Showing posts with label Phillycheeze's Rock and Blues Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phillycheeze's Rock and Blues Reviews. Show all posts

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#300 : Rocky Athas - Shakin’ the Dust


2017 – Cherryburst Records
Release Date : Oct 15, 2017

By Phillip Smith; Nov 3, 2017


With this being the 300th installment of Phillycheeze’s Rock and Blues Reviews, I wanted to use this milestone issue to honor blues-guitar great, Rocky Athas, who has just released this fabulous new album, Shakin’ the Dust.  Produced by the legendary Jim Gaines and jam-packed with a truck-load of Texas blues, this eleven-track record is a true gem.  In the studio with Athas is his son Rocky Athas II on bass guitar, and drummer Walter Watson. Together they form one hell of a power-trio.      

Athas fires off a blazing performance on “You Pushed Me Too Far”, an outstanding original with a heavy dose of attention-grabbing blues licks.  It’s absolutely wonderful and doesn’t get much better than this.  “Texas Girl” is great too, as it kicks off with an amazing intro.  The song fearlessly follows suit with Athas injecting heaping helpings of fantastic guitar into a crushing wave of catchy hooks.  I love the Neil Young grunge vibe Athas affixes to “Time Flies” and how the ballad seems to gently tumble by like time itself.               

His revved up cover of the Calvin Carter penned classic “I Ain’t Got You” is a sweet amalgam of the versions rendered by The Yardbirds and Aerosmith.  Athas breathes new life into Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Looking Back”.  I get a big smile on my face every time I hear it.   The album closes out with a spectacular mind-bending performance, taking on Jimi Hendrix’s “Villanova Junction”.  This one is beautifully played.     

The cohesive flow on Shakin’ the Dust makes an appreciable call-back to the heyday of album rock.  It’s put together really well.  Rocky Athas scores big with this album, and I look very much forward to hearing what is in store down the road.    
     

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

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, October 8, 2016

Larkin Poe - Reskinned


2016 –  RH Music
By Phillip Smith; Oct. 8, 2016

Thanks to Elvis Costello, the music of Atlanta-based duo Larkin Poe is now in my awareness.  Rebecca and Megan Lovell have been opening for Costello on his most recent tour, Detour.  The talents of this sister-duo run deep.  Rebecca commands the stage with her no-holds barred presence on both mic and lead guitar, while Megan pours out rich vocal harmonies, all while slaying the lap steel guitar.  Reskinned, their second full length album brings to the table five new tracks and seven re-released songs from the 2014 critically acclaimed Kin.

From the beginning, with the hard-rockin’ “Sucker Puncher”, Larkin Poe is quick to grab me by the collar.  This song is dripping with attitude.  Between the fierce riffs coming from Rebecca and lush slide from Megan, I am totally captivated.  The Lovells seriously kick out the jams with their bad-girl anthem “Trouble in Mind”.  I love the sheer rawness of “P.R.O.B.L.E.M”, with its riveting guitar licks and punk attitude served Jack White style.  Stand-out songs, the deliciously swampy “When God Closes a Door” and the wonderfully melodic and bluesy “Blunt” puts the magnifying glass to religion and dogma. 

Their style of songwriting is unique and oftentimes dark, and their performance is wondrous and exciting. Reskinned is such a terrific album, I can hardly stand to take it out of the CD player.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

John Mayall - Find a Way to Care


2015 –Forty Below Records
By Phillip Smith; Aug. 22, 2015




It makes me happy to see John Mayall return to the studio and record another sensational blues album.  Find a Way to Care is masterfully written and exquisitely performed.  Returning to the studio with Mayall is guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, and drummer Jay Davenport, who were all present on his previous studio album A Special Life.  

Mayall breathes a new funky and soulful life into Percy Mayfield’s “The River’s Invitation”.  With Mayall manning the keyboard, and a terrific horn section at his side, this song takes on a sort of “Bar-Kays Soul Finger” vibe.  I dig this one a lot.  Riding this same wave of feel-good music, is the vibrant Lightning Hopkins cover, “I Feel So Bad”, which makes me feel so good when I give it a listen. 

There’s no shortage of traditional blues here either.  Mayall serves up nothing but the best of it as he splendidly tackles Junior Parker’s “Mother in Law Blues”,  Muddy Water’s “Long Distance Call”, and Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues”.   

I’m quickly drawn in to the music on “War We Wage” a heady guitar blues track by acclaimed UK guitarist Matt Schofield.  It’s hard to beat the combination of Mayall’s keys alongside Athas on guitar.  They just sound so good together.  Mayall brings the album to a close, busting out some fabulous barrel house piano blues on “Crazy Lady”.

Mayall is known as the “Godfather of British Blues” for a good reason and his legacy continues with Find a Way to Care.      






For more info on John Mayall, visit his website http://www.johnmayall.com/

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bodeans - I Can’t Stop


2015 – Free & Alive Records
By Phillip Smith; June 6, 2015

They say you can’t keep a good man down.  The same goes for Kurt NeumannNeumann’s most recent album under the Bodeans moniker is a pure delight. Neumann is the only one left from the original lineup, but he keeps chugging along as a prolific writer and musician.  I Can’t Stop contains a dozen original tracks which just gets better with each listen.

Neumann leads the album off “Slave”.  Thick swampy blues-soaked slide guitar licks which ride atop a cool tribal beat makes this one sound so good.  “Oh Mama”, “Roll With the Punches”, and “Yesterday” capture that slightly poppy rocking Bodeans sound oh so elegantly.  Songs like these are what made me a Bodeans fan in the first place. Emotions run deep in the beautiful and melancholy break-up song “Beg or Borrow”. Accompaniment from the Junkyard Horns is an added bonus.  “Something We Found” rolls out like a pop-infused folk rock Mumford and Sons tune.  This catchy-as-hell song is quick to put a grin on my face.

I Can’t Stop is rapidly becoming not only one of my favorite Bodeans albums, but one of my favorite albums this year.   



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’.       

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Prodo - Prodotype

2014 – Independent
By Phillip Smith; Nov 15, 2014

Prodotype, the debut album from Prodo, a trio from Stevens Point, WI, is nine tracks of funky and infectious grooves.   Prodo consists of guitarist/lead vocalist Henry Robinson, bassist Jeremy Erickson, and drummer Dane Paster

A fun little nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, is “The Bokonon”, which by the way, nicely kicks the album off.  Erickson and Paster keep the groove on this one, while Robinson dishes out a Santana-inspired bridge. While getting lost in the contagious rhythm guiding “The Student”, I can’t help but smile at the clever philosophical ‘tip of the hat’ to the film, The Big Lewbowski. “J2”, a tight little progressive-rock instrumental, is a definite standout performance and it reminds me just a bit of classic Yes.  This is a track the band really shines on.     

One thing for sure about Prodo: they know how to construct masterful jams.  Robertson sings of many past lives in “The Secret”, a ska-flavored track which pulls me in with unique jams and well-crafted lyrics.  I’m also quite drawn to the Caribbean-friendly groove at the base of “Chingus”, about a traveling loner.  This is a track I can identify with. 

My favorite track, however, is “Fat Pessimist”.  It crawled deep inside my head on upon my first listen, and now it beckons to be listened to every day.  The lyrics, “I got too much pop!” are not only stuck in my head, but by now are permanently secured.  Good job.

Prodotype, in its entirety, is such a fun album; I can’t help but be in a good mood after listening.  I certainly look forward to hearing more from Prodo.







Saturday, October 18, 2014

JW-Jones - Belmont Boulevard



2014 – Blind Pig Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct 18, 2014


After listening to this fascinating recording, which artfully blends country music and rockabilly with the blues, it’s no surprise to discover Canadian bluesman JW-Jones recorded his eighth and most recent album, Belmont Boulevard, in Nashville, Tennessee.  Enlisting Grammy winner, Tom Hambridge to co-write and produce seems to have paid off very well. 

Jones gets the adrenaline pumping while covering Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step”.  Putting his own cool spin on the song, he cleverly throws a lot of ‘twang’ into it, giving it a retro country sound.  The intro immediately made me think of Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses”.  Another expertly performed cover tackled by Jones is Buddy Guy’s “What’s Inside of You”.  Some of his most serious and finest guitar playing is exhibited on this track.  This song is pure blues.  Jones’ guitar sounds so sweet as it co-mingles with the keyboards handled by Reese Wymans.

“Don’t Be Ashamed”, interestingly blends blues with surf rock.  Haunting guitar riffs, pulsating organ attacks, and a spectacular guitar solo, make this a favorite.  “Magic West Side Boogie” is phenomenal.  With guitar playing reminiscent of Jim Heath of Reverend Horton Heat, Jones delivers the goods, as does Jamie Holmes who plays the hell out of the drums.

Jones sets a swampy psychedelic mood with “Cocaine Boy”, which he understandably saves for last.  This gonzo treat is delivered via tinny and echoey vocals sung atop a slow-basted bass line.  Guitar licks enter the song, like screams in a haunted house, making this track quite a wild listen. 

This album has a way of captivating the listener, and not letting go. 

   





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Sunday, October 5, 2014

An Evening with Kris Kristofferson: The Pilgrim: Ch 77 Union Chapel, London



2014 – Virgin Records
By Phillip Smith; Oct 4, 2014


  
Live albums are often times “hit or miss”, for me, for varying reasons such as bad sound, or coaxed audience participation.  This new double album from the legendary Kris Kristofferson, recorded live in London at Union Chapel, September 26, 2013 , steers clear of those self-imposed landmines, and emerges as one of my all-time favorite live albums.  In an intimate setting, Kristofferson plays his songs, stripped down to the most basic of levels, alone on a stage with just his guitar and harmonica.

With almost forty-five years’ worth of material to choose his set-list from, Kristofferson performs a nice blend of both new and old, drawing a lot deeper from his earlier years, playing fourteen songs off his first and second albums from 1970-1971, Kristofferson, and Silver Tongued Devil.  Classic songs, such as “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Help Me Make it Through the Night”, and “Loving Her Was Easier” quickly put a smile on my face.  For a nice little tie-in, while introducing “Casey’s Last Ride”, Kristofferson mentions he wrote it in London about a half a century ago.  From his newer albums, we are treated to title tracks, “Feeling Mortal” (2013), and “Closer to the Bone” (2009) ,

We’re also treated to several selections from his 2003 politically-centric live album, Broken Freedom Song , with songs such as “Broken Freedom Song”, “The Circle”, and “Sky King”.  Another song from that album, which lands in this performance, is one of my favorites, “Here Comes that Rainbow”, a lovely song about paying it forward.


The album just wouldn’t be complete without playing longtime favorite, “Jesus Was a Capricorn”, which Kristofferson masterfully segues in from “You Show Me Yours”.  I’ve never been to London, but when I listen to this album, I feel as though I am transported to the front row of Union Chapel, among the audience, taking everything in. And that is what I absolutely love about An Evening with Kris Kristofferson: The Pilgrim; Ch 77.




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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sunken Monkey - Party Scars




2014 – Bumface Records
By Phillip Smith; Sep 6, 2014


The four members of Sunken Monkey, a punk rock band from Burnley, Lancashire that’s been together in one format or another since the mid noughties, are known only as, Spindle (guitar and vocals), Rob (guitar), Adam (bass) and Hendy (drums).  These guys happen to have a knack for making extremely catchy poppy punk songs and Party Scars, their sophomore album, is thirteen tracks of headbangin’ fun.

“After All” breaks out of the gate, in beast-mode, rocking full blast with tasty guitar riffs and vocals reminiscent of Joe Strummer. I love the blending voices of the dual guitars in the fast-paced “Don’t Dodge a Game of Dares”.  This frenzied track is one of my favorites.  Kudos as well to “More Beer Than Blood” a testosterone fueled party anthem laden with unforgettable metal riffs fit for Viking warriors.

Another strong contender is “Pissing in the Wind”.  Starting off with a quirky intro, this breakup song turns into a full metal assault led by Hendy as he furiously bashes the hell out of his drums. Spindle and Rob, teaming up on guitars, add a smidge of thrash to keep it heavy without it being over-bearing. I really like this one.

The music from Sunken Monkey quickly brings to mind bands from the eighties and nineties such as  Blink 182, NOFX, and the Ataris.  When it comes to power pop punk, Party Scars is a quite solid album from start to finish. It’s a pleasing little treat which nicely hits the spot.