All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Carrie Rowan - Almost Home

Carrie Rowan - Almost Home
2008, Carrie Rowan/Daybreak

Carrie Rowan is a musical late bloomer who turned to the path of singer/songwriter after a decade in the corporate world. Like many musicians, the Massachusetts-based Rowan seeks to make sense of the world with her instruments of choice: piano and a Martin guitar. Her debut album, Almost Home, is an exploration of emotions, memories and events that Rowan has experience on the path of her life. It is an honest and open album, as straight forward as a collection of journal entries yet with a flair for the poetic muse.

Almost Home opens with Just The Thought, a song of love, devotion and insecurity with a wonderfully memorable chorus. Rowan has a voice that's quite lovely; she doesn't blow you away with volume, but her voice settles in next to you like a comfortable friend. Free Me is a gorgeous tune about wanting to overcome the fear of trusting another; there's an almost desperate quality to the song that comes through in Rowan's voice, and its one of the most moving moments on the album. Souls Will Fly is a song about loving someone who can't love you back completely. Rowan deeps striving deeper and deeper for something her counterpart might not be able to give back, and she's on the edge of walking away, but maybe keeps bringing her back. It's a lovely tune full of heart and a bit of anguish.

On She's Getting There, Rowan tells the story of someone working their way through the recovery from love lost. The repetitive nature of the chorus is likely intended to mimic the baby-steps people take when getting over grief of any kind, but goes on perhaps a bit too long. The vocal harmonies here are absolutely stunning however. Rowan breaks out a snifter of Blues/Folk on Solitude, adding a bit more flavor to the goings on. It's a great tune with a lot of positive energy and allows Rowan to show off some of the timbre in her voice. No Words is definite Mix Tape material; about the magic that happens between two people in love when words are superfluous and only moments matter. Rowan has a gift for catching these moments in such sweet, honest words that she dances right around cliché without ever giving it a second glance.

Frozen In Time is a gorgeous musical moment, a piece of quiet contemplation focused once again on love lost. Rowan saves her most poetic work for this song, married to a plodding yet hopeful arrangement filled with vocal harmonies that grow out of the song like flowers in the middle of a field that's coming to life after a long winter. Anyway is an exploration of best intentions and where they sometimes get us. This one features Rowan and piano and sounds like it could be a transitional piece from a Broadway show, full of the heartfelt and fragile emotion that makes for great theater. Why Don't You is an age old question about why the look of love sometimes cools with time. Rowan and her guitar make a powerful statement while looking to rekindle the energy of youth. Rowan closes out with Your Hands, a memoriam in song for a love who was taken suddenly. It's a gorgeous song full of real emotion. Aside from the emotional gravitas, Your Hands sounds like the sort of theme song you could build a movie around it. Don't be surprised if someone does.

Carrie Rowan writes honest songs, delivered with candor and a sweet touch. She is a breath of fresh air in a marketplace over-crowded with folks looking for just the right sound at the expense of songwriting. Almost Home will run a little slow for some, but it's like listening to a good friend pour her heart out in music. By the end you're invested in her stories and you just want her to keep going. Carrie Rowan may not be flashy, but Almost Home is like comfort food for the musical soul. You'll keep coming back.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Carrie Rowan at or You can purchase Almost Home at, or you can download tracks on Rowan’s website. Carrie Rowan donates a portion of the proceeds from each CD sold to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Review: Levit/Susilo - Asmarandana

Levit/Susilo - Asmarandana
2007, Symbol System 0701

Emiko Saraswait Susilo and Rob Levit created an entrancing album in 2007, entitled Asmarandana. Asmarandana is a form of Javanese Macapat (poetry) that is sung. The form uses lines of multiple lengths in a prescribed pattern and generally tends to be love songs. Levit and Susilo met through UCLA's Center For Intercultural Performance's APPEX program. Levit is known of his Rob Levit Trio, well known in Jazz circles in California, and Susilo is a founding member of Balis Cudamani, which has toured Indonesia, Greece, the US and Canada.

Susilo has one of those voices where you wish she'd just sing all day, and Levit has a supple hand on the guitar, crafting simple-yet-perfect arrangements that touch on Pop, Lounge and Jazz styles. Asmarandana opens with Ati Bolong, a gorgeous and seemingly tragic tune (my Javanese vocabulary rests squarely at zero words). Susilo is enthralling here. Rep Sidhem dances out of Susilo's mouth at times, carrying its weight with grace. Susilo explores her upper register to good effect, with a strong clear soprano voice that floats over the song. Asmarandana is a slow, contemplative song with an almost ethereal feel. The guitar work here is exquisitely subtle, filling around Susilo's voice like a second skin. Suwe Ora Jamu plays like a Easy Listening/Jazz tune. Levit is at his best here, and Susilo's vocal line is sweet and searching.

Galang Bulan is stark and gorgeously played, steeped in vocal harmonies and sparse guitar accompaniment; providing perhaps the most poignant and memorable moments on the album. Demonya Tukang Bonang is compelling, with a highly rhythmic guitar part that sounds like something Ani DiFranco might have written. The song has an urgent, vibrant feel that takes the listener by the band and leads you along. Levit and Susilo hit a Latin Jazz sound on Welha, with Levit getting to show off some serious licks on guitar. Asmarandana closes with the seven-minute-plus Improvisation, a highly rhythmic and variable piece of musical performance art that will sit better with some listeners than others. Susilo lets herself go completely, sounding the best she has on the album, while Levit extracts every possible sound imaginable from his guitar (along with a few that weren't).

Rob Levit and Emiko Saraswait Susilo have created a compelling sound and style on Asmarandana. The blending of musical styles creates a listening experience whose sum is greater than the talents of the two primary performers. Susilo has a beautiful voice that is better heard than described. It's not perfect in tone by western standards, but there is an authenticity in both sound and style that eludes many performers. Levit is, quite simply, a world class guitarist, so marked both what he does with the guitar as what he does not. Levit/Susilo is likely to be around for a good long time. Make sure you take a few minutes and check out their fine album, Asmarandana.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Levit/Susilo at You can purchase a copy of Asmarandana on either CD or as a Download through

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: HB3 - HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass

HB3 - HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass
2009, Zegnotropic Records

HB3 is back. It wasn't all that long ago that we reviewed The Veldt, his fine collection of songs based loosely on the Ray Bradbury story. After such an ambitious project, HB3 wanted to create something that was simply beautiful. HB3 has played The Piccolo Bass on his last two albums and decided it was time the instrument came to the fore. The Piccolo Bass is an octave above a regular bass and an octave below standard guitar tuning. The instrument was developed by Stanley Clarke and is an amazing supple and expressive instrument in the right hands. If nothing else, HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass proves that HB3's hands are the right ones.

HB3 opens with The Umbrellas, quickly introducing influences such as The Beatles and William Ackerman. There is a pensive feel to the song that periodically boils over into intense movement before quickly subsiding. The production serves to create an atmosphere of a room with wonderful acoustics. HB3 mimics mandolin and even lute on The Kermess, a song with roots in the Breughel painting of a medieval peasant dance. The song is a slow-build energy-wise, rising from a timid start to a sense of whirling timelessness. Haunted Houses is reinterpretation of a song from The Veldt that actually plays better here than in the original form. Stripping Haunted Houses down to its most basic form brings out the simple, subtle beauty of the melody.

Darjeeling Express is a near-eleven minute musical meditation that blends the rhythm of the rails with Indian tonal structures in surprising and pleasing ways. The sense of motion is palpable, as the impending sense of arrival each time the song slows. The key here, as it was on The Veldt, is HB3's phrasing. Regardless of what instrument he wields, HB3 seems to have innate sense for how things fit together, making even the most surprising musical turns seems as natural as breathing. Slap opens as a free-form improvisational peace that quickly degenerates into some of the most delicious slap bass work this side of Bakithi Kumalo (Paul Simon). Ariel is a meditation on female beauty, built in slowly undulating lines like the curves of a body. This is a gentle listen that's good for relaxation. HB3 closes out with Positive Venus, a conglomeration of two other tracks. HB3 took Positive Violence from his album Luminosity and married it to Venus, a previously unreleased track. The result sounds the rough cut of a movie score element. There's a real sense of life to this tune that is compelling, with an incessant rhythm underlying the plodding steps of melody.

As with The Veldt, HB3 manages the expected in unexpected ways. His phrasing through HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass is flawless. Each song has its own life and energy, cavorting more like children than songs. In the middle is HB3 with his easy smile and cool demeanor, scoring the world around us like he knows all the answers. HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass is probably a niche album, but it’s a splendid offering that should not be overlooked.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about HB3 at You can purchase a copy of HB3 Plays The Piccolo Bass on CD from

Review: Dan King - Western Color

Dan King - Western Color
2009, Dan King

Western Color opens with Rest Stop, a mellow bit of Americana with a pleasant feel. King has one of those voices that make you think he's lived the road life for a while; gruff but pleasant. When It Comes Down To Love is a plodding tune that has some nice instrumentation but lacks energy, particularly in the vocal line. The Enemy has similar issues. King has an enigmatic sound and the instrumentation is great, but the vocal line ends up sounding like its on automatic. I'll Move On The Same is a definite step in the right direction, sounding a bit like Mark Knopfler in a pleasant Americana-flavored tune. No Crying is a great tune, turning up The Blues in a tasty twist that overcomes the once-again low-key vocal from King.

Greenlight Day gives Western Color an upbeat moment, although the lyrics are a bit on the campy side. The Ruins takes a much more poignant tone in a story song about the passing of time and generations. The song is well written and full of heart and sits comfortably with King's easy delivery. King closes out with three live tunes, an alternate take and a demo. The live performances trade trait for trait with the originals. The instrumental work (particularly on guitar) is better on the live recordings, but King's vocals don't fare as well in the live setting.

Western Color is pleasant; it's comfortable like an old pair of shoes, but it doesn't really leave a strong impression. King's voice is initially affable but the lack of dynamics or real energy detracts from the overall atmosphere of the album. King's band is first class however, and the disc ends up as one of those projects with several nice qualities that just fail to enthrall.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Dan King at You can purchase download a copy of Western Color from or

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Review: Junkyard Empire - Rebellion Politik

Junkyard Empire - Rebellion Politik
2009, Media Roots Music

There is a land where Rock, Jazz and Hip-Hop meet over smart and passionate lyrics. It is a land filled with a vision of a better life, a better future, a better now. That land is the domain of Junkyard Empire, the Minnesota quintet that had their national coming out party on the last day of the 2008 Republican National Convention. Junkyard Empire leaves nothing unsaid; no political stone unturned, and spares no undeserving party from their social critique. This is the secret to Junkyard Empire’s second album, Rebellion Politik, a sometimes brutally honest musical roller coaster ride you won’t soon forget.

Junkyard Empire opens with Original Assumption, featuring Desdamona. The song deals with the seeds of urban decay as well as the seeds of recovering from the same. The song mixes elements of Hip-Hop, Rap and Jazz in an acoustic arrangement that is thoroughly enjoyable not only in spite of but for its apparent contradictions. Freedom is the concept explored; using some very apt social commentary to make serious points about what Freedom is and is not. Rebellion Politik is a call for Social Revolution based on Socialist Democratic principles and features some incredibly rapid fire rapping along with some highly enjoyable jazz improv on piano. Manifest is an exploration of how the powerful twist media, religion and anything else they can use to change the minds of people for their own betterment. The song hits on some of the big concepts and marketing pushes in American history and focuses on many of the things we do every day that have consequences far beyond what we can see.

RDM & Mr. Nox sit in on The Basics, a song that pays tribute to the history of Hip-Hop and calls on practitioners to remember where they came from musically. Conflict Part I (The History) looks at how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict came to be and where it is today. Junkyard Empire makes the point that Zionism began as a means to survival for Jews but has become a point of arrogance, implying that the movement has become hypocritical in light of its original purpose. To be fair, Junkyard Empire has a distinct opinion of who's right and who's wrong in the conflict, but the logical point of the song is probably worth some discussion in less polarized circles. Junkyard Empire closes with Alternate Energy Remixed, an entertaining party song that's highly danceable. It's a great light leave in the wake of some of the heavy subject matter that came before.

Junkyard Empire is the real deal. The rhymes on Rebellion Politik display a distinct lyrical talent steeped in intelligence and a strong sense of social responsibility. The acoustic arrangements are also a real treat, particularly when Junkyard Empire brings in elements of Jazz. Rebellion Politik is one of the top Hip-Hop/Rap albums I've heard in 2009.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Junkyard Empire at You can download Rebellion Politik from, or you can purchase the CD directly from the band on their MySpace page.

Review: Flowers For Lily - A Name Will Come

Flowers For Lily - A Name Will Come
2008, Flowers For Lily

Queensland, Australia’s Flowers For Lily is making a name for themselves down under with their original blend of Rock, Metal and Punk. 2009 has seen Flowers For Lily tapped for a spot on Big Day Out, as well as receiving an Independent Music Award nomination. 2010 will see Flowers For Lily continue to grow their fan base through live shows and word of mouth. In 2008, Flowers For Lily released their debut album, A Name Will Come.

A Name Will Come opens with Cemetery Forest, a powerfully driven song with a chorus that tries valiantly to soar. Lead vocalist Jimmy Sky pushes the edges here with a big hard rock vocalist sound. The sound is held back just a little bit but the Flowers For Lily show they know how to rock right out of the gate. Sky goes to full falsetto for Brand New Blinded before dropping down in the run-up to the glacial chorus. Cupid is lyrically awkward at best with a chorus of "Shooting children in the heart is not a game". The song is essentially filler, and not terribly good filler at that. Flowers For Lily come back well with Hill Of Skulls, a Blues-hued heavy rocker with a real Pop feel. This is the catchiest song on the disc and the one most likely to have you hitting the repeat button over and over. Breaking Bread goes for more a wall of sound feel on the opening before settling into an understated chorus. The chorus is mildly catchy but not enough overcome a pleasant but not imposing song. Flowers For Lily close out with Prelude, a mournful song of parting that does relatively well until the whispering starts. Sky doesn't have the voice to handle a slower song like this and his breath control falls apart on the softer phrasing required here, but the song has potential.

Flowers Of Lily have the feel of gold ore; there's value inside of that stone but you never know when it will rear its head. A Name Will Come displays both the talents and weaknesses of the band. Vocalist Sky is good when belting at the upper part of his range, but has a tough time maintaining a melody line when the vocal style becomes more lyric. From a songwriting perspective, the music is decent, while the lyrics bow to simplicity and get repetitive when all else fails. Give Flowers Of Lily some stream time before deciding where you want to buy the EP or just a track or two.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Flowers For Lily at You can purchase a Download of A Name Will Come from iTunes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: Adam Ilami - All The Things You Want

Adam Ilami - All The Things You Want
2007, Texas is Bestas Music

Adam Ilami was always a wunderkind, teaching himself to play guitar, drums and piano by the time he was fourteen years old. The Arlington, Texas born-and-raised singer/songwriter made his way to Nashville, where he found his footing and his calling in self-made Rock N Roll. Ilami writes catchy, hook-laden Pop Rock with cajones a personal touch. His debut album, All The Things You Want, was released in 2007 to a sold out crowd at The End in Nashville, Tennessee. The songs therein will make you dance, sing along and remember what Rock N Roll has always been about.

Ilami opens with Independent Nation, driven by a funk-filled bass line and guitar work that's reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz before blowing out into an energetic radio-friendly rock tune. Ilami has an affable voice, and the pacing of the song makes for memorable listening. It's one of those tunes that if you just heard it on the radio you'd call the station to find out who it was. On The Inside tackles the growing pains that go with growing up and moving out into an uncertain world. Ilami is encouraging those listen to blaze trails rather than live in fear. This is done to a funk-filled arrangement that's absolute ear candy. All The Things You Want opens with a big guitar presence before dropping into a sparse chorus that highlights a pleasant and mildly memorable vocal line. The song deals with watching someone you know blossom while knowing they are untouchable. The concept here is universal as most everyone has had this experience with one of their friends in high school, college or elsewhere.

Hangman is a romantic ballad of hopeless/hopeful variety. The sentiment is sweet, and it's the sort of song that is likely to end up on a lot of mix tapes. The arrangement isn't atypical of the ballad genre, but it's a nice entry. Ilami finds his edge on My Bittersweet Poison, rocking out about a love that's no good for him but inescapable. The guitar work here is particularly intriguing, as Ilami creates a high-energy arrangement around a dark and needful yet catchy melody line. Ilami closes out with raucous rocker The Night The Two Of Us Died, featuring a straight up chorus that explodes into a crunchy chorus that gets stuck in your noggin. It's hard to pick one highlight from the album, but if pushed, I'd say The Night The Two Of Us Died is it.

Adam Ilami has an ear for big hooks and memorable melodies and a feel for Rock N Roll. All The Things You Want is the sort of debut that should make Ilami a household name. Perhaps now that he's in L.A. he'll get the attention he deserves from the Rock Establishment. The last time I heard a rocker come along with this splendid mix of brawny rock attitude, heart and pop sensibility he did quite well for himself. His name was Billy Squier.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Adam Ilami at or You can purchase a copy of All The Things You Want as either a CD or Download from

Review: The Blue Seeds - The Blue Seeds

The Blue Seeds - The Blue Seeds
2008, L-Abe

Montreal’s The Blue Seeds are led by the eclectic and mystifying voice of Amelie Laflamme who brings to life the songs of songwriter Francois Dufault. The ensemble has a highly unique and catchy sound that can be found on their debut album, The Blue Seeds. Originally released in 2008 in Canada, The Blue Seeds saw an October, 2009 release in the U.S.

The Blue Seeds open with the slinky Barcelona, a song full of longing and desire. Vocalist Amelie Laflamme has an eclectic sound that's something of a cross between Norah Jones and Hope Sandoval, and Dufault's guitar work helps to create a desperate, lost feeling that fuels the song. Outside The Rain Falls has an almost Country feel to it, played in dark minor keys. Laflamme is entrancing, filling out the sound with a voice that wiggles its way inside your brain and sets up camp for a long stay. The dark Country/Americana feel sticks around for Lost Highway, another dark and vaguely disturbing musical landscape fueled by repressed surf guitar. A Killing In Art sounds like a Mazzy Star outtake, both instrumentally and vocally.

On Lost And Delirious, Laflamme gives up her best vocal performance on the album. The song is languorous and is stretched a bit thin here but is otherwise very well done. My Fair Weather Friend takes on a gentle Blues/Rock feel, blended with the nearly ambient vocals The Blue Seeds seem comfortable with. It's a pleasant listen but doesn't really stand out. The same can be said for Black Birds, a song filled with mournful country guitar accents that get a little bogged down in its own pacing. The Blue Seeds say goodnight with the distant and disaffected I Dreamed A Little Dream, a song of emotional division and separation disguised as a hopeful tune.

The Blue Seeds have a distinctive sound that's somewhere between Mazzy Star and The Cowboy Junkies. When everything clicks The Blue Seeds sound glorious in their melancholy, but the energy level flattens out at times and the pacing of the album will lose some listeners. Laflamme has a distinctive voice that is instantly recognizable once you've heard it, and the musicianship is decidedly above average. Take The Blue Seeds for a spin and see how they fit you.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Blue Seeds at or You can purchase a copy of The Blue Seeds as either a CD or Download from

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving is a day to stop, look around you and be thankful for all you have. In difficult times I have a loving wife, 2 wonderful children, a roof over my head, a decent job and healthy prospects for the future, all of which I am thankful for. For fun, I also have Wildy's World. For whatever work I put into it, it's really about you, the readers, and the artists brave enough to submit their recordings for consideration. I am thankful for both the readers who find this blog worth their time, and the artists who give of themselves to make music.

Musicians and songwriters strive to give of themselves to the world. Even something we don't like is likely an honest expression of self, put out there in the naked world to be loved and accepted or cast aside. There's more bravery in that act than most of us undertake on any given day in our lives. Be well, today and always, friends. If you're celebrating Thanksgiving, eat well, and remember those who can't today (and do something about it if you can).


Review: The Erin Hobson Compact - Talk Radio

The Erin Hobson Compact - Talk Radio
2009, Choking Chicken Records

Erin Hobson has been bubbling under on the Indie Scene for a number of years. Critics love her, but widespread notoriety has yet to follow for the Rhinebeck, NY singer/songwriter. I suspect that’s all about to change with Talk Radio, Hobson’s latest project with her band, The Erin Hobson Compact. Top-rate musicianship, strong songwriting and a voice that’s unforgettable make this album a winner all around.

Hobson opens with the title track, displaying a clear, sweet voice and a gentle Pop-Americana style. Talk Radio hints at the tendency of people to differentiate themselves even when they aren't, whether through white lies, games or simple errors of omission. It's a strong tune; well and intelligently written with a great melody. Brick Wall is a fairly deep examination of the cooling of emotion over time in a relationship, with the object being both a buttress and a symbol of the loss. It's another great melody and another intelligently written tune that speaks on several levels to both the loving and lovelorn. Too Late is the story of someone fighting against their own human nature and their own base moments. It's a moderately upbeat tune with distinct sense of melancholy and a melody that melts into your ears.

Crash maintains the melancholic sensibility that pervades Talk Radio; taking on those moments when the world falls in around us. Hobson's voice is beautiful in anticipation of tragedy, and once again the melody is divine. Hobson kicks things up a notch with the honky-tonk Divide. Hobson is affable and sweet in a tune that decries ambivalence, but the real stars of this tune are her band, who inject a whole new level of life and energy into the song with some really hot instrumental work. Far From Home is a song of emotional survival sung in dulcet tones; it's introspective and self-possessed and thoroughly intriguing.

Passing Through is a plaintive tune full of self-doubt and misdirection. There's a sense that the narrator doesn't quite know where she's going but wants to get there as soon as she can, and an internal tension at this crux. It's a gorgeous melody and a fairly simple arrangement that's almost elegant in its plain state. Holding On is a musical realization, diary-style that the relationship she's in isn't what she might have hoped. The song expresses fear and excitement of a new road as well as the coming of tears at the loss. What starts out as a song of melancholy turns into one of joy. Hobson closes out with Leave The Light On, which might serve as a sort of epilogue to Holding On. It's a hedge that perhaps the newfound sense of freedom is a false one. Hobson harmonizes here, creating an enthralling sound against the backdrop her band creates.

The Erin Hobson Compact is a small town band with a sound that's anything but. Ensconced in melancholy, Americana and gentle Pop, it's as if Natalie Merchant, Lisa Loeb and Margo Timmins sat down and tried to create together. Hobson's band is first class, and her voice is a thing of beauty to behold. Talk Radio is brilliantly polished and ultimately listenable. Don't be surprised if Hobson's is a name you're very familiar with a few years from now. Get on the train now while there are still seats.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Erin Hobson Compact at or You can purchase Talk Radio as either a CD or Download from

Review: Steve Lieberman - DiKtatoR 17

Steve Lieberman - DiKtatoR 17
2009, Steve Lieberman

The Gangsta Rabbi is at it again, releasing his 17th CD in the last 7 years. DiKtatoR 17 is vintage Lieberman with a twist, offering up 22 tracks of Psychedelic Punk focusing on social injustice, Judaism, living with Bipolar disorder and showing a remarkably light sense of self-deprecation. Lieberman's style of bass-driven punk accented with Jethro Tull-style flute playing has won him fans and admirers throughout the New York City Indie music scene, and The Gangsta Rabbi doesn't disappoint on DiKtator 17. The same righteous indignation at the unfairness of the world is here, but behind it all, you'd almost think Lieberman has reached a point in his life where he's happy.

DiKtatoR 17 opens with Obama-Rama Yeah, a joyous celebration of the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. Lieberman is notoriously hard to understand at times, a fact that he lampoons later on in Novelty Hit. Novelty Hit is one of three songs in which Lieberman takes gentle swipes at himself, something that hasn't been readily apparent in previous efforts. On Pay To Play Lieberman sings "If I didn't pay to play I wouldn't play anywhere at all". Lieberman also takes a playful swipe at himself in I Should Have Been A Musician. The DiKtator is an interesting track, sounding something like The Ramones playing with Wesley Willis.

Lieberman throws in a couple of unusual covers on the album as well. Waler'Ah (Happy Wanderer) is a unique take on Friedrich-Wilhelm Moller's tune that might just live in infamy. The song, originally titled The Happy Wanderer was an international phenomenon in the early 1950's, and a major Pop hit for the Obernkirchen Children's Choir. I don't know if Moller would ever have conceived of the Punk arrangement Lieberman sets it in, but I almost tend to think he wouldn't be displeased either. Lieberman also mines the Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick penned Fiddler On The Roof for Sunrise, Sunset in a highly entertaining turn. I Wish That I Was Hot is another surprise, an enticingly Pop/Punk missive that sounds like it could be soundtrack material for a teen comedy like American Pie. Lieberman hasn't lost his touch on social justice issues (We Have No Rights!, Terrorist, The Labourer), and displays a wicked sense of humor at times (Poopin' At Work). He even touches on his illness, singing the praises of Alprazalam and crediting it for who he is today. Perhaps the most telling moment on the album, however, is G-D Loves Me Tho' I'm Crazy. Once you get to the bottom of Lieberman's story you find a man who perhaps is finally at peace with himself; at least in that moment.

Steve Lieberman, AKA The Gangsta Rabbi is about as eclectic as they come. While he could be dismissed as a novelty, the fact of the matter is that Lieberman is a genuine street poet; speaking the vernacular of a ghetto that exists in all major cities but perhaps isn't recognized because society has colorized our views of what a ghetto is and is not. DiKtatoR 17 might be Lieberman's best work yet, if only because the humanity in his music is becoming more and more human with time.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Steve Lieberman at or, where you can purchase a copy of DiKtatoR 17 or any of Lieberman's other recordings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: Karen And Amy Jones - Daphne In Winter

Karen And Amy Jones - Daphne In Winter
2009, Karen And Amy Jones

Sisters Karen And Amy Jones sound like a cross between Anne And Nancy Wilson of Heart and The Indigo Girls. Eschewing traditional folk music, the Philadelphia sisters create highly artistic acoustic Rock music that note only appeals musically but also makes listeners think. Playing together since 2006, Karen And Amy Jones have already been featured on four national compilations, and have received airplay on stations such as Delaware's WSTW and Philadelphia's WXPN. The duo released their debut album, Daphne In Winter in July of 2009 and are planning an East Coast US tour in support.

Daphne In Winter opens with Right Turn, perhaps one of the most stylistic and refined kiss off Pop/Rock songs of 2009. Right Turn focuses on a woman finding herself in the midst of the life she'd fallen into. It's a song of empowerment and is rendered eloquently beautiful by the mesmerizing voices of Karen and Amy Jones. Strange Lullaby is incredibly lush, sounding like something that might come out of a Sarah McLachlan session. The vocal harmonies are angelic. The Jones' get a bit more attitude on Ride, exploring the excitement of a relationship with a "bad boy". The funky arrangement is a great listen, and the vocal harmonies are, as always, exquisite. Brittle Creatures introduces a much darker tone in a bleak but compelling musical arrangement where the vocal line is almost in conflict with its surroundings. This is perhaps meant to be symbolic and borders on disturbing but is highly compelling.

The Years find Karen And Amy Jones moving more firmly into the Rock realm with a gentle tune that shows off their voices but seems a bit flat energy-wise. They recover nicely on The Things That He Breaks, an emotionally charged and powerful musical stand that's going to strike chords with anyone who's ever been a victim of domestic violence or abuse (physically or otherwise). The melody here is highly memorable, particularly in the chorus, and the harmonies as good as they've been throughout the album. The Jones' close out with Winter Boy, a mellow Folk-Rocker worth sticking around for. The focus here is the intertwining of the sisters' voices, creating an ethereal and temperate vocal tableau.

Karen And Amy Jones obviously have a bond that most artists never achieve, and they use it in full measure on Daphne In Winter. Not everything works here, but the harmonies are consistently far beyond the norm. The songwriting in general is quite strong, although there is a bit of a fall-off on the second half of the CD. Even the less exceptional material sounds brilliant when both sisters are singing. If Karen And Amy Jones come to a town near you, make sure to check out the show. In the meantime, put Daphne In Winter on your list of CDs to check out.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Karen And Amy Jones at or You can purchase Daphne In Winter directly from the band on CD. Downloads are available through most major download sites, including and iTunes.

Review: The Leaky Diamond - Five Bedroom Demonstrations

The Leaky Diamond - Five Bedroom Demonstrations
2009, The Leaky Diamond

Casey Grimes lives the DIY ethic, with each CD he produces being entirely handmade. Recording and performing as The Leaky Diamond, Grimes uses inexpensive equipment in his home to record his songs, producing CD copies on his computer with handmade artwork. For instruments, Grimes uses his guitar, a "cheap synth", scissors, cars keys, an exercise ball and whatever he finds of sonic value. The Leaky Diamond's latest project, Five Bedroom Demonstrations has the perquisite Lo-Fi feel but is more polished than you might expect.

Five Bedroom Demonstrations opens with Maka, an impassioned tune with a strong vocal line that is nonetheless nearly indecipherable lyrically. Whether it’s the microphone used, the reverb or Grimes' enunciation, the words blend together so as to lose their distinct meaning. The vocal harmonies are strong; the song sounds decent enough, but little ends up being communicated. Believe has similar issues, and the energy level here is very flat. The Leaky Diamond picks up the pace somewhat for Winterseen. The sound here is a bit rougher, however, and seems to lose focus at times. Your Mythology has some real potential, but as with much of the rest of the material here Grimes really needs a collaborator of some sort. The extra tension of another creative hand may serve to bring out the best in The Leaky Diamond. The closing cut is Time Is Freed, an experimental track with electronic elements that seems more focused on sounds than anything else. The vocal line here is decent for sound but lifeless in energy. Even when the pace of the song picks up the energy just never fully comes to the fore.

The Leaky Diamond is interesting in theory and approach, but the end result is just a bit too rough around the edges of mass consumption. Grimes has an adequate voice but the instrumental composition of his songs is not what you'd expect of a professional recording irrespective of the sound/recording approach. Working with at least one collaborator would work to firm up the sound and focus the songwriting.

Rating: 1.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Leaky Diamond at, where you can stream Five Bedroom Demonstrations. If you're looking to acquire a physical copy, contact The Leaky Diamond through his MySpace page.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Tonight We Ride - Of The West

Tonight We Ride - Of The West
2009, Tonight We Ride

Small markets sometimes hold big surprises, musically. So it is with Helena, Montana and Tonight We Ride. Originally a collaboration of Dustin "Dub" Campbell (guitars, vox) and Greg Vivrette (bass, backing vox), the duo became a post-Punk power trio with the addition of drummer Adam McDonald after gigging for a while and realizing they needed a solid core to keep their sound developing. Tonight We Ride write about three subjects: Friends, drinking and the prophesied the end of the world in 2012. These are the building blocks of Tonight We Ride's debut album, Of The West.

Of The West opens with Cain Station, an energetic number about friendships and personal connections. It's a strong opener with a distinct Lo-Fi feel that works for Tonight We Ride. Duke Of New York A#1 was inspired by the Isaac Hayes character from Escape From New York but parodies the life and times of Amy Winehouse. It's a mid-tempo song with a dark feel; humorous yet respectful at the same time. Drink Myself Into Oblivion is just what it sounds like; a fun drinking song that pulls absolutely no punches. The language is a bit gratuitous (as it is throughout much of the album), but the effect is entertaining. Prelude To Hell On Earth takes on the upcoming annihilation of existence in 2012 in a funky instrumental that's among the finest playing on Of The West. Vivrette makes his bass get up and walk around the room while Campbell riffs off of the magic he creates.

The Other Side Of The Wall marks a real change of pace for Tonight We Ride, with an all-acoustic number that sounds more singer-songwriter than Post-Punk acoustica. The edges are rough, but the core is excellent. Heaven Can Wait finds Tonight We Ride taking listeners on a honky-tonk romp in a ferociously brief bit of fun. For Richie Rowe opens with a guitar progression that sounds like it wants to turn into Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love before Vivrette's walking bass line carries the band off on a highly energetic Acoustic Punk romp. It's a song about living in the moment, sucking the marrow out of life and all that. Parker's Got A Brand New Bag keeps the energy high with a more Pop oriented yet Lo-Fi gem, leading into the closer, Cash Money. Cash Money is a decent tune, but seems a bit out of place on Of The West, particularly so as a closing tune.

Tonight We Ride manages to bring a live feel to Of The West; I can only imagine how much a live show with these guys would be. Some will chafe at the gratuitous language, but one gets the sense this isn't so much pose as prose. In spite of the rough edges, there's real pop sensibility running through the veins of Tonight We Ridge. The songs on Of The West (most of them) could be played as Pop tunes (although part of what makes them work is the "in your face" approach of the band. Make sure you get to know Tonight We Ride. They're better than I expected.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Tonight We Ride at or You can purchase Of The West on CD from, or as a Download from

Review: Kill Paradise - The Second Effect

Kill Paradise - The Second Effect
2009, BreakSilence Records

Denver, Colorado's Kill Paradise has generated pretty significant buzz online, with over nine million plays on MySpace alone. The Electropop duo features Nick Cocozzella and Bryce Hoops, and a sound that got them signed to BreakSilence Records (and may have had a hand in getting Breathe Carolina signed to Rise Records as well). Kill Paradise's debut album, The Second Effect was released exclusively through Hot Topic stores in November of 2009. The songs have been or will be featured in MTV series' "True Life: I'm Coming Home From Iraq" and Paris Hilton's My New BFF.

The Second Effect is good as long as you know what you're getting yourself into. Sugary dance pop with catchy hooks, overproduced and electronically sanitized vocals and a young, simplistic writing style are the order of the day. Cocozzella and Hoops may well have great voices, but there's no way to know as both are so altered it's hard to know what's live and what's vocoder. The opening track, Oh Lexi, is a catchy number with a solid dance beat that won't crowd the National Poetry Award field with lines like "Oh Lexi, you're just so sexy won't you take me away / Oh baby, oh Lexi, you're just the way I wanted you". It's not substantive or even necessarily particularly good, but it's just the sort of ear candy that dances its way to the top of the pop charts. Fall From A Star is built around an interesting keyboard riff that mutates from key to key and runs through much of the song. It's pure Dance/Pop that makes you want to move.

Just Friends? sounds like a junior high lunchroom discussion set to music, complete with cheesy Casio-style synth work and a slick dance beat. The vocals haven't improved thus far, still buried in sickly sweet electronic effects that render the original voices practically unrecognizable. Punch! and Miracle follow a similar catchy-yet-mundane path before Breathe Carolina sits in on All For You. This tune has a bit more oomph to it than anything that's come before, although that may just be an accident of the Rock beat laid down by the programmer. The first real musical sidebar of the album is Katie & I. The style hasn't changed much, but the electronics have mostly gone away. Acoustic piano is the base instrument, and the vocals sound relatively untouched. The voices are decent enough, although the vocal effects seem to creep back in as the song progresses. Radio Arcade finds Kill Paradise returning to their electronic forte, ripping off a mid-tempo ballad over a lively dance beat. The duo closes out with Candyland Wedding, set to a Hip-Hop beat and a sparse electronic arrangement.

Kill Paradise is a band for fans of Boy Band Bubblegum Pop. The Second Effect is fairly representative of the genre, not offering much that's original or intriguing in the mix. In all likelihood, the combination of exposure, placement and the catchy nature of the tunes will yield a lot of commercial success for The Second Effect, but this is the sort of music that once it disappears from the radio it also tends to disappear from consciousness. The lyrics are less than impressive and the music is simplistic, but Kill Paradise captures the sound du jour perfectly.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Kill Paradise at You can order a copy of The Second Effect directly from BreakSilence Records or by stopping by any Hot Topic store. The album is also available as a download through iTunes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: The Henhouse Prowlers - A Dark Rumor

The Henhouse Prowlers - A Dark Rumor
2009, Prowlers Music

Chicago's The Henhouse Prowlers mix traditional Bluegrass with subtle modern touches and Rock N Roll energy, bringing a new vitality to a highly traditional and occasionally stodgy art form. Traditional Bluegrass fans tend toward the ultra-conservative, but this is one Newgrass band with the chops and understanding of where their music came from to be able to draw the traditionalists toward their campfire. The Henhouse Prowlers have played with everyone from Cornmeal to Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs. Along the way, they've been featured on PBS' The Ride Of Our Lives, and have a tendency to make new fans every time they step on stage or pick up their instruments. The Henhouse Prowlers recently released their sophomore CD, A Dark Rumor; It's a good one.

A Dark Rumor opens with a Stonemans cover; Turn Me Loose. It's a vibrant tune with a classic feel and sound but just a hint of modern styling. The entire group is in wonderful voice, and the musicianship is stunning. Uncle Bubba is a dark take of racism and murder from the civil rights era. The arrangement is strong and the songwriting compelling, but the story is a bit disturbing. The Henhouse Prowlers hit on a classic sound with gorgeous vocal harmonies on Simplify; a song about getting back to your roots. Trouble is the Blues, Bluegrass style. It's a tremendous tune that's offered here as a waltz and applies Chaos Theory to everyday life.

The Ballad Of Davey Robinson is an epic story song full of murder and intrigue. This highly entertaining original tune might be destined for a lot of songbooks. It will appear to traditional Folk and Bluegrass fans as well as anyone who wants to be truly entertained by a musical performer. The foolish nature of lovers is explored with great results on 10 Miles More. The high energy and charm of the song speak directly to how much fun The Henhouse Prowlers must have had recording this song. Shadow Of A Man explores heartbreak from inside the bubble, touching on how quickly happiness can turn. The theme continues on Silver Lining, where the narrator is wallowing in his own heartache, almost to the point of madness. Walkin' Around In The Snow touches on familiar territory for Bluegrass and Country music at one time. It's what you might call a hobo song; a tune about having nowhere to go and nothing to do. There's a distinct melancholy that fights with the sense of freedom and wins. The Henhouse Prowlers close out with a gentle instrumental called Haley's Lament. It's a pleasant enough tune, but somewhat anti-climactic in light of all that came before it.

Bluegrass music is in very good hands with bands such as The Henhouse Prowlers at the fore. The picking and singing here are world class, and A Dark Rumor is highly enjoyable. This is one of those albums that makes you want to run out and find what else The Henhouse Prowlers have done, and when the next new album might be expected. Check out The Henhouse Prowlers, a must-hear band.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Henhouse Prowlers at or You can purchase a copy of A Dark Rumor as either a CD or Download from

Review: Behind The Sun - Behind The Sun

Behind The Sun - Behind The Sun
2009, Behind The Sun

Straight Out of the Israeli badlands come Behind The Sun, a quartet with influences ranging from Progressive Rock to Metal to Grunge. Born on the edges of the Negev Desert, Behind The Sun bring the arid beauty and complexity of their homeland to their collective sound. Behind The Sun, the band's full-length debut, finds Behind The Sun stepping up to the next level trying to craft an international presence for themselves. The album itself is a mixed effort with mostly positive results.

Behind The Sun opens with Second December, a six minute epic mixing Prog, Classic and Lyric Rock styles. Significant variation in keys, meters and polyrhythmic drumming make this an interesting listen. Wishful Thinking is built around a great progression and melody line. There's significant life and movement beneath the surface, with Dan Levy nearly stealing the show at times on bass. Front man Gad Erez churns out a lot of repressed anger with his voice, and the guitar work is exquisite. Still is a big, rambling Prog tune that sounds like Live meets King Crimson. Running Water hits the flood line with a galloping Prog tune featuring some pretty severe guitar work. The motion and sound here are phenomenal.

Behind The Sun goes for a Music Noir feel on The Professionals; a bit dark and disturbing but interesting and very well written. October '77 runs a close 2nd for best song on the disc. This highly textured yet smooth instrumental features guitar work reminiscent of Pat Metheny. Behind The Sun closes out with Strong Wind, vacillating between dreamy, lazy sounds and an active, complex musical experience. It's an apt closer, but perhaps a bit overdone at eight-and-a-half minutes.

Behind The Sun goes Metro Retro on their self-titled debut, blending Classic and Progressive Styles with techniques and sounds drawn from today's Modern Rock. Behind The Sun is an album that flirts with greatness at times but never fully gets over the wall. In the end we are left with a very, very, very good album that portends great things for the future. There's more than enough here for Behind The Sun to step confidently onto the international stage.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Behind The Sun at You can purchase Behind The Sun as a download from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Singles: Susan Hickman & Alicia Keys

Ah, Sunday again. Time for our Sunday Singles! Here we go…

Susan Hickman - Whipping Post
2009, Susan Hickman

Hickman's latest single, Whipping Post mixes Blues, Rock and Country in a dark and energetic mix full of sex appeal and grit. Hickman can belt with the best of them, and goes from lyric to Mama Morton and back on what might be one of the most exciting Country singles of 2009. Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse have absolutely nothing on Hickman. Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Alicia Keys - Dreaming
2009, Alicia Keys

Keys goes for a lush, near-ethereal sound on her latest single, Dreaming. Keys is a consummate performer, and vocally she's very much at the top of her game here, but there's something about the track that seems a bit out of kilter. Keys is very much in her upper register throughout the tune, and some of the warmth that perhaps should accompany this track just never materializes. I think the performance is as good as can be expected, but the song itself perhaps isn't up to her usual standard. Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review: The Doctors Fox - Plural Non-Possessive

The Doctors Fox - Plural Non-Possessive
2009, The Doctors Fox

Every so often a band comes along that's so totally marching to their own drummer they are tough to classify. In this case the drummer is Josh Kiggans, and the band is Boston's The Doctors Fox. Blending Rock, Jazz, Funk, Ska, Doo Wop and Klezmer into a thoroughly novel yet comfortable is the specialty of The Doctors Fox, who claim such diverse acts as They Might Be Giants, The Band and Of Montreal as influences. Their debut album, Plural Non-Possessive, finds The Doctors Fox pulling out the musical kitchen sink and creating a delirious brand of musical magic.

Plural Non-Possessive opens with Olympic Sculpture Park in an unlikely pairing of the Gypsy Jazz style of Django Reinhart and Joe Venuti with the Be-Bop feel of Brian Setzer. The Doctors Fox waste no time creating an impression either, whacking you across the ears with the violin that plays such an essential part of their town from the opening notes. Olympic Sculpture Park is an excellent introduction to both the album and the band. The Doctors Fox bring the funk on The Man, a working class anthem that's universal in times like these. On Chemistry, the band explores the human tendency to look for a quick fix through quick fixes, if you will. It's not my favorite arrangement on the album, but is lyrically apt and has a natural flow that works in its favor.

Don Juan is a smooth ballad with great vocal harmonies that takes sudden turns from time to time to create tension and interest. The Doctors Fox get quasi-comical on Autobiography Of A Beached Whale. The arrangement includes horns, a funk-infused bass line from David Ladon and a quasi-Reggae beat. Fourth Of July works as a passive call for resolution representative of a generation that continually waits for someone to please do something. The song is well-written and arranged and is as pointed an indictment of the power structure as it is of those of who little but complain about it.

Plural Non-Possessive is full of strong songs, but the highlight of highlights is Ode To The Sun, a delicious bit of Gypsy/Funk/Rock that's highly danceable and intriguing. Sacha is a highly variable rock tune that sounds like it could have been drawn from a Chicago Transit Authority recording session. It's a highly enjoyable tune and something of a different flavor for the band. The Doctors Fox closes out with Whole Foods, a musical riff on the store/chain familiar primarily to those who live in large metropolitan centers like Boston, New York and L.A. At times the song sounds like an ode, but it also points out some of the darker aspects of the whole foods movement and store in general. It's a great arrangement and socially conscious in politically and socially dangerous fashion.

The Doctors Fox are too talented to remain just a Boston band for long. Their sound is so eclectic and original it's bound to gain them more attention and a larger stage, and the songwriting and musicianship are more than sufficient to sustain them when they get there. Vocalists David Ladon and Jon Dashkoff create some pretty impressive harmonies, and Ryan Aylward provides a master class in non-traditional fiddle playing. Plural Non-Possessive is brilliant, and will leave you longing for more.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about The Doctors Fox at You can purchase a copy of Plural Non-Possessive as either a CD or Download from

Review: Sexstone - The Painful Side Of Truth

Sexstone - The Painful Side Of True
2009, Sexstone

Madisonville, Kentucky isn't the first place that might occur to you as home of a vibrant Indie rock band, but Sexstone hasn't come this far by being typical. Without a wealth of known clubs to play, Sexstone has created their own, renting out Elks Clubs, VFW lodges and whatever other space they can find while putting a lot of time performing for benefit concerts for various charities. Sexstone has quickly built a rabidly loyal following and is looking to expand their fan base outside of their home territory. Led by singer Steve Bauer, Sexstone has recorded and released their full-length debut album, The Painful Side Of The True.

Sexstone gets off to a great start with Thank You, a sardonic rocker about the end of a relationship. The theme here is universal and should speak to most, while the tune has a catchy beat and strong melody. Theme sounds like a soundtrack piece from a teen comedy, sung by the poor lost soul who never, ever gets the girl. Things trend progressively downhill from there, with Sexstone relying on repetition and emotional weight to drive the music. This combination tends to way it down instead. One highlight awaits those who dig deep into the album however. Wait For Me (Soldier's Song) is a lament and prayer about a life that will pass him by back home. Written from the perspective of a deploying soldier whose wife is pregnant, it’s an acknowledgement that he's going to miss out on a lot and a plea for it all to slow down and wait until he gets home. Wait For Me is an amazing tune. From the high to the low, Sexstone falls to You Know. The writer's depressed; the songs depressed; I was depressed before the song was over. Even when the big guitars kick in the energy just isn't there. Sexstone closes out with two average, easy to overlook tracks: Screaming Daylight and Lift. The former is flat and the latter simply fails to stand out in any remarkable fashion.

Sexstone possesses some real talent, but you have to work through a lot of average material on The Painful Side Of True to get to the gold music nuggets therein. Wait For Me (Soldier's Song) is special, and Thank You is decent, but the rest of the album is mired in mediocrity. Bauer's got an intriguing voice that wends its way through the songs presented here, and the musicianship is strong. Take some time to check out Sexstone. I don't know if they have it 100% together yet sound-wise, but they're definitely on the way to somewhere.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Sexstone at or You can purchase The Painful Side Of True as either a CD or Download from You can also download the album from iTunes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Review: Amanda Morra - Amanda Morra

Amanda Morra - Amanda Morra
2009, Costa Music (Canada)

Amanda Morra is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter/dancer has done pretty well thus far for a 21-year old. Her songs are already starting to get spins at Dance, Pop and AC music formats in both Canada and the US. Morra has appeared in numerous commercials, print campaigns and short films; she teaches dance and is a University student on top of recently crafting her self-titled debut album with Producer Gavin Bradley (Nelly Furtado, Tori Amos, Jack Soul). There's little doubt she's driven, and even less doubt about her talent. All that remains to be seen (or heard) is the album itself.
Amanda Morra opens with Dreams, a decent Lite-Pop Dance tune with real club potential. The song is a bit on the tame side for sound but has a catchy chorus. Morra has an exceedingly pleasant voice that certainly doesn't impair the process. Room To Breathe features the mononymous George on a vocal duet that's a bit bland but likely ideal for Pop radio. Whiplash (with Steven Taetz) is kitschy and catchy enough to be a bit. There's a definite club vibe here, and the song makes you want to move. Strike One also has real commercial potential, and become something of an anthem with the right exposure.

Rewind (Stringapella) is the prettiest song on the album. Morra's voice is a bit limited but Rewind fits perfectly into her range and comfort zone. The string arrangement here makes the song click. More & More is a Pop ballad with a dance beat. The melody is quite good, in fact, although there is something of a cliché feel to the whole affair and the songwriting trends young here. If I Took You Home could be a real Pop hit. Again, there are elements of cliché to the song, but the sound is virally catchy. The jACK'd Radio Edit of Whiplash could find Morra surfing the top of the Dance charts. The Jinx Club Mix of Better Days, on the other hand, misses the bar completely.

Amanda Morra has a lot of momentum, and gets a decent push from her self-titled debut album. The songs therein are a mixed bag; some work and some just don't, but it's highly apparent that there's talent here. Morra's bio indicates she does acoustic sets with her material. Seeing such a show might tend to be very instructive about her future. The dance-based arrangements are okay, but one gets the impression that each song has a lot more to live and breathe. Seeing Morra live and acoustic might flesh out tunes that are occasionally one dimensional and plastic in their Dance/Pop presentations. On the whole, a strong effort.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Amanda Morra at or You can purchase Amanda Morra as either a CD or Download from

Review: Ryan Taylor - Spiritual Suicide

Ryan Taylor - Spiritual Suicide
2009, Protocol Entertainment

Ryan Taylor is a Hazlehurst, Georgia Christian singer-songwriter who believes he is called to be a psalmist. Taylor sounds like a modern rock guitarist with hardcore tendencies, and writes songs steeped in neo-Christian concepts. Taylor has a strong, clear voice and is a more than capable guitar player. He recently released his debut album, The Heart Of A Believer. Taylor sent us a three-song EP including the single Spiritual Suicide for review.

Taylor opens with the title track, a big active Rock song delivering an old school fire and brimstone message in a very modern package. Taylor has a very listenable voice, and the song is sonically pleasing, particularly for those who lean toward heavier rock. The in-your-face evangelical content will turn off some listeners, of course. Those Who Never Lived is a Pro-Life/Anti-Abortion tune that's a bit simplistic and cliché but makes its point. This is one of those situations where message gets in the way of the music. The chorus is actually pretty decent, but the song gets a bit bogged down in its own subject matter. Hands Of Life is written from the perspective of God speaking to sinners. The song itself is average, although Taylor's voice makes it eminently more listenable. The subject matter here has been done over and over in Contemporary Christian Music, and Taylor really doesn't add anything new in the process.

Spiritual Suicide is a great EP for preaching to the converted, so to speak, but don't expect it to make much noise outside of the CCM market. Ryan Taylor is young and full of the certainty of youth. The over-confidence of the intersection of youth and Faith is stamped all over Spiritual Suicide, and will likely do more to drive away those who don't believe the same things than open their minds to Taylor's beliefs. Musically, Taylor has real talent, and a taste for ultra-modern heavy rock that should fare him well as songwriting style and approach mature.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Ryan Taylor at or You can purchase a copy of The Heart Of A Believer from, or download the album from iTunes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Anna Madorsky – Incantation

Anna Madorsky – Incantation
2009, Anna Madorsky/ASCAP

St. Petersburg, Russia-born L.A. singer/songwriter Anna Madorsky has been down this path before. Her 2008 Indie debut, Talk Is Cheap was recorded under the name Rouse. Madorsky dropped the stage name and returned to her roots for her follow-up album, Incantation. Written in the vein of 4AD meets Kate Bush, Madorsky digs into metaphysical arguments and subjects of personal and social equality on Incantation, seeking answers in musical parables.

Incantation opens with the lilting anthem Bloom. Madorsky sounds a bit like Kate Bush, with similar vibrato and a vocal aloofness that's distinctive. Madorsky doesn't have the prettiest of voices but it's very memorable. Broken Artifacts wants to be a bluesy song but Madorsky gets a bit too caught up in her own sound. The vocalizations within the song become bland and repetitive, sapping the song of any real compelling nature. Things start to pick up a bit six tracks in with Emerald City. The song is a bit bland but the chorus is memorable and the overall arrangement is decent. Therapist's Office has the first real urgent feel on the album. It's not the best overall composition but might be the most interesting one.

Guillotine is a piano-based opus ala Tori Amos with a jazzy vocal line. The phrasing is a bit awkward at times but overall the song is quite well done. Rhea is edgy and disturbing, repetitive yet intriguing. It's perhaps the most bizarre song on Incantation; I can't say I like it entirely but it's probably the song I listened to the most. Madorsky runs through a couple of bland tunes in Sandbox and Clinic before closing out with Soundbyte, the best bit of songwriting on the album. It's an interesting look at personal chaos and its coexistent compatibility and incompatibility with living in an information-based society. The arrangement is intriguing and Madorsky is in her best voice right here.

Incantation was a very up-and-down listening experience. Many of the songs mentioned here have real merit, but several tracks were simply there; experiences to get through to get to the good stuff. This may be one of those albums where the existence of downloads that allow you to select only the songs you want is a good thing. When Madorsky connects she's quite a pleasure to listen to. When she falls short in a recording it can be a long listen. The balance sheet is pretty even on Incantation. Listeners might go either way.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Anna Madorsky at You can purchase Incantation as either a CD or Download from

Review: Paul Kloschinsky - Woodlands

Paul Kloschinsky - Woodlands
2009, Prism/Universal Canada

Paul Kloschinsky is a Saskatchewan native with degrees in both Computer Science and Medicine who is also a poet, author and songwriter. He has won awards for both songwriting and photography. In 2009 he released his debut album, Woodlands.

Woodlands sounds at times like two different songwriters were responsible for it. Kloschinsky, at his best, writes in flashes of brilliance. At his least enticing the lyrics sound like clumsy poetry. There doesn't seem to be any real in-between, with Woodlands being feast or famine. Wearin' Blue is the best song on the disc, having won Kloschinsky "Best Canadian Songwriter" honors from MusicAid. It's a story of decay in light of returning to childhood stomping grounds. Some of the decay depicted here is physical but some is also in the mind of the one who remembers everything as bigger, brighter and more wonderful than perhaps it ever was. As good as the song is I had a real hard time with Kloschinsky's voice, which I did not find enjoyable to listen to. All I'm Hopin' For is also a strong track, reminiscing about an old love. The song is subtle and well-written, wondering where she is and if she's still as wonderful as he remembers. Things fall down quickly from here. Kloschinsky makes two brief recoveries. Like Nothin' Before is another song of reminiscence, and Seven Riders is a story song with an urgent feel. The rest of the album wades in mediocre and occasionally awkward poetry married to music that sounds uninspired.

There are all levels of songwriters out there. There are those who couldn't write a dud if they tried, and there are those who struggle with their art all of their lives, occasionally producing a decent tune but never really finding a consistent flow. Kloschinsky seems like he might be from the latter camp. Wearin' Blue is outstanding, and All I'm Hopin' For is very good, but much of the rest of the album is tough to listen to. Vocally, Kloschinsky is a bit tough for me, but there will be those who enjoy his eclectic sound. In the end I would really suggest you stream Woodlands before making a purchase. This might be one of those cases where downloading the tracks you like might be more expedient.

Rating: 1.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Paul Kloschinsky at You can purchase Woodlands through iTunes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: Delirium Tremens - Thirst

Delirium Tremens - Thirst
2009, Delirium Tremens

London's Delirium Tremens aren't your typical Folk Rock band. The band rocketed to prominence in December of 2007 on the MySpace Unsigned Folk Charts, pulling a surprise Christmas #1. Since then they've approached half a million plays on MySpace with nearly 14,000 subscribers. In September of 2009, Delirium Tremens released their debut full length album, Thirst in the UK. Led by the iconic voice of Karis McLarty and the complementary pipes of Nick Bovaird, Delirium Tremens makes an impression with their gothic feel and intelligent, weighty lyrics.

Karis McLarty has a great voice; deep and powerful with that air of quiet reserve that only the British can pull off. Nick Bovaird has a decent voice with an occasional whiny element ala Michael Stipe. It's not always 100% pleasant but always interesting. From a purely aesthetic standpoint I'd have to say I'd rather listen to McLarty sing than Bovaird. So how does it make sense that Delirium Tremens actually sounds better with Bovaird at the mic than McLarty? Am I nuts? (hypothetical question). I've listen to Thirst at least a dozen times now expecting that opinion to slowly fade away. If anything it's become more entrenched.

As bands go, Delirium Tremens (known as The DTs to fans) is something of a "hot mess". They're really good; very appealing and yet don't seem to have it together. There are times during Thirst when it literally sounds like they're not all on the same page. The DTs really click when they work in synch, writing dark music noir in a folk format. Songs like Geronimo, Necrophilia and Goodbye Billy, Love focus on dysfunctional relationships, highlight both appealing and appalling traits of the respective narrators and characters of each song. Necrophilia is probably McLarty's finest vocal performance on the disc. The DTs show off some great vocal harmonies on Coffee Shops & Squares, and seriously raise their game on Genius And The Holy Ghost, the most intriguing song on the disc. Bovaird takes over vocals here amidst a wide-ranging arrangement full of conflict. Bovaird hits another highlight on Half Of Me.

Songs like The Apple, The Karmen Line and Sugar just don't work out that well on CD (it might be different live). At the end of the day, the vocal mix sounds much better with Bovaird out in front and McLarty in support. As a soloist I'd rather listen to McLarty any day, but the mix just doesn't work, particularly with the tendency toward overly busy instrumentation. This is the great conflict I find as a listener. At the end of the day, McLarty might just be too forceful for the style of the band as a lead singer in spite of being the best singer of the bunch. Hence, a hot mess that in spite of any deficits is definitely intriguing.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Delirium Tremens at Thirst has been released on iTunes, according to the band’s website, but the album does not show up upon searching, and the link provided on The DT’s MySpace page goes to an album by a Swiss hardcore band named Delirium Tremens. It’s in the process of being worked out. In the meantime you can stream their songs on the MySpace page (link above).

Review: Justin Levinson - Predetermined Fate

Justin Levinson - Predetermined Fate
2009, Justin Levinson

Burlington, Vermont's Justin Levinson returned home after five years in Boston, finding the laid back Burlington music scene provided him with a great space to write. Levinson has name recognition on the College Radio circuit and has even had a song featured on Virgin-America's In-Flight play list. Levinson writes in the crowded Americana realm, capturing a sound that's part Blue Rodeo, part Wilco and part Connor Oberst. Levinson's third album, Predetermined Fate was self-released in 2009.

Predetermined Fate is one of those albums you get to the end of and realize you liked it even if it initially only made a quiet impression on you. Levinson's easy, unthreatening approach washes over listeners without fully engaging them. He's a decent writer with a voice I'm non-committal on, but does seem to have a real ear for melody. The album opens with Everything About You, a decent starter but not perhaps what you'd hope for in an introduction. Things get better on the eloquent Bandaid On A Bullet Wound; a highly tuneful Americana sidebar very much worth hearing. Losing You To Tennessee is the real deal, a song that in the right hands would be a likely radio hit. Levinson even shows off some fancy country guitar work on Hopelessness.

Groundhog Day captures a melancholic, laid-back vibe that fits perfectly with the theme of being in a rut. Levinson gets a bit cliché on Waiting For Someone To Love Me, a well-written tune that somehow ends up sounding vaguely like a 1980's television commercial. Keep Your Heart Fulfilled vies with Losing You To Tennessee for the best song on the disc. It certainly has the prettiest melody and seems like the most likely song here to be licensed. Levinson closes out with Sleep Child, a dark and occasionally lyrically awkward lullaby written more for adults than children. The arrangement is gorgeous.

Justin Levinson has a talent for melody and graceful Americana arrangements. Predetermined Fate is full of songs with a lot of potential, but often the energy wanes a bit too much. His voice will strike some well and other not so much; individual listeners will have to decide for themselves. There is some real writing talent here, but the focus at times is quite varied and occasionally even distracted. There's something that runs through Predetermined Fate however that speaks of future growth. I suspect the next album will be even better; but watch out, this one will grow on you.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Justin Levinson at You can purchase Predetermined Fate as either a CD or Download from