CD Reviews

ERIN HARPE & THE DELTA SWINGERS

Big Road

Vizztone Records

10 tracks

Erin Harpe has a great voice that teases, purrs, preaches and snarls; and her finger picking guitar style, more Lightning Hopkins than B.B. King, is creatively consistent and makes her band’s rural country sound unique and very listenable. Five of the songs are cool covers and the other five are band originals with Erin composing three of them. “Kokomo” by Mississippi Fred McDowell, “Frankie” and “Casey Jones” by Mississippi John Hurt, “Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo most famously done by The Rolling Stones on Exile On Main Street, and “Guilty” by pop pianist Randy Newman, are all dramatically changed. Now sung by a female who is both lecturing and passionate at the same time brings a completely different perspective to these melodies that were all originally sung by men.  Erin is a woman in charge; powerful and volcanic, and her band includes Jim Countryman, on regular and ukelele bass, Matt ‘Charles’ Prozialeck on electric and acoustic harmonicas, Kendall DiVoll pounding and percussion, and organ tracks and accordion played by Michael Casavant. Original tunes “Lonely Leavin’ Town,” “Voodoo Blues,” “Stop And Listen,” and “Gimme That (Something Special) showcase how well they play together and Erin’s slide guitar on the opening and closing cuts are perfectly placed to remind you how special her talent really is. After my first listen, I really wanted to go see and hear Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers do these same songs live and onstage, and that’s what every band hopes to achieve with their studio releases. Inspire the listener to pay to see you play. Finally, the inside photo of Erin and Jim’s blues dawg Edgar looks like their beagle had a rough night and is sad and lonely too.  (A.J. Wachtel)

MARK NOMAD  

Blue Star Records

Live From Somewhere

11 tracks

This is an eclectic mix of blues styles, performed live, in which Nomad runs the gamut of city and country blues covers, and even a Jagger-Richards song, plus no less than three Robert Johnson numbers. In addition to a steady and skillful hand on guitar, Nomad is also one hell of a harmonica player, squeezing out those high notes like a pro. It all mostly works; recasting the Rolling Stones warhorse “The Last Time” as a moaning Delta Blues showcase with a beautiful finger-picked instrumental break is a daring strategy. His approach to most of the other blues classics seldom deviates too far from the feel of the originals. His rendition of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” is somewhat plodding; his takes on Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t be Satisfied” and Willie Dixon’s “The Little Red Rooster” are eminently satisfactory. His cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s chilling “Write Me a Few Lines” is magnificent, with a great deal of the relentless feel of the original, and some truly excellent National Steel guitar work. The B.B. King cover of “Watch Yourself” is nimble – almost snazzy – and Nomad replicates the tidy walking bass line here. He also performs an astonishingly lively rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” (which is of course where ZZ Top got most of their shtick). Of the three Robert Johnson covers, “Walkin’ Blues” is the most successful, replicating the near-staccato guitar of the original and coming somewhat close to Johnson’s primal howl. “Rambling on My Mind” rounds out the rough edges of the original and adds a liquescent harp solo. “Come On In My Kitchen” is adequate but comes across as a pale reflection of the original. But to even attempt to cover Johnson’s magisterial songs says a great deal about Nomad’s skill as an interpreter; after all, it would be a travesty to merely parrot Johnson’s tortured yowl; it simply can’t be done. I’ll be coming back to this record; notably, to “Dimples” and “Write Me a Few Lines.” Recommended. (Francis DiMenno)

COURTNEY SWAIN

Growing Pains

5 tracks

Last January, I reviewed a rare solo performance from Bent Knee’s incredible lead vocalist, wherein she introduced some new material she was preparing for her next solo release. In the interim, the group signed a major indie deal with Sony Music and spent a great part of the year on tour in support of their last album, Land Animal. Now, in their downtime, we can finally sample the fruits of her labor: a five-song EP that brings her talent even further into the light. Differing from her last effort (mostly progressive-electronic), this offering features Courtney toning down her bravura and powerful voice, settling behind a grand piano with the backing of a string quartet (Abby Swidler – violin, Abigale Reisman – violin, Anna Stromer – viola, Valerie Thompson – cello) and pouring out an on-rush of swooping piano runs and intense contemplative musings. “Wish Bone,”  “Snow Globe,” “Moon Stalker,” “Glitter Bomb,” and “Prickly Thorn” are sure-fire indications that Ms. Swain will soon take her place among other progressive female artists (i.e. – Bjork, Kate Bush, Joanna Newsom, Carla Kihlstedt, Regina Spektor, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, etc.) carving a niche in the modern pop-chanteuse scene. Coupled with her band work, she sports unique star-making quality and integrity.

This music is so good, I’m stymied to even try writing about it. Everything on Growing Pains has its place, its purpose, and an incredible polish. Vince Welsh’s production is full and tonally dynamic to each song’s sensitivity. No beats – no drums – no effects – no quirky intrusions. With an added maturity, subtlety, and control that is breathtaking to behold, this is a collection of remarkable writing and performing that feels pure, very human, very smart and stunning in its completeness and restraint. There is not a single miscue! Buy it, and just see if you can stop listening. Brandishing this new repertoire of dense, introverted tunes, Courtney Swain will make your mind smile. Totally recommended.  (Harry C. Tuniese)

MICHAEL J ROY

The Bright Side

12 tracks

With the release of The Bright Side, Michael J Roy drops 12 new tracks of alternative rock that would easily have found a home on FM radio in the mid-’90s. What’s unfortunate is that it’s not the ’90s and FM radio died a decade or more ago. That’s not a dig on MJR or his songs. In fact, his song songwriting is solid and the melodies are strong. Instead, I’m just asking the sad but valid question, “How does alternative rock find its audience in a post-radio-airwaves world?”

“Mr. Berserk” is a real surprise. It plays like a Neil Diamond song for the 21st century. Mr. “Love-on-the-Rocks” would be proud to hear this song. Its anthemic chorus of, “Here comes Mr. Bersek, try to stop him, it won’t ever work/ Here comes Mr. Berserk, He’s a jackass, he’s a jerk,” and its trumpet accompaniment make it a true Neil-Diamond-esque anthem.

“World Run Wild” guitar-driven romp that reminds me of Treat Her Right but without their country-fried roots.    (George Dow)

CHELSEA BERRY

Wanderbird 

10 tracks

Berry’s voice is lush and full, and the accompaniments are equally lush, as well as tasteful. “Don’t Call Me Baby,” co-written with Matt Pillion, is about a fickle lover; it is a classic of Americana, full of heartfelt emotion. (Variety might call it “a Wow.”) Other highlights include Amanda Lo’s glorious violin accompaniment on the touching piano-driven vocal showpiece “Walk Away”; the Van Morrisonesque “Forgiven”; and the magisterial, slow-burning “Anchor.” Best of show is the lively, inspirational “Carry Your Heart,” co-written with Adam Rhodes and with stellar drumming and mandolin accompaniment by Matt Musty and Steve Petruzzelli, respectively. Recommended. (Francis DiMenno)

RICK BERLIN w/ THE NICKEL & DIME BAND

The Courage of the Lonely

10 tracks

Rick Berlin has been making music a long time and his magnificent vocals and impressive song writing abilities ages ago carved out a special niche in the Boston music scene for him. Fans who have followed his career will note that his current composing style on this release is still similar in many ways to the show tunes on Broadway and could easily have been in his previous bands Orchestra Luna, Berlin Airlift and Rick Berlin- The Movie’s set lists. Dramatic arrangements and his specific chorus line use of backing vocals best remind me of this likeness. Rick wrote all the tunes and his very personal singing style plays tag with the guitar and other instruments as he delivers his lyric’s message. Check out “Tease Me,” “The Nickel & Dime Song,” “The Boys At The Bar” and the title track “The Courage of the Lonely” to hear what I’m talking about. “New York Girl” is a theater song that could have been in David Bowie’s catalog. There are seven members in this band: two guitars, a bass, keys, a drum kit, and two trombones. There are four vocalists. Jane Mangini (Trans- Siberean Orchestra) was previously in Berlin Airlift with Berlin and her keys play a big role in the direction of their music. Other band mates include: Ricky McLean on piano/ guitar/ bells and vocals, Al Radzolowski on drums and vocals, Sam Dudley on trombone and vocals, Rob Manochio on guitar and bass, Ken Diaz on drums, Paul Ahlstrand on sax, Joe Stewart on trombone, T.J. Wenzl on percussion and military snare, Mike Delisle and David Goodchild on bass and listed last in the credits, Rick Berlin on vocals. “Sad Songs Make Me Happy,” and “My Fictional Friend From Norway” show the theater in Rick by dramatically opening with a guitar riff statement then his vocals enter and act as a foil before the almost operatic choruses drive the mood home. Irving Berlin wrote memorable show tunes generations ago and now Rick Berlin is continuing the family tradition. One of a kind. One good album.  (A.J. Wachtel)

TELAMOR 

Olex Music

“Welcome to the One Percent”

1 track

From Tom Hauck’s forthcoming CD Crush, this song offers a relentlessly crunchy riff and a sneering vocal excoriating the greedy rich. It doesn’t rise to the level of early Dylan – the vibe is more like Roky Erickson’s “Creature With the Atom Brain” – but at 3:17 it doesn’t wear out its welcome. (Francis DiMenno)

TIM CASEY/ HAYIM KOBI

Lowbudget Records

Film Music – Vol. 1

3 suites

In addition to running Lowbudget Records for almost 40 years, with its savvy selection of pop, rock, acoustic, and experimental music, Tim Casey has been an avid fan of silent films and horror classics – you should see his model museum! In 1987 he first attempted a score to Phantom of the Opera using primitive equipment – four-track c- assette! Heavily influenced by Giorgio Morodor’s lush electro-driven motifs, he built up tracks with ghostly keyboards and sound effects. Through the years since, he has revisited the score several times as better technology became available. He also set about reworking other classic silent films (Nosferatu, The Fall of the House of Usher) with new scores, all which helped sharpen his composition/ production skills. Whether someone thinks a lot of silent movie music just fills the void or even gets in the way, Casey has a real knack that helps us see what we’re watching and often the music, whether driving or fanciful, is worth listening to on its own.

In 2005, Tim met Hayim Kobi, another soundtrack enthusiast who was working on his interpretation for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It was a natural fit for Casey and Kobi to collaborate, as their work musically parallels that of the Alloy Orchestra, who’s stylistic approach is obsessed with an amalgam of pop culture and surrealistic haunting darkness. From this fortuitous connection, they eventually formed their experimental space group, Chillgroove (which also includes guitarist Kerry Maxwell).

If one is aware of Casey’s oeuvre, this thematic soundtrack aspect is a recurring theme on many of his ambient albums.  The music presented is lush and spooky, often hypnotic and flowing, and deeply atmospheric and melodic.  Film Music – Vol. 1 is essentially quietly relentless and totally entertains with each musical suite from The Phantom, Nosferatu, and Dr. Caligari – all emotive and energetic, peaceful and reflective. It would be easy to wave this release off as simply a soundtrack effort, yet it compellingly draws you in, and when you do walk through that theater door into the darkness of that genre, you’ll find yourself ever more deeply immersed and surrounded by cinematic whispers or undefined textures that sound delightful and intoxicating, yet sinister in the same breath. A must own for people who enjoy visionary sounds. Highly recommended.   (Harry C.  Tuniese)

HARSH ARMADILLO

Blame Bad Habits

16 tracks

Harsh Armadillo is self-described as a nine-piece steamroller out of Portsmouth, NH. What they actually are is an explosion of funk, hip-hop and jams. This band is smoking hot.  Their grooves are like lava shooting out from a volcano. Yes, this band is that hot. With their upbeat tempos and tight grooves, the band emits positive energy and will have you bouncing along in no time, if not completely melting your face off. In addition to a killer horn section, the band features a very talented Andrea Belaidi on vocals. Her dynamic voice is guaranteed to get your attention, especially when backed by such a powerful rhythm section of drummer Dan Tauriello and bassist Thomas Forbes.  Similarly, the dual guitar attack of Camden Riley and Aiden Earley is unbeatable. These guys know how to shed, in a very tasteful, soulful way.  Blame Bad Habits is chalk filled with great, well crafted tunes (and even a few neat interludes) but one of my favorite songs are “Golden Booty” as it features a killer bassline with some funky horns keyboards courtesy of Nick Murray on Trumpet, Max Harris on saxophone and Dimitry Harris on organ.  It has a Parliament “We Want the Funk” jam quality to it. It’s a lot of fun. Great band, great time. (Kier Byrnes)

TURKISH DELIGHT

I Heart Noise

Tommy Bell

15 tracks

When this cassette arrived, I recognized that it was a re-release of the 1996 Castle Von Buhler product. I also remembered that I wrote my opinion of it 21 years ago. So I dug up that review and retype it for you…

Many people have been waiting for this CD to arrive and believe me, it is worth the wait.  The disc captures the band true to their live show, full of energy, quirky creativity, and delightful noise. “Grammy” starts hauntingly, then Dave’s insistent drum-pounding demands you’re attention. Guitars enter and Leah’s deadpan vocals take over from there. I haven’t heard a band be so naturally creative, in a childlike way since early Throwing Muses. The public has already been treated to “Spin” on two separate impressive compilations, but you can hear it here, too. Cut #4, “Living for Today,” harnesses a catchy vocal melody (supplied by bassist Carl), builds up a dense arrangement of overlapping voices and dissonant guitars, then breaks into a really pretty unison chant. “Sister Meringue” displays Darryl’s dazzling guitar sounds while the rest of the group puts together an indie-rock sing-along chorus. Massive energy pours out of “Around” as Leah, again in her innocent/ cool mode, simply states, “Hold my hand/ Understand/ I don’t know if I’ll be around tomorrow,” leaving you unsure if it’s a suicide threat or just a fact of life. If you like to sing along with “Ghosts,” you have to know how to count from one to five – in Japanese. Carl used a weird-sounding miniature rubber-stringed bass towards the end of this song. “Jodi,” one of my favorites, exerts massive energy pushed along by the bizarre sounds of Dave’s amplified single-string can. Cuts 11-15 (considered a bonus EP) are the band’s earlier material, giving us a peek at the growing process the Turks have gone through. These songs are a little more conventional than their current creative hits. If history repeats itself, I can see Turkish Delight following a pattern of success that Throwing Muses locked into over ten years ago. To the band: have fun on your journey. To their audience: feel privileged.  (T Max)

KIRSTEN MANVILLE

Some People Sing

10 tracks

Some People Sing is a very folky record that leans hard into acoustic country, replete with strings and piano. At moments the songs have an early ’70s feel that makes me nostalgic for the Marlo Thomas, Free To Be You And Me album that I listened to over and over as a kid. I enjoy the piano and flutes that pop in and out of the mix at various points in the album, particularly in the closing track, “Might As Well.”

I will admit being slightly jarred by some of the lyrics. Now, I’m no shrinking violet but I’ll admit to suffering a bit of cognitive dissonance when, in the midst of a slow country ballad with a dead-ringer-for-Joan-Baez vocal, I heard the line, “In the morning I find needles on the playground/ Along with old condoms, half buried in the dirt/ I pick them up before the children come and pray for a way to heal the hurt.” Sure, Manville’s not exactly giving NWA a run for their money with that lyric but in the context of her gentle folky-ness the line hits like a punch to the throat.   (George Dow)

FIELD DAY

Go No Go

6 tracks

Field Day are grown-ups making indie rock that leans heavily on the best that proverbial “college rock” has had to offer over the past 30 years. The band, created by long-time Boston Globe rock critic, Joan Anderman, and rounded out with a cast of other 40+ year-old professionals, plays a brand of indie rock that is so steeped in Boston rock history as to be inextricable from its influences.

On the Anderman-led songs there are healthy doses of Throwing Muses, Belly and Juliana Hatfield. When Dan Zedek takes over on vocals the influences reach even further back into Beantown music history—bringing to mind the mid-’80s styles of Scruffy the Cat and Dumptruck.

The Go No Go EP makes me nostalgic for the heyday of college radio in Boston. The jangly guitars are at times right out of the early R.E.M. playbook. Zadek’s gravelly vocals make me want to revisit the entire Camper Van Beethoven catalog. When Anderman lets her happy-voice come to the front you can even hear some bright west coast influence, a la Missing Persons.

With Dave Minehan of The Neighborhoods in the producer’s seat it may be that his influence sharpens the edges of the classic Boston underground sound but, truth is, I think that’s exactly where this group of musicians’ hearts lie.   (George Dow)

CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE

Eastern Prawn Records

Death is Aisle Twelve

5 tracks

I’m always glad to hear the latest from these proud boys from Portland, Maine. But Haines and Moreno must have woken up on the wrong side of the universe the morning this EP was recorded; this sounds more like The Wedding Album than Plastic Ono Band, if you get my drift. The first two tracks consist of zany spoken-word diatribes and electronic squiggles. On “The Raindrop Song,” we are treated to a somewhat mumbly half-a-dialogue with studio-distorted guitar fragments. Pick quote: “Some of these kids, they grow half a mustache… and they pencil the other half in!” This is followed by another monologue buried under the nosebleed-inducing metal machine music guitar squall of “No Suicide In Battle.” The final track, “Siamese Jill,” is a vehement rant – poor Jill! – with falling raindrop and dysphoric sputtering-engine guitar effects. Quote: “You can’t go back to that supermarket!” What. Were. They. Thinking? On one level, the private preoccupations of an artist can be fascinating. But most folks may find this not only cryptic, but downright impenetrable. (Francis DiMenno)

BEVERLY TENDER

Disposable America

Lord Mayor Makes 1000 Speeches

6 tracks

Beverly Tender is a Providence based band. They are self described as “Sweet grief music” and as “Christmas trees falling in slow motion.” Should I end the review here? How can I top those fitting descriptions? I cannot. This group, with singer Molly, takes us on beautiful embryonic journeys. The slow paced songs don’t groove so much as glide along. I did some figure eights while listening to this album, not on skates but on my snoopy socks on the linoleum. If indie pop is still a thing, like Galaxie 500 but with a touch of The Muffs and Low, then this subtle masterpiece is going to be big. Until then, I’ll keep blasting this album as I’m skating away on the thin ice of a new day rising. (Eric Baylies)

JUMPIN’ BEANS AND WILLIE

Eastern Prawn Records

The Milwaukee Sessions 

11 tracks

This is a reissue of a 1999 release. More inspired lunacy from Eastern Prawn Records. This reminds me of a cross between the Shaggs (the drums and guitar are frequently playing at cross-purposes), some early Cramps demos (“She’s a Real Tomato”) and the ESP-disc goofballs in The Godz (“It’s Alright By Me”; “End This Time With You, Part 2”). This mostly consists of grudgingly strummed electric guitar and desultory drum puttering. It includes a version of “Louie Louie” even more sloppy and incomprehensible than the version by the Kingsmen – quite an accomplishment! Pick lyric: “I can’t see straight/ I can’t see my face/ And that’s just great.” To anybody with a trained ear, these incoherent fragments might prove downright unlistenable. To anybody down with the genuine goo-goo muck, however, they might serve as a source of sordid and perverse pleasure. (Francis DiMenno)

CATFISH HOWL ZYDECO BAND

10 Bourbon Street

10 tracks

There is a festive New Orleans feel to this New Hampshire band’s new music. And their sound is a cross between what you would expect to hear on a countryside hayride and uptempo rural blues. Glen Robertson on accordion and vocals, Darrell Brown on rub board and percussion, Chris Noyes playing guitar and singing, Butch Black on bass and vocals, Mark Shemet behind the kit and on vocals with special guest Steve Roberge blowing sax. This is a very tight band and the accordion present front and center on all the cuts adds an almost sea shanty vibe to everything. Seven of the songs are credited to the band and they also cover “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison, “Shake Rattle And Roll” by Big Joe Turner, and zydeco king Chubby Carrier’s “Who Stole The Hot Sauce.” In all the covers, the band’s tightness playing together propels the songs to different territories with the last two becoming driving dance tunes with great horn arrangements. For rural blues check out the opener “My Baby Has Me,” “Kiss And Tell,” “So Am I,” and the instrumental closing cut “Waking Up On Bourbon Street.” “Cajun Girl” and “My MaryAnn”  are rocking songs you’d expect to hear on a hayride that could have been on the soundtrack of the 1965 Elvis Presley movie “Tickle Me” where he is a singing rodeo rider. Great voice. Great accordion. Great music.  (A.J. Wachtel)

JOSH RICHARDS 

Efx

Cities & States  

8 tracks

Mr. Richards wears his influences on his sleeve, even going so far as to list the artists he wishes to be compared to on each individual track, as listed on his press release, which is something I’ve never seen before. Nor, hopefully, ever again. He also proudly disdains the use of auto tune, which, I suppose, gives him some hipster cred, though I have been taught that an artist should use every tool at his disposal, and I certainly don’t observe him eschewing other studio vocal effects, so it’s a distinction without a difference, as those intellectuals out there are so fond of saying. Some of the tunes, such as “Bedroom Graffiti,” are catchy enough in their anodyne AOR way, though Mr. Richards takes a low affect approach to vocalizing and doesn’t seem to make much of an attempt to “sell the songs,” as old-timey professionals are wont to put it. You might not like Joe Jackson, but he knew how to belt. You might think that Elvis Costello was too prolific, but he nearly always brought energy and passion to his performances. Sorry. As Samuel Johnson once said, when being improbably propositioned by a lady of easy virtue, “No, no, my child; this will not do.” (Francis DiMenno)

THE LINEMEN

Sam Records

Close The Place Down

10 tracks

The Linemen are from the Providence, Rhode Island, area and play spirited Americana with jangle and power pop and alt country influences. And a bit of twang. Real roots rock and roll sorta like Neil Young meets Nick Lowe or Ryan Adams meets Richard Thompson; and they also remind me a little of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in songs “Playing Hard To Get Even,” “No Time Like Now,” “Linemen, and “She’s The One For Me” with the lush harmonies. Ballads at different tempos with killer pedal and lap steel playing. Kevin Johnson on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jonathan Gregg singing, playing electric guitar, pedal steel and dobro, Scott McKnight playing bass, high strung guitar, organ and percussion and singing backup, Bill Williams playing electric slide guitar, lap steel, mandolin, and singing backup, and Antoine SanFuentes on drums and percussion make the music and Gregg is also in The Mundanes who won the first WBRU Rockhunt a few years back. “Picture Of The Two Of Us” and “Unconditional,” both written by Gregg, are yee- ha ballads, “Mystery In The Making” and “No Time Like Now ,” both composed by Johnson, are good uptempo radio friendly tunes. This band sounds like it grew up in Nashville not The Ocean State. Cool stuff. Check it out. (A.J. Wachtel)

SHARON DIFRONZO

Tributes and Treasures

13 tracks

Singer Sharon DiFronzo recorded a terrific song from New Hampshire artists Keith Linscott and Steve Ieule, “This Love is Forever,” back in the 1990s as well as a self-titled solo album in 1999.  Almost two decades later the singer who is a mainstay in the nightlife region of the Woburn/ Saugus area puts her immense talents on disc again with redesigned workings of well-known classics and a couple of originals entitling this collection Tributes and Treasures (Screamin’ Heart Records.)

“I Only Want To Be With You” intentionally turns Dusty Springfield’s tour-de-force pop blast into a ballad while a seriously heartfelt “To Love Somebody,” the Bee Gees classic that has interpretations ranging from the late Kathi McDonald (she replaced Janis Joplin in Big Brother & the Holding Company for a spell,) to Janis herself, finding yet another perspective from the Medford, MA, recording artist.

Yvonne Elliman from Jesus Christ Superstar and Top 40 artist Helen Reddy put their imprint on “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” back in the 1970s, almost five decades later DiFronzo brings the ascending lines to different heights, and that’s the beauty of this album, Tributes and Treasures, reinventing the music in a classy and delightful way.

Well-named and professionally organized, it is a true tribute to the artists and melodies that DiFronzo respects and brings to the dinner circuit.  Smith, The Shirelles and the Beatles all gave three different takes on “Baby, It’s You.”  Sharon takes elements from all three classics and gives a slinky, smart groove with subtle horns underlining the sentiment.  The restrained desperate power, believe it or not, could fit nicely with as mellow an act as James Taylor adding his charm, a bit of a paradox, which – of course – is what separates this artist from the many others attempting to approach these melodic essays.   “Long Long Time” has a lone piano that its producer, my friend the late Nik Venet, would find impressive.   He, of course, produced “Different Drum” for Ronstadt (Eliot Mazer produced “Long Long Time”) and Harriet Schock’s “Rosebud” which has elements so reminiscent of this.

“I Saw the Light” is terrific, perhaps my favorite on this outstanding effort.   Just play the YouTube of Sheena Easton’s elegant 1983 “Almost Over You” and then a/b it with Sharon DiFronzo and you can feel the nuances of each artist, giving great insight into the Tributes and Treasures theme. “If I Believe” and “The Child in You” are the two originals here, and they blend in so very well with the music Sharon has chosen for this second album.  The songs are in the 3-5 minute range and are pop delights.  Very nice job all the way around. (Joe Viglione)

TONY JONES & THE JERKTONES

Cretin Records

Ubiquitous Postmortem

5 tracks

There’s a common thread that runs between Elvis Presley, Glenn Danzig, and the Reverend Horton Heat. Tony Jones & The Jerktones perform at the same well-traveled crossroad where punk, rock-a-billy, and americana intersect. The good news is they do it pretty well.

The subject matter of these five tracks range from fat girls and zombies to dead girlfriends and cemeteries. Suffice it to say that you don’t have to invest a lot of brainpower to enjoy these driving romps. This album will please anyone who’s ever enjoyed slicking back their pompadour, pulling on a gas station attendant shirt, and dancing a lindy hop in a dark, beer-soaked club.

It bears noting that track 2, “Baby Are You Dead” bears a striking resemblance to the main riff of Nirvana’s “Dumb.” In the context of this rock-a-billy-ish band, it’s just one more example of what a versatile songwriter Kurt Cobain was. (George Dow)

THE LOUSY INSTRUMENTS

Sotra Facula 

10 tracks

It’s an ice volcano on the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons. I’m referring to the album’s title; I’m disappointed that it doesn’t sound very much like an ice volcano, but, then again, you can’t have everything. Anyway, this release is shot through with intriguing lyrical themes, strategically chosen silences, and interesting textures; it vaguely reminds me of certain gritty and snarky but well-written late-’70s punk, even if the vocals are sometimes mixed too high (as on Cryomagma”), and even though the production touches are otherwise mostly clean and spartan, and even though the release dates from late 2015. Choice tracks include “Hollywood Party,” which crackles like the Buzzcocks at their best; “Bone Hooch” which sounds like a cross between Wire and CSNY (!); the gratuitously goofy “Indie Floor Tom” with its telegraphic riffing and post-modern lyrics advertising the shortcomings of the band which is performing the song you’re listening to. “My Life Is Boring and I Will Die on a Tuesday” reminds me of a lost Pixies song, albeit one with a moaning refrain which sounds like something vaguely interplanetary. Fortunately, immediately afterward we are forced back to earth with the rude and abrupt advent of “Underground,” which comes across as a sort of steam-cleaned variety of mid-tempo hardcore. Kind of like early XTC, if the truth be known. The closing song, “100 (One Hundred),” nags at my conscience – do I always give 100 per cent? No. Because I am not a fascist robot – I am a human being!! So back off! Back off or I’ll – oh. Where was I? Oh yeah. At its best, this is quite entertaining and enjoyable. The band doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s all to the good. It’s a fun ride; a groovy interlude, and never, ever, a major drag. Recommended. (Francis DiMenno)


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