October 2012 Archives

Review: AxeWound - Vultures

A supergroup's one-off proves an entertaining listen.
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Featuring members of Bullet for My Valentine and Cancer Bats members, one could argue that AxeWound is a bit of a supergroup. Unveiled in May of 2012 and featuring Matt Tuck (guitars, vocals), Liam Cormier (vocals), Mike Kingswood (guitar), Joe Copcutt (bass), and Jason Bowld (drums), there’s little doubting the fact that this group hits hard. Their debut, Vultures, is a riff-infused salvo of super heavyweight stuff. It’s a fun listen, one that seems to come in the spirit of AxeWound influences like Slipknot and Pantera. The songs are striking, capable of digging holes in heads after just one listen.

Jazz Review: Erik Jekabson - Anti-Mass

Bridging the aural-visual gap.
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With his latest outing Anti-Mass, trumpeter and composer Erik Jekabson takes his String-tet group through pieces of chamber jazz inspired by artwork from San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum. Featuring Dayna Stephens (tenor saxophone), Mads Tolling (violin), Charith Prewardhana (viola), John Witala (bass), and Smith Dobson (drums, vibes), Jekabson’s group functions as a unit with a clear mind toward using space and tone to tell complete narratives. To have Jekabson tell it, it was Cornelia Parker’s “Anti-Mass” installation that provided the main impetus for the album of the same name. “I knew immediately it was the piece for me to interpret musically,”

DeepSoul: DeBarge - "All This Love"

Their time on the charts was short, but DeBarge still managed to record one of the most memorable R&B ballads of the 1980s.
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In the early 1980s, Motown Records found itself at a crossroads. The heyday of their success--the '60s and '70s--had passed, and artists such as the Jackson Five and Marvin Gaye had departed the label. Clearly Motown founder Berry Gordy thought he had found the 80s' answer to the Jackson Five in DeBarge, a Grand Rapids, Michigan group consisting of four brothers and one sister. After their debut album, 1981's The DeBarges, experienced only moderate success, the group wrote most of their sophomore effort, All This Love. The 1982 album proved to be their breakthrough, with lead singer El DeBarge proving

The Bopcats - 25 Years Of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Some things never go out of style …
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Given the time span represented here – as the title says, 25 years of rock ‘n’ roll - there’s an ongoing consistency to everything here. And that’s as it should be, of course. The Bopcats, part of the original rockabilly revival of the seventies, have been churning out their hard-driving mix of raucous blues and country-tinged, overheated blues and rock ‘n’ roll ever since. The sonics have been cleaned up as part of the re-mastering process – these recordings are culled from various sessions beginning in 1984 – but some were taken from demo-quality vinyl and tape recordings so there’s

Louisiana Red (1932 – 2012) – When My Mama Was Living

Haunting and harrowing and about as real as it gets …
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The definition of just what blues is can be surprisingly elastic.They can just as easily be a punctuated by celebratory whoops as mournful cries, and can be thoroughly ‘legitimate’ coming from a hard-driving big band, with raucous beats designed specifically for dancing. But few would argue that When My Mama Was Living, a posthumous release from Louisiana Red (he passed in 2012, as noted in the collection’s subtitle) is about as real as the blues gets. Recorded primarily over two sessions in the mid-seventies, Red (real name Iverson Minter) is joined on a handful by Peg Leg Sam on harp

Review: Maybeshewill - I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone

A meticulous, gorgeous instrumental rock record.
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Leicestershire’s Maybeshewill manages an engrossing, provocative experience with I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone. It’s a chilling record in many respects, vibrant with instrumental upheaval and divine gorgeousness all at once, but it’s also hopeful. The UK-based quintet features James Collins (drums), Matt Daly (keyboards), John Helps (guitar), Robin Southby (guitar), and Jamie Ward (bass). Adhering to a DIY aesthetic, the band has self-recorded all of its material and continues to evolve with each release. With Ward once again serving as producer, I Was Here For A Moment… feels like a comprehensive piece of work in

Review: Downfall of Gaia - Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes

A layered piece of work from a cohesive unit.
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Germany’s Downfall of Gaia may not be the first act one would associate with luminous music, but their cataclysmic new record does feature more than a few rays of sunshine. Laced with elements of post-hardcore, black metal and down-tempo music, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes is a layered piece of work from a cohesive unit. The band formed in 2008 and went through the requisite changes modern musical acts seem to go through before settling on a quartet that includes Dominik Goncalves dos Reis (vocals, guitars), Peter Wolff (vocals, guitars), Anton Lisovoj (vocals, bass), and Johannes Stoltenburg (drums). There

Otmar Binder Trio - Boogie Woogie Turnaround

A delightful – and international - romp through Americana
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This is one of those delightful surprises that remind us why some of us are music obsessives, forever searching for the fresh and the exciting, for that unique, individual voice. Otmar Binder is Dutch, Boogie Woogie Turnaround was recorded in Austria, and every tune, despite being written or co-written by Binder and fellow Dutchman Christian Dozzler or English pedal-steel master BJ Cole, is distinctly American in character. Yet while Boogie Woogie Turnaround is supremely respectful of the music that caught Binder’s ears when his father brought home a 1978 disc by the “Mojo Blues Band,” Binder and friends – particularly

Review: Dying Machines - Nicht Sprechen

The emotional aspect of ambient and mood music.
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Nicht Sprechen, the debut release from Dying Machines, is a lovely and expansive EP that acknowledges the emotional aspect of ambient and mood music. Dying Machines is Thomas Buschbach, a New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist. His early artistic interests took him down some conventional and not-so-conventional paths, with piano and guitar training eventually giving way to classical training. With these elements in tow, Dying Machines’ EP seems to reflect every ounce of Buschbach’s development as an artist thus far. Some musicians take up bits of knowledge along the way and drop them off as their path expands, but Nicht Sprechen makes great

CD Review: Tangerine Dream - Under Cover

Tangerine Dream remains relevant on latest effort...
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The new album Under Cover by Tangerine Dream is something I never thought I would see. As the title indicates, this is a set of cover songs from the venerable space rockers. I have to say that on the face of it, this idea first struck me as absurd. I mean really, Tangerine Dream doing “Hotel California?“ The concept had disaster written all over it. As a connoisseur of the perverse, I could not wait to hear it. Well, I was wrong. Under Cover is not at all the unintentionally hilarious set I thought it would be. As a matter

Elizabeth Shepherd – Rewind

Standards, yes, but not the tired same-old-same-old batch …
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Shepherd refers to this as a pre-motherhood (recorded while Shepherd was pregnant with her first child) ‘standards’ disc, but this is no lazy stroll through the Great American Songbook. True, the collection kicks off with Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale,” hardly an under-recorded ditty. But Shepherd also includes Georges Brassens’ “Les Amoureux Des Banc Publics” and the Gershwin’s seldom-heard “Buzzard Song,” a tune that George himself often excised from “Porgy And Bess.” It’s an intriguing playlist – also on hand are a lovely voice-and-guitar “Poinciana,” Cannonball Adderly’s “Sack Of Woe,” and Kurt Weill’s devastating “Lonely House,” none of them exactly

Linsey Alexander - Been There Done That

Sometimes it’s worth the wait.
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Chicago-based Delmark Records have always been known as a blues label with a strong side of jazz.  Of late, though, the hard-core blues they’ve been recording has been liberally sprinkled with Northern Soul.  Been There Done That is an apt title for the label debut (there have been a handful of independent productions) of Linsey Alexander, released 70 years(!) after the guitarist’s birth in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  Following a move to Memphis at the age of twelve, young Alexander, a budding guitarist, found himself immersed in blues, country, and rock ‘n’ roll.  Subsequently migrating to Chicago while the West-side scene

Hans Theessink and Terry Evans - Delta Time

A quietly unassuming celebration of Americana
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Some of the greatest champions of ‘Americana’ aren’t American at all; Dutch guitarist/singer/songwriter Hans Theessink has spent his entire career – some 40-odd years on the road, with more than twenty recordings – celebrating American roots music. On Delta Time, he teams up with Terry Evans, a deep soul/blues singer best known for his work with Ry Cooder, for an immaculately performed, if a little sleepy, set of blues, soul, and gospel gems. With a handful of originals fitting seamlessly into a playlist that includes The Delmore Brothers’ “Blues Stay Away From Me,” Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do,” and the

DeepSoul: George Clinton - "Atomic Dog"

One of funk's most original artists foresaw hip hop's reign with this 1982 single.
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Who else but master funkster George Clinton could write the memorable lyrics "Why must I be like that/ Why must I chase the cat/ Nothin' but the dog in me"? 1982 marked a big year for Clinton, who returned to the charts in a big way with the single "Atomic Dog." It topped the R&B charts, received club play, and its album Computer Games cracked the Billboard Top 200. Interestingly, "Atomic Dog" also signaled the beginning of a new phase in Clinton's long career. Mixing funk with psychedelia, Clinton formed the two bands Parliament and Funkadelic in 1969, with both

DVD Review: The Who - Live In Texas '75

A classic show from the band's classic original lineup
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While the Who have had their fair share of studio triumphs, they have always been known, first and foremost, for their powerful live performances. In the band’s prime, on a good night, they could blow anyone off the stage. While on tour for their 1975 release, The Who By Numbers, fans in Houston, TX, were treated to such an aural assault. Fortunately, the cameras were rolling and the show is now available as The Who – Live In Texas ’75. After a bit of tuning up, the band launch into a ferocious version of their Mod-era classic, “Substitute.” Pete Townshend,

Marion James - Northside Soul

James reminds us that personality is an essential element in soul
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Nowadays, with pitch-perfect performances the expected norm, most singers are auto-tuned beyond any trace of actual personality. They may sound great – once – on the radio, but there’s simply nothing human there to form a connection to, and as a result the singer and the songs tend to be both interchangeable and disposable. Marion James is a soul singer in the classic sense. She’s not technically perfect by any means, and her voice has a distinct, almost slurry quality to it – flawless articulation isn’t her strong suit. But soul isn’t about enunciation – it’s all about conveying feel

Jazz Review: Deborah Shulman and Larry Zalkind - Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim

An enjoyable and imaginative retelling of musical theatre standards.
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The worlds of musical theatre and jazz music collide often, with the former providing plenty of room for exaggerated exploration and the latter setting the scene for improvisation and some compositional guidelines. Those worlds collide yet again with the release of Lost in the Stars: The Music of Bernstein, Weill & Sondheim, the latest release from vocalist Deborah Shulman and trombonist Larry Zalkind. The record is somewhat of a family affair, featuring Zalkind’s wife (and Shulman’s sister) Roberta (viola) and son Matthew (cello). Jeff Colella (piano), Terry Trotter (piano), Joe LaBarbera (drums), Larry Koonse (guitar), and Chris Colangelo (bass) are

CD Review: Jon Lord - Concerto For Group And Orchestra

The late Deep Purple organist finally gets a studio version of his groundbreaking piece.
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After the breakup of Deep Purple’s original lineup, the band took a bold next step. Out were bassist Nick Simper and singer Rod Evans and in were Roger Glover and Ian Gillan in their place. While this newly minted Mk II lineup of the band would become its definitive one, its first release was a puzzling one for the band’s fans. In September 1969, the band was joined onstage by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to perform a composition written by organist Jon Lord. This became Concerto For Group And Orchestra and was groundbreaking in that a live melding of rock

Review: Heaven's Cry - Wheels of Impermanence

A Canadian prog act digs in again.
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Montreal’s Heaven’s Cry initially formed in the early 1990s, eventually recording Food For Thought Substitute in 1996. After releasing it in Japan, then Europe and Canada, the band headed through some line-up changes and released another album. The ever-evolving progressive metal act found themselves touring Canada in support of bands like the legendary Anvil and Nightwish. Now, after a seven-year hiatus, Heaven’s Cry is back with a new album and new designs on delivering the proggy goods. Founding members Pierre St-Jean (vocals, guitars) and Sylvain Auclair (vocals, bass) still form the one-two punch fans are used to, while Eric Jarrin

Review: Posthum - Lights Out

An ambitious but hardly innovative entry.
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Norway’s Posthum takes clear inspiration from the sparse, frozen environs of their home. The band formed in isolation in 2004 and spent their first five years purposely outside of the metal community, choosing instead to facilitate their own sound without outside influences. That’s not to say that Posthum accomplishes anything all that different with Lights Out, their second album. As the follow-up to 2009’s self-titled debut, it’s safe to say that the trio has learned from experiences like a European tour with Satyricon and Shining and a spot at the Under the Black Sun Festival in Germany. Comprised of Jon

Hit Parade: Psy - Gangnam Style

This latest phenomenon is mildly annoying...
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Maroon 5's atrocious song "One More Night" remains atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the fourth week in a row. However, there is a song that has been sitting at number two for a few weeks that I thought I could discuss. It is a song that, as far as I can tell, has captured the zeitgeist. It's a song I thought would eventually hit number one, and maybe it will. I read something about it being the most liked song on YouTube, or some such nonsense. The song in question is "Gangnam Style" by some gentleman named Psy.

Review: Empty Flowers - SIX

Strident but melodic post-punk noise.
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Comprised of seven tracks filled to the brim with monolithic but melodious noise, Empty Flowers’ debut SIX should sufficiently cement the East Coasters as formidable forces on the scene. Christian McKenna (vocals), Randy Larsen (guitar), Bernie Romanowski (bass) and Drew Juergens (drums) provide for a complex yet distilled attack, furthering the notion that SIX is the sound of seemingly contradictory elements colliding underwater. From the initial swells of noise to the pop-like beauty of later numbers, this is certainly a record of more than one stylistic note. Empty Flowers has earned comparisons to the likes of Fugazi, Hum and Slint,

Review: K'Naan Country, God or The Girl

Despite some great moments, K'Naan's long-awaited new album falls short.
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Three years of waiting are over for fans of Somali-born rapper K’Naan. Given the abundant media attention from his visit to his former country, the critical acclaim for his last record Troubadour, and the projected hopes of those who adopted his song “Waving Flag” as an anthem for the African continent during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the weight on his shoulders with the release of Country, God, or The Girl is substantial. Unfortunately, genius is notoriously fickle and great artists occasionally swing and miss. Fans of K’Naan will find plenty to like on this album. “70 Seconds” finds the

DeepSoul: Heatwave - "The Groove Line"

The late '70s band released a classic track which takes unexpected twists and turns, resulting in an enjoyable listen.
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One of R&B's most underrated groups, Heatwave amassed an impressive number of late 1970s singles: “Always and Forever,” “Boogie Nights,” “Mind Blowing Decisions,” and their final hit “Gangsters of the Groove,” just to name a few. Led by the charismatic Johnnie Wilder, the group proved themselves to be excellent showmen and world-class songwriters, particularly Rod Temperton. Various tragedies put an abrupt end to Heatwave's success, but brother Keith Wilder reformed the band in the 1990s. While difficult to choose just one of their memorable songs, “The Groove Line” particularly exemplifies Heatwave's gift for creating sophisticated funk that soared above the

Sugar Blue - Raw Sugar Live

Blue redefines the harmonica’s (and human) capabilities
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For better or worse, Sugar Blue will forever be known as the guy who contributed the remarkable harmonica to the Rolling Stones’ 1978 smash hit “Miss You.” But despite the buzz and subsequent renown, Blue (real name James Whiting) has never really broken out as leader – born in New York but based for many years in Paris, a handful of releases on European labels failed to stir much interest in North America, and even a pair on venerable Alligator Records failed to reach a wide audience. Raw Sugar Live – a two-disc set showcasing Blue as leader – shows

Corey Lueck And The Smoke Wagon Blues Band – It Ain’t Easy

A blues outing that doesn’t sound like every other blues outing
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Corey Lueck has a voice that seems custom-made for the blues –a bit gritty, a lot raspy, with just a hint of sweetness around the edges to make it all palatable. It Ain’t Easy finds Corey stepping up front as leader of the Smoke Wagon Blues Band for the first time. (Together since 1997, the band has four previous recordings under its collective belt, the first three released independently). It makes sense, given it’s largely Lueck’s voice and distinctive harmonica that defines the band’s sound, and he has co-writing credits (most with guitarist Mike Stubbs) on all but the disc’s

Review: Muse - The 2nd Law

The Kitchen Sink.
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For English rockers Muse, the approach to their sixth studio album was one of letting go of expectations. The 2nd Law, recorded with few constrictions at Air in London, follows on the heels of a world tour and really could be christened The Kitchen Sink. The Devon-born band has come a long way since the Gothic Plague/Fixed Penalty/Rocket Baby Dolls days, of course, and The 2nd Law perhaps is their bravest step forward yet. Because its relatively frisky spirit, the record has a looser feel overall and the band’s lack of restraint has a place to park. “There’s an eccentricity

Review: Richard Hawley - Standing at the Sky's Edge

One of the best albums of the year.
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Richard Hawley's Standing at the Sky's Edge is a masterful piece of work, an artistic statement of longing and love and liberation supported by mesmerizing guitar and beautiful songcraft. The Sheffield-born English guitarist and singer has amassed quite a career for himself, urged as he was by the lads in Pulp to start releasing his solo work. After a brief stint with the aforementioned band, Hawley released a mini-album in April of 2001 and followed up with Late Night Final later that year. He's also worked as a session musician, plunging in with artists as diverse as Lisa Marie Presley

Review: Fins - Lawnmower EP

A demented racket.
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New Milford’s Fins have taken to Lawnmower, their four-song EP, with the same species of irresponsible poise that used to send embryonic punk bands into instrument-smashing, stage-destroying spasms. With vitality at a premium and well-crafted, well-bred pop seemingly all the rage with kids these days, the bracing spirit presented by these three blokes drizzles through the filthy speakers within seconds of Lawnmower’s takeoff. John Lydon, Scott Bowers-Defino, and Nate Sadowski may have emerged from the clippings of other experimental bands and may soak themselves in the art charade of noise rock and other appetites, but the ferocity of Fins is

Jazz Review: Greg Lewis - Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black

A lively, intricate probe of Monk's many moods.
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As the second volume in a proposed trilogy, Greg Lewis’ Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black is a neatly textured collection of music inspired and written by Thelonious Monk. Lewis plays the Hammond C3 organ and is supported by Ron Jackson (guitar), Reginald R. Woods (tenor saxophone) and Nasheet Waits (drums and cymbals). The organization is knowingly trim but surprisingly potent, capable of blowing through bursts of divine drama and musical pressure with ease. Lewis, based in Brooklyn, studied piano with Jaki Byard and Gil Coggins. He is self-taught on the Hammond C3, however, and found inspiration from sources as

Review: Satan's Wrath - Galloping Blasphemy

Full-blooded metal, with extra goat sacrifices for the kids!
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Staking a claim as “the only band in the world in communication with thy master through ceremonial black magic and necromantic rituals,” Greece’s Satan’s Wrath not only probably knows where Mitt Romney’s money is but they’ve crafted one hell of a fun record. Galloping Blasphemy boils with vintage riffing, scowling devil vocals and pummelling drums. Tas Danazoglou handles vocals, drums and bass guitars while his partner in demonic sacrifice Stamkos K brandishes the blood-spattered, virgin-killing guitars in the shadowy organization. With Galloping Blasphemy, Satan’s Wrath calls back to an era when the wrong record would earn a fledgling dude a

The Soul Of John Black Returns With More 'Sunshine State Of Mind'

TSOJB releases two more songs for his digital EP...
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The second installment from The Soul Of John Black's A Sunshine State Of Mind EP came in the form of the bluesy bar song “Too Much Tequila” and a groovy love song “Lenny Love Cha Cha” that are both pleasing and satisfying as we head feet-first into Fall. JB took a little different approach with this project releasing two singles at a time so we could soak in the goodness just a little at a time and by the time we've had our fill of those two, we are gifted with another pairing. In a press release before the unveiling

Ranee Lee – Deep Song

A loving but absolutely swinging tribute to one of music’s most iconic voices
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A tribute album released before the concept of tribute albums became a tired cliché, Ranee Lee’s Deep Song, her homage to Billie Holiday, benefits greatly from an expanded re-release on Montreal-based Justin Time records. Deep Song is an utterly superb collection of Holiday classics, with stellar performances from Lee and an exemplary band featuring pianist Oliver Jones. Recorded in the early days of digital – it was originally released in 1989 – the sound on the initial release was crystal clear but lacked the warmth of analogue production, a common complaint at the time. Here the remastering brings a significantly

Liz Mandeville - Clarksdale

A wonderful collection brimming with personality
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If there were ever any questions about Liz Mandeville’s blues credentials (and there shouldn’t be), consider this – Clarksdale, her debut on her own Blue Kitty label, features the very last recordings of the legendary Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith on both harp and drums. Indeed, it was Smith, a close friend, who encouraged Mandeville to launch her label, and plans for a follow up were in the works at the time of Smith’s passing. Also on hand to help out on a track each are the equally legendary Eddie Shaw on sax and guitarist Nick Moss, a modern-day blues powerhouse

Review: NettleCarrier - NettleCarrier

There is no mercy here.
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Apparently a NettleCarrier is a “spreader of death,” so it makes sense that the icy Norwegian death metal act by the same name might leave a trail of frozen corpses in their wake. With their self-titled debut full length, the follow-up to seven-inch To Strangle the Hero of Heaven, the trio delivers the scraping, cold, malevolent goods in true darkened fashion. NettleCarrier, comprised of T.Ciekals (guitars and backing vocals), Mannevond (bass guitars and vocals) and Dirge Rep (drums), comes out of the sub-zero ashes of Norway stalwarts like Ljå and Koldbrann. In fact, after a Koldbrann/ Ljå split album, the

Li’l Ronnie And The Grand Dukes - Gotta Strange Feeling

Blues vets make it all sound (deceptively) easy
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Li’l Ronnie is the consummate modern bluesman, a journeyman dedicated to his craft and devoted to the classic sound and undeniable power of a hard-driving blues band. With Gotta Strange Feeling, he delivers another collection of strong originals, most composed with the help of guitarist and long-time musical foil Ivan Appelrouth, with a couple of cool covers thrown in for good measure. Owens is a harmonica player in the old-school style, more concerned with the sheer forceful sound of the amplified harp rather than dazzling displays of dexterity. Appelrouth proves an ideal accompanist, he too favoring subtle, tasteful licks that

Review: X Factor Finalist Chris Rene - I'm Right Here EP

Chris adds a few new songs to the familiar "Trouble" and "Young Homie"
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October 2, 2012 will go down in history as the day the collective squeal of Renelians over the release of the long anticipated Chris Rene EP I'm Right Here annoyed neighbors, friends and spouses worldwide. Chris Rene was the third place finisher on last season's X Factor and America collectively and immediately fell in love with his strength, courage and faith having only just completed a rehab program before trying out for the Simon Cowell vehicle that launched his career and changed his life in one fell swoop. The CD starts off with “Chains” which is super beat driven, almost

Review: As I Lay Dying - Awakened

Kicking off a second decade with more of the same. Seems about right.
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With their sixth studio album, San Diego’s As I Lay Dying elbows into their second decade with another chugging, pit-ready selection of metalcore. Awakened is less a step forward than more of the same, a tweak of the band’s attack more than an evolutionary course. "There's nothing totally out of left-field, we just refined our songwriting and incorporated some ideas that bring a real freshness to the record," guitarist Phil Sgrosso says. "We wanted something that was a lot bigger and more open sounding, and that's exactly what we achieved." Featuring Sgrosso, vocalist Tim Lambesis, guitarist Nick Hipa, bassist/vocalist Josh

Off the Beaten Track: The Ethel Merman Disco Album

The Broadway belter turns "Disco Diva" twenty years after her stage show past to show us she's still "got rhythm," if no rhyme or reason.
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There’s no people like show people, and there’s no one showier than Broadway force of nature Ethel Merman. Her powerhouse wallop of precise pitch and clearly enunciated mezzo-soprano voice – said to have been enhanced in part by a tonsillectomy during her early career – facilitated her stage success in the days before microphones. The brassy and irrepressible Merman, who never had a singing lesson, was her own amplification, a trait that allowed her to better emulate the performances of such idols as Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker, who she had watched and revered as a girl at the vaudeville

DeepSoul: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - "The Message"

The groundbreaking track transformed hip hop and spawned a nationally recognized catchphrase.
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Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge/ I'm tryin' not to lose my head... These words should sound very familiar to old school hip hop fans, as they comprise part of "The Message," a groundbreaking 1982 track by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Not only did this song prove that hip hop could address serious topics, it also ranks among music's best protest tracks. Before "The Message," many early rap songs served as party starters, with MCs bragging about their skills. DJ Grandmaster Flash, aka Joseph Saddler, developed his talent in this atmosphere, performing at block parties

Keser - Audemaus CD Review

Ambient electronica done right...
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Keser are an electronic duo from Scotland who formed in 2005. Audemaus is their third recording, following Esoteric Escape (2006) and Robo Ghost (2009). All three have been released by the Scottish label Alex Tronic Records, and they just keep getting better and better. The title Audemaus is Latin for “Let Us Dare,” and is a most appropriate term to describe what the duo have accomplished here. Keser have released one of the finest ambient/electronic albums of the year, with their only real competition being label-mates Neu Gestalt’s earlier Weightless Hours. I always have to be careful in using the

The Ethel Merman Disco Album: Off the Beaten Tracks

Broadway belter turns "Disco Diva" twenty years after her stage show past to show us she's still "got rhythm," if no rhyme or reason.
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There’s no people like show people, and there’s no one showier than Broadway force of nature Ethel Merman. Her powerhouse wallop of precise pitch and clearly enunciated mezzo-soprano voice – said to have been enhanced in part by a tonsillectomy during her early career – facilitated her stage success in the days before microphones. The brassy and irrepressible Merman, who never had a singing lesson, was her own amplification, a trait that allowed her to better emulate the performances of such idols as Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker, both of whom she had watched and revered as a girl at

CD Reviews: Stian Westerhus - 'The Matriarch and the Wrong Kind of Flowers' and 'Didymoi Dreams'

Norway may not be the music capital of the world but Stian Westerhus is a name you need to know...
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Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus is one of the most original musicians I have heard in some time. He is also quite prolific, having recorded three solo albums and collaborating with a number of equally experimental artists over the past few years. A few of these include the bands Puma and Monolithic (with Motorpsycho drummer Kenneth Kapstad), and a fascinating excursion with vocalist Sidsel Endresen titled Didymoi Dreams. The latter has just been released by the Rune Grammofon label, and is pretty wild.The 11 tracks that comprise Didymoi Dreams were recorded live at the Nattjazz Festival in Bergen, Norway. Sidsel Endresen

Review: Boyfrndz - All Day Pass

The prize at the bottom of this disorderly cereal box may not be for everyone, but that's okay.
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Finding something to latch onto amid the tempting melange of the very technical and the very frenetic can be a chore for even the most enduring of listeners, as Boyfrndz’s All Day Pass proves. The Texas trio’s sophomore record is a challenging listen, much in the way of The Mars Volta or Hella, and finding the prize at the bottom of their disorderly cereal box may not be enough to snag some individuals. But that’s okay. In a day and age of appealing to the masses (or else), there’s something altogether encouraging about Boyfrndz’s strange brew. The unmelodious heap set

Jazz Review: Carol Saboya - Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento

The music of two Brazilian masters is treated with care.
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Brazil native Carol Saboya makes her U.S. solo debut with Belezas: The Music of Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento. The record, like her previously recorded album based on the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, feels like a love letter to all things Brazilian. “I thought about great Brazilian composers who are known in the States and Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento made sense,” says Saboya. “They’re modern in a way that’s not bossa nova. They have these great harmonies and beautiful melodies, and their music really lends itself to jazz.” Backed by a quartet that includes pianist (and father) Antonio

Interview: Seattle Rockers Barrett Martin, Duff McKagan, Jeff Angell, Ben Anderson Find Freedom In Their Walking Papers

Barrett Martin and Jeff Angell discuss their new band in an exclusive interview...
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What happens when you assemble musicians who have collectively contributed to Screaming Trees, Guns 'N Roses, Mad Season, Post Stardom Depression, Skin Yard, Tuatara, and The Missionary Position? You get Walking Papers, a powerful new rock and roll force from the Pacific Northwest. Jeff Angell (vocals/guitar), Barrett Martin (drums/percussion), Duff McKagan (bass) and Ben Anderson issued their self-titled debut this week and Angell and Martin have given a behind-the-scenes look at the formation of Walking Papers, the purpose and motivation behind its songs, and a glimpse into their ambitious future plans. MAKING THE BAND Martin and Angell met while working

Green Day Return To Their Roots On Fun-Filled ¡Uno!

Is the trio's latest album a step forward or backward in their still evolving career?
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Few bands have progressed at such an impressively creative rate as Green Day. When their first major label album, Dookie, dropped in 1994, they became a “love them or hate them” band. Some fans enjoyed their brand of post punk; others wrote them off as bratty wannabes. But with each subsequent album, the trio—Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool—showed their gift for writing pop hooks fused with a healthy dose of middle-finger attitude, each single displaying growing sophistication. Then came their most ambitious move: recording a rock opera. American Idiot has become a modern rock classic featuring anthems

Review: Halie Loren - Stages

A welcome reissue that shows Loren has everything it takes ...
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Aspiring jazz singers face a crowded field, and it’s hard to make an impression when so much of the standard material has been done to death. Halie Loren, still a relative youngster in a field that values artistic experience but doesn’t object to a bit of sex appeal, has everything it takes to be a major star. Her most recent outing, 2012’s Heart First, was an intimate and engaging exploration of romance and love both won and lost. Stages, her only live recording to date, was recorded at two shows in 2009 and is here re-released by Montreal-based Justin Time
The Ethel Merman Disco Album There’s no people like show people, and there’s no one showier than Broadway force of nature Ethel Merman. Her powerhouse wallop of precise pitch and clearly enunciated mezzo-soprano voice – said to have been enhanced in part by a tonsillectomy during her early career – facilitated her stage success in the days before microphones. The brassy and irrepressible Merman, who never had a singing lesson, was her own amplification, a trait that allowed her to better emulate the performances of such idols as Fanny Brice and Sophie Tucker, who she had watched and revered

DeepSoul: Hall and Oates - "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)"

Blue-eyed soul doesn't get any better than Hall and Oates' 1981 classic.
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They may have appeared in some cringe-worthy, cheesy '80s videos. They may be deemed "uncool" by critics for their so-called commercial sound. But Hall and Oates will ultimately go down as one of the best blue-eyed soul groups in the modern era, as innumerable artists have covered or sampled their work. Daryl Hall and John Oates succeeded in taking Philly Soul and modernizing it, creating such classics as "She's Gone," "Sara Smile," "Kiss on My List," and "Private Eyes," to name just a few of their numerous hits. The one song that has endured, due to its infectious rhythm and