Posts Tagged ‘commentary’

David Grissom How It Feels To FlyDavid Grissom – How it Feels to Fly

Last week I may have undersold David Grissom’s latest Album “How it Feels to Fly” Listening to it again last night I realized the songs were still growing on me. I still stand behind what I said about the instrumentals being my favourite tracks. There’s something about the vocal tracks that reminds me of when Eric Clapton or Dave Mason (the one from Traffic) decided they were going to become a bit more radio friendly and de-emphasise the guitar playing in favour of marketable songs. On the other hand that’s when they both began to have massive hits. There’s only one of Grissom’s songs I haven’t warmed up to at this point (“Overnight”), In light of this realization I’m adding the opening track “Bringing Sunday Morning to Saturday Night” to the playlist.

Tommy Castro - Devil You KnowTommy Castro and the Painkillers – The Devil You Know

Revisiting Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, I realized that one song just wasn’t enough, so I’ve included “Center of Attention”, a track I nearly pipped for the playlist the other day.  Maybe it was just the night that was in it, but last night I found myself thinking “The Devil You know” might be up in my top ten albums so far this year. Or at least just bubbling under

Johnny Winter True To The Blues

Johnny Winter – True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story

On to new business – sort of. I usually don’t go for retrospective compilations, but it’s been so long since I heard Johnny Winter play guitar I had to give a listen to “True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story”.  The title might put off some of the uninitiated who might enjoy this album – True to the blues rock would be more accurate. Yes, there is some straight up blues here, but there’s also a lot of blistering rock and roll. And I mean a lot – according to Spotify this collection runs over four hours. And no, I haven’t listened to it all since the release, but we used to listen to this guy quite a bit 30 or 40 years ago, and ranked him up Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and the other guitar legends of the time. If I have one complaint about this collection, it’s that someone seems to have edited out the cry of “ROCK AND ROLL” before either “Jumping Jack Flash” or “Johnny B Goode” (depending on whether you were listening to the album or the single from “Live Johnny Winter And…” released in 1971). Both tracks are on this compilation, and it’s very tempting to pick one, but I’m going to go for the nearly forgotten classic “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo”, which has probably fallen through the gaps of modern radio playlists every bit as much as yer man has, but I concede that living in Ireland might give me a different perception of this than the folks back home have. Anyway, it’s on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist.

St Vincent St VincentSt. Vincent – St. Vincent

And now for something completely different. Don’t you know I’m going to give a listen to anyone who’s worked with erstwhile Talking Head David Byrne. St. Vincent’s
eponymous new album is left of center pop music, but still within the margins of getting radio play on “Birth in Reverse” and “Digital Witnesses”, and I am enjoying those as well as the rest of the album. But the one that seems to have really resonated with me on the first few listens is the ballad “Prince Johnny”, which is a lovely pop song with some intelligent and eccentric lyrics, so I put it on the playlist. After all the blues rock I’ve added lately I better find something to go with this song so it doesn’t feel all alone, lol.

 

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I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’ve got a couple of Friday night bands here I’ve been listening to for a few days who have new studio albums out, although I suspect that in both cases they sound better when heard live in a dark room under the glow of the beer light.

Reverend Horton Heat - RevReverend Horton Heat – Rev

First up is a character named Reverend Horton Heat, who is relatively unknown to me, though not to America from what I’ve read. He’s been kicking around long enough to be nearly as old as I, and has been putting out records since 1990.

The Rev plays a rough and ready style of what I believe is most appropriately called punkabilly. He leads a three piece band which includes a stand-up double bass. It’s the classic Stray Cat’s line-up, but with an energy reminiscent of the early Clash, without the politics. The songs themselves don’t consistently fare well against either of those comparisons, and Heat isn’t quite Brian Seltzer. However the adrenalin levels are high and it sounds like these guys would be fun to see in a bar.

“Never Gonna Stop It”, a rock ‘n’ roll song about rock ‘n’ roll, is now on the What AM I listening to 2014 playlist.

Tommy Castro - Devil You KnowTommy Castro and the Painkillers – The Devil You Know

Next is a guy who actually is my age, Tommy Castro, along with his band the Painkillers. They play a mix of blues, old school r&b, and rock. To my ears the musicality, songwriting and guitar playing is a notch above the Rev’s. I suspect the album will also hold up better to repeated listenings. On the other hand there’s a sort of just good enough lo-fi quality to this album that also makes it sound a bit rough edged, and a good-time feel that makes me think both artists could happily share a stage with without too much culture shock for the audience.

The album boasts a decent cover of the old Wet Willie song “Keep on  Smilin’” that makes the song sound more like a J. Geils track than the original did, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Among the originals it’s hard to know which one should be picked for the playlist, there are enough equal contenders. I went with “Medicine Woman” ’cause that’s the way I roll. It’s on the playlist.

David Grissom’sDavid Grissom How It Feels To Fly band is built around his big, gritty rhythm guitar sound and old-school lead work. The Rhythm section sounds full and meaty and the Hammond organ completes the sonic picture. For me, the best moments on his new album “How it Feels to Fly” come when the songs get out of the way and the band gets to stretch out in those 70’s style blues rock jams that bands like the Allman Brothers used to specialize in. And that should make a bit of sense, since David spent a bit of time as a member of that band back in the 90’s. There’s even a note-perfect version of their chestnut “Jessica” in with the four additional live tracks to prove that point.

In contrast, the new studio songs don’t always seem  to hit the same level of intensity the band achieves on the instrumentals. Some of the songs come close, such as “Bringin’ Sunday Mornin’ to Saturday Night”, which name checks a host of Soul, Blues jazz artists from the past,  “Georgia Girl” and “Never Came Easy to Me”, and they worked for me on early listening. When the song structures venture outside of that style, Such as with the title track, I find it takes me a few listens for the songs to get traction with me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – some of my favourite music has grown on me rather than resonated with me on first listen.  At first I thought they might benefit from a different arrangement perhaps, such as happens with the mainly acoustic “Satisfied” which works quite well for me. However I don’t feel as strongly about that point now that I’ve heard them a few times.

I’ve picked two from this album for the contrast. “Way Jose” is one of those instrumentals I was raving about. “Gift of Desperation” is probably my favourite song on the album that strays from the Blues/rock song structure. I particularly like the interesting lyric hook – feeling gratitude where others might not. They’re both on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist.

 

Rosanne Cash The River and the ThreadRosanne Cash was born in and began her schooling in Memphis Tennessee. Since then she’s spent most of her life in California, New York and parts of Europe, in part distancing herself from her daddy’s legacy, but when that daddy is Johnny Cash, and you were born into the Memphis of the mid 50s, with the bible belt, the Grand Olde Opry, and the civil rights movement shaping your childhood, there just isn’t enough rebellion to displace those roots, and eventually you say “Road Trip!”

The River and the Thread” was created out of that road trip that took Rosanne and her collaborator/husband John Leventhal through  Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, to Robert Johnson’s grave, the Tallahacthie bridge, civil war battle fields and, of course, her father’s birthplace.  These experiences inform the songs in subtle ways instead of showing up as overt themes.

The album is a gentle celebration of the angels and demons of the South and of Ms Cash’s connectedness to them.  It’s a consistently worthwhile collection of tracks and an easy listen with well-crafted lyrics. The latter tracks on the album venture a little too close to traditional country sounds and motifs for my taste, but I admit that’s a subjective comment.  

“Modern Blue” is an upbeat adult pop song that caught my ear the first time I listened to her new album “The River and the Thread”.  It’s probably the least country sounding song on the album. It has a familiar, comfortable feel. It’s on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist.

Rosanne Cash plays Dublin’s Vicar Street April 27th, 2014.

 

Thee-Silver-Mt-Zion-Fuck-Off-Get-Free-We-Pour-Light-On-Everything-608x608“We make a lot of noise because we love each other” says the child who’s brief monologue opens “Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything”. Canadian band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra does make a lot of noise, and it can take a few listens to acquire a taste for if (if you ever do).  However, there’s no denying the high and wild energy of this album or the joy with which it sounds like it was made.

It’s an interesting album, but it’s definitely not for the musically squeamish.  It’s the kind of album that sounds loud even when you play it at low volume – at times it feels over-saturated with sound, which makes the quieter moments stand out in greater contrast than they might in other contexts. Often the vocals are slightly off-kilter, not unlike those of Robert Smith from the Cure. They’re mixed in between alternating distorted and screaming, simple, repetitive guitar riffs, poured over a simple rhythmic intensity that is relentless at times. Then there are the sweet moments with the string section and female chorus, although those moments have their own eccentricities.

It would be easy to write this stuff off as pure chaos.  But once you’re acclimated to it you can discern a musical intelligence that makes good use of dynamics and pace changes to help you connect to music you can probably feel more than hear.

“Fuck Off Get Free” isn’t going anywhere near the Billboard Hot 100 or BBC 1 playlist. On the other hand, it’s one of the best examples of the totally noncommercial side of psychedelic tinged post rock whatever genre I’ve heard so far. It’s an experience you’re not likely to get elsewhere. I find it easy to open my heart to this oddity after hearing it a few times, but I appreciate many people might not feel the same.

It’s hard to pick one track here. They all have their good points (or lack thereof depending on your point of view. I went with “What We Loved Was Not Enough” because it has a good mix of beauty and beast on the one track. It’s a bit long, but so are most of the best ones.  It’s now on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist

 

Mogwai_Rave_TapesMogwai is a band I’ve been aware of for a few years but haven’t got around to hearing until now. I’ve listened to their latest album “Rave Tapes” a few times and it is a collection of mostly listenable and somewhat hypnotic mid-tempo, mostly instrumental rock tracks. The band use mostly standard rock band instrumentation and motifs to produce pieces that feel like film soundtracks, ranging from edgy and aggressive to the somber and ethereal.  There’s plenty of dynamic build on nearly each track with shades running from dark to majestic. Some of it is reminiscent of mid-70’s Pink Floyd’s instrumental jams that stretch between the vocals. (There is one actual song on the album, and it wouldn’t be out of place on an early Floyd album). There might even be a hint of King Crimson circa the “Red” album, except without the big guitar solos, although that might just be me.

I like the album well enough, but this is something I would have in the background rather than something I would sit down and listen to. Nothing here knocked my socks off, but I wouldn’t hit the skip button either, with the exception perhaps of “Repelish” which is marred for me by its sample of someone explaining the subliminal satanic message that one apparently hears when “Stairway to Heaven” is played backwards.  On the other hand, some of the other tracks seem to be growing on me with subsequent listens so I might feel more strongly sometime down the road.

“Remurdered” seems to be a big track on the album. It starts off with a dark thriller-movie kind of bass riff then shifts dynamics about halfway through by adding a hyperactive synth with increasing layers of sound and density nearly up to the end. Ultimately though I went for “Heard About You Last Night” because I really like those delayed synth bells, the way the guitar comes in under them, and the overall calm feel of the track, relatively speaking.  It’s on the What Am I Listening to 2014 playlist. 

Bombay Bicycle Club "So Long, See You Tomorrow"Thanks to my two eldest sons, Bombay Bicycle Club is one young band I am familiar with. “So Long, See You Tomorrow” is there fourth album, and it is completely different than the first three in that it is not completely different from the previous one. That is, the band released an above average Indie  Rock album, a completely acoustic folk album, and an electronic pop album in that order, as though they were three different bands. I’m not complaining – I enjoyed them all. I would not have thought that was the best way to build a core following, but it seems to be working for them.

Anyway,  “So Long, See You Tomorrow” builds on “A Different Kind of Fix”, their previous album, with a smooth balance of pop that relies less on the guitars than previous albums, filling out the sound with a variety of synth work, extra vocals, and a wind instruments. There are also some sneaky world music motifs popping up here and there, especially rhythmically, possibly inspired by singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist/frontman Jack Steadman’s travels through India, Japan and Turkey.

To me this album sounds like their most mature work so far, fewer quirks, just decent sounding pop music from beginning to end. I can see the album kicking Bombay Bicycle Club up another notch to a wider audience the way last years “AM” did for the Arctic Monkeys. I hope I’m right. This album is a pleasure to listen to.

“Carry Me” and “Luna” have already been released as singles, .The latter is currently on the BBC Radio 1 playlist. Therefore with all there is to choose from I’ll skip those. My son Tiernan really likes the opening track “Overdone”, and I like it too, but he can get his own blog (lol). Instead I’ll go with “Home By Now”, which is a mid-tempo ballad with an “ahhh” feeling kind of chorus and some nice dynamics as the song goes on. I’ve also chosen “Feel”, which grabbed me right away with drummer Suren de Saram’s mid-eastern rhythmic drive under a catchy upbeat tune with a simple but effective hook in the chorus. They are both on the What Am I Listening to 2014 playlist.