CD Reviews

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Olex Music

Straight Shots                         

12 tracks

“Every normal man,” said H.L. Mencken, “must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Quite so. The opening track, “To the Barricades,” doesn’t have the same anthemic power as, say, Steppenwolf’s “Monster,” though one has to admire the quixotic impulse behind this genuinely frustrated rant. This 2014 collection by Tom Hauck, formerly of The Atlantics and Ball & Pivot, has at least a few smart, conventional rock songs. Here we find a song like “She’s Bad,” which conforms so well to the standard rock template that it approaches the canonical. “Nowhere to Hide” is picture-perfect proto punk rock in the Pebbles/ Nuggets mode. “I Ain’t Superstitious” is full of sneering attitude on top of an angular riff: “I went to the fortune teller/ She said ‘Your future’s all used up.” Even the riff on the ill-advised foray into rap, “We Got What It Takes,” approaches the monumental. (Francis DiMenno)


Album of World’s Champions


11 tracks

These dudes compare themselves to The Replacements and Hüsker Dü in their cheat sheet, which is just fucking crazy. I mean, I’m no Lester Bangs either, fellas, so let’s just pace ourselves a little. This actually has more of a Dinosaur Jr wobble to me, and the rootsy, early ’90s alt-rock bliss they’re reaching for sounds more like pop-punk than anything else. But all that’s fine. Weezer and The Descendants are good too, right? Lotsa hooks popping left and right, especially on “It Doesn’t Matter Anyway,” which is sort of a bummed-out “Buddy Holly” (the Weezer song, not the dude). The real gamer-changer, though, is “High Crimes” a really lovely ’60s pop jangler. It’s real good. It’s not fucking Pleased To Meet Me, but you can see skinny dudes really rocking out to this record. Produced by Marc Valois of The Blinders, currently the third best band in town, so that’s something. He does a good job. Likes doing stereo pans with the guitars. That’s always fun. Would blow your mind if they still made albums in Quadrophonic sound.                     (Sleazegrinder)




Reverse the Phase

10 tracks

The air of Baudelaire’s dark blooms, a heavy lacing of The Jesus And Mary Chain, and shadow of The Velvet Underground. Stir slowly  rhythmically, blending well. Pour into a cauldron of avant garde electro. Wait, listen, see what happens. A recipe for shiny, black, candy apples lurks within these songs. Dark, strange, and sweetly alluring.

The Wrong Shapes consist of Bo Barringer on guitar, vocals, and beats, and Rachel Barringer’s vocals and cello. The two are clearly very much in sync with each other. At time the songs have the feel of an intimate bond, a shared secret known only to them.

I like the title track, “Reverse The Phase.” It flows smoothly, and is relaxing and euphoric. Trippy instrumentals enhance the trance effect, and it’s good dance music.“Easily Swayed,” brings Bryan Ferry’s silky style to mind, so Roxy Music fans should enjoy this track. Rachel Barringer’s cello dominates in “A Thousand Orchids,” backed by a riot of sounds which play like electronic fireflies, and chant-like vocals throughout.

The BIG winner for me however, is the much simpler, down to earth,“Alright, Alright.”  Wow… I really love this one. This track is cool, a ’60s retro sounding song reminiscent of summer nights made for fun, dancing, and making out, all while beneath the light of the moon. I dare you to refrain from swaying a bit to this one! It’s playful! While the CD is good, I really do wish there had been a lot more songs done in the spirit of this one on it.

This is a fascinating mix of elements and tracks, and the chemistry between Bo and Rachel does create some magical alchemy which is evident in the music. It’s not for everyone by any means, but if you feel like checking out something different, then wait no more. Come get your strange on. You just might like it.    (R.J. Ouellette)


Buskers’ Blusterade                

13 tracks

Skunky Rooster is basically a collaboration between guitarist Scott Rath and drummer Seth Pappas who were originally in the band Zachariah from 1975-1980. These cats were mainly a Cambridge and South Shore gigging group but opened up for a lot of southern rock artists, at The Paradise whenever they came to town. This passionately played project, with clear and strong influences from Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, Rory Gallagher’s slide, and The Kinks, is very tight and their sound is mainly rock with hard rock, alt. country, and blues. It just rocks! Seth has a long history gigging with Barrence Whitfield & The Savages and The James Montgomery Band; Scott is a vet of Ginger Baker’s band when he was out on the Left Coast many moons ago. They are involved with the production on all the cuts and some of the mixing is done by Ducky Carlisle at Ice Station Zebra in Medford so the sound is crystal clear from the first song to the last, and the music jumps out of your speakers like it should. To fill out their rocking ensemble, local legends David Hull (The James Montgomery Band) and Dean Cassell (Johnny A’s Hearts On Fire) play bass and Tom West (Peter Wolf And The Midnight Travelers) on keys successfully join the mix.

I really dig the opener “Cross The Great Divide,” a real radio-friendly Americana tune, with its jangling beat, Hull’s pounding bass, and nice harmonies. “Stand Strong” could be in Tom Petty’s set list and Seth’s great drumming really drives the rhythm section. “Somewhere Between Lost And Found” could be in Warren Zevon’s catalog and has both nice slide and lead guitar playing by Scott. “Gambling On Memories” also has some nice slide work and is one of two tunes where I really like Tom West’s keyboards. It’s an uptempo R&B melody featuring great bar-room piano. West’s organ work on the Bluesier “The Lie” is also noteworthy. My favorite cut is the self-titled “Skunky Rooster” where David Hull puts down tracks playing rhythm guitar—which is the first time in my life I have ever heard him put down his four strings and switch to six. And he’s pretty good. This song is a rollicking bar-room romp showcasing all the top level musicians who play on it. With solid vocals on all the cuts, this band should go on the road and duplicate this recording live and onstage. Great music folks, give it a listen.      (A.J. Wachtel)

PJ ROGUE                             

Standing in Front of the World   

14 tracks

PJ Rogue has an easy-going voice reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett. He likens his love to the struggle of the salmon in the song “Spawning Ground”: “He has spent a life of slumber seldom waking in his dream/ Now he fights with every fiber, tries to make his way upstream.” His humor comes through in the last stanza where he says, “Will I end up in your spawning ground or will I end up on some dinner plate?”

“Dirty Feet” is a rhythmic Caribbean tune that makes you want to get up and wiggle across the dance-floor wearing a grass skirt with a little coconut and tropical fruit drink in your hand. “Don’cha need clean feet for your dreams?” Of course we do. “Keeper of the Flame” continues with the island feeling, only this is a plea for the sake of those who take responsibility. He has passionate-voiced ladies singing back- up. I can see them in my mind with their dance moves in unison, feminine dresses and  goddess-like harmonies. Switch on the rotating dance-floor globe for “The Promise,” which is a slow dance number, mmmmm, cheek to cheek, with that saxophone, written like a Platters tune, or that Tommy Edwards tune, “All In The Game,” PJ croons “I’m gonna love you for the rest of my days…” Snuggle, dip, and kiss… ahhh. “Violet Supreme” is a sweet little song rolling along on the back of a harmonica about camping and mixing up the last of the food on hand for a meal.

“The Color Green” is a lament about the ruin of nature. It features a gorgeous violin all through it.

He wrote a sea chantey called “Whales of Stellwagen” that mourns the dropping whale population.

“Fresh Feet” must be the antidote song to “Dirty Feet.” This utterly original and silly tune is my favorite song on the album and is a love song for his cat. “Each and every morning you wake up and yawn and groan/ stumble to your shower where you sing that dreadful song/ I try to cheer you up in my own way/ so I’m crouching by the curtain waiting for my break/ Fresh feet fresh feet, so juicy and so sweet, it’s your feet I like to eat./ You’re my favorite past time/ my special morning treat/ fresh feet fresh feet/ When you sip your coffee, on your foot is where I’ll be/ when your tootsies rub on my belly you can have your way with me.” This song bounces along with a joyous Django Reinhardt/ Stefan Grapelli style kind of tune, with that wonderful violin again played by Matt Leavenworth. “Lady of Marble” is another beautiful tribute to a misunderstood sculptor living in Scotland.

The final song, “Standing in Front of the World,” is a heart on the sleeve song of a love-centered man who has written and performed his music with trepidation. “What is this fear that shakes my bones? Where does it come from? Where does it go?” The song confesses lost dreams, a disappointed uncle, and traumas that haunt our pained bodies. I’m so glad PJ made the effort to write, sing, perform, record and create this album. It takes guts to follow a calling to be an artist, and this song made me cry. The charming and colorful cover art was designed by Connie Barbour—the little designs and messages of gratitude all point to the fact that PJ Rogue is someone who deeply appreciates his family and friends.  Every song radiates a warm regard for life. Seems to me PJ should glow in the warmth of his music. I know I do. Seth Connelly is at the helm with masterful production skills, with Eric Kilburn helping to produce this home run.    (Kimmy Sophia Brown)

SETH GLIER            

MPress Records

If I Could Change One Thing    

12 tracks

I’m too simple to avoid making a joke based on this album’s title, so here goes: If I could change one thing about thing about this recording it’s that I would ditch the often maudlin ballads and let Glier unleash the dance pop idol that is clearly bursting to get out.  Upon listening to the more upbeat numbers, I could easily envision hearing Glier on pop radio in between Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine.  His warm and expressive tenor certainly is impressive throughout, showcasing the kind of chaste sex appeal that has catapulted many to stardom.  But ultimately, too many songs slog along, which makes listening to the full album in one sitting kind of a chore.           (Kevin Finn)


Upon This Rock                        

12 tracks

Steve Caraway is a dynamite pop songwriter. Maybe not on the Sedaka level, but he’d certainly give, say, Rupert Holmes* a run for his money.  And like any great pop writer, he slithers in and out of genres like a midnight prowler, a chameleon in an off-the-rack blazer, adept at creating a reasonable facsimile of whatever button you punch on the jukebox. Upon This Rock’s got it all, really: blues, power-pop, country, gospel-lite, even some chunky classic rock. But, I mean, do you want it all? Do you eat spaghetti with pancakes and wash it down with a kale smoothie? No, of course not. You’re not some kind of fucking nut. So I’m not sure this sonic bouillabaisse works as a cohesive unit. Individually, though, “Big Star” (yep, a Chilton homage) is so gorgeously chewy you’ll want to sink your teeth directly into the CD, “Don’t Leave” is a great piano-banging ’80s power-popper, “Justine” is slathered in the same delicious ache that fuels The Smithereens, and “Candy” is the kinda thing Darryl Hall might do if he joined The Archies. All this good stuff is sandwiched in-between pop-country crooners and Hornsby-esque piano ballads so you’ll have to prune diligently for the rocking stuff, but it’s worth the hunt.       (Sleazegrinder)
* C’mon man, the Pina Colada song—“Escape”!


Your Castle Comes Down      

13 tracks

Jeremy Withers and Bill Paukert have a long history of making music together, but their latest project, Monument Thief, is probably their most direct and forward-thinking act to date. The band’s trademark sound is a fresh blend of pure and uncompromising rock ’n’ roll that borrows eclectically from the vast vernacular of the genre, incorporating elements of punk, hard rock and alternative.

One of the most interesting things about Your Castle Comes Down is that it allows listeners to take a peek into the kaleidoscopic song-writing sensibilities of the band. Tracks such as “Every Time” or “A Scene” are as gritty and punchy as early Nirvana, while songs the likes of “All On Me” or “Endless Debut” showcase the band’s ability to create memorable melodies, unlike artists such as The Cure or R.E.M.

Your Castle Comes Down is a classic-sounding yet remarkably diverse album that truly makes for an engaging and intriguing listening experience for fans of alternative music spanning all ages and currents.                       (Marc Friedman)

BEN CARR MUSIC PROJECT                                                

Ben Carr Music


11 tracks

In all honesty, I just didn’t “get” this one. While much of it was good and original in a technical aspect, this CD and I quite simply had a personality conflict. The band is eclectic with multi-cultural influences. Any time you hear progressive use of a ukele , that’s a given. That’s a good thing. What is not a good thing is the degree and breadth to which they are influenced. This made the CD feel a bit all over the place, never settling into any particular groove for me to groove to.

I could not connect with this music. It touched my ears, but regrettably, never came close to touching my soul. Track four, “Together,” is a ska/reggae fusion song with a boppy feel and a slight hints of techno, exotic percussion, a really nice saxophone, and piercingly hot guitar work. It has a great dance floor vibe.

Perhaps they’’d benefit by defining themselves more clearly and pulling in the reins on the myriad directions into which they venture. Significantly commit to one or two genres as instead of so many. In terms of connection, I’m left with a “jack of all trades, master of none” feeling.

I wish I had more informative input to share, but having listened, I am left with a large question mark hanging over my head.      (R.J. Ouellette)


So Long                                        

5 tracks

The Almighty Buck plays a brand of mellow, rootsy country-rock in a field of such bands that seems to be getting more crowded by the day.  The music is pleasant but unremarkable and melodic without being overly memorable.  In short, they come off as Wilco on sedatives, providing a nice background for your Sunday chores.  The one thing that stands out on this record is the drumming on “Orbit,” which sounds like someone bashing on a tin can.  More of these left field moments would go a long way.    (Kevin Finn)


New Amerika                             

3 tracks

The dizzy brainchild of vocalist/ guitarist Jessica Jarva and everything else-r Travis Long. “New Amerika” is a woozy stumble through a groovy cough syrup weekend, a gloppy first-person narrative about walking around stoned and/ or with a potentially fatal fever. It’s like Jessica’s trying to remember her favorite Bob Dylan songs, but she’s wildly hallucinating the whole time. Or like Nico ditched The Velvets and traded them in for The Flaming Lips back when they were writing songs about Jesus doing dope. This might be the most narcotic record I’ve heard in years. I mean, there’s a good chance you’re gonna end up in rehab if you listen to the whole EP in one sitting. Apparently a whole album is on the way. That’s definitely gonna kill a few people.                   (Sleazegrinder)


Be the One    

4 tracks

With an album cover reminiscent of fuzzy vintage sci-fi and a blend of catchy alternative rock, Boston-based Mercury on Mars sets out to deliver Be the One, a fun EP where their idea of music unfolds over four tracks.

The band’s thick guitar-oriented sonic layers are at the forefront of the picture, as the chunky riffs and flamboyant leads are reminiscent of some of the work of artists such as Dinosaur Jr, Armchair Martian or Archers of Loaf, just to name a few.

Unlike the aforementioned bands, Mercury on Mars does not feel as gloomy and introspective, preferring to drive their melodies in a more uplifting and upbeat direction, unleashing a blend of energy in the vein of popular newcomers such as Cloud Nothings or Wavves. The good balance between melody and aggressiveness is always very spot-on, as the band carefully bounces on and off from raw power to ear-worm triggering hooks that will immediately have you bobbing your head and tapping your feet. (Marc Friedman)



12 tracks

When I hear this album, I can’t help thinking of cocktail music, for the songs mostly hearken back to an older style, pre-rock and roll, characteristic of the 1940s. The opening track, “Rebound Blues,” sets the tone for this highly personal collection: quavery, pleasantly theatrical vocals full of character and spunk, backed by impeccable accompaniment. “Late Winter Blues” is a gentle, bluesy melody with a tasteful guitar solo by Mark Michaels, part of The Lincoln Hill Trio, also consisting of Evelyn Harris on piano and J.J. Althouse on bass. The most bravura vocal performance: “Love is a Crazy Thing.” Best of show: “If Hope is Your Religion….” Most affecting (and memorable) song: “Hold On/ Let Go.”     (Francis DiMenno)


Here You Are                            

10 tracks

John and Rachel Nicholas, are all about passion. I hear it in the harmony of their voices and in the music and  lyrics they write. They lived on Cape Cod for a long time and are now in Camden, Maine. I saw them last summer at the Swans Island Sweet Chariot Festival. I noticed that John was frequently playing guitar for others, as well as singing back up along with Rachel. She has a great stage presence. I loved watching her dance moves, putting her whole lovely self into it.

I get the sense that they see their music as a chance to serve. Their music carries the social conscience and rock ’n’ roll hearts of artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Brown.

“Here You Are” is a plea to live in the moment: “Here you are, you’re a knock on the door/ Here you are, you’re crossing the floor/ Here you are, you sink in your chair/ Here you are with that far-away stare/ Here you are you’re telling stories/about your long ago once-upon glories/ If you could just see that you’ve come this far/ Oh here you are.”

“America It’s You” is a patriotic love song, recognizing the value and beauty of the United States, historic warts and all: “I’m gazing at your hills and the mountains carved long ago/ At the trail of tears that runs bitter/ And the shadows black as a crow/ It’s quiet out on the prairie/ And the memories shimmer like dew/ Oh America, America, America it’s you.”

“People like Us” is a theme about people who are always pinching pennies, juggling bills, trying to survive—a state of being many of us can relate to.

“Everything I Need” is a song about reaching the maturity of adulthood, embodying gratitude and putting life’s trials in perspective: “I spend my life always wanting for this, waiting for that/ Trying to be everywhere but where I’m at/ Oh, but here’s my resolution, my evolution/Going to see with new eyes that love is the prize/ Gonna stop wasting time now I realize/ I’ve got everything that I want/ This is my highest creed/ I’ve got every single thing that I want/I’ve got everything that I need.”

“Hold On” is the Nicholas’s version of “You’ve Got a Friend” or “Bridge Over Troubled Water”: “I know doubt calls your name when you’re seeing through fear/ I wish strength had a voice that would speak in your ear/ If patience were stars I’d show you the vault of night/ If troubles were stones I’d lift yours with all my might.”

In the liner notes they write: “Some things happen in their own time. Along the way we, like everyone else have felt the unvarnished glory of life – and death. From light to dark, dark to light we make our way. We navigate as best we can.”

Their voices blend beautifully, almost like emerging from the same throat. It must be because they’ve been in love and making music for over thirty years. There is an earnest and idealistic soul in their songs, full of longing, with poetic lines like “When birds fly away they take their songs.”John and Rachel are songbirds, giving of their hearts because they must.         (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


Full 88                                        

10 tracks

Tait’s been at it for decades. Full 88 hits the bins with a far-reaching discography behind it, dozens of releases spanning 30-something years. While I know this to be true, I have not actually heard any of it, so I can only go by what’s on display here. Basically Full 88 sounds like the work of a hetero Jobriath—theatrical and glammy, but with a workmanlike tidiness to it all. It’s driven by piano and feels like something Dennis DeYoung might do if Kilroy never took off and he was resigned to community theater. It’s definitely not my kinda thing, but if you’ve ever attended any production of Jesus Christ Superstar anywhere and actually liked it, you’ll probably dig this.    (Sleazegrinder)


The Great American Tooth   

16 tracks

The band saves its best of show for the opening salvo, “Loneliest of Ways,” which is a phenomenal slow burner interspersed by wildly evocative fast sections. What remains is also variegated: rock which runs the gamut from 90s grunge (“We’re Gonna Break” to a rousing and excellent reggae-rock hybrid (“Step Into My Fingers”). In spite of the home studio recording, the first few songs are gratifyingly slickly mastered and well-crafted. Many of the remaining songs are forays into more stretched out and idiosyncratic forms which are not always quite so resonant. The raga-like “The News” seems to owe a good deal of its essential feel to Nirvana, as does “1994.” “Battle Cries” is a real mixmaster of a song, replete with distinct sections, including a brief nod to reggae, which is also the default mode of “First of All,” which is fueled by funk bass and fuzztone, courtesy of Matt Soper and Kevin Outland. “World Like a Wheel” is a nifty little anthem with a memorably nagging guitar line. “Tan Mom” is nothing less than a balls-out rock and roll instrumental. The memorable “What We Never Knew” is an anthemic and charming anti-lullaby. “Hey Girl” is a pleasant folk snippet. “Home By Home” is an enigmatic, minimalistic homily: “Your gestures of madness are logically sound.” This is a band which is bursting with energy and enough musical ideas for two albums. I hope they’re around for a long time. Recommended. (Francis DiMenno)


Nothing in Doubt                    

12 tracks

First of all, I’m one guy. Pop country is the dominant musical preoccupation for grown-ups in the U.S. these days. 50,000 Jason Aldean fans can’t be wrong, right? But I just don’t get how it’s even considered “country” in any traditional sense. It doesn’t even sound like Glenn Campbell or Kenny Rogers, never mind Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings. Am I crazy? All this bullshit just sounds like Bon Jovi in cowboy boots. It’s music for people who are gonna die young because Walmart won’t pay for their health insurance. I don’t get it. So anyway, Ashley Jordan. Boston might as well have its own pop-country queen, and she certainly fits the bill. Young, beautiful, with the honeyed voice of an East Coast angel. She’s got a song about the marathon bombing (“New England Tears”) that is either eye-rolling or deeply-moving, depending on your tolerance level for such things, an opening stomper about boozin’ and carousin’ (“Drink Some Whiskey”), and many, many bittersweet love ballads. She’s a solid guitar player and the songs are as good as anything currently playing on The Bull. If you lean towards this kind of music, it’s a winner. If you lean towards Tammy Wynette, hardcore alcoholism, bitter divorce battles or chain-smoking, go back to 1972 where you belong. I’ll meet you there.                          (Sleazegrinder)


Barefoot to the Sea                  

13 tracks

On the idyllic cover photo of his album Barefoot to the Sea, athletic and handsome Douglas Day of Camden, Maine, is gripping a guitar in one hand while leaping above ocean waves. My first listen to this CD was on an hour drive to a meeting thinking I was going to hear some folk music. I wasn’t prepared for the first song entitled, “Inauguration Day,” about the poem Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton’s inauguration twenty some years ago. It starts out with a spirit-filled gospel choir that wells up into a joyous, heart-splitting crescendo: “Evohe, I’m glad she came, to call upon the God of many names.” I started crying. I pushed the repeat button three times and cried all three times. I wondered, what does Evohe mean? Collins Dictionary says it means, “Exclamation” or “Exclamation of Bacchic frenzy.” This is an extraordinary hymn and  Doug delivers it with a beautiful, bold male voice that I could listen to all day.

“License to Go Crazy” is about a girl he saw at a contra-dance who wore out seven partners and never stopped dancing. There are also a handful of straight-forward, very nice major-key love songs.

The second exceptional gem is “Just Love,” which is about arriving in Manhattan where he was to live for five years. I love when Doug elevates his volume and vocal register in the second line of the chorus: “And I love, I love, I love, I love/um um um/ Oh yes, I love, I love, I love, I love, I just love.” His heart is full of hope and joy an the feeling is contagious. This one made me cry too.

“My Bleecker Street” is lovely and jazzy, beautifully executed, with help from the excruciatingly talented Suzy Williams.

The other stand-out song is “The Curve Above the Door” written for Gamble Rogers, a friend and mentor who worked with wood, boats, built houses and made music. The opening line talks about the thought that goes into placing a door when building a house, in regard to the elements, space, light, and weather: “And here I build a house to last beyond my lifetime/ and try to tell a story to last a hundred years or more./ I build it in the memory of a man of understanding,/ bear with me if I labor on about the curve above the door.”

“Modern Gypsies in Milan” is an insightful look at children driven to crime all over the world, and the prayer for better times for the children of the future.

The album is expertly assembled and produced with superlative backup singers and musicians. Doug should be proud of this album, it is uplifting and creative. (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


Black Cowboy Hat Records

My Guitar and Me                  

20 tracks

The danger in putting out an album with 20 tracks on it is that it greatly increases the odds of showing your warts.  In small doses, you might not notice that, as the title implies, a lot of the songs are about guitars and what Sutphin does with them.  You might not notice the distracting high-end sparkle to his guitar.  You might not notice how flat and unexpressive his voice is, and you might not notice how dourly self-serious and cliché-ridden a lot of the lyrics are.  But alas, you do notice all those things, and you find yourself wishing Sutphin had hired an editor.                             (Kevin Finn)


Around These Parts                

10 tracks

These guys are great. The ease and grace of their playing comes through like a live performance in the spirited little guitar riffs, and the subtle touches of mandolin and banjo. I’m heartened by the love for earth expressed in the song “The Last Monkey Maker”: “We can tar all our hillsides with roads/ Turn our art into binary codes/ You can’t know where you’re going/ If you don’t know what you left behind/ When the last monkey maker leaves town.”

“Deep in the Dirt” is a sad lament about love and loss, with wonderful vocal support by Hayley Sabella. “Under your knees/ As you free your garden of weeds/ The sky shines in my face/ Under your weight/I feel the ache of your hurt/ And I hear your remorse/ Deep in the Dirt.” “Jericho” flies along under a ripping melody supported with mandolin and impassioned vocal. “I want your love/ I need your love.” Those words have been in many songs; I feel them in this one. Fear is a theme that can find solace in a song. “Wait til May” speaks of some sort of tragic event and the way adults cope. “But we’re alright/ We’re okay/ I tell myself/ We’ll find a way/ The sun will burn away the night/ Wait til May with me tonight.” I wonder if it’s about the Boston Marathon bombing. Hayley Sabella sings on this one as well. I feel like I’ve heard “One More Night” before, even though I haven’t. It has that kind of epic rock sound like The Band or Creedence Clearwater Revival. “I’ve got a chip as big as Brooklyn/ On my shoulder/ I don’t want to hear/ There’s more to life than this/ Next week I’ll pick myself up by my bootstraps/ But tonight/ I’m full of vinegar and piss.”

There is a lot of heart in this CD, culminating in “Around These Parts”: “Dear Katie/ I’m settling in/ Winter’s here and I’m probably drinking/ More than one man should when he’s alone/ Come spring I’ll be hard to find/ I’m moving ’cross the Canadian side and I’m never coming home/ Around these parts I call home.” This album moves along with ardent vocals and guitar playing, telling stories of human life.                       (Kimmy Sophia Brown)


Black Coffee Sigh                     

12 tracks

Second album from these local scruffs. I feel like some of the press these guys get confuses the issue. This band does not play Americana, and they sure as fuck don’t sound like Johnny Cash or Gaslight Anthem. Most of the time they sound like a jam band, occasionally like cowpunk, and on “Drunken Love” they sound like The Lemonheads. Even on their grittiest tracks (“Dead Baby Cocaine Blues,” “Road Runner”), they sound more like ’90s alterna-grunge than anything else. If I were writing their press release, I’d say “For fans of The Fluid and maybe Third Eye Blind and some jamband bullshit and maybe The Flesheaters once in a while.” That probably wouldn’t help their cause, but at least it’d be fucking accurate. Not a bad record, but the goofy humor that runs throughout—the closer is called “Gramma Queefed a Football” for chrissakes—is kinda annoying and really, it all just sounds like you turned into a Canadian alt-rock radio station in 1995. Everything sounds sorta familiar, just not as good as you remember.            (Sleazegrinder)


Phatcat Records

Whispered Words                    

12 tracks

I would be lying if I said that I am a fan of this type of folk music, but Folkapotamus is among some iconic company when speaking of performers within this somber genre. Indeed, the beautiful legend, Joan Baez lives “here.” “Here,” is a place of somber resignation to the entanglement of life’s pain and beauty.

To be fair, I commend the guitar and vocals of Penni Hart, as well as Toney Trite’s acoustic and electric bass and vocals. Also, Eric Kilborn contributes some nicely played mandolin, harmonica, and resonator guitar, while Jackie Damsky lends some lilting violin touches.

I adore the magnificent rendition of Guy Clark’s “Magnolia Wind,” more bluegrass to my ears. Between the mandolin, melody, and impeccable harmony, lyrics, I never stood a chance. It stole my heart away and if the only way to have it was to buy the entire CD, I would.

“Still Standing” has some nicely turned, well written lyrics, beautifully orchestrated instrumentals, and is a perfect vehicle for Penni Hart’s voice— a welcome bright note. Justice is well served to Paul Simon’s “April Come She Will.” The music is really good, worthy of a glowing review if you are a fan of this type of music.

My big problem with this kind of music is the black corner into which, so many of these performers paint themselves. I’d be happy to hear their talent move beyond that shadow of melancholia. There is an avid following for this music, and to those fans, I heartily recommend this CD.        (R.J. Ouellette)



CD Reviews — 1 Comment

  1. T-Max and Co., thanks so much for taking the time to give the new Jo Henley album Around These Parts a listen and including a review in your latest issue! And thank you for your endless support of local music!