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Friday, September 30, 2011

Gaston Light - Peel

Gaston Light – Peel
2011, Idol Records
Dallas-born and based (by way of Los Angeles) Gaston Light brings a musical melting pot on his debut album, Peel.  Born Jason Corcoran, Gaston Light blends a musical melting pot of roots rock, country, soul, blues and folk, while showing a surprising lyrically subtlety for a twenty-two year old singer/songwriter.
Peel opens in provocative fashion with “Athens, TX”, giving the account of a murder in the first person from the one who got away with it.  The song is not as disturbing as it probably should be.  “Morning Fog” has a melancholy, sing-song air that is aurally appealing, even if the vocal line is a bit flat energy-wise.  The arrangement is nicely structured, and the guitar work lends a full sound to the composition.  “Kiss The Hive” is intriguing; Gaston Light uses an angular guitar sound to create an unsettled dynamic.  It’s unclear whether this is intentional, but it almost sounds as if he’s on to something sonically.  “In A Casket” shines from the middle of the album; it’s a great tune, albeit with an unusual premise.  It’s a catchy, roots rock number with some impressive pedal steel work going on in the background, and light gives a surprising vocal turn that’s one of the highlights of the album.
Gaston Light works his way through numbers such as “Half Awake”, “Close Your Good Eye” and “Crown”, while finding small moments in the catchy fun of “Xanax Blues” and the sappy/sweet “I’ll Wait For You (Please Wait For Me)”.  Light’s voice is pleasant to listen to, but there is a passive quality to his vocal style that can be interpreted as a real lack of energy or conviction.  It may just be Light mindfully working around his own vocal limitations, but if so, it challenges him to raise the energy level in the vocal lines in order to stay connected with listeners.  Musically, Peel is above average.  Light shows a penchant for unusual sounds and construction while staying married to traditional song forms.  His ear is excellent, as you’ll hear in the instrumental mixes woven into the seams of each song on Peel.  It’s safe to say that Gaston Light shows a lot of promise, but is still figuring out where he fits musically.  Peel, however, is a solid start.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Gaston Light at or 
CD                              MP3              

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Melissa Ferrick - Still Right Here

Melissa Ferrick – Still Right Here
2011, MPress Records
Melissa Ferrick is at it again, criss-crossing the country on tour in support of her latest release, Still Right Here.  An enigma in the rock and roll world when she first started out, Ferrick has kept the Indie light burning throughout her career, refusing to give in to the mores of major label madness.  Still Right Here is about what you would expect for Ferrick, well-written songs full of great lyrics and an understated storyteller’s panache.
Ferrick gets things started with the title track.  “Still Right Here” is a catchy little number with great pop sensibility about facing the reality of yourself and who you are.  Kaki King sits in on “Headphones On”, an ode to overcoming life’s difficulties through music.  Ferrick shares the great, swaying feel of “You Let Me Be” with none other than Ani DiFranco in a highly enjoyable duet that could play just as easily as a love song or a friends song.  “Seconds Like These” is catchy, with a solid chorus.  It’s a paean to making the most out of life.  Ferrick’s songwriting is solid on “One Of A Kind”, finding a rough-hewn,  open sound that fits her voice very well.  It’s a great listen with a positive message.
Regret is the theme of “Checking In”; a retrospective on a relationship past that tries to understand what was lost with an air of cautious indifference and a deep-seated hope for renewal.  The vulnerability here is palpable; cast behind a thinly veiled sheen of intellectual curiosity.  The genius of this song is the utter human imperfection and honesty of the lyrics.  “I Will Back You Up” is a pragmatic love song.  With great writing and a memorable melody, Ferrick creates one of her best tunes to date while dancing on the line between her more mature works and an almost Indigo Girls-like sound.  Ferrick wraps up with the gorgeous contemplation of fall and winter in the Northeast, “This Time Of Year”.  There is no complexity here, just a simple love for the land and the season that is stunning in its unadulterated beauty.
There was a time, back in the mid-1990’s, when Melissa Ferrick was hailed as the next Melissa Etheridge.  Yet she has proved over time that such media-attributed expectations truly can be overcome.  Ferrick has grown considerably over the years, developing into a finely nuanced songwriter who can still pick up a guitar and rock your socks off when the mood strikes her.  Ferrick has grown more contemplative over the years, zeroing in on a deeper understanding of the world around her through song, but the energy that runs through her songs hasn’t changed.  While “Still Right Here” perhaps doesn’t capture quite the magic that Ferrick managed on 2008’s Goodbye Youth, it’s not far off the mark.  The songwriting is solid-to-excellent throughout, and Ferrick just keeps getting better over time as a performer.  Still Right Here is a worthy effort.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Melissa Ferrick at or  Still Right Here is available as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Paul McCartney - Ocean's Kingdom

Paul McCartney – Ocean’s Kingdom
2011, 2011 MPL Communications/HEAR Music
If you are Sir Paul McCartney, you can do pretty much anything you want musically.  He’s certainly earned the right over the years, from his early work with The Beatles through a long and storied solo career (on his own and with Wings).  In recent years McCartney has turned his impressive ear to classical music with increasing success.  On September 22, 2011, McCartney’s Ocean’s Kingdom, opened with the New York City Ballet.  Written without the strictures of formal ballet style, McCartney nevertheless managed to create a viable work writing from the heart.  McCartney created an undersea world, telling a love story against the backdrop of a world threatened by human expansion and carelessness.  Ocean’s Kingdom is set for wide release on October 4, 2011.
Comprised of four movements, Ocean’s Kingdom shows an emotional and narrative breadth that is surprising.  Movement I: “Ocean’s Kingdom”, starts is muted, peaceful tunes, setting the scene of an undersea world of beauty.  McCartney uses a long, slow build in both intensity and complexity to set the stage for the struggle for life that lies at the heart of the story.  The movement rises to majestic heights before residing a bit and moving into Movement II: “Hall Of Dance”; the latter alternates between lilting, jaunty mini-movements and lyric forms full of distinctive beauty.  McCartney creates some “Wow” moments here, and seems to understand the heart of the dance better than you might expect.  The movement closes in dark, distressful tones, implying a tirade or a tragedy.
Movement III: “Imprisonment” begins, surprisingly, in contemplative, peaceful tones.  Judgment and hardship build through the use of horns into an emotional and pervasive darkness.  All the while, woodwinds try to spread the light that holds back the storm.  This juxtaposition becomes a wonderful, if understated dance; a call-and-response style between the darkness and the light that is intriguing.  McCartney builds through the movement to grand themes reminiscent of some of John Williams’ finest films core works.  Movement IV: “Moonrise” is vibrant and active; almost violent at times.  The movement begins with a grand struggle, musically, but resolves in theatrical style, with the herald of trumpets.  The celebration grows to full orchestra, bringing out various voices in the process.
Paul McCartney really can do anything, Sir or not.  If anyone questioned the validity of McCartney’s BRIT Award for Classical Album for 2006’s Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart)”, the jury is in.  It was not a fluke.  Ocean’s Kingdom is quite literally, worthy of a world premiere with the New York City Ballet.  Whether or not you buy into the environmentalist apocalyptica that seems to be prevalent in pop culture these days, it is an impressive work that is artfully crafted.  A succinct and well told story invested with deep emotion, and a melodic enterprise that perhaps only McCartney himself could craft.  This is the real deal.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Paul McCartney at  Ocean’s Kingdom drops on October 4, 2011.  The album is available for pre-order from as a CD, on Vinyl or as a Download.  The New York City Ballet will perform Ocean's Kindgom again on September 29, 2011, and again for five dates in January of 2012.  Ticket information is available here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video: Erin Hill & Her Psychedelic Harp - Giant Mushrooms

No.  You've never seen anything quite like this.  Just watch.

Part Milla Jovovich, part Tori Amos, and part Deborah Henson-Conant.  Wild.

Learn more at

Everclear - Return To Santa Monica

Everclear – Return To Santa Monica
2011, Cleopatra Records

Through it all, Art Alexakis just keeps going.  His band, Everclear is on its third lineup, with the only original remaining member being Alexakis himself.  The Portland, Oregon band, formed in 1992, were darlings of the alternative rock scene throughout the 1990’s, leaders of the pop-based rock response to the grunge sound coming out of Seattle.  There has been a trend in the last few years of bands re-recording their hits, as aging acts separate from the major label apparatus have found a way to regain control of their catalog for licensing.  Everclear jumps on the bandwagon today with Return To Santa Monica.

The up side to such a move is it improves a band’s ability to generate income; for fans it can be an opportunity to hear a fresher version of a favorite hit or three.  Everclear does right by the fans with Return To Santa Monica, offering up a nearly live sounding collection of reborn hits from their catalog.  “Santa Monica”, “I Will Buy You A New Life”, “Father Of Mine” and “AM Radio” are particularly vibrant.  “Unemployed Boyfriend” seems even better than it did the first time around, though whether this is due to a change in the rendition or a change in the times it uncertain.  Everclear rounds out the remakes with “Wonderful” and “Everything To Everyone”.

Perhaps the biggest treats for fans, however, are the cover songs spread throughout the album.  The remake of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” is classic, and Steve Miller’s “The Joker” gets a new look.  Death Cab For Cuties “I Will Follow You Out Of The Dark” is among the highlights on the disc, as is the closing number, Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”.  The only misfire on the entire album is a somewhat messy cover of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, which Alexakis muddles his way through on, showing neither the vocal range nor (here, at least) the sense of personality to pull this tune off.

These sorts of collections are as much for financial gain of the artist (as opposed to a label) as they are for fans.  Sometimes such collections can be ill-gotten nightmares, but Everclear manages to pull the whole thing off with a bit of panache.  The album plays like an intimate live show, with even the production values bending in that direction.  So instead of a boring retread of hits and covers you know, listeners get a quality, live-in-studio set of songs that will have you tapping your toes and remembering the 1990’s fondly.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Everclear at or on Facebook. 
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Candice Night - Reflections

Candice Night – Reflections
2011, Minstrel Hall Music
All she asked for was an autograph.
Candice Night started out as a model.  The Hauppauge, Long Island (New York) native transitioned to radio in her twenties; seeming destined for a career in communications.  In 1989 she approached rock legend Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) for an autograph.  It wasn’t long before she was singing backup for Deep Purple on tour.  Now married to Blackmore, Candice Night is the lead singer of Blackmore’s Night.  Candice Night is not just the beneficiary of good fortune; however, she is a serious vocalist who has also performed with the likes of Sass Jordan, Glenn Hughes and Beto Velazquez.  Night strikes out on her own this week with Reflections, a collection of ten power ether rock songs that show off her voice in fine fashion.
Night’s voice is highly trained, a fact that becomes quickly evident on the opening track, “Wind Is Calling (Hush The Wind)”.  Night mixes hard pallet sounds with a soft tone in unusual and intriguing fashion.  The melody is utterly memorable, built within a well-constructed arrangement that’s part lullaby and part fairytale.  “Gone Gone Gone” is a high-energy, vocal driven rocker with a catchy chorus.  This one could be a breakout hit with the right push and the right luck.  “Black Roses” is pretty and haunting; dark but with a sparkle of light in the middle.  Night gets ethereal on “Now And Then”, before dancing into the mid-tempo (but catchy) “Dangerous Smile”, playing on the edge of innuendo.
“For You” has a dark, indigenous feel; playing on Celtic themes drawn from deep in Aerie.  It’s a gorgeous melody that will haunt you even after the album is done.  Night coasts through “Call It Love” and “Robin Red Breast”, but rouses listeners with the baroque and Mediterranean strains of “Alone With Fate”.  Dark in tone and timbre, the song springs to life with an inner glow that’s part melody, part energy, and largely Night’s voice.  Reflections winds down with an orchestral finale in the form of “In Time”.  It’s a solid end, but somehow it doesn’t seem right to say goodbye without one last utterance from Night.
Reflections is a successful collection of songs that perhaps don’t exactly fit within the Blackmore’s Night songbook, but are perfectly fitting to Candice Night’s voice and style.  There are a couple of down moments her, but on the whole the album is entertaining and worth spending some time with.  Night does the ethereal and lyric stuff so well, but she is surprisingly good when she lifts her face into the headwinds of rock and roll and lets loose as well.  Reflections is a worthwhile trip.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Candice Night at or  Reflections drops today digitally, with the CD released on October 11, 2011.  The album is available from as a CD (as a pre-order) or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hannah Miller - O Black River

Hannah Miller – O Black River
2011, Hannah Miller Music
Alabama –born Nashville transplant (by way of Columbia, South Carolina), Hannah Miller sings the soul of the Deep South.  Compared to artists such as Neko Case, Feist, Liz Phair and Basia Bulat, Miller sings with a deep-rooted authenticity that simply can’t be bought.  Her songwriting is as organic as her voice.  Miller’s latest effort, O Black River¸ is a six-song set due out on September 27, 2011.  It is among her most accomplished works to date.
O Black River opens with the title track, a melancholy revivalist hymn to the water.  Miller brings out the dark beauty of human suffering with a voice that is smoky and lush; this is a great start.  “To The Swift” is a slinky, bluesy turn; a song of self-searching with an entrancing vocal line.  “Bleed Out” is a low-key diary-style number that shows off Miller’s impressive voice.  On “Foolish Pride” is a darkly private affair, showing off a distinctive vulnerability, followed by a surprising and somehow not contradictory core of strength.  “Elijah” is the star of the EP, a wonderfully written number with an unforgettable chorus.  Miller shows off a sparkling pop sensibility woven into the seams of the supple folk/Americana arrangement.  This is a Wow moment.  Miller closes with “Refuge”, a gorgeous love song that blends the elements of folk with the soul and groove of classic R&B.
Hannah Miller is an absolute breath of fresh air.  A one-of-a-kind voice; songwriting sprung from the roots of the Deep South, and a subtle pop sensibility running through it all that keeps everything fresh.  O Black River is going to get Miller some serious attention.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Hannah Miller at or  O Black River is available digitally from

Video: Alexa Wilding - Black Diamond Day

New York City based singer/songwriter Alexa Wilding is going to knock your socks off.  With a her first full length album coming in 2012, Wilding unleashed the video for "Black Diamond Day" upon the world recently.  A veteran of films and runway shows for IVANAHelsinki, Wilding seems destined for great things.

Learn more about Alexa Wilding at or

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Skaggs Family – A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2

The Skaggs Family – A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2
2011, Skaggs Family Records
Ricky Skaggs is a known talent.  His 14 GRAMMY Awards and 11 IBMA Awards are a testament to long-term excellence.  The talent doesn’t stop with Skaggs, alone, however.  The Skaggs Family as a whole is extremely talented, blending country, bluegrass and old-school southern gospel styles into a mélange that is musical comfort food.  Their latest effort, A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2, is due on September 27, 2011.

The album plays like an old-time gospel radio show with bluegrass style in its roots.  The instrumental work on A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2, is exquisitely crafted; the vocals are down-home, yet pristine.  The Skaggs get things started with “Christmas Times A Coming”, a folksy, bluegrass Christmas anthem that gets everything going on a traditionalist slant that’s appealing.  “Light Of The Stable” is a musical celebration of the birth of Jesus in pure southern gospel style.  “The First Noel” is offered up in a gorgeous, acappella arrangement with full harmonies.  “What Songs Were Sung” is absolutely inspired, a simple-yet-powerful anthem about the first Christmas

“Silent Night” is offered in classic mixolydian style; an arrangement not dissimilar the classic hymn style used in churches for years.  The Skaggs family breaks into an impressive instrumental on “Flight To Egypt”, reminding listeners that it’s not necessary to rely on repetitive forms in order to speak through your instrument.  “Reunion Song” is a revivalist tune, a musical coming together centered on Christmas Day and the birth of Jesus.  The traditional spiritual “Children Go” is full of life, mixing southern gospel and country styles quite convincingly.  The album closes with a contemplative and simple, yet gorgeous arrangement of “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”, followed by an orchestral take on “Joy To The World”.
You know when you see the Skaggs name on something musical it’s going to be good.  Whether it’s his solo albums, work with Kentucky Thunder, The Skaggs family as a whole, or even some of the peripheral projects of individual family members such as Songs Of Water.   A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2 is worth spending some time with.  The album is well-produced, the music sounding as perfect for a concert hall stage or the back porch as a family holiday party.  The 16-song DVD that accompanies the package is also a gem, a full concert featuring songs on the CD and additional tracks that couldn’t be included.  The entire affair is a breath of fresh holiday air.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about the Skaggs Family at  A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume 2 is available for pre-order at the above website.  The album is also available for pre-order through as a CD or Download.

Video: Glenn Colton - Anti-Bully Song

We've covered works from Children's artist Glenn Colton in the past.  He recently released a video with an anti-bullying theme; apropos considering recent events.  Check it out here today:

Learn more about Glenn Colton at, where you can also order from his catalogue of CDs, DVDs and books.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Barenaked Ladies - Hits From Yesterday & The Day Before

Barenaked Ladies – Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before
2011, Rhino Records
It takes some moxie to last in the music business for twenty years.  It takes real chutzpah to not only survive chart-topping single and still be making music more than a dozen years later in spite of losing a principal songwriter and vocalist, But above all it takes talent; something the four remaining members of Barenaked Ladies have never run short of.  On September 27, 2011, Rhino Records will release Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before, Barenaked Ladies second greatest hits collection.  This career-spanning collection will seem mostly redundant if you already own Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits, but will be an ideal starting place for new fans.
Cited by no less than Sir Paul McCartney as one of the most interesting bands in rock and roll today, Barenaked Ladies have long blended a singular musical talent with a nerd-rock aura and boundless energy.  The divorce of co-founder Steven Page from the band in 2009 might have meant the end for some bands, but Ed Robertson (vocals/guitar), Kevin Hearn (vocals/keys), Jim Creeggan (bass/vocals) and Tyler Stewart (drums/vocals) set their eyes upon the future and have refused to look back.  Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before closes the book on the first two decades of Barenaked Ladies, and shows a marked development of sound, style and maturity over the years.
Classic Barenaked Ladies hits are featured mostly in their original, recorded forms.  Songs such as “If I Had $1,000,000, “Brian Wilson (live)”, “The Old Apartment” and “One Week”, as well as moderately successful radio singles such as “Pinch Me”. “Another Postcard” and “It’s All Been Done”.  Very little representation is given to the last three BNL Albums (Barenaked Ladies Are Me, Barenaked Ladies Are Men, All In Good Time), most likely due to these albums being released independently by the band, whereas Rhino owns the rights to much of the material presented here.  The only track here not previously available on CD is the full version of the “Big Bang Theory Theme”, which mixes Robertson’s sometimes frenetic talk/sing style and classic BNL kitsch. 
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Barenaked Ladies fan, then Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before isn’t likely to hold much appeal.  You’re going to have all of the tracks here already.  But for new fans just acquainting themselves with the band, it’s a tremendous collection-as-introduction.  What’s more intriguing, and somehow still secretive, is the deluxe edition of the greatest hits collection, also supposedly due on September 27, 2011.  Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before is rumored to be a two-disc set that includes the greatest hits disc plus a second disc of never before heard songs.  No track list has been published to date, and no listing has yet to appear on major retailers such as Amazon, Target, Walmart, FYE, CDPlus or CDUniverse.  This is the collection that will cause long time fans to open their wallets. 
In the end, Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before is a solid collection for beginners, but probably not worth shelling out the money for if you already own several BNL albums.  The “Big Bang Theory Theme” is certainly worth hearing, but isn’t enough of an upgrade, in itself, over Disc One to make it essential.  Stop Us If You’ve Heard This One Before, if it makes it to market, will be a must have for all the die-hard fans out there.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

(Note: In this case, the rating is more of the collection than the music thereon.  There just wasn’t enough new material here to justify a second greatest hits package, but the music itself is fabulous.)

Learn more about Barenaked Ladies at or  Hits From Yesterday And The Day Before is available for pre-order via both on CD and as a Download.  Preorders are also available via iTunes.

Be sure to check out the new video for the "Big Bang Theory Theme", featuring members of the cast of the show!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Laura Roppé - I'm Still Here (Video)

Laura Roppé's story is an inspiring one. From setting aside a successful career as a corporate lawyer to pursue her dream of making music to surviving triple negative breast cancer, Roppé doesn't so much live life as conquer it. With a memoir, Rocking The Pink, due in 2012, and two successful albums behind her, Roppé continues to create. Her latest video, "I'm Still Here", documents a song she wrote during chemotherapy, and shows the resilience and strength that seems to underscore everything she does.
Check it out:

Check out our reviews of Roppé's albums I'm Still Here and Girl Like This, and be sure to visit www.lauraRoppé.com, where you can purchase both albums on CD. You can also purchase Roppé's music in multiple formats from, and digitally from iTunes.

Roppé’s memoir, Rocking The Pink:  Finding My Rock Star Self On The Other Side Of Cancer, will be released on March 6, 2012.  Pre-orders are available via

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
2011, Warner Bros.

Time brings change to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their latest studio effort, I'm With You. The follow-up to 2006's iconic double album, Stadium Arcadium is the band's most playful and flowing work to date. Armed with a new guitarist and a fresh outlook born of time away and maturity, Red Hot Chili Peppers aim straight for the top of the charts with fresh songs that haven't lost an ounce of edge or pop sensibility.

I'm With You opens with an intriguing mix of edgy guitar and dance beats on "Monarchy Of Roses" before exploding into the alt-pop gold of "Factory Of Faith". This is classic RHCP updated for 2011, and destined to be a chart hit. "Ethiopia" is built on a simple, catchy arrangement and features some of the best guitar work on the album. The Chili’s use their patented talk/sing style to illuminate “Look Around”, a catchy, minimalist arrangement that will stick out in your mind.  Plowing through the exceedingly solid numbers “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” and “Did I Let You Know”, RHCP digs into “Goodbye Hooray”, an absolutely infectious alternapop number that you’re likely to hear ringing from your radio in the not-too-distant future.  “Police Station” is expansive and dreamy, ethereal in intriguing fashion.  It’s an interesting transitional piece for the band, and works better than you might at first expect. I’m With You winds down slowly, closing out with the mildly catchy “Dance, Dance, Dance”. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers capture some of their old magic on I’m With You, but also struggle at times to find a groove.  The “new sound” isn’t so much new as updated, but some of the creative tension of past works isn’t here.  That may take time to appear, or it may never cement the way it once was, but this remains a highly talented group of musicians who are still very capable of rocking you with a distinct pop intensity.  I’m With You shows growth and change, while maintain some of the zeitgeist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers story.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Red Hot Chili Peppers at or I’m With You is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Blisterz - Rebels Without Applause

The Blisterz - Rebels Without Applause
2011, Chickenstock Records

Albany, NY power-punk trio The Blisterz look to unleash their blend of chaos, charisma and power chords in the key of G on an unsuspecting world with their sophomore effort, Rebels Without Applause. Davey Blister (vocals/guitar); Drew "Blood" Blister (bass) and Vinny Blister (drums) smash and bash their way through fourteen dynamic punk-rockers on the follow-up to their 2007 debut, Who's Laughing Now? With a penchant for three chord anthems and moderate socio-political commentary, The Blisterz follow in the sonic footsteps of bands such as The Ramones and the New York Dolls.

Rebels Without Applause shows flashes of this musical charisma, but also spends a fair amount of time muddling around without a message. "BOTB (We Should Have Listened To Our Friend Gus)" borrows a bit from The Ramones but is a solid start. "Friday Night Girls" is a classic band complaint about young bar-goes who only want to hear songs currently on top-40 radio. It's a catchy number full of brash humor. "Your Girlfriend Wants Me" opens with a chord progression that could have been lifted from "Baba O'Riley" (The Who). The song is a fun bit of trash-talking bravado. The Blisterz get in a catchy kiss-off song with real pop sensibility in the form of "Hear U Cry"; this could be a breakout hit for the band, particularly if it were picked for a movie or television soundtrack.

Kvetching is the word of the day on "Yellow Flag", a WTF song about the state of the world that is likely to reverberate with anyone confused about the direction of the world. Likewise, "The DJ Let Us Down Again" could be a socio-political commentary, or might just be what it sounds like. Either way, it's an enjoyable listen that shows a bit more depth from The Blisterz than you might expect at first glance. "Wrecking Ball" is a catchy-mid tempo number that's a lot of fun and well-played. The Blisterz explore the ultimate workplace diversion on "Paper Jam", putting copy rooms to their proper (alternative) use. Rebels Without Applause closes with "Over And Out", a somewhat weak ending for a generally solid to above average effort.

The Blisterz have the same energy and ability to surprise that could be found in early Green Day recordings, although without the apparent, pervasive drug cloud. In spite of the uncut approach to music, The Blisterz show a surprising pop sensibility and complexity on Rebels Without Applause. It's easy to imagine The Blisterz growing up beyond their three-chord punk anthems into a band of real substance over time. For now, they're a fun diversion with great things afoot.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Blisterz at or  Rebels Without Applause is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Video: Kate Martin - Apples

Came across this video in my in box. 

Kate Martin is a singer/songwriter from Queensland, Australia with a wonderfully rich voice and a distinctive early for melody.  Check out her latest video, "Apples", below.  As videos go its a bit generic, but the song is definitely worth tuning in for.

You can learn more about Kate Martin at or  You can purchase a download of "Apples" from Martin's Bandcamp page.  You can also check out her album Synthetic Shoes, Leather Boots on iTunes.

The Devil Whale - Teeth

The Devil Whale - Teeth
2011, The Devil Whale

Salt Lake City rockers The Devil Whale unwraps their inner garage band on their third album, Teeth. Channeling influences from artists such as The Animals, The Kinks and Harry Nilsson, primary songwriting Brinton Jones and company work with a diverse cast of friends and acquaintances to build a sound that's simultaneously antiquated and new. The energy that pervades Teeth is expectant. The Devil Whale constantly seem on the verge of a breakthrough, particularly on the first part of the album. Unfortunately the breakthrough never quite materializes, although The Devil Whale does manage to make a few cracks in the ceiling with "Golden", a fuzzy, garage pop number that show's off Jones' voice in fine form. "Indian" features a memorable chorus wrapped up in pleasing vocal harmonies, and shows off the band's distinctive sense of melody.

"Werewolf Army" plays like a ballad, but is a tongue-in-cheek warning straight out of a horror film. The theme is pure cheese, but the music is well-written, and the song would play well on the soundtrack of a horror film spoof. Jones shows his singer/songwriter colors on "So-Called War", deconstructing what appears to be a celebrity breakup in song. "Standing Stones" offers its own unique sense of beauty; a catchy number with a lovely melody that will stick in your head and a musical flow that seems as if Jones channeled the song from somewhere in the universe rather than writing it himself. The Devil Whale, seemingly have exhausted itself from such a great start, settles in for a solid if unremarkable final four songs.

The Devil Whale impresses, then regresses, on Teeth, turning a near-brilliant seven song EP into an above average full length album. Brinton Jones cuts some serious chops as a songwriter and singer, but its clear that The Devil Whale, while having found a musical identity, perhaps isn't 100% comfortable in its own shoes yet. Teeth shows flashes of brilliance, and over the first 2/3 of the album is dressed to impress. Don't be surprised if these guys just keep getting better.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about The Devil Whale at or  Teeth is available from as CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Cranks - Downside Up

The Cranks - Downside Up
2011, The Cranks

The Cranks dish out their distinctive blend of prep-school, post-punk pop on their second CD, Downside Up. Released in May of this year, Downside Up once again highlights the distinctive voice of Haley Gowland. Backed by her twin brother Connor Gowland in drums and Greg Preston on bass, Gowland turns listeners every which way loose on Downside Up. The Cranks show growth from their debut EP, What? both as performers and in the songwriting department. Gowland's lyrics are fresh and relevant, but are losing some of that youthful feel as The Cranks traverse adolescence and enter the complicated waters of young adulthood.

Opening with "Voice Inside", The Cranks offer up a catchy number with punk energy and real pop sensibility. Haley Gowland is thoroughly engaging on "Mexico", and the rest of the Cranks raise their game in an angular style that highlights the topsy-turvy sound that pervades here. "Under Radar" is a well-written musical allegory for not being seen socially. The song is catchy as anything, and could be a breakout song for the band. "Under Radar" is the sort of song a smart music director might pick for the soundtrack of a teen comedy full of angst. "Good Guys" shows a bit of the younger feel of The Cranks' earlier work, but is well-written nonetheless; a solid album track.

"Super Secret" seems a likely allegory, perhaps for something personal, but also seems applicable to a world where so many things happen around us that we never see. Either way, the song shows a real insight into the intricacies of a world where everything is negotiated and little is ever set in stone. The highlight of Downside Up is a rough little jewel entitled "Scatterbox". Punk energy and sound meet pure pop gold in a bit of musical magic that speaks very well for the future of The Cranks. "Here I Go" keeps much of that energy and verve going in another song with real pop potential. The Cranks closes things up with the pure joy of "Pirate". If you've ever heard a song that just screamed that the band was having fun recording, then this is it.

The Cranks continue to build their sound and style, and on Downside Up have become a cohesive and mature trio, rattling off catchy and intelligent punk-influenced pop songs like afterthoughts. While the Cranks are a cohesive whole, their shining light is Haley Gowland, who is maturing into a convincing front-woman before your very ears. The Cranks have a real future. Downside Up is the proof.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Cranks at on Facebook.  Downside Up is available for download from and iTunes. 

Introducing: Charlotte Sabina

Perhaps one of the best parts of writing this blog is introducing readers to new artists you might not have heard of before. Today I'd like to introduce you to Charlotte Sabina, a ten-year old singer/songwriter and future superstar from New York City. Born of an American father and Brazilian mother, Charlotte draws her influences from a multitude of musical styles and sounds. Her sound is still quite young, but she shows a precocity and a level of talent that is very rare in one so young. Check out her latest home-spun video, for the song "Strangeboy". You can learn more about Charlotte Sabina at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Steve Lieberman (The Gangsta Rabbi) - The Rabbi Is Dead

Steve Lieberman (The Gangsta Rabbi) - The Rabbi Is Dead
2011, J-Dub Records

The Gangsta Rabbi is back. New York's reigning king of garage punk, Steve Lieberman hits harder than ever on his 3rd album for J-Dub Records, The Rabbi Is Dead. Lieberman's insight into social, political and religious issues is as wonderfully skewed and-yet-somehow on the mark as always. With 50,000 albums sold, 2 million downloads and 100K YouTube views, The Gangsta Rabbi is an underground revolution.

The Rabbi Is Dead traverses the socio-political landscape, touching on subjects such as STDs, taxes, prejudice, puppies, the Police reunion and the fall of commercial radio. As always, you'll need a lyric sheet to have any idea what Lieberman is singing about, the music is entertaining, and Lieberman's lyrics deciphered offer a slightly twisted yet viable understanding of the world as it is, and perhaps how it should be. Highlights include the wild "A Dove Flies Over Baghdad", "Jewish Boy In The Moshpit", "Plus Sized Girls (Always Rock My World)" and "Over The Sea Of Reeds".

Lieberman fleshes out the sound this time around, adding six-string guitar into the mix, augmenting the usual drums, bass and flute sound and giving his songs more sonic weight and density. It would be nice to listen to a Gangsta Rabbi record without a lyric sheet, but it somehow just wouldn't be right. The Rabbi Is Dead is certainly an acquired taste, but if you really get it, you'll love it.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Steve Lieberman at or  The Rabbi Is Dead is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Anything Goes - The New Broadway Cast Recording

Anything Goes – The New Broadway Cast Recording
2011, Ghostlight Records

Between the seminal performance of Ethel Merman as Reno Sweeney and the 1980's role as re-imagined by the incomparable Patti Lupone, it's hard to imagine anyone being brave enough to reincarnate the role on The Great Way, much less standing on par with those two great ladies of theater. Yet if you were to ponder the current and up-and-coming stars of Broadway, you'd eventually settle on the notion that if anyone could do it, it would be Sutton Foster. This must have entered the thinking of director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall. Turns out it was right thinking. Just take a listen to the new cast recording of The Roundabout Theatre's 2011 production of Anything Goes, and you'll wonder if anyone has ever worn Reno Sweeney so well.

This show isn't just about Foster's performance so well. She is surrounded with a superb cast that includes Broadway legend Joel Grey (Cabaret, Wicked) as Moonface Martin, Colin Donnell as Billy Crocker and Laura Osnes (Grease, South Pacific, Bonnie & Clyde) as Hope Harcourt. The show is based on the same book and score used in the 1987 Broadway Production with minor changes, but sticks very close to Cole Porter's original vision. Highlights include Foster's performances on "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "Anything Goes" and "Blow Gabriel Blow" and Grey's "Be Like The Bluebird", but the best chemistry occurs on songs such as "You're The Top" (Foster & Donnell); "Friendship" (Foster & Grey), and "It's De-Lovely" (Donnell & Osnes). Jessica Stone makes a nice turn on "Buddie Beware", backed by the whole ensemble. Her voice is part ingénue and part moll, an eclectic sound that's unforgettable and perfect for the role of Erma.

For all that goes well on the cast recording of Anything Goes, it doesn't quite have the pizzazz of the 1987 cast recording, but it seems attributable to the use of all digital technology which is as much a bane as a boon to musical purists. The cast, as a whole, is absolutely superb, and Sutton Foster and Joel Grey are everything you could expect and more, and Laura Osnes building on her inarguable credibility as a Broadway leading lady. It's easy to see why Anything Goes took home three Tony Awards this year, including Best Revival, Best Actress In A Musical (Sutton Foster), and Best Choreography (Kathleen Marshall). Ghostlight Records does it again, documenting a wonderfully vibrant revival of a classic show with a cast recording of Anything Goes that will draw you back again and again.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Anything Goes at or  Anything Goes - The New Broadway Cast Recording is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

In case you need convincing, check out this clip from the Late Show with David Letterman:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mikey Wax - Constant Motion

Mikey Wax – Constant Motion
2011, Waxsongs
Mikey Wax is a Long Island-born singer/songwriter who grew up on a steady diet of Billy Joel, James Taylor and Dave Matthews.  His debut album, Change Again, topped out at #46 on the iTunes Top-100 pop chart in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.  This led to tours supporting artists such as Howie Day, Serena Ryder and Ryan Cabrera.  His follow-up, a digital EP released in April, 2010 entitled The Traveler, received over 10,000 downloads and helped Wax earn 250,000 fans across Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.  On September 20, 2011, Wax follows up with his latest full length album, Constant Motion. 
Constant Motion is a collection of eleven bright and exceedingly bland pop songs that are ready for radio and licensing.  Wax hits home with the alt-edged pop of “Counting On You”, with a solid voice that falls somewhere between Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz and John Mayer.  “How It Feels” works over a fluffy dance beat, with Wax making the jump into a questionable falsetto voice.  Wax settles into his generic pop genre, comfortable and unchallenged, occasionally raising the bar a bit with songs such as “Keep Dreaming” and “Fall For You”, but Constant Motion is more about the former than the latter.  Wax’s voice isn’t inconsistent with the sort you’ll find on pop radio, but would find him struggling to get out of auditions for a show like American Idol.  There’s little doubt that Constant Emotion will sell, but it’s the sort of music that’s forgotten almost as quickly as it’s spun.
Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Mikey Wax at or  Constant Motion drops on September 20, 2011.  You can pre-order the album in various merchandise packages at  The album is also available digitally from