Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Knitting Songs - Savannah Jo Lack

Its a great feeling when one of your last reviews of the year hits home in such nicety that all you want to do is play it over and over again. Savannah Jo Lack's, Knitting Songs, is exactly that album! Its a pure mix of pop, americana, folk, and authenticity that's lacking in today's scene.

The opening Track, Blank Page Day, is a great testament to her writing and song sculpture. It's simple and fun, but has an anthemic quality like something you'd expect from the likes of Elbow. Little Girl is a beautifully sad story dealing with race, abuse, fear, and more. It takes critical talent to mix beauty like this one with cringing lyrics/story. Her writing is poignant and powerful!

On Old Man Perry, her violin loop provides an excellent backdrop for the folksy-alterna-newgrass tune. She really displays an exquisite fresh talent with this instrumentation. Finally, Ocean Dreams escapes the speakers like a dark composition by the Kronos String Quartet. Its rich with pizzicato and honesty.

All in all, her album is top notch. The writing, instrumentation, and production are all stellar. I'd be very interested to see the live show - to witness these songs take shape, layer after layer.

(Truly one of the top 3 albums I've reviewed all year long!)

RATING: 5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Strange Part of the Country - Conil

Coming at us from the UK is a great rock-singer/songwriter, Conil. On his debut album, Strange Part of the Country, he's worked with an all star engineer and mixer, Tchad Blake (Tom Waits, Pearl Jam). Conil's voice has an interesting quality to it that's hard to label. Its not overly raspy, not overly pop, and has the ability to go from scream to lilting falsetto in one or two bars.

Strange Part of the Country is an acoustic rock piece with great instrumentation. Imagine Alice in Chains and Elbow writing a song together - that's what you get here. Years Between is a light track with easy percussion and instrumentation that surrounds his passionate voice.

On a later track, Grapevine, the verses are reminiscent of Depeche Mode (minus the layered synths), and the chorus' pull out the stops and really deliver. But perhaps his best track is Bonediggers. Its go great instrumental work - tasty use of perc and bass and just enough axillary to really sell the song. Overall, the writing and production are working well together. Its by no surprise that Conil has been receiving stellar reviews throughout the UK.

RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

Down Home Girl - Kathryn Caine

Sometimes the only cure for a bland road trip is great bluegrass music. So it is with Kathryn Caine's, Down Home Girl. Appropriate for the road trip is her first track, Wheels. Its full of tinny acoustic strum (guitars and mandolins) and sassy harmonies.

On Far Away, there's a stellar fiddle lead line that runs throughout the song - a great complement to Caine's vocals, and a perfect showcase of the albums talent. A slower track, For You gives more highlight to Caine's voice as there's not much else to cover it up. Her voice is clear when need be, and has just enough edge to make a Sheryl Crow comparison.

Finally her track, Honey Hill does a fantastic job blending pop with bluegrass. Its a full drum kit, bass, electric guitars outfit; but all the while still has a bluegrass quality. This may be a more accessible track for people not totally sold on the more pure genre, but I think her best writings and recordings are in the more pure bluegrass tracks.

RATING: 4 of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Please Interstellar Policeman - Poland

Poland is the Seattle, pop-rock outfit that's writing some great tunes! Their sounds resonate with the listener as it harnesses parts of the Brit-invasion qualities of early Beatles, while also lending a hint of respect worthy of Jellyfish meets The Doors.

The album is recorded with space and has a very warm touch. There's instrumentation galore. In songs like Your Sunday Book, there's synths, vocals, guitars, and percussive work, blended nicely with strings and pizzicato work - all the while nothing stepping on any toes.

My favorite arrangement is the opening of Terrapin Lane. The string and vocal arrangement really excel.

The next time you're in Seattle, find out where Poland is performing and catch a live show.

RATING: 4 of 5 stars

Shipwrecked! - Chris Volpe

Nashville's, Chris Volpe is just what music needs. He's uniquely gifted and sits in a great place - to the side of the bland singer/songwriter sect. Its accessible, but much more artsy than the general vibe coming from the genre. His music is part folk, jazz, bluegrass, and acoustic singer/songwriter. But its the undeniable roosty-Americana sounds that really make his album, Shipwrecked! truly soar!

Songs like Don't Go and Salvation's Round the Bend, make this unique blend work. Ice Upon the Ocean is one of his best. There's a beautiful lilting violin that accompanies Volpe's voice in a dramatic way.

So if you're a fan of the genre, and like artists ranging from Johnny Cash to Griffin House, Nickel Creek to Thad Cockrell, you'll fall in love with this record. This is truly one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. I honestly hope to meet Volpe in concert and write a live review while in Nashville in the near future!

RATING: 6 of 5 stars!
(this is a first)

GO BACK - Joey Davila

Joey Davila's album, GO BACK, is a step in the right direction. Davila combines a nice blend of pop and rock to create his signature sound.

Go Back, the album opener is hooky and drives. Its recorded with stellar accuracy. On, Your Always on My Mind, he slows things down and brings in a groovier element. There's a good amount of vocal loops and help to showcase Davila's voice. The chorus has a very corporate worship element to it. Its simple and singable.

My Ninety One is more of a spoken song with an acoustic strum to carry it. Its reminiscent of a Bon Jovi record - a nice blend of anthem rock with accessible pop.

RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

Scraping for Change

It is my pleasure to preview the upcoming 2010 E.P. from Scraping For Change. First off, the recording quality and production value is very top-notch! These guys clearly have spent the time necessary to go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to ensure everything is in its appropriate place.

The drums and bass click together like a machine, the guitar work is edgy, progressive, and forward-thinking, and the vocals are performed with pure intensity and emotion. All in all, the recording moves in and out of intense art that I think anyone of the alternative rock genre will come to love. If you're a fan of Incubus, Queens of the Stone Age, and Story of the Year; then you'll love Scraping For Change.


RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

Trio - Ironwood Rain

Colorado's acoustic trio, Ironwood Rain, releases their album Trio with ease and confidence. The album is one beautiful track after another. Its simplicity at its best that makes these guys fit together so nicely.

Songs like, Until the End of Time, shows this acoustic interplay working for them. The vocals are sparse and simple. There's complementary harmonies and melodies. On, '39, they bring out a real gospel/bluegrass element that works well in this arrangement (there's even a whistle solo).

If you happen to be in Colorado, check the music of Ironwood Rain.

RATING: 3 of 5 stars