Album Reviews

The Quartet: Shattering

The-Quartet Shattering

Like many things in life, if we are open to the journey of exploration, a deeper understanding of ourselves occurs, and more threads appear to be followed, weaving what we love into a personal tapestry. In a conversation with Jack Hues, we discussed projects that are outside of Wang Chung. Hues' interest in jazz has been long standing. Illuminated and Shattering are two gems in the jazz music catalogs of Hues and pianist Sam Bailey. In our interview, drummer, Dave Smith is described as 'heroic' in his mastery of genre eclectisism. The Quartet and special guests are equally entrancing, progressive and pull the listener into the story lines. They create molds, for the sole purpose of breaking them.

Enter: The Quartet with Shattering on Helium Records (2008).

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Stesha Cano: Simple As Everything

Stesha Cano

"Simple As Everything"

One of the joys of running an independent music review website is the freedom to follow artists from their early careers into later seasons. Stesha Cano debuted Like A Bee in 2011 with a mix of jazz and soul that stunned audiences with its raw power.

Her sophomore album, Simple As Everything, is even stronger as she has established herself in the production world and built more sophisticated arrangements, while keeping the core of her writing locked in emotional ground zero.

We had some questions for Stesha about her influences and inspirations. Here is what she said:  

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TN Twisters: Twister Warning

Album Review, Interview and Commentary

TN Twisters: TWISTER WARNING

Release date: September, 2013

Label: Independent

tntwistersband photoThe Nashville-based cover/original band TN Twisters are as American as apple pie, living out their dream on "the historic Broadway district, where millions trek each year to get a dose of live country music". The sextet formed when Carol "Beth" Garner (left), the band's lead singer and guitarist, collaborated with fiddle player IvaLee Pitts (not shown), Stan Saxon on drums (hat), Gage Boecker on the upright bass (far right), multi-instrumentalist and internationally acclaimed Rory Hoffman (not shown) on accordion, harmonicas, and saxophone, and violin goddess Olivia McPeek (right).

"It's a real grassroots operation," discloses Garner, during our recent phone conversation wherein she freely discusses the challenges of being a small fish in a big pond and her multiple roles as manager, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and website designer. Most recently, artwork creator and music producer were added to an already impressive list of accomplishments. The tone of her voice is friendly, and yet determined. It is clear she loves to have fun and make music with her bandmates. 

I am told the group thrives on crowd interplay and on-stage antics. "The drummer, Stan, "Stanimal", he's the comedian," says Garner, referring to his light-hearted humor that rolls off-the-cuff at any given moment. What's more? The female lead-trio engage in a game of Twister while playing their respective instruments, owing to their unique band name. Such playfulness has set this act apart from other musical line-ups in the area. So much so, they caught the attention of two tourists in 2013, who later flew the entire band to Norway to play at the couple's restaurant/tavern. Plans to return next summer for an expanded tour in the region are in the works.

twister warning coverThe TN Twisters' cross expansive terrain on their debut album, Twister Warning, with twin fiddles, slide guitar, squeezebox, accordian, sax music, and reverberating "yodel le he hoo". The listener is treated to an authentically eclectic mixture of styles that transcend one genre, one space, channeling to the heart of America and the deep South. Country meets rock; Americana intersects blues. And the vibrant sounds of New Orleans fuse with traditional jazz and folk. It's a seven song musical whirlwind that makes you feel like you've visited the Grand Ole Opry, a famous blues-jazz dinner club, and local barn dance, all in one sitting. The songs are well-crafted, with catchy melodies, smooth harmonies and impeccable musicianship.

On first listen, "Trouble of Mine" became one of my favorite tracks. I liken Garner's tender and carefree vocal to that of Ricky Lee Jones or Cheryl Crow. Backed by beautifully sung harmonies, the song wipes away any stress and carries you off to a safe place. It's very well done and, in my opinion, a hit song.

Imaginative songwriting skills turn to reality on "No Reply", as Garner tackles technology and modern day break-ups. It's catchy, up-tempo and a track that'll resonate with anyone who has (unfortunately) been dumped in this manner.

Reminiscent of any number of "corn pone" comedic skits on the American television variety show, Hee Haw, the TN Twisters' dead-pan delivery on "Lil Ol Lady" will have you hanging onto each verse. "Faster! Faster! Faster!" This particular piece must be a visually-dramatic, laugh-a-minute, highlight of their live shows. "Faster!"

All in all, there's nothing stale, traditional, or forgettable about Twister Warning. The songwriting and musicianship is expressive, uptempo, a breath of fresh air and strikingly memorable. It is not to be categorized, but embraced.

Twister Warning is available for preview and purchase via cdbaby. Stay in the loop by following the TN Twisters via their website, Facebook , Reverbnation, and Twitter. And if you get the opportunity to see the band live, please send me some feedback.

Yours in music,

 

DebFromMaine Hebert 

Photos courtesy of TN Twisters. All rights reserved. 2013.

 

 

 

Doug Ratner: Run With Me

drawDoug Ratner and The Watchmen are a rock band from Springfield, MA. This part of Western New England home grows a wide range of diverse and talented musicians. With music hubs like Northampton and Amherst, plus its proximity to Boston and NYC, the Valley is a great crossroads of bands who take the winds from the mainstream, and cycle into their own direction.

We met Doug Ratner and The Watchmen last year when they opened for the historic return of the Spin Doctors to Pearl Street. The Spin Docs got their roots playing Pearl Street blues decades ago. They put on a great show, and Mr. Ratner sent me a hand written note with his full album for review, shortly after the performance.

Read more: Doug Ratner: Run With Me

Mule Dixon: Pillow: American Made

When Pillow:American Made came across my desk, I wanted to collaborate with Mule Dixon directly, because this work has a mountain of research behind it, that deserves recognition.

From Mule Dixon's Biography:

"Mule Dixon is a songwriter and a scholar of American Song, receiving his Ph.D from the University in Texas with a concentration of the History and Practice of American Song in 2009. [Dixon] was born in Philadelphia, and received recognition for his community-outreach program designed to utilize the art of songwriting as a means for troubled youth to express themselves in a constructive way."

The Higher Ed Marketing Blog compared Dixon to William Blake. I agree, Dixon is a visionary, and he instills a lasting presence with the images he creates, both lyrically and musically. Although Dixon uses his lyrics to illuminate injustices, he does not pretend to have all of the answers to the world's problems. Dixon remains central to the human condition, leaving the power with the people.

Given Dixon's status as a well respected scholar, I knew enough to let him take the lead on introducing this record to our readers. Just the idea of questions opened up a very rich dialog. Read Mule Dixon's commentary on his fifth album, Pillow/American Made:

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FRANK PALANGI Full EP

NY grunge rocker, Frank Palangi, is back, announcing his 2012 song list has gone full EP. Post modern fans will be very happy to hear the continuance of Palangi's already successful debut, as he broadens his range and hits the ground running in this up to the minute collection. Edge-y vocals, thunder guitars and thoughtful productions elevate both the heavy songs and relational ballads. Classic rock, influenced with some fusion arrangements, Palangi mixes his music visions in ways that continue to surprise his increasing fan base.

This year, Palangi has expanded his live acts too, with equal success. He has won The Battle of the Bands at Upstate Concert Hall with Q103 radio, which lead the way for him to open for the UPROAR FESTIVAL. Palangi also opened for UPROAR at SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY, which featured Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction. Later he opened for WEAVING THE FATE in Albany, NY at the Hollow. Between major label gigs, he is always on the road, solo, playing in local clubs, restaurants and bars. And while his fan base is growing exponentially, "I AM READY" was nominated for an L.A. MUSIC AWARD for best rock single this year.

Take a listen to the EP.

Also read our album review from 2012: Frank Palangi

Credits/Links:

Frank Palangi: Recording Artist/Producer, Musician, Singer Songwriter, Indie Filmmaker/Actor

Rock genre Albany/Glens Falls, Upstate NY

-Endorsements through IntuneGuitar, GuitarCable.com, SJC drums, Spector Guitars, Artist in the Plus

-Sponsored by Supercuts

- Photo Media by J Sargent Photography

-Merch Vendors through Tinman Merchandising (CA), Damn Good Art (NY)

 
 
CONNECT:
 
 
 
 

Jakob Dylan and Joe Henry contribute to Songs For Slim

One thing about Jakob Dylan is that his distinctive, velvet voice can cut through any type of genre. When bands match up with him, they can play bold and loud, because Dylan holds his own and makes it all work. We caught The Wallflowers live this year and their new album Glad All Over (Columbia) is filled with multiple genre bending flashes of greatness, including "Reboot The Mission"'s direct hit of Clash vibe-wave, featuring Mick Jones, and the melodic swoon single, "Love Is A Country". Dylan said on stage that he 'grew up on bands' and always enjoyed being in bands. Confident in Stuart Mathis' lead guitarwork and Jack Irons' steady hand at the drumkit, The Wallflowers can belt out a blues tune, both live and in the studio. They left our cozy Calvin Theatre, to share the bill with none other than Eric Clapton on his tour just months later. Meanwhile Bob Dylan was touring the Northeast just one state away at UMass. In the thick of rock history and without much time to spare, what does Jakob Dylan do? He contributes a track to support Slim Dunlap's health care fundraiser, Songs For Slim.

~And Joe Henry's stellar musicianship? That is still being absorbed by the general public, meanwhile, the man just keeps cranking out genius.

Read more: Jakob Dylan and Joe Henry contribute to Songs For Slim

Woodford Way: There And Back

Release Date: May 28th

Label: Take This To Heart Records.

Woodford Way is a folk/jazz ensemble from Western MA, teamed up by guitarist/singer songwriter Kyle Mangini, and guitarist/ vocalist Jeff Lynch. For this record, There And Back, they enlisted the talents of producer/bass player Eric Arena, Riley Godleski on drums, and Tim Lynch on percussion. Recording their brand at Zing studios in Westfield, MA, Woodford Way is for the first time as a 5 piece folk act.

In the flow of new artists who are trying to force a statement or make a bold comment on today's (still yet to be defined) music, Woodford Way comes downstream with an organic take on what moves them naturally. Fans who enjoy singer-songwriters of the 1970's-80's, such as James Taylor or Paul Simon, will welcome Woodford Way's casualness, warm vocal tones, and easy going accessibility, while contemporary acoustic players such as, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson will find them steeping cups in their coffee house. Listen closely though, as among the breezy quips and lullabies, there are some meaningful themes and a few note bending guitar sessions. This folk-jazz duo used a new production team for this record. The sounds are blended with some arrangement work that pushes the edges of what you'd expect to hear in such a collection.

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Another Lost Year: Better Days

PRESS RELEASE:

Touring the USA in support of their debut album on Thermal/Megaforce, called BETTER DAYS,  released on 10-02-12 and featuring their first single "WAR ON THE INSIDE," Another Lost Year,  just released their second single off the album called WRITING ON THE WALL. This song went to #48 on Active Rock Mediabase charts and #34 on Active Rock Activator charts forthe weekend of May 11th.

The owner/editor of the Led Zeppelin Ultimate Fan Page joined the BBR team to review this record. She got a hold of it and did not let go. Well versed in classic rock and contemporary metal bands, read what she has to say about Another Lost Year and Better Days.

(Hey ... come back here with that record ... !)

aly2

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The Tall Weeds: Tap Into The Energy!

EP Review: The Tall Weeds

From Beacon, NY.

The first thing that grabs you about this band is its name. The Tall Weeds. Weeds are supposed to be a bad thing, a nuisance in your garden, something that people spend the entire summer pulling, spraying, hacking and cutting down. What happens after that? They grow back again. Why? Because the Earth's natural tendencies are stronger than the human efforts to put everything in a landscaped box. The Tall Weeds are an organic, naturally growing entity that won't be suppressed. Quietly rising without effort, but surprise, The Tall Weeds stand bold, proud, and finally, admired - in a state of natural curiosity. Their motto? Tap into the energy.

The band has been playing clubs in New York for several years now. The Chance in Poughkeepsie among others, has given them more than a local following. The Chance is a great venue. I remember seeing BB King there, as well as multiple sets of the Zeppelin tinged, Zebra and many a reggae band. Always a full house, it has historically accommodated the best bands in the Hudson Valley, including legendary rockers such as, Bob Dylan and David Bowie. Watch the landscape, and the rise of The Tall Weeds.

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Charles Bradley (The Screaming Eagle of Soul): Victim Of Love

People wait in line to hug Charles Bradley.  

My first witness of the "Screaming Eagle of Soul" was at the Newport Folk Festival, 2012. No lie, he had the hippie people struttin', and they needed it, after all of that poetic banjo playin'.  There are many witnesses to this fantastic, and now globe trotting, artist. BBR writer, Rachel Lange is a huge Buckethead fan. She caught Bradley by chance in DC and said it was the most fun she's ever had at a concert. Regardless of the music genre that you identify with, anyone who's experienced Charles Bradley's James Brown inspired performance, came back with his funky dance, soul pants, groovy love rants, burned into their brain - because he rearranged their neurology.

charlesbradley11web

With the moves of James Brown, the deep vocals of Otis Redding, the smooth lyrical style of Marvin Gaye, and the energy of Barry White, Charles Bradley is sparking hope and enthusiasm for classic soul music to be forefront in the mainstream. I even heard some funkadelic deep cut Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, and Jimmy Castor. Right On! We need artists that can play like this today, outright, without being cast as revivalist 'throwbacks.' Perhaps that's how Charles Bradley started, but with his original work on the airwaves now, we can all move forward to see what's next. I want to hear artists who play soul music, not pop music that's a sprinkle of 'soulful.' And I want an artist who can deliver the all out range of soul. Don't hedge and add a hint of soul here and there, but know the sound so well that you own it. When a true artist owns his inner inspirations, then we get to own ours too. The "Screaming Eagle of Soul" has arrived. He doesn't ride the soul train - He drives it!

Read more: Charles Bradley (The Screaming Eagle of Soul): Victim Of Love

Out On The Tiles

Doug Ratner and The Watchmen

Do you know Doug Ratner and The Watchmen?

thumb dougrattner6allweb

 

From Springfield, MA, I caught this live classic rock band at Pearl Street in Northampton. In the line-up to support the Spin Doctors, it might as well have been a double bill. Stocked with the bands' own fans and massive amounts of loyal energy, Doug Ratner and The Watchmen put on a great show.

Read more...

 

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Maine Music News

Dont let the name fool you! Maine Music News provides live concert reviews and photography for shows throughout all of New England. Our photographers cover shows in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and anywhere else we can! Our writers provide detailed album reviews and expertly written interviews as well. We may be called Maine Music News, but we dont let the Maine border stop us!