Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Album Spotlight: Bri Bagwell - In My Defense

First of all, full transparency. Bri Bagwell granted me a Q&A. I've met her a couple of times. We've had exchanges on the tweeter machine. I like her. You can accuse me of bias, and that would be fair. But I also thought when I started doing Q&A's I would not write about an artists music after because of perceived bias. I've changed my stance.

In My Defense, Bagwell's latest album, is too good not to write about. She's got hooks. And more hooks.y

It's a country album from start to finish with tinges of Southern Rock sprinkled in, but it's mostly country from instrumentation to style.

It's an album that is personal and cohesive from start to finish. I know, you've heard it all before "this is my most personal album ever." In this case, it seems legitimate. Bri told me in an email that she wrote a party song, which she said she performs live, but it didn't fit the album.

That's what I mean by cohesive. How many times have you listened to an album and wondered why the hell this song was included? There's none of that here.

I usually focus on sound here, leaving the listener to interpret the lyrics in their own, however I will expound on one song this time. "Cheat On Me" is a song most people can relate to at some point in their lives. Bagwell does an excellent job of telling it from a female perspective, but it's very relatable for the dudes in the audience. I've been there.

Go buy the album. Stream it. See her live. You won't be disappointed.

A live version of my favorite song. Even with technical difficulties and bad camera work, it's good.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Album Spotlight: Jessica Meuse - Halfhearted

I've been sitting on this for a while. Why? Because, for the most part, it's a lot of the same song, thematically, over and over. And it's 15 songs long.

The theme? I'm better off without you since you treated me like garbage. The length? Nine to 11 is the sweet spot for me as far as album length, but since this was four years in the making...

I could easily dismiss Jessica Meuse's debut album Halfhearted on either of the aforementioned premises. But here's the thing: The songs are so damned good musically.

Halfhearted definitely leans Country. But not in the way one would expect. There are songs that would comfortably fit into the modern definition of Country Radio (though she has no chance, because she's a "she"). Then there are the songs that would nestle nicely into late 70s/early 80s country. That and the Southern Rock influence.

Jessica's voice is not soaring vocal gymnastics ala Carrie Underwood, but it suits the songs. Much like Stevie Nicks.

Probably not the best way to introduce an album that I really, really like. But despite what I said above, Jessica Meuse has put together a great album.

Halfhearted is diverse (and regular readers know how I love diversity), And here is the thing, I'm an album guy, and this album, you can put it on and listen to it start to finish and be satisfied. Does that sound like a ringing endorsement? Nope. But it is.

I like the album. Here are some songs. Judge for yourself.






Sunday, August 12, 2018

Album Spotlight: Kate Vargas - For The Wolfish and Wandering

Kate Vargas doesn't follow any of your silly rules or conventions.

Song structure? Screw that, let the song go where the song goes. Don't clean up the string noise. Leave in the imperfections. Let the songs speak for themselves.

For The Wolfish & Wandering is a masterpiece of imperfections and genius. And we haven't even gotten to the voice. That voice.

Kate Vargas has one of the most unique voices in music today. Combine the voice with the weird, trippy songs and just enjoy.

I could write 500 words on each song, but that would be going too deep in the weeds.

Kate Vargas cannot be placed in any genre, except maybe the genre of good music. She is weird, trippy, spooky, elegant, beautiful, raw, real and current.

Here is the vid for "Affliction". Enjoy


Sunday, August 5, 2018

Album Spotlight: Amanda Shires - To the Sunset

Amanda Shires put out a damned rock album. Deal with it because To the Sunset is great.

I could go into details here, but I have something in the works. A collaboration.

Here is what I'll say now because I've heard some rumblings that producer Dave Cobb has gone outside his box to produce a rock album. Cobb produced the last two Europe albums (yes, "The Final Countdown" Europe), and he has also produced Southern rockers Whiskey Myers.

Amanda Shires, rock goddess. In the realm of Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks and Grace Slick.

Here's a vid:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

ZZ Ward Show Experience

Saw ZZ Ward on 5/18/18 in Austin at Emo's.

First of all, never miss the opening act, you never know what you might miss. Opening for ZZ Ward was the trio consisting of brothers from the UK with an American drummer called the Ruen Brothers. They were a blast.

I don't know how to exactly to describe what they did. It was kind of a rockabilly/country/California surf punk/50s/Brit pop mashup. Go figure. I'd never heard any of their songs before, as I'm sure a large percentage of the crowd had not, but they kept everyone engaged throughout their 40 minute set.

To me, that's what separates the good live entertainers from the bad; if no one knows the songs, is the crowd still engaged? They did that.

I'm a recent fan of ZZ Ward since hearing her most recent album The Storm, which I wrote about.

Ward is an exceptional performer, vocally fantastic with her unique voice, playing harmonica, guitar and keys at various points throughout the show. She transitioned smoothly between full band and acoustic, blues and beats.

I'l admit, I'm not fully versed in her full catalog, but the songs I didn't recognize had me just as engaged as the songs I was familiar with. See above, but to me, that's what makes an artist truly great in a live setting.

Ward is heavily influenced by the blues, and that is where she and her band really shined. More blues rock than straight blues, but her set was heavy in that area and the crowd (and I) really dug that.

I understand the draw to recreate the album as close as possible, but the only criticism I have of the show is the use of pre-recorded music for a few songs. She, and her band, are good enough to pull off the songs without it. It was obvious, and they didn't try to hide it. It did not take away from the enjoyment of most patrons, but as a music nerd, it bothered me. I'd rather hear a stripped down version of the song than trying to emulate the album exactly, but that's just me.

Other than that, the show was awesome. She commands the stage. Her band is fantastic. Packed in the music, not much banter, one song to the next. You get your money's worth at a ZZ Ward show.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Favorite Power Ballads From 1988-1992

Loudwire put out their best power ballads of all time that don't suck. I don't think they understand what a power ballad is.

Before I saw that article, this happened. I'm a big college football fan and Andy Staples, who writes for Sports Illustrated about college football, has a column every Monday which includes a "Random Ranking". Via Twitter, I asked Staples if he'd ever done a random ranking on power ballads between 1988 and 1992. He replied that it would be in this week's column, You'll need to scroll past the football stuff to get to it if you're not a fan.

Why 1988 to 1992? Because that was power ballad prime and power ballad hell, concurrently. Then Nirvana blew the whole thing to shreds.

What follows are my Top 10 Favorites. Notice I didn't say "best". That's subjective. "Favorites" lets you know that it's subjective.

1. "I Remember You", Skid Row. This song perfected what the power ballad is supposed to be. A tame, acoustic opening. Hints of power in the verses. A bombastic, memorable chorus. The ramp up in the bridge before the guitar solo. Bring it down for the third verse before blowing out the final choruses with Sebastian Bach's soaring vocals.



2. "House of Pain", Faster Pussycat. Harmonica intro into acoustic verse. This one may not fit the classic definition because it actually has some real meaning behind the lyrics. Taime Down has, shall we say, an interesting voice. But it has the memorable chorus. Tasty electric guitar solo. It doesn't have the signature bridge. What can I say, it's one of my favorites and it's my list.



3. "Ballad of Jayne", L.A. Guns. Familiar acoustic start through the verse and chorus. This one, again, has more meaning behind it, being that it's about someone who has passed. Goes with the electric guitar solo. More subdued than others, before transitioning back to acoustic. And we get some strings towards the end.



4. "Heartbreak Station", Cinderella. I could probably put three Cinderella songs on this list, but I'm just going to stick with this one. Tom Keifer as a ballad writer is unmatched. You get the lap slide solo in this one. You get the piano ballad from "Don't Know What You Got" and the more pure power ballad in "Nobody's Fool", just to name a few.



5. "I Saw Red", Warrant. OK, I know most people, if they were to choose a Warrant song would choose "Heaven". Not me. This is just an old fashioned cheatin' song. And he's very nonchalant about it. He didn't see his face, but he saw hers and closed the door and now he's not going to love her anymore. So simple, yet so poignant. Then the bridge before the solo, we get the pain and anger.



6. "Close My Eyes Forever", Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne. I'm not sure if this may not be the best song on my list. But it fails to make the top stop on the spirit of the list because it has too many epic qualities. It's a great song, but a bit over-produced and over-dramatic, but I can't not include it.



7. "Love's A Loaded Gun", Alice Cooper. Hey, if Ozzy and Lita can get into the power ballad game, why not Alice? Of course Alice puts his own twisted twist on the power ballad by making it about a call girl that he's in love with/stalking?



8. "Something To Believe In", Poison. OK, I know, "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" is the popular choice. I don't know, I like my power ballads to have some substance. And besides this is the superior song.



9. "Fly To The Angels", Slaughter. I think Mark Slaughter oversings everything, but that's just him. It doesn't take away from the greatness of this song. Again, this song has some meaning to it. I don't know, maybe it's just me getting older, but mostly I'm not here for the superfluous. Don't get wrong, I still like my nonsense, but don't give me meaningless fluff.



10. "Love Of A Lifetime", Firehouse. This is not a great song. Why do I include this? Because this is the kind of schlock that killed an era and led to grunge. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Number 10 should always be a wildcard, right? Or make a point? The previous nine are good songs. This is just what happened.






Monday, April 9, 2018

Album Spotlight: The Amorettes - Born to Break

We all listen to music for different reasons at different times because of different circumstances or moods. Maybe something takes you back to a distant memory that you don't want to forget. Maybe a song or album is something you really relate to and helps you get through a difficult time. Maybe the lyrics speak to you and make you think. Maybe it's a gloomy February day and some mood music is what you need. Maybe it's a sunny spring day and you want something light and peppy. Music can inspire, music can heal, music can fit any situation you find yourself in. That is the beauty and power and magic of music.

Why did I waste so many words on that? Because sometimes music just needs to be fun. And enjoyable.

The Amorettes' latest album Born to Break is fun. It's, to me, AC/DC meets the Go-Go's. That sounds fun, right?

This Scottish trio is unapologetically rock. And they tug at my heartstrings because they do it late 70s/early 80s style. Guitar, bass and drums. No frills. Straight up hard rock.

Don't look for any deep meaning in the lyrics. As Eric Church once penned "that's damn rock n roll".

There is not much variety on Born to Break. It's twelve in your face songs rock songs. That's not a bad thing. AC/DC made a hell of a career out of doing just that. I respect artists who know who they are/want to be and just go for it.

And, just a head's up, with newish bands like the Amorettes making killer rock music, rock ain't dead in reality, it's just dead on mainstream American radio. It's alive and well and flourishing elsewhere.

Enough words, here is "Everything I Learned - I Learned From Rock and Roll":

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Album Spotlight: Ashley McBryde - Girl Going Nowhere

Ashley McBryde's latest album Girl Going Nowhere has a lot to like. There is some straight up country, some Americana (however the hell you want to define that), some heartland rock (mid 80s style) and some swamp.

The lyrics on the album are chock full of personal stories, imagery, and nostalgia. Lyrics are for each listener to interpret for themself, which is why I rarely go in depth on that front. For me, the lyrics are irrelevant until the music grabs me.

Speaking of the music, Girl Going Nowhere is a collection of 11 very well crafted songs, both instrumentally and lyrically. "Radioland" is a fun. nostalgic, John Mellencamp-type heartland rocker. "Southern Babylon" is dark and swampy and something I'm sure prime Tanya Tucker would have been eager to record. If I did "Song of the Year" type stuff, this song would be the early frontrunner.

There is a cool Tom Petty vibe on "The Jacket", which is another nostalgia song. I don't know, but I hope "Livin' Next To Leroy" is based on a true story, even if not McBryde personally. This song is also the closest McBryde comes to Southern rock. Especially that guitar solo, which I'll get back to later.

"A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega" is simply a great country song. As is "Tired of Being Happy", which has the added bonus of a great play on words. Self-deprecating and clever lyrics.

The songs and songwriting on this album are exquisite. I need to see Ashley McBryde live, because I think all the songs would pop. My thing on this blog is to promote stuff I like, so you won't see very much criticism here, but there is one element on this album that warrants it.

While I appreciate that the vocals are up in the mix (I hate when I can't understand the vocals), the instrumentation is buried on this album. That solo on "Livin' Next To Leroy" should have been brought way up in the mix. And that's not the only one.

I don't know who in the camp was scared, but someone was and it hurts the album as a listening experience. Fortunately, the quality of the songs overcome the poor mixing judgement.

Anyway, here is my favorite song:




Friday, April 6, 2018

Album Spotlight: Blackberry Smoke - Find a Light

There are going to be a lot of words written about Blackberry Smoke's new album Find a Light. I'm going to save some bandwidth.

If you're a fan of Blackberry Smoke, you'll be pleased. If you've never heard Blackberry Smoke and you like Southern Rock, you'll be pleased. If you don't like Southern Rock, skip.

It's really that simple. Go buy the album, download or pay for your streaming.

So here's some pirate metal from Alestorm:





Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Album Spotlight: Danielle Nicole - Cry No More

Danielle Nicole's sophomore solo album Cry No More is a sweaty, sultry blues rock album that is the epitome of my definition of "swamp". The Kansas City native would be right at home in the blues scene of her hometown as well as as the Mississippi Delta, or Memphis, or Texas.

Pulling double duty as not only lead vocalist but also bassist for her band, you know the music is going to feature the bass prominently, and that's a good thing. Too often, the bass gets buried in the mix, not here.

Danielle Nicole started playing bass in order to keep her former band, Trampled Under Foot, a family affair. When she ventured out on her own, no way she was giving up the bass, for the betterment of us all as fans of music.

Is there anything particularly innovative or unique on Cry No More? Not necessarily. But that's not a bad thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing your wheelhouse and going with it and making kickass music. In fact, that's what I love about the album. It knows what it is and it's going to be as good as or better than anything else you hear.

Her voice is not going to blow you away. It has some Bonnie Raitt qualities, maybe some Melissa Etheridge. However, her voice is perfect for the type of music she plays. It just fits like a glove.

If you start listening and don't like the first song, "Crawl", then stop. But if you do, you're in for a treat. Not a bad song on the album.

I'm going to post a live version of the song "Save Me", because as good as the studio version is, this is better. Which I think every song would be.


Monday, March 26, 2018

How We Can Listen to the Same Song and Hear It Differently

Recently, it has fascinated me how two people can listen to the same song and come away with wildly different perspectives. Zackary Kephart, who runs the blog The Musical Divide, was kind enough to indulge me in proving this.

I chose Dorothy’s latest album 28 Days in the Valley for this experiment. Both of us wrote about it on our respective blogs and both liked it. With a few exceptions, we did not exactly line up on which songs we thought were the strongest.

Zack is a 21 year old New Yorker (not NYC) whose main focus is on country music, go figure. I’m a Texan in my 40s who grew up listening to George Strait and Guns n’ Roses, Alabama and ZZ Top.

While Zack’s blog is primarily country and Americana, he has legitimate rock bonafides, thanks to his mother and the game Guitar Hero. While he mostly writes about country and Americana, he also covers rock sporadically.

Since you’re reading this, you probably know what I write about, so I won’t go into detail.

So, we each listened to 28 Days in the Valley and wrote down/typed up one, two, three sentences on each song. What follows below is our reactions to each song while listening through the album. I mixed up the order of the responses, but you can figure out some of them. Others, maybe not.

Know that we have both listened to the album several times before. This is not initial reaction, but yet just an experiment in how people can listen to the same song and hear it differently.


Flawless
Reminds me of early 90s Sheryl Crow musically. That kind of lilting, laid back rock vibe. Lyrically, people thought she was flawless as she was broken, now that she’s in a better place, she’s gonna own that term.

I don't like these types of meaningless empowerment anthems that are made to sound like well … empowerment anthems. It comes across as cloying and cheesy. I don't like this.


Who Do You Love
This track is a bit too heavy and compressed to really click for me, especially when she's shouting meaningless one-liners during the verses. It's a lot of flair for nothing much.

This is an homage to late 60s/early 70s semi-psychedelia. Starts out as a hard driving rocker then the break down comes and serves up, what we used to refer to as the “pot smoking section”, though much shorter than those songs of that era. It just has that vibe before it ramps back up to the finish.


Pretty When You’re High
Just a laid back California rock song about some surfer dude who, probably, lives out of his VW van and looks pretty. When he’s high. No deep meaning, just a fun song.

Beyond the really odd hook (who says someone is pretty when they're high?), I do like the swampy, electric blues feel to this. I just wish that guitar that creeped up after the uttering of the title was louder in the mix.

Mountain
This is the first glimpse we get into the spiritual themes of the album. Almost gospel-like at times.

In my own review, while I did like this, it wasn't something I loved. I still wouldn't say it's something I love actually, but for some reason it clicked a lot better on another re-listen through this album. The gospel tinge to this coupled with the group harmonies give this a nice, lighter feel. This one seems to be the most Southern-Rock influenced track to me.

Freedom
From this point on it really clicked with me outside of one track. Everything just gets darker, heavier, and more groove heavy, and this is no exception. It's got a badass, punchy solo to it.

This is first time that the album shows that Southern Rock tinge. It’s more Allman Brothers than Lynyrd Skynyrd, but it has the Southern Rock vibe. Maybe throw in some Edgar Winter in the breakdown.

White Butterfly
I liked the group harmonies on “Mountain”, but I love them here. It's almost got a psychedelic feel to it, and I like how sinister the harmonies sound here. Another good element of this latter half is that the bass lines are more prominent and stronger, including here. I also enjoy how the track sort of slows down to catch its breath before coming back full throttle.

This one is hard to pigeon hole. The first part sounds a bit grungy. Then it goes into a Pink Floyd- like interlude. Not one of my favorites, but a good song nonetheless.


28 Days In The Valley
This short song just sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of a Western. It sounds like tumbleweeds and dust.

There’s not much to say here given that this is more of a transitional track, but it's dark, dusty, and cool.


On My Knees
This song is about is about sex, pure and simple. It’s KISS meets 80s sleaze rock, from a woman’s perspective.

This one has a heavy Heart influence to me, and while I can rehash why I like this, again, everything is just darker, edgier and more alive from here on out. Yeah, it's nothing more than a sex song, but frontwoman, Dorothy Martin's delivery is incredibly fierce and well-executed.


Black Tar & Nicotine
I honestly don't know what to say about this. It's not bad, but it's not a favorite cut here.

The Stevie Nicks is strong in Dorothy. This is first time we really hear it. Not much in voice, but in style. The strongest song lyrically, in my opinion. It’s a dark song full of alcohol and drugs and addiction.

Philadelphia
This is prime early MTV. Evokes Bowie, Blondie. But also has some Doors vibe. Or maybe Fleetwood Mac, especially on the chorus, channelling her inner Stevie Nicks again.

While the second half is known for being darker, edg … oh nevermind, this track takes things in a different direction by being spacey and more alluring. It's my favorite track here for sure. Dorothy's frailer vocal performance helps to add a creepy, ominous mood to this. Plus, that chorus is a dang earworm.

Ain’t Our Time To Die
This is the one track in the second half that I don't like, mostly because if you strip away the sound and leave only the words on paper, it reads out like a bad Country song, like say, The Band Perry's “Live Forever.” Again, there's nothing wrong with fantasy, but it's trying to be badass and ends up being about nothing.

The song has a strong Tom Petty vibe to it with Grace Slick on vocals. Wouldn’t that have been a good combination to have heard?

We Are STAARS
Honestly, this track is hard to dislike, and you really don't need to say much else other than it's fast, fun, punchy and overall a nice upbeat change of pace for the album. That recurring riff that crops up everytime they repeat the title is a treat for the ears.

I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s alright. A fun song. High energy. I won’t skip it when listening to the album.

We Need Love
If you’re a fan of early Heart and/or Jefferson Airplane, this song. Love. If you take nothing else away from this album, take this away: We need love. Love and healing is what this album is about. Well, there’s the sex and fun, but you know.

What I love about this album is that it's a love letter to classic Rock, but it's a love letter that pays homage to literally any kind of Rock you can think of. Here, we have a cool Surf-Rock inspired track that ends things off on a high note. This album also has a thing for implementing cool riffs after they sing the titles. I dig it.

"Flawless" is probably where we had the most differing opinion:



And finally a live version of one we both really liked, "Freedom". Also just to show that there are no studio tricks on the album. Dorothy is the real deal.



Friday, March 16, 2018

Album Spotlight: Dorothy - 28 Days In The Valley

For anyone wanting Dorothy's second album 28 Days In The Valley to be ROCKISDEAD part two, well, it's not. What it is though is a much more diverse and, in my opinion, better album. And that's saying a lot, because ROCKISDEAD was one of my top albums from 2016.

The title 28 Days In The Valley refers to how long it took to record the album, produced by, and some songs co-written by, Linda Perry. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Perry was the singer and primary songwriter for 4 Non Blondes.

Dorothy Martin, which is whom the band is named for, also got sober and removed herself from a toxic relationship and put together an entire new band for this album. As a result, some of the songs on 28 Days In The Valley seem cathartic while many others are almost spiritual in nature, reflecting her new outlook on life.

I usually don't get into background information this much or comment on lyrics (that is up for the listener's interpretation) but I thought it was important this time. It matters to how I interpret the music in this case, which, to me, is the most relevant thing; Is the music good?

After a couple of cursory spins of the album, I listened with a purpose. This is an album that is a veritable homage to classic rock. It has everything. I first fell in love with Dorothy on the debut album because of all of the swamp. 28 Days In The Valley still has that swamp, but so much more.

There is really no easy way to describe the music. From start to finish, the easiest thing to compare it to is Southern Rock. The album has so many elements of that music running through the course of the songs, but it's much more nuanced than that.

The title song is a vignette that could be on a western movie soundtrack that evokes thoughts of tumbleweeds and dust. "Mountain" is a Southern Rock, almost gospel song. "Freedom" is a Southern Rock song with hints of psychedelia. "Ain't Our Time to Die" has a strong, groovy Tom Petty vibe to it. "White Butterfly", which Dorothy said in an interview is essentially a prayer, has an Allman Brothers meets Pink Floyd to it. "Philadelphia" is reminiscent of Debbie Harry in Blondie.

This is not to say that any of the songs are cheap knock-offs or dated. It's just that those influences (if they are) come through in the songs and execution. I also get hints of Grace Slick, Heart and Sheryl Crow in different parts of the album.

I'm also I big fan of how this album was recorded/produced. It has that 70s feel where all the instruments are prominent and nothing gets buried in the mix.

28 Days In The Valley is an unapologetic rock album that should resonate with any fans of what rock was in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. And thankfully we still have artists like Dorothy making kickass rock music.

Here are some songs that represent the diversity of the album, but I would suggest listening to it all:






Saturday, March 10, 2018

Show Experience with Dorothy and Holly West

I went to see Dorothy on 3/9/2018 at the House of Blues in Dallas, TX in the Cambridge Room. Why is the name of the room important? Because there are two rooms at the Dallas House of Blues. The Cambridge Room is the smaller room with a capacity of 250. It was sold out.

This was part of Dorothy's Freedom Tour in which she headlined smaller venues and enlisted local artists from each city to open the show. That night's opener was local Dallas artist Holly West, more on her later.

The crowd was diverse, ranging from teenagers to people at least in their 50's. I fall much closer to the latter category. Being that it was at such a small venue, standing only general admission, there was not a bad place to be. The kids crowded the stage while the older folk hung back.

Holly West took the stage with her three piece band spitting fire with their version of blues rock. West was on bass and all the vocals with the accompaniment of drums and guitar. All three are excellent musicians. Holly's vocals were fantastic. The guitar player had some excellent slide guitar mixed in with his bluesy solos. The drummer. Let's talk about the drummer.

For some reason, he reminded me of Jack Black. He was putting on a show within a show. Throwing his stick in the air and catching it with every opportunity. Standing up between songs to incite the crowd to cheer. Using his foot for cymbal crashes. He was a joy to watch.

Seriously, Dorothy did a service to everyone by picking Holly West to open the show. Aside from the two deeper cut covers by Think Lizzy and Led Zeppelin that West did, I did not know a single song but was into it the entire time. Her EP Mokita is available on streaming services. Check her out if you like Dorothy.

I'm going to talk about Dorothy's music first before I talk about the show. I have been a fan since first hearing the debut album ROCKISDEAD, a swampy, bluesy, sultry hard rock album. I wrote about it here. Dorothy played a few songs from that album, but more than half were from her upcoming album, of which three songs have already been released. From what Dorothy played live, this new album is going to be more diverse and better than the debut. When I don't know the songs and they move me, there is something there.

Dorothy Martin commanded the stage with the grace of Stevie Nicks, the swagger of Robert Plant and the enthusiasm of Grace Potter. This was an old school rock show. No glitz and glam, just a band belting out one banger after another. And so much fun.

Martin looked like she was having fun, from her bouncing around to her between song banter. And she was in control, telling one person in the crowd to shut of the iPhone because the of the light and telling the bartenders to turn of the TVs at the bar because they were distracting her from the crowd. The crowd ate it up.

You always hear a record with great vocals and then when see them live, eh, what tricks did they play in the studio. Not so with Dorothy. Her vocals live are as good as on the record. I appreciate that.

Martin has also assembled a great band behind her. Two guitars, bass and drums. Theme of the night? Excellent musicians. I really enjoyed the guitar solos that you don't get as much anymore. There just aren't the shredders that used to be on every corner in the 80s. And the bass player was channeling his inner Juan Croucier (look it up kids), I'm sure he would have done spins if the stage were bigger.

Admittedly, I haven't been to as many rock shows lately as I have in the past, but this was one of the most fun and best one's I've ever been to. If you get a chance, go see Dorothy live, you won't be disappointed, unless, of course, you just don't like good music. Kidding. But if you like hard rock, they put on a great show.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Album Spotlight: Ruby Boots - Don't Talk About It

Australian rocker Ruby Boots (real name Bex Chillcot) has led an interesting life. She's been living independently since the age of 16, worked on a pearl farm and took a three year break from singing to repair vocal nodules. Those are just the highlights, but we're here to talk about her latest album Don't Talk About It. Yes, I realize the irony in that last sentence.

I'll admit it, maybe nostalgia has clouded my judgement, but save for one song, this reminds of the stuff I would hear on popular mainstream radio in the late 80s/early 90s. Can I compare Ruby Boots to anyone from that time? Not exactly, she has her own unique sound that is reminiscent of the time when radio was not filled with electronics and manufactured music.

There are elements of rockabilly, rock, country, punk and even some bubblegum on the album. It has been said that this is not a cohesive album, but that's kinda what I like about it. You want to hear the next song because you know it isn't going to be like the one you're currently listening to.

To bring it back to my nostalgia, this would have been one hell of a rock album in the 80s.  Not sure Ruby Boots or her fans would agree, but that is a compliment.

I try to be current, but music doesn't come with an expiration date. I will admit that it took me a  bit to process this album, which means I've listened to it several times. I'm still not tired of it. It's that good.

Here is the video for "Don't Talk About It"


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Album Spotlight: India Ramey - Snake Handler

India Ramey's third studio album Snake Handler takes listeners on a very personal journey through Ramey's formative years and beyond.

The songs on Snake Handler explore the domestic abuse of Ramey's mother by her father, the angst of having her father's blood in her, Pentecostal church experiences, a dead end town; murder, sex and corruption in a small town; a town ruined by flood, and finally, a visit to her estranged father in a coma on his deathbed.

None of it is light fair. It's all pretty heavy and heady. I don't want to put words in her mouth, but to this listener, it seems like an album bent on exorcising demons and coming out the other side in a better frame of mind.

As any regular reader here knows, I usually don't spend that many words on the the lyrics/themes of any album. For me it's mostly about the music. However, once the music draws me in, and the subject matter is worthy, I like to point it out.

Snake Handler has been described as Southern Gothic because of some of the darker subject matter. Mostly it's just a swampy record describing real things, exploring grown up subjects, It leans country, sometimes more than others, but it's real instruments played by real people.

Here is the title track "Snake Handler":



And here is a live acoustic version of"Devil's Den", probably my favorite song:


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Album Spotlight: Sonia Leigh - Mad Hatter

This, being my first album spotlight of 2018, let us go over what constitutes an album being spotlight worthy for me.
1. This shouldn't have to be said, but it has to be. It has to be an albums I've listened to.
2. No or one skipworthy song. Yeah, that's a pretty high bar. But I do albums and not songs. You may think that's quaint and/or antiquated, but that's still how I consume music. What does skipworthy actually mean? It's the song/s that one would automatically skip every single time.

Now, let's explore good music this year. That's what I intend to do.

I will admit that Sonia Leigh's Mad Hatter had me perplexed at first listen. It's like listening to your friend's eclectic playlist. She has purposely recorded music that would not pigeon-hole her. She has succeeded.

I don't like to compare artists to other artists, but as every song on Mad Hatter is a turn in a different direction, I feel comparisons, for the purpose of context, are in order.

Sonia's voice, on the more hard-edged songs, is reminiscent of Joan Jett. A lot of the songs have the quirky vibe of early Sheryl Crow. Maybe some Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders as well.

This one was hard for me. The good is so good, and there is so much good, but the bad is atrocious. Clocking in at 11 songs, it's definitely one song too long. The album closer, "Mind on the Prize", is an all out assault on the aural senses. Do yourself a favor and just end your listening after 10 songs.

I'm able to forgive one terrible song like I did with Angaleena Presley and "Country". I could forgive "Mind on the Prize", but then there is "Walking in the Moonlight", which could have been done by Demi Lovato or Carly Rae Jepsen. But there is enough there and it's catchy enough that I wouldn't actively skip it.

That's the bad. The other nine songs are fantastic. Delving into many different genres while never focusing on any particular one, it's all interesting. I like interesting. Give me something interesting and edgy over something safe and saccharine any day.

Strap into the seat and give this roller coaster of an album a try. I guarantee you  will not like it all, but you will find something to like. Sonia Leigh is talented and quirky and will have none of your BS. Not sure if I like this as much as I respect it.

Today, this is my favorite song on the album, subject to change without warning.