Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mike Sands - Shot of Reality

2014 – n/a
By Phillip Smith; June 27, 2015

Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Mike Sands dishes out lush positively-charged servings of power pop on his album, Shot of Reality.  This is the kind of music one can just settle in for a nice listen with.  Sands is joined by Paul Avgerinos for backing vocals and performances on all other instruments.

It’s easy to get lost in “The Wait is Over”.  The poppy rhythm and relaxed vocals are reminiscent of Matthew Sweet.  Full of catchy riffs and inspirational lyrics about starting over, “Wander No More” reminds me a lot of REM, one of my all-time favorite bands.  It’s no doubt I was instantly drawn in from the first listen. Another fantastic song with that REM texture is the twangy “Closet of Skeletons”.  Smooth harmonies and the infectious melody make this one a damn cool tune.  Sands delivers the goods again on “Love Letters”, a poetically soulful ballad about an empty relationship.  This is still swimming in my head.

Shot of Reality has a certain raw charm about it, reminiscent of the great garage bands of the Sixties.   The songwriting is reflective of real life and the music is tight and solid.


For more information on Mike Sands, visit his website

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jaime Wyatt - From Outer Space

2015 – n/a
By Phillip Smith; June 20, 2015

From Outer Space, the latest album from Jaime Wyatt is chock full of rootsy music coated lightly with a layer of pop, covered with crafty lyrics infused with a jolt of Outlaw/Punk attitude.  Wyatt has a distinct flair for songwriting and a devil-may-care style which makes her music so easy to digest and leave one hungry to hear more.  Mark Howard (Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits, REM, U2, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan) being brought onboard to produce, was an excellent decision.  

Wyatt leads the album off with “Marijuana Man”, a fun Dylanesque alt-country track about a free-wheelin’ hippie encounter gone wrong.  She rips it up on guitar and rocks out on “Twisted”, a vibrant song which brings to mind the music of one of my favorite all-female rock bands from the Nineties, The Donnas.  I love the way “I Want to be Your Girl”, hits the ground running and keeps that energy lifted from start to finish.  This song puts me in my happy place. Like a forgotten song off Paul Simon’s Graceland album, “Stone Hotel” is definitely one of the best on this album.  Daryl Johnson keeps a funky bassline going while Don Heffington commandeers the driving drum pulse perfectly fit for Wyatt’s poetic jailhouse themed lyrics. This one is very nice indeed.    

From Outer Space is quite lovely and no less than outstanding.  Wyatt is sure to be a force of reckoning in the music world, and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mike Zito - Greyhound : From the Archives #18

2011 – Eclecto Groove Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 20, 2011 * 

Mike Zito’s newest release, Greyhound, spinning in the CD player, along with a large cup of hot coffee and the morning newspaper, makes for a near perfect Saturday morning.  Greyhound is quite the impressive collection of songs.  Zito is a master at telling a story within a song.   With a similar writing technique to John Hiatt, he seamlessly uses a blend of an assorted Americana musical styles to ward off monotony. 

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Zito boasts a plethora of musical influences.  You can definitely tell from just listening to his songs.  As the opening track on the album, “Roll On”  plays, it fulfills its obligation to pull the listener immediately in, and promises more good music to come.  It’s not hard to imagine Bob Dylan performing this song.  From the intro of “Judgment Day“, through the end, the song is laced with Jimi Hendrix-like licks.  The guitar solo is phenomenal, reminding us Zito is as much a guitarist as he is a singer/song-writer.   As “Judgment Day” seems to be a Hendrix tribute, “Show me the Way” has that classic early ZZ Top sound.   It’s a bit funky, but gritty, but with a Seventies blues rock vibe. 

It‘s something special when an artist can make you feel emotion through their music.  Feeling his pain, one can almost imagine tears welling up in Zito‘s eyes as he begs his woman not to leave him in “Please, Please, Please”, a wonderful slow tempo track dripping with heart-felt emotion.     

Favorite cuts also include,  “Until the Day I Die” a ditty about commitment, has a contagious rhythm that’s quite enjoyable.. My feet can’t help but tap the floor when it starts playing.   There’s also “Motel Blues”,  an acoustic ballad expressing the drudgery of motel life, wearing shoes to bed, and seedy neighbors.  Not quite the toe-tapper, but an interestingly good song anyway.

Some albums are a hodgepodge of music making no sense as to the order and arrangement of songs.  Greyhound is well constructed, and has a great flow from one song to the next.  It really is an impressive album.   I can’t wait until next Saturday.

* Originally published for Blues Revue Magazine on