All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Foam Ropes - Foam Ropes

Foam Ropes – Foam Ropes
2015, 7 Trick Pony Records

Derek Nicoletto, the former front man of Telling On Trixie, stood at a crossroads in his life: he walked away from his lifelong pursuit of music to pursue acting through an exclusive theater program.  Rather than this becoming a new path, the breaking down and building up of the stage has led Nicoletto back to music with a new fervor and a new understanding of self as a creative force.  Nicoletto returns this week under the name of Foam Ropes, with a self-titled album made up of smooth rock and pop.

Foam Ropes opens with “Truth In Fables”, a tuneful self-exploration informed by the human tendency to hide the truth in our own personal narratives.  It’s a compelling mea culpa, of sorts, full of a dramatic flair and a gentle yet persistent guitar-driven arrangement.  “Potion Me Well” has an edgier, more muscular guitar sound that would be at home on old-school AOR stations.  Think a cross between Canadian rocker Kim Mitchell and Billy Squier.  Foam Ropes goes for a pop inflection on “Telescope”, a wordy yet accessible paean to fear and inertia.  This is a radio-ready gem; upbeat and catchy yet melancholy all at the same time.

“On Celery Road” is a tasty little rocker that gets your feet moving with a bright in spite of the darkness sort of sound.  Nicoletto digs into the vocal here for all he is worth, and the performance is stunning.   The mood lightens on “You Make Loving Fun”, with Nicoletto exploring the natural high of love.  This is perhaps the weakest vocal on the album, but the heartfelt nature of the song makes it all good.  Even the easy sway of the guitar solo highlights the carefree nature of the moment.  Nicoletto explores the uncertainty of relationships on “Birches” in a dark and tempered pop rocker.  “Beauty Number Nine” is a dark rocker with a light message.  Foam Ropes creates a sound here that would be very much at home on Edge or Classic Rock radio formats.  “Bad Apples” hearkens back to 1960’s ballads, and is dappled with a wonderfully reverbed guitar sound.  This is among the best writing on the album.  Foam Ropes reprises “Telescope” to close out the album, showing the other side of inertia and fear; opportunity and hope. 

Derek Nicoletto has certainly grown as a songwriter since his time with Telling On Trixie.  There is more subtlety, nuance and range evident in the songs on Foam Ropes, and the band has a sound that is certainly marketable in this age of disheveled musical genres.  The songs on Foam Ropes could find their respective ways to various radio formats as well as to a number of licensing opportunities.  From the listener’s standpoint, Foam Ropes never stands still.  There is a constant evolution of sound as the album progressives, and you will be pushed along with the rush.  This is a great start.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at www.foamropes.comFoam Ropes is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bullyheart - Antigravity

Bullyheart – Antigravity
2014, Skim Milk Productions

Bullyheart is the outward expression of recording artist Holly Long’s rebel musical heart.  The Chicago born singer/songwriter took off for UCLA to study theater, but it was music that ultimately moved her.  Today, Long has built a reputation as an honest, earthy songwriter and performer.  Long finds a home for her voice, both as a singer and as a songwriter, with Bullyheart.  Long created a cycle of ten songs entitled Antigravity with the help of musical cohorts David Boucher and Kevin Harp, but the sound is ultimately from the heart of Holly Long.

Bullyheart gets started with "Antigravity", a catchy little rocker full of syncopated guitar and a strategically laid back vocal from front woman Holly Long. The juxtaposition between arrangement and vocals is memorable, and Long's voice sounds like a cross between a young Geddy Lee and  Linda Perry.  "Thin Air" has a much more laid back vibe that's melancholy and refined. "No Pleasing You" has a catchy feel, and is driven by a talk-sing narrative style. Long works this song for all it is worth, and you'll have a hard time keeping it out of your head.

"How Was I to Know" is a slickly produced song of regret. It's well written and performed, but the elemental lyrics would work better without the highly polished sonic veneer.  "Lost My Nerve" is a languorous bit of navel gazing poetry set to a crawling arrangement. The juxtaposition of Long's voice and the depressive arrangement works on one level, but this is a tough listen nonetheless. Bullyheart sets the ship aright with the manic "Panic Attack". The inclination to pogo dance to this one is understandable; at the very least you won't be able to keep your feet still. "The Pendulum" swing back into navel exercise with a molasses like arrangement that is a tough sell.

"Shaken" takes the upbeat path in an observational piece about another’s emotional state and world outlook.  This is actually well-written, both musically and lyrically.  The song gets off to a slow start, but the incessant chorus has its own inertia, and you’ll find yourself bobbing along.  “There Goes My Man” explores angst in a delightfully high tempo rocker. This is a brilliant tune that could be even bigger in sound, but it works very well as presented here.  Don’t even try to sit still.  Bullyheart pulls in the oars for “Stay”, an angst filled, repetitive dirge that features just a lingering, plaintive acoustic guitar and Holly Long’s dynamic voice.  It’s a chilling moment, both memorable and painful. 

Bullyheart takes listeners through several ups and downs on Antigravity.  The down tempo pieces can linger too long and become bogged down in emotional and musical angst, but Holly Long always manages to sound good in the process.  The upbeat tunes are where she shines, rocking out in an understated but still notable fashion.  Antigravity is the sort of album you’ll revisit again and again, whether for specific tracks or the whole experience.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at  You can purchase Bullyheart from Amazon or iTunes.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Michele McLaughlin - Undercurrent

Michele McLaughlin – Undercurrent
2015, Michele McLaughlin

Michele McLaughlin found her field of dreams, and it has 88 keys.

Drawn to the piano from a young age, McLaughlin was playing in front of school mates at the age of five and composing by the age of eight.  Blessed with a musical ear, McLaughlin inhaled melodies and breathed them in ebony and ivory.  McLaughlin briefly took piano lessons, but eschewed the structure of formal instruction.  For the most part, she taught herself by listening to and copying other composers.  Validation came in 2000, when after much pestering from her Mom; McLaughlin created a cassette of her music.  The feedback received from this experience led McLaughlin to set up her own home recording studio and get serious about making music for others to hear.  Fifteen albums on, and McLaughlin has become a powerhouse in the new age/instrumental world, with awards and/or acknowledgments including the Independent Music Awards Song of the Year; and Whisperings Solo Piano Radio Album of the Year.  McLaughlin’s latest effort, Undercurrent, is a powerful and moving cycle of 13 songs that demand your attention.

McLaughlin is a new age composer with a pop musician’s heart, writing in almost a singer/songwriter style.  It’s therefore not surprising to be occasionally reminded stylistically of pop recordings as you pass through Undercurrent.  The opening track, “11,000 Miles”, carries an air of Billy Joel in its straight ahead musicality.  It’s a pop anthem, unrestrained by subtlety but thoroughly enjoyable.  There’s more nuance to “Living in Awe”, which has an emotional, if not dramatic build.  The early trend on the album is not toward finesse, but almost to a power songwriting aesthetic.  Even the waterfall-like chorus of “Full of Love” carries this impetuosity, like a child seeing new wonders of the world for the first time. 

It isn’t until “The Space Between” where we catch glimpses of McLaughlin’s more pensive side.  As she moves into the second part of the song, however, McLaughlin’s muse storms back with a rush, pushing with an impatient insistence the story she has to tell.  She steps back for “Undercurrent”, but even here the quiet surface is deceptive, and the listener is soon caught up in her musical pull.  “Starstuff” makes no bones about its push, but McLaughlin seems to draw down the intensity on “Never Give Up”.  There’s a singular beauty to this piece, which reflects in grace and subtlety the depth of emotion it represents.  A sort of quietude pervades “Evolution”.  You might expect that this song would follow its own title and evolve into something louder or grander, and to a degree it does, but it is a gradual slide up the scale that shows tremendous finesse. 

“On My Own” showcases McLaughlin at her very best, with melody, finesse and lyric grace fully integrated.  This transitions into “Melody in Motion”; starting as a plaintive waltz but becomes an aggressively melodic piece of musical prose.  McLaughlin’s cascading piano style is imperative and impulsive and utterly without reserve.  A sonic code arrives with “Stepping Stones”, a pensive-yet-spritely meditation that’s pretty and refined.  McLaughlin closes out with “Synesthesia”, a quietly impatient number that rolls over and over itself without a sense of where it’s going until it arrives.

Michele McLaughlin impresses with “Undercurrents”.  Her compositional style is impetuous, inpatient and often lacks a sense of subtlety, but it is also ultimately inspired.  McLaughlin isn't afraid to be herself.  She wears her heart on her sleeve and she touches listeners with her musical honesty.  It might not be for everyone, but if you get it then you’ll find something to like here.

Rating:   4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at  Purchase Undercurrents via Amazon or iTunes, or via McLaughlin's Web Store.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blade of Grass - She Was [EP]

Blade of Grass – She Was [EP]
2014, Blade of Grass

Blade of Grass is a minimalist, post-rock electronic duo from Los Angeles.  Josh James and Mike Hurst combine electro, rock, surf and world music influences to craft simplistic yet intriguing arrangements that serve as a bed for Josh’s vocal melodies.  The band released two singles as a two-song EP in the summer of 2014 entitled “She Was”.  While the EP doesn’t give a clear sense of the duo’s musical direction, it does serve as an intriguing introduction.

Blade Of Grass kicks things off with “She Was”, a droning post-pop ode to love lost.  This one is likely a love/hate proposition for listeners.  Josh James sings with a droning, nasal quality that affects the low-speed angst of remembered heartache, while a minimalist electronic arrangement counts the slow passing of time.  This will either connect or it won’t, but it is well and artfully done.  “Who You Gonna Run To” is likely to have more general appeal, with its mellow vibe and pure vocal line.  The simple arrangement is appealing, with a more readily apparent musicality than the previous track.  James’ voice is more appealing here as well, presented with a softer edge.

Blade of Grass isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but there’s a unique muse at work here.  She Was is an intriguing introduction to a duo with a lot, perhaps, to say, but whatever they say is going to have their own distinctive musical pizzazz.  I can’t guarantee you will like everything you hear, but there’s enough artistic juice here that you’re bound to respect even that which you do not find a feel for.  

This one is a keeper.

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

She Was is available from Amazon or iTunes.

Light Over There - Light Over There

Light Over There – Light Over There
2015, Light Over There

The ubiquitous nature of the internet has allowed for artists who might never otherwise meet to connect and make some great art.  Perhaps none of those stories is as intriguing as the one behind Light Over There.  Rex Haberman is a musical veteran, with two solo albums, a duo album a series of EPs with socially progressive rockers War Poets.  Aileen Henderson is an 18 year old resident of Galway, Ireland.  Haberman Aileen Henderson met via Twitter in 2014, and still have never met face to face. Nevertheless, they have begun a writing and recording partnership that is bound to catch your ear.  The duo, with the help of a handful of Nashville musicians, recently released their debut EP, Light Over There

Light Over There kicks off with “Where Memories Live”, a solid Americana rocker with a good voice and the wonderfully enigmatic lead vocals of Aileen Henderson.  The song tackles the subject of dementia and the devastating impact it has on families.  In spite of heaviness of the subject, there’s a lightness and energy to the guitar-driven arrangement that reflects love for the passive protagonist.  This energy carries over to “She Cries To You”.  The juxtaposition of Henderson’s reserved yet dynamic voice and the up-beat rock arrangement is reminiscent of some of the better work of the Cowboy Junkies.  You’ll have a hard time shaking this song; it will follow you around for a few days, popping into you head at the most random moments.

“I Ain’t That Bad” is a low-key duet between Haberman and Henderson that’s well meant but perhaps doesn’t work quite as well as expected.  The arrangement has a country-ish Gin Blossoms feel, but there’s little vocal chemistry between Haberman and Henderson, and the gap is something of a distraction.  “Solitude, Gratitude” is another solid, low-key rocker, but Henderson’s vocal energy just isn’t this one.  Her voice is pleasant enough here, there’s just no oomph in the performance this time around.  Light Over There closes out with “Mountain Song”, by far the standout track on the EP.  It’s catchy, yet understated, and makes a brilliant showcase for Aileen Henderson’s voice.   Everything clicks here.

Light Over There chose their name as a reflection of the wonder of two musical kindred spirits finding one another across the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean (or the internet).  That inspiration is apparent on Light Over There more often than not.  The disconnect of recording in different places at different times does show up at times, but the band generally does a very good job of bringing an organic feel to the songs.  It will be interesting to see how the project progresses over time; working face to face will likely help Haberman and Henderson find the deeper roots that are apparent from the music on their promising debut.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Light Over There from the band’s Facebook page.  Light Over There is available via Amazon or iTunes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

War Poets - Searching For The American Dream

War Poets – Searching for the American Dream
2015, War Poets

Minnesota rockers War Poets have been busy in the last year.  Their most recent release, Searching for the American Dream, is the third in a cycle of three EPs the band has released in the past nine months.  The cycle is a series of rock and roll meditations on issues faced in modern American, as seen through the politically jaded eyes of the Occupy movement.  Searching for the American Dream is the cycle’s culmination, referencing issues of incarceration; income inequality; respect for prostitutes; and revolution.

The EP opens with “Day Dream”, a compact little rocker with smooth edges.  The song is mildly catchy and will appeal to fans of classic rock.  The lyrical content is awkward but consistent with issues addressed in the television show American Crime.  “Shadows” is a clumsy humanistic take on redemption.  It’s a great listen musically, but the disconnect between sound and lyric may be tough to take.  “On My Own” is a classic rock biograph of a homeless man who experienced child abuse; ran away and grew up on his own.  The song is well written, and the sound references Pink Floyd or perhaps post-DeYoung Styx.

“Sarah” is a song of affection for a prostitute that looks to remove the stigma of the world’s oldest profession.  It also works as an atypical love song if you’re not listening to the words too closely.  “Pay The Piper” is all about income inequality and revolution.  This is perhaps the standout track on the EP; featuring a tremendously catchy arrangement.  Searching for the American Dream winds down with “Hey There”, a middling rocker about the pursuit of happiness and love.

War Poets are musically competent on Searching for the American Dream.  The band is musically in sync and wears their progressive social management views on their collective sleeve.  The message, whatever you might think of it, is ineptly delivered more often than not.  This is a mixed bag that will have some regional appeal but just doesn’t have enough universal appeal to break big.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at  Purchase Searching for the American Dream from Amazon or iTunes.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Video: White Like Fire - You Gave Up On Me

Pittsburgh rockers White Like Fire have a new album, Wait The Night Out, dropping on April 21, 2015.  The first single from the album, "You Gave Up On Me", is an impressive introduction to the band that has the potential to launch them into a higher musical orbit.  Check out the video today, a great morsel to start off the week.

Learn more at

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Love and Music

Music is a generous suitor.  There’s always something new and interesting to catch your ear.  The concept of falling in love is a fair parallel for finding new music that moves you.  “Love” can mean so many things of course.  You can fall madly in love someone, or love them like a brother or sister; or love them in a new age/agape sense that many claim but few understand.  Our attractions to music can be very similar in their disparate sensibilities and styles.  Sometimes you need something to rock you; others you need something to soothe you.  Sometimes you just want to think or feel; and sometimes you want none of these.  The common element is that you find something that touches you on one level or another.  It might be a tryst, or it might become a lifelong love; but music rarely leaves you unscathed.

Just like any relationship, the connection between artist and fan must be maintained.  The artist keeps up their side through new material, but also through their social and personal connections with their fan base.  Some relationships start strong and fade over time; some start slow but grow over time.  I am perhaps talking in circles here, but these concepts apply to two albums I want to talk about today.
The first is from The Grace Stumberg Band, a Buffalo-based act fronted by the indomitable Grace Stumberg.  Stumberg is a diminutive singer with a huge voice, in the vein of Grace Potter.  Over her first two albums, 2011’s To Whom It May Concern, and 2012’s Affect, Stumberg has shown off a powerful voice and a strong songwriting sensibility.  She has an ability to light up a room with that voice.  I was understandable excited upon hearing that Stumberg would be releasing a live album in 2015.  Live At The Studio Café (Popadelic Records) is a fair representation of Stumberg’s live set a fact that is both encouraging and disappointing at times.  The album is encouraging because it gives an accurate representation of her impressive sound, and the material here is among her best.  At the same time, the energy level on the album perhaps leaves something to be desired.  Stumberg is very much engaged with her audience, and the band backs her 100%, but the album doesn’t do her live presence justice. 

At the same time, another Buffalo-based band, Bryan Johnson and Family is coming into their own.  The band released a self-titled demo back in 2011 to positive reviews.  The songwriting showed promise and the sound was dynamic, but the production wasn’t quite where the band wanted it to be.  Bryan Johnson and Family return in 2015 with Cool Your Jets (Admirable Trait Records), a delicious five song EP full of a rock and roll ethic and a wonderfully danceable sound.  The sound is much more polished this time around, and Johnson’s lead vocals and guitar work lead a tight and dynamic quartet with serious chops.  There’s a garage/surf/rock ethic here that’s primitive in nature, but this is overlaid with a polished musical veneer that is impossible to ignore.  Highlights include the title track, “Cerulean Eyes” and “Dead Fox”.  

Both bands are great representatives of the Buffalo original music scene, and both have the potential to rise above it.  Stumberg’s sound might be a little too comfortable to break big, but the talent is there.  Bryan Johnson and Family are still honing and developing their sound, but the pop sensibility and DIY/alternative sound they are cultivating speak of big things down the road.

Stumberg’s Live at the Studio Café is a solid 3 stars out of 5.  You can learn more about Stumberg at In the mean time, check out this live rendition of "Root Beer Fairy".

Bryan Johnson and Family’s Cool Your Jets clocks in at 3.5 stars out of 5, but it has some definite 4 star moments.  Learn more at  
For now, here's a little live footage to wet your whistle.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fallin' for Western New York/Exports

For those of you who have never been here before, let me tell you a bit about the Buffalo area.  To begin with, Buffalo stands at the gates to the rust belt.  It was a major manufacturing and port town for the Great Lakes at one time, standing at the Eastern Edge of Lake Erie and at the Southwestern corner of Lake Ontario.  The terminus of the Erie Canal can be found here, although no one seems to be quite sure where as various communities each lay their own claims.  It is a tremendous city for music and art, although these things are often well hidden from the national eye.  What we are most known for, perhaps, are copious amounts of lake effect snow and chicken wings (also known as Buffalo wings). 

The snow is a given, but that isn’t the whole story.  If you live in Buffalo or the towns north of it, snow isn’t a huge problem.   Our exposure isn’t much different, in general than anyone else living in New York State during winter.  It’s the towns and suburbs south of Buffalo that get walloped repeatedly in winter, at least until Lake Erie freezes over.

What perhaps gets lost in all of this is that the people of Buffalo are good people.  It’s a friendly place, and people here band together in times of adversity.  That’s not to say we’re perfect.  Buffalo has one of the lowest per-capita incomes in New York State, and has the distinction of being one of the most segregated cities in America.   What we haven’t seen here is the sort of flat-out racial strife and division that has been on display elsewhere.

Buffalo creates an environment for its citizens that are full of personal opportunity.  Music, arts, politics, professional sports and some wonderful regional food choices all come together to make Buffalo a unique place to live and grow.  For a long time, the youth of Buffalo mostly left to seek their fortunes elsewhere, but now the tide is turning.  Young people are beginning to flock here because of renewed efforts to revitalize the region.  Tomorrow appears to be set to be much brighter than today.

Speaking of Buffalo area youth who left the area to find their fortunes, today’s artist is a Buffalo native who has gone on to bigger and better things in New York City.  Jeneen Terrana is a singer/songwriter based in Queens with a golden voice and a heart to match.  I had the pleasure of catching her live show a few summers back at a Relay for Life event in Geneva, NY.  It was a light crowd in a small town, but Terrana held sway on stage.  Her rendition of “O Sole Mio” was so stunning that the other artists who had played that night all came out from behind the stage to watch and listen.  It was a moment.

Terrana has been busy the last several years, releasing several albums as well as hosting a cooking show, but something special has been going on with her music of late.  Terrana’s talent as a songwriter has been blossoming, and has become as formidable as her vocal talents.  Her latest EP, Fallin’ is a brief but substantial gem, a cornerstone in her development as an artist.  The EP opens with “Calling My Bluff”, a brilliant little vignette written from the precipice of love.  The song shows off Terrana’s vocal quality and color, as well as distinctive pop sensibility and polish.  This is an intelligent pop ballad with a mid-tempo gush you simply cannot ignore.  “Fallin’” is a heartfelt ballad that’s sweet but not saccharine.  There’s a distinctive poetry here that manages to be artistic yet honest, and Terrana brings it all from the heart. 

“No One Can Hurt You” is solid, a song of succor written with an attention to emotional detail that is stunning.  The maturity that shows through here is compelling.  “Fast Lane (On Your Way)” doubles down on this oeuvre, while proving Terrana’s penchant for catching melodies and vibrant pop songwriting.  Fallin’ closes out with a live version of Terrana’s “Bloody Valentine” recorded at The Palladium.  This is ear candy/filler for close fans, but it’s a solid close that gives you a sense of how Terrana’s sound carries in a live environment.

Fallin’ is too brief, but gives forth brilliant musical light while it shines.  I’ve been aware of Jeneen Terrana for a number of years now and always had great respect for her work, but Fallin’ definitively highlights an artist who has taken her game to another level.  Give it 5 stars.

Learn more at  In the mean time, wet your whistle with a listen to "Fallin'" live.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fear, Comfort and Dirty Smile(s)

It’s a scary world; A world full of people who are willing to castigate you for what you believe, or worse.  It doesn’t really matter what side of the political, religious or philosophical spectrum you’re on.  We in the United States live in a country started on the basis of freedom.  Puritans left Holland/England seeking freedom to believe in and worship God in the fashion they wished rather than in the manner prescribed by King James.  The founders of the United States wrote the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the U.S. Bill of Rights to specifically codify U.S. objections to rule by kings, tyrants and despots. 

Now we live in a nation where our leaders act counter to the interests of the people.  Special interests and corporations write our laws.  If you speak out against the way things are; against the government, you need to be concerned about who will start going through your email.  If you have religious beliefs, you need to be concerned about who might want to kill you.  It’s a scary world.

So reminiscence and memory become an escape, and music is one of the keenest reminders.  It’s one of the reasons that cover bands are so popular on Friday and Saturday nights.  It’s the comfort of music you know from a band that delivers it in relatively faithful versions.  The next step beyond that is a band that writes original music that is wholly from another era.  That brings us today’s band, Dirty Smile. 

Dirty Smile is a Buffalo, NY band comprised of Megan Brown, Erik Eimiller, Jesse Raderman, Mike Suda and Gus Walters.  The band is as tight as a wire and plays a delicious blend of pop, rock and soul.  Elements of Fleetwood Mac and the early, Led Zeppelin-like sound of Rush abound on the band’s debut EP, Love Songs for the Damned: Volume I.  Megan Brown is an absolute revelation on the mic, belting out vocals reminiscent of Grace Slick and occasionally even Geddy Lee.  Her voice is beautiful and electric with a rough edge and smooth side: the complete package.  The rest of the band matches her step for step with a dynamic sound with deep 1970s and 1980s roots. 

“Don’t Lie To Me” is the lead track, and could fit in on the regular play list of any AOR station in the country.  The song also has a freshness that makes it ear candy for today, and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear this on pop radio or on a movie soundtrack somewhere.  The other big standout track here is “Mona Lisa”, which is really performed in two parts.  The backside of “The Vow” is an acapella take by Brown on the Nat King Cole classic, and becomes a transition into Dirty Smile’s original song of the same name.  Brown shines on both, showing a supple, classic vocal style on the former, while diving into a soulful pop/rock sound on the latter.  Other songs of note include “Siren” and “Insanely Ever After”.

Love Songs for the Damned: Volume I was mixed and mastered by Canadian Indie legend Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low, Do Good Assassins), and the finished product is edgy, but ultimately as smooth as a baby’s bottom.  It’s a terrific introduction for a rust belt band with dreams and aspirations, as well as a sound that should carry them far beyond their great lakes home.

Learn more at  

Check out the official video for the band's song "Siren" below!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Transitions, New Places and Garden Songs


I haven’t seen you around here in a while.  In truth, there hasn’t been much going on of late.  Have a seat.  The table’s a bit dusty, but we’re cleaning up.

I started this blog seven years ago almost on a lark.  I was deeply involved in music from a young age, as a singer and performer; and as a fan.  This blog at first was a means to expand my exposure to music while giving back to the musicians who made it.  It became something of a mission and a joy; and then a burden.  At one time I was publishing up to three reviews in a day, and spending literally all of my free time doing so.  I built Wildy’s World up to the point where 500 visitors were passing through each day.  I was proud of that, but there was a price.  After a while it became something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.  Then it became something I resented but still loved to do.

The culmination of all of this came in the last year.  In October I lost my mom after a brief illness.  It was a difficult process that involved making the sort of decisions that no one ever wants to have to make.  It threw me for a loop, and the desire to write about, or even listen to new music, came to a shattering halt.  That wasn’t the only effect, of course, but it’s the one that’s most relevant to this space.

So for a time, music became a burden.  I continued to communicate with musicians and accept submissions, all with the best of intentions.  But when it came time to write, I just couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t fun; the words just wouldn’t come.

Today I turn the page, and as I do the view changes.  I will continue to write my thoughts about music, but the formulaic reviews are mostly a thing of the past.  This space will truly be Wildy’s World from now.  In it I will talk about the world; whatever’s on my mind, really.  That will include music, including great new music from Indie artists.  I will continue to take submissions and spread the word about things that interest me.  I don’t promise to be here every single day, but if you’re interested, this is a place you can come regularly and find something new. 

Today is the first day of my 45th year.  I suspect it will be an adventure.  Please feel free to join me.
In celebrating transition and change, I’d like to tell you a bit about Ron Hawkins.  As regular readers here will know I think Hawkins is the proverbial bee’s knees.  He’s somewhere between the Canadian version of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.  His lyrical talent is prodigiously sublime; sometimes deep and occasionally profane but always entertaining.  Hawkins began his career as the co-lead of rockers Lowest of the Low.  It was a good start, as the band was inducted into the Canadian Indie Rock hall of fame.  The band has broken up or gone on hiatus several times, and Hawkins has always managed to remake himself, whether as a solo artist or with bands such as The Leisure Demons and The Rusty Nails, Hawkins has left an indelible mark on the Canadian Indie Music scene.

The most recent iteration of Hawkins’ muse comes in the form of The Do Good Assassins, a quintet consisting of Hawkins (vocals/guitar); Jesse Capon (drums); Alex McMaster (cello/keys/trumpet); Derrick Brady (bass); and Steve Singh (guitar).  Their latest effort is entitled Garden Songs, a collection of ten of Hawkins more thoughtful songs written over the years.  The album was recorded over the course of one week, and highlights Hawkins’ brilliance as a songwriter and lyricist.  It also shows off The Do Good Assassins’ ability to bring those songs to life.  Longtime fans of Hawkins will be familiar with tracks such as “Peace And Quiet”, “Small Victories”, “D.F.W.” , “Propellers” and “Rome”.  There are also some hidden gems here.  “Kingdom Of The Sun” is memorable, and “Saskia Begins”, an ode to a newborn child, is among Hawkins’ best songwriting. The recasting of “D.F.W.” and “Small Victories” particular stand out here, and listeners newly introduced to Hawkins will be stunned by what they hear.  Garden Songs is a must have album.  I’ll give it 5 stars, without reservation.

Learn more about Ron Hawkins at  You can pick up the album from Ron’s online store at  Please be patient, because the initial demand for the album caused the first run to sell out.  They’ll have more soon! To hold you over, and pique your interest, check out this live performance of "Peace and Quiet", the lead single from Garden Songs.

Our discussion of The Do Good Assassins fit in with the reintroduction of the blog today. They also kick off a week (or so) of discussion of bands related to my adopted hometown of Buffalo, NY.  While The Do Good Assassins call Toronto home, the band (as well Hawkins over the years) have spent a lot of time haunting the clubs and stages of Buffalo over the years.  As a result they get honorary status.  In the coming days we'll also be talking about Buffalo native Jeneen Terrana, and current Buffalo bands Dirty Smile, Grace Stumberg and Bryan Johnson And Family.  After that we'll move on to new or recent releases by Rachael Sage, Seth Glier, Laura Joy and others.

Until next time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Live Hart - Honesty

Live Hart – Honesty
2014, Goin’ Native Records

New Jersey-born singer/songwriter Live Hart cut her musical teeth as a member of pop group Urbanesque, but her primary focus has always been that of a singer/songwriter.  This aesthetic is wholly evident on Live Hart’s debut solo album, Honesty.  Hart weaves intricate tales and soundscapes throughout the ten songs on the album, with a dulcet voice and an intensely melodic musicality.  A soulful R&B influence in inherent in Hart’s sound, but her muse comes first, and listeners are the one to benefit. 

Honesty opens with a touch of Latin soul and pop in the form of “I’m Gone”.  The groove here is tremendous, and Hart’s voice is delicious ear candy.  It’s a brilliant open with significant chart possibilities.  Hart changes gears for “New Day”, utilizing cascading vocal layers to beautiful effect.  In spite of the difference in sound, the net effect is the same, a brilliant pop turn you won’t be able to get out of your head.  Hart digs into a stripped down sound on “Take Me” that grows into a vibrant folk/rock gem.  The chorus here is perfect pop radio, full of honest life and intensity and a tasty pop hook. 

“Please Don’t Say It’s Over” is a quietly pleading pop number that’s infectious in its rhythm and sound.  The most integral component here is Live Hart’s honey-tinged voice, dulcet and warm in tone and timbre.  She manages to navigate the corridors of pop music with a grace and class that allows her rise above the pack.  On “We Can Change the World” Live Hart takes a more generic path to a politically correct, socially activist message.   This is a popular and thoroughly overdone message in pop culture.  As a result, efforts in this direction need to be wildly original or extremely well done to stand out.  Neither is the case here.

Hart turns the corner on “Lala”, a quietly brilliant love song written from the perspective of gratefulness and grace.  The melody here is a thing of beauty, as live shares a moment of true intimacy with listeners.  “This Is Me” seems to grow out of “Lala”, but musically and generationally.  The same pop sensibility is there, but there is a slow growth in intensity and energy between the two.  Hart returns to a stripped down, guitar-driven arrangement for “What Is Love”, a musical-slow boat that grows into a low-key R&B gem.  Once again, it’s Hart’s voice that is the key driver here, but the entire piece is full of an esoteric beauty that is impossible to ignore.  “Summer Love” steps into a keener pop/rock sound and borrows its opening line (lyrically and musically) from John Waite.  Hart’s mix of pop sensibility and singer/songwriter aesthetic serves her well once again.  Honesty closes with “Release”, playing on the edges of popular hip-hop styles and essentially surrendering the unique high ground Live Hart spent the first nine songs of the album carving out.  This is a solid piece of writing, but it is by far the weakest track on the album.

Live Hart flashes brilliance on Honesty, with the sort of voice you just close your eyes and let wash over you.  Her songwriting has depth, and she blends that with a brilliant folk/pop sensibility that gets inside your head.  Honesty isn’t just a title but a mantra, and Hart lives it to the fullest.  This album should establish Live Hart as a songwriting and performing force to be reckoned with. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at

You can purchase Honesty via iTunes or Amazon.