All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jeff Clark - Just Visiting

Jeff Clark -Just Visiting
2012, Jeff Clark
If you haven’t heard of Jeff Clark before, don’t be surprised.  He’s an example of the kind of talent it takes to be a music superstar, but perhaps just never quite gets the right break.  Instead, Clark is a local legend in the Austin, Texas scene.  With his former band Too Smooth, Clark was a contemporary of ZZ Top, Johnny & Edgar Winter, Steve Miller and Steven Stills.  Over the years, Clark has shared the stage with the likes of Rush, Aerosmith, The Kinks, Ted Nugent and Judas Priest, to name a few.  Clark’s latest effort is to revisit some of his best material from over the years, with the help of some old friends.  Just Visiting found Clark working with old band mates and friends, including Brian Wooten (Trace Adkins); Danny Swinny (Suede); Tommy Taylor (Eric Johnson) and Mark Miller (Bubble Puppy).

Clark kicks things off with a blast of 1980's goodness in the form of "We Can Make It", with the help of guest vocalist Christopher Cross. The guitar and synth driven sound falls somewhere between Asia and late Genesis. "Soon You Will Be My Girl" has a definite pop sensibility, and the vocal triads are a perfect reminder of the AOR radio days. Clark sinks further back into the early 1970's with "Mamie Mama", featuring some slinky guitar work and an irrepressible beat.

"Everything With You" is a piano driven ballad full of deep melancholy. Clark's vocal weaknesses are exposed here, particularly on slow passages that climb into his upper register. In spite of these limitations he does a solid job. The sound quality here is not as good as elsewhere on the album, however. "Believe In Me", by contrast, sounds more slickly produced. The guitar work and vocal style here are typical of the classic rock era, and Clark does it all with working class flair. "You Are My Life" is a heartfelt ballad that sounds like first dance material. The lyrical turns here are a tad awkward at times as Clark dances with cliché, but the song is heartfelt and well presented.

Clark and his band strap on their jet packs for "Tonight", a high energy rock and roll love song with a chorus that will get stuck in your noggin and stay there. "I've Got You" is a solid album track that continues Clark fascination with love songs classic and atypical. The darker quality of the arrangement is nice, and once again brings to mind Asia.  “Trilogy” digs deep into the 1960’s for Beatles-esque sound, but updated with twangy country-style guitar.  This is a nice listen; it doesn’t bowl you over but helps build an appreciation for Clark’s subtle talent as a songwriter, composer and guitarist.
Heart-felt sentiment and a touch of schmaltz come together in perfect measure on “25 Years Later”, celebrating the longevity of love and also the blessings of a God who would bring together so perfect for one another.  This prayerful element to the song may be a turn off to some listeners, but it’s as heartfelt as the love Clark expresses for his wife.  Clark closes things out with “Man Of Fortune”, a reminder that Grace plays a greater role in our destiny than talent or even luck.  The solid classic rock arrangement is reminiscent of Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell, and the groove is a solid one that you can dance to.
While not necessarily billed as a greatest hits package, Just Visiting definitely fills the bill as one.  Jeff Clark is a hidden gem, the sort of musical talent you want to text your friends about.  Or perhaps you’re a hipster and want to keep him to yourself.  Either way, Just Visiting is an album you’ll visit again and again. 
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at

Monday, January 28, 2013

Madelein Peyroux - Changing All Those Changes (Video)

Madeleine Peyroux returns on March 5, 2013 with The Blue Room, an artistic rendering of a tribute to Ray Charles' ground breaking Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music.  The album is not a straight cover project, as Peyroux hand picks tracks from the Ray Charles classic to interpret in her own inimitable style.  She also includes takes on tunes by Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, John Hartford and Buddy Holly.

The lead single is Holly's "Changing All Those Changes", and Peyroux does more than just take the song for a walk; she makes it her own.  Check out the video below, and keep your eyes and ears open for a lot more of Madeleine Peyroux this spring!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Anthony Lai Band - Behind The Sun, Part I

The Anthony Lai Band - Behind The Sun, Part I

Dearborn, Michigan quintet The Anthony Lai Band is full of collective musical talent. Each member has extensive experience with various scholastic and professional ensembles. Their influences read like a pantheon of rock hall of famers. All of that is good resume material, bur the band find a special chemistry with one another on their latest EP, Behind The Sun, Part I.

Lai kicks things off with the blue collar rock n roll love song "I'd Rather Be With You Tonight." This little number is a gem, with Lai's chorus creating its own momentum. The low-fi production style is enjoyable, and remeniscent of Neil Osborne and 54-40. "Behind The Sun" explores the concept of a romantic near-miss. Anthony Lai shares the microphone here with Cara Niemann, whose delightfully quirky folk/rock vocal style manages to steal the show.

Lai launches next into the effervescent pop/rock of "Tell Me What It Is", which sports a chorus you simply won't be able to get out of your head. "Something Beautiful (Angel)" is a low key, acoustic guitar ballad that's sweet with a surprisingly substantive melody. This is true mix tape material for the hopeless romantics out there, but avoids the usual love song cliches. Lai closes out with the bouncy piano pop of "You Make It Right." The stax style horns a nice touch, framing the chorus on perfect fashion.

Anthony Lai has a distinctive melodic understanding of song craft, and a penchant for pop hooks that is the musical DNA of Lennon and McCarthy. Lai never overpowers vocally, but sings in a solid, everyman voice that is appealing to the ear. Listeners will be waiting expectantly for Behind The Sun, Part II.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Getting reacquainted with a great album

Every once in a while its good reacquaint yourself with a great album you haven't listened to in a while. Life gets busy and musical mores move on, but great music has staying power.

Today's selection is Shakespeare My Butt by Lowest Of The Low. These Canadian Music Hall Of Famers are consistently remembered on best album of all time lists for this indie gem from the early 1990's.

Led by the duo of Ron Hawkins and Stephen Stanley, Lowest Of The Low had one of the most turbulent and successful careers of any early 90's Toronto Indie Rock scenester not named Barenaked Ladies.

I am working off my phone due to laptop failure and don't seem to be able to embed a video with this meager blogger app, but here is a link to the video for "Eternal Fatalist", one of my enduring favorites from the album. Enjoy!

Down for a few days

The official Wildy's World laptop bit the dust last evening in a fit of black screens and missing restore points, so we shall be down for a few days while I get that sorted out. Back soon with more great music!

In the meantime, if some nice company or person wants to donate a laptop, I will be happy to say nice things about you!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lexie Roth - Lexie Roth

Lexie Roth – Lexie Roth
2012, Lexie Roth

Musical legacy can be a heavy weight; it can also be a blessing.  Lexie Roth, daughter of famed guitarist Arlen Roth and visual artist Deborah Bussichio, comes from a line of artistically inclined folk.  Roth shows the same bent on her debut album, Lexie Roth.  While the apple does not fall far from the tree, so to speak, it’s clear that Roth is still growing into her own style and substance as a songwriter.

Roth opens with the vaguely surf-influenced mellow rock of “Lost Memory”.  There’s a pervading sense of melancholy that walks its way through the open arrangement, which serves as a platter on which Lexie Roth’s fine alto voice can play.  The subtle musical style used here is somewhat reminiscent of Sting’s post-jazz age.  “Stay Or Go” is a musical diary entry; wordy and self-absorbed.  The arrangement is solid, but the vocal line is overly repetitive and trapped in its own ambivalence.  “Forget All About Me” has a more ethereal melancholy at its core.  The sparse arrangement once again allows for Roth’s voice to be the star of the show, but the plodding melody doesn’t necessarily do her any favors. 

“Ghost Of Childhood” starts slowly and spins in place until Roth launches into an exceptional chorus.  “I Have To Leave You” keeps up the maudlin pace, with Roth perseverating on a failing relationship in a clockwork arrangement that lulls the listener to sleep.  Things pick up a bit on “Little One”, offering up a chorus that is full of quiet energy and a solid hook.  The song flutters and flails a bit on the verses, caught up in wordy style, but the chorus is right on the mark.  “I Wanna Run” considers a relationship she has given her all to, only to find out her beloved isn’t as committed as she.  Roth’s story telling here is solid enough, but the story is almost clinically told; there’s no real sense of emotion one way or the other.

“Call You My Hon” is a love song that’s awash in sound but once again leaves any distinct sense of emotion at the door. It’s a solid tune, but undersold.  Roth lays her heart bare on “I’ll Be”, a love song with an apocalyptic feel.  It’s unclear whether this number is written from beyond a relationship or beyond the grave, but Roth’s obsessively verbose style is a bit too much in spite of the compelling theme.  A mild swing informs the rhythm of “Windfield”, an expansive story in song that suffers from its own lack of energy and Roth’s prolixity.  The aural palate used here is actually quite enjoyable, and renews the earlier comparison to some of Sting’s work, but the song just folders under its own monotony.  Roth shakes off her doldrums with the snarky/sweet “Country Diddy”.  She keeps it simple here while wallowing in her own near-demise, recovery and short-sighted romantic failings.  It’s an interesting closer that is very much out of tone with the rest of the album.

Lexie Roth brings an intriguing voice on her self-titled debut album, but has yet to learn the economy of a seasoned singer/songwriter/storyteller.  The album suffers from a relentless inertia of low-key, plodding songs full of self-directed and overly populated lyrics.  These, alongside Roth’s low-key vocal style, do not serve her well.  Roth’s voice is sufficient to sustain the listener in spite of all this, but it’s hard not to think that there is more life in Roth as both a songwriter and performer.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Jacket Mine - Someone Else's Cake

Red Jacket Mine – Someone Else’s Cake
2013, Fin Records
Red Jacket Mine is a product of disparate influences.  The Seattle based quartet hails from a city known for Garage Rock, Grunge and Rap, but Red Jacket Mine is crafting their own Seattle Sound.  With lead vocalist and songwriter Lincoln Barr calling on his Memphis roots, Red Jacket Mine walks the line between blues, soul, country and good old classic rock and roll.  The result is familiar yet fresh, full of catchy pop hooks and a whole lot of charm.  Red Jacket Mine brings it all together on their fourth album, Someone Else’s Cake, due out February 13, 2013.

Red Jacket Mine takes off with the delicious, synth-driven pop/rock of “Amy”.  Infectious hooks and s sneaky-catchy chorus make this one a charmer and a great opening track.  “Nickel & Dine” is a catchy Americana rocker that sounds like a cross between Elvis Costello and Blue Rodeo.  Red Jacket Mine builds a wonderfully catchy vibe here while discussing the human tendency to tear down anything that works and the clash between optimism and pessimism.  “Ron Nasty” is a bit generic, but “Engineer” rocks with a bluesy attitude.  This is one of those tunes you just can’t sit still for, and vocalist Lincoln Barr is in particularly fine form here.
“Skint City” has a more melancholy feel, and carries a vocal harmony that’s reminiscent of a 1970’s Eagles record.  It’s a solid album track with a quiet swing that’s easy on the ears.  “Listen Up (If the World Is Going to Hell)” pays homage to 1970’s R&B and pop styles.  Barr sounds a bit strained in small moments here, but it’s a solid effort overall.  “Novelty’s Gone” walks the line between gentle rock and country, relying on a metronomic rhythm to drive a maudlin number about the reality of a relationship setting in.  There’s a rote feel to this tune that carries over to the tacitly soulful “Better To Be Broken Than Blind”.  Both tunes are solid enough, but just don’t carry much energy or conviction.

Red Jacket Mine comes fully awake for “Someone Else’s Cake”, a catchy kiss-off song of sorts.  There’s a delicious edge to this number that underscores the Americana/Country sound.  “Have You Got A Permit To Preach On This Corner” has more of a classic country sound, and takes to task someone who professes their beliefs publicly.  Red Jacket Mine closes with the catchy rocker “Bellar & Bawl”.  An R&B backbeat drives the song, alongside an early rock & roll piano style and a band that is clicking on all eight cylinders.  This is the perfect close to the album, and a perfect song to close shows with as well.
Red Jacket Mine certainly knows how to kick things into high gear when they want to, but Someone Else’s Cake shows a supple understanding of song craft that while not always perfect in fruition, displays a distinctive understanding of melody, song structure and inspiration.  Someone Else’s Cake is a complex album that finds lead singer/songwriter Lincoln Barr negotiating with his own varied musical influences with varying degrees of success.  It’s an intriguing listen from a band who promises to keep growing and getting better with age.

Rating:  3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rachel Epp - Rosary

Rachel Epp – Rosary
2010, Rachel Epp

Rachel Epp grew up a farm girl, with the seeds of country and folk music sewn into her musical soul.  Artists such as Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin and Kathleen Edwards taught her what great songwriting is, and Epps applied these influences into the making of her own style.  The result is compelling; a storytelling style of song craft that is deeply personal and full of a vibrant intensity that never weighs too heavily on the listen.  Rachel Epp’s sophomore effort, Rosary, builds on her ability to use words to paint pictures that nearly come alive.

Epp kicks things off with “Ghost in the Graveyard”, an ode to young love full of summer nights and endless dreams.  With a radio-ready chorus and a sweet, instantly likeable voice, Epp makes a great first impression.  “East of the River” explores the dichotomy of being comfortable with one person but wanting more.  The demarcation here is New York’s East River, and the two sides are different worlds with different realities.  Epp brings out the beauty of where she wants to be and the indecision that accompanies it in a lush arrangement that wraps around you and pulls you into the story.  “Virginia” has a more plaintive feel, an ode to the transient feel of home once you’ve found a life elsewhere.  The full acoustic-electric arrangement is comfortable even as it explores emotional nooks and crannies that are often less so.

“Beautiful Like This” is full of melancholy memories of happy moments, and an awareness that tomorrow’s memories might be much the same.  It’s a beautiful reminiscence of now, full of an understanding that life is fleeting and memory, in the end, is all we are left with.  Rachel Epp writes much deeper than you might first assume, and that is never clearer than in this moment.  Rosary bows with “Wasted”, a country-tinged number that shows off Epp’s voice in its lonely beauty.  The straight-forward singer/songwriter style is enhanced by Epp’s flowing melancholy and darkly sweet arrangements.

Rachel Epp mesmerizes with doses of beauty and melancholy on Rosary.  Epp surprises you; wrapping you up in her stories with a voice that lulls and a sense of imagery that is sublime.  Rosary is not to be missed.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell - new album due April 23, 2013


Steve Martin tweeted today to call attention to the announcement of a new album due out on April 23, 2013 featuring himself and Mrs. Paul Simon, Edie Brickell.  Martin has won kudos in recent years for his work on the banjo, and Brickell has built a solid songwriting career on the popularity of her mid-90's hit "What I Am".  This is a case of two very interesting talents you'd never imagine working together sharing a creative process.  The results are unpredictable, but with producer Peter Asher (James Taylor, Elvis Costello) at the helm, and guest appearances from Esperanza Spalding, The Steep Canyon Rangers and members of Nickel Creek, you're assured of a set of intriguing performances.

And as long as King Tut doesn't break into a chorus of "What I Am", all will be well. 

Learn more here.

The White Ravens - Saddle Up The Whales

The White Ravens – Saddle Up The Whales
2012, The White Ravens

Brother and sister songwriting team Will and Amy Bennett began their band, The White Ravens, on Christmas Day, 2004.  Now 19 and 20, respectively, The Bennetts are carving out an interesting niche in the Indie rock scene in Michigan.  Terming their sound “indie pop geek cabaret rock”, The White Ravens are influenced by a cacophony of sounds from the worlds of rock, classical, Broadway, folk and modern Indie rock.  Will Bennett (keys, guitar) is the composer, and Amy Bennett (vocals, bass) is the lyricist.  It’s a dynamic combination that is responsible for a wonderful tuneful, effervescent pop/rock sound.  On their third album, Saddle Up The Whales, The White Ravens seem to have finally come into their own.

The opening track, “Saddle Up The Whales” is vibrant; joyous; a little bit messy and a whole lot of fun.  Rather than the cynicism so common in modern popular music, The White Ravens glory in a sort of youthful glee.  The result is a sound that is complex, but driven by a singular pop sensibility that gets under your skin and makes you want to get up and dance. “Rube Goldberg Machine” features the same sort of simple joy, wrapped up in an incredibly complex and varying arrangement.  Will Bennett shows his compositional skills run somewhere between those of the Beatles and Ben Folds, blending rock, pop and classical components into an amazingly cogent bit of writing.  Amy Bennett backs it all up with lyrics that are wonderfully twisted and full of the simply joy of making music.

“Informational Video” takes a disco beat and turns it into a complex, layered pop song.  You’ll want to dance and sing along.  “Conspiracy” is a paranoia-filled nightmare for the relationship-phobic in the crowd.  There is a distinct cabaret-pop feel to this tune, and Amy Bennett perfectly balances an edge of sultry songstress with quirk and humor.  The White Ravens offer up a change of pace with “Rain Song”.  Sounding at first like a ballad, “Rain Song” is quirky and pensive, but carries a melody that is beautiful and sweet.  Amy Bennett handles this juxtaposition with a surprising grace.  “Spaaace” is a catchy piano-driven rocker full of classical themes and a fearful penchant for space travel.  The song is infectiously off-kilter; the sort you return to again and again. 

“Mechanical Whales” starts out with a dark cloud hanging over it, brought on by the delicious minor key piano opening.  This turns into an art-rock extravaganza that is more about sound and structure than anything else.  The result is stark and full of a surprisingly twisted beauty.  “World’s Smallest Piece Of Pasta” has more of a chic-dance rock aesthetic.  The quirk factor here is quite high, and the song is an entertaining if surreal listen.  “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” commemorates the world’s eighth continent, a large collection of garbage afloat in the Pacific Ocean.  This tune has great comedic potential, but The White Ravens find a gentler path through the song.  “Arlene’s Grocery” is full of wonderfully zany lyrics.  The arrangement matches the feel but is complex and well-developed.  “We’re Glad You’re Here” is a Beatles-esque musical exploration full of layered sounds ala Phil Specter.  It’s a nice sonic segue way into the closing track, a boogie-woogie take on “Bye Bye Blackbird”.  Will Bennett gets to show off his piano prowess here in unvarnished terms, and Amy Bennett shows depth and grace in her handling of the vocal line. 

The White Ravens keep you on your toes and ultimately charm your socks off on Saddle Up The Whales.  The musical depth and breadth of what they are doing here before legal drinking age speaks to a pair of distinctive musical talents, and a special chemistry that simply doesn’t come along every day.  Saddle Up The Whales has a kitschy feel at times, but it’s all in good fun; a fun so infectious you can’t help but join in.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Steeldrivers - Hammer Down

The Steeldrivers - Hammer Down
2013, Rounder Records
In a town like Nashville you have four strata of musicians: The mega-stars, the headliners, the session/side musicians and the hungry newcomers or hangers-on.  Everyone knows the mega-stars, and most people would know a song or two from the headliners.  The kids are still trying to find their place and the hangers on are the lifers who never ‘make it’ but never give up. In betwixt and between them all is perhaps the most talent and dedicated group of musicians you will ever find.  These are the people who fill in the cracks on recordings for all of the above, from the new unknown working with an established songwriter to the biggest star on Music Row.  They are the session players and touring musicians.  These folks make their living playing music and supporting the muse of others.

Many of them play several instruments better than you or I will ever master one.  Many of them are singers and songwriters and arrangers and producers and anything else they can learn to keep them near the music.  Every once in a while one of these players will break out on his/her own.  That’s a parallel for the story of The Steeldrivers: Five highly successful musicians who have spent their careers playing the music of others.  Yet this dedicated group has been recording since 2006, and has become both critical darlings and crowd pleasers.  The Steeldrivers have recorded individually with some of the biggest stars in all of popular music, yet when they come together as one organic whole something special happens. The Steeldrivers return on February 5, 2013 with Hammer Down, perhaps their most sonically perfect work to date.

Hammer Down kicks off on the toe-tapping bluegrass of "Shallow Grave", featuring a memorable melody and exquisite vocal harmonies. That trend continues on "How Long Have I Been Your Fool", which takes a classic theme of betrayal and reworks it in wonderfully tuneful fashion. "When You Don't Come Home" completes a trio of dysfunctional or atypical relationship songs that open the album. This is the most infectious of the three, with primo vocals and some prodigious picking and fiddle playing involved as well.

"I'll Be There" takes this theme on a new direction, exploring in melancholy overtones the expectation, born of heartbreak that things will come back around. The melody here is nothing short of gorgeous, and the violin solo seems inspired by the late, great Stephanne Grappelli. Another type of darkness infuses "Burning' The Woodshed Down". Lead vocalist Gary Nichols sounds a great deal like Trout Fishing In America's Keith Grimwood, but perhaps never more than here. Perhaps even more intriguing, Tammy Rogers' harmony vocals make it sound like Alison Krauss is sitting in.

"Wearin' A Hole" is all about dancing (and drinking) as an escape from worldly troubles. It's a   feeling better song with a catchy mid-tempo arrangement that should make line dancers everywhere happy. "Lonesome Goodbye" is ripe with classic country melancholy. The brilliant melody is allowed to ride on the wave of an easy going arrangement that highlights its inherent beauty. The Steeldrivers launch next into the high energy bluegrass of "Hell On Wheels", the story of a small town girl gone wild. Full of frenetic energy and frantic instrumental work, you'll be jumping out of your seat when this little number comes on. "Cry No Mississippi" plays on the theme of falling out of love in a small town and having to see your former love on a regular basis. The bluesy folk arrangement is a perfect match for the pragmatic lyrics. Hammer Down comes to a close with the jaunty "When I'm Gone", which features the distinct melodies, vocal harmonies and instrumental prowess that seems to define The Steeldrivers. It's a sonically appealing way to say goodnight; one certain to bring listeners back for another go 'round.
The Steeldrivers suck you in and wrap you in their ever loving arms on Hammer Down.  Ten songs chock full of classic country heartbreak and neurosis await you, wrapped in amazing bluegrass arrangements bursting with irresistible pop hooks.  The chemistry here is amazing, and Hammer Down is a can’t miss listen.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jacob and the Good People - I Am Jacob

Jacob and the Good People - I Am Jacob
2012, Jacob and the Good People

Atlanta, Georgia (by way of Ohio) rockers Jacob And The Good People have a sound that’s influences by acts such as Dave Matthews Band, Rusted Root, Zac Brown Band, O.A.R., and Lil Wayne, to name a few.  Their infectious post-alternative pop and soul blend gets into your boots and makes them wiggle.  Some of that is the chemistry of the band and some of it is the pure persona that is Jacob Blazer.  On the band’s debut EP, I Am Jacob, Jacob and the Good People incite all of the influences above but sound mostly like they have been playing in some special sauce.

I Am Jacob opens with the light reggae-fueled folk/pop of "Crazy", a love song with a distinctive island swing. Jacob Blazer is charismatic and warm as a front man, and sells this song primarily on personal charm. "Moving" is a low energy cut of musical philosophy that has no questions and fewer answers. "Simple" is a soulful love song in the classic Philly style, with Blazer overcoming minor vocal flaws with pure charm.  "Allstar" finds Jacob playing in the same lazy/hazy soul territory as G. Love. It's an entertaining number that mixes singing and spoken word while dropping culture and fashion references from earlier days. The EP closes with "Goodbye", a tuneful kiss off from a man who is choosing a life on the road over a woman he may love, but who cannot accept him being away.

Jacob and the Good People come quickly full circle in the relationship cycle on I Am Jacob. The slow and easy feel to the songs combines with Jacob Blazer's personal charisma to create an affable listening experience. His voice isn't going to win him awards, but like other great performers before him, Blazer sells each song with such finesse you may not even notice.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at