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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Metallica & Lou Reed - Lulu - Coming November 1, 2011

Yes, you read that right.

In one of the most highly anticipating releases of 2011, two iconic acts band together to record an ablum inspired by Frank Wedekind's "Earth Spirit" and "Pandora's Box", exploring the life of a young dancer named Lulu.

It's hard to imagine even what this will sound like, but neither the irrascible Reed, nor the boys from Metallica, would release it if they felt it was anything less than perfect.  Lou Reed was inspired by what have become known as "The Lulu Plays" to create a musical theater piece.  Metallica got involved as a result of their performance together at the 2009 Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremonies.  The rest is about to be history.

Katey Laurel - From Here

Katey Laurel - From Here
2011, Roaring Twenties Records

Katey Laurel has come a long way since her 2008 debut album, Upstairs, Downstairs.  Showing a gift for songwriting and a folky/pop style ala Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon or Jewel, the album was a stellar introduction to a young talent.  Laurel waited three years, but returns with From Here.  Laurel has made the transition from folky pop music to Triple-A artist with From Here.  This transition required a step backward to move forward, as this bigger sound is a more difficult fit with Laurel’s highly personal lyric style.  But Laurel proves she’s got the goods by making it work on From Here.

From Here opens with "Begin Again", blending the dark melancholy of a relationship nearing its end into the upbeat sound of new life and hope.  You can hear the velvet strains of a country song in this number, but the dark-to-light pop feel works well.  Laurel's voice is sweet and soft; full of its own velvety power but gentle in its touch.  "Everything I Love" is a sweet, 1970's pop singer/songwriter confection with mild pep.  The quietly catchy melody is appealing, and Laurel is convincing in her sentimentality.  "The Wheel" casts the cycle of a relationship from start to finish in song; from the first stir of emotions to the emptiness in its wake.  This is a great bit of subdued pop songwriting; catchy, articulate and real.

"From Here" features Laurel in her best voice, enlivening a somewhat nondescript number that holds its place in the middle of the album.  "Somebody Like You" is a solid love ballad featuring the staple sound of a radio program such as Delilah.  “Blue Sky’s Comin’” steps up to mid-tempo pop, but it are as if the spark that drove the first three songs on the album has been subdued in the middle of From Here.  Laurel's voice is as pretty as ever, but the middle of the album lacks that special quality that Laurel is able to bring out from time to time.  "Piece Of The Moon" takes steps in reviving the light, but Laurel doesn't really get back there until the album's closing track, "My Funny Boy".  Here, Laurel is at her charming best in a lovey-dovey jazz ballad.

From Here shows off Katey Laurel's vocal and songwriting talents nicely, but also displays an inertial tendency that might wear on some listeners.  While focusing on the ups and downs of love, Katey Laurel speaks from the heart in an honest voice; singing in a sweet, semi-conversational style that's party story-teller and part confessional.  Musically, the album is incredibly static.  This is good in that Laurel's sound is appealing to the ear, but the lack of any real dynamic shifts on From Here may not sit well with all listeners.  Laurel's songwriting has certainly progressed over the past few years.  From Here, at its best, displays the remarkable songwriter that Katey Laurel can be, but also shows the struggle of a talented young artist still learning what she's capable of. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Katey Laurel at or  From Here is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Georgi Kay - Backwards Forwards

Georgi Kay - Backwards Forwards
2011, Georgi Kay

Australian singer/songwriter Georgi Kay might still be finding her footing as a performer, but the eighteen year old shows real promise on her full-length debut album, Backwards Forwards.  Armed with an introspective worldview and distinctive musical sensibility, Georgi Kay is beginning to build real buzz Down Under; the sort of buzz that oceans can't contain.

Backwards Forwards opens gently with "Puzzles", a quietly lush exploration of the world that results in more questions than answers.  The song represents a rest stop on the journey to adulthood, a socio-epistemological query that shows off Georgi Kay's quirky voice in intriguing fashion.  "You And Me" is a passive love song in light, folk/rock syrup.  The full instrumentation here is intriguing, although the production values used don't do the song any favors.  "Back To Back" is a catchy folk rocker with real pop sensibility; a great listen that might just grab the attention of radio programmers in the right market.  Kay digs into a melancholy and ethereal Emo style on "Breakfast In Bedlam".  The song is likely the most commercially accessible tune Kay has written to date. 

"You And Me" gets stripped down into an acoustic version that works better than the full studio version.  There's a subtle spark here that exceeds the energy and verve of the original, and Kay is much more personable as a vocalist when it's just her and guitar.  "The Cure" is a live-in studio recording that finds Georgi Kay stretching outside of her somewhat limited vocal range.  Pitch and tone are sacrificed for effect in a questionable tradeoff, although the song is rich with melancholy and regret and plays well in spite of its flaws.  Kay changes pace with the low-key, swaying country/pop of "The Truth".  Seemingly jumping off the beaten path, Georgi Kay surprises with what might her best songwriting on the album.

"Lionheart" is a great pop ballad, pure and simple.  Kay uses her compressed vocal range to full effect in a diary-style diatribe on unrequited love.  While the delivery here is a bit simplistic, Kay shows the potential reach of a great songwriter here in flashes.  "The Cure (Rhodes Mix)" is a crunchy guitar remix that's more vibrant than the original.  The sense of over-arching melancholy is still here, but the infusion of energy in the mix is a welcome breath of fresh air that lifts the song up and puts it in a new light.  Backwards Forwards closes with two electro-dance oriented tunes, the messy "Free (Rae Mix)" and a bland recast of "The Cure (The Stoops Mix)".  Both introduce rap with guest rhymers, and both are purely unconvincing.  Georgi Kay presents mellow-ethereal choruses over non-descript dance arrangements as a contrast to the rap verses, but the whole process sounds contrived.

Georgi Kay is a fledgling songwriter with more than a bit of talent, and an unusual, memorable voice.  Though not gifted with significant range, Kay's shy, intelligent perceptions light up her songs like shafts of sunlight through storm clouds.  The songs on Backwards Forwards are full of the angst and roiling uncertainty of adolescence, but there is also a burgeoning confidence in Georgi Kay's storytelling that compels you to listen.  Georgi Kay is still developing her sound and trying new things, but the process here is very much worth paying attention to.  You might just be watching the birth of a star.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Georgi Kay at    Backwards Forwards is available digitally via iTunes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

David Serby - Poor Man's Poem

David Serby - Poor Man's Poem
2011, David Serby

David Serby spends his days as a Union Steward, representing workers and their interests in negotiations with employers.  When the working day is over, however, Serby picks up his guitar.  After spending three albums exploring 1960's style honky-tonk, Serby decided a different musical direction was in order.  Serby chose well, exploring a blend of Appalachia, folk and traditional country that fits perfectly to his story-teller's style.  With co-producer and guitarist Ed Tree (Spencer Davis Group), Serby has crafted his finest, most cogent work to date in the form of Poor Man's Poem

Serby's songwriting is rife with deep political thoughts, but the delivery is more that of a country bard.  Serby digs into stories steeped in U.S. history as a way of illuminating issues he sees as relevant to the present day.  The somewhat expansive country/folk arrangements he builds around his stories are subtle in nature and traditional in sound, coming across like the sort of personal folklore told on back porches throughout Appalachia rather than treatises on modern society.  Serby scores big with tunes like "Lay Down My Colt", a song that urges striving for peace, and the allegorical "Virginia Rail", which explores the life of a worker trying to make a living when large corporations control everything from where he works to the food he buys.

"Watch Over Her Baby" is a heartbreaker; the story of a young lady forced to give up her baby in the hope that he might have a better life, and her anguish watching from an alley as he sits upon steps where rich folks walk, hoping he'll be picked up and taken in.  "Wild West Show" explores the changes that have occurred over time for the First Nations of America.  "Evil Men" might just be the pick of the litter, however, comparing the rough and tumble behavior of the lawless on America's frontiers with that of those in boardrooms and state houses today. 

All of this is delivered in Serby's singularly plaintive voice.  He lulls you in with his delivery, and fills your head with images of times gone by while gently prodding you to think about today.  Poor Man's Poem walks the stilted streets of post-modern America trod by Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, with a finesse and classic Americana/folk style that is compelling.  David Serby is the real deal.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about David Serby at or  Poor Man’s Poem is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bethany Sayers - This Is Me

Bethany Sayers - This Is Me
2011, Bethany Sayers

Bethany Sayers is a twenty-four year old singer/songwriter hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee.  A performer at heart right from the start, Bethany made her stage debut with a solo performance at Disney World.  Performances at various venues along the East Coast and nationally for corporate clients helped Sayers build her stage presence, and additional training through Belmont University and with professional vocal coaches in Nashville developed her technical precision.  Sayers has been writing songs since her teens; she has now taken the natural next step, recording a collection of ten original songs entitled This Is Me.

This Is Me kicks off with the title track, a statement of self based in faith, belief and human imperfection.  "This Is Me" is a solid pop/rock ballad with a big radio-friendly sound.  Sayer's alto voice is sweet, and delivered with a bit of flair.  "Being A Girl" is a song of empowerment, exploring the things that make being a girl difficult as well as the things that make it wonderful.  The pop arrangement here is solid and ready for radio, while Sayer's message is the sort parents will be happy to have their young daughters hear.  "Change Your World" is a swan song, sung from the perspective of someone facing their final goodbyes.  The message is one of love for a spouse of child, and stands out in stark contrast to the material that came before.

"Head First" is a catchy expo on taking a chance on love.  Sayers displays a wonderful presence here in a fun tune.  "Miss Magazine" decries the images women contend with in magazines.  Sayers talks about true beauty and the struggle to be yourself, encouraging those who listen to simply be who they are.    The song is incredibly well-written and positive in attitude and approach.  "Kiss My Goodbye" is a firm kiss off tune that skips the vitriol common in pop music and sticks with honest emotion.  Sayer's salts all of this with a tremendous pop chorus.

"You Deserve" explores the sort of treatment a lady should expect in a relationship.  It's not so much a treatise for the men out there, but a reminder to the ladies listening of their value as individuals.  Once again, Sayers manages a positive message in a sweet little pop/rock arrangement worth hearing.    Sayers explores the downfall of a relationship in "Lonely Tonight", noting how things could have been different if only he had treated her right.  It's a blue country ballad with a memorable melody and a sound that could take Sayer miles.  "Whatever You Say" sounds like it might precede "Lonely Tonight" chronologically; giving him one last chance to make things right before she walks out the door.  Sayers closes with "I Look To You", a prayer in song that's solid without breaking any new ground.  It's a proper bookend for the album thematically, but is something of a let down in sound and style.

Bethany Sayers impresses with This Is Me, exploring honest emotions and uplifting themes wrapped around a core of faith, all tied to accessible, radio-friendly pop/rock arrangements that are easy on the ears.  Sayers does lose her breath control occasionally on the end of long phrases or during difficult transitions, but these are minimal and likely manageable with a bit of hard work.  As a songwriter, Sayers manages to convey positive thoughts in uplifting songs without surrendering to cliché or Hallmark-style pastiche.  The end result is a legitimate and honest series of songs written right from the heart.  It would be foolish to ask for more.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Bethany Sayers at or  This Is Me is available digitally from and iTunes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vince Agwada - Basic Blue

Vince Agwada - Basic Blue
2011, Rocketnoodle Music

Vince Agwada got his musical education in the blues clubs of Chicago, often hanging out at Theresa's or Buddy Guy's Checkerboard Lounge.  Agwada took advantage of opportunities to jam with the likes of Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson and Left Dizz, among others.  From the early 1980's on, Agwada has toured the US with the likes of Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, The Dells and Bernie Mac, as well as with his own bands, One Eyed Jax and the Vince Agwada Band.  Agwada recently released Basic Blue, the follow-up to his 2008 solo debut, Eyes Of The CityAgwada sticks with his blues roots, but spends more time fleshing out the ground that lies between the blues and its wayward child, rock n roll.

Basic Blue opens with "Chi-Town State Of Mind", a heavy, fuzzy blues-rocker that's as gritty as the city it proclaims love for.  Both guitar and harmonica produce distinctive growling sounds here in a dynamic and energetic opener that sets the bar high.  "Blindsided" is a darker, grungier brand of blues with a heavy feel.  It's a fun tune about getting trapped in something you want anyway; very entertaining.  "President" is a funk-laden blues number with some wicked guitar work from Agwada, who shreds his way through the song with an almost manic glee.  Agwada slows things down with the low-key classic rock-style power ballad "Big City Blues"; a solid album track that serves as notice that almost anything goes here. 

"Black Rain" is a down tempo number that's excessively dark and features some of the best guitar work on the album.  It's balanced off by the party blues/rock of "Shake It Up".  Just try to sit still; I dare you.  "Sirius Biz" gets a bit more experimental, with an extended jam featuring some Tower Of Power style horn work over the top.  This is catchy, funky and danceable all at once.  "Right On" is solid with some intriguing harmonica work, but the ham-handed voiceover kills the mood.  Agwada returns to the hard-driving blues/rock blend he opened with on "Train", before closing with the mellow ruminations of "She Never Said...”  Blues rears its head occasionally, but much of the song is atmospheric in sound; lyric in melody. 

Vince Agwada takes several strides forward on Basic Blue, with a sound evolving along the fault line that separates rock n roll, modern R&B and the blues.  Basic Blue shows a successful artist, confident in his abilities, who continues to stretch the bounds of his muse.  In general, that effort is exemplary on Basic Blue.  Agwada shows a distinctive blend of technical skill, resourcefulness and pure drive that sets Basic Blue apart from the harried pack of blue rock bands out there. Basic Blue is definitely worth spending some time with.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Vince Agwada at or Blue is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sarah Pierce - Bring It On

Sarah Pierce – Bring It On
2011, Little Bear Records
Sarah Pierce wasn’t born of the red dirt of Austin Texas, but like any convert, she was reborn in this great songwriting tradition after a visit there in the Fall of 1993.  Eight albums later, Pierce is a highly respected singer/songwriter who has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and played her music for people all over the world.  But she always returns to her adopted home in Austin.  While Pierce’s voice may sound familiar from her singing performances as Calamity Jane on the Emmy-nominated TV mini-series The Wild West, Pierce truly comes alive when on-stage, guitar in hand, performing works written from her own heart.  Pierce sets out to tell the world a story once again on her most recent album, Bring It On.

Pierce gets things started with the title track.  “Bring It On” is an Americana/rock soliloquy from a strong woman who is willing to consider any man who can prove he’s worth her time.  It’s a catchy number with a memorable chorus, with the potential to become an anthem for the single set.  “Butterfly Tattoo” explores a modern day symbol of love and eternal devotion.  Pierce’s voice is eminently listenable, slipping over your ears like a comfortable wrap on a cold winter’s day.  “Cowgirls Ride” gets down to more of a traditional red dirty country sound.  It’s a solid album track full of songwriting fundamentals. 

“It’s Not Enough” is a promissory love song that aims high.  The gentle country ballad is sweet and solid, with Piece practicing subtle poetry in the margins.  Piece settles in for a subtle, even ride that holds forth for much of Bring It On. This could almost become monotonous if not for Piece’s adeptness at stringing listeners along with a lyrical style that keeps you turning with subtle surprises.  Piece does hit some high notes in the process however.  “Twenty Dollar Silver Ring” is a well-written story song about love for love’s sake.  It’s the best pure songwriting on the album, and seems like the sort of song that other artists will be likely to pick up and cover as time goes on.  “You Make Me Love Being In Love” has the sort of chorus you walk away humming to yourself, and find recurring in your mind for days afterward.

“I Ride” marks the deep bond between rider and horse; a friendship that is utilitarian but grows over time into something more.  “Pearl Handle .44” is a Greek Tragedy, country style. About a lawmen and his betrothed to wind up on opposite sides of the law.  The message is that love can’t overcome nature, and the songwriting is superb.  Pierce closes with the mild “May Peace Find You Tonight”, a solid goodnight.

Sarah Pierce follows the gentle rhythms of life and love throughout Bring It On, singing from a quiet repose the tales of love and darkness that intertwine the lives of people real and imagined.  Musically, the album is solid, but Pierce’s voice and distinctly subtle lyrical style pay rewards to those who listen closely.  Bring It On will grow on you with successive listens, but is subtle enough to get by those who aren’t paying attention.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Sarah Piece at or Bring It On is available from Pierce’s webstore.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Salina Sias - Salina Sias

Salina Sias – Salina Sias
2011, Salina Sias

Salina Sias’ musical career was almost derailed before it really started. Classically trained from a young age, Sias sang competitively throughout her school years. Then one morning, at the age of 17, her voice was simply gone. Down, but not out, Sias switched her sites to acting. She moved to New York City at the age of 18 to study, and spent the next decade trying to make it while dabbling in marketing and journalism as a way to pay the bills. Sias’ voice had come back however; she was a regular shower singer long before she left anyone know about it. Then, about a year ago she met with a vocal coach and started putting the pieces back together. Excited to make up for lost time, Sias recently released her debut album, Salina Sias.

Sias shows a longitudinal story-teller’s style on Salina Sias, writing and performing in a semi-stream of conscious style that makes the background music more utilitarian than compelling. Her imagery is strong, however, while Sias explores themes that run the gamut from coming of age stories to chasing down the mixed emotions of life. Sias starts off on a stark note with the lovely but vaguely disturbing “Up In The Trees”. The experience related her have my innocent or may carry much darker undertones, but it’s about a little girl’s perspective from off to the side as she comes to terms with the world around her. Let the interpretations begin, but it’s a strong opening shot from an artist who deserves to be heard. “Sounds Of Blue” is a pretty discourse on two people living together yet living apart. There is an intrinsic sadness here wrapped up in a warped sort of fatalism. The song will get under your skin.

“Dear Job” is an intriguing song about the struggle for faith and doing the right things in day-to-day life. The moments when we look at a path and know what we should do but continue on our own merry way are immortalized herein. Sias’ conversation with the saint through a book on her shelf that beckons yet remains untouched. Sias gets contemplative on “Almost The Same”, showing an odd blend of emotion and detachment that unrolls slowly with the song. “Slipping Away” is a gorgeous musical dissertation on death, marking both its permanency and its negotiability for the living left behind. Sias’ piano arrangement is worth the price of admission on its own.

“Broken Memory” builds brilliance from dichotomy, blending mystery and darkness with ragged edges into an illuminating musical moment full of a rough hewn beauty that is nearly impossible to create. In this one moment the listener hears all that Salina Sias can be as a songwriter – A true WOW moment. Sias suddenly throws listeners a pair of curves on the final two songs. An album full of gentle, occasionally ethereal folk/pop, she gets down and dirty with a pair gut-busting, innuendo-laden torch songs that will know your socks off. “Midnight On Thursday” speaks of basic human needs, waning hours, and the sense of desperation that alcohol ferments. Sias opens up her voice and leaves a scarring impression full that you won’t soon forget. “You Ain’t The One” might just be the afterthought; a bluesy, soulful lamentation on what the listener probably knew was inevitable a song ago.

Salina Sias starts out with a firm impression that would place Sias among the likes of Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan and Milla, but on the final two songs becomes a bit of Martina Sorbara (pre-Dragonette) or even Sunday Wilde. However you choose to classify the singer, Salina Sias is a distinctive introduction to an artist who aspires to big things. The songwriting here is impressive, if occasionally uneven, with Sias showing serious chops as a writer, singer and pianist. This might not be the breakout album; Salina Sias is the one that makes the breakout possible later. This is one young lady who’s going to be on a lot of music radars very soon.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Salina Sias at Salina Sias is available from on CD or as a Download.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eric Church - Chief

Eric Church - Chief
2011, EMI Records Nashville

Three full length albums into his career and Eric Church already has several top-20 singles to his name, a gold album, and a new album, Chief, that has already hit #1 on the US Album Charts and US Country charts.  Church almost gave up music at one point, encouraged by the father of a fiancée to take a job in the corporate world.  In the end, Church spurned the boardroom, and romance, and headed to Nashville.  Now on top of the country world with Chief, Church wouldn't have it any other way.

Chief opens with "Creeping", a dark and entertaining outlaw country tune with pure rock attitude.  The song is as catchy as anything you've heard on CMT in a long time, and features a muscular guitar-based sound that's ready to cross over to rock stations as well.  "Drink In My Hand" is a modern take on the old adage that a way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  This one is destined to be a bar/party favorite, and seems a likely candidate to storm up the country charts if released as a single.  "Keep On" sticks with the catchy outlaw country motif, with an arrangement that sounds like borrows heavily from Garth Brooks' "Rodeo".  Church shows his softer side with the third-person love ballad "Like Jesus Does", employing a 1960's-style pop/country sound that works surprisingly well.  The songwriting here is crisp and clean, and Church hits you with a sweet melody that rolls over you like water.

"Homeboy" is an attempt by the brother who stayed behind to reach out to a prodigal son who left home under a veil of acrimony and violence.  It's a classic tale told in the lingo of the day, and shows a surprising depth that one might not guess from some of Church's darker, more rock-oriented numbers.  "Country Music Jesus" is a call for revival in country music.  Elements of rock, country and gospel blend here in a lighthearted and infectious tune you'll be humming for days.  Church pays fealty to his betters on "Jack Daniels", citing one opponent who always leaves him worse for the wear.  "Springsteen" is a song of remembrance of teenage summer nights and young love.  Melodies are the focal point that brings it all back, in this case the melodies of Springsteen's 1980's pop radio heyday.  Church explores the emotions of finding your ex is engaged in the angry-yet-infectious "I'm Getting Stoned".  Church's arrangement is angry, roiling rock and roll, and is laced with lyrics full of dark humor and bile.  Chief leaves the stage with the enigmatic and curt ending of "Over When It's Over", a matter of fact post-mortem that deals more with the facts than post-relationship analysis.  The rather abrupt ending to the song will leave some listeners hanging and waiting for a full resolution, but you'll have to wait for the next album to hear more.

Not since Garth Brooks has one artist so completely mixed an appreciation and respect for country music with distinctive pop sensibility and rock and roll attitude.  Chief reaches across the boundaries of country and rock and roll, crumples them into a scraggly ball and tosses them aside.  Eric Church goes where he wants, evoking dark thoughts, honest, confused emotions and a sense that life is lived in the honest margins of human imperfection.  Chief is a smashing success, due all the commercial success is it currently experiencing.  Don't miss this one.  Chief is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Eric Church at or  Chief is available from as a CD or Download, and is also available via iTunes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Antigone Rising - 23 Red

Antigone Rising – 23 Red
2011, Rising Shine Records
Changing your lead singer is always a touchy subject.  No matter who you choose, someone is bound to be unhappy.  Either the new vocalist sounds nothing like the original, or they sound too much alike, or some other real or imagined shortcoming that often fits more fully on the vanity of the fans than that of the band.  This is the challenge that faced Antigone Rising in 2008.  A hiatus proved unsatisfying, so the band set out to find a new singer.  What they have found in Nini Camps is the catalyst that might take them from being long-time Indie rock darlings to the upper reaches of the musical stratosphere.  The band’s recently released album, 23 Red, is their freshest and most sonically appealing work of their career.
23 Red opens with “No Remedy”, using an amplified acoustic pop/rock sound and an absolutely unforgettable chorus to get your feet moving.  This song has hit written all over it, and it’s not the only one on the album.  “Everywhere Is Home” is a mild, country-flavored love song.  This is the first single from the album, and promises to have Antigone Rising threatening ascent on the pop, country and Indie charts.  The ladies of Antigone Rising sing like angels when they put their voices together, a point exclaimed here in brilliant sound.  “Borrowed Time” is a sweet ballad, draped in poignant poetry that explores the need to do all we can with the time we have.    The harmonic convergence continues on “One Foot In”, a pure Americana blend of rock and country that is aurally appealing and fun.
“Gracefully” and “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” show off Antigone Rising’s penchant for great melodies, first as an emotionally full  and layered ballad, then as a country, bordering on honky-tonk romp.  In the course of two songs Antigone Rising moves from a blue fatalism to a red, grab life by the horns transition that is dizzying and fun.  The energy here is amazing.  “Pink Sunglasses” is a dreamer’s anthem about finding the place and time that enables you to feel like you can do anything.  In this case it’s a quirky accessory, but the song is well-written and honest in its intentions. 
“Breaking Me” is sonically gorgeous, although the energy is a bit stagnant at times.  This one is more of an aesthetic rumination than an impassioned plea, but the dark undertone fills it with a quiet urgency that’s undeniable.  “You Say You Want To Leave” is a classic relationship nexus song; He wants to leave and she doesn’t want him to.  She’s going out of her way to let him know it’s okay if he goes, while telling quietly underneath it’s not.  23 Red bows with “Goodbye”, coming full circle with the country/Americana blend Antigone Rising started with.  “Goodbye” could almost be a second take on the theme of “You Say You Want To Leave”, but from a better place.  Either way, it’s a pretty tune that satisfies the aesthetic muse of the band while retaining an emotional intelligence that is refreshing.
23 Red is one of those albums that gets you right from the start.  From the sweet lead vocals of Nini Camps to the irrepressible pop hooks and gorgeous four-part harmonies, Antigone Rising wraps listeners up in a blanket of sound while engaging listens on intellectual and emotional levels not often found in today’s pop song writers.  23 Red is going to be on a lot of year-end favorite lists and a nomination or two would not be unwarranted.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Antigone Rising at or  23 Red is available from as CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lucy Angel - Lucy Angel [EP]

Lucy Angel - Lucy Angel [EP]
2011, G-Force Music
Lucy Angel is an Arizona trio consisting of mother Kate, and daughters Lindsay and Emily Anderton.  Although they moved to Nashville in 2003, the three retain the open sound of the southwest, revved up with a hot country vibe and pure sex appeal.  All of this is on display on Lucy Angel’s self-titled, debut EP.

Lucy Angel opens with "Serious", a sexy, fiery country rock number.  Lead vocalist Lindsay Anderton has a knockout voice, and the arrangement is as tight as a wire.  Lucy Angel fills the space beneath with a danceable R&B backbeat, and in the process has created what should be a sure-fire country hit.  The song has a bit more edge that you’re usual commercial country hit, blending classic southern rock into the mix.  "I'll Be Your Whiskey" is a solid working class ballad that's part Wilson Phillips and part Dixie Chicks.  Entertaining but not with the sort of Lucy Angel opened with.  "Only Woman Left" goes back to the R&B driven country-rock style seen on "Serious".  The song is incredibly catchy, and features a big, guitar-driven chorus full of vocal harmonies.  There's definitely more of a rock n roll feel this time around.  "Color Love Blue" is a classic, melancholy country ballad that shows off Linday's voice in a perfect setting.  Lucy Angel takes their leave with "I'd Be Lying", a hit in waiting with guitar work reminiscent of The Eagles and a chorus that simply won't leave you alone.

Lucy Angel is the real deal, blending country, rock and R&B in a distinctive style stands out amidst the crop of cookie-cutter acts you often find on CMT.  Lucy Angel works so well because it doesn't work a formula...  this is honest country rock that, while not outlaw country, certainly knows how to bend the rules a bit.  Don't miss out on Lucy Angel.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Lucy Angel at or  Lucy Angel is available digitally from and iTunes.

Lana Grant - Non-Fiction

Lana Grant - Non-Fiction
2011, Lana Grant

Newfoundland born, Nova Scotia raised singer/songwriter Lana Grant has carved out a nice niche for herself in her native Canada.  Since 1996 she has released a total of four albums full of songs culled from personal experiences and the experiences of loved ones and fans.  In 1999, Grant scored two national singles in Canada, including the chart topping "Pieces".  Grant took a sabbatical in the latter half of the first decade of the new millennium, but returns in 2011 with Non-Fiction, an uneven collection of eleven new songs that struggles to find its flow but does hid a few gems in its depths.

Non-Fiction opens with "Stare", a gentle piece of adult contemporary pop/rock with a mild country flavor.  The song has a mild urgency and intensity that is surprising, and Grant's voice is a warming alto with just a hint of spice.  "Cheated" is an intriguing pop/R&B blend that's not a kiss-off song, but a relationship post-mortem that honestly explores the feelings left in the wake of what has ended.  After a strong start, Grant languishes in a series of songs that seem passive or bland.  She pulls out of this swoon with "Dash", a song tribute to a Halifax Police Special Constable who perished in a car crash in 2008.  With melancholy undertones swirling about its feet, "Dash" reminds us all that our time here is short, and urges us to make the most of what is left.  "Wiped Clean" is a brilliant exploration in song, written to an anonymous birth mother from an adopted child.  The whirl of speculation, deep thoughts and conflicting emotions here is ingeniously presented.  Grant closes with "Time", a retrospective on a serious illness as a single parent who is afraid of leaving her child alone.  The song resolves into a prayer and resolution to better with the time she has left; the song is touching and real; and will carry a big emotional wallop for anyone who has been there.

Lana Grant manages to create some real musical moments on Non-Fiction, but like real life, there's a lot here that may pass unnoticed as well.  Grant's voice is a real treat; a gorgeous also that wraps itself around you like a shawl.  This makes even the bland middle of the album shine.  When Grant finds the right story, she's quite capable of creating magic in song.  The gems on Non-Fiction make the wait in between worth spending some time with.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Lana Grant at or  Non-Fiction is available on CD through IndiePool.  Digital versions may be acquired via or iTunes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lady Indiraa - Shrink

Lady Indiraa - Shrink
2011, Carpe Diem

Infusing the glamour of Bollywood and the slick dance beats of Western pop, Lady Indiraa bursts into the international dance music scene in 2011 with her 4-track EP Shrink.  Produced by Simon Ellis (Britney Spears, S Club 7, East 17), Shrink shows the utter joy of finding a new lease on life, using cutting edge technology and the amusing wordplay that Lady Indiraa conjures.

The EP opens with "Shrink", a catchy dance number about being off balance and needing psychiatric help.  Lady Indiraa uses self-deprecating humor to make light without marginalizing or demeaning such treatment, and does so against a very danceable backdrop that is certain to pack the dance floor.  "Take Me" is all about finding a real man who can show her how to have a good of time.  This fun and catchy number has a liberated spirit in spite of the seemingly trite subject matter, and will play well to the club scene.  "Kamasutra" should be a big pickup song in the clubs, with Lady Indiraa creating a song that is more subtly sexy than you might presume.  Shrink closes with "Bombay Dreams", an ode to home that's catchy, is a bit of a letdown from the first three songs on the EP.

Lady Indiraa certainly knows how to have a good time with her music, but there's a bit of thought in what she writes as well.  Shrink is likely to catch the ear of DJs and programmers and garnish Lady Indiraa solid exposure.  The song "Shrink" carries an air of novelty and an infectious dance beat, so don't be surprised if Lady Indiraa has a bright moment in the sun here.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Shrink is available digitally from Shrink and iTunes. 

Brittany Campbell - Nerd [EP]

Brittany Campbell - Nerd [EP]
2011, Brittany Campbell

New York City-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Brittany Campbell walks the musical edge.  Stylistic boundaries fall aside in Campbell’s path on her debut EP, Nerd. 

Nerd shows an artist on the verge of finding something great, but perhaps still caught in her own pre-conceptions of what she should sound like to find the sound ticking around inside of her songs.  "Clown" is a catchy dance number that's a bit sophomoric lyrically, but is highly entertaining.  Campbell builds a great dance vibe here, and her voice is distinctive and original.  The "Turn me on/turn me off" repetition is a bit too much, but will probably play well in the dance clubs where music is more about feel than sound.  "So Cold" and "DJ" both play on the edges of consumable pop music, with "DJ" standing out among the two.  Campbell builds in some nice vocal harmonies here in a solid dance tune.

Campbell stretches her vocal range upward on "Maybes", an exercise that doesn't work out to her benefit.  The tone and sound of her voice is an exquisite and easily acquired taste, but the effort and marginal melody here just don't make a good fit.  "Goody Goody" is a wonderfully quirky and accessible pop tune, and Campbell is at her best vocally here.  This song has real potential, and could get some serious looks from pop, dance and urban programmers.  "Nerd" might just be the counter-culture pop anthem of the year, with Campbell's distinctive voice playing off against a catchy dance beat.  Nerd closes with a dance mix of the title track; a likely effective single for the club circuit, but not really an improvement on the original.

Brittany Campbell has a voice that's instantly distinguishable, the sort you'll remember forever after hearing once.  Her vocal style is quirky and fun, but song selection will always be key for Campbell, as her voice occasionally finds musical wells where it just doesn't play as well.  When Campbell is on her game she's incredibly entertaining and fun.  The songwriting plays to lighter fare, but is generally quite well done throughout Nerd.  Brittany Campbell has big potential.  Nerd shows that she can use her talents and quirky sensibilities in concert to create enjoyable tunes, but it does sound as if Campbell is still working to distinguish herself and her muse from her own pre-conceptions.  When she finally makes that break, look out.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Brittany Campbell at or  Nerd is available for download via and iTunes. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Lions - Iconoclastic Motion Picture Soundtrack/Pub Songs and Sing-A-Longs

The Lions - Iconoclastic Motion Picture Soundtrack/Pub Songs and Sing-A-Longs
2011, The Lions

Calgary, Alberta rock trio The Lions charge into the second half of 2011 with the release of their fifth album in four years; Iconoclastic Motion Picture Soundtrack/Pub Songs And Sing-A-Longs (September 6, 2011)The project encompasses concept albums, inspired periphery and socio-political commentary against the backdrop of fuzzy garage Americana, 1960's pop and jazz.  The Lions cross boundaries and barriers without looking, following their muse wherever it leads.  Sometimes this works brilliantly, such as on the Americana/garage rock blend of "No Reply", a catchy number you won't be able to get out of your head.  It is this blend of country and 1960's rock that seems to work best for The Lions.  You'll be jumping out of your seat for the Beatles-esque pop of "Anything Can Happen", and the dark, quietly driven edge of "Roman, The Ubiitsy Mesti" dares you to intrigue.  Much of the album is a steady flow of sound, rocking gently back and forth between singer/songwriter ballads and a solid, serial rock experience.  Other highlights include "Syd...Is A Serial Killer", "This Dog Can't Be Beat" and "Champions", whose chorus will stick with you for days.

The Lions take a break from their perfectionist tendencies on Iconoclastic..., allowing the songs to live and breathe for a short time before stepping into the studio.  Part structure, part improvisation and more than a little inspiration make the album their most vibrant work to date.  The Lions will get under your skin with Iconoclastic.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Lions at or  Iconoclastic drops on September 1, 2011.  Keep checking The Lions' website for further details.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks - New Direction

Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks - New Direction
2011, Maria Rose

Flint and Ypsilanti, Michigan are the co-homes of electro rock n soul trio Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks.  Led by the powerful and soulful voice of Maria Rose, The Swiss Kicks power their way through an intriguing though sometimes muddled stylistic ménage on their debut EP, New Direction

Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks get things started with "Velvet Cabaret", a musical biography of a strppr with dreams of owning her own French Café.  There's a morbid sort of pull to this song, as we hear the story of someone struggling to break free of a hard life.  It's never clear if our heroine will succeed, even though she's on the verge of her dream.  Maria Rose gives the whole affair a soulful and gritty read with a voice that will stick in your mind.  "Pineapple Wine" is a quirky folk/pop Boss nova; a sexy and sensual invitation to let down your hair and enjoy the moment.  "Angel Face" is a maudlin ballad that's half-hearted and vaguely depressed in sound.  There's a distinctive disconnect between the lyrics and the tone of the music presented here, enough so that it's distracting to the listener.

"Gypsy Of NYC" is another musical bio, this time of a young lady with quasi-magical qualities.  The arrangement and instrumentation is unique and compelling for pop music, even if the production does muddle the sound a bit.  "Wildcard" is catchy and intriguing; showcasing Maria Rose's voice in compelling fashion.  This is one of those songs that eat at you, growing on you slowly, over time.  The EP closes with "New Directions", an unfortunately apt tune that sounds something like Tori Amos and includes an unfortunate and non-committal rap.  This one just doesn't work all that well.

Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks make a solid impression with New Direction, although the production on the album sounds incomplete at times.  The band skates the middle ground between acoustic band and full sound.  Unfortunately this half-measure doesn't seem to suite them well.  For whatever flaws New Direction might have, however, Maria Rose's voice can't be counted among them.  Rose will make you forget your troubles when she opens her mouth to sing.  The songwriting here is still developing and uneven, but the future looks bright for Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks.

Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)

Learn more about Maria Rose & The Swiss Kicks at or  New Direction is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cabin Dogs - Midnight Trail

Cabin Dogs - Midnight Trail
2011, Cabin Dogs

Twin brothers Rich and Rob Kwait found their muse in Mountain Cabins from Vermont to Tennessee in the late 1990's, taking in the grit and stubborn beauty of Americana and Appalachian folk from its homeland.  The Philadelphia natives would return home, under the name The Kwait Brothers would begin to find a sound that incorporates these styles into a sub-stream blend of folk/rock that is as close to original as anything in the public marketplace.  Later changing their collective moniker to Cabin Dogs, the brothers met producer Aaron "Professor Louie" Hurwitz (The Band, Rick Danko), who helped shape their debut album, Electric Cabin.  The band grew with time, adding Ira Race (guitar); Stephan DiVincenzo (drums/vox); Jeff Levinsohn (drums/percussion) and Jeanine Reed (percussion/vox).  With growth came success, including appearances at the Newport Folk Festival, Apple Farm Festival and Full Circle Fair).  Cabin Dogs gear up for great things with impending release of Midnight Trail on August 30, 2011. 

Midnight Trail is an intriguing listen from start to finish.  There aren't a lot of highs and lows here, but more of a steady ramble that runs the gamut from Folk/Americana to stylishly smooth rock and roll and even a touch of R&B.  "Blue Train" gets things started nicely, adding a modern twist to the folk/Americana blend that's Cabin Dogs' wheelhouse.  The vocal harmonies here are a thing of beauty, and add to the lonely tenor of the song.  Cabin Dogs build a solid groove on "Bloom", a low key rocker that's catchy and smooth and the same time.  "Out To The Country" is an old country waltz that box steps its way into your ears; a song that grows on you with successive listens.

"Twilight" shows a fine singer/songwriter style over a 1960's folk/rock style, as if Paul Simon were jamming with The Band or even Wilco.  Cabin Dogs even seem to take on Pink Floyd with the enigmatic "Dark Moon - Sunrise".  A funky bass line enlivens the minimalist arrangement, supporting a plaintive vocal that tugs at the ears.  Cabin Dogs gear up again with the Wilco-esque "Bringin' Me Down", a swaying mellow country/rocker that just sort of picks you up and takes you along for the ride.  Cabin Dogs close with the catchy, up-tempo folk/pop of "New Morning".  Everything here works, from the bright melody to the catchy arrangement to the intriguing vocal harmonies.  This is a great way to close an album that itself borders on greatness.

Cabin Dogs make a distinctive impression with Midnight Trail.  Gently rolling melodies and quietly distinctive arrangements make this an album that plays well the first time and gets better with age.  Some might argue that Cabin Dogs haven't 100% found themselves yet, but if true it only means they'll be scary good when they do.  The sound does bounce around a bit stylistically on Midnight Trail, but there's a flow here that belies the apparent gear shifts.  Midnight Trail establishes Cabin Dogs as a songwriting and performing force in an unmarked corner of the Americana super-genre.  It'll be interesting what sort of space they carve out for themselves over time.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Cabin Dogs at or  Midnight Trail was released digitally in March of 2011, but gets its CD release on August 30, 2011.  The digital release is currently available from or iTunes.