Friday, December 28, 2018

Ted Hajnasiewicz releases This is What I Do


Ted Hajnasiewicz has made quite the career out of pitching us some of the American underground’s most opulent grooves and swaying strings to match them. Almost always these songs have been punctuated with an undying lyrical earnestness that is impossible to resist when you love a good country/rock crossover tune like I do, and in the singer/songwriter’s aptly-titled new album This Is What I Do, he treats us to the sweetest (and most somber) tracks of his sterling discography. Opening with the stone cold “This Town is Not For Me” and closing with the awesome “Burning Bridges,” This Is What I Do is an unforgiving treasure chest of searing ballads listeners won’t soon forget.

“Oh! Sweet Love,” “If I Could Leave This Place Tomorrow” and “Stars and the Sea” represent the buoyant side of Hajnasiewicz’s catalogue, while the more elegiac “Go Easy on Me,” “You Will Find Him on a Mercy Seat” and the suffocating acoustic rock of “Longing for the Northern Wind” are decidedly more cutting and direct both lyrically and musically. The duality in his songcraft isn’t lost in this greatest hits-style compilation, and if anything it makes his multilayered persona the real star of the show. You’d have to be a fool not to appreciate the versatility in his sound; it’s as attractive as his honeysweet voice is.

The balladry in This Is What I Do is indulgent and richly designed, but I don’t think it’s anywhere close to being excessive or ridiculously gluttonous. The raw energy of slow dancing twang-steeped songs like “My Heart is in Memphis” ensures that while these tracks have an extra coat of production lacquering in this setting, they’re far from reprocessed pop fodder meant to satisfy radio disc jockeys alone. These tracks have the streamlined structure that mainstream airplay demands, but their simplistic, DIY aesthetic is perfectly preserved and not intruded upon by the muscular mix.

There’s plenty of riffage here (albeit acoustically based) to satisfy rock fans alongside Nashville disciples, and I think that they help to balance out the brooding country lyricism that we come across in “I Give Myself” and the stirring “Wedding Coat,” which on its own has the look and feel of a much more dangerous blues jam than it ends up being musically. Guitar buffs won’t be able to stay away from the glow of “Oh! Sweet Love” or its counterpart, the stoic “Go Easy on Me,” which could be even more affective here than it was to begin with – if you’re able to imagine as much.

Bold melodies and stinging prose make This Is What I Do required listening for anyone, and by that I mean everyone, who loves intrepid heartland folk/rock free of the corporate chains that hold many similarly styled singer/songwriters back from reaching their true potential. Ted Hajnasiewicz has never had time for childish politics and industrial game playing; in this album we hear just how passionate he is about his medium, giving all of his soul over to the strings in 11 of the most decadent and emotional songs compiled together this year. Bottom line, give this record a spin this January. My gut tells me that if you enjoy music as much as I do, you won’t regret it.


Mindy McCall

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Rob Alexander - Long Road Coming Home

South Floridians know Rob Alexander as a well-regarded doctor, a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Medicine, and an all-around amiable man and member of the community. Music fans have been getting to know him in an entirely different way this year thanks to his debut album Long Road Coming Home, which so far has spawned four singles, the most recent of which being the title track. “Long Road Coming Home” capture’s the same good-natured character that members of Rob’s family and community have always known him to be, but in the most defiantly soulful way possible. His music is an amalgamation of the softer side of classic rock and adult contemporary, and alongside producer and multi-instrumentalist mastermind Gabe Lopez he unleashes pure pop magic in this bitterly emotive gem.

Long Road Coming Home is a very complex record, but its centerpiece title track is actually one of its simpler and on-point offerings. It isn’t as sprawling and textured as some of the other material on the album, but it’s by far the most riveting. Rob croons tender words against a slow churning beat, each one of his lyrics spilling through the speakers like immaculate paints onto a canvas. He’s got every opportunity in the world to go over the top as he lumbers towards the chorus, but he restrains himself, allowing for the song to go on at an even tempo rather than suddenly flying off the rails. His discipline is something to be marveled at, especially considering that we’ve been living in somewhat reckless times for pop music.

Rob’s an amazing singer and songwriter, but his harmonies are what grab my attention more than anything else in this single. “Long Road Coming Home” isn’t particularly elaborate, as previously stated, but what makes it so magnetically alluring is its boldly orchestrated harmonies between Rob and the music. Gabe Lopez did a fine job of cleaning up the track to make every nook and cranny of the verses intoxicatingly inviting and earnest, and I think his work on this single is just as attentive as the artist’s is. I seriously hope this is the first of many collaborative adventures that they embark on together; they have awesome chemistry in this song and throughout the entirety of Long Road Coming Home.

I would love to hear this track live, particularly in an acoustic setting with just Rob and a guitar or a piano to assist him. He possesses a kind of raw skill that you can’t teach in a school or practice into existence; it’s something that comes naturally. He’s making the most of his abilities in this single, and I think he’s definitely on the right trajectory towards accomplishing what he set out to do with Long Road Coming Home in general. Singles, especially early on, are crucial to getting an artist the exposure that’s required to warrant making more than one album, and I think this one gives listeners a full-fledged sampling of what they can expect out of Rob Alexander in his future recordings.

Bethany Page approved and posted by Mindy McCall

The music of Rob Alexander has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here -

Monday, November 5, 2018

Abby Zotz drops some Honey

These are songs examining human experience with a balanced eye rather than making hay from its despair alone. Abby Zotz’s Local Honey never overindulgences listener’s good graces and the focus Zotz brings to exploring those themes makes this songwriting an even more invigorating experience. The extensive history she has working in folk and traditional music traditions has primed her to branch off from its narrow purist formula and make something unique from its inherent strengths. There are a number of effective turns throughout the album, never filling any one song too heavily, and varying from song to song. “Stability” has fewer of those moments than many of the later songs, but it gets Local Honey off to a solid start and builds momentum that sustains listeners all the way until the end. The smooth, gliding beauty of Zotz’s vocal performance is one of its most remarkable moments.

“Stability” gives this album an effortless uplift from the first and the orchestration of its various musical elements proves to be a well shaped frame for its writing. The songwriting explores a familiar theme, but she weaves it together in her own language without regard for past songs covering the same area. You can hear, in the space of one song, the passion she has for this material. The next song “Big Hope” carries that to another level and it’s tailored well to the expanded possibilities of its arrangement. The organ playing running throughout the song even takes a moment in the spotlight with a brief solo and sets this song far apart from the other material on Local Honey. It may be my peak moment for the album.

The growl of electric guitar and organ embellishments disappear as soon as they arrive, but we’re rewarded with the near 180 turn into the gospel trappings of “Peace Sweet Peace”. There’s no preaching in this tune, instead, it’s a heartfelt cry, and Zotz gives herself over to the song with just the right amount of commitment. The later tune “All Through the Night” has a distinctly old fashioned melodic flavor, but the venerable swing of the vocal melody and its accompanying piano hooks me in to follow along. There’s a cinematic quality to the way the piano leads us, heads up, through emotional tailwinds elegantly stated throughout. “See Your Face” is an abrupt shift and has a much stronger commercial pop edge, but it never takes short cuts or relies on overly obvious melodies.

“You’ll Never Know” has a retro feel, bluesy without ever laying it on too thick and Zotz delivers a stylized vocal throughout every line. There’s a light amount of humor running through the song, but it’s balanced well against a strongly human element in the writing and performance alike. Local Honey brings the extent of Abby Zotz’s talents into keener focus than any of her previous work and shows she’s one of the best singer/songwriters working in the traditional/Americana music scene today. It’s not difficult to imagine this solo debut represents the first chapter of a rewarding new phase in her musical career.

Zachary Rush

Monday, October 8, 2018

Del Suelo releases Book and Record

“Second Encore” kicks off Del Suelo’s second studio release The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme with a swell of live audience. It provides the perfect curtain rising atmosphere for a song collection that takes life as a musical act for its subject matter; the artist behind the Del Suelo name, Erik Mehlsen, has literary ambitions as well and the album comes with an accompanying novel. You can’t claim Mehlsen aims small. Despite his ambitions, however, the album consistently maintains the fully realized composure we hear with its second song and impressive single “Pack Rats”. It’s a truly multi-media experience, in some respects, thanks to Mehlsen filming a music video for the song and the likely existence of some narrative antecedent in the novel as well. The video, obviously a thoroughly conceived labor of love and professionally shot, nonetheless shows off Mehlsen’s under the radar sense of humor. It’s easy to lose, unfortunately, a bead on the sheer fun he seems to be having here as both a songwriter and performer when we’re so wide-eyed over the project’s high aspirations.

The bright lights and dissipation of city night life runs through the album’s next two songs, albeit expressed in very different ways. “Berlin Calling” is all punk rock rush and straight to the point, but it’s never a throwaway despite running less than ninety seconds. “A Lust Supreme”, however, is a lush, luxurious tune with style to burn and deserves consideration as one of the album’s best cuts. It’s a marvel to me how so many tracks on this album feature Mehlsen reaching unlikely, at least on the surface, soulful heights and the writing puts a spotlight on that facet of his talent without ever overstating the influence in his music or coming off as imitative.

The last song on the album with any sort of explicit lyrical content is “A Panic! at the Disco/the Fulsome Prison Blues” and the artful shape of this song moves through a variety of moods without ever seeming disjointed or uneasily matched. Maintaining a narrative over the course of a concept album, particularly an linear narrative, is a tricky proposition, but Mehlsen succeeds concentrating on character development first and foremost and Devon, the main character of Mehlsen’s story, has a convincing point of view thanks to the power of the character’s “voice”. Another confident and melodic jewel comes with the song “Caress of Steel Wheels” and it’s notable how the exhausted and rough hewn qualities of Mehlsen’s story and themes contrast with the cool sweep and sway of the song arrangements. There are some musical suggestions of those aforementioned themes, but Mehlsen focuses more on orchestrating compelling dynamics for the collection.

The focus pays off in a large way with the longest track “Darn that Dream/Stairway to Eleven”. Structured much like the earlier pairing of “A Panic! at the Disco/the Fulsome Prison Blues”, this nearly seven minute long song has ample drama and character development packed into its running time and the musical exploration never tires you or tests a listener’s patience. It’s the ideal big finale for The Musician’s Compass, but “Walk the Plank” ends the album on a note of uneasy endurance and the atmospheric musical performance provides an apt sonic conclusion for this stunning second album. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wave 21 releases LP

I love the spirit behind this album. Wave 21’s debut is the sort of album capable of acknowledging life’s adversities but, ultimately, preserving through them with the knowledge a better day will come. Wave 21’s songwriting celebrates life’s virtues and marks down its inevitable failures. The tandem behind these songs, sisters Mary Lynn and Emmy Lou Doroschuk, open the release with the song “Ya Ya Ya” and it gets things off to a rowdy start. The rowdiness, however, has a high stepping sound, a first rate singer with Wave 21 lead vocalist Mary Lynn, and a band full of backing vocalists who bring a spirit of their own to the music. If you think the song title sounds too poppy, don’t close down and fail to give it a chance. The second song “Here We Go” is even more life affirming, I think, and has a sense of life’s adventure at its heart. There’s none of the electric guitar work heard in the opener; instead, acoustic guitars lead the way as they across much of this album.

“Love Shouldn’t Make Me Cry” is one of the album’s musical highpoints. I keep waiting and waiting for the song to come to some big time chorus, but it never quite does and the closest thing we get to any sort of classic style crescendo comes with and around the bridge. There’s a number of musical highlights during the recording and Wave 21 more than amply demonstrates their musicianship. This is definitely a cut above you’re average modern country rock fare. “It’ll Be One of These Days” is tailor made for mass airplay and hopefully gets it; the Doroschuk sisters really outdo themselves here with a song that touches on universal themes in a style and way any listeners will connect with. It’s one of the best acoustic guitar tracks, as well, on the whole album.

“Pink Party” is another of the more clear cut country rock cuts on the release. Mary-Lynn throws herself into this track with particular relish the musical arrangement has a lot of the same subtlety they bring to this style in order to make it more their own. The duo of “The Fun Times” and “Come To Me” couldn’t be more different, but they represent two of my favorite points on the entire album. The first song is a much more far reaching track, musically at least, and can be considered an unplanned showcase of sorts for the band to show off the full extent of their musical chops. The shift in tempo coming with the song’s second half really drives the song home.

“Come to Me”, however, is an unfettered, open-hearted love song and difficult to shrug off as fluff thanks to an exquisite vocal and beautifully melodic arrangement. The final song “Far Away” is, also, the longest tune on the album and Wave 21 more than live up to its place in the running order with a palpable sense of its importance. There are some hints in the song, for attentive listeners, of where they may go from here musically. I know I’ll be joining them wherever they may travel. 

Missy Engelhardt 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

AV Super Sunshine release Time Bomb

AV Super Sunshine release Time Bomb

The musical time bomb driving the verve and gusto of AV Super Sunshine’s latest song “Time Bomb” takes the form of two distinct mixes. The club mix is the longer of the two songs, clocking in over five minutes in length, but it’s an overwhelming tour de force of electronica without a single extraneous musical movement. Much of the credit for this, naturally, goes to AV Super Sunshine for penning such a convincing synthesis of EDM and rock, but AV’s longtime collaborator Michael Bradford definitely deserves the spotlight as well. He turns a dynamic radio track into a full throttle, careening blast of electronic musical genius while retaining the elements making the radio version so effective., yet utilized in a different fashion.

The mix rarely skirts the edge of distortion and, instead, puts an “overdrive” effect on AV’s vocals only sparingly. One thing that leaps out, among others, about this particular version is how Bradford resolutely refuses to push the envelope too far. He has a clear vision of what a club mix of this song must sound like and, as a result, his take on AV’s radio mix has confidence and artfulness many other such efforts lack. It’s interesting, when juxtaposing this against the radio mix, which elements Bradford chooses to accentuate and those he chooses to submerge into the heavy synthesizer thrust of the song. Nonetheless, this is obviously an apt track for a club setting, but even more intimate settings will receive quite a kick in the pants from this mix. It should be played loud – it DEMANDS to be played as loud as your system can handle.

AV Super Sunshine’s radio version is a much different animal, but clearly cut from the same cloth. The synthesizers are understated here, in comparison to the other version, but their presence is strong throughout and it’s apparent how many of the building blocks this take on the song supplies for the club mix. Overall, the radio vision for this song is much more “traditional” than we hear from the club version. The melodic strengths of the track are framed much more decisively and the vocal has a much different flavor with the female backing vocals contrasting well with the lead vocal. The presence of piano cascading through the mix lightens the song’s touch a little without ever sacrificing its modern edge.

‘Time Bomb” has a fantastic sound in both versions and the varying takes on this tune never lose sight of the great song beneath all of the glitz and flash. In the end, that’s what it comes down to – AV Super Sunshine is more than just a gripping performing unit for modern audience, it references the current and past in a highly charged balance that sets it apart from virtually anything else out there in 2018 or, even, in recent history.

Matthew Johns

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Conceptz “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco)”

Conceptz “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco)”
When you’re as good at your profession as the brothers in Conceptz are, the people who depend on the quality of your work come to expect a lot out of you, whether your business is medicine, fabrics, or in Conceptz’ case, making earth-shatteringly good music. If you’re a big fan of their style, you won’t be let down by what they’ve put together in their brand new single “Splash (featuring Benny Blanco),” which has taken the pop music world by storm is collecting more attention on the pair than they could have ever dreamed of coming up in Orange County, New York. 

Emerging from one of the most diverse and competitive scenes in the entire world, Conceptz have been relentlessly producing, recording and writing since 2011 and now have a notorious reputation as one of the hardest hitting names in east coast hip-hop. Now they’re dead set on conquering the rest of America and bringing their sound to an international audience, and “Splash” is effectively facilitating their conquest.
The thing is, hip-hop as a DIY identity actually died about 20 to 25 years ago. The flames of its implosion, brought on by the violent feud between the east and west coast scenes, smoldered for almost a decade and produced a myriad of acts whose level of talent ranged widely. As the smoke cleared around the ash heap that remained once the last embers remaining from the war were completely extinguished, a lot of wannabes started picking the bones of legendary hip-hop moguls with the aspiration of creating, or maybe even becoming, something similar to what Biggie or Tupac represented. For the most part, their efforts were in vein. But recently, out of the ashes, we’ve started to see a reincarnation of the aesthetical ghosts who gave birth to records like The Score. It isn’t that groups like Conceptz are trying to look or sound like their heroes, but that they’ve adopted their free-spirited outlook, and that is what is giving life to the phoenix that is modern indie hip-hop.
In the 2020’s, pop music is going to be completely rife with the experimentalism hinted at in “Splash,” and the artists who are going to experience the highest level of success are going to be the ones who aren’t scared of change but embrace it with luster. That is why I’m positive that Conceptz are going to continue to produce hit after hit in the next couple of years, and will most likely end up being one of the landmark hip-hop acts of their time. 

Record sales have nothing to do with, and honestly neither do the reviews or critical analysis that my colleagues and I are going to pen. All that really matters is the effect that they have on the artists around them, whether it be in their native New York scene, elsewhere in the United States or even abroad. That is the true measure of their artistic worth, and judging from where they currently stand, their own legend has only just begun being written.
Drew Blackwell 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Crack of Dawn release Spotlight

Crack of Dawn release Spotlight

Crack of Dawn’s new record Spotlight opens with a song titled simply enough, “Crack of Dawn,” a track that immediately jumps right into the same, reliably charming funk that gave this group their infamous start in the 1970s and is keeping them pumping as hard as the heart of a young lover in 2018. “Wake me up at the crack of dawn, we gonna get it on” we’re told, and never have I felt so eager to break into this new day that’s awaiting us in the nine tracks to follow; this is the long overdue trip that fans Crack of Dawn have been waiting to take for some time now, and at as “Somebody’s Watching” starts up, it’s clear that our moment has finally arrived.

“Somebody’s Watching” gets us lit up with some white hot guitar riffing that’s punctuated with a bass that goes for a walk around the vocals and driving drum beat. It’s a great buffer and intro into the equally spellbinding and funky “Booby Ruby,” a boisterous number that evokes Stevie Wonder’s grinding keys and methodical pitch attack. Even with the shifts in the tempo between the first three songs, Spotlight features an ambiance that remains the same throughout its entire play, without getting too monotonous or stuck on a certain theme. Take for example the way we practically catapult from “Booby Ruby” into the thumping, ambitiously agile “Keep the Faith,” a song that I think needs to be a single up for consideration at this year’s Grammy Awards if the judges manage to develop any sort of sense. Unlikely, but we can still dream can’t we?

If there were anyone worth their wits in the American music establishment, a song like “It’s Alright” would already be towering over the charts as we head into the summer season – which has pretty much always been the primetime for sensuous love songs of its high caliber. It’s matched in creativity by “Ol’ Skool,” my favorite song on Spotlight. “Ol’ Skool” is a very autobiographical song for the band, but not once does Crack of Dawn give us the impression that they’re lamenting how much time has gone by. Actually, I think they’re in love with the history they’ve been able to make, and they’re still down to keep the party going into the next generation and beyond. “Seasons Change” keeps up with this theme, and makes for a very welcoming melodic break from all of the strenuous beats we’ve experienced up until this point of the record.

The title track from Spotlight is easily the most relaxed moment of the entire album, dimming the lights and letting the illuminating pipes of our lead singer direct our attentions further towards the opulent and sumptuous. It’s the perfect segue into “Your Love” and it’s all out eroticism that’s planted right into the melodies it so proudly boasts. As the LP draws to a poignant close with the enchanting “Changes,” everyone who has been listening might take away a slightly different interpretation of Crack of Dawn’s intentions with Spotlight, but one thing remains universally agreed upon; their reemergence really is the best thing that could have happened to pop music right now.

Thomas Patton, III

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lauria – Losing Me

Lauria – Losing Me

Lauria, aka Florie-Laure Zadigue DubĂ©, brings her new single to the world with a bold and vibrant debut that cuts through the noise of the day with a vibe that changes everything from moods to minds once you hear it. “Losing Me” is a hit song by a hit artist in the making, as it comes before what should be a string of others to go with it at the rate it hits the senses. Not that Laurie is trying to come on too strong, but it does its own magic either way, as she eases her way into a music career after playing in a band with her cousin and being around her producer-  uncle a lot, who now manages her. 

It really plays like a great little earworm that her vocals top off and make an anticipating ballad that consistently builds as it goes and simply does the business by the time it’s over. The vocals soar and spar back and forth together with a sultry, very relaxing result. It comes with lyrics that the title sums up and further elaborates with the cause and effects of losing the love that deserves better care. Lauria’s voice is something to behold as she pleads for the cause and helps make the song, as that what her vocals alone can do. Simply amazing to say the least. 

The Pop structure she weaves is really-just the outlining genre in which she has no qualms about being listed, but Lauria aims beyond classification and doesn’t bottle herself into any. This is a slow song with a slow groove and the music setting complements her vocals without dominating the arrangement, placing her more along the lines of R&B and even hip hop that is sung without rapping. If she can be all three, then that is what she is. But I can also imagine her singing jazz as well because her voice suits just about any type of music and she makes no secret of that, so it’s no accident. 

For a break-up song played like a love song it has the best of both worlds and the singer with just the right shops for it, and the songwriting is excellent so it’s easy to assume there’s more on the horizon from Laurie, with only one single so far to sense that. You can tell there’s a lot more in her, but you have-to start somewhere and this is a monster start. Put five to ten more of these down and Laurie won’t be looking back, she’s a force to reckon with. 

It’s not very often that you come across such impacting debut single releases anymore, but Laurie has-the ability to blend in with the times without losing old fashioned values. And coming from Montreal it’s an exotic sound that isn’t often heard everywhere, which she classifies as an artist too. That’s some of the difference between Lauria and some other singers of the day with less eloquence, and eloquence is a good way to describe both her vocals and the music on “Losing Me.” Don’t miss this killer new cut by an extraordinary artist that sings with the passion of the best around.

David Ricks 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Edenn “Thinking”

Edenn “Thinking”

So many songs, so little time. So many decisions on what to add to your playlist, or dance to a on Saturday night. What are you thinking? Well, doubters beware, Edenn is ready to pounce with the super chill, but contagious pop – dance track “Thinking.” This song at just over three minutes’ holds your attention from the get go and keeps you moving.

Born in Togo but now calling Europe home, Edenn’s background is in journalism and screenwriting. While you won’t find much storytelling in the lyrics of “Thinking,” per se, you do find a delightful and celebratory music beats and rhythm. The song has a fresh, island-like feel. No, not like reggae or even dub music, but rather a breezy pop-dance meets R&B vibe. “Thinking” fuses all the modern tricks in dance music (the beat is infectious) with the simplicity of pop song lyrics.
“Thinking” rises to the occasion and has subtle Afro-pop flavorings.

Fans of Sia will definitely dig “Thinking.” While Edenn’s voice is not as unique as Sia’s delivery, his presence is head turning. There’s a sweetness and almost innocence in his voice. His vibe is so welcoming and joyful. Still, there’s a sexual tension that as a listener you’re left wondering, and trying to complete the puzzle pieces, if he’s thinking about a girl, an affair he’s having, or just being a cool guy and thanking his support system. His press materials state he’s so moved by his fans and supporters that he wanted to write “Thinking.”

Shhh,  I think “Thinking” is about a torrid love affair.

“Thinking” leaves you with an experience. It’s not about the lyrics necessarily, but getting lost in the entire track. You are instantly immersed into another sensory artistic world. That island feel becomes such a clear indication of the enjoyment. You feel a part of a dance party at midnight; you feel a part of the intimate moments on the beach.

Overall, Edenn’s debut track “Thinking” is a clear hit. Right out of the gate, he got me dancing and loving the beat. I wish there were more depth to the lyrics, but it didn’t distract me from still repeatedly listening. With so many similar electronic pop songs sounding the same, Edenn sticks out the crowd just enough to be noticed. I fear he will be plagued by his voice not having the falsetto wave like Jason Derulo or the smoothness of Ne-Yo, but Edenn stays in his lane and does what does. And he does it very well. He charms without being too insecure, and is very relatable.

Gwen Waggoner approved by Mindy McCall

Monday, June 11, 2018

Cathy Hutch releases LP

Cathy Hutch releases LP

Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada is home to singer and songwriter Cathy Hutch. In addition to volunteering her musical talents for autism fundraisers and her community, Hutch has found the time to release her second album, Free Wheelin.'

The 11-song album is foot tapping and soul-searching journey ready for summer listening and perfect for country-blues-rock playlists.

The title track gets you behind the wheel and ready to roll down the road or along the coast on your motorcycle. Hutch’s band is equally deserving of accolades. This tune could fit nicely into an Americana-roots rock genre. The guitar riffs, as well as the piano and percussions on all of the tracks are flawless and tight. Free Wheelin’ gets two thumbs up for setting the mood for a nice, easy going summer.

It’s interesting that Hutch makes you feel like you’re moving and there’s a sense of nature and certainly the human spirit in her songs, but it’s really an album that is best-experienced sitting down and not being distracted. You fall into her vocal spell.  She will color your day with grace, light and rapture.

Songs like “Know It All” and “Sweet Dave” are amplified, and Hutch seems to dig deeper into her vocal arsenal for edgier deliveries. Her originality is refreshing and she’s not trying to be anything she’s not. While some might compare Hutch to the legendary Tanya Tucker, Pat Benatar, or even Melissa Etheridge, Cathy Hutch stands her ground in an already entertaining splendor. She’s genuine and passionate. Most of all, her caring smile comes through in all the tracks.

At first listen I didn’t think “Carry You Along” would be my favorite track. It’s very wholesome and almost children’s programming or Christian rock. It’s an upbeat song, and like the final track “Lullaby” her passion for the human spirit shines through. “Lullaby” is certainly timely and reminds us that we have to get together. In a motherly way, she sings to us as if we were sing out loud an evening prayer. Both of these songs stuck with me throughout my day and her voice seemed to remind me to keep my head up and move forward.

Hutch serenades the listener with her angelic voice in “Good Friends Like You” and again in “Reflections.” While some listeners might find it hokey or even silly to fall into these feel-goodery songs, Hutch reminds the listener that she can keep her listeners moving and listening with her quick upbeat tracks like “Sweet Dave.” She’s a true artist. Her vulnerable voice channels the idea of personal growth and taking personal inventory of a who’s who in your life. “Good Friends Like You” might appeal to mostly females, but it’s still an open diary. Props to Cathy for sharing her words and her voice.

Colin Steele

Conor Gains - Compass

Conor Gains - Compass

A musician’s life is only driven by two things and two things alone. One: the need for food and water to sustain survival. Two: the need to express, and express, and express more, as freely as the universe allows. Like a river crashing between the rocks and slowly but surely breaking them down to dust, Conor Gains’ debut record Compass will rock your world with its giant guitars and finely textured percussion, horn and key arrangements, but it’s the long term effect of its inspired lyrics that will impact you at the highest threshold.

Conor Gains is a pretty easy going guy. Even if you don’t pick that up from his very happy go lucky style of play, he’ll be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In the past few years he’s been developing the material for what has ultimately become Compass, weeding out anything that he didn’t deem to be up to his high standard of music output. According to Gains, he wrote approximately a hundred different sonnets, ballads and poems that he ironed out over and over before finely deciding on the ten tracks featured on his debut album. Chalk it up to perfectionism or simply fate, but the results are well worth the wait that industry peers and critics alike have been waiting for.

Even for the most intellectually-resistant, casual music fan, Compass offers a buffet of qualities to be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone from kids to seniors. There are a lot of jazz workings in the structure and plenty of psychedelic noodling to keep things interesting, but it’s probably the world music influences that stand out through the funk and blues more than anything else. There’s a well-traveled smokiness to Conor’s voice that is as sexy as it is as mysterious, and it makes for an exciting layer in addition to the many other cultural accents on this album. The diversity of sounds, tones and themes in Compass might strike some as a little cocky for a rookie release, but Gains is not your typical up and coming singer/songwriter. The cohesiveness of the songs remains without fracture despite vaulting from danceable (“Dance Like It’s Your Birthday” and fresh single “I Know”), to the reflective (“Miracles” and “I’ve Been Looking for Your Heart”) and willfully abstract (“In My Head”). Compass is as nimble as a four song extended play but with the IMAX sized vision of a double full-length record.

Conor Gains isn’t just dropping new music on the charts for sport; he’s engineering a new style of relaxed, free jazz that welcomes the spirit of experimental indie rock with open arms. The combination is nothing to take lightly – we’re looking at the next phase of alternative music packaged into a single record here, folks. Who knows why it took so long for the scenes to find each other, but now that it’s capturing the attention of audiences from one side of the Atlantic to the other, Gains can rightfully take his place as the king of post-millennium swing.

Trace Whittaker

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Electrified

Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite – Electrified

This is a single with a near anthemic quality, but Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite never chooses to go all the way in that direction. “Electrified” is the first single release from their soon to be released debut studio album Canyon Diablo and, if we should consider it representative of the future release in anyway, Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite are poised to jolt an increasingly moribund scene with a song mixing traditional merits of rock/popular song craft with polished and thoroughly modern production. The sonic architecture is helmed by renowned production team the Grand Brothers and the project, as a whole, represents their second collaboration with the song’s vocalist Dee. Dee has release two solo albums, the second produced by the aforementioned brothers, and enjoys a vast YouTube following as well as landing his song “Miles and Miles (Living on the Edge)” with a Super Bowl Ford automotive commercial. The sort of exposure that brings is inestimable.

There’s some female backing vocals scatting along with the arrangement and a smidgen of post production effects applied to the lead vocal, but Dee’s voice and performing presence is definitely enough to sustain the song alone. He handles the verses and refrains alike with equal confidence, but yet seems to have an unerring sense of what the music and lyrics alike require from his talents. The message behind the song is, essentially, a simple one, but that doesn’t stop Dee from delivering it with every ounce of the oomph “Electrified” deserves. Despite the song title, however, Dee notably never goes overboard with his delivery and his voice crackles with just enough emotion to make this a compelling ride for listeners. He latches onto the wide swing achieved by the song’s rhythm section and really makes it come particularly alive during the song’s refrain urging listeners to keep moving on.

There’s plenty of electronic pyrotechnics flashing across the surface of the song’s rhythm section, but the basis of everything for this track is the meaty bottom end attack that gives both Dee and the backing vocalists such a rich foundation to work on top of. As mentioned earlier, the song achieves a real swing and swagger without ever over-exaggerating its qualities and the Grand Brothers’ production keeps everything vivid, but balanced. It’s a tightrope act they pull off with exceptional skill. They have strong instincts, as well, for how the song should be structured and the composition never runs on too long with needless instrumental touches or too much lyrical content. Everything is cut to a focused edge that never relents for the entirety of the song. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite’s “Electrified” is one of the most impressive singles from 2018, any genre, and definitely makes a case for Canyon Diablo potentially ending up on a lot of year’s best lists when December rolls around. It’s that good and promises more even better to come.

David Beals

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow

Monsieur Job - Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow

Monsieur Jobs’ single “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” is a powerful release from a quartet joined by guest singer Martin Cintron of the band No Mercy. This release from Basswalk Latino is the end result of a project initially conceived by label head Jose Fernando Holguin and brought to reality by the songwriting talents of Stan Kolev and Toby Holguin, but Kolev and Holguin are not alone.  

The experience and skill Leo Jaramillo and Charlie Illera bring to the recording is unquestionably crucial and their combined studio and live pedigree fuses to form one of the more fiery outings in modern pop and EDM I’ve heard in quite some time. This doesn’t settle merely for pandering to listeners with perfunctory beats and shopworn rhythms. Instead, Monsieur Jobs’ “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” rings out with inspired energy and creativity to burn.    
Few tracks in this style will sound as complete as this. Newcomers to the genre will find their preconceptions smashed and longtime devotees of the style will be thrilled to hear an outfit that challenges formulas while still hitting all of the fundamental marks. Citron’s vocals are a perfect fit for the radio edit and the variety of ways Kolev and Holguin’s songwriting presents him for listeners is one of the critical reasons this single proves to be such a success. The length is perfect for the performance and well balanced between Citron’s singing and the music. It is true, however, that the arrangement is primarily focused around the drumming, but Monsieur Job possess a wide vision for what percussion means in their music and it becomes the lead instrument, in some ways, providing the foundation upon which everything else exists.  

It’s a powerful reminder of what re-envisioning a style, even a little, can accomplish for an act rambunctious and ambitious enough to pull that off. Stan Kolev’s accompanying remix of the tune is a radical reinvention of the song that, nevertheless, maintains a clear connection to the aforementioned version.  

Kolev recasts “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” as a much harder, ferociously inclined EDM take on the song with the vocals laid scattershot over the track in a way that transforms Citron’s singing into another powerful instrument for the unit. There’s much less outright musicality here than what we hear in the radio edit, but that doesn’t make it lesser. Instead, “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” packs quite a wallop in both forms, albeit manifested in distinctly different ways. Monsieur Job certainly has unusual origins and a different background than most projects in this vein, but that individualistic lineage produces something unique in a genre where uniformity is too often rewarded. Both versions of “Chow Chow eyyy Pow Pow” are sure to entertain audiences and linger in the memory long after the final notes conclude.  

Larry Robertson

Monday, February 5, 2018

Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death

Universal Dice - birth, love, hate, death

birth, love, hate, death from Universal Dice marks the band’s fourth studio release and definitely their highest reaching effort yet. Lead singer and chief songwriter Gerry Dantone has aspirations going far beyond your typical retro minded rock release. Dantone certainly draws from a recognizable array of influences to make this release fly, longtime rock fans will surely be comforted by his mastery of the style, but the sixteen songs on Universal Dice’s fourth album are definitely modern confections with vibrant and warm sound that doesn’t recall times of yore. There’s a great mix of songwriting and instrumental prowess making this release go and it reaches some truly impressive high points along the way.  

Gerry Dantone’s vocals are traditionally beautiful or musical, but he has an astonishingly engaging emotive sound that’s turned to excellent use on a number of cuts. birth, love, hate, death might initially seem overlong at sixteen songs, but it never really flags and keeps you listening throughout.  
It starts off with a pleasing amount of energy and urgency. “Welcome to the World” brings listeners right into Universal Dice’s imaginative world on the steady shoulders of breezy, confident drumming and well aimed guitars. There’s a much more emotive side brought out with the album’s first ballad styled number, “I Wish I Could Tell You This”, thanks to the lead guitar and a patient, slowly unfolding musical arrangement that nevertheless makes no added demands on listener’s patience. “Your Son” shows off another appealing side of the band’s musical personality with its mix of acoustic and electrified instruments in such a way that they make use of great dynamics and create significant “drama”.  

Dantone’s vocals are strong on every cut and he shows a penchant early on for varying his delivery as the song demands while still promoting himself with a recognizable style. He never feels like the focus, but he’s likewise never far from the heart of each song. That changes some on tunes like “The Prophet” where instrumental excellence is much more pronounced. The drumming on birth, love, hate, death is uniformly awesome, but “The Prophet” is one of those high points on the album where it really stands out from the pack. “Danielle” and the later “I Know What I’m Doin’” is a case study in contrast.  The former tune is an effervescent musical ride, relaxing yet containing some serious undercurrent, while “I Know What I’m Doin’” communicates low key menace in a way nothing else on birth, love, hate, death matches. “I’m No Good for You” is another especially hard hitting rock number, but Universal Dice leavens its effects some with acoustic guitar. The final two tracks “One Day at a Time” and “Forever” ends the album on an acoustic, salutatory note without ever slipping into hamminess and pretension.

This is one of the more impressive, clearly thought out releases from 2017 and it’s difficult to imagine much in this new year vying for the same mantle in the same style.  

Daniel Boyer