Jon Patrick Walker has never been one to back
down from an ambitious project, and with the release of his latest album, the
aptly titled Welcome to the Edge Times, he enters uncharted sonic
waters with a carefree attitude that is as infectious as it is endearing.
Flamboyant grooves adorn the backdrop of “Like a Rose” while stoic vocals
colorize an otherwise black and white “Blues for My Baby.” Rambunctious rhythm
and rhyme come crashing down on us in “(Meet Me at the) Delaware Water Gap,”
and though the cocktail they create isn’t quite as chill-inducing as the
harmonies of “Whatchoo Gonna Do” are, the two compositions sit together on this
tracklist extraordinarily well. Despite a slow-churning intro in the eponymous
opening song, what follows in “We Won the War” and “The Crystal Palace Park” is
so gripping that one is pressed to recall such brutally aware poetry as that of
“Visions of Johanna” or “The Sound of Silence.” There are no aesthetical
shortcuts taken in Welcome to the Edge Times; instead, this is a
sit-down record that demands the full-attention of its listeners only to reward
them with a smorgasbord of expression and ethereal melodies worth their weight
Our singer’s vocal is always at center stage in
this LP, but that doesn’t stop the instrumental elements from cushioning it in
a buoyant harmony that tends to segue from one track to the next rather
seamlessly. In “The Mystical Ballad of Gregory Jim,” there’s even more emotion
in his execution than there is the actual substance of the lyrics (which is
saying a lot when we isolate the two from each other and study their immense
detail), while in “Like a Rose” and “Angelina of the Sky,” he uses the textures
in the background as a means of magnifying his vocal range and showcasing his
one of a kind way with words. The versatility of Jon Patrick Walker’s songcraft
alone makes Welcome to the Edge Times a rare find in the
somewhat dull spectrum of new music in 2019, and though he’s not the only folk
musician making waves right now, there’s an argument to be made that he’s one
of the most original and heartfelt on this side of the Atlantic.
I wasn’t following Jon Patrick Walker very
closely before now, but I definitely plan on keeping up with his new releases
from this point forward. He’s still got some room to develop this sound into
something a little more efficient than what it already is, but based on the
strength of this latest material, it’s more than obvious to me (and probably
most critics) that he’s on the right path with this record and the spellbinding
sound it boasts. Songs like “Luv U Girl” and “Whatchoo Gonna Do” deceive us
with their simplistic cosmetics, but beneath the surface contain a litany of
emotions and evocative tones that force listeners to look at things from a
perspective different from their own. He might not have been setting out to do
as much, but what Walker delivers in Welcome to the Edge Times is
more a postmodern rebel than it is a stock folk LP, and that’s something any
modern singer/songwriter should be proud of.
Lowe should be as well-known as Springsteen… or at the very least Elvis
Costello. And by musicians, of just about all stripes, he is. But to
the casual music listener, aside from his 1984
earworm, “Cruel To be Kind,” (initially release five years prior to
little notice), many have no idea just how influential he is as a
musician, songwriter, producer and all around dapper guy who has
seamlessly segued from a hippie to a pub rocker to a beloved
troubadour over the past five decades. And Will Birch’s bio brilliantly
and lovingly documents that transition. Mass stardom has always been
elusive for Lowe, but at some point, he simply stopped focusing on the
masses and discovered a decidedly smaller, but
rabidly loyal audience.
longtime music journalist, and one who moved in many of the same music
circles as Lowe throughout the years, Birch had phenomenal access to the
singer and those who worked with him over the
decades. The obligatory childhood stories are all here as are his first
fits and starts of becoming a famous musician, but the most compelling
sections begin when Lowe’s longtime manager cofounded Stiff Records and
along with putting out his solo records,
brought Lowe on to produce everyone from an up-coming Elvis Costello
(soon to be a lifelong Lowe friend) to The Damned (for the record, Lowe
produced what is arguable the very first punk song).
an obvious close relationship with Lowe, Birch doesn’t skim past his
personality quirks (at times, he seemed like the definition of a
curmudgeon), or his alcoholism. But his history with
Lowe provides for some impressive anecdotes few others could offer.
Despite, or more likely because of, his disparate career, Lowe has evolved into a dependably brilliant performer.
Cruel To Be Kind is a bio worthy of his quirky and irresistible reputation.
Cruel To Be Kind: the Life And Music Of Nick Lowe By Will Birch/Hardcover, 416 pages/Da Capo Press/2019
Beach’s opening salvo “Ships Off The Coast” signals their first full length
album All That Matters Is This Matter isn’t playing around. There’s some vivid
imagery in the lyrics and vocalist/songwriter John Lally gets everything he can
out of the writing thanks to his lung power and dramatic phrasing alike. Though
the song and album as a whole are definitely metal, but listeners will note
there is little lead guitar present in the album’s eight songs. Their focus here
and elsewhere remains fixed on imposing riffs that bore deep into the
audience’s consciousness instead of virtuoso showcases. You will not miss the
lack of guitar solos when the riff is as good as what “Ships Off the Coast”
familiar with Lally’s singing for the shoegaze outfit Sleep Therapy will find
him revelatory on this release. The ethereal demands of the other band never
ask him to scale the vocal pyrotechnic heights required to make these eight
songs work. The vocal for “Ships Off the Coast” is one of his best efforts on
the album, but the vocal for “Confident Prick” is even better. He veers between
passages of outright murderous rage into seething lines when he dismisses the
song’s subject with nothing less than utter contempt. The guitar riffing is
strong with this track and the breaks in the arrangement give the performance
in the Herd” is another riff bonanza even though the verses assume a greater
role than earlier tracks. It’s another example of the unbridled attack Lally
brings to this material and the dynamics are milked as well Holy Beach does
with the song “Confident Prick”. The lyrics are another high point of the
performance and, if Holy Beach tours, will prove to be a stellar live tune.
“The New Colossus” is a much slower, even slightly ponderous, track, but
harbors the same power we hear at the hardest hitting moments on the album.
Graves” has the same tone for much of the song before Holy Beach amps things up
in the second part of the number. It is a bleak track with a jagged texture
brokering no quarter with listeners and, when it speeds up, has the potential
to throttle you in your seat. It’s one of the longer tracks on All That Matters Is This Matter,
but the longest track comes with the album’s ending.
Faced on a Horse” has an unusual title and an aggressive musical character
geared for reducing any resistance to rubble. It succeeds. Lally delivers a
wide-eyed vocal sparking with fury and understated finesse and the musicians
put their heads down and bring a deep bite to the number certain to leave its
mark on the audience.
Beach’s All That
Matters Is This Matter is a memorable debut for any genre, but
the transition of Lally’s songwriting vision between two radically different
idioms is the real highlight. The band sounds like they are more than just
playing with the genre; they play with the passion of true metal fans and it
comes through in every song.
Lexie Rose’s rise from under the radar budding songwriting talent to major global star begins with this five song EP release. On My Own finds the seventeen year old giant in the making working alongside top notch producer Max Allyn to craft a collection that aims high and consistently hits its mark. It isn’t just breathtaking to hear a young songwriter so capable of learning from her collaborators; it’s equally amazing to discover a young talent whose command over a variety of textures seems so complete that the future is rife with untold promise. She’s made some appearances at top tier venues and it is apparent why after you’ve heard these songs. Lexie Rose’s On My Own is one of the best releases you’ll hear in 2018 and grows on you with each additional hearing. Continue reading “Lexie Rose – On My Own”
Monsieur Jobs’ “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is an attention grabbing debut single featuring a cadre of top flight musical and songwriting talent. No Mercy’s long-standing vocalist Martin Citron gives this immediate commercial appeal it might have otherwise lacked, but the combination of Toby Holguin, Leo Jaramillo, Stan Kolev, and Charlie Illera deliver the goods from a musical point of view and their contributions are informed by a deep grounding in live and pre-recorded or digital sound. This broad-based appeal this generates is key to making this one of the most appealing pop songs to be released this year and it maintains an internal logic from the first that any listener can latch onto. There’s a surprising amount of melody linking up with the compelling drumming and the union of those organic elements with the song’s rhythmic base makes this a durable and enjoyable experience from the first notes onward. Continue reading “Monsieur Job – Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow”
Enrico Fernando’s Red Black Red project debuts with Resettlement, an eight track first effort that makes clear this New Jersey based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist demands serious and widespread attention. The songwriting is inspired in large measure by issues close to Fernando’s heart and his labors on making the release reality reflect his intimacy with the subject matter. You hear that intimacy in even the most brash, abrasive moments on Resettlement. There’s a bedrock rock music influence powering these songs but the electronic rock sounds in the music are important and direct a number of the songs. Despite that however, there’s still a very even handed balance embodying the album as a whole and the obvious time he put into assembling and recording this collection. Red Black Red’s Resettlement is one of the more important releases in any style you’ll come across in 2018.
“Kindness” opens the album on a vibrant and promising note for the release as a whole. If this song made nothing else clear, it makes it obvious that Fernando has every intention of taking on complex thematic material with the confidence that he can do it justice without ever resorting to heavy handed writing. The probing ear for significant musical and lyrical detail distinguishing this song is a hallmark strength of the album on the whole and never lapses. We hear it manifested in a very different way on the album’s second song “The Scientist”. This is much more challenging musical fare than we’re exposed to with the album opener, but the industrial/metal aspects of the song don’t sound entirely out of place in the context of the overall presentation. Nor does the welcome shift in tempo and mood that comes with the track “Debris”. The title suggests something a little more distanced and reflective and the song itself doesn’t disappoint. It gains much, as well, from the deliberate pace and the near grandeur it achieves marks it as one of the more successful numbers on Resettlement.
“Dream in Fevered American” has an evocative title, perhaps one of the best on an album full of them, and the musical landscape proves its equal. This is, as well, one of the finest construction jobs on the release and the inevitable of its changes is a bit predictable, but in a very satisfying fashion – experienced listeners will know where Fernando is going, but they will thrill to hear how artfully he gets there. “Resettlement”, the album’s title song, is the most memorable guitar driven track on Red Black Red’s debut and gains a lot, as well, from Fernando’s raw and emotional singing. The finale “A Blessed Day by the Ocean” is quite the aural assault, never so overwhelming that its unapproachable, but definitely possessing an alternating fierceness between passages of all out electronic rock attack and tense, claustrophobic sections adorned by little more than percussion and a particularly tortured Fernando vocal. Resettlement doesn’t pander or take short cuts and the glaring individuality of the release adds weight to its claim on being one of 2018’s most satisfying releases.
Ashley Delima’s debut single “Stay in America” enlists some heavyweight songwriting, production, and musical talent to make the biggest possible splash. Producer Marc Swersky teams with Delima and songwriter Brielle Brown and some of the best accompanying musicians working in popular music today strengthening her efforts here. The burning heart of the song, her words and voice, is what matters most and it gains immense luster from the surrounding virtues. Her testimony on behalf of the experiences of “Dreamers”, immigrants hoping to find a better life in America now facing deportation, resounds with passion and strong personal beliefs, but it never fails to entertain the audience. This is a physically engaging tune that percolates from the first and sweeps past the listener with great melodies and obvious confidence. Ashley Delima’s debut is truly a moment to savor and remember. Continue reading “Ashley Delima – Stay in America”
The debut single from C.K. and the Rising Tide, “Friends”, comes from an uniquely magical configuration of musicians. Brother C.K. and Wayne Flach have played together before in an earlier band named The Kindness and C.K. released his first solo recording Empty Mansions following the band’s disbandment. The well-received album promised to be the first of many for C.K. Flach and he definitely demonstrated the needed songwriting skills to sustain that sort of career but, instead, Flach set up a drum kit and began jamming Empty Mansions’ material with bass player Chris Brant and violinist/keyboardist Danny Boudreau in 2017. The trio soon invited C.K.’s brother Wayne to join them on guitar and the band began working on new material and reworking existing material from the brothers’ past. “Friends” is a fantastic single for introducing the band’s sound to audiences and they promise to bring the alt-country and indie scene a fresh new voice in 2018. Continue reading “CK and the Rising Tide – Friends”
Randy Lyght’s “Bumped into Love” is a fantastic single from his fourth solo studio release, Another Side of Me, and marks another high point in the career of this fantastic vocalist and song interpreter. Lyght plays to what we know as familiar, but he has the talent and good sense to choose outstanding collaborators in such a way that there’s a signature luster emanating from the tune that others will never duplicate. Everything here is in place. It has a light soul and jazz edge, just the right amount of urgency, and a well tailored length that never overstays its welcome with listeners. It’s easy to figure out why this cut occupies such a high level when you take into account the voluminous experience Lyght brings to bear in making this tune and others work for listeners, but you can enjoy this song as a standalone entertainment experience that nourishes the heart and imagination alike. Continue reading “Randy Lyght – Bumped Into Love”
The first single from the new Vessbroz album featuring Kyle Davis’ singing and lyric contributions, “Nothing”, has all the catchiness you’d hope for, but there’s an additional layer of substance coming from Davis’ songwriting skills. Davis doesn’t settle for just writing a grab bag of phrases but, instead, constructs a natural sounding lyric that his vocals handle with more than a little aplomb and that have something genuine and powerful to say. The personal aspect to his songwriting is quite clear, but nonetheless relatable. The flourish informing his writing is never overwrought and doesn’t steal the spotlight away in any respect from the Vessbroz efforts. The blending of their respective skill sets results in one of 2018’s more formidable releases and one can only hope this collaboration will continue. “Nothing” is more than just a promising taste of an album to come; it’s an important standalone musical work. Continue reading “Vessbroz – “Nothing” (feat. Kyle Davis)”