Love Stallion – Unforgettable Ride

Unforgettable Ride with mid-tempo melodic rocker “Slow Release”. Hart has an once or twice in a generation yowl ideally suited for this style and his straightforward singing reveals lung strength and vocal control among the best that we’ve heard from a hard rock band in some time. This is fun music, without a doubt, and raids the treasure trove of tropes and familiar turns that’s defined this popular form, but Love Stallion manage to bring their own personality to bear on “Slow Release” and guitarist Rob McLemore adds some outstanding lead playing while never falling prey to self-indulgent fretwork. They break out the cowbell for the introduction to “Ignire the Night” and produce one of the album’s most accessible, radio-ready tunes. The backing vocals are a big reason for this song’s widespread potential, but it’s the hook laden songwriting that’s certain to catch the attention of many. Continue reading “Love Stallion – Unforgettable Ride”

Beau + Luci – Live from Aggie Theatre

Featuring the talents of The Howling Tongues in tow, Beau + Luci’s new release Live from Aggie Theatre is a powerful audio document testifying to the strong literary qualities, spirit, and bluesy atmospherics at the tandem’s disposal. Their highly individual brand of Americana/roots music has enchanted national audiences, but their performance from Aggie Theatre brings the duo and their musical style “back home”, so to speak, and plays well for an appreciative Southern crowd. The six song collection blends folk, blues, rock, and deep soul as a unique mix on the modern music scene and the visceral power of this release suggests Beau + Luci’s artistic vision for their music is fully realized and, tantalizingly, hasn’t peaked yet. Live from Aggie Theatre presents Beau + Luci’s talents in the best possible light and, despite its relatively brief duration, packs all the weight and gravitas you’d expect from a full length offering of any type.  Continue reading “Beau + Luci – Live from Aggie Theatre”

Steve Wheeler – Terminal Velocity

Steve Wheeler’s EP release Terminal Velocity marks a divergent point for this talented composer when he affords himself the opportunity to step away from his “day job” as a media composer for major network sporting events and video games in favor of a more personal project. The instrumental EP is brief, only three songs and running less than ten minutes, but Wheeler’s writing makes the sort of impact music tailored to accentuate sports programming can’t hope to equal. The personal investment in this music is, ultimately, the deciding factor alongside the removal of arbitrary borders he’s forced to observe when building compositions for NCAA or PGA events, among others. The Orlando, Florida based musician distinguishes himself here. Terminal Velocity deserves mention as one of the year’s finest instrumental efforts. Continue reading “Steve Wheeler – Terminal Velocity”

Tia McGraff – Stubborn in My Blood

Canadian Tia McGraff, originally from the region surrounding Toronto, first met her musical partner and eventual husband Tommy Parham in Nashville and the couple have been recording and playing live together for many years. Parham is her chief collaborator, as well, on McGraff’s well received studio recordings and recent years have seen the tandem land their music on important radio shows like BBC 2’s Bob Harris Country and earn them dates at genre hotspots like Nashville’s Bluebird Café. McGraff’s new full length album Stubborn in My Blood features eleven songs with sure to be well received range in Americana music and keeping a decidedly low-fi air throughout the entire album. It’s an impressive union of conversational eloquence and poetic flourish defining each of the eleven songs and carried even higher by responsive and often melodic musical arrangements. McGraff and Parham hit a new peak with this release. Continue reading “Tia McGraff – Stubborn in My Blood”

Project Grand Slam – Trippin’

There are few feelings that are as tumultuous and difficult to process as heartbreak. We are never sadder and at our most defenselessly defeated as we are when we’ve lost love, and knowing that we’re not alone out there can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting through the storm of emotions we have to endure. Reaching out through the darkness with a bursting light of hope is Project Grand Slam, whose new song “Lament” brilliantly captures the essence of what it feels like to have loved, lost and become a little wiser for the wear in the process. I’ve been a big fan of this group and its frontman Robert Miller for a while now, but I must say that this is probably the best work I’ve personally heard them put together. In a spellbinding marriage of jazz chaos with soulful, polished pop melodies, “Lament” shows off some of the most nimble, precise instrumentation of any song on the charts today, and it conveys its message of contemplation with a poetic drawl that is all at once unforgettable and jarringly vulnerable in the same breath.

It takes a special kind of artist to be able to have command over your audience at every single level of your medium: casually sampling a new album through a pair of headphones, experiencing all of the unstoppable energy of their live stage show, witnessing their creative reach expand into multimedia and video. Sure, most professional musicians are at least able to nail one of those things down before they cut their first record, but how many are proficient at all three, and consistently able to put out music with the same zeal as their rookie work? Few, maybe none. Project Grand Slam isn’t just a great source for hot tracks, but they’re a downright rare occurrence in this business.

Music that boils under the surface of mainstream airplay and exposure is often some of the best music that you’ll ever discover in your life, because it doesn’t owe anything to anyone or have to live up to anyone’s expectations. You can’t rush perfection, but you also can’t pretend like it’s attainable when there’s nothing meaningful there to pursue. Project Grand Slam exist in the space between superstardom and total obscurity, and I feel like that adds to the mystique and indie allure of their music. This is music for people who put a lot of stock in compositional and production values. It’s intellectual and surreal, but it is anything but snobby or elitist. How they managed to make something like this and not come off a little cocky or conceited is a miracle in itself, but I don’t feel like there’s really anything to pick apart in the approach that was employed with “Lament” or anything else on Project Grand Slam’s upcoming record Trippin’. My recommendation is this: let’s sit back and enjoy what this group of artists is giving to the world right now. It might be a long time before we get the chance to hear this kind of enchantment in one place again.



Donald Smith

Edenn “Thinking”

Some of the best music, regardless of genre, is the music that we can dance to and get crazy with just as easily as we can enjoy it on its own without any external interference. The best artists though, are the ones who have the ability to bring all of the magic from the studio with them out on the road and atop any stage, no matter how big or small the venue. In my experience as a music journalist, you rarely, if ever, manage to find both in the same place, and when you do, that flame burns out faster than you could ever imagine. That kind of energy and artistic combustion at once is often too powerful, or maybe just too divine, for this world to handle so it would seem. Continue reading “Edenn “Thinking””

Esteban Alvarez is back!!

Costa Rican-born pianist and composer Esteban Alvarez is back and better than ever in his new album Piano Meets Mariachi and its accompanying single “La Bikina,” both arriving just in time for the summer record season (and making quite a splash in doing so). Unsatisfied with turning out a predictable album that would merely placate the needs of his longtime fans and the critics alike, Alvarez pulls out all of the stops on Piano Meets Mariachi, and the resulting product is a record that can hold its own amongst the legends and classics that preceded it, and all together sets an awfully high bar for those who wish to follow his act. Don’t be mistaken, this is indeed the classical album that you’ve been waiting for in 2018 (and unfortunately, the bulk of 2017 too), and it is more agile than we could have possibly hoped for. Continue reading “Esteban Alvarez is back!!”

Fitzsimon and Brogan – Big Blue World

In a dazzling explosion of colorful tones and mammoth, glowing melodies that seem to melt through the stereo speakers like some sort of magical elixir, Fitzsimon and Brogan’s new album Big Blue World is making some gigantic waves even before it hits stores this June, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following the European indie underground lately. There’s been a lot of energy gathering in the new surrealist’s movement of 2018/2019, but never has it been as obvious that music will play an integral part of the revolution until now. Big Blue World, along with a couple of other albums that came out earlier in the year that at this point go without mentioning, isn’t just a hot new record; it’s a book in the gospel of a style that some of my fellow music journalists and I have been affectionately calling “post-pop” in reference to the indie pop music being produced by modern artists who have little to no interest in reinterpreting rhythm and blues yet another time. They’re far too busy expanding and evolving the depth and capabilities of the sound board and all of the new, digitalized resources that are practically endless in volume and plentifully available and at their disposal. This is pop music for the future, and if you don’t understand it, you might not be ready to experience just how wild and categorically transcendent it really is. Continue reading “Fitzsimon and Brogan – Big Blue World”

Clayton Morgan – Taste For Love

I’ve been down this road before – the Detroit music landscape. It’s crinkled edges dog-eared for rock’s dingy clubs. Or maybe it’s the Motown avenue, where vocal groups in perfect harmony have synchronized themselves walking down the street. Still yet, maybe Detroit is the hardened, rough streets where rappers use lyrics instead of fists. There’s always room for more, the ghosts of Detroit remind me. Always. Continue reading “Clayton Morgan – Taste For Love”

Hi Low Ha

Hi Lo Ha’s intriguing new offering Ain’t Gone Tonight opens in the gentle daze of its leading track “Cold Weather Clothes,” a slow churning journey through a sonic oasis delicately pieced together in an ethereal patchwork woven by its four equally talented players. Its essential harmony isn’t buried in feedback but instead presented to us in an extremely vulnerable clarity that creates a unique feeling of intimacy between the listener and Hi Lo Ha that persists throughout the entire record but is never quite as opulent as it is in this first song. From here, it’s a solid ascension into the clouds and freeform nature of the endless skies above. Continue reading “Hi Low Ha”