Sunday, January 29, 2017

Collective Soul live at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort Jan. 28, 2017

Riverside, Iowa
By Phillip Smith; Jan 29, 2017

Saturday, January 28, Collective Soul (front man Ed Roland, his brother, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, bassist Will Turpin, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, and drummer Johnny Rabb) hit the ground running with an outstanding performance of “Heavy”, bringing a surge of energy and excitement to a sold out show at Riverside Casino and Golf Resort.  This was my sixth time to experience them since 1995, and it was so good to see and hear them again.  Ed was in rare form and Triplett was tearing it up on guitar

After tackling “Contagious” with a big bowlful of grit, Ed switched over to acoustic guitar to play the “AYTA (Are You The Answer?)” from their 2015 album, “See What You Started by Continuing”.  It sounded terrific.  With Ed still on acoustic, he segued in to “Shine” with a mini intro of “Amazing Grace” before the band burst fully into “Shine”.  Camera phones all over the venue rose into the air to capture this one played to perfection.  Ed poured everything he had into the song, jumping high in the air in ways I could never accomplish.  The crowd totally in his hands, the song ended with heavy thrashing and audience accompaniment.   

Before beginning “Draw the Blood”, a song so new, it had only been played live once before, Dean unfortunately fell ill and sadly was unable to continue on for the evening.  After checking with him to make sure he was alright, Ed and the band continued on through two other newer songs, “Pieces” and the melodically spacey “Rule #1”.  As the oh-so familiar riff of “Precious Declaration” tears through the speakers, the house rises, only to remain standing through the rest of the show.  “December” opens to a wave of whistles and applause and climaxes with Ed doing a Chuck Berry “duck walk” across the stage. They played through an amazing “World I know” and rock anthem “Gel”, putting a big smile on my face.  Still feeding on the frenzy started by “Gel”, Rabb blessed us with a fantastic drum intro on “Where the River Flows”.  This is Rock and Roll at its finest.

Just before closing the night with their last song, “Run”, Ed commented, “It’s been 23 years now.  Not bad for the one hit wonder of 1994.” As the song came to its end, Ed was the last to leave the stage, still strumming his acoustic guitar and marching off, like the troubadour, into the dark, disappearing off to back stage.    


Photos by Phillip Smith

Ed Roland

Dean Roland

Will Turpin

Ed Roland

Jesse Triplett

Ed Roland

Will Turpin

Ed Roland

Dean Roland

Johnny Rabb

Jesse Triplett

Johnny Rabb / Will Turpin

Jesse Triplett

Ed Roland

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Alejandra O’Leary - All I Know

2016 – Alejandra O’Leary  

By Phillip Smith; Jan 28, 2017

Alejandra O’leary’s latest album, All I Know carries on the raw indie-pop tradition O’Leary is known for.  Performed and produced by O’Leary, bassist Thom Canova and drummer Mark Simonsen, this eleven track break-up album keeps the music interesting with swirly melodies and heady lyrics. 

The topic of frail and failing relationships is the forefront of the opener “Doubtless”, an emo love song whose tension slowly builds until peaking in a furious psychedelic frenzy.  O’Leary’s clever and hardnosed lyrics are nicely set to an edgy and haunting melody in “I Only Came Here For Your Body”.  I love the way “Trace/Color/Light” beautifully dances in a cosmic cloud of psychedelia too.  It’s very nice indeed. 

Alejandra O’Leary is a true poet and artist whose music continues to move forward. She definitely proves that in All I Know.

Dave Fields - Unleashed

2017 – FMI Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 28, 2017

Another stellar album from New York bluesman Dave Fields has hit the airwaves.  Unleashed is a perfect blend of seven live cuts and seven studio cuts, each one bringing out the best of Fields’ outstanding guitar performances.

Unleashed takes off with a groovy live instrumental called “Anticipating You”.  A terrific performance from Vladimir Barskey on keys, a cool funky bassline from Erik Boyd, and percussion from Doug Hinrichs sets a Stax-like stage for Fields to jam his heart out too. Using that Stax sound as s springboard perfectly segues into the next tune, a cover of Memphis-great Don Nix’s, “Going Down”.  Tackled with a fiery intensity, Fields doles out a big fat dose of superb guitar playing.  For Jimi Hendrix fans, Fields also gives a killer performance on “Hey Joe”, and “The Star Spangled Banner/Hey Joe (reprise)”. 

In two-parter “Jagged Line Pt 1” and “Jagged Line Pt 2”, Fields offers a glimpse inside his own life and struggles.  Beautifully composed, this pair of songs walks the tightrope between blues and rock, lyrically leaning more toward blues and musically taking the rock and roll route.  I get completely drawn in to Fields’ lyrics on “My Mama’s Got the Blues”.  This song drips with hard times and authenticity.  Also grabbing my full attention is the lovely and carefree “New York City Nights”, a jazzy selection paying homage to the Big Apple.     

Fields scores big on this album. Unleashed is destined to be a sure-fire hit release.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tas Cru - Simmered & Stewed

2016 – Vizztone Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 21, 2017

As New York blues artist Tas Cru explains, he is returning to his ‘acoustic-ish’ blues roots on his latest album, Simmered  & Stewed.  He breathes a delightful new life into a handful of his older recorded material with the use of his acoustic, resonator and cigar box guitars. 

Cru gets a spirited and running start on the outstanding “Dat Maybe”, revving up his resonator through the driving beat supplied by Andy Hearn, a juicy wall of harmonica from Dick Earl Ericksen and a soulful organ accompaniment from Guy Nirelli.  It’s impossible to escape the gravitational pull of the trance groove Tas embeds in “Feel I’m Falling”.  Distant backing vocals and Ron Keck’s spacy ominous percussion add to the haunting vibe in this brilliantly psychedelic cry for help.  David Liddy’s rollicking barrelhouse piano playing shines bright through the saucy and manic blues of “Biscuit”.  Shout outs to the legendary Delta Blues great Robert Lockwood Jr. and the voice of KFFA’s King Biscuit Flour Hour ‘Sunshine’ Sonny Payne also bring a smile to my face.

Simmered & Stewed is chock full of all original tunes, with the exception of one song.  As the only cover on the album, the 1967 Jackie Wilson hit song “Higher and Higher” deliciously and slowly builds to a fast boil in the uplifting form of a southern gospel ten revival session. This is a nice treat indeed.  Thus the album comes to its finish, and I say, Amen brother!    


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Starlite Campbell Band - Blueberry Pie

2016 – Supertone Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 14, 2017

Blueberry Pie, an album of outstanding original blues from married musical duo Starlite Campbell Band captured my full attention upon first listen.  Singer/songwriter/bassist Suzy Starlite and her husband singer/songwriter/guitarist Simon Campbell also own Supertone Records, an independent label based in London, with a world-class analog recording studio located in Valencia Spain.  This eleven track album also features Steve Gibson on drums, Jimmy Henderson on Hammond Organ and Wurlitzer Electric Piano, along with special guest Danny Boy S├ínchez on harmonica.

A propelling rhythm highlighted by an intoxicating bassline make way for Campbell’s delicious blues guitar licks to ignite on “Walkin’ Out the Door”.  The band gets down and dirty on the exhilerating “You’re So Good For Me”.  Henderson attacks the Hammond with full force as Campbell throws down a riveting and electric performance.  It’s as if there was a musical “battle royale” between the two in the studio. This one is a downright splendid recording.

The Starlite Campbell Band also has a folky and rootsy side.  Acoustic title track “Blueberry Pie” warmly comforts the soul with eloquent harmonies and a taste of slide.  They beautifully deliver the poppy and melancholy “I Need a Light” in a mesmerizing fashion, rolling it in on a red carpet of bass and cymbals. 

Blueberry Pie is a big bowlful of luscious rock and blues with thoughtful lyrics, played with precision.  It’s that damn good. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns - Back to the Shack

2016 – SSR Freeroll Records
By Phillip Smith; Jan. 7, 2017

There’s a big, bodacious, and retro sound imbedded in Back to the Shack, the latest release by the Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns.  Front-man Mark Campbell invigorates each song with his powerful and soulful vocals as the band tops them off with rhythm, blues, and copious amounts of brass.  It’s impossible to miss the Stax and Motown influences which seem to be deeply rooted in the music. 

Guitarist Ed Berghoff artfully introduces “Before the King” on acoustic guitar.  The track, which features the talented guest backup vocalist Melanie Taylor, soon turns into a smokin’ blues number complimented with smooth horns, a snappy piano accompaniment, and blazing guitar from Andrew Kastner.  Keyboardist/vocalist Mike Finnegan also makes a guest appearance on this album, serving up some of his finest splashes of sound on the swaying blues ballad, “Somethin’ in the Water”.  I love the funky bassline and James Brown inspired singing on the mucho danceable “Bad Habit”.  Bad habits lead to bad decisions, which happen to be the theme of “Serves Me Right”, a funky little mix of soul and country with a nice twangy delivery from Kastner.  “Never Too Late” hits big and hits hard, showing positive proof just how tight of a band this is. Campbell sings with dedicated conviction on this hot electric blues tune immersed in a sea of horns and keys.

Jack Mack’s Back to the Shack is a sure-fire hit in my book.  It is an immensely enjoyable listen.

For more about Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns, visit their website