CDs – July


Signature Sounds Recordings
Pile Driver
12 tracks

This one-man band is an example of outsider art, what with the poetic lyrics, and found objects used as instrumentation and percussion, and the lo-fi recording technology, and the eccentric vocal technique. “Jackie” deconstructs rockabilly; “Evangeline” has a bizarre Creedence vibe. The appealing “Seed Your Dreams” is evocative of guitar-driven hokum jazz; the excellent “Busted Gut” is a letter-perfect classic folk blues; the fascinating “Beta Star” is like some long-lost strain of perversely melodic No Wave with superadded vocals quite unlike anything you’re likely to hear anywhere else. “Swamp Chicken” is a pleasantly loping folk blues; “Ten Rivers” is an achingly beautiful traveling folk blues, and the forlorn, emotionally wrenching “Red Flannel Rose” has an Irish folk feel. Matt Lorenz is a one off; brilliant and verging on genius. You should see him if you can. (Francis DiMenno)


Black Rose Records
Live – The Grog Sessions – 1997
12 tracks

If you like bar room r&b, this CD should be in your collection. From start to finish, all the music is recorded live over five different Sunday nights during the jam Parker has hosted for the past few decades at The Grog, in Newburyport, and it sounds like you are sitting at the bar. In fact, the audience’s great pleasure is heard numerous times throughout the cuts. The core band provides the heart and the many guests provide the soul. Parker Wheeler on harp and vocals, Fly Amero on guitar and vocals and Tommy T.H. Hambridge on drums and vocals. T.H. currently plays in blues icon Buddy Guy’s band and has won a Grammy for producing a recent Buddy Guy album. The cameos are done by: Toni Lynn Washington, James Montgomery, David Brown, Wolf Ginandes, Marty Ballou, David Hull, Lenny Bradford, Tom West, Bruce Bears, Ron Levy, Scott Aruda, Sax Gordon, Amadee Castenell, David Sholl and Scott Shetler. All of these creative artists are also very experienced performers. A million dollars of talent on stage at the same club in a little more than a month. Do you think there is such a reservoir of great talent, in small geographical circles, in places like  Butte, Montana? High points include: Toni Lynn’s vocals on the r&b medley “Slippin’ And Slidin’ “/ “Keep A Knockin’ “/ “Roll Over Beethovan,”  James Montgomery and Ron Levy on Bo’s “Who Do You Love?,” T.H.’s “Cadillac” with David Hull on bass and Bruce Bears (Duke Robillard Band) on keys, “D.D. Rider” with Sax Gordon shaking the roof, and a bluesy version of “Golden Slumbers” that is a clever take on The Fab Four classic. A great release and I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years for Volume Two.   (A.J. Wachtel)


6 tracks

Vocalist/ guitarist Evan Dadowski and lead guitar Will Barry write the material for Four Point Restraints and the maxi-EP Malice brings together a nice mix of rock and country with solid playing, enthusiasm and heart.  In four minutes and fourteen seconds “The Last of Me” gallops along with a dynamic, spaghetti western flair as if out of television’s Rawhide or director Sergio Leone’s legendary For a Few Dollars More.  The backing vocals add immense spirit to this opening track, Cat Verlicco’s bass keeping up the intensity with Tim McCarthy’s drums.  “Barroom Kyrie” follows with Kurt Weil style, Barry’s harmonica giving the period piece a go-between nod for the splashy chorus of “have mercy on me.”   Sterling production by WMFO’s Joel Simches at Watch City Studios, the song construction is studied and smart.  “Partner in Crime” is one of three titles under the four minute mark, and it picks up where “The Last of Me” started.

“The Plague” changes pace, nearly seven minutes that descend into a revved up Doors dirge like “The End,” only Dadowski gets more borderline personality disorder than Jim Morrison here, the country flavors dissipating over the edge.  It’s one of the more provocative titles on the half a dozen titles here, and it works on many levels.  The 3:27 “Heading East” gets back to the wild old west, thumping with a loose abandon while closer, “The Writing’s on the Wall” is exactly that eccentric quasi-schizophrenia referenced in the liner notes.  It’s radio friendly with its melodic pop/grunge engagement.  (Joe Viglione)


6 tracks

Night Nurses are a trio from Providence. I know nothing about them. I stumbled across them in a FaceBook invite for a show that already happened and wondered what they sounded like, since they played with a bunch of cool bands. Well, thank you technology! This is an unexpected surprise, um, as opposed to expected surprises. Anyway, this is a fairly mellow psych album with hints of The Kinks, Doors XTC, and David Bowie,although I suspect they might be more directly influenced by newer music from Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips. I don’t know what “I Live On Dragonfly” is supposed to mean, but I’ve been humming it all night, like a dragonfly. (Eric Baylies)


Meanie Jeanie Records
7 tracks

“Meanie and the Seven Dwarves” comes out of the gate like Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour backed by Ry Cooder circa The Long Riders  soundtrack. The collection gets weirder from there. “La Llorona, Juana La Loca” is like symphonic Queen with superadded Gypsy violin. “The Moon Is Full of Love” is a bizarre dirge-like choral piece with sweetly insinuating violin and cello. “Les Filles Du Roi” is a resonant recitative backed by galumphing percussion and some fine guitar picking. “Van Dyke” is a gratuitously silly bit of tomfoolery – like early Genesis backed by a click track. This is followed by the fine mysterioso art song “A Neve Du Norte” – the combined effect of chanting, click track, and strings makes me feel odd. I look outside and the trees are… melting. “Loudest Lover Leaves Lonely” is another trippy art song-cum-recitative with a metronomic beat and a gnomic bent. The Shobijin is one of a small number of local bands whose wry eclecticism and musical experimentation make them a must-see experience. (Francis DiMenno)


Bright Castle
4 tracks

Sadha are a young trio from Allston. They play a heady and complex brand of instrumental hard rock. There are literally 400 billion bands playing this stuff right now, and a thousand of them are good. A few are great and Sadha is one of them. There is so much going on here that it is hard to make a comparison. Oh, that sounds like Yes or Rush, get ready to write that down, all of a sudden it reminds me of John Zorn or Dillinger Escape Plan and I forgot what I was just thinking. Where am I? It comes as relief on “Crown Of Clouds” when the keyboards take over like a quick cloudburst after a long day of sports in the summer sun, but that only lasts a few seconds before a spoken  word part that sounds like Sleep Chamber, and then it’s back to the mathrock again. I don’t know what Sadha means but I’m going to pretend it means “Excellence of Execution.” (Eric Baylies)


Travel Amygdala
3 tracks

Coinciding with this prog/ metal band’s 10-year anniversary, Travel Amygdala brings a great array of sounds to this three-track EP. “Godzygdala” explodes out of the gate with a pulsating assault, blasting vocals and drums that remind me that earplugs are a must with these guys at a show if I want to hear anything the next day. “Invisible” takes a more measured tone, though it’s all relative, right? The pace is still decent, and I love the drum work on this one. Aaron Bugden is a frigging machine on this track, and the vocal work by Josh and Derek Jackiewicz and Ian Decoteau is stellar throughout, as is the guitar styles of Joshua Catanzaro. “Hollow” is anything but, and I loved the opening–It almost has a “war drum” quality to it, giving the feeling that something amazing is coming, and damned if it doesn’t.

All in all, this is a great representation of what the band can do, and I am very, very impressed.  (Max Bowen)


The Stillness and the Rage  
11 tracks

Ms. Booth, formerly of Sententia, has produced a sporadically brilliant solo album full of majestic compositions, none more so than her ambitious “Opus 714,” which has elements of film music, musique concrete, and Goth, all encased in a compelling quasi-classical soundscape. “No Information” utilizes vertiginous guitar, echoing percussion, languid vocals and sampled sounds to create a strange and otherworldly composition. “First Order Beating” is very much in the mode of new age music, with its echoic tones, electronic sounds, and piercing circular guitar riff. “Will Never Break” has a more conventional tune and vocals which are underpinned by busy metronomic percussion and swirling synths. The title track is a plainsong with discreet percussion and a guitar/synth backing. It is ineffably moving. “The Stone,” with its synth and guitar backing, also features a wrenchingly sad and lovely vocal. “Awake” is a fantastical instrumental shot through with liquescent layered lead guitars and percussive rhythm guitar. This is a truly methodical work; Ms. Booth has self-produced a triumphal series of musical statements. (Francis DiMenno)


Hurricane Wind
11 tracks

There’s a lot of things to like about this great new release from a great New England performer. It was fan funded and fan produced where the final tracks were chosen by the band’s extended family. How’s that for grassroots? John Oates, from Hall & Oates, co-wrote three songs and adds his vocals to the final mix. And there isn’t a bad track on the CD. Adam Ezra on guitar and soulful vocals, Josh Gold playing piano, Corinna Smith on fiddle, Francis Hickey playing bass and Alex Martin behind the kit have a sound influenced by Americana, folk, pop and rock and there’s even a bit of hoedown present every now and then. Listen to “Goin Out Tonight” and hear the square dance vibe. I really dig the three Oates songs including: “Juna Please,” an introspective mid tempo Americana ballad, “Truth In The Wine,” another Americana ballad with twang, and the closing cut, “All I Am,” another Americana ballad that is an acoustic duet recorded live in the studio. You can feel the closeness of the two artists just playing and singing for each other. A great arrangement. A sweet song. Adam is a good story teller and his folk ballads “The Toast,” and “I Believe” are good examples of how he uses his music to send a message. “Steal Your Daughter” is a great rocker and “100 Year Old Storm” is in his usual funky folk/ pop/ roots/ dance music style. The more I play this CD the more I like it and you will too.  (A.J. Wachtel)


Red Sky Morning
8 tracks

Ghosts of Sailors at Sea are pretty much THE instrumental rock band in Boston. Krautrock, mathcore, psych, it’s all here. This album was produced by J. Robbins of Jawbox and Government Issue and sounds massive.  The songs on this album are all named after obscure sailors so I guess it’s kind of an instrumental concept album? You can slamdance to songs on this album, or you can get out your protractor and abacus and figure out time signatures and what not, because there is a lot going on here. You can listen to this album on repeat several times and not get bored, you find yourself going through new doors in old rooms. (Eric Baylies)


Keeping Mother Sane
11 tracks

This collection is chock-jammed with keening eldritch songs featuring supernal vocals by Katie Solomon. The instrumentation is quite sophisticated; not quite folk and not quite jazz; it seems to exist largely as a platform for Ms. Solomon’s twisting and bobbing vocal theatrics. “If You Want a Companion” is a quietly powerful plaint;  “Lonely” is a subdued, fascinating and charming vocal showpiece; “Apathy” strays into more jazzy territory; “Like a Doll,” the best of show, is a memorable and truly lovely tune and vocal performance, the latter both brittle and beautiful. I wish the production values were better and sharper, but the sheer musicianship shines through all the same. (Francis DiMenno)


Sun Young
10 tracks

Sun Young are a Boston based band. Too bad the band name “Fun” is already taken. No big whoop, these guys are 50,000 times better than them, anyway. This reminds me of ’90s alternative and ’80s SST bands. The track “Grandma’s Promise” pushes and pulls, stops and starts, speeds up and slows down so much, and so GOOD, that I don’t know if audiences will dance or have a seizure. Maybe both! They sing about “pouring your own milk” and make a serious, if not profound statement on the human condition, or something. I love this record, and I hate everything. (Eric Baylies)


In the Belly of the Feast
5 tracks

A songwriter from Minnesota settled in Massachusetts for a spell and eventually became a Nobel laureate. I’m not sure Jamie Kallestad will replicate Bob Dylan’s success, but stranger things have happened. Like John Prine, Kallestad has an instinct for the heartfelt tune tinged with melancholy which will serve him in good stead, even nearly 60 years after the heyday of folk music as a popular form. I particularly like the touching “Holiwar” and “Forget Everything,” with its pearlescent guitar. (Francis DiMenno)


3 tracks

This grunge, hard rock trio from Maine plays real good head banging music complete with loud power chords, screaming vocals and a first- rate  rhythm section that bleeds power. Kindred is: Dennis Ouellete and C.J. Theriault on volume eleven guitars, Brad Pelletier on bass, Phil Smith pounding hard, and Nick Clapp on vociferous vocals. “Worthless,” “Shatter” with the flashy guitars, and the drum driven “Beat Down” all showcase the cool way this band works: the rhythm section makes the music move and keeps up with the growling guitars and stellar singing. Influenced by Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains, this band can wake the dead! Great stuff from up North, check it out. (A.J. Wachtel)


Death By Mastering
7 tracks

Incinerator is Boston’s Lilia Halpern-Smith’s long running project. This older recording has been dusted off and released some 20 years after it was recorded, but still sounds like it could have been recorded tomorrow! This is fantastic batch of tunes that meld and weld (ouch) Neil Young and Tanya Donnely. This is labeled adult contemporary, but that is a little misleading. This is a rock record with hooks by one of Boston’s best songwriters of the past 25 years. (Eric Baylies)


Hookset Records
Salt and Misery
5 tracks

Smells like classic proto-grunge with elements of new wave, as on the spiffy opening track “Kismet”. Lots of snarly guitar and poppy quasi-hooks. “Opeechee Boy” has an epic feel akin to Nirvana, and “Hold” gives us some more turbocharged new wave. “Going Home” is the band’s bid for a certain anthemic grandeur, and “Give” – the best of show – explores a liquescent territory akin to The Cure. But I detect very little of the shock of the new here, and so I hope that as the band develops, they begin to explore fresher and less derivative territory. (Francis DiMenno)


8 tracks

Omoo Omoo are from Keene, New Hampshire. While I do not know what the name of the band or album title mean, I do know that this a pretty amazing album on many levels. This is complicated but driving music in the style of Mars Volta, Tool, or King Crimson without the vocals. There are traces of Ultravox, old Scorpions records, and Sigur Ros here too. The ten minute epic “Femtosecond” takes you on a spiritual and instrumental journey to the center of your soul, and you could almost dance to it. This band is new to me, but they have several older releases that I will be checking out, and I can’t wait. This band rules. (Eric Baylies)


EP Demo
5 tracks

Don’t know if “Dubhe” refers to the Imperial Black India Pale Ale, but the four minute sixteen song has a groove and strong melody that needs no re-recording. The music  Dennis captures has an allure where the magic is isolated without a full band or choir or massive production, the tunes innocently show themselves to be complete in this simple setting. Both “Your Garden” and “Reboot” as carefree and to the point as 1960s folk/pop star Norma Tanega. “Reboot” especially works from the perspective of a singer/songwriter giving his point of view and reflections.  “The King” stays with the guitar and vocal approach with the singer’s style shining through – it’s his delivery that brings the message forward in almost four and half minutes.   “Any Time Now” keeps things short and sweet, sketched out with an uptempo, happy-go-lucky feel… with some reservations.  (Joe Viglione)

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