Saturday, September 16, 2017

John Brownlow - The Summertime

 
John Brownlow - The Summertime 


It’s funny how music can change. It’s so malleable; you could hear it in one setting and hate it, vowing to never again let such filth invade your eardrums again. I’m referring to sonic pop by the way. Then, you could hear it at a different time, in a different situation, a different artist and see something in it that you never considered. It’s not just to down to peer pressure, either. You could be listening to a song on repeat in the morning that by night time you can’t stand. Basically, music isn’t just a meal in itself, to really enjoy it you need to be in the right frame of mind, as well as a situation where you can enjoy it.  
 
When I turned on The Summertime by Ontario (Canada) based singer-songwriter John Brownlow I actually did not expect what I heard. I probably wasn’t giving him the best chance for success as I must be honest. Some artists are a bit over the top about their songwriting. It’s just feels as if they are selling something under a false pretence lacking a real and genuine sense of musical inspiration. I mean give me something I can feel! Today it feels like many artists out there are going through the motions and how appropriate none of it provides real inspiration. Where am I going with his? None of the above applies to John Brownlow and his music. I was sold on him during the first few seconds of “The Summertime.” I might add as I drifted in and out of uncomfortable sleep, hazy static and sporadic bursts of music punctuated my dreams I realized this man believes and feels every stroke, every note, every song he played. I played most of the songs on this CD probably 4 times and despite the brutal sludgy of the Brooklyn traffic there was something on many of this 29 track collection that soothed my inner skepticism. On the second listen, slightly more conscious this time, I began to pick out the sounds somewhere between Elton John, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel and Squeeze. Bending elements of catchy 70s Powerpop, Britpop and powerful singer-songwriter one can’t help but fall madly in love with songs like (Live Forever) and (Shalala Says I Love You) and (Kingdom Come). This is the perfect CD, it relax and drift in and out of sleep with. This is a compliment as John Brownlow manages to transcends space and time. No matter what state of mind your in all these tracks will make a lasting impression on you. This CD will not go in my “reviewed pile” rather it will go on my I-POD indefinitely.  
 
The mix works and the somewhat dreamy precision and concentrated themes meshed with Brownlow’s clairvoyance makes for some top quality music. Like I mentioned I was sold on during the first few seconds of “The Summertime” and I kept waiting for a blemish or disappointing song to emerge – which never happened through to the end. John Brownlow is for real. It’s these types of artists that make it all the way to the top of our hearts.  


Rebekah Neil

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Barbara Jo Kammer - One Song at a Time

 
Barbara Jo Kammer - One Song at a Time
 

The ten songs on Barbara Jo Kammer’s debut solo release One Song at a Time are definitely lived in. They are never oppressive in their conveyance of life’s experience but, rather, never draw back from facing the reality of the situations they depict. They are accompanied by rich musical arrangements and on target performances that complement the lyric nicely without ever going overboard. The production is quite obviously top notch despite this being a decidedly indie affair or labor of love and it further frames the material on One Song at a Time in the best possible light. The center of it all, however, is certainly Kammer’s voice. Her day job as a music therapist positions her to make a success of this release in a way few other singers could – she truly makes the most of this cathartic moment and delivers one spine-tingling performance after another to make this a must have release.  
 
“I Can See Clearly” is one of the most recognizable tunes on One Song at a Time, but Kammer isn’t interested in a straight cover. She adepts the tune for her particular stylistic purposes and dispatches it with the sort of fluidity that the original performers and covers that followed never dreamed of. It’s to her credit that she’s never interested in simply duplicating someone else’s artistic glories but, instead, shows such interest in claiming a bit of the song as her own alone. A similar experience informs her performance of “Choices”. First popularized by country legend George Jones, this fearlessly blunt appraisal of a life wasted drinking elicits one of Kammer’s most impassioned vocals. She’s careful, however, to never go too far over the top with it and allows the excellent lyric do its poetic best and conveying the despair that only alcoholics and drug addicts, or those affected by such behaviors, can truly experience. “So Good” lightens the mood considerably with its breezy bluegrass pace and the positivity that seems to flow from the lyric. Sandwiching “Choices” between these two tunes gives the first quarter of the album an unique feel that she continues to build on as the album progresses.  
 
“In a Cabin on the Mountain by the Pine” is pure, 100 proof bluegrass with no chaser and she imbues the song with all the pastoral grace that listeners will expect by this point. Songs like this live and die by the singer, but Kammer has an uncanny talent for making the reality of these musical worlds come alive in a vivid way. “The Winning Side” underscores that aforementioned talent in its invocation of the day to day gratitude she now experiences after freeing herself from the damaging effects of substance abuse. This is a song about healing, in some ways, and should prove to be an inspiring listen for many. The album, as a whole, is an inspiring musical ride that never fails to connect. There’s no filler on One Song at a Time and she explores its wide range of emotions like a performer who has made countless albums rather than someone embarking on a solo singing career at the improbable age of sixty two. In the end, age really is just a number.  


David Shouse

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sighs - Wait On Another Day


URL: http://www.thesighsmusic.com/ 

(Western Massachusetts) The Sighs (Tom Borawski, Matt Cullen, Robert LaRoche, Tommy Pluta) are no stranger to musical movement. In fact, though their name may not ring a bell on you, the band has been around for almost three decades now.
 
Having cut their teeth with multiple releases to their credit they have also has enjoyed a healthy dose of tinkering around several studios, no doubt The Sighs benefits from four group of musicians who share a passion for classic and arena rock, but have a variety of tastes in contemporary music and production. These 4 piece band create original power pop music. I honestly can’t think of a better time than now to unleash the kind of classic retrostyle of rock music to the world. Having listened to the radio today - most would agree it’s time for something different. This latest 11 song LP called “Wait On Another Day” is outfitted with a distinctly familiar 60s/90’s style rock feel with a Alternative edge that takes no prisoners. The TS sound, personality just  gives the music credible bulk and authenticity.
 
"Wait On Another Day" is a collaborative project. All musicians participated in the writing of every song on the record. LaRoche vocal skills and Matt Cullen's grungy guitar landscape backed by fast-paced Bass and drum lines gives perfect dimension to the opener, “It's Real”. It’s a tune that takes no time to build and it's always in a continuous peak that transport to days past, and a welcome one at that. The tone starts to change as we follow “Words Of Love”, a single build up on catchy melodies, rather harmonious vocals that feels less like Tonic and more like Gin Blossoms. Keeping the beats down and rather playful, the title track is filled with hooks in all the right places and could easily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Wallflowers, Ben Folds Five and Better Than Ezra. The rest of the tracks on this record keeps coming full circle with influence from the past and modern day musical mentality, these beauties inspire that eyes squeezed tightly shut drifting off feeling brought about by the likes of The Beach Boys & Van Halen . Much of this record is more like in a thrumming of the heart, as a perfectly wrought rock song should be able to do.
 
It also obvious that The Sighs' dream team has not taken their experience in their lengthy  career lightly, nor is this latest effort a heavy-handed grasp at recapturing glory days. For those in the immediate area who are able to catch these guys live this is a great way to hear some great throwback music by some talented people, and for those in any other city this is a great band to try to model after. If you want to start a band go this direction. In a world where corporate is king and cheezy music gets product top dollar product it’s nice to see a real good band play over my speakers for a change. With a well-trained ear for what brought them to my ears in the first place The Sighs have given us 11 hot new tracks to chew on and offered the world a cutting edge glimpse of this amazing style of music that inspires. We can only hope that there is much more where this came from. 


Charles Phillips

Bunny Sigler – Angel Eyes

 
Bunny Sigler – Angel Eyes 


In 1976, Bunny Sigler set up an album deal for Instant Funk with Gamble and Huff's TSOP label. And if you know that album you know you soul music. Creating several hits over the span of his career (many of which are still being sampled today), Bunny continues to write, produce and record new material. He cut tracks for artists on Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label, including Mayfield himself ("Trippin' Out"), and created a duet album with Barbara Mason. He got a chance to work with a number of acts as a writer and/or producer, including the Whispers, Ecstacy, Passion And Pain, Patti Labelle. His forthcoming album is entitled Young At Heart, and the second single on this project is Ella Fitzgerald’s “Angel Eyes” and it’s great. The entire arrangement itself is a high-quality thing to hear. It shouldn’t fall on deaf ears, and it won’t. This isn’t a young artist although Young At Heart takes him into some mature territory that he still aces like he’s 19 years old or something. The spirit has that ambiance anyway, and it’s just me hoping the rest comes on this strongly. It’s a statement nonetheless already, so it begs for more of the same. An album’s full of this quality is worth anyone’s dollar and time.  
It’s easy to glow all over something if you like it the first time, but it doesn’t quit, time after time you hear this sweet tune. The way he does it makes his own song out of it without stealing Ella’s thunder in the process. Frank Sinatra sang it too, but I have-to say this well outclasses him in the vocal department, and that’s nothing against Sinatra but this is not a one-dimension singer. That’s probably why they call Bunny “Mr. Emotion.” That’s certainly nothing Frank would be referred to as. Let’s just say a lot was put into this to bring out the best in Bunny Sigler and the song itself. And if you like videos, take-a look at the promo clip.  
 
He is the co-writer of the song “The Ruler's Back” which was an opening song for Jay Z's album, Blueprint. At the age of 70 he’s still at it with a modern edge and that is just another reason to anticipate this album, and the single should get your ears in gear for just that. He’s a long way from playing the churches of Philadelphia, but he hasn’t lost a step where the hunger lies. It’s important to retain that and the only way to keep proving it is with more work. There is nothing better than going till the day the oil runs out, rather than wasting it away. He’s done his time off over the years, it’s time to keep shining.

The Philly soul sound is important as well, and the heritage of it is something Bunny Sigler holds a piece of, and it doesn’t matter if you’re digging up the late 60s, mid-70s or following him all along, he’s always brought the goods on records and stages. While everyone is dying off it thins out the genres as well, so it’s a use it or lose it thing, and as-long as the heart and soul meet the spirit of music, something takes over and you can’t turn it off. The light switch of this artist is still on and this single proves it as much as the first one. Hopefully the album Young At Heart will too, because this helps light the way for it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Weatherboy

 
Weatherboy 


The ten songs on Weatherboy’s first album are a reminder that vibrant work in a pop vein can still emerge and make a substantive artistic statement. There’s no question about the bright commercial sheen surrounding these tracks, but there’s equally little question that this is a duo with ambition to burn. There are recurring lyrical themes running through the songwriting and a definite design to the running order, but Weatherboy’s debut never comes off as forced – their range comes naturally and the music moves with a natural, airy sense of purpose that keeps their melodies, vocal and otherwise, engaging. The production invests everything with a forceful sonic punch and it helps further highlight contributions from the duo’s musical partners like legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy. This unheralded giant, formerly of the band Grass Harp, contributes mightily to this collection without ever once overstating his distinctive presence.
 
There is a deliberate shape to the release. Weatherboy opens with two straight ahead, horn powered pop numbers “Got a Good Thing” and “Great Great Life” and there’s a commonality between the songs suggesting they are designed for their specific track list positions. The brass sound rings out in a very authentic way and makes for an excellent, if unintended, counterpoint with the powerful lead vocals. “Riding on the Wind” shows off another side of the duo as they perform a much more moody, hard-nosed musical ride. The vocals respond in kind with an appropriately darker tone and it results in one of the album’s more memorable moments. Acoustic guitar plays an important role in the songwriting on the album and “Eva”, one of the album’s more than likely underrated numbers, has qualities one might associate more with a folk song than hailing from this project. “Bennett” comes off as something practically confessional in its lyrical content and the musical arrangement is one of the album’s more inventive moments. Rosinkranz, especially, comes out of this album sounding like a true virtuoso capable of doing anything he wants to – the sheer variety of melody and texture that makes this album go will please many.
 
“A Bright Flame” returns the duo to more standard pop territory but the edge of your seat vocal melodies and pyrotechnics will exert an aching effect on listeners. This is reminiscent of “Bennett” in the way that the lyrics come off as very personal, but the song is delivered in such a way that the experience runs no danger of being closed off to listeners. “All Your Fault” has a lot of musical and lyrical bite, but there’s a slight sense of the duo trying to take on too much within the song’s somewhat short running time. “Full Bloom” brings the album to an end with a surprising piano ballad guided by the lyrical keys work and the bone-deep emotion coming through in every line of the vocal. It’s, arguably, one of the album’s better lyrical moments and makes for a conclusive ending to this release. It is easy to discern a progression of sorts through this release and “Full Bloom” brings it to wide-open life. 


Raymond Burris 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sam Baker – Land of Doubt

 
Sam Baker – Land of Doubt 


Following a European tour behind his new album, Land Of Doubt, Sam Baker is turning his attention to creative projects in 2017: Opening his first-ever exhibition as a visual artist, staging an original play and filming a documentary. As you may know, Sam has limited hearing after being on a bus that exploded during a 1986 terrorist attack in Peru, but he’s from Texas, now living in Austin. The play he’s working on is entitled Broken Fingers, and the art show Dream of the Snow Geese. And the album Land Of Doubt is a meditation album centering around everyday reflection of the uncertainties in life. It’s a home hitter in that area especially, but it’s also folk music with a lot of heart and soul with a general singer/songwriter approach, with some southern jazzy textures. “Summer Wind” starts out with not much but some cool guitar bits to keep it interesting, and interesting the guitar is, appearing nowhere else on the album like that.

“Some Kind Of Blue” is a track for the masses to soak up, should they ever get wind of such a monster war tune. It tells the typical Viet Nam story and you feel him all the way, from his flashes of humor to flashes of sympathy, as well as his blunt portray of it. He takes you through most of the aspects that meet the usual standard in war songs, but you get the feeling it’s more personal whether you know or not. It’s a lot to take in but once you do there’s almost a sigh of relief, and then it’s all over after the marching beat. Nothing left to do but carry onto the next song with another instrumental, this one a haunting little piano solo. It makes its way into the next track without hardly any notice.

“Margaret” is a melancholy little tune about someone who sounds like anyone would want to be around. He displays a certain swagger in this which can’t be found anywhere else on the album, and it’s appropriately placed but doesn’t seem intentional, and some of the effortlessness of that comes off very well on this song which also has some decent piano behind it too. It’s a point where the mention of production by Neilson Hubbard, using the jazz trumpet of Don Mitchell and the sustained guitar textures of Will Kimbrough, producer/guitarist for Rodney Crowell and Todd Snider, to frame the lyrics. So, it’s not all Sam Baker to credit but all his table to sit at.

“The Feast Of Saint Valentines” is cool, and so is “Moses In The Reeds” especially with the latter’s funny parts if you can catch them. And another highlight for me is “Say The Right Words” which gets the heart of matters and comes with some awesome trumpet playing to polish it off nicely. “The Sunken City Rises” is a string pieces with some cello and violin that start to mesmerize as it falls too short, but “Peace Out” extends the mood nicely. The lyrics tend to lose me but it’s the guitar that makes up for it. “When Fallen Angels Dwell” is the second most interesting instrumental and the album closes with a band on “Land Of Doubt” as it walks away with the ultimate effort of the album. 
 


Alan Foster

bd Gottfried releases new LP


bd Gottfried releases new LP 


In 2017 - bd Gottfried is an edgy, uncompromised writer releasing his 8th solo album entitled: Through The Dog’s Eyes - produced by Juno Winner Siegfried Meier. With airplay in over a dozen countries he continues to work in an unrestricted style with lyrical depth that will always take you on a journey. Having a varied working background as a touring musician and session player. Working in the past with a vast array of artists such as Pino Palladino (Pete Townsend, John Mayer Trio). Breen Laboeuf (Celine Dion, April Wine). Greg Dechert (Bad Company, David Gilmour), to name a few.

The only thing left to say and do is start with “Something You Weren’t” as it does the business in getting right into things on a long-player of an album with some rocking and not so rocking parts. First of-all you can clearly hear where he’s drawing influences from, although it might be newly applied if you know his previous works. But it can’t be denied that he’s been recently inspired by the works of both Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Latter days of both, to be honest, with a few early inflections here and there. But that’s not all I hear, I hear Roxy Music and some others that even creep into the 90s.

The smooth and rough edges continue with “Crosshairs” which is another excellent track, equally as good as the introduction as they both pass with flying colors, but not all do, as there is a low point or two. I won’t mention any of those because it deserves focus on its bright side, as it dominates the production. However, “Blame It On The Money” is not one of them. It rather sits on the top shelf with the best to be found on the CD. If-only every track had the same ingredient power, as this one could be heard on any rock radio station in the world, and not go unnoticed. This is simply a monster track. 
 
It's not easy to follow such a piece of ear candy, but “Eye Of Time” rivals it for airing time, although this one wouldn’t go over as well on radio, it still competes with anything in the set of burning tracks. This could be the more serious side of the artist, but it’s okay because that is his better side. You have-to get into this but once you do, you’re hooked. It should be seen for what it is, and that is one of the ultimate tracks for sure, at least from where I’m standing, on which it really all depends or why give an opinion. It’s where the cream of the crop can be found, and the beauty along with it.

“Frequencies” is a track that almost deceives with its lower key being its tricky aspect. You can either play along or not, which I did, and that is why I get it. Nothing is over until it’s over, but if you hit the next track you won’t have the chance to get it. I’d give this song a chance and see for yourself. It’s a melancholy treat of you let it do its magic. You almost feel like it’s attached to one of the previous tracks, and that bodes well on the concept, whatever it may be. “Breakaway” also leaves an impression, and so do “Reformation” and “We Have Love.” These are all points worth catching on what is a cutting-edge release for the masses, as well as fans of this intriguing artist.