Posts Tagged ‘rock’

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.

 

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.

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. 

Ed Harcourt’s new album “Time of DustEd Harcourt "Time of Dust"” is a sombre and melancholy affair. It’s also a pretty good listen.

The macabre opening piano riff of “Dreamland” sets the tone with a love song that Gomez Addams might sing to Morticia if they were into singer/songwriters. The title track is a catalog characters and events you might notice when the world is falling apart.  Further on the saddest orchestra plays sadly and slightly out of tune (fortunately for us, only in the lyrics), the ship goes down,  rooks sit on a fence waiting to move one on to the next world, and we are reminded that love is like a minor key. I think you get the gist.

What offsets all this darkness is that at its core this is an engaging collection of well-crafted and well-performed songs. The music consistently compliments the lyric content. The production and arrangements support the songs perfectly and are creative enough within the margins of support. The album is as easily listenable as it is dark.

My one criticism is a minor technicality: at six songs this seems to me to be neither an EP nor an album. I suppose that hardly matters as we progress further into the digital age.  If a six-track album means no filler or out-of-context tracks, and there are none, then so be it.

If you want to hear an above average singer/songwriter album and the above description hasn’t put you off, you should give this a shot. I’ve added “In My Time of Dust” to the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist.

Tinsley Ellis Midnight BlueTinsley Ellis’s “Midnight Blue” is the kind of album I wish Eric Clapton still made; full of energy, intensity and old-school musicality. After Springsteen, this might just be my favorite album from what I’ve heard so far this year.  

Tinsley, equally skilled as a blues vocalist and guitarist, serves up his talents in pretty much every flavor the blues can be rocked, shuffled, dragged or stomped. There are even a couple of tracks that have sort of a mid-tempo, adult contemporary radio kind of feel going on.  So it’s well grounded in familiar territory, but it never gets repetitive.  

“Surrender” seems like the obvious choice for a single. It could easily seduce your ears with its smooth vocal emphasis and tasty laid back guitar fills supported by a simple rhythm section that’s solid as a tree trunk. It’s also one of the least bluesy songs on the album, so I feel I should counter it with “That’s My Story” a somewhat tongue-in-cheek rocker about irreconcilable differences played in a style that early ZZ Top fans will be familiar with.  

Both tracks are on the What Am I Listening To 2014 Playlist.