Saturday, November 16, 2019

Studebaker John & The Hawks Burn Clean on Eternity's Descent

Original blues is a hard thing to come by. The format is dominated by lots of imitators, imitating the great blues legends from the past.  Eternity's Descent is Studebaker John's 18th disc. He's been around for ages, and made some waves on the Blind Pig record label back in the 90's. To explain his career in this article would require another article. For music fans, this record is frustrating. It's hard to find. It's not on Spotify or YouTube, so you have to find it the old fashioned way, you have to buy it!

Buy From Amazon Here!

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

Kin Faux Captures The Best In Country, Rock and Roots Music

As I continue to storm the hills of West Texas, I continue to find amazing music that was well off my radar screen. First of all, I want to congratulate the large cottage industry that was born thanks to Nashville becoming the home of sissy boy, auto-tuned, click track country flavored pop. Much like the idea of beer flavored water (i.e. some really watered down light beer), the industry thought we'd all bundle (like the TV add for Verizon) but they miscalculated. Highly trained ears can hear the lifeless robotics and meaningless drivel in the lyrics.

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

Van Morrison's Ongoing Legacy Is Hard To Fathom

Van Morrison released his 6th album in just 4 years. It's called Three Chords and The Truth. Morrison is 74 years old. His output is breathtaking and possibly record setting. Attempting to wrap your head around any of it is a futile task. Fans devoted to Van have endured many variations of his bluesy soul. American radio support for Van Morrison more or less amounts to the constant overplaying of "Brown Eyed Girl". There are those walking among us who think Morrison is a one hit wonder. He certainly is a wonder. Even alternative radio formats have ignored the great body of work that spans more than 5 decades.  At 74, Morrison's blustery baritone remains very much the way it's always been. His ability to pen new lyrics and captivating melodies is unrelenting.

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.

Van explains the truth in his own matter of fact way. He seems completely unaware of his own music greatness on this album. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Teskey Brothers Are Making Music I Thought Would Never Be Made Again

When I recently discovered the Teskey Brothers, I honestly thought that I had discovered some vintage Stax music that had been kept from the listening public. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. A lead vocalist (Josh Teskey) who compares to Otis Redding or Sam Moore. You will end up doing multiple double takes. You will press the back button to hear it again, to make sure you are actually hearing it right. 

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

Revolution Saints Have Picked Up The Journey Torch On "When The Heartache Has Gone"

Journey hasn't recorded a new album in more than 8 years. Their fans have become complacent, yet content with their catalog. But folks who might want some new music have been listening to the Revolution Saints since 2015. In fact, with the voice of Deen Castronovo, Rev Saints have been able to travel in the same lane Journey once did. Except this music rocks a little harder. Doug Aldrich is one of the best underrated guitar players in rock. And with the help of Night Ranger's Jack Blades, this is really a super group that gets better and better which each subsequent release.

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.

Castronovo's voice is the closest thing we have to a young Steve Perry right now. At least when it comes to new, recorded music. If you listen closely, you might hear some similarities to a now vintage Journey song called "Never Walk Away". But overall this new Revolution Saints is a superb, driving slice of melodic rock greatness. Can't wait for the rest of the album.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Kyle Park's Latest Effort Is A Fun Ride

I'm not going to pretend I'm not a bit of a Texas Red Dirty Country interloper. But my passion for music has pushed me in this unlikely direction. I've recently been dosing my ears with several west Texas radio stations via the convenience of the downloadable phone app. And like I did way back in my teen years, I would write down a song or artist that got my attention. Like Kyle Park.

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

Jennifer Lyn & The Groove Revival Is A Blues-Rock Feast For The Ears

I tend to freak out when I hear new music that is original and organic. Much of it has to do with the way music was once made on the big stage. Most of that music has gone underground and is harder to find. Finding Jennifer Lyn and her band The Groove Revival was like discovering an uncharted island somewhere in the south Pacific. What's more amazing is that this music is not on the radio anywhere. I'm a guy who watches the blues-rock charts via Roots Music Report, and I don't remember seeing this fine band on there.

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

Molly Hatchet Returns With Mint-Sounding Live Track

In the whatever happened to this band category, we enter as proof of existence, the new live version of "Whiskey Man". An incredible track from Molly Hatchet's most celebrated album, Flirtin' With Disaster. These guys have been through a lot of ups and downs but they soldier on with no original members and a new singer, Jimmy Elkins.

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

Station's "A Matter of Time" A Blissful Melodic Rock Indulgence

Indie rock in New York City has taken an odd twist. A band that combines 80's glam, rock and pop, and does so without sounding like everyone that ever was. Sure the lead riff on this track has an almost Zeppelin feel to it. And vocalist Patrick Kearney sounds like a cross between Paul Stanley and Kingdom Come's Lenny Wolf. But add a dose of swing to this track and you've got a song that rocks with style. I mean those opening guitar hooks are a thing of beauty for your ears to behold. The story line is lifted from the annals of rock songs where men are pursuing that perfect, beautiful woman. The production on this record is big, bold and clean.

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!

Fleetwood Mac Next Generation Carries The Legacy Forward

Every so often I get to do something special because of my video channel. The friendships I've made over the course of doing this for three years are really amazing. In the case of Rumours of Fleetwood Mac, a rather perfectionist outfit hailing from the British Isles, I will never think about tribute
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 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

Work of Art Hones Their Melodic Rock Craft Even More on "Exhibits"

I remember listening to the song "Why Do I" many years ago as I slaved away at my cubical in a dead end job. I was tired of the endless grind of music I'd heard a million times and had stumbled onto "Artwork" by this new Swedish band. Americans aren't exposed to anything melodic and new so this was interesting to say the least. Comparisons to Toto were reported in every publication. The band went on to make two more albums that solidified their following.

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

TexWestus Makes Some Sweet Noise In The West Texas Prairie

I got interested in this genre because I am a huge fan of 90's country and have lamented the bro-country movement that has decimated a once great and proud musical style. I listened to a lot of country in the 90's because of what was happening to rock. It was dark with no light at the end of the tunnel and I believe we are still suffering from that musical shift even today. But country was still versatile, upbeat and easy to sing.

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.

The band has released 2 songs this year thus far. A barn burner called "Can't Slow Us Down", and the folksy and more pensive "Gone" which in another musical dimension might win an award of some kind for songwriting and production. Corbin's harmony vocal adds a layer of intricate drama. Burgett plays his guitar both lightly and heavily as the song evolves through it's heartbreaking tale of lost love. The duo also has an EP from 2018 that maps all kinds of west Texas terrain with heart and soul.

"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

Saturday Night With The Bridget Kelly Band In Fort Myers

I don't know what enzyme makes me want to get up on my soap box after seeing a show. I mean, they are just a basic four piece blues band. A sultry female lead singer, a guitarist who could be a major league superstar. A funky rhythm section that is in the pocket all night long. I'm in this place called the Barrel Room. Small. Respectable. Clean. The clientele, many overdressed waterfront dwellers. So much talent in the room, yet so little understanding of it. The live music scene still is the place to witness dues paying musicians who all come with built in humility. I'm not saying the Bridget Kelly Band is the world's greatest blues rock band. But in a slightly altered dimension, where the music industry hadn't destroyed itself, this is the kind of music that could fill in where the old rock dinosaurs left off.
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.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Sayer and Joyce Deliver Blues Excellence On "Makes You Stronger"

Sayer and Joyce are two very talented musicians from the UK. They recently got added to the growing roster of great artists on the Gulf Coast Music Label. Together they create an almost junior version of the Tedeschi Trucks Band template. Their brand new album, Makes You Stronger, is a near flawless collection of soul infused blues rock. Other than the drumming, all the instruments are performed by Sayer and Joyce.

The highlights are as follows: The funky rocker "Backbone" that almost has a Janis Joplin vibe to it. "My Hard Life" with it's gutsy vocals and straight forward rock approach. The Muscle Shoals influenced "Life Is What Happens" complete with lots of brass and funky guitar licks. "I Get Up Again" with it's driving mid-tempo beat and perfect melodic build up. Ron's guitar precision on "No Galahad" and the infectious blues rocker "Too Much, Too Soon".

This is a very accessible collection of songs that breeze in and out and engage the hearer with stellar playing, singing and songwriting. This is blues for both die hard bluesers and fans of old time rock and soul. Another home run from Gulf Coast Records. Sayer and Joyce makes the roster even better than it was before.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Wayward Sons Are British Rock Royalty Looking For Audio Disciples

Basic rock and roll isn't such a basic commodity anymore. The current generation has been hoodwinked into thinking a computer can make good music. And from a financial standpoint, apparently that makes sense for those record labels who mass produce this garbage. A band like Wayward Sons is a smack to the culture. The pounding beat, the relentless barrage of guitars. The Bon Scott vocal delivery. For the rock and roll enthusiast, this is a jolt of champagne. There is real attitude that accompanies these drum smacking grooves.

There are hints of punk, glam and old school 70's rock. Vocalist Toby Jepson is kind of big deal in his homeland. He brings a certain kind of been there, sung that, gravitas to these 13 lyrically blunt audio explosions. Sam Wood plays his guitar loud and fast while drummer Phil Martini plays hard, loud and fast. Rounding out the rhythm section is bass player Nic Wastell. Keyboard player Dave Kemp adds another layer of sound to an already robust soundscape.

With only two tracks that clock in at over 4 minutes, this album moves along quickly and makes for a satisfying ride. Nothing bogs you down or makes you want to hit fast forward. There are no filler songs. "Any Other Way" leads off with a ferocious beat and vocal that snarls it's way through some rather rebellious lyrics. "As Black As Sin" has a punk-like AC/DC vibe, with guitars and vocals that push out in all directions. "Jokes On You" is a sunnier rocker, again with lyrics making a point. A very catchy track and one that could easily be a single. "Little White Lies" nods to the Beatles and Queen but retains the Wayward style with a punky chorus and some stylish chord variations.

"Feel Good Hit" has the amps shooting sparks, as the band rocks out on all cylinders with lyrics that again might be poking fun at the current music scene, or lack thereof. "Fade Away" is a surprisingly well crafted ballad, maybe something Ian Hunter would devise. It's a classic, memorable dirge and again would be a breakout song if radio decided to make amends with the world. "Have It Your Own Way" combines cynicism with a guitar avalanche. A bold, brazen, glammy slab of molten Marshall. "Long Line of Pretenders" has a catchy hook and combines more glam and pop, and treads new ground in the melody department. The keyboards on this track are vibrant and important to the melody and the completeness of the song.

"(If Only) God Was Real" is a call to morality in a kind of reverse osmosis feedback loop. The music again kicks it back up into turbo hard rock mode. "The Truth Ain't What It Used To Be" had me at the title. The song is propelled by a rocking rhythm guitar and some quirky lyrics that will have you focused on what might happen next. "Punchline" is another lyrical masterpiece, food for thought, ideas to ponder, put to another relentless slab of Deep Purple inspired hard rockin' bliss. "Us Against The World" offers the listener a little hope amidst the mayhem and sarcasm. It's another well crafted song that has both Queen and The Beatles in the rear view.

There's a bonus hidden track called "Totally Screwed" which takes a bit to kick in but acts as a thematic closer to a rather exhausting collection of mind blowing 70's tinged classic hard rock. Wayward Sons are a band that could lead a rock and roll revival. All they need are a few more disciples. Sign me up.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Blockbuster "Losing Gravity" Winning At Every Level!

Big. Pompous. Bombastic. Melodic. Memorable. Fun. Familiar. Loud. Original. These words perfectly describe the brand new album by the Finnish rock band Blockbuster. Their debut album on Frontiers Records entitled "Losing Gravity", proves that there are new note combinations that can be found.

Honestly I wasn't prepared for the level of songwriting and uniqueness of this record. Musically Blockbuster borrows from all the best things. Glam, hard rock, punk, pop, and lite metal all play a significant role in defining this band. Lead guitarist Elias Salo is unapologetic in his love for elongated chords. The band marries this guitar sound with a wall of vocals which include well placed shouts and hollers.

The arena is already packed out on track one, "Out In The City", with all of the aforementioned effects and a guitar solo that kicks some large buttocks. The production is remarkably clean. This only makes the ride more audible and enjoyable. "Gone By The Morning" is a two pronged guitar attack helped along by lead vocalist Aarni Metsapelto who also mans a guitar. Original riffs, addictive leads and complete musical thoughts. "Flammable" leans a tad toward punk as drummer Jaako Metsapelto is all over the kit, driving, crashing and leading the other boys through another tasty melodic rock nugget. "Back From The Shadows" is another jump and shout anthem, that features an infectious bass line from Joonas Arrpe who is juxtaposed by another string breaking electric guitar solo.

"Losing Gravity" finds the band in mid-tempo acoustic guitar bliss. The level of pop proficiency here is Abba-like. This might be the best new song I've heard this year. And check out that extended guitar solo. Lots of depth and emotion there. The seat belt sign lights up again for the rockin' "Sweet Mary Jane". Is this a girl or some substance bringing your soul down to the depths of depravity? The chord changes are fascinating and rival Angus Young's best ideas. "Somebody To Shock" continues the perfect string of melodic greatness with more sweet choruses and catchy refrains. It might take another band a whole career to come up with this many good songs.

"Walking Like A Dog" borrows a bit from Smashmouth's "Walking On The Sun". It's not that the chords are all that similar, it's more the structure of the song, and the chunks of audio candy that create a mild deja vu experience. "Move" was the first track I was able to hear from this album and it's got hit single written all over it. Probably because of the solo vocal parts, the giant hook and the glam infused chorus. There are na-na-na-na-na-nas and even a Queen lyrical reference. We've arrived on planet perfect album.

"Would You Do It Again" has a fuzzy guitar tone that opens up and gets bigger as the song builds. Stylistically taking from new wave and punk but still mainstream and melodic. "Bulletproof" is track 11. And the band hasn't lost a step. The opening riff is a cross between "Candy-O" by The Cars and something by Led Zeppelin. And that might be an apt way to summarize all of the mysterious mayhem on "Losing Gravity". You could be a Kiss fan and love this. You could be a Thin Lizzy fan or a Def Leppard fan or prone to the pop rockers of the 80's.

Blockbuster is my favorite album of 2019 thus far. There are 11 potential hit singles. There are 11 very catchy, original songs in a world where people are starting to think all of the good note combinations have been used up. Not so. Blockbuster has raised the bar for this current generation. It would not be out of place to say this is on par with what Boston did on their debut album. They obviously picked their band name correctly. This is a Blockbuster.

Blockbuster Will Make You Move On This One

Every so often a riff comes along that gets your attention and then sticks in your brain and is hard to shake out. Honestly when I first heard this song it didn't register how original it was. My subconsciousness had stored it away. I stumbled upon it a second time, thanks to the record label, Frontiers, who are often a persistent bunch when it comes to promotions. I will eventually have to review the whole album from this new band from Finland. For now, we relish in one of the most addictive guitar riffs of 2019. The sound is part glam rock, part hard rock, part 1970's, part 1980's, and part modern rock. The production is lean enough for the rock purists, while busy enough to engage today's radio audience. What is hard to ignore is the original hook, one that truly doesn't remind me of another song. Which in and of itself, is a massive achievement. And lastly, this is one damn fun song. Play it loud and play it often. It's guaranteed to get stuck in your cranium.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Huey Lewis Is Back With "Your Love Is Killing Me"

As a huge fan of this band, I have to temper my bias with an honest assessment. This is the band's first new original material since their highly overlooked Plan B album from 2001. This is a more stripped down News with bluesy instrumentation and some great horns. Huey still sounds like Huey which is to say his voice hasn't changed so much that he is hard to recognize. I say that because many older singers hardly remember their younger selves. The song itself is catchy and like much of what this band does, is instantaneously memorable and fun. The guitar and harmonica work is excellent and the production values are pure and uncluttered. All and all a wonderful addition to the Huey canon. A new album is on the way soon. And this is a nice preview.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Beyond Imagination Is Authentic West Coast Magic

In recent years, producer, arranger, guitarist, and west coast icon Jay Graydon has lent his talents out to a growing number of Swedish quality rock bands that have parroted the music once made here in the states. The latest band to catch Graydon's ears is a Malmo based band called Beyond Imagination. Graydon lends his guitar work to an incredible slice of 1981 called "Say Is This Love". The tune also features some robust saxophone and Viktor Johansson's smooth vocals.

"Traces of Laughter" is a tad more muscular but alternates between pure AOR and West Coast. What's very apparent is B.I. can write and arrange songs with powerful, captivating hooks. They use effective keyboard flourishes to augment some already very convincing music. "I Can't Find Enough Reasons" is perfect for those rainy nights both musically and lyrically. Andreas Baro plays the sax with smooth jazz bravado. Emanuel Nyman mans the drum kit and is an anchor to the rhythm and overall feel of this album. He and Baro do double time as players and producers.

"Inside Your Eyes" is reminiscent of a Chicago (the band) power ballad, with a bigger drum beat and romantic lyrics about true love. Tim Carlstedt lays down a note perfect guitar solo. The band shifts gears for "Driving Along The Coast". The guitar tone is rocked up, and the band strays mercilessly into old fashioned AOR. "Change The Way" has a gigantic guitar hook intro, followed by a more jazzy vocal arrangement. The horns are used effectively throughout this collection. You just know the band was influenced by the aforementioned Chicago and maybe Earth Wind and Fire.

 "I Want To Be Love" begins with more memorable power chords and then ascends to a loftier melody and harmony vocals. The chorus is strong and is filled with 80's top 40 enzymes. The synth based "Courage At Heart" hints at new wave pop bands from 35 years ago. Think Naked Eyes, A-ha and Cutting Crew. B.I. has still managed to keep things original though. There is no blatant plagiarism, just nods to style.

"Love of My Youth" is a slow, smoke filled room number that takes a light stab at Michael Franks or even Tony Bennett. This diversity is what makes this debut album a real joy to listen to. "Stay With Me Tonight" sounds like a lost Al Jarreau track with a tropical vibe. The concluding "Spirit of Freedom" is an instrumental track that echoes the best of smooth jazz from the likes of Fattburger or Spyro Gyra. What's a little different is the overall structure of the song which is much in the pop vein of things.

Beyond Imagination's debut record is clearly a tribute to the world's once great melodic past. All done with an incredible attention to detail. The Swedes continue to be pioneers in this format that was once only reserved for the experts in southern California. This is one big fat treat for your ears. Slap on the some headphones and use your imagination!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Will Jacobs and Marcos Coll Are Making Some Sweet Noise

Taking Our Time is a brand new album by blues rock duo Will Jacobs and Marcos Coll. Coll plays the harmonica. Jacobs plays guitar and sings. Like many American born and bred musicians, they set off to make a living in Europe. Their new album will make fans of traditional Chicago blues very happy. But this music should also appeal to the rock traditionalist as well.

The highlights include the funky opener, "It Ain't Safe". Jacobs makes his guitar talk in different tones throughout this project. "Goin' To Berlin" is a more traditional number with Coll's harmonica blaring alongside a thumping, familiar guitar riff. But guitar fans will enjoy the instrumental jam that ensues. "What You Doin'" returns to the funkiness of the opening track.

Vocally, Jacobs is a cross between Robert Cray and Lenny Kravitz. The simplicity of the arrangements and the live music feel make these songs very memorable. The band rocks out a busy instrumental called "C.J.'s Bounce". "Stranded" returns to some hardcore Chicago style with some stellar harmonica. Jacobs brings the funk back on "Hey Baby", which is really one of the more fun and memorable tracks on this collection. "Blues Cazorla Boogie" is a Chicago blues and swing hybrid. The dance floor is open and these two blues masters do not disappoint.

"One Too Many Times" is another classic blues riff and a familiar tale of being kicked to the curb. The boys then swarm in with their respective instruments and make a decent ruckus. "Goin' To Berlin" (recorded live) is the album's closing track. It's more of a front porch burner and it shows that these gentleman can bring it live. All and all a tasty little collection of catchy blues nuggets and certainly a worthy addition to your collection of blues staples.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Age of Reflection's "A New Dawn" is Old School 80's Melodic Rock With A Modern Twist

Age of Reflection is another Swedish band with it's roots firmly planted in the 1980's. Lead vocalist Lars Nygren's vocals add a layer of emotion to a very solid and polished sound. Nygren has something unique in his vocal delivery that separates him from other singers. Maybe it's a touch of Paul Stanley in his prime mixed with the late Jani Lane from Warrant. Guitarist Jonas Nordqvist has been influenced by Neal Schon, Josh Ramos and Steve Vai. On "A New Dawn", the band picks up right where they finished on 2017's "In The Heat of The Night".

If you are a fan of big dramatic arrangements, scorching guitar solos and soaring emotive vocals, this is the band for you. "Aurora" is a melodic shredding instrumental intro that leads into the album's centerpiece, "A New Dawn". This one-two punch could be the perfect night driving FM radio staple. "Stay With Me" is a mid-tempo rocker, well written and guitar driven. Lars singing style is very lyrical. His voice seems to body surf over the melody, being whisked along on each little twist and turn.

"Here I Stand" faces down negative consequences and regret and pleads with it's audience. It's backdrop is a melodic current that will sweep you away. "Until Death Do Us Part" is a rocking marriage song, declarative and bold. The band rides these lyrical themes with waves of sonic power. Nygren's voice and the harmonies of his band mates keep your ears in the game. "What if I Break" is a surprising acoustic power ballad contemplating the ups and downs of a confused relationship. The band's vocal prowess is on full display here.

One of the most surprising moments on the album is the band's remake of the Cutting Crew's "I Just Died In Your Arms". The band rocks it up a bit but it's actually very faithful to the original. Other highlights on this record include "Go" and "Write It On The Wall".

What I like about this band is that they write songs that have staying power. There are a few sonic curve balls. And the musicianship is top notch. The difficulty for this band is the struggle to get airplay and to be noticed. Radio is not user friendly right now and bands like Age of Reflection can get lost in the shuffle. But overall another stellar offering by this band from Stockholm. Look for the album to drop September 27th via AOR Heaven Records.

Goodbye Eddie

I was a wet behind the ears music director programming the music for the number one radio station on Cape Cod. I think it was 1988. The traffic director (who is basically like a receptionist, greeter, task assigner, all of the above person) called the production studio to tell me that Eddie Money was on the phone and needed to speak to me. My response to her was, "yeah sure". She said, "he says he's Eddie Money". I said, "fine, patch him though". The voice on the line says, "Davey, this is Eddie, the money man!"
Immediately I knew it was really him. We talked about Richie Zito, who produced his latest album Nothing To Lose. He mentioned that he needed a vacation and was planning to spend time with his wife and his kids. He thanked me profusely for helping the song The Love In Your Eyes climb to #1 on the mainstream rock charts. Admittedly, it's not Eddie's best track, but was a radio staple for us for several weeks. He was as affable and funny as he is on TV and in interviews. He told me he would eventually make it to the Cape for a visit, that it would be a perfect place for his family to spend some time on the beach. He was a working class Joe from New York who was destined to be a cop but he quit and followed his dreams to California. 
They don't make them like Eddie Money anymore. He loved R&B music, rock and the blues. He ended up being a constant presence on the radio until the grunge scene killed his radio career. Like all good blue collar workers, he hit the road hard and was there right up until the doctors pulled him off. I'm sitting here cranking all of these Money tunes that meant so much to me then. Today they mean even more to me than they did then. 
Rest in peace Edward Joseph Mahoney. You will be missed but thankfully you gave us a lifetime's worth of unforgettable music.
- Davey

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Defiants Defy Convention By Going Back To What's Great About Rock

The Defiants are the offspring Danger Danger who were a casualty of the grunge rock scene. One of many steeped in a melodic rock tradition that peaked right around 1989. Glam rockers were adding strains of funk and blues to their singable anthems. Times were good. And then came Kurt Cobain and the party ground to a halt. Here and there with fits and starts, this music has continued to find a home, mostly in Europe. American fans have largely been shut out of the party since terrestrial radio went dark.

The Defiants pick up where the party ended. Their new album, called Zokusho (which is a Japanese word meaning sequel) makes for some rather impressive ear stimulation. "Love Is The Killer", a song Bon Jovi would reject today, but a song his fans will embrace opens side one. The big choruses, the cacophony of keyboard sounds, and those lyrics, ripped right from the pages of a late 80's Soap Opera Digest - this is what the New Jersey faithful have been waiting for.

Guitarist Rob Marcello tricks out his guitar for all the needed effects along with piercing, precise solos. Singer Paul Laine is amazingly well equipped to ride these notes high into  places older bands fear to tread. Steve West assaults his drum kit with high octane accuracy. "Hollywood In The Headlights" is the PERFECT southern California summertime anthem. These days good songwriting is hard to find, but not on this album. An instant hit single for a world corrected for lousy tastes. There are rich harmonies, complete musical ideas and guitar solos to ice the cake with.

"Fallin' For You" is a tad more muscular but still manages to be catchy as hell. The apple doesn't fall far from the Danger Danger tree.  There are a few modern touches, but nothing to disrupt the musical synergy. "Hold On Tonight" is a lush mid-tempo radio ready half-ballad employing every great 80's cliche with unabashed love for the genre. "Allnighter" has a more modern approach, much like something W.E.T. might record. The big hooks and choruses immerse the ears in what could be a great live in concert track."U X'D My Heart" invokes Mr. Big's "Just Take My Heart" via a sparse guitar intro followed by big bold and decisive hooks. Again the subject matter is about women breaking hearts and the like. It's as if the band has joyfully chosen not to delve into any topics that would bum people out in 2019.

"It Goes Fast" adds a nice pop sheen to an uptempo drum pounder. The melodies here are all advanced songwriting honors class. "Stay", "Alive" and the bar closer, "Drink Up!" all rock out in style without slowing down. No power ballads here, just glam oriented pop metal with zero filler. This record should be loved by fans of Poison, Kiss, Danger Danger, Ratt, Firehouse, Mr. Big, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Van Halen. There are a few bands making this kind of music, but none of them are writing and arranging songs of this caliber. "Zokusho" is the best melodic rock album of 2019 thus far.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Jimmy Carpenter Is The Soul Doctor

First, a big thanks to Gulf Coast Records for the advance preview of this much anticipated release. This record label is going to be a go-to place for many of us looking for real music in a world increasingly hostile to it. Admittedly I come to this review a little wet behind the ears. I know that Jimmy Carpenter has spent the last 30 plus years in the blues music business in various bands, most recently touring with Mike Zito. The partnership between Carpenter and Zito is likely the reason we have "Soul Doctor". And Zito is committed to bringing a new level of quality to this music and his new record label.

For those of you nostalgic for the music of the 1950's, 60's and early 70's, these grooves will supply you with a healthy dose of just what the doctor ordered. At the forefront, is Carpenter, playing his saxophone and singing like a legend from an era gone by.

This is first and foremost a fun blues-rock album, drenched in horns and sung with true soul. The production is airy and clear, with an emphasis on making music that can be duplicated in a live show. Press play for track one and "Soul Doctor" fills your ears with soothing medicine. The interaction between guitars, bass, drums and horns is the way it ought to be. Nick Schnebelen guests on guitar and plays his butt off.

"When I Met You" is a classic mid-tempo horn infused 60's soul number. Jimmy's voice rings out clear, seasoned and confident. "Wild Streak" follows and tells a tale of a woman who has a self discipline problem. You might get taken in by the story line as the band puts forth some convincing soul oriented blues with a shade or two of roots and country. "Love It So Much" takes the party to the next level. This is the kind of music that just makes you feel good. The singing, playing and quality of material is all first rate. The horns hit you from all directions. You won't just hear this album, you'll feel it.

"Need Your Love So Bad" is a slow burning soul ballad showcasing the multi-talented Carpenter who croons convincingly, followed by a terrific jazzy saxophone solo. The more you listen to this album, the more you feel like you've time traveled to a better place. "Wanna Be Right" picks it back up featuring a very funky guitar and some tasty Hammond B-3 with blasts of horns and backing vocals. This would be the song I'd release to the masses as evidence that real music is still being made. Today's music is completely devoid of anything that even remotely resembles this homage to everything good and decent about music. But it might be a great ice breaker if you've got open minded co-workers. Who knows.

"One Mint Julep", the old Coasters tune, is modernized and handled with care, as Jimmy saxes his way into your heart. The extended jam on this is particularly satisfying. "Wrong Turn" is a departure in style, going instead to a harder blues rock direction featuring Trevor Johnson on slide guitar and Al Ek on a rather aggressive harmonica solo. This might be the song you take to rock stations who'd like to program some talent rather than the garbage they foist upon the masses.

"LoFi" is a bluesy instrumental that synthesizes all of the other great moments on this record into one song. "Yeah Man" closes the album with Carpenter telling a story we can all relate to. There is hope and optimism in these final moments. Soul Doctor is a celebration of great, perfectly executed rock and blues. It's a beacon of light on a mostly dark and dreary musical landscape. It will restore your faith in decent, honest music, played by dedicated, talented musicians. The Soul Doctor has got the cure for your musical maladies.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Head Honchos "Bring It On Home" Brings It Home and Back

What are the Head Honchos? Well besides a great name for a band they are a father-son guitar wrecking crew playing blues based rock and roll that might be described as a blitzkrieg of sound. If you were raised on the blues, southern rock or mid-western bar band boogie, this is all of the above. In fact it's darn near impossible to categorize.

Their latest effort, "Bring It On Home", blows the doors off of conventional descriptions or hip adjectives. This stuff will melt the wax out of your ears. The dual guitar assault of Rocco Calipari Sr. and his son Rocco Jr. harkens back to a time when the philosophy of more guitars the better was fashionable. Nowadays we're fortunate in a band if there is one person who can play moderately well.

"Not For Me" opens the set with ruthless intensity, with drummer Will Wyatt leading the charge. There's almost a native American thing going on, and of course the blues and southern rock. The guitar solo pierces and comes at you from both speakers, like a two pronged attack. "Old and Tired" calms things slightly combining rock and soul. Vocals are handled by Rocco Sr. and drummer Wyatt. "Soul Thing" is next and it truly is a soul thing, the band reeling off some great instrumentation between players while progressing into kind of a jam band rocker toward the middle part of the song. This is next level guitar playing so don't try this at home.

"Work" is a blue collar anthem probably written for the band's fan base; working class folks who are likely shakin' their heads around. Bassist Mike Boyle does a nice little solo and then the boys Rocco create more decibel madness toward the end of the song. "Come Strong" might be the most commercially viable song on the record, but it's one of many stand-out tracks. "Next To You" is another smooth blues rocker with some great slide guitar parts. There is so much great sound for your ears to devour on this 13 song journey.

"Mean Old World" is an impassioned blues-rocker that sounds a tad like Lenny Kravitz minus the production gimmickry and with far better guitar work. "Fire On The Bayou" is an apt song title for something that actually seems to have been birthed somewhere in a Louisiana forest. Another bold combination of blues, soul and swampy southern rock. "Lucky's Train" mixes a funky guitar riff with some blues harmonica, played by drummer Wyatt. This is a big, bold expression of the all of the above presentation. The guitars end up fighting their way into the meaty part of the song even though there is so much other ear candy going on.

"Whiskey Devil" is yet another style. A fast funky shuffle with horns and a cool vocal arrangement. The guitar solos are intense and fluent. If I were a radio programmer I'd pick this song as a single since it's like an all you can eat blues rock buffet. "That Drivin' Beat" retains the horn section and delivers a rockin' dance floor anthem. This far into the album you are probably rather astonished at how diverse things have been thus far. To say there are a few twists and turns would be an understatement. Team Rocco is killing it on every song, and the band is making about as much noise as humanly possible.

"99 1/2 Won't Do" is a plea for 100 percent devotion from a woman who doesn't understand the nature of what the Honchos need. A great horn chart and funky grooves on guitar, followed by another monumental solo. This album just won't quit! The band covers "Going Down" (the old blues standard) except they light it on fire and throw guitar gasoline on it. "Soul Free" is the cool down after all the partying and guitar fireworks. There are acoustic guitars! This is much like the cherry on the sundae of an incredible collection of blues based soul rockers. All driven by an amazing group of musicians obviously dedicated to making music the old fashioned way in an era where people lack the understanding to truly appreciate it.

The Head Honchos are some mighty fine musician Honchos indeed. Go out and find a copy of this and Bring It On Home!

J.P. Soars Hits New Heights On "Let Go Of The Reigns"

J.P. Soars has a huge advantage over everyone else. His voice is custom made for the blues. The swampy drawl is somewhere in the neighborhood of the late Dr. John or Dennis Locorriere from the 70's band Dr. Hook. The blues is far more believable if it's delivered by a voice like this.

On "Let Go Of The Reins", Mr. Soars has decided to put his homemade cigar box guitars to good use, employing some new twists and turns into his grizzled, contemporary blues rock sound. "Been Down So Long" is a made for jam band opener with lots of Hammond B and a lyric that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Soars covers the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' classic "If You Want To Want To Get To Heaven" with a swamped up reading delivered with fuzzy guitar tones and a blistering melodic solo.

"Freddy King Thing" is a homage that picks up where the first two tracks left off. The great Tab Benoit helped produce this album and the New Orleans vibe is wrapped into each groove. "Let Go of The Reins" has a darker rock feel but retains a funkiness that is present for the entire album. "Crows Nest" is a fun instrumental jam that highlights Soars ability to weave his guitar into all kinds of sonic shapes."Lonely Fire" takes a left turn with some well done acoustic guitar and a slight touch of Latin Jazz. A really nice surprise.

"Have Mercy On My Soul" returns us back to the swamp and features J.P.'s guitar speaking to us in classic familiar tones. "Let It Ride" takes another left turn with a nod to country and roots music but still compatible with the theme of this record. "Minor Blues" is another jazzy flavored instrumental with Soars painting a soothing picture with his band of blues renegades. "Time To Be Done" brings the party back into focus even though it's last call as it's theme. Definitely one of the more accessible tracks for radio formats who should be playing this Grammy contender.

The album concludes with "Old Silver Bridge", a song which showcases Soars' guitar work. Roots rock, blues and soul. This album is another higher step on J.P.'s climb on the musical ladder. For fans of a genre that is helping keep real music alive, this is a must have collection.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Stan Bush - The 80's "Single"

You really have to hand it to Stan Bush. He's been around since the 1980's and he's one of those artists who just missed main stream success. If you are a fan of The Transformers movie, you might remember The Touch, a tune that has been a cult favorite for years. Bush is one of those guys who understands the era and has never strayed from making music that revisits a better time for humanity.

The 80's is the latest offering from Stan. It borrows heavily from Def Leppard's Animal and at times feels like it should have been on a Survivor record. The keyboard parts all sound like they've been pillaged and plundered from Journey or Starship. Long live the 80's and thanks to Stan Bush we can be bold in our worship.

Moonshine Society's Sweet Thing Is Classic Soul In The Best Way

A blues band with groove. A blues band with a diva. A blues band with a guitar god. A blues band with a funky rhythm section. A blues band that has memorable melodies. A blues band that kicks it live. Welcome to the Moonshine Society. Four accomplished souls who've purposed to bring real music back to the world.

Their second musical gift is called "Sweet Thing". A perfect description of enigmatic lead vocalist Black Betty. The title song to this collection is a combination of swamp and pop blues with Betty laying claim to some big sista shoes as she elevates the art of teasy and greasy. Immediately you are in some fresh musical terrain. The sweet thing might be the production on this record, which is clean and bold and rather in your face. "Shake" follows as an almost surf-soul stomp with maybe a nod to Motown or the Stax catalog. At this point there might be a party already in progress as a full blown sax wails out from your woofers.

"Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean" might be the funnest song about a dead beat loser. Betty's convictions are felt and not just crooned. A  honky-tonk piano and some big choruses only add to the party that is well under way. "Come On Home" is a slow burner very similar to Tedeschi Trucks. It's pure soul of the highest order with some compelling horns and sweet guitar licks from Joe Poppen. Joe's playing on this record is smooth, stealth and close to perfection. "Southern Road" is blues with a southern rock vibe, lots of harmonica and Betty belting out some tough love. The instrumental break on this tune could have gone on for 20 minutes and I wouldn't have gotten tired of it. "Biscuits, Bacon and The Blues" has a great gospel oriented intro followed by a coy frolic through a number of blues tinged styles. Poppen's guitar rattles off some ear pleasing notes while Betty opines about those three essentials.

The band tackles "Use Me" an underappreciated soul masterpiece from the 70's. Betty brings some strong sass to this track as Chris Brown answers the high calling on bass. Drummer Rodney Dunton is a force on the kit and makes a special contribution here. The song transitions to "Walk On Gilded Splinters", retaining the same structure but with new lyrics. The band seamlessly covers "I'd Rather Go Blind", again relying on Betty's authentic soul to drive the point home...and she does. "Deal The Devil Made" is a backroom torch number that moves toward late night jazz but still retains the Moonshine vibe.

"The One Who Got Away" is a larger than life blues and soul power ballad. A fine way to end this 10-track soul drenched masterwork. The Moonshine Society has a big, bright and long future ahead of them. The tangibles and the chemistry are there and Black Betty can sing with the best of them. In a different world with radio support, this would be an overnight sensation. An incredible album for fans of blues, rock and soul.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Rock And Blues Muse Is Not A Site I Can Recommend

I have seen a lot of strange things since beginning my musical journey. But never have I encountered anyone who didn't want free publicity. I had a list of hyperlinks to articles written by Rock and Blues Muse on the sidebar of this website. I was told by the owner of said site that this was illegal. Interesting because these are links and not the articles themselves. I was trying to direct traffic to their site because I liked the content and thought my fans might enjoy it as well. This person came at me with all kinds of legal arguments that made no sense at all. I was an honest broker, just directing music lovers to where they could find other great sources of information. I would be flattered if someone put links to my YouTube channel or my blog on their page. I was not trying to publish the content from their page as my own. I can't even believe I am saying this or having to explain this to people. I may even do a video on the topic. Maybe someone can set me straight. RSS feeds are designed so people can find links to articles faster and easier. Needless to say I've removed this content. I was thrown out of a Facebook Group I really enjoyed and even blocked on Twitter by this person. All for directing traffic to their site. Apparently the road to promoting good new blues rock is paved with suspicious intentions.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Shaw Davis - Tales From The West - Redefines Hard Rockin' Blues

Shaw Davis and his power trio known as the Black Ties are something of a musical anomaly. Yes their music is rooted in the blues and you can even hear bits and pieces of other guitar players, especially Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix. This band has been making the rounds in South Florida to unanimous approval. The band's latest album Tales From The West, pours gasoline on an already large inferno. The energy level is on par with early Rush or the first incarnation of the James Gang. But still you have to turn it up a notch from there. Bassist Patrick Stevenson is much higher in the mix and really adds to the melody and structure of each composition. The unrestrained energy begins on track one.

"Take My Hand" is a blistering song that nods at psychedelic rock and is the perfect vehicle for an extended live jam. "Willie The Pimp" might be an updated version of a similar title by Stevie Ray Vaughan. The tale is actually a sad one but it's perfect for the blues. Except Davis takes it somewhere else with the grizzled chorus of vocals and a totally spaced out guitar break. The guitars explode back into the song with fire and fury. Drummer Bobby Van Stone is there to carry the heaviness one step further. "Tales From The West" is a more sparse track that again explodes into a big chorus and guitar with the words "You Ain't Welcome No More".

Three tracks in and you are thinking to yourself that this isn't formulaic. This isn't standard blues-rock. Depending on where you join the song, you might think you've stumbled on an old grunge band that can actually play their instruments. The problem is the soloing is too good to be grunge. The melodies are more subtle and take some time to understand. Which makes this a great multiple listen album. You seem to hear something new upon each new spin. "Mama Told Me" seems to be a continuation of the prior song with it's intro perfectly complimenting it's predecessor. There's a good portion of Hendrix within the chord structure of these notes with some delightful twists and turns. Like getting in a roller coaster blind folded.

"Fire Inside" is another three pronged attack on your senses. Shaw growls out some poignant lyrics, "You Can't Drown Out The Power of Soul" as some Cream-like harmony vocals careen the audio landscape. Don't attempt the guitar solo at home. It's as if it was trying to break through into the body of the song prior to it's entry. The song has a rebellious theme and the music more than augments that. "Know Where You Been" might be slightly more blues rock traditional, but the band still manages to create a big ruckus. "Atomic Groove" adds a layer of funk to the acid rock blues and it's a magical moment on the album. Meanwhile Shaw's solos continue to eviscerate sub-woofers everywhere. "I Gotta Try You Girl" lurches back to the progressive and at times psychedelic sonic wilderness with carefree recklessness. The album wraps with "My Friend", a real nod to Robin Trower. In fact I could hear a nice medley with "Bridge of Sighs" coming live in concert. The track builds to a climactic crescendo that pins the LED meters and is a fitting conclusion to one of the best hard rockin' blues albums in recent memory. It can't be stressed enough about how powerful these three guys are when they work together. Good loud rock and roll is one thing, but good loud, complicated and mostly very original rock and roll is another. If you love rock and the blues or even progressive hard rock, this could become your favorite album.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Karen Lawrence - One of The Finest Female Voices You'll Ever Hear!

Through a series of lucky breaks I have recently become acquainted with a vocalist who will completely blow your mind. Her name is Karen Lawrence. Her name should roll off the tongue like say, Bonnie Raitt or Melissa Etheridge or even Janis Joplin. Her vocals are rich with the kind of soul that elevates any song and can compete with any of the well known singers of our time. Her story actually dates back to the late 1960's when in high school her psychedelic blues band covered "Stone Free" and the torch was lit.

Karen's name was constantly appearing on best-of lists for industry insiders. Her talents have been utilized by Jeff Beck, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick to name just a few. But her brilliance is realized on one of the best live albums I've ever heard. 1997's "Live At The Lake" with her band Blue By Nature is a time capsule of raw blues-rock energy. Karen and her band roar through 13 amazing performances that harness a power that might be spiritual in nature. The only way this set doesn't stir your soul is if you don't have a pulse.

That album has been culled down to 8 remastered tracks and given to us again under the title of "Best of Live" with Karen's name at the top. From my mainstream perspective, this is like finding an alternative universe of greatness that runs parallel to all the music you are familiar with. And because many on this planet aren't familiar with Karen, it feels like the music industry owes her some recognition. Many blues rockers deserve accolades that never materialize. And Karen might be near the top of that list.

If you purchase one off-the-beaten track album this year, make it this new best of live collection. Life is short and not hearing this music would be a big omission to your bucket list.
Order Best of Live!