Showing posts with label Regular Guy Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Regular Guy Reviews. Show all posts

Apr 24, 2012

Album Review: Mercyland - Hymns for the Rest of Us

Songwriter Phil Madeira's Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us does a great deal in the way of disproving the axiom "the devil has all the best tunes" with this solid collection of Americana-tinged spiritual songs. 

Joining him on 10 original (all but one of which Madeira co-wrote) and 2 traditional songs about faith are some of the biggest artists from the fringes of pop, country, rock and Americana including the North Mississippi Allstars, The Civil Wars and Emmylou Harris. Besides the excellent roster, one of the greatest strengths of this collection is its open approach to spirituality, without coming off as wishy-washy. 

Religion isn't the point here; belief and love are the overriding themes. Still, you never get the feeling that Madeira is pandering to PC concerns, only celebrating a common search for God, or at least, an appreciation for spiritual music. 

The first standout track for me is "Give God the Blues" whose vocals are provided by folk-pop songwriter Shawn Mullins. This song is a clever confession that no matter what faith we come from, be it Hindu, Christian or no faith at all, we all manage to give God something to worry about.

Another strong take is Christian artist Cindy Morgan's "Leaning on You." In it, she reveals that even in the difficult times, sometimes her faith is not as strong as it should be.

The album ends with a soulful take on "Peace in the Valley" from jazz guitarist John Scofield. It's a thoughtful conclusion to a cohesively devotional set.

Mercyland is for anyone, even the nonbelievers. This record clearly reveals that common bond of music is stronger than any differences we have. Highly recommended to fans of any of the artists, or anyone in need of something a little more profound than country radio provides.

Mercyland is available for $8.99 at Amazon

Mar 8, 2012

Album Review: Lucero - Women and Work

I can't give a Lucero album the review it deserves, so I won't even try. Since I'm too much of a fanboy to be unbiased, I'll just write what I think and let the words fall as follows.

If you didn't like the direction the band went on its previous release, 1372 Overton Park, you probably won't like that they have continued that progression. Horns still reign aplenty, though I didn't notice them as much this time; they've been integrated into the fabric of Lucero's sound. Soul music is still a strong influence on the band… the Memphis sound and whatnot. Springsteen is still in the mix, though less so this time around.

Personally, I don't think Lucero is getting away from its signature sound - no, they're settling into their rightful place.. or at least where they are in the world at this point. This is Lucero, the rock n' roll band. Not the punk band with a country flavor, not the country band with a punk flavor, not the Americana band… the rock band.

The themes haven't changed, though they may be a bit more focused now. Women, whiskey, broken hearts, hanging out downtown - Lucero never strays far from their source material. Write what you know.

The highlights here are the bar-room rocking title cut, the rollicking, piano-intro'ed "Like Lightning" and the gospel-heavy closer, "Go Easy." "When I was Young" is another great cut, heavy on nostalgia and longing.

The lowlights are… well, there aren't any so dim as to take away from the album as a whole. I wasn't big on "Juniper" at first but it's grown on me. If I had to axe one, that'd be it, I guess. I do wish there was a bit more energy present on Women and Work at times, but Lucero haven't in any way settled into the Drive-by Trucker's "sad bastard" songs rut.

Happily, the whole album is a grower. My favorite records of all time are nearly all growers. I wasn't sure how to feel about Women and Work at first, and maybe still don't, but I know that I like it more every time I play it - and I'm over a dozen spins in.

If you've tried to get into Lucero before and haven't been able to get past some indefinable stumbling-block, this may be the best album for learning to love 'em. It's their most accessible work yet. Still no hits on the way, but Ben "sings" (as opposed to his usual full-on, cigarette-throated rasp) a lot more on this disc… that's probably the most jarring thing to me, but it works.

I'm happy to say that FTM's unofficial house band (and my favorite band) is still yet to release a bad album. If I've gotta give Women and Work a rating, I'd say 8/10.

Mar 7, 2012

Album Review: The Deadfields - Dance in the Sun

If, shortly after hell froze over, the tastemakers of country radio suddenly came to me and said, "Okay, we're willing to make some compromises with you and your ilk. Recommend some bands with the 'authenticity' you so desire, yet a catchy, well-produced commercial-ness that won't alienate soccer moms," The Deadfields are one of the bands I'd suggest. I gave you that massive run-on sentence to basically say this: The Deadfields are catchy as hell and very accessible, but never sacrifice song-craft or soul for the almighty dollar.

Dance in the Sun, the debut album from this "folk-rock" outfit out of Georgia and the Carolinas, is a work representative of the artists the band mentions as influences. Ryan Adams, Wilco, Roy Clark, Wham!, Hanson, Cracker and Vince Gill can all be heard at times in their work, as odd a collection as that is. The Deadfields' new-grass meets pop-folk signature sound puts them squarely in the middle of the roots resurgence of recent years. They'd be a great fit at your local festival playing between the Old 97's and the Civil Wars, or opening for Reckless Kelly at Billy Bob's Texas. It's that diverse (yet cohesive) and friendly a sound.

The albums opens with the sugar-hooked "Carolina Backroads" which is a far better dirt road anthem than you'll ever hear out of Jason Aldean. The Deadfields' sunny harmonies and expertly played strings make this a real steering-wheel drummer. 

"Dandelion" is a far better-written and more memorable take on the theme and approach of Blake Shelton's "Honeybee." It's a lively love song that you don't have to feel guilty about singing along to.

There's not an off-song in the bunch, quite honestly. It's a peppy affair; even the darker introspection of "Till the Next Time" comes off more hopeful than hopeless. 

While my glass-half-empty side wishes there were a bit more range of emotion, you never get the feeling that the guys are gunning for the cheerful waves of Clearchannel radio or an upbeat car commercial spot. It's just their way, and somehow the perkiness never gets cloying. The guy/gal duet "We Stick Together" veers the closest to cheese, but still sounds way more Bruce Robison/Kelly Willis than Donnie and Marie.

Warning: if grittiness is your thing, steer clear. The music is honest, but it's as clean and crisp as granny's sheets drying on the clothesline.

In my perfect world, The Deadfields would play alongside Jamey Johnson, The Damn Quails, the Dixie Chicks, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Alan Jackson on mainstream country radio. In this real world, I'll just slot them into my playlists and enjoy the hell out of Dance in the Sun.

Recommended if you like: The Avett Brothers, The Damn Quails, Randy Rogers Band, Glossary, Eli Young Band, the Jayhawks, Dixie Chicks - basically anybody strong on melody and heart. Try 'em, you'll like 'em.

Here's a short interview and the song "Carolina Backroads"

Feb 6, 2012

Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth

I grew up in the era just after Van Halen's heyday, but I always knew of them and considered myself a fan. I was probably a little more comfortable with the hook-laden, straightforward songwriting Sammy Hagar brought to the table with the second incarnation of VH. I even saw them live once, but despite my slight preference for Van Hagar, David Lee Roth IS the voice of Van Halen.

When I heard VH was coming back with DLR at the helm and even recording a new album, I thought "that's nice" and it elicited some sort of warm, fuzzy feelings… but I wasn't expecting much. When the first single, "Tattoo," was released, I expected even less. The lazy, awkward delivery of Roth made me think the legendary band should probably just stick to the oldies on tour this year. It's a dopey song, quite honestly, though Eddie's playing keeps it from being a complete disaster.

When I got ahold of the new album, A Different Kind of Truth, I didn't make actually listening to it a priority. It sat on my computer and phone for a bit. I avoided reading any early reviews because I didn't want to feel bad for them prematurely though.

When I finally listened, my eyes grew wide (metaphorically). After the clunky "Tattoo," I suddenly began feeling not just warm-and-fuzzies, but downright excitement as the riffs began racing and Roth shook off his rust. Wow. This thing rocks!

I listened to the full album as I lay in bed the other night, but I didn't doze off once. How could I? I was transported back to the early 80's when rock was still kind of dangerous: me an 8 year old sneaking the occasional look in on Friday Night Videos to see this wildly clad band tearing up the stage; me dropping coins in the Pizza Inn jukebox to hear their latest hit and not understanding why I dug this loud stuff so much.

Van Halen still sounds a little dangerous and a lot of loud. David Lee Roth is still the swaggering, half-crazy ringleader as Eddie shreds impossibly and Alex thumps away on the drums. Sure, they miss the background vocals of former bassist Michael Anthony, but the sound hasn't changed that much. The signature VH sound is mostly still intact, and musically, Wolfgang Van Halen is a way more than adequate replacement for Anthony.

Though every song isn't memorable, the balance of the album yields good to spectacular results. "Bullethead" is probably the heaviest song VH ever put out, and it's catchy as hell. "As Is" is a grinding Motorhead-like shredder that lets Roth go absolutely nuts. "Stay Frosty" and "Big River" are other standouts, but aside from "Tattoo," nothing here comes close to suck. 

A Different Kind of Truth is more than a nice little reunion album to give the band a few new tracks for the live shows. It's a necessary rock album. It's the welcome return of rockstar overindulgence and the perfect antidote to all the angst that still hangs around mainstream rock years after grunge's high point. The album more than holds its own in the hallowed band's catalogue, possibly even fitting in so well that it's like '85-2011 never happened. 

If you want a star rating… I'd say 4 out of 5 stars, but obviously, this isn't really a review… just a bunch of random thoughts. This is a solid album and fans will find much to enjoy here. Hopefully a new generation will be introduced to something that rock has been missing for a long time, too …fun.

Nov 21, 2011

Yelawolf - Radioactive

Yelawolf's major label debut, Radioactive, is out today. FTM's a big fan of Yela's rural southern angle on hip-hop. His previous releases were full of classic rock and country influence with lyrics about the darker side of southern living. Think Drive-by Truckers for the rap set.

When he signed with Eminem's Shady Records in 2010, I was pretty excited for him. Of course I was a little apprehensive as well, concerned that his signature sound might get swallowed up by the corporate machine. I erred on the side of anxiousness though, knowing Yelawolf's talent and story (he's a half-white, half-Native American former professional skateboarder from the deep south) will make for a groundswell of support and bring true talent back to mainstream rap.

I'd be lying if I said Radioactive lived up to my expectations. I was naively hoping for something groundbreaking - a Nevermind of rap maybe - bringing his small town gutter sound to the mainstream. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the mainstream was brought to him.

Radioactive is still a very strong album with a few great and mostly good tunes. All the rap skills are there. The lyrics are generally excellent. The beats are solid and the production isn't overdone ….for the most part.

When the album sticks to Yelawolf's strengths it's at its best. "Grownin' up in the Gutter" is an angry rocked up rant which argues that hard times are everywhere, not just the ghetto. "Let's Roll," mines Yela's classic rock influences with an unabashedly catchy arena anthem, with a strong chorus from Kid Rock.

Where the record drops off is when Yela gets away from his meat and potatoes. The tracks that echo B.O.B. are definitely skippers. "Good Girl" is one "for the ladies," but I'm not sure even they will enjoy the annoying chorus and mixed messages. "Made in the USA" is a fairly well-written protest track completely torpedoed by a Debbie Boone meets Lee Greenwood hook. It's so sappy, it destroys whatever message Yelawolf wanted to impart.

Drop a little of this pop filler (which in fact isn't filler - I'm sure "Good Girl" will be released as a single to move a few units) and replace it with a couple more classic rock influenced bangers and Radioactive would be a little closer to that classic I wanted. Still, Yela's way above most of the rest of rap right now. He actually writes songs, not just barking out brags around a chorus. Let's hope his next album gives more of his unique southern perspective.

Nov 15, 2011

Hellbound Glory - Damaged Goods

Hellbound Glory's new album, Damaged Goods, is out today and you better buy it (here!). The boys have retained all the swagger and grit of their previous release, Old Highs and New Lows, but shock of shocks.... they've matured.

Oh, they haven't wiped their repertoire of drug references, attitude and guilty pleasure hooks, but they've grown as a band. Their already solid songwriting has gotten tighter. Their musical chops have gotten stronger... and their passion for the music only seems to be burning hotter.

Thankfully, the band has also held onto their dark (but somehow not particularly depressing) worldview. Junkies chase their habit into the sunset because that's what they're hellbent on doing. Women leave because that's what they do. We're just left to drink about it, and though there may be some self-pity mixed in, it's always a fully enjoyed self-pity.

The highlights of the album for me are lead single "Better Hope You Die Young," a warning that hard living isn't conducive to long life, and "Gonna Be a Goner," a catchy woe-is-me toe tapper with an earworm chorus.

"Knocked Off the Horse" is the track that sticks with you, though. It presents the case in matter-of-fact storytelling, that some drug addicts are just destined to let their dependence kill them and there's nothing you can do about it. It's an uncomfortably edgy take on the subject that paints the druggie as almost a heroic figure. It's a breath-taking tune.

Grab this album now if you like stone country with a modern bent and an unfiltered look at the seedier side of life. <---cliche but true

Damaged Goods is a gem.

Oct 25, 2011

2 Steps Back - Lovers and Fighters

2 Steps Back is a terrible name for a band that isn't a group of similarly dressed pretty boys with bad hairstyles dancing to pop songs. The members of 2 Steps Back have the bad hairstyles, but none of the other boy band details apply.

2SB is a red dirt band who plays a blend of country and rock that isn't far removed from the likes of Reckless Kelly and Cross Canadian Ragweed. What sets them apart from that crew is their youthful energy. There's also a larger portion of their sound that draws from alternative rock, giving them a more driving aesthetic.

Given the baby-faced appearance of the group, one might expect them to play a bunch of songs about love and partying. One would be partially correct in that assumption, but on Lovers and Fighters, 2 Steps Back goes a little deeper than that. Their song-crafting is mature, from the well-developed lyrics to the strong melodic component of their writing.

There's a worldly coolness to the sound of songs like the mid-tempo leaving tune "205" that melts back over multiple listens to reveal a resigned sadness. In fact, there's a whole lot of leaving on Lovers and Fighters. "Can't Change You" is another song of broken romance that wonders "why do we keep wishing on the same old stars" as the singer leaves the unshakeable girl he desires behind.

"When I Was King" looks back on the carefree years of adolescence with a wistful affection that belies the fact that these guys can't be far removed from those easier times. It's a stripped down moment that ends the album on a much lower key note than the bulk of the album. It also reveals that somewhere in between the "lovers and fighters" lies the true man, one who's a little of both and is still trying to figure out his place in the early years of being on his own in the world.

Lovers and Fighters is highly recommended to fans of Turnpike Troubadours, Reckless Kelly and others of that ilk (in fact, it's much better than Reckless Kelly's recent release). It's a catchy album that surely gets the live crowds pumped but also provides a soundtrack for quieter moments alone, reflecting on the comforts of youth and looking towards the unsure travels ahead.

Check out the band's YouTube Channel here.

You can listen to samples or purchase the album here.

It's also available on iTunes.

Jul 17, 2011

Album Review - Nick 13

Nearly everything about Nick 13's self titled debut sounds vintage. The sweetly innocent vocals, the purity of the musical textures and even the lyrics harken back to a more golden time. Only the production values distinguish it from something that could have been released 50 years ago.

Nick 13's vocals are a highly unlikely mix of disarming slightness and charming richness... almost impossibly so. His timbre is reminiscent of Chris Isaak or even Buddy Holly at times, but softer than either of them.

This, in combination with the easy-rolling arrangements and softly traditional instrumentation makes for a simple and hypnotic sound. It's a far cry from the psychobilly of Nick's usual gig, Tiger Army, but rockabilly is certainly a fiber woven into the fabric of the album.

My favorite cut on the album is the Americana-ish "Carry My Body Home." Bumping along on the tracks of a Luther Perkins/Johnny Cash boom-chicka-boom rhythm, it details a man taking stock of his life and wondering how much sand the hourglass still holds. Lavish with steel guitar and acoustics, it's a haunting snapshot.

Nighttime Sky is another winner, bringing in some welcome backing vocals to enliven the chorus. It's a sweetly twanging gem that sounds like it came from another era. Restless Moon could be a lost Roy Orbison classic.

I'd highly recommend this album to fans of Buddy Holly, The Mavericks and Dwight Yoakam.

Listen to full songs here.

Check out samples and/or purchase the album for only $5.99 (!!) here.

Jun 29, 2011

Sam Sliva and the Good - And the People Say...

Sam Sliva and the Good's And the People Say... is a pop-flavored bar-rockin' slice of Americana. Having never heard the band before, I was taken aback by the immediacy of the rich textures of the music and the warm baritone of lead singer Sliva. I was also grabbed by the surprisingly successful commingling of reggae as a part of their signature sound.

This isn't the cheesy trustafarian style of reggae, mind you. It's the easy bang of a rhythm guitar and the walking bassline, seamlessly threaded into the fabric of songs like the lead track "Blind Addiction."

Other places, Sam and the Good go a more straightforward pop-rock route. The earnestness and big hooks of songs like "Surrender" put the band in a realm of artists like Will Hoge and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, for those looking for comparison to the familiar. Sliva's vocals and the bands' chops outshine the songs themselves at times, but that's mostly because they're so damn good.

"Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight" is a Whiskeytown cover that brings the alt-country classic into the barroom. Jason Isbell guests on this winning take that I, as a longtime Whiskeytown fan, grant my full approval.

The downtempo "Nothing At All" could easily find its way into the background of a break-up scene on some teen drama show. That's not to say you should be embarrassed to enjoy it. It's a tearjerker backed by organs and fuzzy guitars, and Sliva gives much emotional weight to the simple "Why do something that's nothing at all?" hook line.

And the People Say... is a collection that feels good even when the mood is dark and keeps your foot tapping even through the ballads. It straddles that fine line between commercially accessible and artistically honest with satisfying effortnessless. It's also a perfect "roll down the windows and sing along" album. Don't expect anything edgy or experimental, just expect to enjoy yourself.

May 26, 2011

Mike Ethan Messick - The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

Michael Ethan Messick's The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday begins with a loopy sounding intro, but once he opens his mouth to deliver the first line, you know this is a country album. Sounding something like a cross between John Mellencamp and Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites, Messick lets his nasal Texas drawl ease out the words while slide guitars and acoustics lead the way.

Early standout "Walking Into Walls," is a bass-driven ballad that subtly describes the life of a man broken by life and love. Michael's voice drips with sorrow over lonely backing vocals that sound like they could be ghosts echoing down a photo-bare hallway.

"Must Be Time" follows up with a rail-chugging rocker backed by Mike Junger and The Trishas. It's an invigorating track with a gospel feel and a sweet harmonica threaded through.

The final cut, "Nickel," drenched in reverb and smoke, sounds something like John Cougar in a moment of relaxed inhibitions. It's full of whiskey and fire, taking the listener to some backwoods Texas dive for a sweaty dirty dance with the cowgirl he's taking home.

If there's one slight drawback to the album, it's Messick's enunciation at times. Sometimes his diction comes off a bit murky due to his drawl - leaving the listener at a loss for what was just sung. It's not a huge concern, but does make a few of the lyrics a bit difficult to discern.

Overall, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday stands out from the Texas herd of red dirt music. It's an emotional and thoughtful piece of work that shows as much potential as it does realization.

RIYL: Steve Earle, Chris Knight, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Mar 8, 2011

Left Lane Cruiser - Junkyard Speedball

Left Lane Cruiser's Junkyard Speedball is grimy, grungy, dirty and nasty. It's full of reverb, vocal effects and organs. In some parts, it even sounds like White Zombie showed up at some southern dive, drunk on Jack Daniels. So why should the average Farce the Music fan have any interest in a band that sounds like this?

Well, those things are actually plusses in my book, but Left Lane Cruiser also provides lots of bluesy, country-tinged goodness in their songwriting. Sometimes you have to listen closely through the haze of fuzzed out guitar and echoey vocals, but it's there. Lots of slide guitar, plenty of rural subject matter, countryside grit and grime. These guys rock, to put it in a cliché neater and nicer than anything you'll hear on this album.

The sliding tones of "Circus" will get you tapping your foot and craving a hard shot of something. "Shine" will make you feel like you showed up at the wrong bar, one with a band behind chicken wire playing dirty blues as you dodge bottles and attempt to find a seat near the least scary looking bunch to enjoy the tunes.

"Weed Vodka" gets you stoned on both with Brenn Beck's relentless drum beat and and a blues riff the devil himself piped straight into guitarist Joe Evans' fingertips. "Shredding" isn't the term for this style of playing… it's more like "grating"… as in grating cheese, not grating as in "annoying."

"Cracker Barrel" is a bucket thumping number full of more grade-A filth. It's a lot more "barrel of crack" than it is the well-known chain restaurant found at your nearest Interstate exit.

This is stepping in cow shit and liking it; it's fist fighting in a mud puddle with your best friend after a six pack, while a hottie waits at the side to give her lovin' to the soiled victor. I don't know any better way to describe it.

Grab you some Junkyard Speedball and get nasty. has some free tracks and a review here.

Sep 28, 2010

RGR: Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me

Two Cow Garage's new album Sweet Saint Me hits digital outlets and cooler music stores October 26th (I'll remind you!!) and, to use a sports cliche, it's a beast. 2CG is a loud, sweaty, snarling alt-country outfit who blend punk, country, pop and bar rock in with some of the catchiest melodies and smartest lyrics you'll ever hear out a band of this ilk. With Sweet Saint Me, the boys play us (thankfully) more of the same, though brought into greater clarity with more songwriting prowess than they've exhibited on records past. The hooks are sharper, the themes more focused and there just seems to be a greater heft to the work this time around.

There's not an insignificant track to be found, so I'll just point out my early favorites (which will likely change because Sweet Saint Me is a big-time grower). The first single, however, is far from a grower. Lydia (official video here) grabs you immediately with its its insanely memorable chorus and its knife edge lyrics about an intergenerational romance:
"Lydia, you're much too young
to have your teeth on the tip of my tongue
If just your lips were a little bit older"

The very next song, Jackson, Don't You Worry, is a loving note to a bandmate's son about the difficulties of being a dad whose occupation keeps him on the road 200+ days a year. It's reassuring but heartbreaking and completely real. I dare you not to be moved.

My Great Gatsby is a treatise on the state of our culture and music in particular. Touching on great works of song and literature, it's an unflinching look at the demise of art in a day of greed.
"DJs are making records, could you please just be ashamed
of your raping and your pillaging of this thing we love?"
I'm not sure if (main lead singer) Micah here boldly proclaims this album "my Great Gatsby" but I won't say he'd necessarily be wrong.

Sweet Saint Me is a special album, long on emotion and absent of pretense; it sounds like they buzzed on inspiration and burned from labor to show us who they are. If Two Cow Garage doesn't break as big as an indie-rock/alt-country band can possibly break with this kickass album, it won't be for lack of giving us all they've got.

RIYL: Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, Lucero, Drive-by Truckers, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, Uncle Tupelo, Drag the River, Javi Garcia.

Free download of opening song "Sally I've Been Shot" here.

Aug 3, 2010

Regular Guy Reviews: Horatio Lee Jenkins

Regular Guy Review
Horatio Lee Jenkins - Drunker Than Satan

(I've had the title track for a while, but just recently received the entire EP for review, so here we go....)

If you enjoy the unique musical stylings of country satirist Gary Floater, you'll love Horatio Lee Jenkins. HLJ is one honky-tonkin', outlaw son of a bitch and on top of that, he's a legend for outdrinking Satan himself.

A la "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Drunker Than Satan" finds Mr. Jenkins challenging the dark lord to a competition based on shared talents, which in this case is downing alcoholic beverages rather than ripping on the fiddle. Horatio Lee rises to the occasion, leaving ol' Scratch puking, claiming as his prize for winning, of course, more beer!

Throughout the rest of this wonderfully absurd EP, Jenkins and others remind you of his conquest of Hell's head man, working it into nearly every other tune. He parlays his drinking fame into the bedding of multiple women, but laments that all can't be present one night In "Girl, This Bed is Too Big Without All 12 of You." He's a proponent of homosexuality (if only so he, the straightest man in America the world, can have his pick of more women) in "It's Okay to Be Gay."

After Horatio's 4 tracks of insanity, things get REALLY weird. A psychadelic band called Big Drugs performs a ridiculously cheesy hippie-tastic love and intoxicants fest. I'm guessing Horatio approves of the message or is, in fact, a founding member of Big Drugs.

Next, Scream Engine and the Carnage Caboose gives us the scream-metal send up, "I Kick Ass Because I Hate Not Kicking Ass." Intentionally or not, this tune has Hank III dead in its satirical sights.

Finally, Horatio's pianist, Carl Dangers, delivers a peculiar, loving ode to his hero, Horatio Lee Jenkins, who in case you missed it earlier, once outdrank Satan.

Throughout the album, we're treated to a veritable cornucopia of instrumental delights, (Gary Floater would like that cliche) from a kazoo solo to power ballad worthy electric guitar licks. This thing's strange, folks.

As much fun as this was to listen to sober, I can only imagine that it's even more so under the influence of some of Lee's beloved attitude adjusters.

Album available for purchase here.

Apr 7, 2010

Regular Guy Reviews: Hellbound Glory - Old Highs and New Lows

Hellbound Glory - Old Highs and New Lows

If Jason Aldean is your idea of outlaw country, you might wanna steer away from HBG. Can you imagine Aldean uttering the words "why take the pain when I can take pain pills?" or "...have a good hate f**k?" I thought not.

Lyrics aren't the only thing that make Hellbound Glory outlaws. Their sound is also a far cry from anything you'll hear on sanitized country radio. This is stone hard country - steel guitar, heavy twang, banjo and fiddle included - rocked up just a little, a la Waylon and the boys.

With subject matter like heroin, codependent relationships, fighting and drinking oneself to death, Old Highs and New Lows doesn't actually hit a lot of emotional highs. Instead, it drags you right through the gutter the characters indwell. As depressing as that sounds, most of the songs bounce right along at mid to up-tempo, Hellbound Glory sounding absolutely vibrant and invigorating while relating their gritty tales, keeping OH&NL from ever bringing you down to the lows of the losers inhabiting their debauched landscape.

You'll be cheerfully stomping your feet right along to such non-cheerful statements as "I'm too broke to overdose." Hellbound Glory has quite a way with sharply pointed hooks like that, also giving us gems like "another bender might break me" and "we saw the one way track marks on his arm."

There's not a bad song on the album, but my favorites would have to be bourbon drenched "Be My Crutch" and "Another Bender Might Break Me." There's also a jacked-up (in a good way) cover of ol' Hank's "I'm a Long Gone Daddy," retitled "I'm Leavin' Now," not to be confused with Merle's song by the same name.

If you're a fan of Waylon, Johnny Paycheck, Old Crow Medicine Show or any of the Hanks (particularly III), you'll probably enjoy this, unless you have a problem with the "f" word, because they certainly don't.

Hellbound is right.

Listen here.

Buy here.

Apr 4, 2010

Regular Guy Reviews: Nightjar - Hometown Stranger

I caught wind of this album while chatting Butler (I'm rooting for you Monday night!) basketball with co-lead singer Christopher Hess on Twitter. I checked out the (3 free!) songs on his band, Nightjar's website and was hooked. Sometimes the best music is right under your nose and you don't even know it.

Hometown Stranger is a feast of heartland rock, complete with yearning lyrics, horns, organs and plenty of guitar. It's custom built for spring and summer with the windows down.

Check Your Mirrors opens the album with a Slobberbone-esque upper-shelf bar band sound and a "Bad radio vocal effect" they were very happy with (as Hess told me on Twitter). This song rocks - it's one of my favorite songs of the early year - and it's a fantastic way to lead off a varied and satisfying album.

Much like Two Cow Garage, whom they also bring to mind, Nightjar alternates between 2 lead singers with contrasting voices. There's the bumpy gravel road voiced Hess (who is a professor by day!) and the smooth voiced Greg Osborne, the respective songs they sing giving the band almost an entirely different sound. You get a more mainstream AAA leaning with Osborne and a gritty, roots rock feel from Hess.

Diamond Joe Hodson shreds on the guitar, blending hard rock-ish riffs and solos into the Americana with ridiculous ease. His playing is a definite stand-out on this album, but it never overshadows the overall product.

Besides Check Your Mirrors, my other faves include album-closer, Lonesome Whistle, a touching ode to a dearly departed grandmother, and Catch My Soul, a hook-laden pop-rocky (not to be confused with the mouth tingling candy) track which would have sounded right at home on the radio between the Gin Blossoms and Blues Traveler in the 90's (though the sound is not dated).

Fans of Bruce Springsteen, Lucero, The Replacements, Whiskeytown and the aforementioned Slobberbone and Two Cow Garage should find Hometown Stranger to be right in their sweet spot.

Check out previews and/or buy it here.

Feb 28, 2010

Regular Guy Reviews: Great American Taxi - Reckless Habits

In the history of Farce the Music, I've only done about three proper reviews of albums. Usually, I'm laying on the derision and snarkiness and generally making a fool of myself and my subjects. In the past, I've felt as though doing reviews would be a sellout of the premise of FTM, but this year I've resolved that if I'm going to continue pointing out the shortcomings of mainstream music (country in particular), then I'm going to have to be a tiny bit of the solution as well.

Never you fear, FTM will not become a review site, a vehicle for genre promotion or a shill for any band that emails me an album. I just want to take a moment each month to let you know about some good music that's out there, usually beyond the mainstream.

You don't expect "the usual" from FTM, so don't expect the usual reviews. I doubt many of them will exceed twenty sentences. There will be no Pitchforkian references and no music-snob contempt for the reader or people who'd dare listen to commercial radio. There will be few five-dollar words. There will be no butt-kissing, despite the fact that I'll only be writing about stuff I enjoy.

While I did well in my college English courses, I am not a trained writer, nor a music historian by any stretch of the imagination. I just love good music. As such, you can expect pretty "regular guy" reviews here. The only difference is that my taste skews a little left of center from the average joe... but that's where a lot of the best music is. I know what I like and I'll try to convey that to you and hopefully you'll find something you never knew you'd enjoy!

As I stated earlier, these will only be once or twice a month, tops. Here's the first!

Great American Taxi - Reckless Habits
Release: Tuesday, March 2

This is good-time music... sitting at a Bourbon Street bar, sipping a pale ale with sweat dripping down your cheek, tapping your foot to the tune without a worry in the world music.

It's a laid back and loose session, skillfully reined by great musicianship. Country, bar rock, jazz, bluegrass, country rock and jam band are all hanging together under the big tent of Reckless Habits. There's a little twang for the hicks, a little sonic stew for the hippies and a lot of fun for us all. I hear 70's Jimmy Buffet, Grateful Dead by way of The Byrds, some Dr. John and early Wilco in their music.

"One of These Days" leads off the album with an ode to the Big Easy. It's a piano plunking, trumpet punctuated singalong that rolls along like the paddlewheel of a riverboat. Speaking of Wilco, Great American Taxi turns in a fantastic take on (members of Wilco's former band) Uncle Tupelo's "New Madrid," giving it a more thoughtful emotional context. "Unpromised Land" wouldn't sound out of place on a Steeldrivers album, with its rollicking, banjo-driven newgrass. The title track is a steel guitar laden country song that wouldn't sound out of place on a honky-tonk jukebox. Even the most lightweight song on the album, "Tough Job," still makes you want to get up and shake a buzzed leg.

Reckless Habits is a swampy boogie, entertaining enough to likely be accessible to all but the most mainstream of tastes. Fans of the Black Crowes, Widespread Panic, Old Crow Medicine Show, Delbert McClinton, Gram Parsons and Dr. John should definitely grant this record an ear.

Free, legal download: One of These Days


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