Steeped in enigmatic lyrics that could double for riddles, romantic exchanges between two equally talented vocalists and haunting harmonies between both the players and the instruments, Timber deliver a watershed album in The Family that promises to satisfy the pair’s longtime fans and newcomers alike. The most sensational quality that this record has to offer is its riveting tonality, which triumphs in the face of discordant rhythm and impossibly cerebral grooves with little hardship. Will Stewart and Janet Simpson flaunt their aesthetical chops shamelessly in these eight songs and show us why they’ve garnered the buzz that they have as an act in the last three years since their debut, and I for one think that this latest release amplifies their already unique and thrilling style to a whole new level. Continue reading “Timber release LP”
I don’t care much for albums with an inordinate amount of polish. Too often musicians working in the Americana vein will opt for glossy over authentic, but you don’t get any of that with Molly Hanmer. Her vocal and musical skills are unquestionable, but she also clearly pushes herself to dig as deep into a song as she can and isn’t afraid to put herself on the line. The opener to her Stuck in a Daydream album with the Midnight Tokers, “Take a Walk with Me”, has an unexpectedly rugged edge, but it’s mucho convincing. You can hear Hanmer’s passion boiling over in every line and the interplay between her and the band is fantastic.
That earlier mentioned authenticity comes through most strongly in the album’s third song “Fool’s Run (Different Song)”, but she expands its possibilities hitting a note of heartache any listener will appreciate. The payoff lines for this tune are just dandy and she never overplays them, just stressing the right emotional key to bring listeners deeper into the experience. “Old Number Seven” returns to territory she attacked so successfully with the album opener and she brings an additional amount of kick ass to this verging on rock. She pulls back the reins with the tender track “Love Song”, but dismiss any leanings towards cliché out of your mind – this is first class adult material with a hard won perspective and the musical acumen to back it up.
John Bird’s organ work really sets the track “Come Back” on fire and the near blues shuffle push engages you physically while the lyrics are equally potent. She conjures up a strong Dylan cover with the little known “Outlaw Blues” from his Bringing It All Back Home album and deserves major props for renovating it to her style rather than lapsing into a tired Dylan imitation. The production is a particular strong suit here as well. “Drag You Along” affected me deeply – her unflinching look at life’s hardest questions is accompanied by first class musical backing and she gives herself totally over to the lyric.
“Worker’s Lament” has a lovely retro sound thanks to its accordion, but never sounds too removed from our modern experience. The lyrics have a number of surprising turns, as well, and Hanmer embraces them from the first line, throwing herself unreservedly into even the harmony vocal parts. It’s a great track to precede the clear musical fun of “Dead Happy” and the staccato guitar work counterpoints her melodic strengths very well. We are treated to a final surprise with the last song “Mama’s in the Spirit World Now”, a song that alternates between regret and truth, and has a lean arrangement clearly fitting her emotive talents as a singer. Molly Hanmer ends Stuck in a Daydream on a graceful, challenging note and it makes for one of the more involving listening experiences I’ve enjoyed this year. Let’s hope she collaborates more with The Midnight Tokers in the near future because I’m sure they could produce more works on par or bettering this outstanding full length album.
Barry Abernathy and Darrell Webb present Appalachian Road Show, the first joint musical effort between Abernathy, Webb and guest star Jim VanCleve on fiddle, is a multidimensional foray into the realm of bluegrass and its southern relatives constructed out of the trio’s love of the Appalachian landscape, and it doesn’t waste any time dispensing the rich melodies that the region is synonymous with. Abernathy commands our heart-strings with his lightning-fast banjo play, while Webb dictates the soulful harmonies with his mandolin and VanCleve manages the space in between the two. Each one of the songs we find on Appalachian Road Show’s debut affair is styled in a different element of southern comfort, but one thing that they all have in common is their authentic exemplification of country musicianship.
Though “Milwaukee Blues” and “Piney Mountains” are designed on different ends of the bluegrass spectrum, the emotional vortex created by their magnetic lyrics makes them instantly recognizable as being cut from the same musical cloth. Their shared tonality is what makes them the so similar, not their execution of melody. A common theme in this album is togetherness in spite of differences, something that has been holding Appalachia together through thick and thin for centuries, and a fine example would be the eloquently arranged three tracks that we start off with in this record. “Little Black Train” is the darkness of a laboring south personified; “Dance, Dance, Dance” is the bit of joyousness that the culture’s communal unity is known for; and “Broken Bones” beckons a period of discord, pain and suffering that shaped what the whole of our country looks like today. They couldn’t be more different, yet they’re able to affectionately share this album together.
“Georgia Buck” is a great bluegrass shootout that gives “Lovin’ Babe” and “Old Greasy Coat” a run for their money on the sheer strength of harmony, but the latter two are much more sophisticated in their compositional layout. The last song on the record, “I Am Just a Pilgrim,” is much less a bluegrass song and more of a folk ballad, but it also features a classically refined arrangement that is magnified by the slick production. Whoever was in charge of operating the levels behind the glass with this album made sure that none of the instrumentals ever get smashed together, which makes these otherwise elaborately designed songs much more accessible to the typical music enthusiast.
You really get an idea about what matters most to both Abernathy and Webb in this record, and their relationship with Appalachia is portrayed not only through the pointed lyrics and their textured delivery, but also via the unpredictable rhythms that they’re driven by. A song as dexterously gripping as “Little Black Train,” which grows out of the spoken word in track one, is meant to get our adrenaline flowing through its combustible pace, but it’s malevolent lyrics are what really make it as hot a track as a burning ember in the fireplace. I’m impressed with what they’ve accomplished in this initial outing and am definitely curious as to where Appalachian Road Show goes next with this intriguing take on traditional bluegrass music.
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The second single from Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite’s album Canyon Diablo, “Strange Intuition”, accelerates the momentum the collaboration between producers/writers The Grand Brothers and singer/songwriter Dee generated with the album’s first single “Electrified”. The band cites a variety of influences for their material, but the latest single demonstrates no clear pedigree while still working well within the realm of electro-influenced rock. The hard-hitting, yet immensely stylish, approach to this single moves them further afield of the cookie cutter approach lesser outfits seize on as their entrance into the popular musical world, but Dee’s previous success with singles like “Miles and Miles (Living on the Edge)” and “Filter Factory” and the Grand Brothers’ track record as successful writers and producers proves to be a potent recipe for the outfit’s current and growing success. Continue reading “Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Strange Intuition”
Kazyak’s Reflection is the sort of album I think you’ll be able to keep returning for years to come and never fully exhaust its appeal. The band complied eight demos, b-sides, and outtakes to form this album, but this unlikely method for structuring anything more than a hodgepodge collection lacking rhyme or reason pays off, instead, for Kazyak in a big way. Patterns and connections aren’t always apparent in an artist’s work – a seemingly unrelated batch of songs may, long after their initial composition, assume different significance later on. There’s no question the songs included on this release share an over-arching consistency despite exploring wildly different styles. The uniting element is their daring. Kazyak excel at fundamentals, but they use that bedrock musical command to marry seemingly disparate styles into a cohesive whole. Continue reading “Kazyak release Reflection (LP)”
The smoldering reverse echo of a guitar rises from the ethers in the opening bars of Opposite Day’s “Day of the Triffids” as if to warn us that there’s an ocean of chaotic discord just waiting to be unleashed behind this fragile dam. A bass with the legs of a spider dexterously wanders between the strut of the riffs that are literally growing around us, and before we know it we’re smashed dead center between a crunchy modulation in the tempo and the focused assault of the band. Opposite Day’s Divide By Nothing gets off to a furious start, but it doesn’t let up in any of the five tracks it dispatches at listeners who are bold enough to embark on the group’s latest progressive adventure. Continue reading “Opposite Day release new Music”
In an era when dirge and depression seem to dominate the pop charts to the point of leaving no room for anything other than music celebrating the bleakness of society, folkie singer/songwriter Abby Zotz offers up a piece of pure optimism in her new album Local Honey, and it couldn’t be coming at a more significant time. In all of the gloom and doom of modern music, a record as remarkably uplifting as Local Honey shines as bright as a shooting star and get us excited about the vibrancy of pop once more. Divided into eleven tracks that each contain a different element of Zotz’ sterling creative persona, this album is a must listen for anyone who has been feeling down and out about life and could use a little musical pick-me-up to get through the day. She might not be a household name yet, but if given the right platform I have a feeling that audiences from Canada and beyond are going to have a tough time resisting the charming harmonies and relatable lyrics of this up and coming pop sensation. Continue reading “Abby Zotz – Local Honey”
Saint Jaimz’s vocals immediately bring you into his world and heart and he isn’t even singing. Instead, “AWOL (Absent Without Love”) begins with Jaimz’s spoken word voice in a brief introduction that sets an early mood. This is near torch song R&B, a reflective rumination on the descent of a relationship holding together by pure inaction and long past its sell by date. It’s all part of Jaimz’s purpose in songwriting, to engage meaningful themes and stories through which he can communicates messages of intense personal meaning for him. He backs up those efforts with an equally strong commitment, evident in each second of this song, to marrying those messages to rich musical arrangements instead of glorified vehicles for his point of view. It’s the latest and greatest in a string of singles for this Californian and Army veteran. His intense personal commitment to the music reflects the wisdom he’s gleaned overcoming a number of trials in life and it gives his songwriting, even in its darkest moments, an affirmative slant all his own. Continue reading “Saint Jaimz release AWOL (Absent Without Love)”
Of every genre in modern music, R&B is arguably the most eclectic in its body of artists. From soul crooners to the furious high tech beats of club DJs, R&B has become a blanket term for virtually every kind of music that incorporates smooth, dance-inspired rhythms with the sizzle and brooding tinge of the blues. Mikey See, a rising star in the west coast indie pop scene, has often been described as one of R&B’s more experimentally minded young voices, and his single “Love My Body” definitely lives up to his burgeoning reputation as one of the most fearless artists in the entire genre. If urban music is truly in need of a hero right now, one won’t give in to the commercial interests of big marketing firms and archaic establishment figures who don’t want to see music progress unless it involves making a whole lot of money in the process, Mikey See is nominating himself for the position, and singles like this one are definitely enough to fuel his campaign. Continue reading “Mikey See releases “Love My Body” (single)”
The Silent Wish is a new, joint album from extreme flutist Bill McBirnie and jazz magnate Bernie Senensky, but to say it’s simply another record would be the understatement of the decade. The Silent Wish is a 12 song journey into the heart and soul of Canadian jazz as played like no others can, and if you’ve got the sonic capacities to take the leap, this listening experience is one you won’t soon regret. I’ve never been the biggest jazz fan in the world, but this album was so addictively hypnotizing I can’t help but nominate it for album of the year. Continue reading “Bill McBirnie releases “Silent Wish” (LP)”