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The Lowest Pair – Uncertain As It Is Uneven

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The Lowest Pair – Uncertain As It Is Uneven 

URL: http://thelowestpair.com/ 

Long after its commercial eclipse in the 1950’s, bluegrass music has continued to lurk along the margins of the nation’s musical life with a small, but deeply devoted, following that persists across multiple generations. Much has been written about the reasons behind the lasting appeal of Americana musical forms like the bluegrass, blues, country, and folk genres and we don’t need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that The Lowest Pair, formed in 2013 by Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee, understand the spirit driving this kind of music to the marrow of their beings and their internalized understanding of it informs and richens their songwriting throughout the release. These are superb musicians and singers, talented arrangers, and even in a small but significant way, practitioners of musical poetry at a high level. The release of Uncertain as It is Uneven will likely push the duo even higher in terms of critical respect and popular acclaim. 

It begins gently with the tracks “The Company I Keep” and “Keeweenaw Flower”. The first is a gently unfolding song with a strong banjo presence but equally eloquent guitar work. The banjo and its six string counterpart weave effortlessly around each other and create a delicate, but strong mood that gives Winter an excellent foundation for her vocal. Lee offers muted vocal counterpoints that deepen the song’s emotional tenor. The second song is straight guitar throughout and has a slight jangle, at points, that gives it an added step. Palmer T. Lee’s dramatic reading is strengthened, and sweetened a little, but Winter’s contributions as a harmony vocalist. “Lonesome Sunrise” draws from a wealth of traditional imagery but, like the best material from this duo, they give it a highly individual twist with the specificity of their experiences and responses. The haunting beauty of their voices is, likewise, a vivid reminder of what makes them unique and those qualities are served well by this song and subject matter. 

“37 Tears” and “The Sky is Green” are more poetic musical turns from the duo, but their moods are studies in contrast. The first is a mournful, mid-tempo banjo shuffle about despair with a capital D, manifested in strong imagery centered on numbers, and Palmer T. Lee’s vocal handles potentially difficult material with great care. “The Sky Is Green” has a slight air of melancholy just below the surface, but it’s a much brighter journey overall that gains an added layer of light from Winter’s lovely vocal. “Mason’s Trowel” is another Lee lead vocal, but Winter’s harmonies are as crucial as ever to pulling the song off. The machine gun musicianship never misses its mark or loses any feel despite the uptempo pace and it’s a strong, even slightly intricate lyric. “Holy Buckets” has a nice, striding quality generated by the marriage of banjo and guitar – the recurring figure, electrified and sped up, would make a great country rock riff. The album’s final song closes the collection on an anxious, but forward looking note with “By Then Where Will That Be”. It’s an extended song that ends Uncertain As It Is Uneven with the substantive statement it deserves.  

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/uncertain-as-it-is-uneven/id1092915918 

9 out of 10 stars. 

Lance Wright

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Moon & Pollution – The Box Borealis

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Moon & Pollution – The Box Borealis  

URL: https://www.facebook.com/moonandpollution/ 

Most popular music strictly adheres to formula and listeners flock to hear the latest regurgitated variation on familiar themes. However, occasionally, devoted music fans are treated to the unexpected and it immediately garners respect. The debut release from Moon & Pollution, The Box Borealis, is a ten song collection that challenges listener’s long held conceptions on the art and construction of a pop song while making brave forays into territory not typically associated with pop structures. Moon & Pollution features producer and composer Graham O’Brien teaming with respected singer and lyricist Molly Dean for one of the most interesting experiments you’ll hear all year. Don’t let the word “experiments” throw you. The songs are completely accessible and never strain for effect. The ten songs on The Box Borealis are products of genuine and clear artistic vision. 

The title track opening the album is a dense soundscape reliant primarily on electronica for its instrumental melodies while Dean delivers a blinding vocal over the top Her vocal melody shows a wise willingness to keep close to the music’s spirit, but yet has enough of a different flavor that it creates a striking contrast. However, the production on the album’s earliest songs is, at times, a little too thick for its own good and whatever lyrical message Dean aims to deliver is lost or obscured. “Moving Scene” has an ominous air – the sort of music that seems to prelude full-on disaster. Dean’s vocal is given far clearer treatment here than on the album’s opener and the composition creates spaces where her emotive phrasing can take center stage. The mid-tempo pace has a relaxed attitude, but there’s deceptive energy behind the restless pattering. Moon & Pollution toss a little extra spice into the mix on “The Magnetic North” – listeners will quickly lock onto the track’s tasteful rolling patterns that sparkle brighter thanks to subtle embellishments and, of course, find favor with another considered, yet passionate Dean vocal.  

Those who prefer the duo a little dreamy and light-headed, like on the coda for “The Magnetic North”, will probably feel let down some by the turn Moon & Pollution take halfway through this release. “Darkroom Double” and later songs maintain the same blueprint in many ways, primarily thematically, but “Darkroom Double” has percussion pursuing much more commercial paths than earlier on the album and making it work. Versatility is key to Moon & Pollution’s success and they move from strength to strength nary breaking a sweat. “Solace Sandwich” puts a commercial aesthetic forward in a pronounced manner not heard elsewhere. It works. This is a song sinking its teeth into your memory only seconds in thanks to the catchy melodies and invigorating performances from everyone involved. 

“I Didn’t Look” employs some backwards drums as its rhythmic hook and a gradually evolving melody from the remaining instruments. The song “Alter Eagle” has received some attention nationally and represents the duo’s first big home run as a songwriting unit. It captures a near perfect balance between the personalities of its participants without ever pandering to anyone or anything. Moon & Pollution are certainly beholden to no one musically. They’ve tapped into a rich vein of songs and live chemistry on this debut and we can only hope to hear again from them soon.  

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-box-borealis/id1076811039 

8 out of 10 stars. 

Lance Wright

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Junk Parlor – Mick Jagger’s Heart

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Junk Parlor – Mick Jagger’s Heart

URL: http://www.junkparlor.com/

The Bay Area’s, “Junk Parlor” have released two albums since their recent incarnation. “Wild Tones” in 2013 and “Melusina” in 2015. “Mick Jagger’s Heart “ is their most recent single to be released. Given Junk Parlor’s quick turnaround of albums, you can expect a possible release late this year. “Melusina” saw Junk Parlor expand their Gypsy influences even further. As said in 2015 Junk Parlor intended “to venture further down the path of Eastern European, gypsy and vintage belly dance melodies along with our own brand of moody, haunting originals …”

It is common practice for artist to release a different brand of music in-between albums. Junk Parlor are experimenting with “Mick Jagger’s Heart”. The European Gypsy sound is almost unrecognisable. In replacement we have “acoustic rock” as quoted by the artists themselves. This downscale of sound is not pretentious nor is it a pompous attempt at growing up as artists. It is an example of musicians exercising their talents in a way they simply want to.

A very brief surf rock into into “Mick Jagger’s Heart” sets the tone for the song. The rhythm is gains momentum early and carries that throughout the song. The consistent rockabilly flow structures the song to position the paramount lyrics. The vocal melody is strong and expressive. The fun concept of the song is well executed by Junk Parlor. Catchy lyrics hit the high points at all the right times and keep your head nodding throughout the song.

For all its simplicities there is still variety within the music. The arrangement of simple chords and tones create a shapely body of music. With a small amount of ingredients, Junk Parlor create a rich and full sound for “Mick Jagger’s Heart”. It is strongly possible that Junk Parlor want to move on from their Gypsy heritage and instead hone their skills and making a simple production that is greater than the sum of its parts,

The bands own description to the song said “When the heart ache of Leonard Cohen decides to lament under the sun amidst the California surf! The moment of goodbye… the lingering sigh that begs to turn back time…. Doctor won’t you please….. tear it out.” And I’m sure you can guess who’s heart they want to be next to. The lyrics aren’t emotional, not are you going to reflect on them but that is not the point. The lyrics are just fun and fit together perfectly with the music.

Mick Jagger once sang “Let me in your arms, angel in my heart”. Is this why Junk Parlor want to be next to his heart? Has the heat of the Californian surf proven to be too much from them that they simply want to rest at peace. Perhaps the Junk Parlor got over the Bay Area scene and want to be laid to rest alongside Mick Jagger when he was at his most naked, vulnerable point.

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/JunkParlor

Review by Cameron Thomson

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Eleanor Tallie – No Turning Back

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Eleanor Tallie – No Turning Back

URL: http://eleanortallie.jimdo.com/

Israeli-born and now United States resident Eleanor Tallie’s debut release, an EP entitled No Turning Back, features much more than a powerhouse singer with a killer backing band. The EP’s six songs are well written from top to bottom – while No Turning Back falls firmly in a traditional camp, the changes are often unexpected and delivered with clean, unadorned production stressing their melodic virtues. The lyrical content avoids anything resembling pretension and, instead, delivers its messages with specificity, open-ended generalities, moments of pure poetry, and an understated sense of humor. This debut is the product of a life well lived and it’s artistic commitment to rendering these tracks as honestly as possible so that listeners across a wide range might be better able to relate to and enjoy the material.

“Hell or Heaven” opens No Turning Back on an inflamed, passionate note. It’s the EP’s predominant mood. Tallie is a vocalist who grabs each song and either shakes it free of its compositional structure, making it sound like a spontaneous expression of her heart, or else caresses its potential out one syllable at a time. In the case of the opener, it’s the former. This track plays like a barely restrained, emphatic utterance from the bottom of her heart, but Tallie smoothly navigates through the changes without ever losing any of its meaning. The EP’s second track “I Tried” dials down the sonic intensity and provides listeners with, perhaps, No Turning Back’s most commercial effort. The catchy main figure is difficult, if not impossible, to forget after hearing it a few times and Tallie’s voice wraps itself around the instrumentation in a highly seductive way. Guest star singer Lil Riah makes the second of two appearances on the EP with the next outing, “Sunlight”. There’s a little more poetry in these lyrics than earlier or later songs and Tallie, undoubtedly recognizing this, coaxes one of her finest vocals on the release.

“My Present” is one of No Looking Back’s cleverer bits of songwriting and, while it doesn’t rely on the same memorable hook powering “I Tried”, there’s obvious commercial potential here. The song has some of the aforementioned underlying humor marking a few of the EP’s songs, but Tallie is cunning enough to let listeners discover their own chuckles from the depicted experience rather than making a coarse, crass play for laughs. “Gotta Be Happy” is the best example of the positive lyrical message of strength and survival that Tallie attempts conveying in all of her songs, but the real highlight here is the splendid and multi-faceted instrumental performances that make this No Turning Back’s best effort.

The EP finishes with “A Real Man”. This is a biting bolt of blues full of chaos barely held down, but it’s an artful illusion. These are musicians with considerable skill, so it isn’t much to ask that they create a musical world that seems teetering on the edge of anger, yet never quite allowing it to run off the rails. Some blues, funk and soul lay their effects on listeners with a huge paint brush. One of Tallie’s chief strengths is the things she accomplishes through implication. No Looking Back is artful, emboldened, and full of heart.

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/intent/follow?source=followbutton&variant=1.0&screen_name=eleanortallie

9 out of 10 stars.

William Elgin

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Sasha’s Bloc – Runaway Blues

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Sasha’s Bloc – Runaway Blues 

URL: http://sashasbloc.com/ 

Few modern musical acts can boast the melodic fluency and firepower of Sasha’s Bloc, regardless of genre. Alexander Gershman’s talents as a bassist, songwriter, and bandleader anchor a larger assemblage of virtuoso musicians and singers while longtime vocal group legends Take 6 lend their stirring voices to their latest release, “Runaway Blues”. One of their key members, Alvin Chea, takes the lead vocal helm here with spectacular results. Rarely are listeners ever treated to such a sympathetic merger of singer, playing, and song. Chea’s voice is mixed well against the musical backing and the multi-part harmonies reinforcing the main vocal are ideally employed and hit every musical mark. “Runaway Blues” heralds the opening of what will surely be another wildly successful creative run for a band that’s scored big since their 2013 founding.  

The band has a tight grip on invoking the big band era without ever parroting it. This isn’t some simple minded recreation of a bygone era, but instead a finely textured and highly stylized interpretation of a classic American musical style. “Runaway Blues” moves with grace, sure-footed musicality, and harbors surprising depths of artistry. It sports a lyric that plumbs deep with a superb characterization of someone who has spent too much of their life trying to evade themselves and other difficult truths. Chea gives a mournful interpretation of the lyrical content without ever lapsing into overwrought histrionics and the music responds appropriately at key points to help further develop the drama. 

The drumming bears notice. The understated rhythm section work is led by percussionist Kevin Winard. Winard never overplays and his tasteful touch belies his ability to push the tempo in creative ways without ever calling attention to himself. He’s typical of the band’s players in that he possesses a wide-ranging pedigree that brings a wealth of experience to the band’s music. Andy Langham’s piano playing encompasses many styles on “Runaway Blues”. He veers from lyrical gospel lines in the song’s initial moments into much bluesier lines later that occasionally verge on outright boogie piano. These are players capable of bringing the earthy and refined in equal measure and are part of what makes Sasha’s Bloc so exceptional. 

Alexander Gershman’s songwriting and stalwart leadership has brought this band far, but clearly the critical component in their historical success and the merits of “Runaway Blues” is his finely attuned ear for surrounding himself with the best musicians available. The arrangement, likewise, offers evidence for his unerring talents for using them in the right places. The tracks steadily mounts from the outset and, while one will never mistake it for a pop song, generates a little of sparks before winding down. 

Ensembles like Sasha’s Bloc are more important than ever. In an increasingly homogenized musical world, the efforts of Take 6, Gershman, and their fellow players are an all-important defense against corporate imposed mediocrity and historical apathy. It’s the very definition of a band fighting the good fight and having one hell of a fun time doing it. Anyone who hears it will experience that same smile on their face. 

JAMSPHERE: http://jamsphere.com/newreleases/sashas-bloc-runaway-blues-featuring-take6-another-timeless-piece-of-musical-art 

Michael Saulman

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The Lowest Pair – Fern Girl and Ice Man

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The Lowest Pair – Fern Girl and Ice Man 

URL: http://thelowestpair.com/ 

For genuine music devotees and obsessives, it’s heartening to know younger writers and performers like The Lowest Pair are picking up the mantle of seemingly moribund forms and attempting to carry them into the future. Playing bluegrass or any traditional American music in 2016 practically defines the term “labor of love”. This EDM world fixated on rap music and increasingly melodically dumbed down pop doesn’t have much patience with narratives, complex characterizations, introspective dialogues, and so forth. It is music intended to capture a moment and then be disposed of because it holds no last melodic or artistic value. The Lowest Pair, particularly on this release Fern Girl and Ice Man, prove that they are working in a radically different realm. The album’s eleven songs have individual melodic strengths that play fully developed and reside in the brain after the song is over. These are sturdy compositions delivered by performers with wide vocal and musical command over the genre. It’s one of the year’s most enthralling recording experiences. 

The album opens with Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee’s voices harmonizing beautifully during the opening strains of “The River Will”. Banjo and guitar soon join in, but the song’s musical focus supports the vocal and lyrical content for much of the song. The duo conjures up immense storytelling possibilities from the sketchiest of details – the cheap motels, the images of travel, they all add up to a renegade’s take on hard living. Winter and Lee conspire to deliver the content with just the right amount of gravitas. Winter and Lee spend much of “Tagged Ear” singing together to memorable effect. These are singers intimate enough with each other’s artistry that they give truth to the hoary cliché of telepathy between performers. Each of their voices picks up where the other leaves off, but they also memorably come together for moments of real beauty. “Stranger” is a much darker tune in some respects, but it develops along the same sort of track as the preceding song. Bluesy harmonica carries listeners into the song and, while it takes a much slower tempo than many of the album’s songs, it retains the same direct approach of other efforts.  

“Spring Cleaning” is one of Winter’s best vocals outings and she does a particularly excellent job making each of these lived-in lines fraught with emotional meaning. There’s a great deal of specificity you discover in The Lowest Pair’s songs and, occasionally, some of it might potentially strike listeners as obscure or, at least, open to multiple interpretations. Winter’s phrasing and dramatic reading of the material never attempts to make up your mind for you, but she certainly offers up her take on the song’s significance to her. The album’s penultimate song, “Waiting for the Taker”, makes use of the banjo and scattered bass notes to give the track a bit of added rhythmic push, but this has a surprisingly ancient aura. There’s a mysterious beauty permeating Winter’s vocal and strongly melodic banjo line achieves a hypnotic quality soon after the soon begins. It’s the album’s longest song and, arguably, its finest achievement, perhaps more for its open-ended meaning than anything else. The Lowest Pair ends the album with “How Can I Roll?” and they couldn’t have chosen better.  

It’s a thoughtful and painfully sensitive finale. Lee makes vocal contributions, but they merely aim to accentuate another deeply moving Winter vocal. She truly inhabits every line of the song. It’s a final illustration of this review’s opening point – these are songwriters and performers pouring everything of themselves into bringing these songs to life. Fern Girl and Ice man ends with Winter announcing she has no intention of ever going down again and it isn’t difficult to believe her.  

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fern-girl-and-ice-man/id1092915527 

9 out of 10 stars. 

Montey Zike

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Un5gettable – “Sorry” single review

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Un5gettable – “Sorry” single review 

URL: http://www.un5gettable.com/ 

Five piece singing groups, particularly consisting of thirty something community theater vets, don’t come with the promise of lighting the musical world on fire. Un5gettable’s aims are much smaller in scale. No one should confuse this for bubblegum gimmick music. Despite their comic intentions, it’s clear very quickly that Un5gettableare more than capable musicians and singers. Moreover, they have an obviously clear-eyed vision for how to present the band sonically. The production on their newest song “Sorry” does a fantastic job of making the song a breezy, amiable experience without sacrificing its dramatic effect on listeners. Their skills as arrangers stand out thanks to the song’s relaxed pace and light-handed touch. Each succeeding passage locks snugly into its preceding one and the track’s fluidity is a big part of its success.  

The song’s musical skeleton is stripped back and muscular. The piano and guitar used keep the proceedings honed to a fine point, but it’s apparent with just a single listen to this song that Un5gettable isn’t a band in the business of filler. It’s rather remarkable and a testament to how far the DIY age of making music has come that Un5gettable are able to present such a fully integrated sonic piece without the benefit of major label backing. Twenty years ago or more and this single would have likely not seen the light of day. Home recording technology was in its infancy and the major labels still served as gatekeepers for the industry. We are fortunate. Modern times allow us to hear this wonderfully silly, yet oddly understated and stylish song.  

They should an admirably light touch with the material. It could go all out slapstick and Un5gettable could attempt lathering the track up with gag lines galore, but there’s a surprising amount of lyrical detail and gleeful embrace of clichéd comedic elements. The fact that they still draw a laugh shows how well songwriter Joe Cameron uses them in this context. The band’s vocal performance does an exceptional job of embodying the comedy through tone and phrasing. It never strains for effect. 

Naturally, the band’s talents for vocal harmonies distinguish them most of all. The band strikes a seamless unity with their approach and not a grain of any voice hits in a dissonant or displeasing way. It’s always welcome to find vocalists talented enough to incorporate lively phrasing into technically solid structures and the singers in Un5gettable do it exceptionally well. The lyrics are a great aid for them – like anyone who understands the structure of a good joke, Un5gettable refrains from getting too wordy and presents situations directly to the listener. 

This is an entertaining song on every level from beginning to end. “Sorry” isn’t a life changing musical event or some stirring affirmation – it’s just a little song about the ups and downs that can sometimes come with not paying attention to who you’re kissing. Many listeners are certain to be paying attention to Un5gettable in the future and this song would serve as an excellent introduction. 

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx-r52LqO9c 

Joshua Stryde

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Rachael Sage – Choreographic

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Rachael Sage – Choreographic

Primary URL: http://rachaelsage.com/

Hailing from New York, Rachael Sage has had a career spanning over two decades. Sage has had a successful career which shows no signs of winding down. Despite not having a massive support, she has gathered cult following of devoted fans, akin to that of P.J Harvey. Touring around the world on numerous occasions she is an artist with a vast amount of inspiration. It would be pointless and time consuming to list all of her achievements and experiences. Perhaps her most surprising influence is Ballet. A former student of the art form, Sage`s music is follows the same elegant path of ballet. Earlier this year she stated, “Making this album was a meditation on my lifelong relationship to ballet and more recently, to lyrical dance. Dance gave me virtually everything I cherish as an artist: melody, expressiveness, a sense of ensemble, a love of costume and fashion, and foremost, discipline”.

Her twelfth studio album “Choreographic” is the closest musical representation of ballet that Sage or perhaps anyone has ever made in modern pop. The current single of the album “Try Try Try” is a throwback to country pop. Coursing violins and stuttering guitar, combining with Sage`s country girl lyrics. Singing about feeling like a women being caressed by a cowboy, it is obvious that Sage is not scared of falling into tropes. It is her willingness to be so genuinely simple that make her music stand out from the rest of folk-pop.

On the most upbeat song on the album “Clear Today” Sage is now bemoaning lost love but instead celebrating times. Rather than remembering the sad demise of the relationship, she recalls the bright beginnings. This is testament to her maturity as an artist and person. Regret is a theme that could not be further from “Choreographic”.

In “7 Angels” we hear Sage refer to her place in the world, “I’m a mother with my children only steps away, I’m a daughter dreaming peacefully of games to play”. We all have to grow up but we never have to grow old. Sage knows what is important to her in life and is in touch with how blessed she is to be alive.

Perhaps the thing that Sage does best is transfer her quirky and charming personality into music to great effect. Her music is unmistakably hers. After two decades of creating music it is no surprise that she is now comfortable in her own creative skin. The genre of pop music is full of artists with little soul of meaning behind their music. Rachael Sage sets herself apart from the rest in the pop genre. “Choreographic” is not a life affirming album, nor is it ground breaking. But it is a self-satisfying piece of art. Sage does not need to be anything that she is not. “Choreographic moves elegantly with confidence and ease. Musicians often revert back to their roots when their career is in a mature stage. A great deal of the time this results in a dull production yet Choreographic” is an effortless triumph that whispers rather than shouts.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/choreographic/id1103552513

Review by Cameron Thomson

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Jonnie and Joy – Running Home (EP)

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Jonnie and Joy – Running Home (EP)

MUSICOZ: http://muzoic.org/release/album/jonnie-joy-running-home-ep

It would be unfair to define the genre of Jonnie & Joy so let’s just leave it at eclectic. “Running Home” is a six song EP. “Running Home” can be split into three clear sections of two tracks each. The first is a flashback to rock in the 70`s. The second is country music mixed with power ballads and they finish with 80`s girl rock.

The first track of the album is electric infused “Never Gonna Cry”. The harmonic vocals set up the powerful chorus, with interludes on groovy snyth in-between each chorus. This is followed by “Lost Soul” which is a slight change of tempo. A cacophony of guitar rock and euphoric vocals made complete with an aggressive guitar solo. Jonnie & Joy are mature musicians but they are not shy and retiring by a long shot. The relentless guitar and screaming vocals would not look out of place amongst the premier of rock music in the 70`s.

“Running Home” and “Can You Hear Me” are an entirely different change of pace. “Running Home” begins as a country song, influenced by Stevie Nicks. The introduction is soft and tender, but as soon as the electric guitar kicks in, it is clear that there is another strong influence in this song, Jon Bon Jovi. “Can You Hear Me” is the emotional crescendo of the EP. The slugging guitar is still present but the synth is replaced with a saxophone. The power ballad chorus is still present and as emotional as ever.

“Night Stalker” is a suave rock song. The smooth saxophone calming the heavy rock guitar. Leading into the type of chorus that has been so prevalent in “Running Home”. The EP finishes off with “Hold Tight”. The song follows the recipe of the album. Guitar solos, screaming chorus and aggressive rock guitar. The verses serve as a tool to build the momentum of the song which ends with the final verse, “Hold tight, were gonna make it through the night”.

“Running Home” is a well-produced EP that hits its high notes at the right times. It changes pace effortlessly and despite its genre being over four decades old it doesn’t sound tired. The lyrics although natural can be too predictable at times. For their next venture it would be interesting to see them keep what they have learned but not rely on influences as much. It is obvious that there is two very different musicians in this duo. One is aggressive and rocky, the other is mellow and country driven. This combination of genre and emotion has worked and failed many times before. There is a perfect balance that Jonnie & Joy reach. They are pulling each other in different directions and cover a very specific middle ground that not many have discovered before.

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9Apo9-G3bfp9LwtFlslMpg

Review by Cameron Thomson

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Inbokeh – Into the Sun

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Inbokeh – Into the Sun

URL: http://www.inbokehband.com/

Inbokeh is a confident and tight-knit trio from the Columbus, Ohio area and their debut EP, Into the Sun, features six largely straight forward songs falling well within their pedigree. It is always an enormous boon to any recording if it has an extensive familiarity with playing and writing in its particular style. Into the Sun romps and growls with a wide variety of guitar sounds, yet there are melodies always emerging from the racket. Many bands trying to pull off a similar approach would, in the end, sound like an uncomfortable mish mash of styles, but Inbokeh has a clear roadmap for following what they do and own the style with their emphatic, bombastic presentation.

Danial Swafford, the band’s guitarist, leads the way, but his band mates are equal sonic partners in the band’s endeavors. They handle slower material every bit as deftly as their more energetic cousins – evidence of this is ample on the EP’s opener “Cool Days”. The song is a bittersweet reflection on more youthful, carefree days and manages to conjure that mood with only a relatively minimalist lyric. Jonathan Burgess’ rhythm section work with drummer Cody Smith is one of the band’s foundational musical elements, but his vocals are a superb and dramatic vehicle for Inbokeh’s songwriting. “Too Good to Be My Devil” is the EP’s highest octane blast of pure guitar bite and the fiery velocity gives it additional punch. Swafford pushes his instrument hard, particularly during his lead playing, and the roughneck quality even characterizes the chord work during the verses. There’s a palpable swagger to this track that makes it an ideal live number.

Some of the same flavor carries over to the next song, “Spend Time”. The tempo is a bit more restrained than the preceding song, but the band manages to generate comparable energy with tightly wound riffing and commanding drumming. “Head Out Into the Sun” starts out muted but quickly explodes into a steady, mounting tempo that crescendos nicely at a number of points. Inbokeh have a particular talent for constructing thunderous, memorable choruses and this song vies for the EP’s best example. “Stay” follows a similar design but doesn’t make as much use of dynamics as Inbokeh’s earlier songs. However, it gets over with listeners thanks to how it bristles with the same passion marking Into the Sun’s best songs. Burgess’ vocal is one of the EP’s finest, as well, thanks to the smoky, yearning edge filling his voice. There’s the same understated yearning heard in Into the Sun’s last song “Ghosts in My Hallway”. The arresting visual image of the title will immediately bring many listeners into the song’s world, but Burgess’ voice sounds like a man who accepts the ever-present past, but longs to turn its presence to productive use.

Inbokeh’s debut is memorable on a number of levels. It’s a successful revisiting of a genre that, while it doesn’t enjoy the same high profile it once did, still holds promise for inspired and sincere bands. The performances are roundly motivated – there isn’t a single slacker playing for Inbokeh and they seize the moment with attitude and technique. Into the Sun will impress casual and devoted music fans alike.

Related Article: http://bandsintown.com/inbokeh

8 out of 10 stars.

Lance Wright

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Reverist – Dreaming Onward

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Reverist – Dreaming Onward

URL: http://www.reveristmusic.com/

The story of Reverist, to this point at least, is a tale about inspiration. Omar Qazi’s attended a Keane show as an undergraduate student and left so indelibly impressed by the live experience that he resolved to teach himself how to play music and began writing songs soon after. Unlike many, Qazi didn’t sublet his home, buy a car, and drive off for California seeking fame and fortune. Instead, he wisely hedged his bets and finished his medical education. Once he established his career as physician, Qazi’s eyes and, most importantly, ears turned back towards his musical dreams. After meeting drummer Steve Addington, Qazi began working in earnest on the songs making their debut effort. Dreaming Onward is a five song collection guided by Qazi and Addington’s musical presence, but the quartet’s remaining members’ bassist Matthew Walsh and violinist Cooper Johansen make their presence felt strongly on the EP.

The symphonic grandeur of their synthesizer based songs will impress many. It’s their apparent aim from the first song on. “Superhero” practically swells out of the speakers with its steady pulse and chiming melodic lines. The tempo is never rushed and creates a massive group mere seconds into the track. Qazi’s vocals have a similar swelling quality. He sings like a man with the proverbial something to say, taking his time with each line but fueling the syllables with such emphatic force that it sounds like the man is singing for his life. There’s an affirmative air surrounding Reverist’s music that comes through even on the more uniform approach displayed in “Machinery”, but there’s a ringing, melodic quality that comes through the song’s music not in ready supply on earlier or later tracks. Qazi’s lustrous, melodic vocals are an ideal match for the song’s mood.

The mood turns sharply on “About the Past” from a relaxed, laid back approach towards a romping electronic attack that never rests. Addington’s ultra-aggressive drumming never tumbles into total chaos. He keeps the tempo on an unwavering course and it allows the surrounding instruments a chance to move freely over such a secure base. “They Are Weak, But We Are Strong” sports the EP’s best overall groove and, once more, Addington holds things down with his muscular, but highly rhythmic style. Qazi’s vocals have a nice percussive quality that suggests he’s tailoring his vocals against and around the attention-grabbing tempo.

The EP’s title song ends Reverist’s debut on a strongly melodic note. It’s a welcome shift after the pressure packed approach of the two preceding songs. Qazi responds with one of his most stylized, yet emotionally moving performances on the release. Reverist promises to bring a number of moods to the surface through their music and they succeed on that score, among many others. Few new bands embody the body and intellect in their songwriting so well. Dreaming Onward moves with beauty and purpose that will impress young and old alike.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/iloveReverist/posts/1195431863804135?comment_id=1197783063569015&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D

9 out of 10 stars.

Michael Saulman

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Ashley J – Dare Ya’

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Ashley J – Dare Ya’

URL: http://ashleyj.net/

Growing up in Orlando, the multi-talented singer/songwriter held her own with her four brothers and friends by achieving a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do at age 5, and First and Second Degree Black Belts not long after. When she wasn’t training with her brothers and father, she was off with her mom to ballet classes. In her spare time, she was found writing song lyrics on her bathroom wall that her parents had to continuously repaint. Later attending the Dr. Phillips High School of Performing Arts in Orlando, she scored leading roles in theatre, dance and musical productions.

This review is for her latest single, “Dare Ya.” Ashley J appears to be quite the person beyond the artist, with a long history in the arts, to put it ironically. She seems to be that ultimate over-achiever type, but hasn’t let it go to her head. You really can’t do that when you possess this much talent and have any way to get it to the people. She has qualities galore. Let’s just put it that way. I got into it right away and had to look as much into her after that as I could. Being new to her as I am, I just had to find out more. This is a track that takes it over and above “Cali,” of which I am also enjoying. But sticking to the subject at hand, she is a very confident artist with a lot going for her. And I find this new single to be more organic and naturally progressive from the last. I’d like to see it stay in this direction, but you never know where she will go. I think it has something for any age level, but then being flexible is part of what this song is trying to get across. But Ashley herself has her whole life ahead of hers, even though she’s come a long way. If I’m not describing the typical success story, then I’d probably not be writing this. But she even inspires me to get up and go, do everything it takes to get the picture across. It has a lot of effects, and that is just one of them. You can look at it to each their own, or you can just get it, regardless of music taste. It’s as good as anything you’ve heard in shopping malls, elevators, etc. And that is no insult because sometimes the catchiest tunes are heard in these areas. But I’m just saying it hangs in there with the best of them. And she’s just getting started, so this song comes highly recommended. Her whole attitude comes recommended, as well. If she keeps up this level of positivity in her lyrics, she will go all the way to the top. But I ask myself where is the top anymore. As you’re either there on one level or another, or not. The measure always lies in the material and performance. And although I have yet to see Ashley perform, she is a striking beauty who does not get by on that, by the sound of it. If it matters which it doesn’t, she seems to be the perfect pop singing package built for the big stage. So, that is where I think she should be. I’m just surprised to even be reviewing her, as I do usually review music a lot of less mainstream quality. It’s also not easy to wrap your head around just one track, but this goes a long way in rectifying that. This is a well-educated woman with a lot of musical influences and family mentors. The kind you don’t even get on the radio anymore. She’s modern, she’s fresh and as serious as she is playful. I could hear her fronting a band just as easily as herself. This song can be about a number of things but at the end of the day it’s about pushing the boundaries of life in general. It gets you up and rocking, tapping your toe and dancing even if you don’t dance. Music is supposed to move you one way or another, and this does.

In a world of wash ups and country meets Tom Petty style Americana, this has more depth going for it. But that is obviously helped with touches of several other genres laced within it. You pretty much hear it all, and that is why it has it all, as does Ashley herself. This is always the result of hard work, education and following guidelines, principles and goals. If it doesn’t go that way, most don’t deserve a career in the arts.

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/AshleyJeanMusic/videos/644575545691251/

M Martin

10/10

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Jeri Silverman – Leaflike

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Jeri Silverman – Leaflike 

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/jerisilvermanmusic/ 

The album cover for Jeri Silverman’s first EP, Leaflike, perfectly captures the title’s autumnal feel and features a smiling Silverman strolling through the fall day. It’s an excellent accompanying image for a six song collection that, in its own quiet and hard won fashion, celebrates endurance and continued open-heartedness in the face of personal struggle. These songs aren’t the clichéd coming of age chronicles we are often exposed to on debuts. Instead, these are tastefully presented musical landscapes inhabited by an individual voice full of poetry and passion. The South African native, now living in the New York Coty area, assembled an ace three piece band to tackle the material and recorded the album in the sunny climes of Southern California, but none of that Cali sunshine finds its way into these songs. These are songs about survival.  

“Anywhere But Here” plays like a quasi-classical piano ballad that can never quite assume final form. This isn’t to say that the song sounds unfinished; instead, there’s a fragmentary quality about the song reflective of its melancholy mood. There’s deep longing percolating in the heart of this song and Silverman’s vocal invokes that viscerally without ever overextending the song’s credibility. The backing music continues along similar lines on “G&A”, but the lyrics take a far grittier turn than heard in the opener. Silverman’s up to the challenge of conveying these raw emotions and does so without ever, once again, lapsing into melodrama. She dispenses with similar challenges on “The Fever”. This is a lyric of great poetic understatement and does an interesting job of juggling strongly imagistic passages with more widely resonant lines. Silverman’s guitar playing comes to the fore for the first time, but it takes on a supporting role to the electronica and percussion. 

Her acoustic guitar playing shares the spotlight with her voice on “Rabbit”. The metaphor that this lyric turns on is quite comprehensible and has a literary elegance that will surely surprise many. It’s more evidence of her well-rounded talent that seems impossibly developed for her age. Nevertheless, there’s no question listening to these songs that Silverman is a formidable talent destined to deepen and transform the scene. Her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” is far from a throwaway stab at mainstream attention. Many performers would have opted, firstly, to never cover the song at all and, if they did, follow the original to the letter. Silverman isn’t interested in that. This is a great re-imagining of a timeless soft rock classic and will surprise many. 

The title song ends the EP perfectly. It is the longest song, not by much, and has the distinct feel of an effort designed to tie up any remaining loose ends or instances of unexplored potential. Silverman’s vocal is particularly affecting here and finds a perfect fit with the music. There isn’t a better song that Silverman could have chosen for this slot and it closes her EP release with the same grace and uncluttered sophistication that defines Leaflike as a whole.  

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Leaflike-Jeri-Silverman/dp/B00JXJ7NQ8 

9 out of 10 stars. 

Bradley Johnson

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Chris Murphy – Surface To Air

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Chris Murphy – Surface To Air

URL: http://chrismurphymusic.com/music/

Chris Murphy’s twenty five plus year career as a professional musician has resulted in a lengthy list of credits and a number of critically lauded solo albums. The latest of these, Surface to Air, is a fourteen song platter naturally dominated by Murphy’s fluent violin but hoisting a large enough tent that a variety of musical strains find their way into the mix. Despite the abundance of talent on display, there isn’t a single second of Surface to Air that plays or feels like some vacant virtuoso trip. These are performances that seek, above all else, to serve their respective songs and little more. The production casts everything in clear relief and gives each of the many instruments their own definable bit of real estate within the final mix.

Jangling guitars open “Sailing the World Alone” but Murphy’s violin soon joins in with sweeping, winding violin lines. He provides the lead for the song’s entire battery of players, but never diminishes their contributions. His vocal talents are unassuming, but the lack of singing pyrotechnics focuses listener’s attention on the lyrics and musical textures. “That Just Might Do the Trick” is a rollicking bit of country swing with a playful sense of balancing light humor with the bittersweet. The light comedic touch never trivializes the track, however, and the tight playing retains a loose assurance that pleases the ear. The album’s title track has simmering, stripped down efficiency that Murphy’s vocal matches with convincing phrasing and just the right amount of restraint. “Vernon Tool & Die” is quite an idiosyncratic number on the album, a full on departure into the singer/songwriter mode. It may not be initially accessible to some listeners and, like many of the album’s songs, deserves repeated listening to comprehend it fully. The quasi-waltz tempo gives the track an easy-going amiability and the narrative thread sustaining its lyrics is quite strong.

“The Oscar Wilde Waltz” is, arguably, the album’s finest instrumental. It’s an exquisitely written piece played with superb timing and moves with smooth control throughout its duration. As the song title indicates, this is an outright waltz that Murphy and his band lock onto and never lose. “Elmira Prison Camp” has rootsy aims and approximates the feel of early 20th century blues and early country classics without ever seeming too imitative. These are intelligent lyrics that do more than invoke the past through obvious images and, instead, try to plumb deep into actual experience. “Wish You Well” strikes a complicated but ultimately conciliatory note. It’s set to a cozy, uptempo folk backing centered on acoustic guitars and Murphy’s melancholy vocal. The album’s concluding song, “The Hunter and the Fox”, is a final instrumental pastoral invoking a variety of moods. The instrumentation remains founded on the marriage of Murphy’s violin with guitars, but the bass lays down a solid groove that allows everything on top to flourish.

It’s a fantastic end to a rich, melodically strong album. Chris Murphy has learned his lessons well from influences like Dylan, Richard Thompson, and countless others. Surface to Air is a deep collection of songs and instrumentals that plays coherently from first song to last and never lapses into self indulgence.

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/989wclz/chris-murphy-surface-to-air

9 out of 10 stars.

Aaron Ellis

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The Energy – “When We Were Young”

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The Energy – “When We Were Young”

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCswB0b79No

Brooklyn four-piece The Energy has returned with their fifth studio album, When We Were Young, their first release in over two years. The long-awaited album marks a revival of the momentum that is not only their namesake, but that has defined their sound through the years and with each preceding release. Though this fresh album only spans nine tracks, each one completely polished and borderline incendiary that The Energy would almost be doing themselves and their listeners an injustice by trying to jam any more material into this one. Trust me, the nine tracks on When We Were Young will more than satisfy you when it comes to receiving the adrenaline injection that comes while listening to an album from The Energy.

On the album opener, “Losing Myself,” they sing, “I’m losing myself, and I’m falling…right back down to where you want me,” setting the tone for a manipulative love that threads its way throughout the whole album. Freedom is desired, but it couldn’t be further from their grasp.

The Energy’s technical prowess is always at work on When We Were Young, more evident at some places than at others. The second track, “You Can Follow,” goes through some highly technical shifts that would leave a lesser band pulling their long, greasy hair out. The Energy handle it flawlessly, in a similar way to the likes of highly skilled rock bands like, say, a Rush back in their day.

The third track, “When We Were Young,” shares its name with the album, and it’s undoubtedly the one that’s the most focused on the past—or, rather, reflection on where we are in the present, and how we’ve gotten here. Two people, formerly deeply in love, have now, years later and no longer mired in their youth, have grown apart and it seems inevitable that the end is nigh. Alas, the chorus waxes nostalgic: “Oh when we were young, oh we could not fight it our life had just begun…when we were young.”

But is there hope? The following track, “Wait for Me,” surely gives the impression that the veil is lifting and that there may be hope for reconciliation. “Will you wait for me tomorrow?” they sing. “I’ll turn to you once more.” It’s now up to the other member of the relationship to either take the hand, or push away eternally into the ether.

The biggest standout on When We Were Young emerges on the track “Don’t Come Around,” where the basslines thump like late-era Jimi Hendrix Experience licks, and the tone is cocky and confident. Whoever she is, after listening to this song, she knows to not come around anymore—it’s completely over.

The album ends on a high note with concluding track, “The Constant,” which features G4SHI. The song reverberates loudly and proudly, as they ask, “Would you be my constant, and set me free?” Subsequently, a slow, open hi-hat drum beat complements twangy electric licks to create an addictive and catchy flow. G4SHI’s flows at the end of the track show The Energy’s ability to incorporate broad themes cohesively into one song.

The Energy have put together an album here that, if not flawless, certainly shows significant growth from the perspective of instrumentation and lyricism. Diehard fans will be pleased with the new material, and those new to the band who stumble upon this album will become fans for life. Get your copy of When We Were Young now.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/when-we-were-young/id1104692098

Review by Charles Thomas

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