Saturday, December 27, 2014

Toulouse Engelhardt - Mind Gardens

2014 – Lost Grove Arts  
By Phillip Smith; Dec 27, 2014

I absolutely love it when I hear an album for the first time, and the music totally captivates me.  That’s what happened upon my first listen of Toulouse Engelhardt’s fabulously composed instrumental album, Mind Gardens.  This thirteen track masterpiece is a trove of acoustic guitar forged treasures.

Engelhardt lulls the listener in with “Nierika”.  Softly played, this song brings forth a general mood of peace and tranquility.  Following right behind, is “Theme to the First Annual Bluebelly Lizard Roundup”.  This flawless performance opens up with amazing, fast licks, and came to be one of my favorite tracks.  Another favored selection is Engelhardt’s twelve string performance of Francis Poulanc’s “Sarabande”.  This song hits me with an instant familiarity and puts a big smile on my face.    

As Henry David Thoreau wrote about Walden Pond, Engelhardt expresses his affinity for nature through a piece called “Huckleberry Meadows Forever”. Inspired by Huckleberry Meadows in the Sierra Nevada, this song, beautifully played on a twelve string guitar, emits a wave of calmness.   

One of the biggest treats on Mind Gardens is a mind blowing cover of “the Wedge”, originally recorded by the King of Surf, Dick Dale.  This is a perfect song for Engelhardt to showcase his incredible guitar playing skills.  Showing his guitar no mercy, Engelhardt keeps true to the original spirit of the song, brandishing a fast and furious performance.

To hear an expert guitarist, such as Engelhardt, play is pure joy.  Mind Gardens is not just an album, it’s an aural experience.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

GravelRoad - El Scuerpo

2014 – Knick Knack Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec 19, 2014

El Scuerpo, the latest release from Seattle-based musicians, GravelRoad is slathered in down-home country blues, amplified, and delivered by Thor, the god of thunder.  Guitarists Stefan Zillioux and Jon Kirby are joined by drummer Martin Reinsel and bassist Joe Johnson to deliver this eight-track album so full of electricity, it’s addicting.   

Zillioux’s gravelly vocals are made for singing the blues.  It really stands out on “Wolf On Down the Way”. This track has a retro old-school vibe.  Then there is “40 Miles”, one of my favorite songs on the album.  I love the echoing sounds from the dual guitar as they harmonize.  It’s such a cool experience to hear.  

It is amazing what the band does with Junior Kimbrough’s “Lord Have Mercy”. Guest singer Lisa Kekaula nails this one down with the smoky sounds of her voice as the guys pour in the psychedelia.  If Pink Floyd had recorded this in their earlier years, this is what I imagine it would sound like. “Asteroid”, is another cool fuzzy ball of psychedelic fun. It’s the musical equivalent of an army of Spartans marching off to battle.

As if specially written to be after-dinner music for the infamous Donner Party, “Flesh and Bone” take a “tongue in cheek” comedic jab at cannibalism in a hoe-down style.  Ironically, this after-dinner mint also happens to be the most infectious selections on the album. It’s still stuck in my head.

I’m definitely going to keep this album close by for a while.        

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dave Fields - All In

2014 – FMI Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec 13, 2014

All In, the latest release from New York City bluesman Dave Fields, is a great guitar-centric album to settle in with, for a good listen.  The songs are fresh, and Field’s guitar playing is magnificent.  He not only plays all instruments on most of the eleven tracks, he produced the album as well.

Fields ushers the listener into the album like a lion, with a ferocious guitar intro and no-nonsense blues in “Changes In My Life”.  More of the same bluesy goodness can be found on “Wake Up Jasper”.  Fields tackles Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad” in a more gritty nature than usual, and breathes new life into this timeless tale of regret and damnation.  One can feel the raw energy surging through the guitar as he plays.  Fields then takes Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, flips it one hundred eighty degrees, and turns it into a fun danceable number with an infusion of funk. 

Two other favorites include, “Voodoo Eyes”, and “Dragonfly”.  Infectious grooves and soulful guitar licks accompanied by Vladamir Barsky on organ give “Voodoo Eyes” a retro late-sixties vibe.  I love the way “Dragonfly”, an elegantly melodic song, slowly builds to a fantastic eruption of sound.  This track which features Kenny Soule on drums and Tony Tino on bass, seemingly draws a lot of inspiration from the band, Yes.

One can surely tell, Dave Fields went “All In” on the creation of this album.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Henry Carpaneto - Voodoo Boogie

2014 – Orange Home Records
By Phillip Smith; Dec 6, 2014

Voodoo Boogie, the latest release from Italian pianist Henry Carpaneto is a spectacular twelve track collection of New Orleans style piano blues. Bryan Lee, who was part of a US tour with Carpaneto recently, collaborates as singer, guitarist, and co-producer on this venture, which also includes guitarist Otis Grand on three tracks as well.  Another notable musician on the album is Tony Coleman, who has been B.B. King’s drummer for several years.

From the grand opening notes played by Lee on “Drinking & Thinking”, I knew I was in store for some serious listening.  Carpaneto’s barrelhouse piano playing sounds soulful and timeless alongside Lee’s bluesy vocals and sweet guitar licks.  I love the authenticity of “Welfare Woman”.  Carpaneto’s playing is amazing, as is Lee’s, making this track a sure favorite.

The tracks Grand sits in on, (“Calidonia”, “Dog & Down Blues”, and “Rock Me Baby”), are all magnificent as well.  The saxophone accompaniment provided by Paolo Maffi gives “Calidonia” a cool retro vibe.  Maffi brings it again on the fabulous, “Dog & Down Blues”,while Carpaneto and Grand exquisitely play it nice and slow.

Masterfully produced and exquisitely performed, Voodoo Boogie is a definite must for serious fans of the blues.