All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Stone Diamond - We Stole The Stars From The Black Night

Stone Diamond – We Stole The Stars From The Black Night
2013, Davin Enterprises

The men of Stone Diamond are all twenty year veterans of rock and roll.  Cy (vocals/bass); Josh (vocals/guitar) and The Tongue (drums) have overcome the sort of drama and antics that derail many bands.  In the process they have developed and intense and primal sound that is melodic and tuneful.  Writing from a simple, straightforward perspective on the world, Stone Diamond brings a bluesy perspective on their musical sound, and an ability to transcend the moment at times.  Stone Diamond’s debut album, We Stole The Stars From The Black Night, drops on October 6, 2013.

Stone Diamond throws down the gauntlet with "Love Stays", a velvet smooth classic rocker with serious pop pretensions. Lead vocalist Cy sounds more than a bit like John Thomas Griffin (Cowboy Mouth), and has serious presence.  "Let It Roll" has a bluesy underbelly and is laced with subtle guitar licks as it builds into a powerhouse chorus. You'll want your dancing shoes on here.  "Flavor Of Tears" is repetitive but musically intense, with some serious guitar work filling out the arrangement. 

"Tattoo" has a contemplative and dreamy feel, while working a guitar style that's inspired by Hendrix. The listener’s connection is a bit more tenuous this time around, but there's a lot going on in the background. "Dark Lover" recalls early 80's blues influenced bands like Cinderella and Whitesnake, right down to the incessant rhythm section and snaking guitar solos.  "U Know" is a slinky diet featuring the sumptuous voice of Mimi Moo.  The pacing is slow but the song builds in intensity as it goes.  Stone Diamond turns contemplative and wistful on "When We Were Young", a middle of the road rocker with a big, loud, repetitive chorus.   The band gets efforts for camouflage this time out, but the sonic craft can't overcome the bland nature of the song. 

"No Boundaries" is a song of hanging on that's guilty of the same sins as "When We Were Young", a trend that carries over into "Just 4 1 Day". Stone Diamond gets back to the blues for "Traumatized", but remains stuck in neutral energy wise. The band kicks out the jams on "Long Hard 5 Days", a high energy rocker about letting loose for the weekend. The chorus is uncharacteristically messy, but you'll be dancing so hard you won't notice.

Stone Diamond starts strong on We Stole The Stars From The Black Night, but struggles to maintain their initial, intense energy level across the full album.  Nevertheless there are some real rock and roll gems to be found here, and front man Cy croons like a big-time front man.  The real treat on the album, however, is the exquisite guitar work of axe-man Josh.  His sometimes subtle, sometimes in your face fills and trills enhance the musical atmosphere on We Stole The Stars From The Black Night; you’re going to like what you hear.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blue Eyed Sun - Tidal Sound

Blue Eyed Sun – Tidal Sound
2013, Blue Eyed Sun
Hailing from the deep woods of Northern Michigan, Blue Eyed Sun is not your typical rock band.  The highly musical trio, comprised of Brennan Leeds (guitar), Kenneth Fox (piano) and Casey Batterbee (drums), comes with high recommendations.  Four-time Grammy winner Michael Omartian once dubbed Leeds the next Paul Simon; Fox had written, self-recorded and produced a 14-track album by the time he was sixteen year old.  Casey Batterbee spent years playing with seasoned jazz veterans, but also brings influences such as Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the table.  Together, Blue Eyed Sun creates a unique and memorable sound.  Blue Eyed Sun recently released their debut album, Tidal Sound, and it’s not like anything else you’ve heard in some time.

Tidal Sun opens with "Rocco's Song", a quirky bit of folk pop that's catchy in an almost socially backward fashion. Blue Eyed Sun sweep the listener up and carry them along on an irrepressible musical tide here.  "Fidelity Melody" is a hopeful love song that's a conditional promise of faith. The variegated musical topography of the song is a thing of beauty, and the almost geeky social affect of the song is charming.   "Given Name" is an intriguing rumination on the depth of relationships and human need.  There is a melancholy feel here that is palpable. 
"Make Friends" is social awkwardness set to a wonderfully angular folk/pop arrangement. Blue Eyed Sun show some progressive tendencies here with guitar and strings, and create a bit of musical magic in the process.   "Johnny Boy" is a lament about a friend who has gone beyond the veil. There's an unfinished quality to the song that seems intentional, resulting in a raw feel. The same aesthetic carries over into "Bucket", which sounds like a mix of Ben Folds and soul/pop. Blue Eyed Soul waxes poetic here on a mix of big dreams and ambivalent direction. 
"Please" channels a bit of early Jason Mraz in fuzzy, lyric garage arrangement. The mix is a bit uncomfortable, but Blue Eyed Soul keeps things moving so you don't have time to think about it.  The wheels come off a bit on "Panthers", a languorous and vaguely lost ballad that moves too slow and lasts too long. Neither vocalist in the band has perfect tone, a fact that is generally easy to overlook. In this sort of arrangement the imperfections are too apparent to ignore, however. "Mountains" suffers from a similar malaise, although there is more energy this time around. Blue Eyed Sun closes strong with "Tidal Sound", a swarthy ballad with a positive message. The boys of Blue Eyed Soul aren't afraid to change things up and do the unexpected, and here they exchange lyricism, angry rants and moments of true beauty all in the same song. 
Blue Eyed Sun blend folk, rock ‘n’ roll and progressive elements with a fine musician’s ear for detail on Tidal Sound.  The songwriting and arrangements are often raw and emotionally driven, with all of the imperfections this implies.  More often than not this works for the band.  The unpolished voices are refreshing, although over-exposed on a couple of songs.  Blue Eyed Sun is here to stay, however, marking their own trail out of the musical wilderness.  It’s one you’ll want to follow.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chris Leigh & The Broken Hearts - Broken Hearted Friends

Chris Leigh & The Broken Hearts – Broken Hearted Friends
2013, Blue River

Chris Leigh was born and raised in Kentucky, the eighth of ten children in a devout religious family.  As a teenager Leigh broke the mold, hitch-hiking to California to try and make it in the music business.  Returning home to Kentucky several years later, Leigh settled down to family life and a 9-5 job.  After eighteen years Leigh’s marriage came to an end, and he picked up his guitar again to try and make sense of it all.  What started out as therapeutic has become cathartic, with Leigh diving back into the music world with some of the edgiest classic-country music being made today.  Chris Leigh’s debut album, Broken Hearted Friends, is ready to take the country music world by storm.

Leigh kicks things off with the title track, an amusing piece of tragic-comedy about heartbreak turning into camaraderie.  Leigh manages to create a bit of classic sounding country with a rock and roll flavor that’s very appealing.  “Broken Hearted Friends” feels like an instant hit.  “Like I Love You Forever” is an optimistic love song that wastes no time getting to the point.  The chorus plays more like a bridge in this anachronistic little tune, but Leigh catches and holds the listener’s attention with an original style and a catchy backbeat.  Leigh plumbs the depths of country heartache on “If You Make It to Heaven”, with the caricature of a man struggling with issues of loneliness and faith.  It’s a well-written tune that’s more about the human condition than about any particular religion, and offers keen insight into the struggle to find happiness.

“Ramblin’ Man” finds Leigh telling a cautionary tale about life on the road and temporary liaisons.  One particular liaison with a southern belle turns into a nightmare for the protagonist here, and Leigh soups up the experience with a breakneck arrangement that you simply can’t sit still through.  “Heartache and Misery” bemoans a man’s tendency to fall into relationships with no future; a classic country tale of romantic woe set to a killer arrangement.  The guitar licks here are so sharp they are dangerous, culled as they are from the Chet Atkins school of guitar.  Honky-tonk piano takes the lead on “Who’s That”, a diatribe on his sweetie finding a new Facebook friend.  Leigh brings country music thematically into the digital age with a classic arrangement that’s as tight as can be. 

“Money” explores material wealth as a relationship with a flighty partner, as bad decisions lead to expected results.  Everyone but the narrator can the inevitability of the outcome in this story song, flipping the tragic with the nearly comic.  “Here We Go Again” is a kiss off song based on a partner’s tendency to hook up his friends.  No matter how many times it happens he keeps taking her back, only to be surprised when she strays again.  The guitar work here is excellent, as Leigh crafts a near-perfect 2 ½ minute piece of old-school country-pop.  “The Ballad of Bobbie Sue” is a languorous lament, clocking in at 5:39.  Heartbreak is the central theme here, with her heartbreak become his with time.  Leigh closes with the rockabilly strains of “Whiskey River”, which is a thematic cousin of the Willie Nelson song of the same name.  The tune is as catchy as you can ask for, with a chorus that will stick in your head for days.

Chris Leigh & The Broken Hearts mine a classic country sound with well-written songs and an enigmatic lead vocal style that will sit well with modern country radio while also pleasing fans of traditional country.  It’s hard to imagine CMT and other major outlets not catching on to Leigh’s sound and making him a star, but stranger things have happened in the music business.  If the sound on Broken Hearted Friends is any indication, you need to catch Leigh’s act live if he comes to your town.  Elements of Garth Brooks, Hank Williams Jr. and Luther Wright blend here to make what should be a knock-out live performance.  As it is, you’ll be playing Broken Hearted Friends again and again.

Rating:  4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Solveig And Stevie - Zombie Lover EP

Solveig & Stevie – Zombie Lover EP
2013, Crystal Lake Records

Solveig Whittle (Shades Of Red) and Grammy nominated musician/producer Stevie Adamek (The Allies, Bighorn, the See Band) make up the core of Solveig & Stevie.  With the able assistance of Don Wilhelm, Solveig & Stevie delve into the musically unusual while exploring a folk/pop aesthetic that sidetracks into grunge and even electronic sounds.  Whittle’s powerful vocals and Adamek’s imaginative arrangements make for intriguing musical efforts that struggle to find traction on their debut EP, Zombie Lover. (Note: Only three tracks were provided for review).

“Zombie Lover” looks to capitalize on the zombie craze with a music noir monologue on a relationship that’s going nowhere.  Built on a guitar riff that you might expect to find in a metal song, “Zombie Lover” carries farcical lyrics and an over-the-top feel that will seem funny or odd to listeners, like an “in joke” that doesn’t translate well outside a circle of friends.  The music and vocals are rock solid, however.  “Creation” is a melancholic piece of dream pop that stumbles along in its asymmetric fashion, finding elements of beauty and isolation along the way.  Whittle’s supple voice makes this song work in spite of some pacing issues.  “Keep Your Eyes On Your Heart” uses a droning co-vocal style that is disturbingly dark.  Well constructed and compact, this song just never quite takes flight.
“Just Can’t Breathe” brings an interesting mix of grit and polish, with Solveig Whittle serving as vocalist on the chorus as contrast to a spoken word chorus.  The Spartan dance mix offered here is passable, but the implied passion sputters and gutters like a spark on wet ground.  “Fire” starts out in a post-modern aesthetic, but quickly turns into a solid piece of pop songwriting.  Solveig & Stevie mix their voices in wonderful measure on a quirky and ultimately listenable song full of dark shadings and a brilliant hook.  “Waiting On The Thunder” is a song full of latent desire.  Whittle’s almost clinical description of love and passion is compelling both for its sentiment and for its almost ambivalent energy.  Zombie Lover wraps with Menta E Rosmarino, a song that drips with melancholy and need.  It’s a moment of uncertain beauty that leaves the listener with a desire to listen again.

Solveig & Stevie struggle to find cohesion on their Zombie Lover EP.  The music is technically proficient, and Whittle has a voice that can create pedestrian traffic jams at rush hour, but it feels as if Solveig & Stevie are trying to do too much on the first three songs.  Things turn north after that, with the trio finding some magic along the way, but the overall impression is still a bit muddled.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nikhil Korula - Solo Sessions

Nikhil Korula – Solo Sessions
2013, Nikhil Korula
Nikhil Korula is a classically trained vocalist and songwriter who spent several years immersed in the west coast jazz scene.  This exposure helped Korula to network with the current members of his Nikhil Korula band.  With several Triple-A singles and relentless touring, the Nikhil Korula band have built an international following.  Gigs with artists such as John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Tim Reynolds, Les Claypool (Primus) and Colin Hay (Men At Work) have served to build the band’s fan base as well as influencing the band’s sound.  Now Korula steps out on his own with The Solo Sessions, a five song EP that shows off his dulcet voice and his unusually smooth songwriting style.
Korula opens with “Spark”, a poppy and positive number with influences from Dave Matthews and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Korula gets in the listener’s head here with a rhythmic arrangement that you’ll be singing for days, as well as an upbeat message that leaves the listener with a positive feel.  “He Said, She Said” sounds like it could be a Dave Matthews Band outtake.  The mellow feel is thematic, right down to the occasional sax trills, and Korula even seems to channel Matthews vocally here.  It’s a well-written tune that might be a bit too sound-alike for some, but it’s very much worth a listen.  Korula ends up sounding a bit like Darius Rucker on “Broken Roads” with a sound that falls somewhere between his early work with Hootie and the Blowfish and his country material.  “Broken Roads” is a contemplatively melancholy tune, and Korula brings out the best in his voice.  “Silent Tears” keeps the same aesthetic in another moment melancholy piquant.  Strings in the arrangement offer lovely shading, and the chorus has a sing-song quality that you will carry with you.  Korula says goodnight with “Fade Away”, a mid-tempo rocker with a message about not giving up.  This is a nice choice for a closing tune after the melancholy of the two proceeding songs, and leaves listeners with an optimistic feel that will bring them back.
Nikhil Korula is undoubtedly a talented vocalist with a supple voice that allows him to take on several sounds across an album or EP.  This can be both beneficial and detrimental with music fans, but even if you find the sound derivative you have to acknowledge he’s good at what he does.  The material on Solo Sessions is first class, and Korula fills up each song with an ultimately capable voice and a boat load of charisma.  This is an EP you will find yourself returning to again and again.  And Nikhil Korula is one lucky break from being a household name for many years to come.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Grand Old Grizzly - Grand Old Grizzly

Grand Old Grizzly – Grand Old Grizzly
2012, self-released
Grand Old Grizzly is a Houston, Texas quartet that originally came together as the backing band for Katie Stuckey.  Sporting a Lo-Fi aesthetic and a tell-it-like-it-is songwriting style, lead vocalist Will Thomas writes like Johnny Cash and sings a bit like Jakob Dylan.  Grand Old Grizzly has opened for Leon Russell and Blackberry Smoke, and The Houston Press has already branded the band “The Best New Act” in town.  Grand Old Grizzly’s self-titled debut album invokes thoughts of Wilco, Tom Petty and The Old 97’s, and it’s easy to imagine them as a national headliner in the near future.

Grand Old Grizzly kicks things off with the urgent energy of “The Mad Ones”, a frenetic alt-country story of a lover gone astray.  This ramshackle runner turns into a kiss off song in the end, but Will Thomas makes a fun little journey out of the song.  “The Sundowners” is a sweet little number with rockabilly in its roots.  This is a relationship with some gas in the tank yet, and the focus is all on making it work.  “Indecision” shows a bit of Grand Old Grizzly’s wry wit in exploring an inevitable relationship meltdown.  The easy going arrangement make this a quiet draw, but this tune will get stuck in your head. 
GOG moves into the middle of their debut with a series of solid songs that form the timber of any album.  “Morning”, “Tallahassee”, and “I Was Thinkin’” are all accomplished album tracks that flesh the album out into a full-length recording.  “Marvelistic Coward Band” finds Grand Old Grizzly’s wit rising to the surface once again in a low-key story song that’s nonetheless entertaining.  There’s a comic-tragic element here that’s very subtle but difficult to ignore, and the band drives home the monotony of the life described with a loop-style Americana arrangement.

“Approaching Cars” is a quietly banjo-fueled tour-de-force, a story of desperation and loneliness is compelling.  “Lament” is a subtly crafted bit of magic.  Songwriter Will Thomas proves his depth here, and Grand Old Grizzly bring the song to life with an understated beauty.  “Pretty Little Head” starts out well enough but gets a bit rushed in the chorus.  The two song components are disparate in sound and feel, and this is the only song on the album that just doesn’t seem to work.  GOG recovers well with the closing track, “Blue Irish Eyes”.  Thomas finds a sense of desperation and impending loss here, conveying the fear of loss and the sense of holding on with a delicate urgency.
Grand Old Grizzly works both in spite of, and because of its imperfections.  Will Thomas is a compelling songwriter with an enigmatic voice.  That voice won’t work for every listener, but is a perfect match for Thomas’ low key, narrative singing style.  The band around Thomas is top-notch, never doing too much or too little to flesh out the songs.  Grand Old Grizzly is the quintessential Americana band: no glitter and no gloss with some cracks in the proscenium, but consistent in providing quality songs that take you on a journey to someone, somewhere or sometime else.  You’ll find yourself getting more hooked on Grand Old Grizzly with each successive listen.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more at