Terry Klein (from the album Tex available as a self-release)
A Cape Cod vacation is the opening scene for Terry Klein when his recent release Tex joins the family in their car crossing “Sagamore Bridge” while the song judges their fellow humans on the highway rushing headfirst into fun. Terry Klein slaps pages from past like travel stickers on Tex,memory revealing a scene from Moscow, June 1993 with “Steady Rain” as the album follows I-40 into the coming sunset in “Oklahoma” and waltzes across Texas into Terlingua with “When the Ocotillo Bloom as “Andalusia” becomes the needed fix for bad news.
Austin, Texas watched the transition of Terry Klein from recovering lawyer to songwriter though the man with the guitar still likes to look his best when he dons a “Straw Hat” and listens to the cameras snap the ‘well-heeled fella dressed to kill’. Tex tells the tales as Terry Klein captures mental images of life around him, translating into words and music, matching the rhythm to the feet trudging through “Too Blue to Get That Far”, heals the hurt of love with the tender accordion melodies for “Anika”, and sweeps dust from memories in “Daddy’s Store”.
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Girls on Grass (from the album Dirty Power available as a self-release)
Who wants to dance? Girls on Grass give up a beat on the opening cut from their recent release, Dirty Power, looking to hang where the real fun happens “Down at the Bottom”. Dirty Powerkeeps the rhythm section busy while Girls on Grass multi-task their tunes, taking a cue from the Punk Rock playbook when “Because Capitalism” slaps down a rhythmic political message as the band soundtrack a front-of-stage love scene on “Friday Night” and run with the pack to make a break “Into the Sun”. Girls on Grass stick to the Roots of a Rock’n’Roll formula that packs guitar jangle and an indestructible backbeat into three minutes of glory, the double guitars of GoG adding in touches of twang (“Thoughts are Free”) and feral riffs (“Street Fight”).
Produced by Eric Ambel (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Del Lords, Blood Oranges, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The Yayhoos), Dirty Powershowcases the diversity of a four-piece rock’n’roll band. The Brooklyn-based crew strum a sad front porch Country ramble that finds support in the garage rock rhythm of “Got to Laugh to Keep from Cryin’” as Girls on Grass head to a basement bar for a performance of “John Doe” and take the subway out to the beach for the surf-infused instrumental in “Asesino”.
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Tokyo Tramps (from the album If I Die Tomorrow available as a self-release)
There is a story to Tokyo Tramps. It is a familiar tale of searchers, youth succumbing to the seduction of a guitar (piano, drum, etc.) and following the sound to find their calling. The spin that Tokyo Tramps put on the roles takes the members back to their native Japan. Band history watches Satoru Nakagawa (guitar) graduate high school and leave Japan in 1990 to discover the origins of Rock’n’Roll, landing in New Orleans and moving to Boston in 1996 to deepen his studies in music. Piano was the first instrument for Yukiko Fujii as age six before she picked up the bass guitar and formed her own band at fourteen, focusing on Rock from the 1970’s and 1980’s. She left a lucrative job in Tokyo when her heart began to beat loud for American music and relocated to Boston, MA. In 1999, the pair of the Japanese born American Roots fanatics formed Tokyo Tramps, snagging the moniker from Springsteen’s “Born to Run”. The backstory leads into If I Die Tomorrow, the recent release from Tokyo Tramps, an album that fits all the musical puzzle pieces the band has collected to form a sound that matches the psychedelia of Blues Rock forefathers Blue Cheer circa 1969.
Tokyo Tramps get seduced with a come-on-in groove when they take a seat in “Betty’s Kitchen” as If I Die Tomorrowmeets a “Mystery Man” on a mighty backbeat, creates a current of funk for “Flowing Water”, makes a plea over a smoldering rhythm to “Woman”, and spits out a triphammer beat to ask “Why”. There is a satisfaction in living your dreams and the joy that Tokyo Tramps feel can be heard in every note of If I Die Tomorrow. Highway 61 road signs flash by when Tokyo Tramps add a touch of twang to their Blues in “Blues in My Blood”, trail swamp mist around the snaking hammer-pound beat from “Talkin’ to Someone”, and tap a toe for the front porch Folk optimism of “Winter Always Turns to Spring” as If I Die Tomorrowties mortality to a simmering groove in the title track.
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Damien Jurado from the album In the Shape of a Storm available on Mama Bird Recording Co. (by Bryant Liggett)
Damien Jurado’s In the Shape Of a Storm is a stripped-down album of somber guitars and hushed vocals. With backing from just an acoustic guitar, Damien Jurado plays it straight in the songs, the tales arriving as either questions or confessional answers by way of a laid back and quiet, aching and honest delivery. In the Shape of a Storm presents every character, in every song, on the verge of taking a life-changing chance. Album opener, “Lincoln”, is a tale of an outsider laying it all out on the line, jilted and bummed-out, admitting repeatedly that ‘there is nothing left to hide’ and ‘heaven is full of people who belong’.
“Newspaper Gown” is heavy, a lonely and sad love song sung like the narrator carries a dense and worldly burden, while “South” puts our own problems in perspective with a tale of two men ‘both so insane and pushing our luck’ as they question if marriage or moving will be the heavier demise. Damien Jurado sings of life’s brutal realities on “Silver Ball,” expressing that in fact ‘time does not heal’ and ‘everything ends’ while “Anchors” echoes those realities in a love song where the backdrop reminds of a lost love in our own that lives that was never meant to be. There is a weight when the stories show themselves as personal, the tales are plucked out of a universal human reality. Damien Jurado’s drifters, broken lovers and people at the end of their rope become familiar, mirrors of ourselves as their ambiguous and easily relatable tales leave their fate adrift in to an open sea of imagination with In the Shape of a Storm. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Ted Russell Kamp from the album Walkin’ Shoes available as a self-release (by Bryant Liggett)
Labeled a Country Roots Americana guy, Ted Russell Kamp excels at creating music reflective of the various genre labels that casually get thrown his way. His latest release, Walkin’ Shoes, has an overall Blues vibe, Ted Russell Kamp touching the tracks with Alt Country and Classic Country. If Ted hasn’t been namechecked in a style, he will likely cut a tune to fit a genre he hasn’t found time to get around to….yet. “Home Away from Home” kicks Walkin’ Shoes off as a smoking opener of Country Blues followed by a dose of modern Outlaw Country in “Paid By The Mile.”
Ted Russell Kamp channels a 1980’s Indie Rock vibe in “We Don’t Have To Be Alone” while “Tail Light Shine” carries a big electric Blues riff in its wake. Instruments are all but left behind on the late-night drive in “Highway Whisper”, there is a soulful love song with “Written In Stone” and a huge nod to Conway Twitty via the grooving Country of “Just About Time for a Heartache”. Big New Orleans horns rear their bouncy heads on “Less Thinkin’, More Drinkin” and the album closer, “Roll On Through The Night”, is a Southern Rock jam. Ted Russell Kamp’s record collection must be chock-full of 1970’s Country alongside Paul Westerberg, ZZ Top and Dr. John, because all see, and hear, their musical footprint on Walkin’ Shoes. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Rod Melancon (from the album Pinkville available on Blue Elan Records)
Rod Melancon chooses a state of mind to erect a town hosting the cast of characters he gives life in the songs on Pinkville. Over the course of four albums, Rod Melancon has used his knack of infusing memories of growing up in South Louisiana with flesh and blood heroes and villains. Pinkville plays home to a Texas tale when thick, rubbery guitar notes trace a line through “Corpus Christi Carwash” as Rod Melancon crosses the tracks to cruise into “Westgate” while its title track materializes when the dust clears on a backroad shack revealing the story of a Viet Nam vet, a ‘man with boots on American soil and his mind in the burning villages of Pinkville’. The fictious Pinkville in the memory namechecks a military nickname for locations in Viet Nam that included the site of the infamous U.S. soldier’s massacre of more than 500 civilians in My Lai.
Lightly picked electric guitar notes greet the dawn as the storyline rises up to hitch a ride on a snaking rhythm for “Rehabilitation” while Pinkville pounds a getaway route into “Cobra” and Rod Melancon hops on board a Tulsa-groove to find a way out of Silver Lake and “Manic Depression”. Staying true to his branded singing storyteller image, Rod Melancon gives a nod to the Petty-ness still sounding loud in his rock’n’roll with “The Heartbreakers” as Pinkville welcomes imports with tunes from Tom Waits (“Goin’ Out West”) and Bruce Springsteen (“57 Channels”).
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The Budos Band (from the album The Budos Band V available on Daptone Records)
Analog recording and vintage sounds have become sonic goals as musicians attempt to re-create the past by using similar equipment and stripped-back studio techniques. The Budos Band V succeeds in the same ambitions by stacking the album with audio how-to examples when The Budos Band mirror the musical experimentations and forays of late 1960’s/early 1970’s that blended rock, funk, jazz, and soul, giving the results a beat you can dance to. The Budos Band gets pulled into a swirling groove, the rhythm section creating an undertow edge for “Ghost Talk” as Vputs a rhythmic patter below “Maelstrom” to carry majestic horn riffs and the feral crawl of an electric guitar lead.
The magic of The Budos Band V is its ability to shape shift within styles as the group seduce with the rhythm line trance of “The Enchanter” while haunted melodies drift over “Valley of the Damned” and Latin textures play a lonely trumpet in “Veil of Shadows” and Space Rock soundtracks the journey of “Arcane Rambler”. The album title serves double duty with The Budos Band V marking album number five in the group’s career and putting a Vfor victory in achieving sonic uniqueness and independence, wearing influences as accessories rather than mimicking past Rock/Funk/Soul powerhouses. The Budos Band make use of psychedelic lessons without dosing themselves in long jams or freefall musical expeditions, the songs on The Budos Band V concise and to the point whether collecting musical notes that poke out like sharp needles in “Spider Web, Pt. 1”, cutting a path across the rhythmic flooding of “Old Engine Oil” with slashing chords, or giving a cinematic flourish to “Peak of Eternal Night”.
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The Infamous Stringdusters (from the album Rise Sun available on Tape Time Records)
Bluegrass as a genre has been on the move for a few years, honoring tradition and cultivating a change in style. The Infamous Stringdusters have been in the lead with a handful of other string bands pushing the enveloping and developing a different sound from plucks, picks, and strums on their instruments. Rise Sun, the recent release from The Infamous Stringdusters, harnesses the same sonic force that band has used as a fifth member on previous recordings and in their live set. In addition to challenging their own abilities, The Infamous Stringdusters present Rise Sun as a unique experience, its collection of songs finding a positive outlook and good feelings to be their common thread. The title track opens the recording with handclaps, frenetic banjo notes, and a rapid-fire lyric flow that calls the dawn into action as Rise Sunstiches a musical groove line to form “Planets” and raises a twang-filled ruckus to “Wake the Dead” while The Infamous Stringdusters become one as the heartbeat in “Truth and Love”.
Optimism shines in the light of Rise Sun, The Infamous Stringdusters fueling the atmosphere of the album with joy and hopeful aspirations. The intention of the band going in to record matches the outcome, The Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall recalling ‘Rise Sun was sparked by the feeling of wanting something better for the world—more love, more awareness, and more compassion. It’s a message of taking care of each other, our planet, and our selves. We all shared this feeling as evidenced by the songs we brought to the project. It’s the feeling of a rising sun as opposed to a dark night. Sometimes a message of hope is less popular than one of despair, but it’s much-needed nevertheless’. Rise Sun picks up the pace to make through “Another Night” and slows to offer solace to souls “Somewhere in Between” while The Infamous Stringdusters embrace nature and use its lessons as a DIY-guide to our own lives in “Thunder”, viewing life as a glass half-full in “Last of the Lucky Ones”.
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Matt Andersen from the album Halfway Home by Morning available on True North Records (by Bryant Liggett)
Halfway Home by Morning, the recent release from Matt Andersen, is like a good walk, the destination a second thought to the experiences encountered along the way. The album shifts through Country, Folk and funky Blues sounds, featuring the big voice of Matt Andersen along with additional touches provide by the beauty in backing vocals that range from simple Doo Wop harmonies to a gospel choir effect in the verses. “What Would Your Mama Say” is a groovy stroll into the album as opener, keyboard heavy riffs accentuated by the ladies backing with vocals.
“Something to Lose” features Amy Helm, her voice a choice pairing to that of Andersen. The tune is a soulful ballad, carefully crafted stimulation from guitar and pedal steel, alternately fill-in with tasty horns. “Gasoline” grooves with punching horn blasts, the storyline telling of a thoughtful, better the world around you suggesting ‘before we change the world, we’re gonna have to change our minds. Let’s start living and forgiving like we’re running out of time, stop fighting fire with gasoline’. “Help Yours Elf” is a pep-talk of a song with personal reflections and human suggestions; the horns playing under Matt Andersen’s vocals while short guitar solos tie each verse together as he sings that ‘if no one comes to bring you to the light, you’ve got to help yourself’. Halfway Home by Morning ends with a double-dose of heart-wrenching ballads when Matt Andersen uses words to paint personal images in “Been My Last” and “Quarter on the Ground”. Halfway Home by Morning is an album of strong instrumentation and even stronger vocals; completely devoid of theatrics, its strength lying in a solid beginning to a final end consistency. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (from the album Many Years Ago: The Complete Collection of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters available on Blixa Sounds)
The 1970’s music community began to reconstruct sound by stripping back the bloated fat that big Rock used to take over radio and concert stages, bringing bands back to the raw Roots of Rock’n’Roll. Robin Lane began her career in 1960’s Los Angeles in the Folk/Rock circuit, having an album credit as backing vocalist for Neil Young on his Everybody Knows This is Nowhere when she lent her voice to his “Round and Round” cut. Robin left the west coast and landed in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The music she had been creating in Los Angeles was still with her and Robin Lane began putting together songs for an album staying in the Country Rock model beginning to take shape in California….and then she heard the Ramones.
Partnering with Boston musicians Asa Brebner, Leroy Radcliffe (The Modern lovers), Tim Jackson, and Scott Baerenwald, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters released two albums and a live E.P. before Robin began focusing on solo work and raising a family. Many Years Ago: The Complete Collection of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters collects the two stellar studio efforts of the Boston, Massachusetts-based band. A single (“When Things Go Wrong”) produced by Steve Sharf helped The Chartbusters catch air(waves) on Boston career-maker radio station WBCN, which led to a Warner Brothers record deal, the video number fourteen in line for airing on the first day (August 1, 1981) of fledgling television station, MTV. Many Years Ago remembers the beginnings of a new sound, The Chartbusters guitars playing tag, dueling with bright jangle and feral riffs and forming sharp angles in the beat the lyrics that tear away pretense for niceties to deliver opinions and desires. Robin Lane and the Chartbusters created music that filled two albums, the studio sound capturing the excitement of a live setting and the glory of a rock’n’roll band falling in love with the sounds they are making.
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