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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Plaine Truth - Alive

The Plaine Truth - Alive
2010, The Plaine Truth

The Plaine Truth was born in 2004 at the inspiration of drummer/vocalist Brian Plaine.  Guitarist Yoav Thaler was the first add and eventually bassist Anthony Mancebo came into the fold.  Backing vocalist Chiz Nwokonkor is a late addition, filling out the band’s mix of classic rock, soul and funk sound. The New York City based band has been gigging extensively in the tri-state region for the past few years in support of their debut EP, Alive.

Alive opens with "Alive", a catchy slice of classic rock with funk, soul and modern edge sewn in the seams.  Classic and modern touches make this tune a potential breakout hit.  Get this song in front of the right radio programmers in the right mood and you'll be hearing this song coast to coast.  Vocalist Brian Plaine sounds a bit like Dave Matthews but not in a way you'd expect to hear him, and the background vocalists create dynamic triad harmonies for a big sound.  "Borrowed Time" is built around a low-key funk bass line and a sound that lends itself to thoughts of classic 1970's soul music.  This is music you can listen to for fun or dance along to.  "Gone Away" takes a somewhat harder edge in a song about shattered dreams and love gone awry.  The chorus here has a somewhat magical feel; a simple declaration that soars out of the mass of anger and confusion like a single ray of hope.  Then it's back into the emotional maelstrom with big guitar leading the way.  The funk returns on "Pocket Full Of Soul", with a riff reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz.  Don't let the title or the funky pretense fool you; "Pocket Full Of Soul" drips with rock n roll attitude even as The Plaine Truth exploits the down-tempo setting to full effect around a melody line you simply can't escape.  Just try to get it out of your head.  The Plaine Truth closes with the title track. "Wheels" takes on a solid country/southern rock sound and culminates in a chorus that will make arena rock fans drool with unbridled envy.

There's nothing plain about The Plaine Truth.  The band has a keen ear for melody and an ability to craft songs that insinuate themselves into your brain and refuse to leave.  Alive is a splendid introduction, the sort that will have you checking the band's website on a regular basis to find out when the next album/ep is coming out.  Don't miss out on The Plaine Truth.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Plaine Truth at is available digitally from

Christine Marie - Christine Marie [EP]

Christine Marie - Christine Marie [EP]
2009, Christine Marie

Christine Marie is a California girl with southern intentions.  A singer/songwriter not yet out of her teens, Christine Marie is already a member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International and BMI, and is planning to move to Nashville as she starts college in 2011.  In 2009, Christine Marie released her self-titled debut EP, a 3-song collection of pop country inspired by the likes of Garth Brooks, Leanne Rimes and Keith Urban. 

Christine Marie opens with delicious pop/country of "Boy Behind The Radio", tracking the dreams of a young girl with a crush on a singer making her own dreams come true by becoming the girl behind the radio and someday meeting the voice.  Incredibly catchy, Christine Marie works the song for all its worth.  The song is universally appealing as there isn't a person out there who hasn't entertained a similar dream at least once in their life.  "Let's Do Somethin' About It" comes from the same country/pop lineage.  Christine Marie offers up a dynamic vocal performance, singing lead and harmony vocals on the EP.  There's a bit of a Jackson Browne-meets-Shania Twain aesthetic here that's hard to ignore.  Christine Marie closes with "It Starts Today", a musical resolution to go out and grab life by the horns and take what the world has to offer.  Once again a highly catchy turn, all the more appealing as the song (and the rest of the EP) hasn't been glossed over with the sort of high production values that steal life from the music. 

There's so much to consider in thoughts of who will "make it" and who will not.  Who you know and luck are big components of bridging the gap between being great and being famous, and such things cannot be predicted.  From a talent standpoint, from voice to sound to affability, Christine Marie displays the tools it takes to become a household name.  The songs offers on Christine Marie are catchy and accessible, with the sort of energy that tends to light up the request lines at country radio.  It might not happen right now, but don't be surprised if Christine Marie makes it big someday.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Christine Marie at or Marie is available digitally through and iTunes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feldiken - Common Splendor

Feldiken - Common Splendor
2010, Feldiken

New York City Indie singer/songwriter Feldiken returns with his latest EP, Common Splendor. The six-song cycle follows on the heels of Small Songs About Us. Feldiken expands his reach by digging into personal experience and infusing broader stylistic influences than in the past, from New Orleans Zydeco to Celtic kitchen party and the broad base of acoustic folk that lay in between.

Common Splendor opens with "Age Of Miracles", turning a mildly ironic comment on the state of the world into a song celebrating the joy of finding the perfect person in a complicated world. "Together In This Groove" is a disco song that celebrates the oneness of people when they dance. Lyrically trite and awkward, the song is nevertheless delicious dance pop. "Common Splendor" is a joyous exploration of the togetherness of family where people love you no matter what. Feldiken highlight the human imperfect of individual members as a component of the perfect whole of the group. A gentle Celtic flavor ties this together with fiddle on top. It's a brilliant tune. "Everybody Loves You" is a brief, pretty transition into "Everything For Everyone", a catchy mid-tempo tune which plays like the idealistic worldview of an entitled mind. Feldiken closes with "The Future", looking to tomorrow an asset. Feldiken's bow reinforces the positive outlook that lay at the heart of Common Splendor, breaking it down to its simplest form.

Feldiken marks his territory in terms of love, using landmarks from the world around him to keep his bearings on Common Splendor. The EP is charming in its honesty and good-natured approach. Feldiken writes and performs with a flair that's unmistakable and projects a persona that's instantly likeable, putting the listener at ease.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Feldiken at or Splendor is available digially through Feldiken's website.  CDs and Downloads are available from  You can also get the digital version from iTunes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hannah Fairchild - Paper Kingdoms

Hannah Fairchild - Paper Kingdoms
2010, Hannah Fairchild

Minnesota native Hannah Fairchild re-settled in Brooklyn in 2005 with the intent of becoming an actor. Highly artistic with a strong independent streak, Fairchild didn’t take to the bridle of the actor. Fairchild spent her 2006 tax return on a guitar and set out to remake herself as an artist. Four short years later, Fairchild released her debut album, Paper Kingdoms. Recorded entirely independently in Fairchild’s apartment, Paper Kingdoms dances a highly personal path between fantasy and reality as it explores the difficulty of being a girl and growing up in a complicated world.

Paper Kingdoms opens with "Pin Up", a song of consolation to a friend who has gone through a breakup. Cutting and powerfully empathic, Fairchild avoids the usual syrup and sap that such songs seems to inspire. If Paul Simon had a love child with Tori Amos, she might sound a bit like Fairchild here. "All Eyes On Me" is a song of growing self-assurance and power that might reflect recovery from a loss or just a late bloomer coming out of her shell. It's an amazing bit of songwriting that shows a bit of Ani DiFranco influence. "Before The Cold Air Hits Us" documents the angst and gratification of a dysfunctional relationship in chillingly honest terms, focusing on the comfort and familiarity of the situation for both parties. The title here references reality and the hope to dwell in the known a bit longer before reality hits.

"Poor Leander" shows further empathy, this time for a friend whose need to save others lures him into messy relationships again and again. The intriguing narrative recognizes this quality and also his need to seek out the narrator every time that things fall apart. Fairchild gets in-depth with "Cassie At The End Of Things", an intriguingly positive look at falling down. The song digs past complacence to the elements of loss. Fairchild is in her best voice here, and the performance is nothing short of electric. "Nicollet" is a brilliant tune about a broken soul trying to be the beauty she seeks. Stark and hair-raisingly beautiful, the narrator is full of defiance and self-respect in spite of all she's been through. The last two songs on Paper Kingdoms appear to be cut from different musical cloth. On the rest of the album Fairchild has shown an ability to drill down on her subject and tell lyrically dense but concise stories in song. On "Lady Of The Court" and "Long Since Gone" show Fairchild as a more rambling lyricist. One might guess that these two are earlier songs of Fairchild's included here to fill out space. Both show promise but don't have the focus found on the rest of Paper Kingdoms.

Hannah Fairchild has a voice that grabs your attention and holds it, a gorgeous and edgy alto that's as unsettling as it is entrancing. Writing with a ferocious honesty on Paper Kingdoms, Fairchild bears her soul while maintaining a charming yet firm sense of control. Paper Kingdoms is one of the most strikingly honest and beautiful creations to cross this desk in 2010, even accounting for the final two tracks. Don't deprive yourself of the experience that is Hannah Fairchild.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Hannah Fairchild at or Kingdoms is available digitally from iTunes.

J Minus - Devil Music

J Minus - Devil Music
2010, J Minus

Seattle quartet J Minus walks the wild edge of alternative music. Not Alternative understand, but an alternative to what we call Alternative. Formed in 2002, Dylan Fant, Trevor Wheetman, Chris Mongillo and Meyer Harrell work within the bounds of solid songwriting, dynamic harmonies and a refusal to tie themselves to one specific sound. You may hear flashes of bands such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Samples or Toad The Wet Sprocket in their sound, but J Minus takes these influences, mixes them with their own inherent talents and creates something new and unique. J Minus dropped their third album, Devil Music over the summer. It may be their best work to date.

Devil Music opens with "Congratulations, You Suck; a catchy tune that asks a troubling paramour to set him free rather than string him along. Buried in the emotional angst of the tune is a great pop arrangement that slowly unfurls as the song progresses. "When The Lights Go Out" is a song of reassurance written for a child who is afraid of the dark. Parents in particular will appreciate J Minus' effort here, a sweet and good-natured tune with an enjoyable melody. "Can I Count On You?" seeks assurance in a meandering pop arrangement. The song is very well written, featuring an off-center, needy protagonist in a needful quest.

J Minus explores dashed expectations on "Who We Were", looking at the hopes and dreams of children and the reality of their adulthood. It's a stark take on how negative thoughts and experiences impact or characters and personalities. Things get maudlin in the middle of Devil Music, with J Minus losing the energy that drove even the darker moments over the album's first few songs. "Swing Low" is the exception, a catchy rock tune with big harmonies in the chorus. This is a tune that sticks with you or recurs in your mind at odd times, and is a bright light in the middle of Devil Music. "While It Lasts" is a melancholic rumination on impermanence that features a solid melody but is a bit of a drag in emotion and energy. "Into The Dark" is tortured pop music that delves into a sense of failure and loss without clear boundaries; a singular effort that is both difficult and rewarding as a songwriter and as a listener. J Minus closes with "Episode 2", which opens in bland musical terms but turns into a vibrant pop song that counters J Minus' almost morose vocal style. It's a request to leap forward into the unknown of tomorrow, a fitting, yet bold end to the album.

J Minus intrigues with Devil Music, a collection that's unbalanced but which contains a few gems along the way. Fans of The Cure and The Smiths will find a lot to like here, but J Minus has enough pop sensibility to appeal to a wider constituency.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about J Minus at or Music is available on CD through J Minus' webstore.  Digital copies are available via iTunes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gilli Moon - The Stillness

Gilli Moon - The Stillness
2010, Warrior Girl Music

Gilli Moon started down the Indie Path ten years ago, when few knew what that meant. The Italian Born, Australian-raised Los Angeles resident started her own label, Warrior Girl Music, and has made a career not only of her own music but by producing and releasing the music of other prominent young artists. Along the way, Moon has released a number of highly-lauded albums on her own. 2010 sees Moon return with her sixth, The Stillness, a highly personal and melodic set of tunes about learning to live with yourself and the world around you.

The Stillness opens with "A Conversation With Me", a son of self-assurance and perspective. The song reflects a realization that we have all the tools within ourselves to become what we want to be. Moon's voice is lovely, blending textures and colors with tremendous tone and a soulful feel. "Be" is an idealist pop love song about giving yourself completely. Moon's performance here is splendid, but the spoken word/rap added messes with the song's mojo and sounds horribly contrived. "Outside In" explores intertwining your life with another in trite terms and has an almost whiney feel that seems to run counter to its message.

Moon takes on an R&B vibe on "The Stillness", a song of distinctive melancholy that revolves around a highly repetitive chorus. "Moon" goes for an ethereal air, recalling artists such as Enya or Maryen Cairns. Things get a bit surreal on "Days In November", a song of remembrance built in layered electronic instrumentation. While expecting some emotional content, the listener is greeted with a flat, low-energy recitation that is hard to square with the lyrics. "Moon" gets it right on "Cling On", stripping the arrangement down to herself and her guitar in one of the best performances on the album. Moon's style here is unaffected; pure communication in song via a simple and pretty melody line.

"Secret Of My Heart" shows a balladeer's touch in a song seeking truth and love. This sounds like the sort of song Celine Dion likes to claim for her own. "Silent Prophet" seeks the counsel of that still quiet voice that dwells in each of us, whatever you may choose to call it. This quiet moment of introspection opens into the final tune "I Can Touch The Sun". Moon closes on the same positive plane she opened with, emphasizing the melody line and vocal harmonies amidst scant instrumentation.

Gilli Moon has a very enjoyable voice what works best in open arrangements. When she sticks to this approach The Stillness shines. Moon appears to have embraced the post-genre ethic however, and some of the musical sidebars she takes here are less than optimal for her voice. On the whole, The Stillness is worth spending some time on. There may be an occasional song to skip, but her voice alone is worth the trip.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Gilli Moon at or The Stillness is available on CD from Warrior Girl Music. has the album as both a CD and Download.  Digital copies are available through iTunes.

Life Size Ghost - Where We Started

Life Size Ghost - Where We Started
2010, Life Size Ghost

Mount Pleasant, Michigan is the home of Life Size Ghost, an eclectic six-piece band boasting the impressive Talitha Snowden on vocals (and keys). Unlike many such bands, Life Size Ghost doesn't exist simply to back Snowden. This collective is highly talented and original, with Erik Ryden (lead guitar); Curtis Hendershott (guitar); Dan Pavlovich (bass); Brian Thomas (drums) and Reese Gall (vibraphone) rounding out the roster. Unusual instrumentation and a distinctive sound bear fruit on Life Size Ghost's sophomore album Where We Started.

Life Size Ghost opens with "Old Design", a wonderfully dark jam rock excursion that shows both the power and finesse of Life Size Ghost while highlighting the impressive voice of Snowden. "Fight Or Flight" is a bit maudlin but follows an interesting compositional path touching on a blend of modern rock and classic/progressive rock. "Where We Started" features a strong performance from Snowden but feels stuck in its own musical inertia. The plodding course of the melody line weighs heavily on the song. "Every Other Word" is a slow, dynamic rocker that features outstanding work on the vibes and another strong vocal outing from Talitha Snowden. Life Size Ghost is hitting on all cylinders here in the sort of big rock anthem that has real radio potential. "Anytime, Anywhere" puts on some muscle in a dark, energetic rocker; a needful invitation that devolves into a generic reggae rhythm for the guitar solo before returning to form. "Well Aware" finds Life Size Ghost surfing mellow waters in an almost ambient rock opening before kicking in the big guitar sound that rears its head from time to time, but has a hard time escaping its own weight. Where We Started closes with "Count Me Out", a melancholy kiss off song that's more about personal escape and redemption than getting away.

When We Started has its dynamic moments. Life Size Ghost manages to construct some highly original and complex arrangements, but there are other moments when the process seems so burdensome you'll wonder how they got through it. Talitha Snowden has an original voice and uses it well, although she does appear to be stuck at one dynamic level throughout this album. Erik Ryden is a talent on guitar, and the band as a whole is very competent, to say the least. Where We Started isn't a negative experience, but you're likely to be left with the impression of Life Size Ghost as a band who is playing it safe. All of the components are here; it's just a matter of the right inspiration.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Life Size Ghost at or We Started is available as both CD and Download from

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Christine Ebersole - Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward

Christine Ebersole - Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward
2010, Ghostlight Records

Television. Movies. The Stage. Christine Ebersole seems to make her mark wherever she goes. While Ebersole got her start on the TV soap Opera Ryan's Hope, she's done time as a Saturday Night Live cast member, been in several major motion pictures and guest-starred on such television shows Will & Grace, Murphy Brown, The Nanny, Boston Legal and Samantha Who. Ebersole's biggest impact has been on stage, however. The two-time Tony Award winner for Best Leading Actress In A Musical (42nd Street - 2001 revival; Grey Gardens). Ebersole recently paid tribute to legendary composer Noel Coward with the release of Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward.

Ebersole opens with "Someday I'll Find You", a pining love song steep in melancholy and hope. It's an intriguing starting point, as Ebersole offers a measured performance that's both full of emotion but also detached. "Any Little Fish/It's Only You" is a lilting love song, and Ebersole performs it in classic Broadway style. It's a wonderful performance full of heart and character. Be sure to check out the duet with Howard McGillin on "A Room With A View"; a stellar performance that connects with listeners on several levels, not the least of which is the apparent chemistry between the performers. "Chase Me Charlie" is a charmingly whimsical number; Ebersole injects energy and joy into the number in a vibrant performance you won't soon forget.

Ebersole sails through "Matelot/Come The Wild, Wild Weather" and "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" before interpreting "World Weary" in a brilliant gust of melancholy. It's a brilliant performance that deserves attention. "Mad About The Boy" finds Ebersole in emotional turmoil of falling in love with a movie star, bringing the competing emotions of love, uncertainty and fear to light in shifting and palpable veins. "The Dream Is Over" is a sparking song of heartbreak that simply reinforces Ebersole's presence and ability to emote in believable fashion through song. Ebersole bows with 'I'll See You Again", a bittersweet waltz that finds Ebersole gliding and soaring across a melody line that sounds like it was written with her in mind.

Christine Ebersole reminds listeners of the glory days of Broadway on Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward. The class and grace she displays as a performer are matched only by her voice. The material of Noel Coward is willing accomplice, as Ebersole sounds as if she were born to sing this material. If you're a Noel Coward fan, then Christine Ebersole Sings Noel Coward it an essential recording. If you're not familiar with the material of Noel Coward, then this is the perfect place to start.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Christine Ebersole at or Ebersole Sings Noel Coward is available on CD from Ebersole's webstore or  Digital copies are available from iTunes

Stark - Race To The Floor

Stark - Race To The Floor
2010, Kicking And Screaming Music

New York City hard rock trio Stark return in 2010 with their meatiest record to date, Race To The Floor. Vocalist Lani Ford leads the band through a highly energetic and dynamic collection of songs with Joe Hogan shredding away on guitar and Eric Robel beating the skins. We reviewed Stark's sophomore album, Put It In Your Head in 2008, and the progress from that record is notable. With Race To The Floor, Stark sticks to their 1970's rock roots but adds more punch and fire to their sound.

Race To The Floor kicks off with "Stark", a driving rocker about walking the edge of sanity. Built on a powerful hook and memorable chorus, Stark certainly raises the bar early. "Get It" is a driven, post-punk brush off song. Knowingly or otherwise, Stark invokes and old Danny Kaye routine "Get it? Got It. Good!" in what may turn out to be an anthem for ladies night in New York City (and beyond). Ford and company pay sonic tribute to Kin Deal and The Breeders with "Getting Along", contrasting Ford's urgent vocal style with the melodic guitar work of Joe Hogan. At times on tunes like this Ford pushes a bit too hard and the result is that her pitch suffers once in a while. The befuddling part of this is that Ford sounds powerful enough even she doesn't push so hard.

"Wasting Air" is a song of heartbreak that transforms into an angry romp. Musically the song is solid, but the premise and transition seem a bit calculated. Ford is angry, frightened and reckless on the unsettled "Drunkaholic", once again walking along the edge and stumbling into dangerous ground. Stark takes a middling path for a few songs but closes strongly with "Puttin' Out Your Fire", an angry kiss of song that's a lot of fun. Ford gets a bit carried away with the vocals here; an approach that you could imagine working well late in the set in a crowded bar, but here simply lays bare the limitations of her voice.

Going to the studio can always be a risky proposition for a band that does really well live. The approach is different. Even capturing the "live sound" in-studio calls for a different approach than you might take on stage. Some bands/vocalists have a hard time with the transition. Lani Ford appears to struggle a bit with the transition at times on Race To The Floor, although much of the album is very well crafted. There are times when less is more, and there are ways to get the sound Stark seeks without blowing out your vocal chords in the studio. Stark is a very solid outfit (guitarist Joe Hogan is exceptional). Lani Ford is a personality with a powerful voice who can own the stage, but occasionally defeats herself by pushing a bit too hard. Even so, Stark and Ford mostly overcome this tendency to offer up a solid album in Race To The Floor. Stark, however, remains one of those bands where you don't get the full experience unless they are on stage.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Stark at or To The Floor is available from as a Race to the Floor or Race To The Floor [Explicit].  You can also find the album in multiple formats from, and digitially from iTunes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

OMD - History Of Modern

OMD - History Of Modern
2010, Bluenoise/ILG

British rockers OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) returns with the first new album in fourteen years on September 28, 2010. History Of Modern finds OMD getting back to their 1980’s routes, when along with Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys they helped define the sound of the decade. The influence of bands such as OMD is pervasive in an era where electronic music has simply become “pop”, but it’s very clear that OMD retains the vim and vigor that made them such a dynamic force in 1980’s pop music. It’s not out of bounds to say that History Modern might be among their best work to date.

History Of Modern opens with "New Babies: New Toys", bringing an influx of classic new wave synth pop sounds. This is highly danceable as is, and with the right remix should haunt the dance clubs of Europe and the US into the spring. The song examines the circular relationship between materialism and emptiness and the spiral it can incur. "If You Want It" bears the message that opportunity exists for all who would take a chance and step outside themselves. Heard on another level it could also be a love song of sorts. Andy McCluskey provides one of his best vocal performances on the album here. "History Of Modern (Part I)" is a catchy mellow pop tune built a singular keyboard riff. While not overly creative this is a solid pop tune that takes a positive view of the past from the perspective of where he stands today.

"History Of Modern (Part II)" plays devil's advocate to the perspective espoused in Part I, striving to forget the past for its lesser qualities. Part II is built around a keyboard riff that's really just a variation of the riff that drives Part I. OMD takes an unfortunate side trip on the muddled "Sometimes", co-opting the chorus of the spiritual Motherless Child as its own. The melody itself is pleasant, but the song comes across as a composite constrained by this calculated mash-up of original and borrowed tunes. "New Holy Ground" is a bit repetitive but pretty, emphasizing courage to remake yourself in the wake of tragedy or loss. The imagery here is a bit more refined than you might here in your typical pop ballad. OMD balances this off with the trite but entertaining "The Future", which is built on a mellow dance groove remarkably similar to the one that drives Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone".

Faith gets a good working over in "Sister Marie Says", a cynical song that questions what the narrator would do if all the things he learned in parochial school came true. The most intriguing part of this song is that beneath the irony and cynicism seems to be a desire, or at least a wish for those things to be true, as McCluskey seems to leave the door open even while putting these ideas in their place. OMD goes for pure sensuality in the sexually charged light dance groove "Pulse". This one's pure ear candy, and well done at that. OMD fills in with two or three middle of the road tunes before closing with the fiery "Save Me", featuring special guest vocalist Aretha Franklin. Franklin's vocal performance is a true highlight, and this danceable tune seems likely to garner OMD some serious attention going forward.

OMD proves they still have it on History Of Modern. Synth pop perhaps doesn't carry cultural weight it did in OMD's heyday, but in an era of over-complicated pop music built on complexities of sound it is refreshing to hear a band getting back to the pop basics of melody and simplicity. OMD was on the cutting edge in their heyday. They're there once again as the pendulum swings back the other way.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about OMD at or Of Modern drops in the US on September 28, 2010.  You can pre-order the CD through  Digital pre-orders are available from iTunes.  A vinyl edition will be released on October 5, 2010.

Kim Taylor - Little Miracle

Kim Taylor - Little Miracle
2010, Kim Taylor

Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter Kim Taylor returned recently with her fourth album, Little Miracle. A stark, stripped down set of folk rock songs, Little Miracle represents Taylor’s most powerful songwriting to date. The album was written and recorded in The Maid’s Room in New York City (a favorite place of Rufus Wainwright) over several days, and has the urgent emotional feel that only that sort of milieu can bring.

Taylor opens with the title track; "Little Miracle" is repetitive and catchy, about as bubblegum as Taylor will allow herself to get. The song has mild commercial appeal but isn't groundbreaking. "Lost And Found" sticks with the repetitive style but does so in a pretty melody and shows off Taylor's unusual voice. "American Child" is intriguing, exploring the dreams of parents affected by war and difficult times. The song might also be interpreted through the eyes of an immigrant family, a theme that's not lost on Taylor later in the album. Taylor delves into the depths of loss and grief on "Anchor Down", casting herself into a sea of emotion for a stark and moving vignette.

"Do You Ever Feel Lonely" intertwines a catchy melody and arrangement with a melancholy mood; an interesting juxtaposition that sounds like something that might come out of a jam session between Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt. Fatalism rules the day in "If I Am Wrong"; where effort is ultimate object but the outcome doesn't seem to matter. Taylor's shining moment comes on "Fruit Of My Labor", a brilliant look at life and dreams through the eyes of a migrant worker. Taylor shows distinct depth as a songwriter here; bring the subject alive in the vibrant color of her words and her presence as a performer. Little Miracle closes with a low key but powerful love song in "Sharp Cutting Wings (Song To A Poet)", showing off more of the impressive songwriting depth that Taylor kept somehow muted through much of the album.

Little Miracle leaves the impression of an artist who is getting better as she continues to write. Taylor starts out on solid footing, but the final two tracks on Little Miracle are the sort of songs songwriters aspire to a handful of times in their careers, much less consecutively on one album. You won't be likely to leave Little Miracle behind anytime soon, but when you do it will be in open anticipation of whatever Taylor graces us with next.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Kim Taylor at or on FacebookLittle Miracle is available on CD from  Digitial copies are available from iTunes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sahara Smith - Myth Of The Heart

Sahara Smith - Myth Of The Heart
2010, Playing In Traffic

Sahara Smith first came to national attention in 2004, placing second in a contest for young songwriters on A Prairie Home Companion. Six years later, the now 21-year old singer/songwriter from Wimberley, Texas is ready for the big time with her debut album, Myth Of The Heart. Under the guiding hand of T-Bone Burnett and produced by his longtime colleague Emile Kelman, Myth Of The Heart shows Smith as a dynamic young artist who is ready for the world. Myth Of The Heart features instrumental support from Jay Bellerose (drums); Marc Rinot (guitar) and Dennis Crouch (bass), as well as Smith's regular band.

Myth Of The Heart opens with "Thousand Secrets", and what an introduction. Smith tells a story from the perspective of the ocean; seeing all things that happen in its presence with many of those stories slipping away from human knowledge like the undertow pulls away from the shore. It's a deeply philosophical look at life from the perspective of all we don't know. The melody is highly memorable, and Smith's voice has a lush beauty that's tempered with a hard edge underneath; a beautiful instrument with the icy sheen of a historian of human events beneath. "Are You Lonely" starts out promisingly but devolves into a repetitive and somewhat closing chorus. The song explores the human need to be needed even if for one night and is well written minus the chorus. "Train Man" sounds like it should be a Roy Orbison cover, with a melody line that sounds a bit like an excerpt from Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games" at times. It's a well-written tune, and Smith certainly gives it her all, but the result is just a bit too derivative.

"Tin Man Town" takes more of a traditional country turn, and Smith's voice absolutely shines in this lonely ballad about living in a two-dimensional world. Smith turns up the heat a bit in "The Real Thing", adding some naughty girl oomph to a quiet anthem about breaking out of the norm and starting new someplace else. On the surface this is a plea to escape, but there's a darker, more carnal message underneath that Smith conveys very well. If Sahara Smith makes a big impression on commercial radio from Myth Of The Heart it's likely to be in the form of "Angel", a quiet, contemplative ballad about the tragedy of watching the one you love slip away. "Angel" is takes on the voice of the middle of the night when all is still and love and knowledge mix in an uneasy embrace where want and need diverge. "All I Need" takes a more positive tone, an affirming love song about being all you can for the one you love. This one has mix-tape written all over it.

"Myth Of The Heart" shows a highly cynical view of love, fearful of the myth of love and viewing it as a justification for procreation, in essence. It's an interesting song, a caricature in bleak that's very modern and yet very old in origin. It's not Smith's best performance on the album, but is an intriguing bit of songwriting. "Midnight Plane" is a mournful ballad of coming home that's more about the journey than the destination. There's a solitary beauty in this song, a dignity that's above human grace and yet of its most base nature. "Mermaid" is an interesting vignette, the memories of a soul who sees little hope in life, but is touched by memories of places she's never been and a voice calling out to her in the dark of night. Smith's voice is never more beautiful here, frail in the darkness and yet full of an ethereal glow. Myth Of The Heart closes with "Twilight Red", a mournful song of love lost. Smith pines on the loss and the effect the passing of time will have. It's a brave performance; dynamic in its depths and rich in vocal texture, recalling some of the slower, darker material of Sarah McLachlan.

Sahara Smith has seemed to have the world on her plate for a number of years now. The exposure she received from A Prairie Home Companion certainly seemed appropriate at the time, but it takes a lot to transform such a start into staying power as an artist. It might be a bit early for prognostication, but if Myth Of The Heart is any indication Sahara Smith will be around for many years to come. Smith walks a darker path vocally than many young artists, using her unorthodox vocal sound to plumb the depths of human sorrow extensively on the album. This works for Smith because even in the depths of misery she conveys a hope for better things. This dark incandescence is a vocal quality few artists can attain, much less maintain over the course of a song cycle. Even with songwriting that is up and down, Sahara Smith shines in the darkness.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Sahara Smith at Of The Heart is available via as a Myth of the Heart or Myth Of The Heart.  Digital copies are also available via iTunes.

The Dance Party - Touch

The Dance Party - Touch
2010, Hell Ya!/East West

Washington, D.C. power dance trio The Dance Party believe in the old maxims: drugs, sex and rock n roll. These three pursuits are at the heart of The Dance Party’s latest album, Touch, out September 28th, 2010.

Touch opens with the snappy, fresh pop/rock of "Sasha Don't Sleep", a 1980's learning anthem that will threaten your insanity with incessant hooks and beat so danceable you won't be able to help yourself. This seems a likely first single and potential hit. "Pretty Girls" is a glam/pop proposition, something there is no short supply of on Touch. Don't be surprised if "Pretty Girls" ends up the theme of a reality television show. "Runaway" is a catchy, big rock tune about a young lady who keeps running away from life; an intriguing mix of 1980's glam rock and modern edge that's terribly catchy. "Snake Eyes" is pure kitsch that's fun and danceable, while "Survivor" is a classic stadium anthem with big harmonies and a power ballad approach.

Somewhere in the middle The Dance Party finds their energy ebbing a bit. The rest of the album is very good, but perhaps not up to the level of the first six songs. "Body Language" and "Hush" are catchy; the latter a bit cynically so. There's a lot of focus on sx, dancing and how to combine the two activities on songs such as "Carpe Diem", "Golden Touch" and "Forever Yours". "Let's Start Some Trouble" is recommended as a fun tune that will put a smile on your face before The Dancy Party bows with the effluent harmonies of "Disappear".

The Dance Party is aptly named. Touch turns into a party with all of the dancing you can handle. This is an album that's impossible to sit through; the urge to get up and move about at whatever speed is appropriate or even necessary for you is overwhelming. Touch is pure pop music at its finest, but occasionally crosses the line into the overzealous prstttn of sound over melody. It won't matter. Just give The Dance Party a stage with lots of sweaty gyrating bodies around. The party will follow.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Dance Party at drops September 28, 2010.  You can pre-order the Touch or Touch (Deluxe) from there.  Downloads are also available from iTunes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hydrovibe - Nothing Left To Lose

Hydrovibe - Nothing Left To Lose
2009, Orleans Street Records

Hydrovibe has had their share of luck since vocalist Heather St. Marie and guitarist Mat Duzat began working together back in Louisiana. As the band finished recording their first full length album Nothing Left To Lose in 2006, they received notice that their song "Killer Inside" would be featured in SAW III. Quickly switching gears Hydrovibe cut a 5-song EP (including "Killer Inside") to take advantage of the publicity the song placement would bring. Four years later and Nothing Left To Lose finally sees the light of day. With production by Tom Fletcher (Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead), mixing and re-tracking by Kenny Lamb (The Doors, Keane) and a mixing assist from Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne), Nothing Left To Lose has lost little in the interim.

Hydrovibe opens with "Fifteen Minutes", a heavy anthem built on a solid hook and memorable chorus. Vocalist St Marie takes after the celebrity obsessed culture we live in, bemoaning a values system that places an individual’s fifteen minute of fame over almost anything. St. Marie has a voice that can blow you away or lull you into submission, with a dark tone that's gorgeous and scary all at once. "Disconnect Me" is a solid album track, full of great harmonies and a dynamic vocal line. After a solid start things get spotty for Hydrovibe. "Liberate" features some unusual song construction and really isn't a bad tune but gets a little too wrapped up in repetition. "The Devil Comes Disguised As A Friend" is the heaviest track on the album; high powered yet with a sense of control beneath the anger and vitriol.

"Shallow Grave" is an intriguing number. Solid vocal harmonies encapsulate real angst and stress in the arrangement. Unfortunately the song devolves into a repetitive template of pop/metal that will play well to Modern Rock and Edge radio, but fails to maintain the highly charged potency the song starts out with. Hydrovibe takes listeners on an interesting three song trip with "Reborn", "Suture" and "Fame". "Reborn" is a transitional bit of ambient rock; a slightly surprising turn from a band capable of rocking so hard. The song stands out more what it's not than what it is and is a nice change of pace. "Suture" is pure heavy fun, the sort of song that inspires teenage boys (and girls) to strap on a six string and start blasting out power chords. "Fame" bookends the experience with a big hook, tight arrangement and tremendous harmonies. In this moment Hydrovibe recalls the best of 1980's hair metal.

Realizing there are four songs at the end of Nothing Left To Lose, the review ends here, in acknowledgement that sometimes you have to know when to quit. "Contagious", "Evil Side", "Nothing Left To Lose" and "Liberation" add little to the experience (other than the album title). The songs aren't bad, they just don't fit here, and sometimes less really is more. Hydrovibe manages to create some great moments on Nothing Left To Lose, but a trimmer album (or even EP) would pack a lot more punch in terms of quality and continuity. This is a risk anytime an album sits for several years and is revisited. It would be curious to hear the original composition and sound Hydrovibe had at the close of the 2006 recording sessions.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Hydrovibe at or Left To Lose is available from as both a CD and Download.  CDs and merchandise are also availble from the band's webstore.  Digital copies are available from iTunes.

Murray Flint - The Journey

Murray Flint - The Journey
2010, Murray Flint

Murray Flint was called to the guitar like many teenage boys. Strapping on the six string and emulating rock n roll heroes comes naturally to some, and Flint spent sixteen years with the guitar as a major part of his life. Unfortunately tendon pain got in the way and in 1991 Flint put the guitar away for good, or so he thought. Eight years later on vacation Flint came across a guitarist playing Fingerstyle guitar, ala Merle Travis. This style didn't appear to put the sort of pressure on the fingers that had caused Flint so much pain years before, and he made a point of seeking out instruction and trying to learn this new technique. A few adjustments later Flint had found his way back to his first love. Twelve hard working years later Flint is a regular performer for corporate events, receptions, private parties and the like. Now Murray Flint makes the next leap of faith: an album. The Journey was released in July, and features an inspired set of eight instrumental pieces that might make you wonder about the dreams you've left behind.

The Journey opens with the frenetic fingerstyle of "The Matrix". Flint flashes dexterity and speed that are mind boggling in a shot across the musical bow that's certain to gain your attention, keeping it simple in melody and development but more than compensating with an awesome display of technical skill. "Breeze Blues" is something of a jazz/blues hybrid with a bid of William Ackerman-esque ambience thrown in for good measure. Flint weaves a sordid and sorry tale here in the strings, evoking a modicum of theatricality and an intense, lovely melody in the process. Occasionally Flint breaks out in a riff that soars like a voice leaping out of the instrumentation, a sort of exclamation point that quickly resolves back into the wave-like form of the song.

Flint offers a big nod to his idol Merle Travis with "Travis Pickin" while treading lightly in the direction of Django Reinhardt. Indeed, there's almost gypsy flair to this tune, and Flint imbues it with all of the energy and sprightly glee you might expect. "The Journey" is more of a contemplative noodle, with Murray Flint growing the melody in expository passages, pausing now and then as if to collect his breath. "The Journey" opens with a sense of uncertainty, as if undertaken on newly minted feet. In time these baby steps become the hustle and flow of life, the contemplative derivations of middle age and ultimately the spiraling upward of a life on the verge and then passing beyond always returning to a central theme that is both vibrant and comforting.

On "The Bohemian" Flint provides both a walking bass line and a mildly jazzy progression where melody and harmony merge and blend like water and wine. The piece is a pleasant diversion that could easily serve as incidental music in a film. "Highway Pickin" is a brief snack that's more about speed and accuracy than development but is a fun sidebar nonetheless. Think of it as the musical equivalent to an amusement park ride. "Mythic Morning" greets listeners on a fade-in, as if Flint has captured a sample of the music he hears in his mind without cutting it re-arranging it in any way. The song has a "soundtrack of life" feel to it, complex in its course and gentle in feel, and fades back into the ether from which it emerged. Flint bows with "Penelope", a sweet and gentle musing that rises and falls in gentle arcs, fading into the twilight at album's close.

As with many artists, Murray Flint spent a lot of time going nowhere before he found a modality that suited him. The discovery of the fingerstyle method of guitar playing was a eureka moment that has been twelve years in development. Flint has spent that dozen-year cycle developing the technical skill to match the passion and touch he plays with. The musical sensibility on The Journey may not be the most complex, but Flint imbues each passage with heart, and has the technical proficiency to make complicated choices with simple lines of melody, opening up a rhythmic landscape that is only limited by Flint's imagination. The Journey is a very solid effort that's great for a relaxing night at home, but offers enough ear candy to become part of the conversation and not just part of the background.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Murray Flint at Journey is available as single track downloads only on CDBaby and iTunes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Centrevol - Momentum

Centrevol - Momentum
2010, Centrevol Music

Long Beach, California rockers (by way of Boston) Centrevol made a splash with their 2008 debut album, the Wyn Davis (Sublime, No Doubt) produced Beggars And Thieves showed a propensity for grand rock songs with distinctive melodies in the tradition of bands such as U2, The Police, The Killers and Coldplay. Centrevol returns on September 29, 2010 with their third EP, Momentum. Produced by Eric Palmquist (The Ataris), Momentum is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Momentum opens with "Don't Hear Me Wrong", showing off an open sound with great pop sensibility that's reminiscent of U2 (or U2 jamming with the Geoff Downes version of Asia. The chorus here is brilliant, the sort that catches attention on the radio. "Ready To Go" is a bit more mundane than the opener but is a solid album track "I Walk The Line" is an intriguing cover of the Johnny Cash classic that sounds very little like the original. Centrevol brings out a different feel in the song; where Cash's version was confident and proud, the version presented here is melancholy and resigned. "Save Yourself" is very catchy, and jumps right out of the speakers into your ears. Centrevol's ability to come up with these big choruses filled with ample hooks and harmonies bodes well. The best comes last, however. "Shine A Light" is a prospective love song; hopeful in a prayer-like fashion. Melody is king here, and even if the lyrics dance on the edge of trite at times the song works for what it is.

Centrevol overcomes the sophomore jinx with Momentum. Even with a couple of tracks here that just take up space, Centrevol exceeds all expectations by blending a distinct pop sensibility with great melodies and the occasional chorus that will simply blow your over. With the right luck Momentum could be a breakout EP on the strength of a few of the tracks here. Don't miss it.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Centrevol at Involved drops September 29, 2010.  You can pre-order your digital copy from  Expect wider availability both on CD and digitally soon.

Kingfin - Get Involved [EP]

Kingfin - Get Involved [EP]
2010, Kingfin

UK rockers Kingfin draw their influences from bands such as The Clash, Nirvana and The Ramones, but with healthy doses of Radiohead and Pink Floyd thrown in as well. The band, who take their name from a bad guy in the game Super Mario Galaxy is starting to garner global attention, with radio placements in Canada, the US and back at home based on their debut EP, Get Involved.

Get Involved opens with "Hollywould Smile", a diatribe against television shopping and the ease at which such TV networks talk people out of their money. There's a modicum of anger here and the arrangement is suggestive of punk origins but more refined. "Dirty Little Secret" takes to task someone for their role in infidelity as the third wheel. It's a wakeup call delivered over a simple arrangement heavy on drums and bass with guitar providing angry accents. "Living Hell" is a slinky, blues-influenced rocker that's a lot of fun to listen to. This song probably works best on stage, but it will get your toes tapping no matter the setting. Get Involved closes with "Sweet Sixteen", an angry monologue about a teen girl with an over-sized sense of entitlement.

Kingfin seems to have some of the punk anger but little of the lash. The four songs offered on Get Involved are enjoyable on their face, but the aural treat becomes plain with repeated exposure. Some of this is certainly presentation, and it seems likely that these songs would fare better on stage with the flow of live energy than in the studio. Get Involved is enough to get you in the door as a listener. What Kingfin does next will tell whether listeners stick around.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Kingfin at Involved is available digitally from or iTunes.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Abigail Lapell - Demonstration Recordings

Abigail Lapell - Demonstration Recordings
2010, Abigail Lapell

Abigail Lapell was born in Toronto but spent many years in Montreal before returning home in 2008. A fiery and highly personal performer, Lapell writes with a folk singer's storytelling acumen and the energy and commitment of a punk rocker. Having shared the stage with acts such as Veda Hille, Pony Up!, Rae Spoon and Lowest Of The Low, Lapell has shown an ability to win over crowds no matter how disparate their musical tastes. Along the way Lapell has also launched a monthly concert series featuring female performers (Catcall) and worked composing material for Toronto's Stranger Theatre. Lapell's latest project, Demonstration Recordings, is the first leg on the path to a full length album.

Demonstration Recordings opens with "Yellow Rose", a matter-of-fact yet mournful lamentation of a love life that never seems to work out quite right but is always guided by the best of intentions. Lapell works in a very low key approach here, relating the bumps and bruises of her heart in steady but heartfelt words in a low-key Americana arrangement. "Great Survivor" is musically and aesthetically pleasing with a darkly whimsical sense to the lyrics. It's as if Lapell is more riffing on a theme than trying to convey any particular message here, but the results are a pleasure to the ear. "Paper" is a song of longing; melancholy and plainspoken in approach. This low-key delivery doesn't work for every singer, but Lapell's voice projects a tragic beauty in velvety alto tones that reach right through you. "Twenty-Nine" looks at loss and see opportunity for the one who has walked away. The lack of emotion here is a bit disturbing, as if the narrator has suffered a dissociative break over the relationship's end. "Make Your Way Home" calls out to a love away from home, reminding him that home is always ready and waiting. Home here is both the place and the person who waits there. Lapell is fatalistic beyond the pale, delving deep into the melancholy of being apart without really showing the emotions you might expect. The dense pall of muted tragedy casts its glow once again.

Abigail Lapell is a distinctive voice, but as a singer and writer of songs her low key approach may not sit well with some. Nevertheless her gorgeous alto voice will overcome most of the naysayers. Lapell has shown an ability to fit in well with crowds ranging from rowdy punk/drunk to coffeehouse and seems able to appeal to all comers. Her Demonstration Recordings are just a start, but it’s the sort of start that launches careers.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Abigail Lapell at or  You can purchase Demonstration Recordings directly from Abigal Lapell through her webstore.  Digital copies are available on a name your own price basis.  Lapell will also send you a CD with handmade packaging for a minimum of payment of $10.00.  This CD is extremely limited, with Lapell producing only 200 copies.  These are likely to be big collector's items one day.

And I Was Like, What? - We Have Nothing

And I Was Like, What? - We Have Nothing
2010, And I Was Like, What?

Portland, Oregon rockers And I Was Like, What? mix a tough-guy aesthetic with heartfelt and thoughtful lyrics on their debut EP We Have Nothing. Having found a way to stand out in a crowded and talented northwest music scene, And I Was Like, What? turn their eyes to the nation at large with more than a hope and a prayer.

We Have Nothing opens with "Secular Eyes", a song about losing your love to a religious conversion. The song is more lost than angry; catchy and very memorable in spite of its somewhat gloomy start. "Birthday Suite" blends classical construction with a catchy, Yes-inspired sound that you might call Prog Lite. Whatever you call it, And I Was Like, What? certainly seems to have found something. "Concerning Distance" comments with almost clinical precision on the things that went wrong in a relationship. Shawn Callahan has the ability to offer such an unemotional vocal style and yet imbue it was a sense of urgency that is more than it seems. "F#" bemoans the expenditure of emotion. The dark monologue is written in the wake of a relationship gone bad and has a sour grapes feel to it but is wrapped up in a highly ear-friendly arrangement that seems likely to garner And I Was Like, What? some real attention. We Have Nothing closes with "8:55 AM", a meandering and heavy baroque-rock exposition that seems to get a bit lost while clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes. It's an intriguing closer, but seems to overstay its welcome.

And I Was Like, What? offers up an intriguing breakup EP in We Have Nothing, exploring the underside of the emotional effects of such a downfall. And I Was Like, What? makes full use of the both rock and orchestral instrumentation to layer sounds and build in appropriate levels of theatricality and texture into the songs, but does occasionally get a bit too impressed with their own musical ideas. We Have Nothing is a solid effort, worthy of consideration.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about And I Was Like, What? on Facebook.   We would suggest avoiding the MySpace page for the time being as our anti-virus programs tell us there are potentially malicious downloads there.  No online purchase points appeared available at press time.  Please contact And I Was Like, What? for more information.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Caitlin Canty - Neon Streets

Caitlin Canty - Neon Streets
2010, Caitlin Canty

Vermont native and New York City resident Caitlin Canty spent a number of years singing backup and working the production booth before stepping to center stage. The resounding cry from crowds on New York's Indie scene has been "What took you so long?” Canty charms with a soothing delivery and intimately soulful voice, earning comparisons to Patty Griffin, Jack Johnson and Norah Jones. Canty recently released a collaborative EP, Neon Streets, with instrumental backing from string-rockers Darlingside. The album was co-produced by Darlingside and Canty, and is the first of four collaborative EPs in the works for Canty.

Neon Streets opens with "Halo", a declaration of independence of sorts based in cynicism about faith and a natural distrust of things than cannot be seen. Canty has crafted a gorgeous melody here and an almost anti-McLachlan arrangement steeped firmly in acoustic instruments that somehow reaches for the same ethereal sound. "Neon Streets" is a remarkably pragmatic tune about fears and common sense; failing to acknowledge threats until they threaten. You might call it an anthem for quiet bravado. Canty has a low-key, cool delivery that's as convincing as the lyrics here and a pleasant voice that wants to straddle the gap between an alto's depth and a soprano's grace.

Canty explores the existential angst born of the transition between youth and adulthood in "Shore", where opportunities abound and it’s never clear which doors are already closed. The song is reflective of a generational ambivalence born of broken dreams and fear of the future. "Thin Moon" uses the weak light of a waning moon as a parallel of a relationship guttering in the currents of two lives moving apart. Canty's depiction here is stark and haunting, laden with emotion and yet apart from it all at once. "Two Hands" is an ode to independence; to not needing someone else in your life to be fulfilled. It's a brilliant tune that's self affirming and highly melodic. Neon Streets closes with "Carried Away", hitting the essence of longing and beauty in a stark arrangement that's reminiscent of early Ani DiFranco.

Caitlin Canty impresses with Neon Streets. Her low-key approach belies an intensity that emanates from Canty like heat from a furnace. Canty's focus is piercing at times, a quality that should come through even more clearly in the live environment. Her ability to project that feel even in pre-recorded media is unusual. There's little doubt that Caitlin Canty has a future in music; it's more a question of getting the right opportunity. That being said, Canty isn't going to blow anyone away musically. It's simply not her style, but her quiet musical resolve will certainly turn some heads.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Caitlin Canty at or Streets is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.

Ric Zweig - Running Out Of Time

Ric Zweig - Running Out Of Time
2010, Nice Records Hollywood

Ric Zweig is a singer/songwriter based in southern Florida who plays out regularly and also serves as the lead vocalist for two popular local cover bands, The Easy Riders and The Pale Riders. A regular performer in Panama Florida at La Rioja and Panama's The Majestic Casino, Zweig performs for people from all over the Western Hemisphere. In May of 2010, Zweig released his fourth solo album, Running Out Of Time, and is donating $5.00 from each CD purchased to The American Cancer Society. Zweig also is selling the CD with a money back guarantee.

Running Out Of Time is an exercise in contrasts. Zweig appears to a competent composer, delivering basic rock arrangements on Running Out Of Time that are pleasing to the ear. Unfortunately the songs are all too often accompanied by plodding, awkward lyrics, that either fail to find any flow or devolve into the sort of over-simplified rhyme schemes employed by Dr. Seuss. "Jump On My Back" generally reflects a sophomoric lyrical style that relies on making every line in the chorus rhyme (even stretching "tact" into "tack" to rhyme with back). "Jump On My Back" is perhaps the most egregious example of this sort of lyrical manipulation but is hardly the only instance on Running Out Of Time. The title track is musically pleasing with a great hook on the chorus, but the lyrics are plodding and awkward. Much the same can be said of "I'd Like To Do It Again" and "Out With The Tide". Of the latter there are passages after the chorus where percussion takes on the role of counter-melody to the vocal line that's highly intriguing and well done.

Zweig shows a 1970's AM Radio singer/songwriter pastiche on "Puppet". The pleasing arrangement is married to words that offer analogy without explanation, moments with motion or explanation, becoming something of a word association exercise rather than a cogent song. "Mr. Vibe" is the high point of the album. Zweig keeps it simple with a catchy, clean arrangement, and even the lyrics seem to rise above the usual standard even if they are a bit out of the ordinary. Zweig closes with "What Are We Supposed To Do", a ballad of indecision. The song is well constructed and well performed musically, but falls prey to the Zweig's difficulties with putting his thoughts into words that flow in the same fashion as the music he writes.

Running Out Of Time displays a singer/songwriter with a real sense of melody and a tendency for simplistic but catchy pop/rock songs. Unfortunately Zweig's lyric-writing ability isn't commensurate with his composing skills. Collaboration with someone sharp in the turning of words might be of great benefit to both Zweig and the prospective collaborator. The music here is worth tuning in for, but the lyrics can make it hard to stay.

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Ric Zweig at Out Of Time is available on CD from Running Out of Time.  Digital copies are available from Napster.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trout Fishing In America - Lookin' At Lucky

Trout Fishing In America - Lookin' At Lucky
2010, Trout Records

For over thirty years Trout Fishing In America has been bringing their delicious blend of styles and sounds to families of all ages. Keith Grimwood (bass/vocals) and Ezra Idlet (guitar/vocals/ukelele/bouzuki/percussion) have a special chemistry they bring to the recording studio and stage, regardless of whether they are singing for children, families or adults. The four-time GRAMMY Award nominated duo spend a lot of their time performing for children and families, but they started out playing rock and roll music for adults in the Houston, Texas band St. Elmo's Fire in the 1970's. Grimwood (5'5 1/2") and Idlet (6'9") might appear to yang and yin when you see them, but together they form a complete whole that blends music, humor and heart in ways that recall another era of music. On September 28, 2010, Trout Fishing In America returns with their first adult music album in eleven years. Lookin' At Lucky is Trout Fishing In America's most mature work to date. Sprinkled with the trademark humor that has made the band such a success across generations, features sublime songwriting and the sort of musical chemistry that takes thirty years and a little bit of magic to build.

Trout Fishing In America opens with the title track. "Lookin' At Lucky" is a love song that focuses on how the right person can make you feel. It's a brilliant take on love; light-hearted and yet full of real emotion in the best Trout tradition. The melody is one that will stay with you, and the folk/country arrangement is a perfect fit. "She's The Only Smile" is about the serendipity of finding the perfect person, even if just for a dance. There's a youthful exuberance in the song tempered by the wisdom that recognizes magic when it happens. "Bettin' That It Won't" is a delicious mix of cynicism and hope reflected in a classic folk/rock arrangement. It's the sort of song that most anyone can identify with; universal in appeal and understanding.

Keith Grimwood takes over lead vocals for "Home", a confidently hopeful tune about love and its eventuality. The picture here is not of someone pining for love, but of one who knows it will come and is willing to wait. "Home" features a graceful melody, and Grimwood has a voice that's pleasant and sweet. Ezra Idlet offers a lesson about the grass being greener on "Safer Haven". The protagonist of the song leaves southern California to escape earthquakes only to find himself in Oklahoma and in the path of a tornado. Next up is the Carolina coast and hurricane season and ultimately a volcano in the northwest. All the while Idlet is just looking to survive, "asking for a little slice of heaven while holding off eternity". In the end Arizona is a safe place to land, even with speculations about killer bees in the air. It's songs like this that make you realize the value of what Trout Fishing In America does. Perhaps it comes from the years playing shows for kids, but Grimwood and Idlet have a story-telling style sprinkled with good humor that smacks of folks like Johnny Horton, Arlo Guthrie and yes, even Bob Dylan.

"Drivin' Rain" may be the most intriguing track on "Lookin' At Lucky"; a breakup song with elements of rock, soul and funk but driven by inventive banjo soloing courtesy of Idlet. It's a catchy tune; and one that could cross a lot of musical boundaries. There was a time not too long ago when this could easily have forced its way onto both the rock and country charts. "Who Knows What We Might Do" is a charmer that explores the inverse properties of aging, taking aim at the old "act your age" argument in sweet and funny fashion ("acting your age is getting harder and harder to do when the age that you're feeling inside's more the size of your shoe"). Keith Grimwood is perfectly at home in a moment touching, funny and genuine. Well-age loved is the theme of "Not Every Dream", exploring the gentle pleasures of a relationship that is as comfortable as a second skin yet as vital as when it was new. It's a song about deep connections and the sustaining power of love, and is Idlet's most affecting vocal performance on the album.

Grimwood offers up a gently humorous look at the tendency toward little memory lapses as we age in "The Car's Running", lamenting his inability to find the keys to the house while the car is running and other little memory gaffes that comes to us all in time. Trout Fishing In America resurrect "How Many Times A Fool" as a folkgrass number that's introspective and full of a detached sorrow. The original version, appearing on 1991's Over The Limit, was a more folk/rock oriented turn full of fresh anger and self-recrimination. This is a great update that shows how the passage of time heals wounds even if they never fully go away. "I Pretend To Understand" offers a great coping mechanism for being overwhelmed with too much information that works no matter how old you are. It's a cute tune set in a funky/slinky folk arrangement that reflects the "just getting along" theme reflected in the lyrics. Trout Fishing In America returns to their distinctive blending of folk and bluegrass for the closing number "My Baby Loves Sudoku". It's the anthem of a Sudoku widower who can't compete with the addictive power of the game.

Sometimes we forget about people's power to transform themselves. Trout Fishing In America have had a tremendous run over the past three decades primarily as a children's act, occasionally sprinkling in an album ostensibly for the adults. While the awards have most come for their children's work, Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet have always been masterful songwriters no matter who they were writing for. Yet Lookin' At Lucky would seem to mark an artistic zenith for the duo, displaying a maturity and grace that has always been integral to their act but at a much more refined level than in the past. Trout Fishing In America will charm you with Lookin' At Lucky. You'll laugh; you'll feel and you'll walk away seeing the world in brighter hues. Lookin' At Lucky is by far a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Trout Fishing In America at or' At Lucky drops September 28, 2010.  You can pre-order the album at Trout Fishing In America's webstore, and they'll even autograph it for you for no extra charge.