Saturday, November 16, 2019
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There are two bands that come to mind while listening to Studebaker John. Canned Heat and Treat Her Right. You can also feel the spirit of Peter Green, Hound Dog Taylor and even Jimmy Page. All of that gets poured into a pot of Chicago style goodness with a dash of psychedelic jam band rock. This album is 13 songs deep. The lead track "Same As Mine" is loaded with guitar work that smolders, burns and shreds. The sound is slightly raw, reminiscent of a live-in-studio recording.
John sings somewhere between Kim Wilson (Fab T-Birds) and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Vocally he is perfect for the blues. Studebaker John typically has a harmonica taped to a mic next to his vocal mic. He alternates between slide guitar, harp, and vocals. He does it seamlessly. "Up and Down The Line Again" is a dizzy harmonica workout. The way the harmonica is recorded gives the track a super swampy feel. "Not To Be Like You" has a ringing guitar intro which transcends into a persistent jabbing lead. The guitar playing squeezes all of the dark grungy tones out of each note. "Hold Me Down" begins with a long enjoyable guitar intro, which resurfaces, and is piercing and spontaneous.
John is a relaxed singer with swagger and confidence. He sells these songs with his delivery. Bob Halaj (bass) and Earl Howell (drums) are a fine compliment to Studebaker as he goes off on the harmonica again. "My Life" feels like it's echoing from the corner of a smokey blues bar at midnight. The guitar tone is a wall of psychedelic acid, which competes nicely with the harp solos which compete at the same level as John's guitar. The lyrics for this song provide the perfect story for these instruments.
"Ready To Rock" says fasten your seat belt, this is going to be a wild ride! An 8 minute excursion inside the crazy world of Studebaker John with all of the aforementioned musical ingredients. And the addition of more scorching guitar interludes within the context of an already jamming tune. "I Feel Like Rockin'" is less swamp and more Stones and Chuck Berry. The tones are cleaner, the vocals more straight ahead. A nice change of pace and style. "I Still Won" is a melodic cacophony of nylon strings, electric guitar, harmonica and some potent drumming. The production on this album is very front loaded, meaning the rhythm section is more window dressing than window. It creates a darker feeling even on the brighter tracks.
"Search This Life" is another snarling Keith Richards influenced rocker with more searing leads and another acid soaked harp solo. "Passed and Gone" might be what happens after "When The Levee Breaks". A bit derivative but certainly at the very least a worthy sequel, and without question the most radio friendly song of the bunch. Wait til you hear the harmonica solo! "Rock and Roll Before I Die" strays some from the smoldering blues for something with larger riffs and big drums. Definitely another great song. "Humanity" is a slow straight forward dirge where all the instruments come together to create a perfect soundtrack for a murder mystery or maybe Hallow's Eve.
"Eternity's Descent" is the final track on this deep collection. It's a trippy, jazzy instrumental ending that only underscores the creative mojo of Studebaker John and his high flying Hawks. These songs don't glisten with shiny production or gimmicks. They are down and dirty late night headphone binges. John's musical chops are tied to his experience and influences. This is blues rock that is off the beaten track. It will surprise you with it's depth, flavor and originality. This under appreciated band deserves a hearing. Studebaker John is most certainly a legend and his work here and on much of his older catalog proves it.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Texas has it's own top 100 chart. And it's loaded up like an overstuffed taco with some amazing unknown musicians. You can add the cleverly named Kin Faux to that growing list. Their latest single, "Teardrops On The Rocks" is a swing dancer with lyrics that steal a page from some of the best country standards.
The band is loose yet polished at the same time. With three singers and a knack for great songwriting, the big Texas sky is the limit. The band has a few other standout tracks that have recently been uploaded to Spotify and your usual platforms. Make Kin Faux part of your music to listen to family.
Monday, November 11, 2019
The new album's first single, "Dark Night of The Soul" has well over 800,000 views on Vevo as "the official audio" for the track. An amazing feat considering only a few stations on the left of the FM dial are playing the song. Morrison writes like Bob Dylan but with a bit more optimism and humor. The lyrics often challenge our sensibilities. The struggle between light and dark, good and evil. Morrison is obsessed with the war that wages in the shadows. Van Morrison is a purveyor of timeless music. He is not a rock star. He is a far brighter star with an endless reservoir overflowing with fresh musical expressions.
"Fame Will Eat The Soul" is a pointed jab at the beleaguered entertainment world. Guest vocalist Bill Medley is a welcome addition to this soulful septuagenarian duet. Legendary guitarist Jay Berliner adds his signature to each track. Morrison's band is jazzy and soulful which of course is to be expected. The playing is nearly flawless. Examples of this include the delightful mid tempo "In Search of Grace" and the mischievous media take down "Nobody In Charge". "March Winds In February" contains some great interplay between electric and acoustic guitar popping from both channels.
Morrison's consistent vocal delivery is a reassuring force on all 14 of these songs. "Read Between The Lines" could be about bad journalism or a deal gone wrong. Either way it's bolstered by a wonderful keyboard driven jam that flows like sweet honey. "Does Love Conquer All" effervesces a bubbly instrumental bliss. My appreciation for this might have to do with my own inability to hear the sounds that were once common place in the world of audio. Even if you didn't like these songs, the production absolutely glistens.
"Early Days" is a homage to old time rock and roll with Van lamenting the lack of appreciation most of today's generation has for actual music. The tune features some classic piano played to perfection by Stuart Mcillroy and Morrison himself on saxophone. Other very high highlights include the album's percussion driven title track and the lengthy album closer, "Days Gone By". You get the sense that Van Morrison is trying to reassert truth in both the political world and in music. It's a daunting task, attempting to make the universe right. But if there is a musician up to the challenge, it's Van Morrison.
Some might say this is an unexpected work of greatness from a man who is well past his prime. The "truth" is Van has been in his prime for more than 50 years. His prime just seems more prime than ever in a cold digital world with cheap lyrics and even cheaper music. The unassuming troubadour can do this in his sleep. This time he and his band were both wide awake. Give a listen to the truth - it will set you free from the glib monotony of today's music scene.
Saturday, November 9, 2019
The arrangements are a music lovers dream. Clear stereo analog separation. Gentle, sweet guitars echoing from both channels. A bass line that is audible and a true contributor rather than a muddled mess buried beneath compression and effects. It's hard to believe this is happening in 2019.
And even more odd maybe is that this band hails from Melbourne Australia. The quintessential American music form is being best replicated in a place thousands of miles from Memphis, Detroit or New Orleans. The band has also managed to compose at the level of some of their heroes.
Their latest album Run Home Slow is chock full of examples of this shiny new gold. Track number one, the organ driven "Let Me Let You Down" is an instant soul classic. All of the aforementioned characteristics are present and accounted for. "Carry You" is next and the sparse arrangement only does more to expose each players precision and dedication. I can almost hear Van Morrison's spirit in these songs. There is a certain weathered quality to it even though these are men likely in their 20's. The more mid-tempo "Man of The Universe" again demonstrates a very mature approach to songwriting and the soulful vocals of Josh Teskey continue to mesmerize.
"Hold Me" is a mostly acapella song that is augmented by claps, stomps and hollers. There is an element of old south African American Gospel music to it. Not too shabby for some white guys from down under. "Paint My Heart" is a slow, bluesy ballad that eventually builds into something slightly more uptempo with horns and a light cacophony of background vocals, guitars and drums. "Rain" is another torch soul ballad where Josh can steal the show with vocals that just don't make sense in a world of auto tune and computer generated nonsense.
"So Caught Up" is the song that is receiving airplay on independent blues rock stations around the world on the left end of the radio dial. The keyboard riff is hauntingly memorable as the horns filter in like sunlight. For some, this could be their song of 2019. "San Francisco" starts slow but eventually picks up tempo and along it's way incorporates nearly every form of American music. "Sunshine Baby" adds a dash of vaudevillian soul to the mix. Think of the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" or The Monkees performing "D.W. Washburn". But as those were more novelty driven, this is a literal take on early Americana. "Sun Come Ease Me In" combines soul with a modern harmony approach and makes for a truly original vibe. The record's final moments capture the band being thoughtful, soulful and introspective on "That Bird". The gentle drum beat falls silent as Josh Teskey does last call. A simply amazing, amazing uber authentic soul record that sits on the right side of music history. It delivers on multiple levels. Clearly if there was a music industry that wasn't now a cartoon here in America, this album would be up for multiple awards in many different categories. And as I said earlier, it's a gift that these musicians have decided to unearth the untouchable era of soul music and stand on some mighty broad shoulders to pay it forward. The Teskey Brothers are as real and talented as it gets.
Monday, November 4, 2019
Their latest single, could be one of their strongest songs to date. There are keyboards and harmony vocals that elevate the track to sunnier places compared with the band's last effort "Light In The Dark". Granted, Castronovo was exercising some personal demons on the last record, and the music seemed to follow suit. On "When The Heartache Has Gone", the clouds part and melody finds a warmer groove.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Park is a standout artist in the world of Texas music. He already has a half dozen albums in the can. And on his latest effort, Don't Forget Where You Came From, Mr. Park totally outclasses the Nashville crowd with his production and songwriting. The flavor here is neo-traditional with some pop and rock overtones. This is music you can sing and dance to. It's a guilty scoop of sonic fun. There are lots of acoustic guitars and credible guitar solos. The strings all mingle together nicely both plugged and unplugged.
And with stringed fiddles leading the way, "There Ain't Nobody Hotter" leads off with an instantly familiar country hook that screams hit single. "Rio" is next and is a wonderful story about a horse that runs wild and free. The melody weaves it's way like the horse galloping in the song. These are very well crafted songs. "Rednecks and Paychecks" continues the perfect streak of great tracks. The album's title track is a bit more musing and sentimental but still another great addition. Park's voice is very inviting and easy to listen to. "Smoke and Beer" channels Clay Walker and few other 90's country greats. These songs would all be radio bound 25 years ago. Today they only get played in Texas.
The rest of the album slows down the pace, but the melodic tendencies don't let up. A delightful easy to listen to Texas hoedown. For a good laugh, check out the last call closing track, "Beer Can". This kinda stuff ain't for the people who aren't inclined to listen to country. Kyle Park is part of a long list of emerging artists that are bringing the format back one album at a time. Because Texas is such a big state, and a large economy on it's own, it can sustain it's hometown heroes. Melodic, independent country music is alive and well in the lone star state. This is an artist that deserves nationwide acclaim.
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Badlands opens with a guitar riff that instantly hooks you hard. Jennifer sings with back-alley soul. There's something tough in her phrasing that buoys the grooves she's playing. "Burned It Down" is the song in question and it contains some sweet, sweet soloing followed by some great chord combinations. This would be a hit on any rock station if the music industry rewarded artists based on merit. Amazingly, track two, "Badlands", keeps the momentum going with more original guitar licks, and studio production that feels very Cream-like in it's approach but with a more contemporary touch. "Let Go This Time" has some well constructed background answer vocals to Jennifer's perfect phrasing. I would be wrong not to mention similarities to the great Laurie Morvan. I would say I enjoy The Groove Revival more because of Lyn's soulful delivery and that fuzz-tone guitar sound.
Other big highlights include "Anything But Me", the bass-line of which might recall the Allman Brothers on "Whipping Post". "Gonna Let You Go" is another track that has some very creative riffing and strong, soulful vocals. "West To Bismark" is yet another modern Cream sounding track, followed by an acoustic ballad called "Goodnight Sweet Darling" that has a touch of the classic Greensleeves. A very fitting ending to a powerful collection of original, blues-based rockers. I really loved the production quality of this album and it can't be understated how clean and melodic sounding the music is. This is an artist that has a bright future.
Friday, October 25, 2019
The marketing for this group has given up on the United States. The 80's weren't kind to southern rock bands, and of course it was over in the 90's for good. Hatchet has been confronted with unprecedented tragedy, with various members dying at relatively young ages. Their European based label has taken the group under their wing, and in the process is making very respectable jam band style southern rock.
Molly Hatchet's catalog has many interesting moments. Their 2010 studio album Justice was 65 minutes of ball-busting bluesy hard rock. Fans overseas ate it up. This new live album promises to capture this current incarnation of the band and from this first example, it appears this franchise still has gas in the tank. Could a new studio album be in the works? Time will tell. For now we can indulge in some high quality live music production and pre-order the new disc which will be available on November 29th.
Pre-Order The New Molly Hatchet Album Here!
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Try not have to have the line "It was just matter of time until I met you" lodged in your cerebral cortex for the rest of the day. Drummer Tony Baptist slams, crashes and pounds his way through this track, adding another dimension - 1970's hard rock. The Station has arrived. Their new album "Stained Glass" is available for pre-order. It drops on November 1st.
Pre-Order Station's New Album Here!
bands in the old way. No, ROFM is different. This is not just a band, but a musical philosophy. As the original composers age, and become less like their former selves, it's apparent that no new replacement music is coming to displace our memories. Nor is today's music making any effort to replicate the meticulous attention to detail that was once the hallmark of the original Fleetwood Mac era.
And as the original band deals with their mortality, and some fans grapple with their lack of compassion for ousted member Lindsey Buckingham, it's increasingly clear that there is a need for Rumours of Fleetwood Mac. They've taken the legacy of a once great band and paid it forward. Their attention to detail is stunning without devolving into a vaudevillian cartoon. This is Fleetwood Mac The Next Generation. Even Mick Fleetwood has put his stamp of approval on this. He introduces the band via prerecorded video. But unlike other attempts to replicate Fleetwood Mac, ROFM is on a spiritual journey. They understand what this music means to so many people. They also understand that the current Fleetwood Mac is more a corporation now. The passion has been replaced with The Authorized 2nd Party Ticket Seller. An evil genius invention that enables these tickets to fetch "Fair Market Value". Concerts that are absent that mystical, magical and often manic intangible that was Lindsey Buckingham. If you're trying to sell tickets based on chemistry or drama, there now is none. Instead we are treated to something that's been dubbed casual chemistry. Even if after all these years, Stevie and Lindsey were just hamming it up to keep the folks interested, that element is now gone. What we're left with is a 50 year musical legacy that proves more durable than the drama.
And ROFM proved it over and over again in Fort Myers Florida last night. Their set list wasn't focus tested or approved by Irving Azoff. The fact the band concluded with the oft maligned "Tusk" is a testimony to how the musicians view Lindsey Buckingham's contributions to the entire musical landscape. ROFM won't be playing any Crowded House, Split Enz or Tom Petty music. Hell, if you go to a Fleetwood Mac concert, you ought to be hearing Mac. You've got 50 years of catalog to sift through. And for over two hours, the band delivered accurate and inspired versions of the songs we all know, while playing deeper tracks for actual Fleetwood Mac fans. I know that is a risky thing to do today in our overly focus tested music world. But the tickets had already been purchased. The Barbara B. Mann Auditorium was filled to capacity. No casual fan could walk away thinking they didn't hear what they came for. All the major hits were there, maybe with the exception of "Hold Me" from Mirage. For those of us VIPS, we got a three song warm up two hours ahead of showtime. Again, sometimes it's good to be me. The band breezed through "Say You Love Me", "Never Going Back Again" and "Crystal".
The main set list included some incredible variations. For me, the inclusion of "Isn't It Midnight", a track we pounded relentlessly on the rock station format in 1988, was an incredible moment and showed how musically capable this band is. ROFM also uncovered "Bleed To Love Her" a tune from Say You Will that one might construe is about a former girlfriend...like many of them. But Stevie got her due as well. "Storms" was a brilliant, unexpected treat from Tusk. Christine's "Songbird", likely the only song from Rumours not to get robust radio airplay (although I remember hearing it on good FM stations) was another show stopping moment. For the fan of perfectly executed blues, the band took on "Need Your Love So Bad" as well as "Oh Well" and "Black Magic Woman" from the Peter Green era. All handled with care and delivered with real energy.
As the band took their final bows, I thought to myself that time is marching on. And for those of us who want to relive what this music meant to us, we are going to be relying on these next generation bands to keep the torch lit. This was an experience that gave me hope. It solves a lot of problems for Fleetwood Mac fans. Everyone from the original band is treated with respect. There is no drama. You hear only Fleetwood Mac songs. The concert is affordable compared to the scandal of Live Nation. And this band is not taking a long hiatus any time soon. This was close to, if not the best concert experience I've ever had. Rumours of Fleetwood Mac is a worthy successor to Fleetwood Mac.
Friday, October 18, 2019
Their new album "Exhibits" is a much anticipated step in the right direction. My initial reaction to this collection is it's loaded with potential hit singles. Work of Art straddles the west coast, AOR rock fence never falling off into an easy place to label. The new record is 11 tracks deep and starts off with the so-so uptempo "Misguided Love", which speeds by without the kind of emotional depth or musical anchor that would give it more distinction. Again, not a bad song, but a bit mundane. Next is the lead single, "Be The Believer" which starts nicely. A classic riff that leads into a high speed chase, interrupted by a chorus that downshifts and then up-shifts.
Lars Safsund delivers soaring, precise vocals that almost sound auto-tuned. The band utilizes a lot of vocal overdubbing which gives you the impression that a lot more is going on. I liked the guitar solo and the keyboard break in this song, and overall the track is a winner.
"Another Night" is a well executed Survivor-lite track that thankfully brings the tempo down a bit to great effect. "This Isn't Love" features guest keyboards from the author of the famous Rocky training montage, Vince DiCola. The song is a complete knockout, and has some impassioned moments and DiCola certainly adds a very excellent keyboard solo and all kinds of interesting sounds. It almost moves the song into E.L.P. territory.
"Gotta Get Out" is a well thought out hook, with a great chorus and an artsy guitar solo. Definitely one of the stronger songs from "Exhibits". Next is "Come Home" with it's darker keyboard intro and some grittier guitar lines. The song's muscle and slightly darker vibe makes it a bit of an outcast. Again, not a bad song, but not one of my favorites. "If I Could Fly" sort of mixes the last two songs, at least thematically, adds a strong chorus and builds the energy as it goes along. I like the guitar work and the impassioned vocals. "Destined To Survive" goes big with keyboards and has a busy lush sound. A fairly complete hook, and a memorable song indeed.
"Scars To Prove It" borrows from the John Elefante-Kansas era. Progressive keys, and a tinge of psychedelic guitars. It almost sounds like an outtake from Vinyl Confessions with busier production. "What You Want From Me" leads with a catchy guitar riff that transcends into the Work of Art vocal formula, including a wonderful, memorable, soaring chorus. "Let Me Dream" takes a pleasant step in a slower, more contemplative direction. Think Foreigner, "Waiting For A Girl Like You". They may have saved one of their best songs for last.
A fine way to wrap up a rare melodic rock gem made in the year 2019. Work of Art should be a band that is known to Americans. But sadly most of their fan base is overseas. If I'm grading on a Work of Art curve, which means against their older material, I'd give this album an 8 out of 10. And like all music, this has a chance to grow on me as time goes by.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Nashville is now the epicenter for a number of musical formats that are starting to congeal like dross that has melted away from the golden discs of yesteryear. Things are different in West Texas. There is music in them there hills and it's redefining country music again. It's reverberations began over a decade ago, as a response to the nonsense that is now the norm in Nashville. The purveyors in Lone Star country still wear cowboy hats and boots and there are no skinny jeans in sight. In some cases, the guitars have more kick, the fiddles play with a guitar like abandon, and the voices come with red dirt road street credibility and not a shred of auto tune.
There are dozens of artists I could cite. But one duo got my attention for a number of reasons. Both male and female vocals, a variation of electric and acoustic numbers. The playing precise and animated. The songwriting interesting and provocative. The name of this band is Texwestus. Very much like West Texas in a catchy anagram or an accidental slip up after too much Tequila. The duo is made up of singer and guitarist Corbin Burgett, who apparently loves 80's guitar rock. And Chloe Fowler who's sweet voice contrasts Corbin's husky baritone. The combination of voices and influences make for an atypical roots country experience.
"Somebody Like You" is a rocking, dancing, hollering favorite here. "Fight With You", Shoulda Said Yes" and "Not Coming Home" show a fine singer songwriter style whereas the genre bending "Queen of My Own Heart" is almost reminiscent of an 80's arena rock sound, but with root rock tendencies. "West Texas Wind" could be 90's country, but with less gimmickry and more red dirt mojo.
Even if you don't like this style of music, you have to admire the organic and authentic musical pursuits. These melodies are refined in bars and small concert halls in a part of the world where the only thing that is more cherished than these grooves is the beer that perfectly compliments it. You can never know for sure who is going to be famous. But if the world would just react the way it's supposed to, Texwestus would be a household brand.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
Of course this would require some kind of support system beyond paid radio and indie blues radio shows. A schmuck in his '98 Buick Century should be able to hear this music on the radio that came with his car. A radio station or network of stations would have to spring up across the country. Much like the way Christian stations have sprung up and taken over signals all over the northern hemisphere. And maybe the blues rock channels could be about music and charity, much like the way Bridget and her band give money away selling t-shirts to help eliminate or at least understand autism. As a former disc jockey, something has to give. This generational slide into the abyss began over 25 years ago and with the advent of technology, the music is all sounding like it was hatched in an electronic petri dish.
Watching lead guitarist Tim Fik (who is 60 something years old) jump around the stage and play like any great guitarist (if not better than) I've ever seen, makes me think this will be just our little secret. The neanderthals are out at the local dive bar, enjoying the lost art of music.
For this band, and many like them around the world, they pursue a dream that is no longer a plausible endgame. How can you now become famous wailing on a guitar or singing live a dove? You can't. So you pile your instruments onto a stage in a small, intimate place where a couple dozen or so folks commune for a few hours, guzzling beer or sipping on whiskey. Fame is no longer the prize. The business itself doesn't recognize what they are doing. It's up to fans like you and I to keep the torch burning. That means spending real money on downloads, CD's and other band stuff. It means organizing music outlets, preferably over the air radio stations.
I had a great night listening to a band many ignored as they walked the balmy streets of Fort Myers as the music they played filled the air. The blissfully ignorant don't know they need this music. Most really don't understand it. The entire thing has been systematically deconstructed. Radio playlists reduced to mindless repetition. Chances forsaken because of the relentless focus testing and ad friendly content. Money. The new paradigm controls the purse. And there is no money to be made promoting middle aged musicians who play circles (or just play) around the computer whizzes.
Will there be a comeback? Doubtful. The underground has room for growth but to get converts there must be exposure. And until someone shows up with deep pockets, radio will continue to die. My prayer is that people will once again be inspired by a crazy good guitar player and a sultry lead singer who together create some wonderful rockin' blues.