All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rachel Borovik - Untangled

Rachel Borovik - Untangled
2010, Rachel Borovik

Rachel Borovik is a 20-year old singer/songwriter from Traverse City, Michigan.  Currently a student of voice and piano at the Berklee School Of Music, Borovik has been hailed as possessing the best qualities of a 1950’s lounge singer and an R&B radio starlet.  Borovik admits to being an addict, but she gets her high off of writing songs and creating music.  Borovik’s debut album, Untangled, shows a young artist just stretching her wings. 

Untangled opens with "A Pathless Path", a song of self-determination built on a middling pop arrangement.  It's a solid tune, but a bit bland as an introduction.  "Come A Little Closer" is a jazzy ballad with an awkward feel, as if Borovik had something definitive in mind in crafting this number but could never quite realize in song what she heard in her head.  "Unsatisfied" is mediocre pop/R&B featuring a highly repetitive arrangement and lyrics that wear on the listener after a while.  "You Don't Belong In My Tomorrows" has potential, but is perfected in a bland, balladeering style that just doesn't sit well with the kiss-off message.

Borovik breaks out with "Overdue", a sensual slow jam/love song with good pop sensibilities.  Borovik manages to build a catchy ballad that's amiable but carries weight at the same time.  "Middle Ground" is middle of the road pop music with a solid melody line, although Borovik stretches herself a bit too far at the top.  The result is an occasionally shrill sounding vocal that is not her best foot forward.  "How To Be A Woman" is the standout track, a song of self-reliance for the modern age.  Borovik urges her female listeners to not change themselves for a prince charming, real or imagined, but be themselves.  It's a solid, jazzy number with a sultry feel that's both tantalizing and free.  Untangled winds down with "Goodbye To Yesterdays", a meandering and repetitive tune with a solid arrangement but duplicative form and lyrics. 

Rachel Borovik has a solid voice within her comfortable range.  As long as she stays between the lines, Borovik has a pleasant sound.  The few times when Borovik stretches the limits on Untangled things go very much awry.  The songwriting on Untangled is fairly average, middle-of-the-road pop music.  There's not much here to get overly excited about, but Borovik delivers a steady stream of songs that are a comfortable, casual listen.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Rachel Borovik at or  Untangled is available from as a  CD or Download.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Skyler - Long Gone

Skyler - Long Gone
2010, SkyHi Records

In a day and age where celebrity seems to be the most desirable goal for many, the world abounds with self-proclaimed prodigies.  Nevertheless you'll occasionally come across a young artist who doesn't need the label.  York, Maine's Skyler is a prime example; as early as third grade kids were clamoring in the playground to hear Skyler play.  By 6th grade he'd mastered multiple instruments and a year later the recording studio in his bedroom reduced Skyler to sleeping on the couch.  Four albums, twenty professional and repertory theatre productions and several hundred gigs later, Skyler has a year at Berklee College of Music under his belt and a loyal following that's admirable.  With the release of his fifth album/EP, Long Gone, Skyler brings together the distinctive pop sensibility that's been drawing crowds since grammar school with a highly refined but non-constricting polish that's rare. 

Long Gone opens with "Hold My Hand", an incredibly catchy pop/rock number in the style of Elvis Costello.  "Hold My Hand" has the sort of melody that lives in your brain for years and continues to surface long after you've forgotten where it came from.  This tune has hit written all over it.  "This Dream (Nashville)" is irresistibly danceable rock n roll about coming home to his baby after time on the road.  Most any musician whose spent time on the road with a love at home has written some form of this song, but few have done it as well as Skyler has here.  "Stephanie" is a song of infatuation that's cute and catchy with serious vocal harmonies.  The acoustic country arrangement is a pleasant listen, but electrify it and polish it up and it's as close to a sure-fire hit as you can get.  "Any Stupid Thing" is a catchy love song, brilliant as in Beatles brilliant.  By the way, it's probably the weakest overall song on the EP.  Long Gone closes with "It's Just The Night", a true rock n roll 'wow' moment.  You'll have a hard time remembering the last time an album or EP was this much pure joy to listen to. 

Skyler practices the KISS principle as a songwriter, keeping the constructions simple with amazing melodies, strong harmonies, dynamic vocals and an ingenious pop sensibility.  In a perfect world Skyler would already own the pop charts.  In the real world, if there is one artist you need to turn your attention to in 2010, it's Skyler.  Long Gone is pure pop/rock that's not snarky, contrived or cynical in any way.  Skyler appears to be making music for the simple joy of it, and that energy is abundantly contagious on Long Gone.  If there is any justice in the world of music, Skyler will be the breakout artist of 2010/2011.  Long Gone is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.  Don't miss it.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Skyler at or    Long Gone is available from as a CD or Download.  Digital versions are also available via iTunes

Friday, November 26, 2010

Celeste Friedman - Single 101

Celeste Friedman - Single 101
2010, Celeste Friedman

Celeste Friedman is a highly lauded singer/songwriter/composer whose work has been featured on Live! With Regis And Kelly; The Ghost Hunter; A Prairie Home Companion; National Public Radio; Music Choice and ESPN.  A 2005 GRAMMY nominee, Friedman can lay claim to a #1 album, a GrIndie Award, Indie Track Of The Year Award, and a nomination for Artist of the Year in the Netherlands.  Friedman is also a prolific author, with her most recent book, Single 101: 101 Reasons To Celebrate Being Single raising the curtain on her own life and the joys of going it alone.  Concurrently, Friedman has written a collection of songs, also entitled Single 101, which serve as a musical companion to the book.  Friedman digs deep into the emotions of joy and loss, using humor and insight to parse emotions and get to the simple truths that lay underneath. 

Single 101 opens with "The Dribble On My Pillow", an amusing little ode to night drool done in a cute, classic pop style complete with hand claps.  There's a certain cheese factor, but it's all tongue in cheek and entertaining.  "Gotta Get It Right, Gotta Get It Straight" is all about trying to get your bearings, even taking time out from a relationship to find your true north.  This is the proverbial foot out the door whose status as a relationship cliché doesn't mitigate its occasional truth.  Friedman celebrates reclaiming her bed as her own in the wake of a relationship with "Mattress, Sweet Mattress”, a bit of hokey fun that will hit home with most anyone newly single.  “The Fairytale” is a theoretical love song about what might be.  The song is full of sweet sentiment but the performance comes off a bit flat. 

“I’m Allergic To Ya Baby” is a slinky, jazz-styled number that sounds like something you might have heard on the old Dr. Demento show.  Friedman gives it a good run vocally, but her voice just can’t quite carry this one off effectively.  “I Can Change My Mind” underlines the classic line about a woman’s prerogative with a funky bass line and some of the best piano work you’ll hear in one of the best all-around tracks on the album.  “Garlic Onions And Beans” is a seemingly melancholy and dark song about the classic wards against vampires.  What could be funny comes off almost listless, bereft of energy.  “My Bra And His Underwear” is a humorous take on the comingling of a couple’s undies in light of their fading shared libido.  It’s a cute and funny bit of commentary in song that has the advantage of being informed by truth.

“Batteries Not Included” is an ode to the sort of products that make living on your own more bearable.  In this funny little tune, Friedman explores the purchase of one such item from the internet, right down to getting dressed up for the delivery and the knowing grin from the UPS man.  Everything comes together for Friedman on this number, from the vaguely nervous, almost Christine-Lavin style sense of humor to the musical arrangement.  Friedman tackles such subjects are emotional eating (“I’m Pudding On Weight”) and the unintended side effects of garments from Victoria’s Secret (“Suddenly We’re All French”) before settling into a surprisingly serious love ballad entitled “This Time”.  Here Friedman shows a bit of 1980’s pop/R&B pastiche in a tune that sounds like it should have charted twenty-five years ago. 

“Three Little Words” is a bluesy number about a partner who just can’t say the right things, and leads into the woeful melancholy of “Taken Away”.  It’s hard to discern exactly what Friedman’s intent is with this tune, but the musical approach is a bit off the beaten path and intriguing.  Friedman slips her funny shoes back on with “Barbie’s Got The Blues”, projecting relationship troubles onto America’s favorite anatomically unlikely plaything.  “Flying Solo” is a song of independence that throws off the shackles of expectation.  Stylistically jazzy and fun, Friedman channels her inner Nellie McKay for one of the best turns on the album.  Friedman closes with “Every Day Is Independence Day”, a song that touts the opportunities and possibilities made available by being single, delivered in a semi-big band style arrangement.  It’s a nice closer that supports Friedman’s sense of celebration of singlehood. 

Celeste Friedman mixes funny and serious moments on Single 101.  As a stand-alone album Single 101 has enough light and dark to give a full reflection to the ups and downs of relationships and also of choosing to be on your own.  As a soundtrack for Friedman’s book of the same name it is a sublime companion.  Not every song here works on its own in much the same fashion that not every moment or phase of life works on its own.  The musical ups and downs on Single 101 are quite comparable to those found in life, and so the album’s imperfections become an almost perfect reflection of the subject matter.  If by design this is pure genius.  If by accident then it is the sort of socio-musical accident that is the by-product of artistry.  Either way, Single 101 is an entertaining farce that pauses to uncover some of the more serious truths that lay beneath its comical face.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5) 

Learn more about Celeste Friedman at or 101 is available as a CD or Download from  The album is also available digitally from

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

John Connolly - The Wind

John Connolly - The Wind
2010, John Connolly

Prince Edward Island, Canada singer/songwriter John Connolly began travelling to Nashville in 2008 to develop his song craft.  Connolly developed a friendship with producer Brian Ahern (Emmylou Harris, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash) over the course of time, and in early 2010 called on his friend to produce Connolly's debut album, The Wind.  While the process of recording in a Nashville mansion amongst vintage gear and a sense of the city's history may have been daunting for some, it appears to have provided Connolly with deep inspiration.

The Wind opens with "Unfinished Business", a simplistic secular parable about learning to live life for yourself.  Connolly is folk singer/songwriter with a smooth sheen and an amazing voice; drawing you in with a purity of sound that makes you want to listen.  "Here You Are" captures both the surprise and sweetness of finding love unexpectedly and or reality passing expectation.  The folk/country arrangement offered here is very mellow and features a melody you won't be able to escape.  "The Wind" is a song of comfort that sounds like a blend of traditional country and an almost Eagles-style California country sound.  "Country Stars" is an ode to old-time country and a lamentation that the country stars of yesteryear are nearly forgotten nowadays.  "Does It Show?" is a halting love ballad that is a study in musical aesthetics while providing an equally adept vocal line.  Connolly closes with "Ancient City", recollecting a youthful love affair far from home.  Connolly is masterful as a story place, building a time and place in song and inviting the listener in to be a part of the experience as memory recalls it.

The Wind introduces John Connolly as a riveting story-teller with a mesmerizing voice and an almost magical ability to feed the listener's senses beyond sound.  John Connolly's songwriting has a timeless quality that can't be bought; a gift that will likely keep on giving as Connolly continues to pursue life in music.  The Wind is the sort of album that keeps you coming back, and chomping at the bit for whatever else Connolly might have up his sleeve.  If The Wind isn't on year end critics' best of lists, it's because they haven't heard it.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

 Learn more about John Connolly at or  The Wind is available digitally from and iTunes

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dale Turner - Mannerisms Magnified

Dale Turner - Mannerisms Magnified
2010, Intimate Audio

There’s an old adage that those who cannot do teach.  Apparently no one ever told Dale Turner.  The former West Coast editor of Guitar One Magazine, current guitar instructor at Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute and author of over fifty instructional books set out in 2005 to write and record an album of original material in true DIY fashion.  Five years later Turner has realized his goal with Mannerisms Magnified, a true solo effort that features Turner in all musical and vocal roles as well as in the capacity of producer, arranger and engineer. 

Mannerisms Magnified opens with "Brian On The Brain" a sound collage of vocal snippets ala Brian Wilson's classic Beach Boys vocal harmonies.  It's an incomplete musical picture of the sort that is usually resigned to an untitled bonus track rather than an opener.  "Bad Seed" is a progressive musical construction around the self-story of a black sheep whose greatest misdeeds are indecision and ignorance.  Turner presents a nuanced and smooth arrangement using jazz forms and a prog rock sound.  "Sooner Or Later You'll Hate Her" is a consolation over a relationship that's broken apart.  It's an odd musical choice, but Turner takes an iffy situation and turns it into a workable song that will draw you in. 

Things get a bit disconnected in the middle, but Turner picks it up by the time he gets to "Morality Rule".  You might have a hard time following Turner's meaning here, but the funky and rhythmic arrangement is an enjoyable listen to let wash over you.  "Five Things" takes the Brian Wilson-style vocal harmonies introduced in "Brian On The Brain" and puts them to practical use.  The song itself won't ever be favorable compared to a Wilson creation, but Turner certainly captures elements of the sound.  "Civil Lies" draws on a musical progression that Fiona Apple fans will find suspiciously familiar, but is one of the best pieces of songwriting on Mannerisms Magnified.  Turner again drops for the Wilsonian harmonies, and the melancholy feel of the vocal line offers real color and character to an intriguing song.  "Exit Wound" is highly experimental and convoluted, almost more of a sound poem than a song.  This resolves into the instrumental closer "Solace Song", a solid guitar-based tune that cinches the deal without too much excitement.

Dale Turner puts in a solid effort of Mannerisms Magnified, creating intriguing moments along the way but never gaining the sort of momentum that turns an album into an experience.  Turner is a capable guitarist, and his vocals are solid, but the songwriting is inconsistent and unfocused.  There are definitely morsels here worth checking out, however, and the guitarists out there will enjoy picking out some of the finer points of Turner's playing technique. 

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Dale Turner at  Mannerisms Magnified is available from as a CD or Download.  Digital copies are also available from iTunes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kevin Morrison - Of Whom I Am

Kevin Morrison - Of Whom I Am
2010, Kevin Morrison

It's taken two years, but Kevin Morrison finally steps forward with his debut album, a musical testimonial entitled Of Whom I Am.  Written at the age of 18, Of Whom I Am reflects life as Morrison knew it at that time, a highly autobiographical comment on the world around him.  With the help of producer/uncle Andrew, Morrison has crafted a subtly polished collection of ten songs that are simultaneously fresh and worldly, cynical and open-minded.

Morrison opens with "Of Whom I Am", an introduction and declaration to a young mess who is a mess, a work in progress, and striving to Become.  Morrison projects positive outlook in a vibrant folk/country arrangement dotted with excellent guitar work.  "Company" is the touching goodbye of a soldier to his love on the verge of going off to war.  The song is full of a heartbreaking beauty, as he beseeches the one left behind to hold on and wait until he returns.  "Cry" is meandering, jazz-infused pop with an edgy singer/songwriter mask.  The solid melody plays well against the simple, open arrangement.  "Into The Sun" is a brief instrumental with piano, guitar and strings.  It's a nice, mellow change of pace that sounds like a transitional piece from a theatrical score.   "Simple Memories" is a sweet little love song that's a sluggish in its pacing but is otherwise quite nicely done.  Morrison bows with "Staying For The Stars", a solid if safe tune that would make for a decent album track but lacks the luster of a closer.

Kevin Morrison is young, a fact you'll have to remind yourself of as you listen to Of Whom I Am.  The fact is that Morrison overcomes his youth at times to deliver well-written if somewhat raw songs with the touch of youthful but practiced story teller.  Where Of Whom I Am falters you can chalk it up to the youthful indiscretions of a musician with loads of talent who is still learning his craft.  When Morrison connects on a song, there are fleeting moments of magic that with time, continuity and grace will grow into something substantial.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Kevin Morrison at or Whom I Am is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available digitally from iTunes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Latch Key Kid - Wide Open

Latch Key Kid - Wide Open
2010, Experience Music Group

Latch Key Kid, AKA Gavin Heaney, is a singer/songwriter with a distinctive touch for writing songs people want to hear.  With music appearing in movies (I Love You Man, The Invention Of Lying); television shows (Scrubs, The Hills, The Ghost Whistperer, The Amazing Race, America's Funniest Home Videos) and countless commercials, Latch Key Kid can literally say hundreds of millions of people have heard his music.  (Thanks in large part to Coca-Cola's "Jinx" commercial aired during Super Bowl XLII in 2008.  Not one to sit on his laurels, Latch Key Kid returns in 2010 with Wide Open, a concept album based on the idea of an endless summer inspired by Heaney's travels in Australia, Hawaii and Southern California.

Wide Open opens with the title track, a mellow ballad with a light reggae beat.  "Wide Open" is an inoffensive love song with solid vocals, a fair start but not the sort that imprints an album in your memory.  "Summer Girl" is a surf-guitar rock n roll love song to an ideal woman within the album's concept.  Latch Key Kid captures the essence of infatuation at-a-distance in a catchy number that walks the line between hopeful fantasy and melancholy.  "This Kind Of Love" is highly danceable rock n roll, a happy, upbeat meeting between 1960's and 1980's rock with a chorus that will stick with you.  "South Side" suffers a bit between the split of an upbeat arrangement and too laid-back vocal line, although the vocal harmonies are nothing short of gorgeous.  Latch Key Kid falls into a bit of a funk on the final two songs: The Jimmy Buffet styled "Destiny" and the escapism of "Walkabout".  Neither song is dead weight, but neither really stands up comfortably with the first four songs on "Wide Open".

Latch Key Kid is mostly successful on Wide Open, speaking to a utopian summer drums with songs that range from pure balladry to good-time rock n roll.  The energy runs low in the late going, but the first four songs are sufficiently enjoyable to make Wide Open worth your time.  Gavin Heaney has an affable voice, and surfs the musical territory he's sketched like it's home.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5) 

Learn more about Latch Key Kid at or  Wide Open is available digitally from and iTunes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jacqueline Becker - Jacqueline Becker

Jacqueline Becker - Jacqueline Becker
2010, Jacqueline Becker

Jacqueline Becker is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter standing on the cusp of something big.  Big hair; big personality, and a voice that’s larger than life are all qualities you can’t miss.  Becker has recently been featured as the voice of Riley Kendrick in Elle Magazine’s animation series Dirty Little Secret.  Becker’s self-titled debut album is a study in contracts.  While the performances are as variable as the material, Becker’s voice shines through like a beacon.

Jacqueline Becker opens with the deliciously bluesy "Don't Forget", exuding a mix of toughness and vulnerability that's positively theatrical.  Becker's voice is enthralling, comprised of gorgeous tone, a touch of brass and a breathy flavor when she digs out the high notes.  "What Do Other Women Do?" is a funky rock tune that's stripped down.  It's a call out to a beau over his roaming behavior that's entertaining and fun.  "The Love You Need" is a bluesy come-on, full of a sensual self-assurance that's palpable.    The song itself is somewhat average for songwriting, but Becker takes it over the top with a dynamic performance. 

"Come Home To Me" teams with jealousy and desire.  The bluesy folk arrangement is a call to a man to stop running around and just come home, and is very well written and perfectly delivered.  "Carefully" is a solid ballad with pop and R&B undertones that shows off Becker's voice nicely but once again is a bit on the pedestrian side.  "Honest Man" finds Becker sinking back into the bluesy sound after a slight detour in a plus performance that shows the earmarks of consistency and polish.  "Sugar" questions a partner's fidelity while using sex as a weapon to try to control his behavior.  Becker closes with "Glass Was Sand", an apologist monologue on human imperfect in relationships.  Becker gives a performance that's vulnerable and moving in its knowing sadness.

Jacqueline Becker delivers a positive if slightly inconsistent performance on her self-titled debut album.  The songwriting is generally above average, but Becker has a way of enhancing even the drollest turns of phrase with a high-voltage personality that shines through the subtlety and grace of a long-time stage performer.  When Jacqueline Becker turns it on she owns the room/stage/studio.  Becker isn't on 100% of the time here, but there's more than enough here to keep up the intrigue.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Jacqueline Becker at or  Jacqueline Becker is available from as a CD or Download.  Digital copies of the album are also available from iTunes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colin Gilmore - Goodnight Lane

Colin Gilmore - Goodnight Lane
2010, Colin Gilmore

Texas singer/songwriter Colin Gilmore isn't looking to trade on his dad's legacy, so while the comparisons to Jimmie Dale Gilmore are bound to be made, it is a decidedly distinct style and sound that Gilmore brings to his latest album, Goodnight Lane.  Gilmore's Texas roots are unmistakable, but Gilmore increasingly finds his own voice on Goodnight Lane.  Gilmore has shown flashes of what he might become on previous releases such as 4 Of No Kind and The Day The World Stopped and Spun The Other Way, but with Goodnight Lane Colin Gilmore has come fully into his own.

Goodnight Lane opens with “Circles In The Yard”, the story of someone with the dream of a life in music who goes to New York City and finds the Big Apple takes a bite of him.  The song is catchy and displays a distinct story-teller’s style.  Gilmore sounds a lot like Canada’s Luther Wright while displaying his own distinctive style.  “Goodnight Lane” displays classic country melancholy in a song of regret over love lost that shows the potential for beauty to grow even in the darkest of hours.  “Hand Close To Mine” is a charming country/rock love song from the perspective of the one in love with a wandering soul.  Think Blue Rodeo meets Wilco.  “Abigail” is a deep and nuanced love song about traveling together.  Uncertainty abounds but faith is essential in a profession of love and devotion that asks the same in return.

“Laughing Hard Or Crying” is catchy and danceable; a paean to living life in a space where spontaneity is the rule rather than the exception.  Gilmore captures a great dynamic here.  “Essene Eyes”  has a classic pop song feel; a light listen that’s a nice change of pace.  Gilmore digs into his instrumental side with the 1950’s rock-guitar style of “Teeth, Hair & Eyeballs”.  Gilmore takes the roots of rock n roll and infuses the birth notes of the surf style in a brilliant blend of sounds that’s at once classic and original.  Goodnight Lane closes with “Raindrops In July”, and affable blend of easy listening pop and country.  It’s a gentle close to a dynamic album that’s highly enjoyable, a sweet goodnight.

Colin Gilmore has always had his own distinctive style, but on Goodnight Lane he sets himself apart.  There’s a large constituency of artists out there practicing in the continuum of Americana music, but there’s little doubt that Goodnight Lane must be considered amongst the cream of the crop of Americana releases for 2010.  Colin Gilmore combines an impressive feel for melody and arrangement with a well-defined story-teller’s style.  Goodnight Lane is an entertaining affair that will keep you coming back again and again.  

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Colin Gilmore at or  Goodnight Lane is available from as both a CD and Download.  The album is also available digitally from iTunes.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Matt Burke Band - Pretty Close To Very Good

The Matt Burke Band - Pretty Close To Very Good
2010, Matt Burke Music

It’s been a while since a band was so distinctly Californian that it should be part of their name, but The Matt Burke Band is just such a coalition.  The duo of Matt Burke and Brue Baker’s sound, dubbed “Soulcoustic Beach Rock”, weaves southern rock, reggae and blues together in a blend that seemingly could happen nowhere other than on the beaches of the left coast.  Burke and Baker in fact met while attending college in Florida.  The Chicago-based duo has developed a reputation for dynamic live shows in their hometown, and earlier this year released their debut album, Pretty Close To Very Good.

Pretty Close To Very Good opens with “The Weekend War”, a reggae-flavored good time song for Friday night and beyond with great energy.  Burke has an affable voice, and this is a fun arrangement that’s a perfect start.  “One Step At A Time” is a catchy bit of acoustic rock n roll with serious pop pretensions.  Burke displays a solid falsetto voice and an easy transition back and forth.  This funky and fun tune blends the concept of carpe diem with the need to go slowly.  “Cover To Cover” is an amusing tune that strings together lyrics and song titles from popular covers spanning the rock era.  Kitschy and fun, it’s something of an inside joke for anyone who’s ever taken the stage and faced calls for covers when trying to perform original material.

“Superstar” is a tongue-in-cheek take on a performer whose ego gets the better of him performed in the first person that gets turned around to the perspective of those in his wake.  It’s an interesting and ironic take on the pitfalls of a culture obsessed with celebrity.  Burke is enigmatic here, personality plus that comes through even in the recorded medium of CD/MP3.  “School” is a song of unrequited love for an unattainable girl.  Burke expands on memories from high school days in this catchy and fun paean to how sometimes high school memories hit us from out of the blue.  The theme is universal, and Burke’s songwriting and delivery are vibrant.  “White Collar Blues” is a lamentation of the big dreams of a working musician just starting out and the nine-to-five drudgery he faces years later as he continues to try and ‘make it’.  Whether musicians or not, this tune may well serve as an anthem for 20-somethings everywhere (and none too few 30- and 40-somethings). 

“Moonshine Porcelain” is perhaps the catchiest tune on the album, and vaguely reminiscent of the Tragically Hip.  Burke and Brue work some slide guitar into the mix of some pretty serious guitar work beneath the surface.  “Fading Faces” laments the friendships of our school days that are lost to time in a Jason Mraz-style lyrical explosion that you won’t be able to shake.  “Another Sad Song” reminds us that while music has the ability to open doors, it can also help trap us in thoughts we’d be better off escaping.  The song starts out with just Burke and his guitar, waiting by the phone for a call from his ex that is never going to come.  Burke captures an angst-filled energy here that fits perfectly.  Burke and Brue close with “The Ride”, an energetic turn that fits that’s an apt wind down to an experience that’s even better than its billing.

The Matt Burke Band lives up to its reputation.  Just from the album alone it’s clear that Matt Burke and Brue Baker would be welcome on almost any stage in any town.  Rumor has it that their live show is even more impressive than the studio recordings.  Pretty Close To Very Good turns out to be a modest representation of collection of dynamic and entertaining songs.  You’ll want to put this one on your “need” lists, and don’t be surprised if The Matt Burke Band ends up on a Best of 2010 lists.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5) 

 Learn more about The Matt Burke Band at or Close To Very Good is available from as both a CD and Download.   Digital copies are also available from iTunes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanks for stopping by!  We're in the middle of a brief hiatus.  We'll be returning tomorrow with new reviews!  Have a great day!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Corinne Chapman - Dirty Pretty Things

Corinne Chapman - Dirty Pretty Things
2010, Corinne Chapman

You're about to wonder where Corinne Chapman has been all your life.  Blending a smooth and powerful country/folk voice with a compelling story-teller's style, Chapman charms you from the opening notes of her latest release, Dirty Pretty Things.  Growing up in a house where her dad listened to classic country and her mom to "hippie rock", Chapman took those influences to heart and plays a style that is distinct from either but fully informed by both.  Dirty Pretty Things is Chapman's first album in five years, and the first with producer Ken Croomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo). 

Dirty Pretty Things opens with "Mine", a pop/country autobiographical about a small-time girl who yearns for a wider horizon.  Chapman acknowledges a love of home and parents but simply doesn't see her path staying in a small town.  This song has an infectious chorus that will stick with you, and Chapman has a voice full of color and character that is memorable.  "Be Good To Me" is a solid pop/country ballad; a bit bland but a solid album track.  "Dirty Pretty Things" is an earthy anthem for those who recognize that true beauty isn't always seen on the first glance.  "Alone" is a kiss off tune to a boyfriend who left her brokenhearted and then tried to weasel his way back in.  Chapman captures the mixture of anger and self-assurance perfectly here.

"Paper Doll" is a country-rock hybrid with anthem potential; a song of self-assurance that declares Chapman won't be dominated or changed by a man.  Chapman mixes a classic sound with a strong message that manages to sound like a positive affirmation of self rather than angry rant or song of revenge.  Dirty Pretty Things closes with "Weeds", a modern take on the hippie worldview that grew out of the 1960's.  Chapman indicates respect for the ideas of the generation even if she doesn't always like their ways.  It's a nice, positive turn with a folk/country feel.

Corinne Chapman has a distinctive voice and style that draws from folk and country roots and stamps it with a modern singer/songwriter pastiche.  Chapman deals in a brand of comfortable honesty on Dirty Pretty Things, like she's telling stories to an old friend.  Dirty Pretty Things is charmingly real, and Corinne Chapman has the makings of a great performer and songwriter.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Corinne Chapman at or Pretty Things is available from  as a CD or Download.  The EP is also available via iTunes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jeffrey Joslin - Smile: an EP

Jeffrey Joslin - Smile: an EP
2010, Jeffrey Joslin

Jeffrey Joslin was a scholarship athlete; a quarterback with Charleston Southern University.  It's an opportunity that would make most American boys happy, but it wasn't working for Joslin.  He walked away in the middle of his first semester there to pursue his first dream of being a musician.  In 2005 Joslin transferred to Middle Tennessee State University to learn the production side of the music business while continuing to play and write at every opportunity.  Forward to 2008 and Joslin set out to record an album.  Fifteen songs and a lot of soul searching later, Joslin has pared his work down to five songs presented on Smile: an EP.  It's a fabulous introduction to a smile-inducing artist who has his roots set firmly in the Motown albums of the 1960's and early 1970's as well as classic pop music.

Smile opens with "Big L, Little L", a blues/soul blend about the dangers of a father being inattentive to his daughter.  It's a great tune; topical, entertaining and a healthy dose of danceable rock n roll to boot.  "Big L, Little L" serves as a reminder of what can happen when parents don't involve themselves in the lives of their children.  "So What You Wanna Do" is catchy 1960's rock n soul with a positive message; and highly entertaining.  "Smile" is a reminder to not sweat the small stuff in love.  Joslin perhaps over-simplifies a bit, but the result is a highly positive and enjoyable number that's a reminder to be thankful for the small things and to distance yourself from the things that don't make you happy.  "She's A Keeper" is mildly catchy but trite to the point of being kitsch.  This is the weakest offering on the disc, with Joslin even missing notes on occasion, although he tends to overcome this with a personality-plus performing style that shines through even from the studio.  "The Girl Across The Room" is a pop/R&B ballad in the style of Stevie Wonder, a nice turn that suffers from serious pitch problems on Joslin's part. 

Jeffrey Joslin makes a strong start with Smile: An EP but finishes relatively weakly.  Nothing on the EP falls flat as Joslin's persona and performing style are grand enough to overcome the occasional vocal glitch.  To be frank, Joslin sounds better in his lackluster moments than some artists may manage in their best moments, but that's perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Smile: An EP.  It's like watching a rookie baseball player who's highly touted make spectacular plays but then fail to run out a ground ball.  The first three songs presented here show Joslin at his best; the last two have a lackadaisical feel.  Joslin has the talent to pull them off amicably, but it's clear he's capable of much better.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Jeffrey Joslin at or An EP is available digitally from or iTunes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mr. Hunter - The Awakening

Mr. Hunter - The Awakening
2010, Mr. Hunter

Mr. Hunter is a Hoboken, New Jersey musical collective built around the songwriting of Chris Marcus.  Any given album or performance may feature some of a number of rotating colleague and friends of Marcus, giving Mr. Hunter a broad stylistic brush that is kept new and vibrant by the constant circulation of talent.  Mr. Hunter’s most recent EP, The Awakening, shows off some of the rapidly shifting landscape that underpins Mr. Hunter’s sound.

The Awakening opens with "Corner", a jazz/pop hybrid with a nice chorus.  The unidentified female vocalist has a nice sound but struggles with pitch at times, and is buried a bit too deep in the mix.  "The Stranger" captures a 1960's rock vibe that's very smooth but hints at its garage roots.  It's a song of social conscience exploring the need to help out our fellow man.  The vocalist struggles with pitch and breath control on a melodically pretty vocal line but manages to get through without too much damage.  "Trapped" is an elongated jam that's a bit bland, and at nine-plus minutes long outstays its welcome.  This is the version that ought to be played toward the end of late set in a boozy club, but is just too longitudinal and lethargic for an EP.  "Time To Go" features fine work on the piano and keys and is one of two standout tracks.  The vocals don't kick in until about 1:45 in and the energy is solid throughout.  The Awakening closes with "Sand", the best song on the disc.  The catchy arrangement runs nearly seven minutes, and the vocalist once again struggles on pitch on the soulful vocal line but displays a quietly enigmatic personality that holds listeners' attention.  This nugget has a distinctly 1960's soul feel in spite of the mellow approach, and shows promise for the band.

Mr. Hunter makes their case on The Awakening.  The vocalist wrestles with pitch throughout, but delivers a largely competent performance and will improve significantly with some targeted vocal training focusing on breath control and discipline.  It's too early to chart a likely trajectory for Mr. Hunter, but at the very least they figure to be a solid working band with a small but loyal local/regional following.  The Awakening is a solid step in the right direction.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Mr. Hunter at or  The Awakening is available digitally via iTunes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alex Hirsch - Naturally...

Alex Hirsch - Naturally...
1997/2006/2010, Key Wins Productions
 You might say that Alex Hirsch was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but all of the silver in the world can’t make up for talent.  Hirsch has proven his talent over the years, collaborating with folks such as Elliot Randall, Ice-T, Bionik, Too Short and Griffen.  Alex Hirsch is the son of actor Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Dear John, NUMB3RS) and has certainly benefited accordingly, but Alex’s approach to music has always had a DIY slant.  A few years back Hirsch borrowed money from family members and started his own record label, Key Wins Productions, focusing on releasing albums made with real instruments by real people.  Hirsch’s latest album, Naturally…, is steeped in highly original songwriting that blends progressive and classic rock styles with doses of 1960’s psychedelia and jazz. 
Naturally… opens with “Martian Advance”, featuring churning guitars and an exotic progressive rock sound ala The Rheostatics.  Lyrically the song is more of a riff than a complete idea, but the grand crests and theatric turns play like a film score element.  “Naturally” is ethereal rock with a lot of open space in the arrangement all done up in reverb.  It’s a love song full of sadness and memory; Hirsch’s lyrics are intelligent if a bit off the map for your typical love song.  You might be forgiven for thinking this is geek rock with a refined touch, as Hirsch mixes a distinctive breed of intelligentsia with a charismatically finessed low-fi sound.  Hirsch takes on pure jazz form with “Structure”, offering wicked guitar and bass solos and filling in on piano is subtle but tangible fashion.  Rush fans may be reminded of the sort of structure and style displayed on their Gangster of the Boats Trilogy.
“I Speak The Truth” is an odd bit of atypical blues featuring simply Hirsch and his guitar.  Sparsely arranged and intriguing, the song is like eavesdropping on someone’s internal dialogue.  “Nova” is a dreamy ode detailing the moment of falling in love in graphic detail, reveling in the wake of the emotional explosion.  “Christine” revisits a chance meeting at the wrong time, where possibility and romance churn against limited time and circumstance in a mix of hope and frustration.  The chorus on this song is hauntingly familiar.  “One Confession” is an angry emotional jam with minimal lyrics.  Dark and vibrant, the song is full of anger and seeks an answer in no uncertain terms.  “5755” is dreamy 1960’s folk/pop ala Crosby, Stills and Nash written with a 1970’s singer/songwriter pastiche.  Well constructed, this tune is simply a pleasure to listen to. 
“Jail” is a jazzified rock composition with theatrical elements.  There’s a diffuse sense of humor running through this song that’s mildly entertaining as well.  “Girlfriend” is full of reverence; intelligent and off-beat.  Hirsch moons in a stream-of-conscious vamp in a blend of spacey rock, jazz and singer-songwriter styling.  The solo version of “Christine” sounds to be recorded live in the studio and is a bit more affecting than the standard version.  Hirsch manages to capture a live energy in this recording that casts the song in a better light.  “The Day” is a diffuse, open arrangement; a memorialization in song dotted with Branford Marsalis-style saxophone fills and runs.  “Time And Space” plays like two songs.  The first half is a long instrumental jam.  Once the vocals kick in Hirsch creates vocal triads that sound a great deal like early 1980’s Asia.  “Time And Space” has a finding-our-way feel to it that’s communicated in both the lyrics and arrangement, in what may be the most dynamic and original songwriting in a highly original collection of songs.  Natually… closes with “Lennon”, a tribute to the ex-Beatle that’s both musically and emotionally committed.  It’s a well-written and well-executed closer.
Alex Hirsch hits all of the right notes on Naturally…, following his muse wherever it leads.  Influences run through the album in veins, playing off of Hirsch’s natural musical proclivities and creating dynamic musical moments, helped along by highly intelligent lyrics and an intense creativity that seemingly never rests.  Naturally… is an exciting listen; you never know what’s around the next musical turn, or what else Hirsch might have up his sleeve.  Naturally… is an album that will keep you coming back.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Alex Hirsch at or  Naturally... is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available digitally from iTunes.