CD Reviews



14 tracks

Michael J. Roy is the long time guitar star and handsome fashionista of Boston and NYC bands Fox Pass and Tom Dickie & the Desires. The players here are Stephen Gilligan on bass and Lenny Shea, Jr. on drums of Stompers fame. Line up wise this is essentially Fox Pass sans Jon Macey. Roy is and has always been a sensitive, painterly guitar player who added color and emotion to the songs of the Desires and Fox Pass, as he does here on Electricity. His warm, soulful voice can cause even this reprobate’s heart to melt. It was always Roy who was chosen to sing the smoother, more melodic songs of Fox Pass. If it were the ’60s, I could envision Roy in a blue eyed soul outfit like The Rascals.  “Stop the Rain” kicks my ass. As does the Byrdsian jangle of “In A Well.” There’s not a dud here. Roy’s voice is heart-wrenching. He doesn’t pluck the heartstrings – he shreds them! Congrats to a fine artist and human being.     (Nancy Neon)

Club Bohemia D-BannerShell


Treated and Released Records

Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues

10 tracks

Swampy, with appropriately muddy production; the first song, “All I Got Is Now,” comes lackadaisically oozing out at us with laconic, homely wisdom: “If you can find a way/ To want what you get/ Hmm, I’ll tell you Buddy,/ That’s the best thing yet.” The Instrumental piece “Angel$ of Mercy” is a soothing, introspective piece for resonator guitar, with harmonica by the super-talented Hugh Pool. The brain-melting cover of Rev. Gary Davis’ “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is reverential, but not slavishly so–not to mention kind of trippy. “Lullaby” is another crystal-clear instrumental with meditative undertones. The delicate picking and atmosphere of calm is entrancing. The guitar line on “Moonlight Messages” is like something out of John Fahey, albeit with vocals, percussion, and flute (ably played by John Ragusa). “She Wants My Name” reverts back to gutbucket blues – the low-down dirty kind which wouldn’t be out of place in any whiskey-soaked roadhouse in the U.S.A. “Soul Transforming Realization” has an anthemic guitar line which explodes into percussion and dirty blues, then resumes its psychedelicized ascent. We hear some more spectacularly grimy blues on the raging “Tears of Fire.” Finishing off a fine collection is a growly version of a song made popular by Mississippi Fred McDowell and R.L. Burnside, “Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down” – a song which lesser mortals wouldn’t even attempt. Overall, this is one of the best modern blues albums I’ve heard in years. Recommended.  (Francis DiMenno)


Lowbudget Records

This Modern World

10 tracks

When Bonnie Gordon released her debut album almost six years ago, she was a fresh-faced, lovelorn tunesmith of much potential. She got some excellent reviews, did a few gigs, and then disappeared. Not a promising career move. My suspicion is that heartache rules her destiny and the proof is here on her new album. With her fragile voice, wound-up verbal delicacy, and gentle piano playing, she paints song after song with vibrant images of failed, missed, and past romance. Obviously, she’s still looking for her dreamboat. There is something compelling and utterly personal, unsentimental, and somehow affectionate in the details she engages. In the title tune, she admits “I may be old fashioned/ A casualty of a kind/ But I’ll go round the world/ For a modern love to find.” Displaying a sadness tempered by optimism and a despair rescued by innocence and experience, she is a modern adult caught in a major paradox called the dating game. Two of my favorie songs are the bluesy, jazz shuffle, “Lips of Fire,” wherein she succumbs to the passionate advances of a “dime store paperback” though she prefers her “literature hard bound,” and “Long Ride,” a deep organ driven confessional overview of her tired life with “her meter expired without any spare change/ feeling so human and terribly exposed – my thoughts deranged.” Without forcing comparisons, she mostly reminds me of Marianne Faithful and Rikki Lee Jones, two classic song stylists with wistful voices and an array of anecdotes, all weary and wise. And lastly, I must acknowledge Chillgroove, the ambient, world-music backing band she uses to convey this fine material. Adroitly attuned to her sentimentality, every texture and nuance they produce – dripping with atmosphere – works masterfully. If they ever return to live performance, this would be an ideal pairing to make modern audiences swoon. This is a gorgeous, stunning album produced by Tim Casey, and hopefully a preview of more to come. Highly recommended.   (Harry C. Tuniese)


The Old New Stuff

14 tracks

This kicks off as classic Americana: nouveau-vaudeville music hall division, in the vein of Harper’s Bizarre, The Kinks, and Mungo Jerry (!). “Penny Arcade” – as well as many of the other songs –benefits from an irrepressible joyousness, here replete with horns, which is impossible for the fan of eclectic music to resist. Melvern Taylor has the kind of relaxed tenor which suits the material. Other best of shows include “Jet Black Chevy Corvette,” which has a somewhat cheesy old-time country and western tone which is nostalgically delightful. Brilliant, after its retro fashion. “Mill Town Moon” is a slowed-down waltz more suitable to the tastes and sentiments of the early 20th century than the present day, but its straight-faced earnestness renders it innocent of the charge of mere travesty. “Tellin Lies” is so sprightly it might almost be featured on The Lawrence Welk Show, reeking as it does of a ’20s mentality and ’40s western swing bonhomie. One almost expects to hear an electric steel solo by Bob Dunn. “Nothin Left to Do But Cry” could almost be a lost recording by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. It also happens to be a pretty good tune under the layers of superadded hokum. “The Girl Next Door to the Girl Next Door” is an anomalous Motown-like bit of early ’60s pop fluff and is awfully impressive, even if it is replete with the now-familiar c&w styled guitar. “Melly’s Waltz” caps the proceedings – thoughtful, even heartwarming, with an entrancing melody. The wonderful thing about this album is how it manages to integrate disparate instrumental styles belonging to music hall, bluegrass and c&w with the Great American Songbook of early 20th century popular and Broadway tunes – while seldom betraying much of a modern sensibility at all. This collection is an amusing exercise in musical camouflage which will please fans of artists such as early-era Randy Newman and Harry Nillsson. Recommended. (Francis DiMenno)


Don’t Be Yourself

4 tracks

The number of songs on this release may be minimal but all the cuts possess a big and very unique sound and approach. The four tunes, “Frankenstein’s Monster,” “The Bag End  March,” “Garden Song,” and my favorite, “Wanderin'” all sound like they come from the music of an avant off-Broadway play. An accordion, mandolin, and acoustic guitar mix with a trumpet, trombone and a very tight bass and drums to provide the perfect backing for the changing tempos, alternating instrument focus and the eye-popping, finger wagging vocals. It’s as if a kaleidoscope had a soundtrack. The music itself has many influences from punk arrogance, polka oom-pa-pa, to Broadway musicals. Cool and very interesting music from a suburban band. Check it out.   (A.J. Wachtel)


Don Giovanni Records

Full Communism         

12 tracks

Providence Rhode Island’s Downtown Boys are often lumped in with political punk rock bands. That’s all fine and good, and well documented elsewhere. I only have a moment of your time and I want to focus on what I love about Downtown Boys. They write catchy yet angry punk noise songs and execute them to near perfection, mostly in English, but with some sung in Spanish. Not many punk bands use horns, and fewer make them work. Downtown Boys, who are also great live, obviously put a lot of thought and hard work into this short but amazing album. The CD has 10 originals and two covers. “Poder Elegir” is from a leftist leaning Chilean hardcore band Los Prisoneros, and the other is from Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen has written many political anthems and socio-economic essays within the framework of a pop song, so its interesting that they cover the pretty much straight forward “Dancing In The Dark.”  Maybe singer Victoria Ruiz and crew want to show that sometimes even Downtown Boys want to have fun. (Eric Baylies)



12 tracks

The music on these songs basically fall into two different categories: Southern rock punk, sorta like Blackfoot or Skynyrd on amphetamines, and country metal, sorta like Kiss meets Elvis meets Johnny Cash. Richard Mirsky (Zipper), Ray Crandall and Chris Costello wrote all the tunes and I know Bob Daley (Chloe) is now the hard hitting drummer, but the credits don’t reveal a thing to me about who does what to create this loud and contentious release. Everyone has a pseudonym with the last name Hixx, and in the photos, everyone is wearing sunglasses.  My favorite cuts are, the head banger “Petting Zoo,” the country punk ballad “Trailer” and the oversize 10-gallon hat country punk pop anthem “We Want America Back.” I also dig the growling and creepy low opening vocals to “AxMurder Country,” the loud sonic thrashing of “Redneck Motherfuckers,” and the aggressive “Drink! Fuck! Fight!”  Sometimes dark and scary. Always guitar driven. And built like a wall of sound. Best for inspiration when you want to kill for catharsis. Make sure you’re not near anything breakable. I love it !    (A.J. Wachtel)


Live At WFMO   

4 tracks

This is a fun CD. I’m sure the ladies in Viva Gina work real hard to be this awesome. Tracks titled “Crotch Punch,” “Your New Girl Is A Slut,” and “Like A Unicorn” make me think these women are not as angry as they seem on first listen. The album is a must for anyone who likes Hole or The Muffs, but are looking for something way better. The songs were recorded live on WMFO’s On The Town With Mikey Dee on July 17, 2013. They sounds good but I can’t wait to hear a proper studio recording. Still, the live energy of the band explodes through the speakers and dares you to see them live. (Eric Baylies)

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