|50 ALBUM CAPSULES - was your CD reviewed?? Read below to find out!|
by Mark E. Waterbury
50 ALBUM REVIEWS..........by Mark E. Waterbury
Katrina Carlson - Untucked
Kataphonic - 0102-2
L.A. singer/songwriter Katrina Carlson tugs at your heart and soul with her deliciously passionate vocals. She also grasps your cranium with thoughtful lyrics, bringing it all together with elements of folk, alt rock and other sly embellishments. Listen to the heady blues folk of "New Shoes", the guitar fueled pulsing pop of "Dive", the stimulating love ballad duet "Know You By Heart", and you'll gain a keen sense of where Katrina's coming from.
Cindy Lu - Two Sides
New Jersey may not seem like a place that would inspire homespun country music, but Cindy Lu proves otherwise. Her uniquely husky and passionate voice is obvious from the first notes of the ballad "Why Do All Your Promises Become Lies." "Every Like Tells a Story" has a more folk appeal with a western twang, and "Guess I Didn't See it Coming" is a foot stomping bluegrass effort. A fresh new voice with strong roots intact.
Gina Cutillo - For the Love of C...
Long Island's Gina Cutillo had the sort of voice that grabs you immediately with its power and provocative emotions "Another Way" is a pounding rocker with the vocals matching the guitar intensity. "Feel the Same" shows a more sensual side to Gina's voice, draped with an acoustic rock feel that keeps the overall intensity intact. This is highly seductive rock and roll from an obviously talented lady.
Dax - 3 Song EP
Not quite what you would expect from Austin, TX, or from the guy who supposedly portrayed the beleaguered kid in the Twisted Sister videos. Instead you have gutsy rock with some tasty electronica backdrops. Think Lenny Kravitz or King's X on a Portishead trip. The vocals have a sort of gruff but melodic power, enhanced by chunky guitar riffs, hypnotic keyboards and pulsing beats. A refreshing futuristic glimpse.
Douglas Kings - 3 Bucks
An Evil Owl Records/Posing Toad Records - PTR13/EOR3
Chicago duo of Dave Weaver and Lee Diamond take you on a wild ride with their five song debut. Influences seem to come from all directions, from the avant garde Circle Jerks style punk of "Chow Yun Fat" to the Talking Heads meets Pro-Pain vibe of "Bee Goes Out." "Pinky Ring" showcases some of the wicked humor that is prevalent here. Adding in other elements from metal to folk to alt rock and rap, the innovation enhances the weirdness to great effect.
Jen Elliot - The Secret's Out
City Canyons Records
New York's Jen Elliot presides over a killer mix of rock, funk, blues and R&B with her powerfully soulful vocals that melds the hooks of the top pop divas with the edge of today's hottest alt ladies. The mid tempo rocking "Move" launches the disc with a jazzy fervor. The sultry, throbbing blues of "Love Crazy" is followed by the lively pop lilt of "High Wire." With great players backing her up and solid lyric writing, Jen's debut deserves notice.
Ethan - 4 song EP
Jacksonville, AL is the home for this band that takes groove rock in the vein of Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies and sprinkles it with subtleties of progsters like Kansas and Dixie Dregs. Guitar fueled songs "Till Your Love Comes Back Around" and "Falling Down" are given an interesting edge with violin and Hammond B-3 touches. "Tripped on my Shadow" has a more straight ahead alt rock feel. The vocals have a down home emotion to them that really flavors the music.
Eurovision - On Fire
Five song EP from this south of Atlanta group takes root influences of Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk and Moody Blues and laces it with a throbbing modern vibe ala Portishead. Laden with ethereal keyboard passages, haunting but emotive vocals and pulsing beats, this retro modern piece blasts live steam into the cold, calculating world of uber-rock. Listen to the blistering "Tonight " and the eerie "Don't Abuse Me" and you'll gain a keen respect for the talent and innovation.
Felt - Desert Center
Crescent Avenue Music - 34479-27002
L.A.'s Felt is at its core a rock and roll band, adding various elements ranging from hard driving grunge to folksy pop, concocting a heady miasma on this debut. The guitar power riffs of "The Falling Dream" are followed by the melodic funk of "Travis Bickell Day" and the heartland tinged "Over Pennsylvania." Mark Wein's vocal emotion, the overall talents of the players and some smart songwriting lend a unique edge to the songs while maintaining the overall catchy vibe.
5-Finger Discount -3 song demo
This Asheville, NC quartet crams a lot of power into this small package. Elements of howling punk guitars, Brit pop vocals and a touch of metal are funneled into songs that have hooky qualities but a serious edge. "Donating Plasma" has a full throttle fervor that builds to an intense climax. "Spoiled Brat" shows some songwriting smarts, with sections that are more pop interspersed with a more thrashy abandon. These guys are off to a real good start.
G-Fire - self titled
Veteran guitarists Morris O'Connor, Vernon Neilly, Kevin Chokan and Miquel Mega have combined their prodigious talents into a hot jazz fusion guitar feast. From the rocking "Flight to Ecstacy" to the funk groove of "Little Sunflower" and back alley shuffle of "Sundown Blues" these four axe slingers create instrumental music that is sweet one moment and blistering the next. Backed by solid chops of several fine players, this is a must for any connoisseurs of the six string."
Brian Gladstone - Alive and Picking
Brian Gladstone sounds more Nashville than what you would expect from his native Toronto. "Alive and Picking" is in apt title, because his guitar picking is incredibly alive, from the rollicking "Asphalt Cowboy" to the folk ditty "Jamie Lynn" and the snappy boogie "I Like Me." The lyrics and vocals are predominately happy-go-lucky, with a touch of Arlo Guthrie and maybe John Prine. Brian is also backed by talented players, adding extra flavor to this toe-tapping romp.
Jamie Green - Truce
Red Haired Creeper Records - RHC 90003
L.A.'s Jamie Green's voice catches your ear right from the first strains of the edgy folk rock of "Not OK." You may think Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow, but as you delve further, Jamie's own personality shines through. The title track has a pop diva feel without compromising the intelligence of the music. "Soul Connected" is an apt title; the ballad tears at your soul with its haunting emotion. Great mid-ground music from a solid performer.
Green Machine - 6 song EP
The power pop rock from this Baltimore trio has the bold edge of the White Stripes combined with a retro hookiness rooted more towards the Cars. Snarling guitars and driving beats are the vehicle for the intense but harmonic vocals. "Saturday" has an infectious groove that has radio written all over it. The more thrashy "Rage" turns the punk up a notch without compromising the strong vocal work. Timely and enjoyable music.
Homunculus - self titled demo
You would expect college oriented rock from a band from Bloomington, IN, and this group does the expected but they do it quite well. This is hooky pop alt rock with piano backdrops and influences as diverse as REM, Phish, The Moody Blues and G. Love. The harmonic vocals add vibrant depth to the songs, some of which take on a bit of a jam band vibe with interesting instrumental embellishments. Primarily upbeat and fun but with a nice emotive intensity as well.
Ing - Stagger & Belligerence
Heyday Records - Hey059-2
The second album from this Frisco act is another killer mix of retro psychedelic influences, gritty alt pop and heartland power rock. Listen to the Fabulous Thunderbirds meets My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult of "Not Dead Not Dying" and you'll get the picture. "Satellites" has a decided Brit pop edge, another aspect that weaves its way through a number of songs. Jangly guitars, vocals like Michael Stipe on a more folk kick and granite solid beats predominate.
Paul Jackson Jr. - Still Small Voice
Blue Note Records - 7243-5-41820-2-0
Smooth jazz guitar legend Paul Jackson Jr. graces us with his sixth release. The laid back but extremely delectable six string work from this master is prevalent as always, providing music that is soothing but also quite listenable. "Dios te Bendica" shows a more Spanish influenced side, while "Walkin'" kicks into an R&B groove. The sweet funk of "Crystal Park" is a real highlight. A massive talent backed by excellent players, a new CD from Jackson is always a pleasure.
Tricia Kelly - Keep On Movin'
Be ready for a kind of retro disco R&B trip with a slightly modern vibe that is not techno. The music from this Brewster, MA resident is very danceable and actually quite good. Tricia co-wrote a lot of the songs which is a big plus in dance music, but the real star here is her incredible soulful voice. Booty shakers like the title track and "I've Got Me" will take you back to the days of bell bottoms and leisure suits, but Tricia's talents make sure it's a fun journey.
KFO - self titled
This is some pretty cool hard rock from the Big Apple, not real alt but with a fairly modern vibe. The music is guitar heavy a bit like Circus of Power and early Sammy Hagar, with an extra dimension in the vocals of Pam Dixon who has a soulful rock inflection like Melissa Etheridge. Chunky rhythms drive the music with a serious fervor, and songs like "Seven Severed Heads" shows that they can handle harmonious rock equally well. Some killer music here.
Tanya Elise Kos - Demo
This solo songer/songwriter from the Cleveland area has a strong voice that seems to have a more rock influence. This adds an extra emotional jolt to the folk, semi country and unplugged rock vibe of the music. The lyrics are passionate, lending the music a very honest and appealing quality. Primarily accompanied by flavorful acoustic guitar strumming and light instrumentation, this music is very enjoyable and a cut above your average singer/songwriter.
Larry D. - Go Go Go
Mol Records - MOL CD 001
This L.A. area guy really turns the singer/songwriter genre inside-out, because his stringed weapon of choice is the ukulele. And it does not sound like Don Ho, Larry plays the uke more like a six-string, and his voice makes you think more of Cat Stevens and Peter Yarrow, with maybe a touch of John Prine. The songs do tend to be a bit upbeat, but the bare-bones approach, stories from the heart lyrics and the wonderful timbre of Larry's voice create quite enjoyable songs.
Dani Linnetz - The Milk
Singer/songwriter Dani Linnetz has a stellar voice, with inflections like a mellower Sheryl Crowe with maybe a touch of Joni Mitchell. The folksy but sultry emotion in her voice drives passionate lyrics that obviously come from her soul. The acoustic music backdrop is simple but tasty fare, augmenting her vocal work wonderfully from the sweet guitar strumming on "Love Song" to the subtly dynamic rock of "Hip Shake."
Jeff Lorber - Philly Style
Narada Jazz - 70876-17634-2-3
You would think after sixteen albums a musicians talent pool may be drying up, but not with one of jazz's top pianists Jeff Lorber. "Philly Style" takes you on a wonderful journey of smooth jazz, light funk, R&B and other stylings that harken to the City of Brotherly Love. The lively but also laid back boogie of "Gigabyte" the back alley south Philly groove of "Regardless Of" and the snappy funk of "Step On It" are real highlights. Stunning musicianship as usual.
Mappari - The Firecracker EP
Wheelkick Records - WKR 004
Boston based Mappari weave both brash and poppier sides of modern rock with excellent vocal work that adds a hooky quality to the songs. "Don' Be Afraid" is a hard driving affair to the shade of the Foo Fighters while "Rise" has a modern ballad feel ala Coldplay. Although the ideas aren't that innovative, they do strive to create enough idiosyncrasies in the songwriting, particularly in some of the snarling guitar lead breaks to keep a fresh slant on what is very solid music.
The Matthew Show - Texas
Naive Music - NM-001
Brooklyn's Matthew displays talents in all areas of songcrafting, creating the perfect backdrops for his wonderful deeply harmonic voice. From the emotive piano backed ballad "Bring Me Safely Down" to the ambient but edgy rocker "Old Enough" you have something special going here. The spoken word diatribe of "Office Suite Part 1" showcases the sardonic side of Matthew's lyrics, which range from darkly humorous to introspective life experiences. A gritty and honest melding of folk and rock.
Merge - This Could Be You
Merge is a power rock act from Maryland that...well..merges many facets of rock and roll into a potent machine. The glam of Bowie, the metal of Creed, a touch of prog ala Rush and the edginess of Blink-182 seem present. The dimension that Merge injects to carve their own twisted path with the songs comes from the inexplicable rough edges they burnish the music with. Gritty vocals and lyrics that actually have something to say ad an extra lift to the already stellar songwriting.
The Nite Lights - I Was Born a Man
This Philly foursome throws a ton of curve balls at you in this debut. "Candy Apple Red" kick starts the disc with a bizarre rockabilly stomper, followed by the Pink-Floyd meets Tom Waits "Night of Earthly Delights." "Iron Will" is a punk edged rocker ala the Clash, and "Knuckleheads" takes takes you on a cyber-surf ride. It may seem all over the place, but there is an underlying vibe that loops the craziness together, creating incredibly fresh music.
Nuts in Your Mouth - Guaranteed To Like it if You Got a Ass
Rap and hip-hop need more innovators these days, and Nuts in Your Mouth may have that...quality. As you could expect by their name they tend to be a bit vulgar, but the coarse language is not that overblown and it works with the lyrics that tend more towards the darkly comic than the typical violent affair. Including several rappers with distinct voices, a real guitar player blasting power riffs and tasteful pulsing sampling, NIYM creates a fresh but brash ride.
On Tracy Lane - 4 song EP
L.A. based band rocks out with hook heavy but edgy power pop that makes you think a bit of Good Charlotte. One welcome uniqueness is the vocals of Darryn Yates, which have an emotive timbre in a midground between Tom Petty and Kevn Kinney. "House of Mimes" burbles with a punk flavor wonderfully seasoned by Yates' voice and some tasty harmonies. The lyrics are a cut above average as well, this is a band people will want to hear more from.
The People Involved - Self titled
This L.A. band evokes influences from Radiohead, U2 and The Cure, but they have enough talent to inject their own personalities into the music. Gritty, guitar heavy tracks like "Cantilever" and the seething "Saints & Simpletons" are enhanced with hooky but emotive vocals and harmonies. The haunting ballad "Purple" shows another welcome dimension. Well written and carried out, some of the best new music SoCal has seen in awhile.
Pat Pepin - I'm Ready
Big, bawdy barrelhouse blues with elements of jazz and R&B permeate the new CD from this Maine based lady. Pat writes a lot of the music, and the instrumentation which has a nice depth to it combined with honest lyrics and her uniquely powerful voice give blues fans a real treat. Pat also blows a mean sax, evident on "Ain't What You Got." From the tearful ballad "Let The Healing Begin" to the bad ass boogie of the title track, Pat makes you feel the blues in wonderful fashion.
The Problem - 3 song EP
The Problem blasts out brash punk rock with solid vocals and catchy songs in the vein of Billy Idol and Social D with a touch of The Clash. " The Atom Beat" kick-starts the CD with growling guitars that have a hooky vibe, and vocals ranging from screeching to surprisingly harmonic. "Alone Tonight" is a ballsy effort that puts an exclamation mark on this Jersey act's solid potential.
Quickening - A Victory
Cleveland's Quickening takes subtle influences from "classic" metal bands like Sacred Reich and Metal Church, injecting a melodic but edgy modern slant to the shade of Our Lady Peace. The title track of this four song EP has radio friendly hooks, particularly with the potent vocals of Jason Isom. "Bad Days" has an intensely building drive that has a slightly prog rock feel. These guys show a firm grasp on creating music that is a bit different but catchy as well.
Radio Dick 3 Sided L.P. Volume One
Pal-Tone Records - PTR51101
Pal-Tone Records unleashes a showcase for three of their bands. The American Plague has lead off honors with their power chord heavy pop punk laced with gruff but tuneful vocals. Windfall weaves sonic power and edgy but melodic melodies with dynamic vocals that nod towards Courtney Love. Vangard has a touch of punk in their souls as well, lighting a more metal fire beneath it ala Motorhead and Maiden. Some solid hard rocking bands here.
Raw Dialect - EP
Raw seems to be the operative word in the debut from this hip-hop act from D.C. Raw because this is pretty bare bones sampling with mostly pulsing beats that enhance but don't detract from the words being preached. The language can be occasionally raw but has a street smart attitude without getting too harsh. All the rappers have solid voices, and the backdrops range from reggae tinted on "Rah Rah" to wafts of R&B on "Soul Sister." A well done first glimpse.
Snow Dogs - Deep Cuts, Fast Remedies
Victory Records - VR105
The first song "Average Kid" from this English trio's second CD makes you think of the Offspring with its punk tinted guitar driven rock and high pitched vocals. "Drive" sounds more comfortably Brit pop. The marriage of U.K. and U.S. punk styles continues, with fuzzy-heavy power chords, nasal harmonies and driving beats. "Freedom for Everyone" even brings in a touch of electronica before exploding with gutsy riffs. Not too unique, but far from common as well
Soular System - Big Bang
Soular System twists influences from space rockers like Moody Blues and Hawkwind in strange but enjoyable ways. The title track and "Keep Walking" has a modern guitar rock power. Then there is the jazzy reggae of "Spinnin' My Wheels," the sock-hop retro ballad "No 2nd Thoughts" and a faithful rendition of "Journey 2 the Center of the Mind." This is wild and fun music from some New Yorkers that really know how to play and obviously enjoy doing it.
The Suggestions - Mix Tape
Mr. Duck Records - SUG101
Albany, New York singer/songwriter John Brodeur's latest project is a masterful twisting of modern alt, pop punk and retro nods at the Fab Four. Augmented by the solid rhythm chops of drummer Jason Schultz and bassist Keith Hosmer, the music flows from rough edged guitar powered rock to melodic hook heavy passages. From the full throttle rocker "Be True" to the laid back Brit pop groove of ""Birthday Girl" you will have a lot of fun listening to this "mix."
Telefonics - Colour Delux
When you hear the lead track from this Erie, PA band you think of Blondie's "Rapture" and also of the B-52s. It gets a bet stranger after that, but it is a welcome strangeness. With instrumentations ranging from muted trumpets to Pink Floyd keyboards to punkish guitar fire, this raging psychedelic mosaic is fresh and in some ways brilliant. The overall song structures are strong, bringing all the idiosyncrasies together in wondrous fashion.
The Telegenic - self titled
Emanating from the L.A. beaches, The Telegenic takes roots from the likes of Petty, Grand Funk and Social D. and fertilizes them with a modern vibe. The guitars are that much harder, but there is still that undercurrent of homey rhythms and working class vocals that create music with passion and spirit. Rock solid rhythms and down and dirty keyboard work further enhance the songs which are well written but also have a comforting simplicity.
Temple of Fire - The Deformed Sampler
Temple of Fire is the most recent entry from what has become the metal hotbed of Phoenix. Musically you feel elements from Priest and Warrior Soul. In "The Deformed" you can also tell that the guitarist is into Brian May. The vocals are powerful and in a unique midground between Vince Neil shriek and Perry Farrel shaman preaching. It's a bit raw but the songwriting has enough interesting elements to make you think these guys can hone this into something good.
Bryon Thompson - Get On With It
Indiana's instrumental guitarist Bryon Thompson culls influences from Gary Hoey, Eric Johnson and a bit of Al DiMeola, putting a more ambient edge to the music. He's not pretending to be a shredder, but he is a very talented player, with smooth melodies and delicious fingerwork. Rockers like the title track and "Bring It On" are interspersed with the jazzy "This is Why" and the country-fried picking on "One Thing More." Bryon proves you don't have to play a mile a minute to be good.
Vallejo - Stereo
A rural Texas trio of brothers injects a touch of Spanish influences into a rock and roll party that has both modern and retro touches. "Take a Ride" cranks it up with a ZZ-Top meets the Del Fuegos at a Pearl Jam concert vibe. "Vices" takes punk guitar power and twists it with south of the border spice. Along with instrumental nuances from both sides of the Rio Grande are stellar melodic vocals and harmonies, the crowning touch to this spicy Tex-Mex feast.
Melissa Van Der Scafe - Urban Peasant
This L.A. based singer/songwriter mesmerizes you with her provocative voice, riding an electronic tinted music machine with pulsing sensuality. "Divine" has a smooth pop lilt with tortured innocence vocals. "Reach" has a stripped down but snappy folk vibe. "The Present" is one of the many songs that show Melissa's bold lyrical intelligence. An enlivened voice that breaks both the typified pop and singer/songwriter molds well keeping the right elements of each intact.
Waterdown - The Files You Have on Me
Victory Records - VR 193
Blistering modern metal on this German sextet's sophomore effort has some nice idiosyncrasies that help the music climb above the common metal morass. The vocals help as they flow from gravelly metal howl to surprisingly melodic harmonies. The brutal guitar attack producers monster riffs with twists and turns around every corner, and the thundering rhythms blaze a bold path. The seething power of "Xerox" and punk tinted "Transient" are a couple of the strongest songs.
Jill Wiegand - 3 song demo
This L.A. area girl is still in high school but don't let that mislead you into thinking she's a Britney clone. Instead she is a very sweet voiced singer/songwriter, with songs ranging from heart grabbing ballads to pop-edged folk. Vocally think a bit Sarah McLachlan and Carly Simon in their mellower moods. The lyrics are a bit in the simplistic love song vein, but in these three songs Jill shows solid potential, and since she's starting young she could open some ears down the road.
Sean Wiggins - Next Time Around
If Melissa Etheridge went a bit more country and a bit more bluesy she may sound like L.A.'s Sean Wiggins. Country and blues are just two of the elements weaved into this debut, that also has elements of folk and rock. Snappy songs like "All These Years" and "My Best Friend" are nicely augmented with acoustic guitar and harmonica. Sean interjects ballads with incredible passion, particularly on "No Difference." Great lyrics are another plus on this well crafted effort.
Tyson Williams - The Ripcord Recordings
Austin, Texas is a rich breeding ground for singer/songwriters, and Tyson Williams has obviously tapped from that fertile environment. Influences of Lyle Lovett, Guy Clarke and even a bit of Dylan can be felt. Tyson's voice has an emotive timber with just the right touch of throaty gruffness to lend his words a slight edginess. Evocative and honest lyrics are portrayed with primarily mellow acoustic guitar backed songs. A cut above your average singer/songwriter.
WJJO Local Stage - Rockin' The Midwest 2003
Rock Central Productions
Hard rocking Madison, WI radio station once again delivers a blistering collection of local and regional rock with their fifth compilation. A lot of the usual suspects are there, with excellent contributions from previous acts such as Cobzweb, Muzzy Luctin, The John Masino Band and Agent Zero. Some of the newer entries include the brash Linkin Park meets Ozzy "American Star" by Mr. Slate, the brutal thunder but melodic voiced "Static" by Sketchy, and Cynergy's cyber-metal anthem "Make It Breathe." It's apparent there are still a lot of folks in Mad Town that rock hard, rock loud, and love doing it.
The Woodsmen - Self titled demo
Santa Cruz's The Woodsmen throw a party at you that is a bit jam band, a bit alt rock, a bit jazz and a lot of fun. The album is primarily upbeat, with power groovers like "Feel You Sighing" and "Picnic Kings & Queens" interspersed with the reggae infused "Cold Is Foot" and smoky ballad "Meet You at the Stairwell." Brimming with stellar guitar, keyboard and rhythm work and soulful vocals The Woodsmen could be popular with a wide array of musical tastes.