characters, places and events with vibrant panache. Thank You For The Ride is an earthy and unadulterated trip through Ramolo’s baser instincts; Longing for connections from the spiritual to the emotional to the physical.

Miss Uncensored has a sway and lilt that stands in stark counterpoint to the purely animalistic desire and confidence that pervades the song. The logical dissonance is overwhelmed by the pure melodic delight of the song and the sharply emotional delivery by Ramolo. Lovesick Blues has an old-time country feel to it that is as period as it is universal. This has the potential to be a classic. Late Night Lovin’ turns up the heat with a gritty, raw song about pure unadulterated human sexuality. Andrea Ramolo matches the subject matter with perhaps one of the most sensual vocal performances you’ve heard in a while. It’s not over-the-top or campy, but stands as a pure and dark monologue of the heart and libido. Even the guitar solo drips with pheromones and sweat. Other highlights include Aching Body, Oh Brother, Not My Story and Thank You For The Ride.

Andrea Ramolo sings from the heart. As the lead track suggests, there are no filters here. What you get is pure Andrea Ramolo, where in hunger, excitement, despair, longing or remorse. After hearing Thank You For The Ride it’s no surprise that SOCAN will be hosting her for two weeks of writing and a music showcase in Nashville, TN. Andrea Ramolo has star written all over her. Thank You For The Ride should be a critical darling in the music world and help establish Ramolo as one of music’s rising stars.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Andrea Ramolo at www.myspace.com/andrearamolo. Thank You For The Ride will be released on October 30, 2008 at a show at Toronto’s The Dakota Tavern. Rumor has it that Ramolo is devastating live, so catch the show if you’re in the area. Keep checking Andrea Ramolo’s MySpace page for retail availability. In the mean time you can listen to tracks there!

CD Review: Sundad - The Journey Continues



Sundad – The Journey Continues


2008, Sundad Records

The heart of Sundad is father/son team John Eurell and John Eurell, Jr. Accompanied by percussionist Chet Soares and bass player Eddie Denise, the two acoustic guitarists write and perform some of the most soaring and relevant instrumental guitar music since the early days of Windham Hill. Their 2008 release, The Journey Continues, displays a parent-child connection that extends to their musical expression. It becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins as father & son’s guitars cascade over one another and intertwine in the conjunction of musical spirits and mores.

The Journey Continues opens with The Veil, a Michael Hedges style progressive/new age composition full of musical and rhythmic complexities that can’t be unravaled with just a few listens. Out of Body builds to a release that is dark and transformational before morphing back into the sunlight. The Conquistador brings a very mellow Latin sound that plays like watching a leaf dive and dart in the wind. The rhythm of the moments is always clear but the eddies and currents are unpredictable. Moonlight In Manhattan has a serene yet complicated melody that suggestsa certain tension in the face of what should be an aesthetic delight. Other highlights include Somewhat Celic and Dancing In The Park.

The Journey Continues is a sparkling album full of light moments, complicated rhythms and gorgeous, tight musical interplay. The song The Veil may be one of the best instrumental pieces I’ve heard in quite some time, but it is clear that Sundad shares a special connection that transcends their music and creates the perfect storm for the stretching of musical boundaries. The Journey Continues is a master class for all guitar players, and a must hear album.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Sundad at http://www.sundad.com/, where you can purchase a copy of The Journey Continues.