Kelly Keeling - Giving Sight to the Eye

Mascot Records M 7071 2
Highly respected as one of rock's top vocalists, Kelly Keeling has at last graced the world with his first solo effort "Giving Sight to the Eye". Although you can feel some of the influences from the rockers he has worked with in the past on this disc. Kelly does give welcome indications that he is stepping into the 21st century. Comforting vestiges of classic rock are often given an edge that tilts in a more modern direction. "Rising of the Snake" lights the CD's fuse with pure rock and roll fire; blistering guitar passages pave the way to a set of some of the best vocal cords around. "Hell is on the Way" slants in the alt rock direction with edgy riffs and rhythms. A kinder, gentler side ala Coldplay is present on the dramatic opening passages of "Perfect Day", no less intense with its soaring vocal depth. "Sunlight Needs The Day" is a more acoustic-driven piece that would make the late Jeff Buckley proud. Although the album includes such well-known guest musicians as Carmine Appice, Roger Daltrey and Kerry Livgren, it also displays another facet of Keeling's talents and versatility: his skills as a multi-instrumentalist. Lyrically, this album ranges from inspiring to heart-rending to between-the-eyes angst, masterfully crafted no matter what the driving emotion may be. Vocally, on various tracks you can draw comparisons to such legends as Ian Gillan, Chris Cornell, Bono and even Paul McCartney. You can also sift through the influences from blues to prog to R&B and rock, but you can't pigeon hole anything. There is a signature feel to Keeling's vocal power, instrumental prowess and songwriting genius that shines through like a supernova's aura. When you boil it down, you just have to call it rock and roll, and Kelly Keeling does it exceedingly well.

Key Lime Pie - Must Be The Moonlight
This SF Bay Area act produces a big sound, created from a delectable weaving of rock, blues, funk, jazz and other styles. The sweet groove of the title track makes you think of a more laid back Steely Dan. “Graceful Lady” nods a shade towards Santana with its soulful guitar bite. Influences from Phish to Little Feat and War also pop up. but this band does a lot more than merely hanging onto coattails. They inject their own indelible personalities, creating music that is fresh but familiar, and just wonderfully entertaining at its barest core. URL: E-mail:

Roberta Donnay - Back Before the Why
Rainforest Records - 7251
San Francisco’s Roberta Donnay creates an intriguing and often enchanting blend of modern jazz with electronica, pop rock, World and diva-esque flourishes. “Catch Me” leads off with an ambient snappy groove and tasty keyboard licks. The mellow croon of “Soul To Soul” can bring the aroma of cigar smoke and martinis to your nostrils. “Primal Rhythms” shows a more world beat oriented flair. Roberta augments her brashly intelligent lyrics with her sultry, emotive and versatile voice, the focal point for this wonderful disc. URL: E-mail:

Blackmaker - Staggering To the Surface
Kentland Records
The debut from this five piece Chicago act takes gritty guitar driven rock of the King’s X school, and fuels it with a more modern edge. Jeff Randall’s soulful vocal power is a bit reminiscent of Doug Pinnick, accentuated by guitar grooves that have a raw feel and bone smashing rhythms. Songs like the alt driven “Spiraling,” the pop-punk tinged “Let It Go” and the metalic blues of “Not Impressed” show solid songwriting abilities. Some fairly engrossing rock here. URL:

Cheap Wine - Moving
Italy’s Cheap Wine’s fifth CD is fascinating collection of music ranging from retro folk to powerful modern rock and alt singer/songwriter. The folksy “I Can Fly Away” has sweet vocal harmonies in the CSNY vein. “Move Along” shakes your soul with a furious guitar punch. “Snakes” begins with a slightly twisted acoustic passage, before the dramatic but edgy guitar snarl ensues. Fresh music and excellent musicianship prove that this act deserves more worldwide notice. URL: E-mail:

Topeka - Land Rush
Lopie Records - LP0804
Despite the name this act is from SoCal, but its heartfelt Americana and folksy influences seem more rooted in the Midwest. The tandem of Tanya Livingstone and Fletcher Harrington grace the songs with their own distinct vocal personalities, purely emotive no matter who is facing the mic. Fletcher’s songwriting is primarily mellow but with a hauntingly rich vibe and thoughtful lyrics. Fleshed out by Brit Collin’s stunning instrumental work, this disc is cerebral enjoyment. URL: E-mail:

Eleven Eleven - The Unlovable EP

Forever Records - 8 83817 000223
The ethereal alt pop rock produced by this Philly band has comforting influences of early U2 and The Cure, with enough lyrical poise and sly songwriting embellishments to stand out. “Suicide Tuesday” displays some of the more poignant lyric crafting, as well as the gripping emotion of Jeff Giuliani’s vocals. “Beautiful” is aptly named, with solid hooks, driving rhythms and a sort of cheerful fervor. Nothing particularly ground-breaking here, but very well done nonetheless.
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Joe Cang - Firefly
This CD by noted collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Joe Cang is filled with inspiring music in the singer/songwriter mode. Toying with the edges of folk and Americana, Joe injects inflections of back alley jazz in the highly emotive “Bad Luck,” African rhythms in “One For Marlon” and blues rock in “Why.” Whatever vehicle he chooses for his well-crafted lyrics, Joe’s soulful voice will both daze and enthrall you throughout the disc. URL: E-mail:

The Invisible Rays - Put Your Gun Away
Confidential Charley Records - CCR101
Instrumental alt rock is very rare and Boston’s The Invisible Rays may be one of the most talented purveyors of this unique genre. With influences twisting from Midwestern punk of the Husker Du vein, to artsy melodies ala B-52’s and Devo, the music is still highly original and intellectual. More guitar personalities than Sybyl, eerie keyboard backdrops, tasty sampling garnishes and intricate but solid rhythms dominate this captivating CD. URL: E-mail:

Spunhuny - Spunhuny
Mutant Girl Records - MM420
You get something a bit unexpected from this Atlanta-based former Dead cover band. You do get the jam band elements, but there are further dimensions here. “After The Flood” launches the disc with a gritty modern rock feel. This vibe rears its head in strategic spots with the snarling guitar of of the punk edged school clashing happily with the Garcia/Anastasio influences. Fuse this all with straight forward rockers and a touch of honky tonk blues and you have some killer music. URL: E-mail: