Nathaniel Bellows – Swan and Wolf

The lyrical acumen on display with the ten song collection Swan and Wolf won’t surprise anyone who’s followed Nathaniel Bellows’ trajectory through modern American public life. He’s an artist with a wide foundation in various forms – music, prose, poetry, and visual art all fall within his purview. His second full length album Swan and Wolf continues his musical journey and shows his powers as a songwriter exponentially expanding from his well received debut. Bellows is a particularly well received poet with some plum publication credits to his name and even a cursory listen to the songs on Swan and Wolf illustrates how well he’s transitioned that sensibility into these musical arrangements without ever compromising them as songs. The balance of elements fueling the cuts on Swan and Wolf is expertly handled. Nathaniel Bellows has followed up his debut in exquisite fashion and solidifies his standing as one of the best indie songwriters working today. Continue reading “Nathaniel Bellows – Swan and Wolf”

CAP release “Official” single

“Official” is the new single from rising Southern California talent Michael Capshaw, aka Cap, took a circuitous route into the music world, but it’s always been percolating through his blood. His youthful passion for the art experienced a temporary hold when Capshaw opted to join the military for a couple of years before returning to the country and beginning his musical career in earnest. He’s already experienced some commercial success overseas, appeared in music videos, and has four solo albums already under his belt. “Official” has the spark of new territory for the performer and likely represents one of the key cuts from his forthcoming fifth solo release Scorpio. Cap has a clear creative vision for his music and lyrical daring to bring off its potential without sacrificing anything in the process. Likewise, it has strong commercial appeal without ever pandering to its target audience. Continue reading “CAP release “Official” single”

Keith Morris & the Crooked Numbers – Psychopaths & Sycophants

Keith Morris’ teaming with the band Crooked Numbers has produced an indelible musical work embodying the Trump era of American history with Psychopaths & Sycophants. The ten song collection, however, has the lasting effect of music for all time, rather than limited to its historical context, and Morris’ superior talents as a songwriting allow him to bring something profound of himself to bear on the outcomes for these tracks. The album is bookended by two Leonard Cohen songs, late tracks from the legendary Canadian poet’s discography, and Morris takes on these songs with every bit of the brio and discernment they deserve. His own songwriting rests easily sandwiched between these Cohen penned efforts and the accompaniment from the Crooked Numbers is ideally suited to both Morris’ vocal skills and songwriting vision. Continue reading “Keith Morris & the Crooked Numbers – Psychopaths & Sycophants”

Mark Rogers – Rearranged

“Rearranged” – the debut EP by Mark Rogers was recorded and mastered at Master Sound in Virginia Beach, VA by Bob Ulsh and produced by Mark Rogers himself, Bob Ulsh and Larry Berwald, with Mark’s “dream team” of Tidewater, VA players, which they’re called by many. His music is acoustic guitar-based featuring well-crafted hooks, nice vocal harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, a bit of folk rock jangle and a pinch of bossa rhythm just for good measure. This EP features six, radio-friendly, three to four-minute acoustic pop songs, regardless of their genres. Mark Rogers seamlessly fuses everything together. Continue reading “Mark Rogers – Rearranged”

Noble Son – Joy in Violence

The nine song collection from Noble Son entitled Joy in Violence is an outgrowth of an episode with mental illness that the creative mastermind behind the project, Adam Kirschner, recently experienced. He sat down and composed eight songs in fourteen days and followed that up with likely six intense days recording the album with Joel Hamilton and a small coterie of musicians in South Carolina. The result is a full length album, Noble Son’s first, chronicling Kirschner’s experiences in such a way they remain accessible even to those who don’t struggle with the same or similar issues. There’s a strong poetic sensibility informing Kirschner’s songwriting that never veers into heavy handed self indulgence. Instead, these songs are eloquent and vulnerable statements from an artist and feeling individual who lays open his heart on Joy in Violence in ways that will provoke and touch a wide swath of listeners. Continue reading “Noble Son – Joy in Violence”

Robin Kelly – Orewa Heartbeat

Physician and author Robin Kelly has pursued a musical career for some time now and continues achieving startling results with each new release. His fifth studio recording Orewa Heartbeat is an outstanding collection of songs aiming to delve deep into the reality of our experiences while avoiding any self-indulgence common to less artful practitioners of the form. Much of Kelly’s Eastern influenced belief system works its way into attitudes in his songs, but much more as a generalized mood rather as a polemic or willfully instructive. The lack of heavy handedness in his spirit is notable. His musical acumen is quite sharp, as well, and the baker’s dozen songs on Orewa Heartbeat are never short of entertainment value. The potential for indulging cliché is pronounced with this style, circa 2018, but Kelly keeps things cut close to the bone and seeks to express himself as clearly and eloquently as possible.

 

“Waiting for Me Too” brings us up close to the immense humanity behind Robin Kelly’s songwriting. There’s a notable amount of intimacy surrounding the song despite the obvious quasi-classical musical setting and both elements move seamlessly through the entirety of the cut. Kelly doesn’t possess a traditionally beautiful singing voice, but his emotive capabilities are palpable and enormously entertaining. There is some commonality between the opener and third song “Truthseeker (Song for Pete)”, but there’s less of a reliance on orchestral elements than we’ve heard in the earlier tunes. Instead, it brings some nice color to the song and meshes well with more traditional instruments moving the song along. The parenthetical part of the title is reflective of a trend on Orewa Heartbeat where Kelly “dedicates” songs to particular people, but there’s never any lack of accessibility in these songs. “Country Mile (No One Comes Close)” is one of the simplest, most artfully handled classic country themed songs on Orewa Heartbeat and it has an appealing gait that recalls the past yet provides plenty of entertainment for listeners.

 

One of the more successful numbers on Orewa Heartbeat is “I Apologize”, a clearly emotional track revolving around his vocal and the crystalline, delicately rendered piano playing. His lyrical talents are given quite a spotlight thanks to the spartan sound of the arrangement and the vulnerability invoked by his vocal has a practically quavering, incandescent quality. “Would It Be Enough For You?” has a personal lyrical bent, but lightly so, and Kelly refrains from tipping over into heavy handedness and inaccessibility. There’s a decidedly Americana feel to many of the songs on Orewa Heartbeat and this track is one of the finest, albeit a bit melancholy, and has superb touches like harmonica playing imbuing it with that classic lonesome sound.  There’s some light post-production echo applied to his vocal for “My Secret”, but it’s one of the albums more unvarnished moments revolving around his singing and some straight forward acoustic guitar playing. Piano returns to a place of prominence with the song “A New Day Has Begin (Song for Gaza)” and it’s accompanied by some lush strings neatly dovetailing into both the vocal and piano playing. Kelly’s talent for writing profoundly human lyrics free from dogmatic nonsense is vividly apparent with this track. He ends Orewa Heartbeat with the album’s purest solo performance “Someone Else’s Dream” – solo meaning there is nothing but his voice and piano powering the song towards a satisfying conclusion. The album deserved an emphatic period at the end and Robin Kelly’s provided it – the baker’s dozen worth of songs on Orewa Heartbeat are fine, but this finale is among its finest.

 

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/orewa-heartbeat/1335425582

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/robin-kelly/sets/orewa-heartbeat

Lance Wright

RĀI – Back to Life

RĀI’s Southern upbringing ensures his musical talents are heavily influenced by the classic sounds of R&B, soul, and gospel and illuminates his music in a way few other performers from his generation manifest for audiences. His new single “Back to Life” is alluring R&B and soul with a positive message that RĀI embodies in the way he approach his life and art alike – he’s committed to embedding positive messages in his music that reflects his essentially hopeful and spiritually informed attitude and “Back to Life” clears that hurdle with room to spare. The production presents the single in the best possible terms – clear instrument separation, a keen ear turned towards balancing the different sounds in the song, and an atmospheric yet honest treatment of his vocals that makes him the center of the performance without ever putting any of his accompaniment into a clearly secondary role. It’s a wonderfully unified performance. Continue reading “RĀI – Back to Life”