Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer: “Two Of A Kind” (1961/2017) CD Review

I was in the mood for something fun and light, and popped in the recent re-issue of Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer’s Two Of A Kind. It turned out to be even better than I’d expected. Right from the start, it’s apparent that both singers are having a ridiculously wonderful time singing together, and their joy transfers easily to the listener. Seriously, this disc is a delight. The selections include some tunes that Mercer co-wrote, but the choices seem to have been made almost entirely based on how much fun they could have with them. Darin and Mercer also wrote one song together, the album’s title track. The arrangements are by Billy May, and the album was recorded with Billy May’s orchestra. This special expanded re-issue includes seven bonus tracks, all of which were previously unreleased. There are also new liner notes by Cheryl Pawelski, as well as the original liner notes by Stanley Green.

The album opens with an abbreviated rendition of the title track, a delicious big band number that sounds fairly straight until suddenly there is a playful pause in the action for a bit of stage banter. “I think we ought to do a standard, John.” The response: “Yeah, I think we ought to get to work.” And then, bam, they go into “Indiana,” written by Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley. They are clearly having a blast, tossing in some casual responses to certain lines, like “You know about that jazz” and “Sounds like it could be fun.” And toward the end, they deliver some scat. This track is just a whole lot of fun.

They follow that with “Bob White,” a song written by Johnny Mercer and Bernie Hanighen. This one too is delightfully playful. How can anything be wrong in the world when songs like this one are playing? The bonus tracks include a different take of this song, and that take features different word play. For example, in this one, the response to “neophyte” is “Where do you dig up those words you find?” rather than “John, what does that word mean?” (In the album version, John answers, “Amateur.”) So that shows you they were really in the moment, playing off each other, rather than delivering rehearsed banter. And I think that’s why the album is such a joy.

“East Of The Rockies” is a delicious, swinging number with some wonderful work on horns. It was written by Sid Robin and Lou Singer. There is an alternate take of this one as well in the bonus tracks. One of my favorites is “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jellyroll,” a breezy gem written by Clarence Williams and Spencer Williams. This rendition features more of their playful banter, as well as some fun, catchy playing by the band. The bonus tracks include a different take of this song, which lacks that added bit at the end. There is more delightful play between the vocalists on “My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two Today,” right from the start. In fact, the first line is an added comment, “Sounds like a train song if you ask me.” This one had me laughing out loud, and apparently I’m not the only one. At one point you can hear a laugh in the vocals (on “stayed home nights”). The bonus tracks include a different take of this one, and this take is totally enjoyable too.

“Mississippi Mud” begins with a bit of banter too, with Bobby asking, “Hey, John, you ever been to Mississippi?” John responds, “No, man, but I sure would like to visit down there.” And guess what? The bonus tracks also include an alternate take of this song. And the banter is different. John responds to that opening question, “Oh, that’s a little bit further south than where I come from, but I think I could manage it, Robert.” The original album concludes with its title track, and they first mention how they started to play it on the other side of the record. Here they give us the entire thing, without interruption. And it’s a sweet, innocent and completely enjoyable song. “What’s so wrong thinking life is a song/And reaching for a star/And who’s to say if we’ll go the whole way/At least we got this far.”

Bonus Tracks

In addition to the bonus tracks I’ve already mentioned, this disc includes a wonderful rendition of “Cecilia,” which features plenty of joking around, even joking about joking, with comments like “Oh, we’ll be very big in Buffalo.” There is also a nice take of “Lily Of Laguna,” adding a little nod to Billy May to the lyrics.

CD Track List
  1. Two Of A Kind
  2. Indiana
  3. Bob White
  4. Ace In The Hole
  5. East Of The Rockies
  6. If I Had My Druthers
  7. I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jellyroll
  8. Lonesome Polecat
  9. My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two Today
  10. Medley: Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home/Row Row Row
  11. Who Takes Care Of The Caretaker’s Daughter
  12. Mississippi Mud
  13. Two Of A Kind
  14. Cecilia (Take 4)
  15. Lily Of Laguna (Take 7)
  16. Bob White (Take 17)
  17. East Of The Rockies (Take 6)
  18. I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jellyroll (Take 5A)
  19. My Cutey’s Due At Two-To-Two Today (Take 10)
  20. Mississippi Mud (Alternate Take)
This special expanded edition of Two Of A Kind was released on March 24, 2017 through Omnivore Recordings.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Scout Durwood: “Take One Thing Off” (2017) CD Review

Scout Durwood’s new CD, Take One Thing Off, is a combination of fun pop tunes and stand-up comedy, though the songs are often pretty damn funny too.  She alternates between comedy and music, with the comedy generally working as introductions to the tunes. The comedy was recorded live, while the music was recorded in a studio. And though I was laughing through much of this disc, Take One Thing Off certainly isn’t devoid of substance. Scout has something to say, and now is the perfect time to listen. While Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge Pride Month, the rest of us – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification – can support the ongoing fight for equal rights, the fight against discrimination. And why not laugh while doing so? I firmly believe the world is a better place while people are laughing.

Take One Thing Off begins with an introduction, which of course is the right place for an introduction. This track isn’t needed, but is short (less than a minute). It basically just explains that the comedy and music were recorded separately. We’re then treated to the first of the comedy tracks, “Sex Positive,” in which she tells the audience that she would release a sex tape of herself, then adds “But I am a lesbian, so I don’t feel like the world is ready for that much meaningful eye contact.” That leads to the title track, “Take One Thing Off,” a goofy fun song about stripping (“Trust me, less is more”), with a dance rhythm. “Now shut your mouth and dance.” Obey her. Get on that dance floor, friends!

“Drinking” is a comedy bit about… well, drinking. “I love alcohol so much.” This functions as a good introduction to “All The Pretty Bottles,” a pop love song to those glorious vessels of spirits. “All the pretty bottles/Pretty, pretty bottles/Prettiest that I have known/All the pretty bottles/I can hear you calling/Pretty soon.” Oh yes. Pretty much everyone I know has been drinking a lot since the election (which feels like sixty-five years ago), and I think this song will be appreciated.

“Baseball Game” is comedy bit about being hit on by a moronic and juvenile man. I think this was the first track from the album that I heard. It’s followed by an earnest love song titled “Fallin’ In Love.” This pop song really works for me. By the way, the musicians backing Scout Durwood on this CD are Dave Darling on guitar and programming, Arlan Oscar on keys, Rich Ruttenberg on keys, Alfredo Ballesteros on saxophone, and Ismael Pineda on percussion. Backing vocals are provided by Bernie Barlow, Gary Pinto, Natasha Pinto and Dave Darling. (Darling also produced and mixed the album).  

A lot of the comedy on this album has to do with being a lesbian. In “Men In LA,” she says: “They want to know if I’ve ever had sex with a guy. That’s a fair question. And the answer to that is yes. But in my defense, it was the week I moved from New York to Los Angeles, and the men in L.A. look so much like the lesbians in New York.” In the final stand-up piece on this CD, she takes on a serious subject and actually finds humor in a horrific incident. “Being gay and straight, it’s basically the same thing. In fact, except for once, I have never been beaten up in a violent hate crime. It’s like one violent hate crime, but otherwise zero violent hate crimes.”

My favorite track is “The Wedding Song.” I fucking love this song, in which a demented bride-to-be explains everything that is going to happen at her wedding, everything she demands, this woman being the first to establish all the nonsense that has become tradition. “I feel like it should cost as much as college, but have no meaning to anyone but me,” she says. “Also, I want presents, but I get to pick the presents.”  There is a really funny video she made for this song. I showed it to my girlfriend, but she didn’t find it quite as funny as I do. (If you haven’t seen it yet, click here.) That’s followed by “I’m Cool, Right?” which is a song too, so in this case one song follows another, though this song certainly mixes in a healthful does of comedy, with lines like “I am both beautiful and prone to fall down/But I’m cool, right?” This song also actually refers to her career as a comedian.

Then out of nowhere comes a serious, pretty rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. This is the CD’s only cover, and it comes as a wonderful surprise. I certainly wasn’t expecting this. Scout Durwood is accompanied only by piano, and by the end she’s belting out the lyrics. She concludes the CD with “Here We Are,” a song that slowly pulled me in. It becomes more powerful and engaging as it goes on, and ends up being one of my favorite tracks. “They fear our love/But we won’t fear back/Your hand in my hand.”

CD Track List
  1. Intro
  2. Sex Positive
  3. Take One Thing Off
  4. Drinking
  5. All The Pretty Bottles
  6. Baseball Game
  7. Fallin’ In Love
  8. Men In LA
  9. Brooklyn Ca. 2009
  10. The NFL
  11. The Wedding Song
  12. I’m Cool, Right?
  13. My Funny Valentine
  14. Strip Club
  15. Go Go
  16. Anxiety Lions
  17. Taxi Take Me Home
  18. Hate Crime
  19. Here We Are 
Take One Thing Off was released on May 19, 2017 on Blue Elan Records. As Scout sings in “Go Go,” “If you came here to get noticed/Go the fuck home/If you dream of being POTUS/Go the fuck home.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ronan Conroy: “Not A Part Of Anything” (2016) CD Review

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ronan Conroy over the last week or so. His new release, Blood Dread, a five-song EP, has a compelling dark intimate sound, with the vocals and lyrics taking the focus. Its personal and often haunting sound pulled me in. Since I first listened to that EP, I’ve had the opportunity to go back and listen to earlier releases, and discovered that each CD has its own distinct feel, its own vibe. Take his previous release, for example, 2016’s Not A Part Of Anything. It has quite a different sound than Blood Dread, much more of a hard rock feel and attitude on many of the tracks. As on Blood Dread, Ronan Conroy is joined by his Oh Halo band mate Charles Nieland on bass, piano and synthesizer, and by Justin Wierbonski on drums. On this release, he is also joined by Chealsea Conroy on drums on two tracks, and by Satoshi Inoue (Echoscape) on bass on three tracks. All songs are originals, written or co-written by Ronan Conroy. In the liner notes, a year is written next to each of the song titles, and it seems that most of these songs were written a while ago, when he was with Oh Halo, and even before that.

This album opens with “Apart,” a song with a raw rock energy, a bit of punk in the delivery and its rhythm. Quite a bit different from the sound of Blood Dread, but perhaps equally compelling. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Take a bow!/What a great performance, now/You arrive and leave without a warning/In the sun – we lay in the water/You asked me what was on my mind and in my heart.” His vocal approach is markedly different. And yes, I appreciate that the album’s title includes “A Part,” while the first track is titled “Apart.” That’s followed by another rock song, “Terms,” and here the vocals sound more like what I’d heard on Blood Dread, though the guitar and other instruments have at least as much power as the vocals. But that doesn’t mean the lyrics aren’t worth paying attention to. Check out these lines: “Come on, little darling, all the baggage that we’re holding – let’s let go/Holding on won’t do nobody no good/Catalogue and file all the crimes and the lies – we made mistakes/It doesn’t last, doesn’t matter, doesn’t change me and you.”

“Fire Escape” has a bit more of a folk vibe, but is still delivered with a raw, powerful and yet vulnerable feel, and is one of my favorite tracks. It creates vivid images right from its opening lines, “Through the bars across the window/Through the bars of the fire escape/Bleak tall towers stop the sunlight from coming in/Your sad face in the shadows.” There is something desperate and sad about this song, about this character, and yet you somehow know he came through it. After all, he’s singing of these things from a certain perspective. Perhaps escape is possible. That’s followed by “Driving South,” an intriguing track with some good lines, like “Whose opinion are you wearing now?/Paralyzed by your fear of ghosts/You and I – are we circling the drain/Or are we orbiting the stars?” Partway through, this song takes on a harder rock feel briefly, with that electric guitar taking prominence. That line “You couldn’t keep all of your promises if you tried” strikes me each time I listen to this track, because of course it implies that she didn’t try.

“You Little So-And-So” is a heavier punk song, delivered with a snarl, with disdain and anger. If you’re feeling angry these days – and who isn’t – you can enjoy this song while thinking of whichever bastard is irritating you (there’s no question just which orange menace I have in mind). “The neighbors on the street know it/The pole-dancers at 13th Street know it/The telephone solicitor knows it/The bouncers at the door know it.” Oh yes, it comes at you fast and strong, just as it should. There is something raw and deliberately messy about this one, as the emotion of it is in control, so it can’t be clean. You know? Of course you do. “Capitulation Advance” has a heavy rock vibe, with something closer to a hardcore punk energy, particularly in the vocal delivery. It then slides right into “Song #1,” and a good groove emerges. “So sick of being lied to/Why do I even care?” It’s hard to keep the current government from mind when hearing lines like that, regardless of what the actual topic is. Chealsea Conroy plays drums on both “Capitulation Advance” and “Song #1.”

“Memory Afterbirth” is a darker acoustic tune. This song, more than any of the others on this CD, contains a hint of the direction he’d be taking on his next release, and is one of my favorite tracks. “Beyond the point of no return/Beyond the point of anger/There is nothing left to burn/I don’t have your answer.” The CD then concludes with its title track, “Not A Part Of Anything.”

CD Track List
  1. Apart
  2. Terms
  3. Fire Escape
  4. Driving South
  5. Thursday’s Song
  6. You Little So-And-So
  7. The Promise
  8. Capitulation Advance
  9. Song #1
  10. Step By Step
  11. Stop Talking
  12. Memory Afterbirth
  13. Not A Part Of Anything 
Not A Part Of Anything was released on March 10, 2016.

Odin at The Slidebar Rock ‘N’ Roll Kitchen, 6-10-17 Concert Review

Odin performing "Push"
In my review of Odin’s recent show at the Whisky, I wrote that Odin doesn’t perform all that often. Well, that might be changing. It seems the band is excited to be gigging again. You can feel it in their playing, in their attitude, in the excellent energy coming from the stage. And the crowd is certainly responding to it. Odin did an afternoon show yesterday at The Slidebar Rock ‘N’ Roll Kitchen in Fullerton, a free show, and the audience – a good portion of which had been at the Whisky too – was singing along to a lot of the songs, excited to see them at such an intimate venue. Though, as someone said before the show, it’s strange to see a rock band in the daylight (Randy himself would mention during the band’s set, “We don’t play in daylight usually”).

This was my first time at The Slidebar, and I definitely enjoyed the place. The staff was friendly and attentive, and the venue had a very relaxed, loose vibe. The bathroom walls were covered with band stickers, including one for Fozzy’s Hero (curious about that one based solely on the name, have to remember to look into that band). Also, it was an all-ages show, and there were some very young hard rock fans in the audience (with ear protection). And though I mentioned this before, I feel a need to call attention to it again: metal fans have got to be the most considerate and cool audience of all. Anyway, all of these factors contributed to this being a totally enjoyable show. But the main thing, obviously, was the music. And after an opening set by Metal 101, Odin came on strong with “One Day To Live,” one of my favorites. They started their set just after 5:30 p.m. Though the venue is small, the Odin banner was displayed on the wall just behind the drum kit. And there was a plastic sound barrier in front of the drums, to protect us all. This venue was doing it right.

They followed “One Day To Live” with “Midnight Flight,” and then lead singer Randy O thanked bar owner Jeremy Popoff (whom you might also know as the guitarist for Lit) for inviting Odin to do this gig. After “12 O’ Clock High,” Randy playfully plugged the band’s merchandise, particularly the T-shirts, saying that it wasn’t that sales were paying the band’s rent, just “We want to see you wearing them.” They then went into “Over Your Head,” and it was clear the band was having a whole lot of fun, as was the audience, each sharing energy with the other. The band established a good rapport with the crowd, and during a great “Don’t Take No For An Answer,” Randy had audience members singing along. This song was certainly a crowd favorite, and it featured some excellent work on guitar by Jeff Duncan. After that one, Randy told the crowd the band was going to “mellow it out now” and “switch it up a bit,” and they went into “She Needs My Love.” Randy then told the audience, “None of these guys drink, but I do.” He joked about his own drug use in the early days of the band, mimicking someone asking him “What do you like?” and answering “Everything.” And the band also joked a bit about their appearance in The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, with bass player Aaron Samson telling the crowd, “I refer to that movie as ‘Decline Of My Reputation.’

Lit members Jeremy Popoff and A. Jay Popoff joined Odin for “Shining Love,” Jeremy likening this show to Jeff Spicoli having Van Halen play his birthday party. “Odin’s playing my fucking house right now,” he exclaimed. It was a really good rendition of “Shining Love,” with Jeremy on guitar and A. Jay joining Randy on vocals. The set ended just after 6:30 p.m., until an “Odin, Odin” chant brought them back on stage for an encore, “Judgement Day,” with Randy getting some help on vocals from his kids. A good ending to a fun set.

Set List
  1. One Day To Live
  2. Midnight Flight
  3. 12 O’ Clock High
  4. Over Your Head
  5. Push
  6. Modern Day King
  7. Don’t Take No For An Answer
  8. She Needs My Love
  9. Little Gypsy
  10. Shining Love
Encore
  1. Judgement Day
Here are some photos from the show:

"Midnight Flight"
"Midnight Flight"
intro to "Modern Day King"
"Modern Day King"
"Don't Take No For An Answer"
"Don't Take No For An Answer"
intro to "Shining Love"
"Shining Love"
"Shining Love"
"Shining Love"
"Judgement Day"
The Slidebar Rock ‘N’ Roll Kitchen is located at 122 E. Commonwealth Ave. in Fullerton, California. I hope Odin plays at this venue again. It was definitely worth the trek down from L.A.

The Slidebar before Odin's set

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bombadil at The Hotel Café, 6-9-17 Concert Review

Bombadil performing "Honeymoon"
From what I’ve been able to gather from my time on this planet so far, life is all about friends, family and good music. And sometimes you can combine those for something approaching magic. Last night I finally got a chance to see the band Bombadil, and it was one of those special nights. Though I went alone, I ended up meeting some good people, people who were as excited as I was to see this band. None of us had seen them before, and that helped unite us in a way. Each of us came to the music from a different place – one started with the latest album (Fences) and worked her way back, one started with the very first demo a friend had given her and has moved forward with the band, and I started somewhere in the middle in 2013 with Metrics Of Affection. But we’d all come to the same conclusion: Bombadil is an exceptional band, a band we should pay attention to.

Last night they took the stage just after 9 p.m., and right from the start their sense of humor and sense of play were apparent. They joked that they were going to start by playing a portion of a song. “We don’t want to play the whole thing.” And then, true to their word, they sang just a small a portion of “Is This Danger,” a song from Fences, delivering it a cappella. This show at The Hotel Café was the first stop on their west coast tour, and they talked about how their week had basically been spent on Interstate 40 “until about four hours ago.” They delivered a caveat as they got the show going: “So if we forget words, you can blame Interstate 40. I can give you their mailing address after the show.” And yes, they did at one point forget some of the words to the first song of the set, “Perfect.” And it worked strangely to bring the audience together with the band. A tiny error somehow brought the room together. And it was then I knew for certain that this was going to be a seriously good show.

The set focused mainly on material from the new album, and they followed “Perfect” with “Good News Sadie.”  There is a lot to love about this band, but certainly one key element is the vocals. And when the three harmonize, the music reaches some pretty high plateaus. During “Good News Sadie,” there was plenty of beauty in that regard. They went straight into “Not Those Kind Of People,” another song from Fences. They dedicated the next song to their friend Brittany, then before playing it asked her a favor – to bring up glasses water for them. “Does anyone else need water?” they asked the crowd, offering to have Brittany fetch it for them if they did. The song they dedicated to Brittany was “Fence,” the (almost) title track from the new album, and they delivered a moving and uplifting rendition.

James asked the audience if anyone takes the subway in L.A., having heard from a friend about some of the art and decorations at certain stations. Actually, I took the subway to the show, because of some new parking restrictions on the street where I used to always find a spot. The subway in L.A. isn’t like the subway in Boston or New York. It just doesn’t go everywhere. But for certain places, it’s great. And The Hotel Café is just a few blocks from the Hollywood and Vine stop (on the way to the show, I got off a bit early, at Hollywood and Highland, but no matter). Anyway, James continued, “So if you would like to tell me after the show where your favorite subway art is in L.A., I would love to go there, probably immediately following the show.” He then mentioned that the next song is about riding the subway, leading Daniel to comment, “I was wondering where you were going with that story actually.” They then launched into “Coughing On The F Train,” the first song of the night to not come from Fences. It’s from the band’s 2015 release, Hold On, and it’s a fun tune.

They followed that with “Long Life,” which James dedicated to his niece, Elizabeth. “Long Life” is my favorite song from the new album, and actually is one of my favorite songs of the year so far. It’s one of those songs that just always work. You know? And it featured some beautiful blending of the three voices last night. Absolutely wonderful and sweet. A strange instrumental section connected that song with the following tune, “Binoculars,” also from Fences. “Binoculars” is a great example of how this band can both make an audience laugh out loud and move them within a single song. That was followed by “So Many Ways To Die,” one of my favorite songs from Tarpits And Canyonlands, which was originally released in 2009 and re-issued in 2014. “You are exactly who you choose.” Yes. Bombadil then concluded the set with another highlight from that album, “Honeymoon.” Several people in the audience sang along from the very first line, which, by the way, is “Throw the body in the lake.” Yes, I love this band. And after seeing them in concert, I like them even more.

Set List
  1. Is This Danger
  2. Perfect
  3. Good News Sadie >
  4. Not Those Kind Of People
  5. Fence
  6. Coughing On The F Train
  7. Long Life >
  8. Binoculars
  9. So Many Ways To Die
  10. Honeymoon
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Coughing On The F Train"
segue from "Long Life" to "Binoculars"
"Binoculars" 
"Honeymoon" 
The tour continues up the coast, the next stop being Davis, California. If you’re in the area tonight, or can get to that area tonight, I highly recommend checking out this band. From there, they go to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle (and then back down to Oregon for a few more dates). By the way, for you fellow vinyl fans, at the merchandise table they have three of their releases for sale on vinyl. I ended up purchasing Tarpits And Canyonlands, which is on 180 gram colored vinyl. If you want the color of the vinyl to be a surprise, stop reading now. It’s peach marble (though apparently some copies are a rose color).

The Hotel Café is located at 1623 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ronan Conroy: “Blood Dread” (2017) CD Review

You might know Ronan Conroy from his work with Oh Halo, a New York band he was a member of for several years before he embarked on a solo career in 2014. Since he left that band, he’s released four CDs, the newest being Blood Dread, a five-track EP of all original material. In Oh Halo, Ronan played guitar and sang backing vocals, with Julie Dicterow taking lead vocal duties on most tracks. Obviously, in his solo work Ronan sings lead, and it is his voice that is immediately striking on this new CD.  It is deep and personal and hurt and haunted, without much ornamentation or obstruction by way of overproduction or embellishments. Take “Autumn Sun,” the CD’s beautiful lead track, for example. This song has a dark, haunting yet intimate vibe, Ronan’s voice accompanied and supported only by his guitar and by fellow Oh Halo band member Charles Nieland on piano (Nieland also produced this release). His voice grabs you and holds you. Plus, it boasts some good lyrics, like these lines: “Shadows move across the floor/We don’t live here anymore.” There is something so sad in those lines, the situation perhaps even more depressing than if this song were to take place at night. For who is to share in one’s heartache during the day?  This is a song of loss, and its last line, “Nothing beside me, just an empty space,” is certainly a downer. And the song ends right there. What else is there to say at that point? (By the way, there is a brief odd popping sound just before the line “Clouds are moving through the sky,” but that might just be my copy.)

It’s followed by “The Dark,” and this song’s title is not misleading. This one too has a dark, haunted feel in the vocal delivery, and in the music. Also, this song provides the EP with its title in the line “My head, the blood dread.” On this track, Ronan Conroy is joined by Charles Nieland on bass and synthesizer, and by Justin Wierbonski on drums. Then “Primordial” has a brighter sound right from the start. “And she is looking at you as the sun shines through her hair/In the close shot/And she is smiling at you as the lens of the camera blurs.”

As good and as compelling as these first three tracks are, the CD’s final two tracks are the ones that really stand out for me. “No Friends Of Yours” pulled me in immediately and held onto me, its repeated title line working almost as a strange mantra, along with its slow groove. “Mirror’s got something to say to me about/Words that I use that I don’t understand/Like ‘closing’ and ‘cutting’ and ‘curing’ and ‘friend.’” And then “Tonight,” which concludes the EP, is probably my favorite track. It features Charlies Nieland on bass and glockenspiel, and Justin Wierbonski on drums. Both provide some good work, but it is Ronan’s voice which really sells this one. And I love this line: “None of the choices felt like choices at all.” What’s interesting here is that though many of the lines might seem a bit depressing, this song ultimately has a positive, even optimistic feel, this CD leaving us with shouts of “Tonight!” And in those shouts I hear hope.

Track List
  1. Autumn Sun
  2. The Dark
  3. Primordial
  4. No Friends Of Yours
  5. Tonight 
Blood Dread was released on March 11, 2017, and is available digitally.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Andy T Band: “Double Strike” (2017) CD Review

The Andy T Band is a cool blues band based in Nashville, with a delicious classic, timeless feel to their music. Their new album, Double Strike, features Alabama Mike on vocals on half the tracks. The band’s previous singer, Nick Nixon, provides vocals on the other tracks. He left the band last year for health reasons, and Andy includes a sweet note regarding his work on the back of the CD case. The CD contains a good mix of covers and original material. The Andy T Band is made of up Andy Talamantez (Andy T) on guitar, Anson Funderburgh on guitar (Funderburgh also co-produced the album with Andy T), Michael A. Benjamin (Alabama Mike) on vocals, Nick Nixon on vocals, Larry van Loon on piano and organ, Mike Flanigan on organ, Johnny Bradley on bass, Jim Klingler on drums and Greg Izor on harmonica. They are joined by the Texas Horns: Kaz Kazanov on tenor sax, John Mills on baritone sax and Al Gomez on trumpet.

They open the album with “I Want You Bad,” some classic rock and roll sounds mixed with blues, the results being totally delicious, and featuring good work on horns. “I want you bad, baby/I don’t want to be alone/I need you so bad, I can’t take it/Got me shook up, and I can’t shake it/Don’t know what I’m doing half the time/I got nothing but you on my mind.” Yup, I know that feeling, and it’s damn good. “I Want You Bad” was written by Tom Hambridge and Richard Fleming. And as you’d expect, this track features some good work on guitar. It’s followed by “Somebody Like You,” which was written by Larry Van Loon.  It’s a love song with a positive feel, and a great soulful vocal performance by Alabama Mike.  I’ve been a bit rowdy/I’ve been a bit lost/This could be my time/You’ve been lonely too/Oh, I’ve been looking for somebody like you.” We need love songs these days; we need music to bring us together. And this tune features some good work on organ. Check out these lines (which feel just exactly right for these uncertain times): “Today wasn’t promised/And tomorrow’s not sure/But when it’s all over/When we all get through/I’ll be looking for somebody like you.

“Deep Inside,” written by Andy Talamantez, is the first of the CD’s tracks to feature Nick Nixon on vocals. It’s a different sort of love song, as Nick sings, “I know that you really want me ‘cause I’m deep inside of you.” Hey, quit your bragging, man. Ah, but then he adds “I’m deep inside your heart.” Okay, I misunderstood. This song is fun and playful, and I love Greg Izor’s work on harmonica, which dominates the track. Nick Nixon also sings lead on “Sweet Thing,” which has more of a pop feel at the start, but with plenty of soul. “She wakes me every morning/She’s my sweet thing.” Depends on what time she wakes you, I suppose. “With a hug and kiss from a girl like this, it’s a brighter day.” Ah, to wake up every morning with the love of your life. What could be better? Well, the addition of saxophone certainly doesn’t hurt. Nixon also wrote this song.

Nick Nixon sings lead on a good cover of Chuck Willis’ “I Feel So Bad.” This song has always amused me, with the line “Feel like a ballgame on rainy day.” To follow it, the band chooses another 1950s Chuck Willis number, “Juanita,” and this track is one of my favorites, with its classic R&B sound and that wonderful work on horns. “Things got to get better.” I agree, and this album is certainly helping us in that direction. It’s making me feel better.

“Mudslide” is a catchy, groovy blues instrumental, the only instrumental track of the album, and it features some wonderful work on organ. The organ then leads the band into the next tune, “Sad Times,” an original number with a great, old-time feel. It was written by Nixon but features Alabama Mike on lead vocals. “I’m trying to learn to deal with these sad times that come around.” Aren’t we all? That’s followed by the very playful and totally enjoyable “Doin’ Hard Time,” in which he refers to his woman as his warden. “And you got me doin’ hard time.” I love the way Alabama Mike holds onto the word “hard.” There’s no question what he’s talking about, and those horns are sexy and swinging in support. “I’ll keep on loving you, baby/I’m wrapped up in your chains/I don’t want to be free, no/I’ll suffer with your pain.” Oh yes! The whole band is grooving beautifully on this track, and it’s one of my favorites.

It’s followed by another favorite, a delightful cover of Goree Carter’s “Drunk Or Sober,” with Nick Nixon on vocals. “I love her drunk or sober/And there’s no one to take her place.” And that sax sounds so good. Then “I Was Gonna Leave You” is a fun song about wanting to be the one to initiate a break-up, but being beat to the punch. “The day you left me, I was gonna leave you.” Of course, perhaps he’s just saying that. Either way, this song features more great work on horns. The CD then wraps up with the energetic rock tune “Dream About You” and the wonderful classic-sounding R&B tune, “Where Did Our Love Go Wrong,” which has a delicious Fats Domino vibe.

CD Track List
  1. I Want You Bad
  2. Somebody Like You
  3. Deep Inside
  4. Sweet Thing
  5. I Feel So Bad
  6. Juanita
  7. Mudslide
  8. Sad Times
  9. Doin’ Hard Time
  10. Drunk Or Sober
  11. I Was Gonna Leave You
  12. Dream About You
  13. Where Did Our Love Go Wrong 
Double Strike is scheduled to be released on June 16, 2017 through American Showplace Music.