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.