Saturday, February 28, 2015

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar - Send the Nightingale

2015 – Samantha Martin Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 28, 2015

The new album from Toronto-based recording artists Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar is sure to draw a lot of attention and adoration.  Boasting a clever mix of blues, roots, country and gospel music, Send the Nightingale is absolutely compelling.  With vocals that fall into the same wheelhouse as Janis Joplin, Martin takes command of each song.  Guitarist Mikey McCallum, along with backing vocalists Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb, form Delta Sugar.    

Martin’s influences are also nicely rooted in Sixties soul music as well.  Kicking off with a light rhythm reminiscent of Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”, is “Addicted”, a proclaiming song of love, and a soulful joyous treat.  The mood suddenly drops on “When You Walk Away”, a heart wrenching song about splitting up.  McCallum on guitar, brings to mind Steve Cropper’s playing on ”(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay”.    

Martin performs “One More Day” with the energy and unbridled exuberance of a gospel band in a southern tent revival.  Complete with obligatory stomps and clap, it’s cloaked in a rootsy and rustic vibe.  To this song, I say “Amen brothers and sisters!”  The song that sticks with me the most though is “Don’t Shoot”.  I absolutely love it.  Martin, like Lucinda Williams, just has an uncanny knack for writing great story-telling songs that rock with a country/western flair.

Excellent songwriting, powerful vocals, fantastic harmonies, and expert musicianship, make Send the Nightingale the wonderful album it is.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kubek & King - Fat Man's Shine Parlor

2015 – Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Feb 21, 2015

Dynamic Blues duo Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King have teamed up again, to record and produce an album of the best down-home blues one can hear.  The title itself, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, conjures up visions of seasoned bluesmen congregating in the neighborhood barbershop on a Saturday afternoon, exchanging stories of days gone by.

“Got My Heart Broken” is an excellent track to start off with its high energy and driving rhythm.  Eerie growls resembling the snores of a sleeping dragon emit from Kubek’s guitar and make this one even more fascinating.  Keeping that initial energy flowing, they dive into another favorite, “Cornbread”, a heavy blues ode to country cooking and soul food.  I love the groove on “Diamond Eyes”.  Heavily steeped in Seventies blues/rock, my mind wanders to artists like Robin Trower and Pat Travers when immersed in this song.      

As soon as I hear the beginning Zeppelin’esque riff from “Brown Bomba Mojo”, I get excited.  This is phenomenally played and hits on all cylinders. It really doesn’t get much better than this.  Kubek and King certainly deliver the goods once again, proving tasty guitar blues is their specialty.     

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The B-52’s live at Riverside Casino 2/14/15

Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Feb 15, 2015

One of my all-time favorite bands, The B-52’s descended upon the Riverside Casino in Riverside, Iowa last night and gave a stellar Valentine’s Day performance in front of a packed house. It was a special night, as the evening marked the 38th anniversary of their first concert performing together.  Original founding members Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson were joined onstage by guitarist Greg Suran, bassist Tracy Wormworth, drummer/percussionist Sterling Campbell, and guitarist/keyboardist Paul Gordon.    

The band kicked things off with “Pump”, off their most recent studio album, Funplex.  This one got the crowd excited and the energy flowing.  The only other track from this album, was “Love in the Year 3000”, introduced by Kate who acknowledged Riverside, Iowa as being the future birthplace of Captain Kirk while pondering the details of how his parents hooked up.    

Deeper cuts played, included the songs, “Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland” from Bouncing Off the Satellites and “Is That You Mo-dean?” from Good Stuff. Cindy gave a touching introduction to “Girl…” reminding us it was off the last album her brother Rickie played on before he passed in 1985.  This one was Cindy’s song to sing.

For a short while, Kate and Cindy held down the fort with “Roam” and “Legal Tender”, which quickly filled the aisles with dancers and revelers.  As soon as those songs finished, Fred mysteriously returned to stage donning a red ‘Kate-like’ wig.  Stating it was party time, the band tore into “Party Out of Bounds”. Afterwards, Fred exclaimed “It’s fun being a red-head!”     

The set is ended with crowd-favorite “Love Shack”, which brings the entire audience to their feet.  As the B-52’s return for their encore, the familiar spacy beeps from “Planet Claire” fill the air.  It’s still amazing to hear Kate’s enchanting siren-like vocals on this one. I remember thinking; this must have been what the siren songs which called out to Odysseus sounded like.  It was so captivating.  To wrap things up, the audience was treated to an extended dance version of “Rock Lobster”, a true classic off their first album. With red lobster-color lights shining upon the stage, Kate danced her heart out, and never seemed to break a sweat. 

This was hands down, a fantastic show, and a fun concert.

* all photos by Phillip Smith

Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider

Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider & Kate Pierson

Cindy Wilson

Kate Pierson

Greg Suran

Fred and Kate

Cindy, Fred & Kate

Kate Pierson

Fred Schneider

Cindy , Kate, & Fred

Cindy Wilson

Cindy, Fred, & Kate

Fred Schneider

Cindy Wilson

Fred & Tracy Wormworth

Fred Schneider

Kate Pierson


Private Idaho
Dance This Mess Around
Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland
Legal Tender
Party Out of Bounds
Love in the Year 3000
Is That You Mo-dean?
Love Shack


Planet Claire
Rock Lobster

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alejandra O'Leary and the Champions of the West - Heartspace Timepiece

2014 – Sheepdog Sheethog Music
By Phillip Smith; Feb 14, 2015

It just takes one listen to Heartspace Timepiece from Alejandra O’Leary and the Champions of the West, to acknowledge it as a beautiful masterpiece.  This indie rock band based in Michigan and North Carolina, craft and perform amazingly lush pop music with outstanding vocals and deep lyrics.   

The spacy and futuristic, “Now Now” reminds me a lot of synth-pop band, Missing Persons.  Echo-filled vocals, and attention-grabbing guitar licks make this one a great track to open up with.  O’leary’s angelic voice flawlessly flows through the folksy “Skin to Skin”, with the softness of Juliana Hatfield. “New Low” is the song most likely to get stuck in my head.  This deliciously poppy song ironically tells the tale of an unraveling relationship. 

The Champions of the West definitely come from a space heavily influenced by bands like the Strokes. This adds a nice substantial and meaty texture to tracks “Positive Drag”, “Talk Me Down”, and personal favorite, “Mine That Groove”.

O’Leary nails this one down, as there are no skip-overs on this album.  Each of the nine songs on Heartspace Timepiece is definitely a ‘keeper’.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Empty Trail - Hollow Hearted

2014 – Empty Trail
By Phillip Smith; Feb 8, 2015

I’m really impressed with the production on debut EP release Hollow Hearted from Austin, Texas rocker, Rick Lambert of Empty Trail.  This writer/vocalist/guitarist takes full control of the helm on this boat with fiercely intense guitar performances and furious beats. Upon first listen, I can’t help but feel the energy and hear the influences from bands like Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog.

“Above My Love” kicks off the six song masterpiece with a thunderous drum intro.  Lambert seeming channels the late, great Lane Staley, as his vocals seem to amazingly hang in mid-air.  When “Down” begins, I notice I seem to crank up the volume just a bit. This is absolutely one of my favorites.   Lambert kills with lush guitar licks and melodic vocals, perfectly fitted for rock and roll. 

Simply put, Hollow Hearted is stunningly great.  I have no doubt we will be hearing a lot more from Lambert and Empty Trail in the future.     

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Evan - New Folk

2015 – Evan
By Phillip Smith; Feb 7, 2015

The soothing sounds of New Folk by Evan are quite a refreshing change of pace when it comes to folk music.  Evan’s unique vocal styling and catchy acoustic rhythms provide the perfect vehicle for his cleverly written songs.  Songwriter/Guitarist/Vocalist Evan Meulemans is joined by drummer/percussionist Mike Underwood, and bassist Graham Prellwitz in the making of this earthy eight track album.

Title track, “New Folk”, a delightful tune about self-awareness and purpose, reels me in for the long haul.  This wonderful song has been swimming in my head since I first heard it.  I also am really drawn to the poppy track, “Morning Dew”, about letting down ones hair and running free.  It’s such a fun listen, it puts a big smile on my face each time I hear it.    

Ushering in a feeling of tranquilly is “Water Song”, a short and sweet little song about getting back to nature, and allowing fate to run its course.  Evan slows things down a bit on “Wishing Well”. Softly sung, and lightly played, this song poetically expresses a longing for a lost love.  I like the way this song unexpectedly picks up with a boost in tempo midway.       

New Folk is a positively charged, feel-good folk album which leaves me wanting to hear more.       

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Bryce Janey - Blues in my Soul : From the Archives #17

2010 – Grooveyard Records  
By Phillip Smith; July 10, 2010

Blues in my Soul, the latest release by Bryce Janey, shows true grit as it showcases his skillful song writing, fine guitar slinging, and deep soulful vocals.  There is a huge Texas blues presence on this album, akin to the likes of Billy Gibbons, Johnny Winter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.   Accompanying Janey are Dan Johnson on bass, and Eric Douglas on drums.  Both are excellent musicians and assist in making Blues in my Soul the enjoyable listening experience that it is.  

The bass line Dan Johnson provides for “Walkin’ on a Live Wire”, is infectious and ominous.  I could listen to this song all day long.  It is my favorite track.  Janey has a talent for making his Strat sing, and the way he exhibits that talent makes this song a treat to listen to.   Another great song, “Mission For Love”, with its’ funky trance-inducing groove, is pure enjoyment. 

“City Under Water” stirred up a lot of emotion, as it unleashed memories of the flood of 2008 which hit Cedar Rapids very hard, and left an unfathomable amount of destruction.  The feeling of helplessness we all had as we saw the river rise out of its banks are duly expressed as Janey sings,  ‘The sky is falling.  The ground is coming up.  Water at my knees.  I’m running out of luck.’ 

Other notable cuts include a pair of really cool cover songs, Johnny Winter’s “Medicine Man”, and Robin Trower’s spacey ballad “In This Place”.   Blues in my Soul is a fine album.  Pick it up and have a good listen.

For more information about Bryce Janey :