Merle Haggard – Working Man’s Journey

Merle Haggard – Working Man’s Journey / 2007 Cracker Barrel / 12 Tracks / http://www.merlehaggard.com /

Before I had a chance to read up on Merle Haggard, I had no clue that ey broke out of prison over 17 times before making a career for eirself as a country star. Haggard has came to complete a 180 in regards to working with and against the system. Where it was breaking out of prison in the sixties, it was breaking into the Cracker Barrel shop in 2007. “Working Man’s Journey” is just one of two different albums that Haggard culled together for 2007; “The Bluegrass Sessions”, which reached #43 on the top country albums chart, was released on the McCoury Music / Hag Records label. “Working Man’s Journey” shows unity between the old and the new of Haggard’s career, in that there are six new and six old tracks on this album. As one could conceivably glean from the title of this album, the common thread that links these tracks together is the “working man”. Continue reading “Merle Haggard – Working Man’s Journey”

Billy Vera – Hopeless Romantic

Billy Vera – Hopeless Romantic / 2007 Shout Factory / 14 Tracks / http://www.shoutfactory.com /

When I first received “Hopeless Romantic”, I really thought that Billy Vera was Billy Ocean. Imagine my surprise when I put the disc on and hear a very funky, soulful brand of rock instead of “Caribbean Queen”. For those individuals that do not know who Billy Vera is, ey has had a career in music for the last forty-five years. Vera started off in the music industry in 1962 as a member of The Resolutions, and gradually moved into writing songs for individuals as famous as Ricky Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Barbara Lewis. While Vera is gaining more success as a music historian at this point, Vera’s music on “Hopeless Romantic” is simply fantastic. Continue reading “Billy Vera – Hopeless Romantic”

Johnny Bennett – Red Light Room

Johnny Bennett – Red Light Room / 2007 Self / 5 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/johnnybennett /

The first track on “Red Light Room” is “Chance Meeting”, which starts out in an interesting way. This is due to the fact that Bennett’s vocals start out in a speaking role. It is only when the instrumentation kicks in that Bennett starts to craft eir own style of music. Bennett’s unique style links together Elvis Costello vocals with a somewhat quieter interpretation of emo rock. Throw a Warren Zevon type of piano to the mix, and what results during the early parts of “Red Light Room” is something that is eclectic, to the say least. It feels that Bennett’s introduction to “Red Light Room” is something close to a single, but that Bennett will need to step up eir game in the tracks to come. Continue reading “Johnny Bennett – Red Light Room”

The Jaguar Club – Ceci N’est Pas Le Club De Jaguar

The Jaguar Club – Ceci N’est Pas Le Club De Jaguar / 2007 Self / 6 Tracks / http://www.jaguarclubofnyc.net /

Judging from the band’s web site title, there are more than one jaguar clubs in existence in the world. Anyways, this New York City band starts out “Ceci N’est” with a very angular type of rock. The disc’s first track, “Beat of My Heart”, takes a lot from the eighties style perfected by “Kiss Me”-era The Cure. The vocals come forth with a much more disaffected, Joy Division or Lou Reed-type of sound. Thus, while not completely innovative at this early juncture, The Jaguar Club are able to come forth with a catchy introduction to this album. The second track, “The Sirens”, continues with the retrospective look back at the eighties. Continue reading “The Jaguar Club – Ceci N’est Pas Le Club De Jaguar”

Wild Sweet Orange – The Whale EP

Wild Sweet Orange – The Whale EP / 2007 Self / 5 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/wildsweetorange /

I guess Wild Sweet Orange is an act that has been making a name for themselves over the last few years. Through February and March they are going on a tour through the United States, so individuals have to be at least somewhat familiar with this indie-rock style. The disc’s first track is “Wrestle With God”, and it links together the instrumental intensity of acts like Desert City Soundtrack with the alt-country stylings of Uncle Tupelo. While not that similar to bands pulling from a similar set of influences (acts such as Latterman and Lucero), the band’s compelling arrangements provide at least one thread of similarity with these two acts. “Tilt” (which is present here in an acoustic format) is a track that concerns itself more with the shoegazer rock genre. Continue reading “Wild Sweet Orange – The Whale EP”

Torpedo Boyz – Cum On Feel The Boyz

Torpedo Boyz – Cum On Feel The Boyz / 2007 Rooftop / 11 Tracks / http://www.torpedo-boyz.com /

For the longest time that I had this disc in my possession, I could swear that the Torpedo Boyz were the Boomtang Boys, who (if all you can remember from 1999) had hits such as “Squeeze Toys” and “Pictures”. What the Torpedo Boyz come up with is similar in the sense that it is a type of dance music, but that is about where the similarities end. The first full track on “Cum On Feel The Boyz” is “Japaneeze Boyz”, a track that is very heavily predicated on the funk movement of the early seventies. The vocal progression is a little repetitive, but the strong instrumentation is catchy and the overall style fo the track is reminiscent of a classic – Soul Decision’s “Faded”. Continue reading “Torpedo Boyz – Cum On Feel The Boyz”

Monork To Die – Speed Of Light

Monork To Die – Speed Of Light / 2007 Self / 3 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/monorktodie /

“Saturday Night Shannon” is the first track on “Speed Of Light”. Monork To Die is really trying to come forth with a track that could be accepted during the fifties, when all the boy-rock bands were present. Aside from a little too much in the way of distortion on the guitars, Monork To Die does just that. Considering that The Ramones and The Replacements would ultimately draw from different segments of this genre, it is not surprising to hear more than a fair share of the two bands in Monork To Die’s output during this track. Continue reading “Monork To Die – Speed Of Light”

Greg Laswell – How the Day Sounds

Greg Laswell – How the Day Sounds / 2007 Vanguard / 6 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/greglaswell /

The name Greg Laswell may not ring any bells in listener’s brains, but there is a good chance that you have heard one of eir songs in the past. This is due ot the fact that Laswell’s music has been present on shows like One Tree Hill, The Hills, and Smallville. Furthermore, Laswell has toured with stars like Matt Costa, Ingrid Michaelson, and Sia. Finally, if you were around the San Diego music scene in the late nineties, ey was the leader of Shillglen. Laswell plays a brand of adult contemporary rock, which means that the title (opening() track is similar to the work of contemporaries as Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and even U2. Continue reading “Greg Laswell – How the Day Sounds”

Action Painters – Chubby Dancer

Action Painters – Chubby Dancer / 2007 Self / 7 Tracks / http://www.actionpaintersband.com /

This version of the Action Painters is from Brooklyn. The original action painters were individuals that included painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. I consider myself lucky that the music on “Chubby Dancer” is nothing like the work of the early action painters. This means that the opening track, “Absolutely Clear” is not all over the canvas, scattered and touch and go, but rather is a compelling bit of retro-sounding rock that is simultaneously catchy, hook-laden, and musically intelligent. The intensity of the band is what is the selling point of “Chubby Dancer”, and this includes the bass, the guitar, the splashy drums, and the vocals (which at times even approach the level of an early Tom Petty. Continue reading “Action Painters – Chubby Dancer”

The Billionaires – Really Real For Forever

The Billionaires – Really Real For Forever / 2007 Self / 10 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/billionairesband /

Anyone that knows me knows that I usually just get rid of about 99% of the CDs that I review for the zine. We just get way too many, and I have no room for a vast majority of the ones we receive (also, most of them suck). However, The Billionaires make an album in “Really Real For Forever” that I actually want to hang onto. The band does a blend of retro music (Stripes, Strokes, etc) with The Polyphonic Spree and even throw in a little bit of Matt & Kim and Hellogoodbye into a feelgood, dance-worthy and always catchy brand of rock music. “The End of Summer Song” should, in a perfect world, be rocketing up rotation right now. The same constellation of forces continue during “Highschool High”, but the ultimate sound of the track is incredibly different. Continue reading “The Billionaires – Really Real For Forever”