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I’m Sorry Baby. Let’s Dance!

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As my friend Roxanne coined about the Dig in Deep album in general, Bonnie just has this way of alternating between making you want to dance your butt off and cry for a while. Dig in Deep is no exception to this successful formula. It’s been over 40 years since I first saw Bonnie Raitt live on stage, and that’s what I’ve always enjoyed most about this red-headed, silver lined, woman’s works. One song after another, she continues to bring her aged fans up and down like a familiar emotional roller coaster ride.

The set list for Friday night’s concert at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis was fairly predictable with her newly released album being show cased (and yes, I still call them albums). I was overly confident that she would open up the show with the title song, “Unintended Consequence of Love,” but she surprised me with the Inxs cover, “Need You Tonight.” “Used to Rule the World” followed with Pat McLaughlin’s “I Knew” coming in third.

Having scored a seat 50 feet from the stage, I was feeling blessed, but also a little fearful of sound overload; but the Peabody is a marvelous venue, and Bonnie and her crew were on top of their game. The sixty-six-year-old, Grammy award winning, R&B queen did mention that she had a new sound system to help preserve her hearing, so it was nice to be on the receiving end of that. Her band was tight, and the sound well balanced.

Bonnie was quick to acknowledge the beautiful Peabody Opera House in her opening remarks; and having just privately toured the new, as yet unopened, National Blues Museum in St. Louis, she followed her stage tradition of acknowledging those who came before her. She was also complimentary of St. Louis for its contribution to the music world. Apparently, Bonnie will take her rightful place next to the legendary Beulah Thomas “Sippie” Wallace in the museum; and as far as I’m concerned, this is as it should be. Check it out for yourself at https://www.nationalbluesmuseum.org.

The night would not be complete without hearing Bonnie sing her version of John Prine’s“Angel from Montgomery,” and the heart wrenching “I Feel the Same” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Her three song encore to a standing crowd was heartfelt.

 

And every once in a while you are exposed to new music that you can’t believe you haven’t heard before. The opening act, The California Honeydrops, was nothing less than a fantastic and fitting warm up to Bonnie’s little Peabody party. The lead vocalist, guitarist and trumpet player, Lech Wierzynkski, was born in Warsaw, Poland and raised by political refugees, but apparently perfected his smooth style from listening to the recordings of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong. The rest of the band is equally as polished, and it’s obvious they are all about a good time. They can serve me up some “Pumpkin Pie” any time.

Bonnie’s Set List:
Peabody Opera House, March, 18, 2016

Need You Tonight
Used to Rule the World
I Knew
Undone
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
Right Down the Line
Round and Round
I Feel the Same
Something to Talk About
The Comin’ Round Is Going Through
Angel from Montgomery
Don’t Answer the Door
Gypsy in Me
What You’re Doin’ to Me

Encore
I Can’t Make You Love Me
Real Man
Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes


 

The Tallent Brothers – Back on the Old Stuff

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Back to the Old Stuff is all about the feel good, and I’m getting to know it better every time I spin it. To compare the sound of The Tallent Brothers to anyone else ~ well, I’m not sure that would be fair. To me, the Brothers are smooth balladeers with down home style, and this CD is just an awesome, polished collection.

You boys are the next Allman Brothers.
~ David Allan Coe

From the TallentBrothers.com website, they tell their own story …

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Ben “Rocky” and Brandon Tallent.

“From working with Levon Helm at his home-studio, to touring as David Allan Coe’s backing band, The Tallent Brothers have logged extensive mileage en-route to releasing their debut LP, Back On The Old Stuff. Just as all journeys are said to begin with a single step, perhaps all band journeys begin with a single van. For the Tallent Bros that van – a shagged out, customized ‘76 Econoline with porthole windows and a bitchin’ paint scheme – proved to be the catalyst of a musical journey that is nearing a decade in duration.

cd-cover
Back on the Old Stuff CD Cover

‘We drove the van all the way from the farm to Woodstock for a Midnight Ramble, and everyone there was so impressed that we were introduced to Levon,’ says Brandon. ‘Talking with Levon was like talking to a family member, and we were invited to come back the next day to hang out.’ Like an old stray dog, The Tallent Brothers just kept coming back and began working for Levon, splitting wood and performing other odd-jobs. It was during this time that Rocky, a trained recording engineer, assisted on sessions that would ultimately result in Helm’s final studio album, Grammy winning, Electric Dirt. The brothers left Woodstock and returned home in late December ’08 to assist with the care of aging grandparents and to write.

They spent the next few years writing songs, and playing in cover bands to make ends meet. In July of ’14, Brandon received a call from country music legend David Allan Coe’s management, asking if he would be interested in playing lead guitar in Coe’s band. Brandon explained that The Tallent Brothers were a package deal, and after an epic audition during which Coe exclaimed, “You boys are the next … Allman Brothers!” They got the job. Touring with the infamous Outlaw proved to be a great learning experience, and it did not take long to realize that their own music and message must be a priority. After a sold out show in Houston, they informed Coe that they would be leaving the road and returning home once again, this time to make a record!

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The Tracks!

With nearly a decade’s worth of material to choose from, the record took shape rather quickly, with an equal mix of old and newer songs that serve as a reflection of the brothers’ human experience. Underlying these experiences is a unifying theme best expressed in focus track “There’s a Spirit”, a track co-written with the great Pat McLaughlin (John Prine, Al Kooper, Bonnie Raitt), with an anthem-chorus exclaiming “Keep looking up when hope runs dry/It’s out there flying high”. Other stand out tracks include the psych-tinged ballad “When You Need Me”, and the ironically jumpy “Without You”.

 While no two songs on the record stick to any particular format,
the music is best described as American Roots Rock,and could be compared to contemporary acts like Wilco, Lucero, and Beck.

At the farm house recording sessions in 2010.

I was introduced to The Tallent Brothers in 2010, not in person mind you, but through recordings that my son, Colin shared with me as he sat in on the recording and mixing of his friends’ earlier works. The Brothers are musical artists that I have followed because of him. We have shared a mutual love of music since his youth, so it’s fun to now tag along on this musical journey – from the Conservatory of Recording Arts in Phoenix to the legendary Barn in Woodstock, the farm house sessions in Missouri, and most recently the studio sessions in Nashville (where Colin also introduced the Brothers to his distant cousin, recording artist, Pat McLaughlin.)

To me, the earlier recordings were more raw, but the underlying “Tallent” I heard rose to the top like a fine cream oozing out of their Midwestern roots. “This Dirt,” from the River Vibes Recording Sessions still gives me goose bumps when I hear it. I’ve often thought it could have been recorded by the “Man in Black” himself.

The compilation of tracks on this debut LP have that same potential ~ to take your head somewhere peaceful. Songs obviously written from life experience, the CD triggers the same type of serenity as Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks released back in 1974 when full-size Econolines were first equipped with shag-carpet and party amenities.

The opening track, Can’t Have You, and When You Need Me are songs that I envision being sadly hummed on a bar stool with a warm beer. As the lyrics go, “I wear it like a scar,” and the latter song has an eerie beat like that of a broken heart. Without You is a little more upbeat in that the heart has started to turn the tide to tell the story that “I’m alright without you.”

There’s a Spirit is the obvious winner for me. You can clearly hear the Pat McLaughlin influence, and at first the humble mandolin strumming lightly mixed into the track can be mistaken for Pat but it is actually Ben’s talent that you hear. In these times of loud screaming everything, it is nice to have this type of hopeful sound spinning around in my headphones.

Keep looking up when hope runs dry/It’s out there flying high.

All of the tracks are tasty, but the final track, “Old Stuff,” nicely wraps up the journey. I’m not sure what the “Old Stuff” is exactly, but the song is an anthem to all the piles of it found in every lifetime.

Do yourself a favor, and buy this CD. It is available for purchase from TallentBrothers.com or the iTunes store. Honestly, it is a delightful musical experience; and without any undue bias from this mother’s heart, I give it five thumbs up!

Music Review: ‘Hit the City/Diamonds’ by The Rock Masters Band

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Rock Masters Band

Style: Rock, Indie, Blues, Psychedelic

Reviewed by Randy Radic

Billed as a “rock and roll supergroup” from Finland, the original Rock Masters Band was formed in 2007 by Sami ‘Haxu’ Hakala. That version of the band included Henka Fagerholm on bass; Mano Rantanen on drums and Teemu Holttinen on guitar. After two albums, the band broke up.

In 2014, Hakala decided to resuscitate the name of the band and pursue his vision of rock and roll. The result of this pursuit is Hit the City/Diamonds, a double single. Both tracks feature a variety of Finland’s top musicians, along with Hakala, who also added his wife, blues vocalist Riikka Hakala, to the mixture.

Hakala refers to this new recording style as “desert recording,” i.e. one-off recording sessions rather than the more expansive full albums most listeners have come to expect.

The first track, “Hit the City,” is the better of the two. It’s a rocker infused with a funky blues rhythm that is heavily layered with keyboards and guitars. Sadly, the drums seem to be almost an afterthought, as if someone said, maybe we should have some drums. The arrangement suffers from the sheer tonnage of the layering, while Hakala’s vocals lack punch. He’s not a true rock n’ roll wailer; his voice is monotonous, deteriorating when it should be blasting off. Lyrically, the song is little more than a blatantly revamped version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

“Hit the City’s” only strong point is the guitar work of Teemu Holttinen, whose solo in the middle of the song demonstrates his creativity and versatility. Less layering and more of Teemu’s raging guitar might add zest to the song.

“Diamonds,” the second track on the double, is poorly arranged, coming across as syncopated. It too is heavily layered, which drowns the melody behind a wall of sound. And Hakala’s voice sounds off-key and strident, like he’s trying to mimic Robert Plant, but can’t pull it off. The lyrics of “Diamonds” suffer from redundancy. The same phrase repeated ad infinitum ad nauseam does not make a rock n’ roll song.

The songs aren’t terrible; their biggest flaw is that they are boring. There’s nothing distinctive about the melodies or the arrangements. Alas, The Rock Masters Band produces the style of music that video game-makers love to use – rock n’ roll to shoot zombies. The rock n’ roll version of elevator Muzak.

There’s nothing compelling about The Rock Masters Band.

Delilah Sings Sarah + 1

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Delilah Sings Sarah + 1

Reviewed by Randy Radic

Delilah Sings Sarah + 1 is the name of the album, which is a tribute to Sarah Vaughan, the American jazz superstar known as “The Divine One.” Vaughan sang what was called lounge jazz, but because of her dynamic voice it became something more. The danger for Toronto’s Delilah, who, like Madonna, goes by a single name, is the comparison factor: can Delilah sing the songs The Divine One made famous without being banished to Weeny Hut, Jr., along with Sponge Bob Squarepants.

Born in Hungary, Delilah’s family immigrated to Toronto, where Delilah became enamored with lounge jazz. She began singing and before long had carved out a place for herself in Toronto’s jazz clubs. Her tribute to The Divine One is Delilah’s fourth album. Her first album, called Jazz, covered the well-known classics of the genre. A safe move for a first album, Jazz received praise because of Delilah’s sultry voice. For her second album, Delilah took a bit of a risk, combining jazz with a gypsy influence via her Hungarian roots. The album, Gypsy Love, played better than expected. On her third effort, Delilah decided to go with what she liked. The result was Sweeterlife, a collection of Delilah’s jazz favorites.

Delilah Sings Sarah +1 is another foray into the risk category. Not only is she risking comparison with a jazz icon, but she is paraphrasing the title of The Divine One’s most popular album, which was Sarah +2. In Vaughan’s case, the title was simple: Vaughan sang accompanied only by a guitar and a double-bass. In Delilah’s case, the title is a bit more complex. Delilah eschews the guitar and the double-bass, replacing them with the whole orchestra. +1 is indicative of the addition of “Smile” to the album.

The first track on the album is “September in the Rain.” The arrangement is smooth and traditional, which lends itself to an easy familiarity. The orchestra is tight and not overly dramatic. Delilah’s vocals are sultry but avoid the trap of breathy sex-kitten that contemporary divas tend to fall into. It must a Marilyn Monroe thing. In any event, Delilah sidesteps the hidden snare, which allows her to strut her stuff. Her voice is strong and radiant, with excellent phrasing.

“Just Friends” is the next track. Again, Delilah’s voice is spot-on: sultry with a hint of huskiness that complements the musical arrangement, which carries just the right amount of 1950s kitsch.

The fly in the ointment is “Whatever Lola Wants.” Delilah’s voice is weak to the point of being insipid. And this is a song that screams for a quixotic attitude that it doesn’t get. Instead, Delilah sounds self-conscious and hesitant. The arrangement doesn’t help matters, sounding like a tinny roundelay played by amateurs. The whole thing just falls apart, droops and waits for someone to drag it out back to the dumpster. Delilah should have nixed this one and told the producer what Delilah wants.

“Smile” is the +1 song. Fortunately, Delilah, the orchestra and the producer have marshalled their forces after the “Whatever Lola Wants” fiasco. The arrangement is soft and warm, and Delilah turns off the sultriness, replacing it with a mellifluous candor that transcends the music.

Delilah displays a wonderful voice, a vivacious instrument of expression. It’s perfect for the big band sound. The range she demonstrates on Delilah Sings Sarah +1 is – hopefully – a harbinger of a forthcoming album of original songs. It’s time for Delilah to venture forth.

‘Psalms of Zahyin’ by CalatrilloZ

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CalatrilloZ

Release Date: June 22, 2015

Reviewed by: Randy Radic

Speaking of overcompensation, CalatrilloZ is an operatic, hard rock, metal band from London. The band is a quintet: Zahyin handles vocals, arrangements and composition. Mobius plays bass; Azriel is one of two axe-men, the other being Vargovar; drums are the purview of Jimmy Sticks. They bill themselves as “a circus troupe of wanderers.” And they take their faux personas to the point of no return, including fictional personal histories, outlandish costumes and Kiss-like make-up. In other words, CalatrilloZ is rock n’ roll cosplay.

The band’s first full-length album is called Psalms of Zahyin, and although no explanation of precisely what the title refers to is provided, it can only be assumed it is a reference to the Hebrew letter Zayin, which is the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In Modern Hebrew, Zayin is defined as either penis or fuck or fornication. Whether or not there’s some cryptic meaning to the title, no one but CalatrilloZ knows. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘songs by some dude who calls himself Zahyin.’ Whatever his assumed name means, Zahyin has a strong voice, but not a whole lot of range. He sounds a little like Geddy Lee, but not nearly as distinctive.

The only way to describe the songs on Psalms of Zahyin is melodramatic opera. Layered guitars, keyboards and drums, along with machine-gun like phrasing proliferate all six tunes. There are a lot of breaks, where the guitars fall away, followed by Zahyin’s wailing voice, then the guitars swell again and the break-neck cadence resumes. It’s all very reminiscent of Freddy Mercury and Queen, only not as good. CalatrilloZ seems to be trying to imitate “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 4/4 time. They almost pull it off, but not quite. Although they deserve kudos for a valiant attempt.

The first track on the album is “Origins,” which sets the stage for all the other songs: heavily layered guitars and operatic voices. Some of the harmonizing is well-done; more would be better, except most of the songs appear to be vehicles designed to show-off Zahyin’s vocals. “Lords of Misery” is the second track. Of all the songs on the album, this one approaches “Bohemian Rhapsody” most closely. It begins with an opaque curtain of guitars, and then slides into a tinkling piano that has potential, but is eschewed for a veritable tornado of guitars. Next up is “I Am Alive.” During the first stanza, Zahyin does a credible imitation of Geddy Lee, but then relapses into his usual wailing.

“Long Winding Road” is perhaps the poorest song on the album. The lyrics are dismal to the point of being inane. And the guitars just scream for the sake of screaming. On the fifth track, entitled “A Glimpse at a Fool’s Destiny,” the drums are extended, especially the snare, allowing Jimmy Sticks to demonstrate his chops. Listeners have to admit that Jimmy Sticks thrashes with the best of active rock n’ roll drummers. Lyrically, the song falls flat because Zahyin’s voice takes on a sing-songy intonation, like a child’s nursery rhyme.

The last song on the album is called “Z, the Psychopath.” It is full-fledged opera, as if someone decided Wagner should be performed by a thrash band that aspires to mimic Queen. Racing guitars and keening voices don’t necessarily make a rock opera. CalatrilloZ needs to take a hint from The Who’s Quadrophrenia. Songs need melodies to work. CalatrilloZ has the thematic portion down pat.

All in all, Psalms of Zahyin is an ambitious undertaking. CalatrilloZ should be commended for bringing cosplay to rock n’ roll, especially the concept of fictional background narratives. And the operatic element is a nice touch, if it’s accompanied by strong vocals instead of shrieking guitars. The band has the requisite talent; they just need to put the puzzle together.

Troublesome Two

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B4IAwpOb

Troublesome Two – Fire Pit (Official Video) | Shot by Obscure Diamond

All this trouble got started a few years back when two rowdy kids from opposite sides of the Nebraska track crossed musical paths…

Christian “Fr!day” Freed is from Papillion, Nebraska and was raised in a rock-n-roll household, he started rapping at age 13 after leaving his first band, Krimson Blak. He made music on a crappy karaoke microphone, and if it wasn’t for his stalker-like way of pursuing Gage, he might still be cracklin’ and poppin’ today.

Gage “Lucid” Dixon also hails from Nebraska in Plattsmouth. He was born into rap. Gage was bumping beats in the crib. He started officially rapping at age 12, much to his father’s surprise and joy! His hidden talent was discovered by his dad on YouTube after a questionable occurrence involving a go-cart, and he’s been openly making a ruckus with his music ever since.

When these kids started rappin’ together, all hell broke loose! With their controversial content and fire and ice sound, these two bad boys have been banned by school districts and teenage girls’ parents everywhere. Here is The Gr1nd exclusive-

What is your Background? Give us a bit about your history, how you met, and how you found your sound?

Fr!day: I was always more in rock and metal music when I was younger. I always wanted to be in a band. So the legend goes… I met Lucid through a friend I played football with. I told him I was trying to write a song and he told me check out “GMD” hahah The first songs I made with him sucked but after a while, Troublesome Two came to life.

Lucid: I listened to rap music since I was born. NWA and many other old school rappers were what was being played around me since I was little. I met Christian through a mutual friend. Christian sent me a few texts and I almost just didn’t respond to him because he was ugly, but then I did and we progressively got better and better as we made more music.

Being young MC’s from the Omaha area, give us your perspective on the local music scene and what it’s like to be apart of it?

Fr!day: It seems like the Omaha music scene has been split up and separated for a while. That’s just how it seemed at first. We met a (Numetal?) band, Projekt Luna, and their frontman, Louie Beunrostro. Louie started One Scene One Love with some others and from there on, it’s like the music scene turned into a huge family. There’s still the guys that I don’t like though haha

Lucid: Being apart of the music scene in my opinion has it’s good and it’s bad, just like anything else. A lot of people are willing to work as a team. That’s why we’re involved with the group called “One Scene, One Love” because it brings everyone together and opens doors for everybody to work with each other. But there’s also people that will backstab you, take from you, lie to you, and other bullshit. You have to learn who’s on your side and who’s against you. To be honest I dislike about 75% of the people in this business. But it’s okay, the other 25% knows what’s up.

How do you think you stand out as artists from the rest of the scene? 

Fr!day: We stand out for sure.. Anyone will agree on that. We don’t sugar coat much. If people swing at us, we swing back a lot harder… if people show us love, we show love to them. We have our own sound, we bring our own energy and our own way of doing things. Something that only works for us.

Lucid: Well, our music itself speaks for itself. Nobody out there, not even just locally, sounds like we do. We sound like Troublesome Two. We talk about some different types of things. We are very self-aware in our music and as people, so that is the main thing that makes us stand out. Self-awareness and originality.

You guys just released a new single and video “Fire Pit.” How did the song concept come to life and what made you guys choose the song to push?

Fr!day: For the song Fire Pit, Lucid just hit me up and was like “Aye man I got this new track for you…It’s hella weird”. And to my surprise, it was actually a lot different from any other sounds we’ve made. When I heard about us doing a video with Obscure Diamond, we were kinda in a scramble to pick a song because we wanted a track that would really pop. Thanks to Obscure Diamond, the Fire Pit song AND video is a masterpiece.

Lucid: First of all the concept is us “dragging fans” to the fire pit. It has a lot to do with out album’s concept, which cannot yet be explained to the public. But it pretty much represents us even dragging the people who disliked our music into our camp and making them like us. They can hate and say whatever they want about us, but we will win them over and throw their bodies into a fire that will shit on their souls. I think it was the perfect song to release because of the attitude and sound of the song overall.

In the past you guys have handled your own video productions with much success. How was the process different to work with a production company to help make your vision come to life?

Fr!day: Doing the video with an actual production company was WAY better than doing it ourselves… Much more experience and a lot more possibilities working with them. It was all in all a real dope experience.

Lucid: Well, working with Obscure Diamond on the Fire Pit video was a hell of a lot of fun. I had a blast and the work they did on it was incredible. It’s by far our best video. The quality, effects, everything was perfect in my eyes. So working with them on this project made us look great. Big props to them for the work they put into it. They did an amazing job, and I can’t speak for them but I had a lot of fun and can’t wait to work with them more.

What do you guys hope to achieve with this video release? 

Fr!day: With this video, the goal is really to make the next step in our career. Let people know that we are hungry. Also, itd be nice to achieve a better relationship with Obscure Diamond. Build off each other and team up on a lot more projects. Stuff like that.

Lucid: I want the money, the women, the fortune and fame.

Up until this point in time, what has been the biggest milestones of your career?

Fr!day: So far, we’ve been getting a good amount of radio play on local radio stations. We’ve been on 2 tours so far, with Johnny Richter and G-Mo Skee, we’re playing a show with Kevin Gates. It seems like we’re constantly being hit with new opportunities so who knows? Our next big milestone could happen tomorrow haha

Lucid: The shows we have put on in my hometown of Plattsmout have been dope! We toured with G-Mo Skee, Johnny Richter, and have had the opportunities to get our music out there past just the Omaha area. We just keep building off small wins.

What can we expect from T2 this next year? 

Fr!day: Expect lots of punches in the face this year.. Music videos with dope visuals, some insanely energetic shows, and our album… Yeah our album is our main focus at the moment. Perfecting every detail.

Lucid: You can expect hella music, lots of videos, a new full album of our best work to date, and many live shows. You can expect greatness out of us because we will not settle for anything less than that. Our fanbase will keep growing and we will keep building off of the successes we achieve.

Check out their video

https://youtu.be/3aERvrfaioo

 

 

 


PHOTOS

Photo Credit: Ashlee Boyce

CD Review: ‘Holiday From Eternity’ by Artur U & the New City Limits

in Music by
Artur U & the New City Limits

Style: Alternative, Rock, Pop

Released: February 27, 2015

Reviewed by Randy Radic

In Finland, rock music is called suomirock or Finsrock and, unfortunately, few Finnish bands enjoy success in America. Probably because most Finnish rock bands rely heavily on potent keyboards, and thrashing guitars. Apparently, in Finland, the fine art adage “if you can’t make it good, make it big,” has been adopted as the primary precept of rock music: if you can’t make it good, make it loud.

The band consists of Artur U on vocals and steel guitar; Johanna Saarinen on vocals and percussion; Tuomas Orasmaa on the keyboards; Miika Suomalainen on bass; and Toni Mantyla on drums. The band has replaced the thrashing guitars with a steel guitar, added layering and vocal harmony. They kept the keyboards.

Regrettably, the band’s endeavor falls short, although there is a certain arcane energy to the music. Still, a number of elements are out of balance. First, the band puts too much emphasis on the keyboards, like every other Scandinavian band. Second, the steel guitar just doesn’t cut it as a rock n’ roll instrument. It’s fine for Country Western music, where its familiar crying twang provides accentuation. But it strains all tolerance as a lead instrument, simply because it sounds artificial. And third, the band’s vocalists, in a content-free a way as possible, have given an entirely new paradigm to the meaning of the word ‘harmony.’

Artur U’s voice is akin to the singing of a great pale beast of the sea as it attempts to harmonize with the breathless hyper-feminine voice of Johanna Saarinen. The result is two tinny voices singing an emotionless, monotonous roundelay.

Of the ten tracks on the album, two have been identified as winners. “On A Holiday” is the band’s lead single. Imagine Alice In Chains performing King Crimson with weak voices, an overload of fuzzbox and a steel guitar. And lots of heavy layering. It’s a psychedelic nightmare.

The other track, called “Monkey House,” dredges up mental images of Pink Floyd covering a song by Humble Pie. Repetitive lyrics, along with wimpy vocals and a melody paralyzed by indecision provide a grim, barely endurable listening experience.

Holiday From Eternity is more like the musical version of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation than a holiday. Artur U & the New City Limits, although they get an ‘A’ for effort, is relegated to suomirock mediocrity.

CD Review: ‘My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me’ by Vince Grant

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My Depression Is Always Trying to Kill Me

Style: Indie/Singer/Songwriter

Reviewed by Randy Radic

There are many real-life examples of musicians destroying everything around them, but depression is nothing to scoff at or make fun of. It’s a serious and debilitating disease. For those musicians that are lucky enough to come out the other end of the dark tunnel, if they can put what they experienced into lyrics and music, it can be something special. Perhaps the trick to being a rich and famous rock star is to be depressed, recover, and go on to compose songs about it. But it is doubtful any of them would recommend it.

Many musicians end up in rehab for drugs and alcohol abuse; and surely a number of them suffer from depression. Usually, they admit to the drugs and alcohol because it’s part of the rock n’ roll mystique. But most people, musicians or not, don’t want to openly admit to depression. There’s a stigma attached to it, even in today’s world.

Not singer/songwriter Vince Grant. He says, “Drugs, alcohol, depression, they took me out.” He went through rehab, successfully, and now directs his energy into his music, an outlet for not only creative expression but also as therapy. “I write songs to cope. I’d like to say I write songs to heal, but that may be asking too much.”

Whatever the concatenations of cause and effect, listeners should hope that Grant continues to cope by writing more songs. For the Muse of depression is inspiring wonderful tunes.

The title of Grant’s EP is My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me, and it’s a gem. The first track, “Melancholia,” is anything but elegiac, even though the lyrics are introspective. The song alters from soft guitars and Grant’s hypnotic voice to a swelling, surging chorus. During the softer portions of the song, the simple yet strong guitar accents are aurally provocative. Good stuff!

“Oceans II” provides a So-Cal rocker with REM influences, while “Edge of the World” slows things down, sounding almost like a ballad, except the lyrics are too concessive for a ballad. “Edge of the World” is passable, but Grant’s voice shines when the tempo is more upbeat, which is precisely where he goes on “How Many Times You,” probably the best tune on the EP. It’s another So-Cal/REM-ish rocker that builds appropriately, with an outstanding lead guitar solo by Doug Grean. The way Grant utilizes Courtney Love-like guitar accents sets the song apart.

The last track on the EP is “Sweet Addiction,” which is too somber and too slow. Grant’s voice displays a heavy angst that is unappealing. Speaking of Grant’s voice, it is distinctive and mellow, revealing a cheerfulness that he might not feel, but nevertheless is there. His voice reminds listeners of Chris Isaak, but is not quite as cavernous.

The enormity of Grant’s talent is evident on My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me. The arrangements are splendid and the musicianship, along with Grant’s conspicuous vocals, makes the EP a winner.

CD Review: ‘Excuse Me’ by Joe Blessett

in Music by
Joe Blessett

Style: Jazz, Soul, Rock, Hip Hop, Electronic

Released: January 12, 2015

Reviewed by Randy Radic

Multi-talented Joe Blessett recently released an album of his music. Among Joe’s panoply of talents: engineer, internet radio station owner, entrepreneur, composer, producer, videographer and internet recording artist. The album is called Excuse Me.

The term that most aptly describes the album’s music is Fusion. A fusion of jazz, blues, rock, soul and electronica. Excuse Me is definitely original, creative and unlike anything else anywhere. Horns, synthesizers, drum machines and bass swirl energetically, propelling the unconventional compositions along their sometimes serpentine, sometimes linear paths.

Excuse Me comprises twelve tracks. The first track is “Excuse Me,” a short piece impossible to categorize. It begins with a soft piano, then adds voices to the mix, followed by Spanish guitar licks and what sounds a little like a church choir. Ascetic, austere and devout to an astonishing degree, “Excuse Me” advises listeners to expect the unexpected.

The fourth offering on the album, “Taking It Down,” features a divine alto saxophone played with plangent severity on top of an electronic melody bubbling with jazz allusions. “Paying Bills” presents a tripartite fusion of Hip Hop, funk-a-delic and electronic dance music. The result is impulsive and reckless, like facts made ambiguous by rumors.

Joe slows things down on “Limelight,” which, if she were a man, sounds like Nina Simone performing leisurely Hip Hop. And near the end of the album, “Good to My Girl” provides a bluesy, Hip Hop tune that just doesn’t work. It’s simply too repetitious, both musically and lyrically.

The last track on Excuse Me is the most experimental piece. “Athene’s Theory” takes listeners where no listener has gone before: to the edge of galactic music. The song evokes visions of an unpredictable sci-fi movie that has long abandoned anything as mundane as a plot. Imagine Blade Runner without its protagonist, Harrison Ford. Initially, it’s ridiculous nonsense, but then it develops a remarkable charm.

Excuse Me is certainly not for everyone. But the album’s extended, thumping bass lines, along with its fusion of a variety of musical disciplines, contrives to produce an unprecedented musical adventure.

CD Review: ‘The RAP-ture’ by 832

in Music by
The-Rap-Ture-CD-Cover

Style: Rap, Hip-Hop

Reviewed by Randy Radic

Hip-hop music came to life during the 1970s, when it was called “disco rap,” and like most genres of music, it has traveled through various stages of growth over the years. Around 2005, Hip-Hop music suffered two simultaneous changes. First, Hip-hop attained mainstream status. Second, the bottom dropped out of sales, declining 44% over a five-year span. This massive decline in sales led some critics to assert that young people were tired of Hip-Hop and its insipid lyrics – lyrics that glorified violence, the humiliation of women and a dissolute lifestyle.

Turned out the critics were wrong. Hip-hop was still popular; perhaps even more popular than ever. The declining sales were the result of technological advances. Listeners were still listening to Hip-Hop. They just weren’t buying CDs. Instead they were downloading, streaming, sharing, etc.

Nowadays, most Hip-Hop artists continue to rap about life in the fast lane; their songs lionize drinking, drugging, violence, bling and promiscuity, along with an endless supply of money. Like Hollywood, they offer entertainment and diversion from the hard realities of life.

There are a few, however, who have chosen to “keep it real.” Such as 832, two brothers named Nawlege 405 and Solomis who hail from Oklahoma City. The brothers – 832 – get back to their roots, back to the days of disco rap. The title of their new album is The RAP-ture, which is a religious double entendre that speaks of their intent: to elevate Hip-Hop out of its doldrums to new heights.

“The Prayer” is the first track on the album, and it sets the religious tone. The song starts off with “You Keep Me Hangin On” by the Supremes, and then segues into lyrics about how entropy is everywhere, warning that everything falls apart unless mankind is wary.

As the tracks move on, so does the theme of ushering in a “new world order.” In “Burn featuring Juju,” Juju carries on a discussion with the devil, which evokes visions of Jesus in the Wilderness, resisting the temptations of worldly power. From there, the tracks trundle on, espousing a cultural upheaval and victory over vice and immorality.

Actually, the lyrics are very moving; the production values are excellent as are the arrangements. There’s a religious fervor to the album that’s hard to resist. Nevertheless, by the end of the album the lyrics assume a plastic sheen, as if the religious theme of the album is simply another gimmick. Only this gimmick is socially and morally acceptable. In other words, there’s too much pious preaching about mankind banding together to usher in Utopia.

There’s a lot to be said for the trite entertainment value of living with Peter Pan in Never Never Land, which is of course pure fantasy. But maybe that’s what people want from their music. That being said, The RAP-ture is well-worth a listen. The two brothers were gifted with wonderful voices, and there is no question about their songwriting abilities.

 

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