Tag Archives: Album Review

Jimmy Landry: Sing Your Own Song

Piano man Jimmy Landry had a novel problem when adding his new release, Sing Your Own Song, to iTunes. What genre is fitting for a record with such a wide berth of styles and influences?

It’s not a bad problem to have, and it is validated given just one spin through the album’s 10 accessible, piano-driven tracks that tap into a world where heart and soul are on full display. Kicking off with “Where the Love Is,” Landry demonstrates a fine-tuned approach and a deft ear for textured orchestration, particularly when the track’s funky keys give way to a reggae groove. He assumes Todd Snider-like spoken word above an achingly upbeat piano melody on “Let’s Get Together,” and takes a lounge-y approach to the heartbreak of “Proved Me Wrong.” Regardless of the lyrical subject matter, the compositions roll with a playfulness that is kissed by the sun and salt air of his coastal South Carolina home.

Sing Your Own Song marks Landry’s first release since his 2008 debut, New Day, and he delivers in spades when it comes to both style and execution. And about that genre problem? Who really cares. Sing Your Own Song is truly difficult to categorize, and that is its strength.

Sing Your Own Song is self-released and out now. Buy it here!

Old Man Canyon : Phantoms & Friends

Old Man Canyon - Phantoms and Friends

Vancouver’s own, Old Man Canyon, have just released their debut EP, Phantoms & Friends. The minty fresh, five-song collection paints a vivid soundscape and introduces the band as a very capable independent upstart.

The title track (and lead=off single) has a presence and atmosphere that is very engaging. The simple, melodic lyrical structure is underlined by strings, subtle piano, haunting harmonies and a driving backbeat. Sure, there are hints of the heavy-hitters like Mumford, and Head and The Heart mixed in among the miscellany, but more obscure influences like Loney, Dear and Iron and Wine are also implied.

Musicians often absorb and gather inspiration in sort of a musical osmosis, so it’s forgivable, especially when the results are honest, focused and passionate. Old Man Canyon’s Phantoms & Friends expresses all three  admirably.

Download the EP for free here: http://oldmancanyon.bandcamp.com/

Phantoms and Friends is out now.

Kurt Rosenwinkel : Star of Jupiter

Kurt Rosenwinkel_Star of Jupiter

If you are not a jazz aficionado, no need to worry. It won’t spoil any of the fun of exploring Kurt Rosenwinkel’s newest release, Star of Jupiter. The opening sequence of this double-disc journey begins as “Gamma Band” forwards you to the cosmic space of the album, and quickly the tempo picks up steam as Rosenwinkel’s Moffa guitar pairs with Justin Faulkner’s hard-hitting drums blasting the album into another realm. The futuristic appeal of the four-piece ensemble resembles a jazz-bebop monster crossing time and space.

In contrast, the remainder of the first disc lends more to the traditional jazz sounds you may know and love. “Welcome Home,” “Something, Sometime,” and “Mr. Hope” allow the other members to add to the mix, especially keyboardist Aaron Parks. He is obviously a master at his craft and lends those keys in the form of piano, Rhodes, organ, Wurlitzer, and tack piano during these sessions recorded back in Mar 6-9, 2012. The next track, “Heavenly Bodies,” floats in the clouds but is accentuated with a darker, rising chorus that resonates with my personal tastes and is easily my favorite track on the first disc. To close the first disc, “Homage A’Mitch”has some enticing interplay between Rosenwinkel and Parks, the vocals gently persuading the track along the way. We also finally get to hear a little more in-depth from the man on bass, Eric Revis, and it feels nice.

After the enjoyment of the first disc, it was great to anticipate what the next disc would bring and if the question of why the sessions are separated into two discs would be answered. The second disc does not have the fireball opening of the first. Instead, “Spirit Kiss” takes your head back towards the clouds for soft and controlled playing that demonstrates Rosenwinkel’s ability to keep the track lively, even when it seems it could almost just stop at any time. The next track, kurt 1, quickly gets you moving along the with the upbeat drums and keys, and then the frontman comes along to hold onto some sustained notes pushing you upward. The band locks back in tight and sharp on the refrain before a controlled explosion of fluttering notes. This track has to be the best on the album.

Moving on through the final disc, we only have four tracks left on this adventure. “Under It All” leaves the impression of echoing notes patiently placed over Faulkner’s cymbals. “A Shifting Design” brings the tempo back up; the runs up and down for Kurt on this song must be really fun and difficult for the other guys in the band to follow, but they do it well. Rosenwinkel’s voice really comes out loud and clear on the track, too. “Déjà vu”slowly rolls along, but never brings about anything exciting. The title track bids us farewell as Star of Jupiter has succeeded in taking this passenger on a jazzy roller coaster. The second disc is capped with the same wild, untamed energy of the opening track on the first disc.    

The reason for two discs never materializes, other than it is a chance to display some fine cover art and geometric beauty. The pace and connections of the tracks make it feel more like an up-and-down ride, but the lack of cohesiveness truly lends to the feeling of an actual journey. Not knowing what to expect or being lulled into a false sense of security keeps you open and adept, ready to go wherever the journey may take you. It certainly was a fun ride, but now it is time to head back to reality.

Star of Jupiter is out now on Wommusic.

Nine Times Blue : Falling Slowly

Nine Times Blue - Falling Slowly

Hailing from the great city of Atlanta, Nine Times Blue are a band that writes and plays radio-ready songs that would be as at home on an AM station as they would on FM. With the new album, Falling Slowly,  it easily makes you think of any other number of bands with the same appeal. The Smithereens, Matchbox Twenty, Gin Blossoms all immediately come to mind within the first few notes. And, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

The title track will have your feet tapping and your fingers playing air drums the first time you hear it. These are great songs that make you want to sing along with them over and over. Other stand outs include “Grace,” “Million Miles” and “Serena,” and show that this band has the chops to deliver not only a great record but a promising future. So, do yourself a favor and track down Nine Times Blue’s Falling Slowly. Your ears will thank you.

Falling Slowly is out now on Renegade Recordings.

Elephant Revival : It’s Alive

elephant-revival-Its Alive

Nederland, Colorado’s Elephant Revival continues to reveal itself as a blossoming light in the ever expanding neo-folk constellation. Led by the distinctively emotive voice of Bonnie Paine, the acoustic outfit’s sound contains echoes of old time music, the Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, and a gypsy camp fire. The group’s eclectic mash also features strains of jazz, folk, bluegrass and more, but, thankfully, is not constrained by any one genre.

It’s Alive, which was produced by acoustic string virtuoso Sally Van Meter, captures the evolving sound of a band that’s been wowing crowds on the festival circuit and beyond. Recorded at Immersive Studio in Boulder, Colorado, the disc – which advertises itself as an EP and captures the organic sound of the band brilliantly – includes seven tracks that shift subtly in tone and mood like the evening shadows in the trees.  The sound of the washboard set against the strings is always acoustically intriguing, while the entire band breathes like one at its high points.

The track “To and From” is a fine example of the band’s more easily accessed sound. The pleasing cut could easily stand strong on the radio. The interestingly titled “Part of a Song” is a particularly engaging ditty that features more engaging crooning by Paine. While mostly meditative and pensive,  the album makes a light-hearted turn on the cut “Don’t Drift Too Far” and ends with “Raven Song,” a fittingly haunting and ethereal a capella composition.

It’s Alive is out now on Ruff Shod.

Arbouretum : Coming Out of the Fog

Arbouretum - Coming Out of the FogArbouretum - Coming Out of the FogArbouretum - Coming Out of the Fog

Say what you want about Baltimore’s Arbouretum, but they’ve never been a band to shy away from deep subject matter. They also don’t take their albums and playing lightly.

On album number seven, Coming Out of the Fog, they continue this tradition and deliver a collection that shows its strengths in songs delving into the weakness of man and overcoming them.

Band leader and vocalist Dave Heumann bares his soul in lyrics from the heart. The band’s tight playing and distorted wall of sound give songs like “The Long Night” and “World Split Open” their jaw-dropping power. But the pinnacle of this record is the austere beauty of “Oceans Don’t Sing.”

If you have the opportunity to hear this album, do so. If you are lucky enough to see Arbouretum live, go. Bands with this sort of talent and conviction are hard to find these days.

Coming Out of the Fog is out now on Thrill Jockey.

Trixie Whitley : Fourth Corner

Trixie_Whitley_Fourth_Corner

Even though Fourth Corner is Trixie Whitley’s debut full-length album, she is no newcomer to the music scene. Growing up with a critically acclaimed musician father, the late Texas songwriter Chris Whitley, has obviously given Trixie the education and experience to release a record that is easily one of the best of the year. In a world that makes stars out of female artists like Lady GaGa and Ke$ha, it’s women like Whitley that show where the real talent and brilliance in music lies today.

The production is easily the greatest compliment to Fourth Corner. The sound completely captures and highlights Whitley’s smoky timbre and the mood of the songs. “Irene” kicks it off with a rolling bluesy riff that lets you know right up front what you’re about to experience. Easily the most beautiful and emotionally moving song here is “Breathe You In My Dreams.” If you want to know what finding true love sounds like, listen to this track. “Gradual Return” is another standout with its message of hope and redemption.

But the best part of Fourth Corner is that it leaves you wanting to hear more by Trixie Whitley.

Fourth Corner is out January 29 on Strong Blood Records.

Aly Tadros : The Fits

Aly Tadros  - The Fits

On her sophomore release, The Fits, Aly Tadros creates an album that makes you want to sit on the back porch with a glass of lemonade, watching the sun set and the lightning bugs begin to flicker in the darkness. With her skills as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Tadros shows why her first album was no fluke. The Fits stands out as a fresh sounding piece of work in a bleak world of copycat hipster drivel.

“Silence and the Truth” and first single, “Sweet On Me,” immediately draw you into this record. There is just something honest and clean in Tadros’ voice makes you keep listening. On “The Cross Sticks,” she sounds as if she is channeling Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Though it’s only January, The Fits is starting off 2013 on a great note.

The Fits is out now on Lost Ridge Records.

 

Lou Pallo of Les Paul’s Trio and Special Guests : Thank You Les

Various - Thank you Les

When most of us hear the name Les Paul, we instantly think of the iconic and legendary Gibson guitar, one of the most popular, reliable, and highest quality electric models on the market. There is, however, an even more iconic and legendary figure in this special guitar’s namesake; a musician whose influence is so deep in American blues and rock-and-roll that his name usually comes up when legends like Keith Richards or Billy Gibbons are asked about their heroes.

Thank You Les was spearheaded by Lou Pallo of Les Paul’s Trio and features some of rock’s biggest hitters – including Richards, Gibbons, Steve Miller, and more –  paying homage to Les in the only way they know how, by blistering through his songs with a fiery passion and an audible urge to convey their appreciation. Each song is presented so that the flavor of the original is still largely in-tact, but each artist has added texture and color with their own signature sound.

Thank You Les gives the younger listener a chance to hear what Les Paul gave to the world of music, through the eyes and ears of those who knew him best.

Thank You Les is out now on Showplace Music Productions.

Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition : White Buffalo

Jimbo_Mathus_White Buffalo

One of the great things to transpire over the last few years is the resurgence in appreciation for Americana music. With no need for big fancy stage shows, no desire to hide their voices behind auto tune, and no desire to write songs that pander to the common denominator just to sell records and make money, these artists simply write and play because it’s what the they love. Jimbo Mathus is one of these folks, and nowhere does it show more than on his latest album, White Buffalo.

The opening track, “In The Garden,” is the sound of a sunlit field, waist-high grass, and warm breezes blowing through. Other songs, such as the title track and “Run Devil Run,” show that when Jimbo and his band want to show off their Southern temperaments, it isn’t a problem. A kinship to Luther Dickinson and the North Mississippi All-Stars emerges on tracks like “Hatchie Bottom” and “Fake Hex”, with their swampy, juke-joint rhythms.

Recorded with his band, The Tri-State Coalition, this record is the culmination of a career and life of highs and lows; one that has seen many musical successes, but has also seen Mathus’ marriage end and his previous band, The Squirrel Nut Zippers collapse. Fortunately, he returned to his roots in Mississippi and found not only himself but his “voice.”

White Buffalo is out January 22 on Fat Possum Records