Album Review: Dan Israel – Dan

Dan Israel – Dan

The Backstory

Dan is Dan Israel’s 13th album of originals. He has won awards, written and recorded songs, shared the stage with big name acts, and crafted a musical career that has spanned a couple decades. I first connected with Dan when I was publishing Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter in the ’90s/early ’00s. Of course, I took a dozen-year hiatus from writing about music. When I returned, who was one of the first people to reach out to me? Dan Israel, of course, who had taken no such hiatus; he had been continuing to churn out top-shelf new music while I was away.

Album Review of Dan Israel: Dan

Dan Israel - Dan

image courtesy of Dan Israel

My first instinct when describing a folk singer with a raspy voice is to invoke Bob Dylan, though this album leans toward the Americana end of folk, and if I had to offer you a vocal comparison to Dan Israel, I’d say Tom Petty’s raspy voice is actually more apt. And while some tracks lean significantly folk or a bit more Americana, there are also some serious electric rock guitar riffs on Dan. Dan explores several different elements of his musical repertoire, in fact, producing a cohesive disc with enough variety to sustain frequent listens.

Album-opener “Winter is Coming” feeds my initial instinct, though, as Dan’s vocals fall between Dylan and Croce on this particular track. With judicious use of female accompaniment on this track, it provides Dan with an upbeat, toe-tapping start.

“Be With Me” cranks the energy up a notch, with a melody and vocal growl especially reminiscent of Petty. If I had to single out a track with the greatest mainstream hit potential, “Be With Me” would be it.

Another notable track is “Can’t Believe It,” which draws the listener in with light distorted guitar and an initial emphatic “I…” before blending Israel’s vocal style with an almost “Lyin’ Eyes”/Eagles-ish melody. To engaging effect, I might add.

Dan will have you singing “ahh-ahhh” along with “Lonely Too,” a toe-tapper of a mid-tempo crooner that deftly mixes mildly energetic verses and traveling instrumental bridges with that lower-key-but-hooky chorus.

“Try and Let You Know,” meanwhile, provides a melancholy interlude; here Dan’s vocal expressiveness convincingly depicts the pain in the lyrics, as the song plods slowly, though at exactly the ideal pace for the subject matter.

Also, for a nice change of pace, Dan tosses in the occasional rockin’ country guitar lick (and slightly more frequent slide guitar) on mid-paced “Winning at Solitaire,” giving it a soft rockabilly/country dance hall flavor unique among this collection.

If you’re a folk aficionado, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this album. Dan Israel’s an experienced, talented individual with an inspired new release; the man always delivers. And from the energy of his recordings, you get a sense his shows are probably fun events, as well.

Dan’s Upcoming Gigs

Since I suspect Dan’s shows are well worth seeing, let’s take a look at his upcoming calendar. Listed along the lefthand side of Dan’s website, it looks like he has a few gigs already scheduled in the next couple months in and around the Twin Cities: Tonight, Friday, Jan. 22nd at Public Kitchen and Bar in St. Paul, MN; Friday, Jan. 29 at LTD Brewing in Hopkins, MN; a to-be-announced “mystery gig” on Saturday, Feb. 6th; Friday, Feb. 12th at the Tavern Lounge in Northfield, MN; Friday, Feb. 26 at Harriet Brewing in Minneapolis; and Saturday, March 19 at the Chankaska Winery in Kasota, MN. Of course, check his website for times, links, and additional dates.

Album Review: Cali Rodi – Cali Rodi EP

Cali Rodi – Cali Rodi EP

The Backstory

Cali grew up in Arizona and performed professionally as early as age 12. She moved to Nashville to study the entertainment industry at Belmont University, and that’s where she’s currently based. I first discovered her music this past spring, and it has been a solid part of my playlist ever since.

EP Review of Cali Rodi: Cali Rodi EP

Cali Rodi is a young pop singer with an amazing, powerful voice. Identifiable by her tone and the way her voice has a hint of a break in her voice on certain notes for emphasis, Cali has released a powerful collection of high-energy pop-rock songs. The songs themselves are well-written, with catchy hooks and cohesive song structures that engage the listener; indeed, though the music is rockin’ pop, the songs are penned in the sort of tight, structured style you’d associate with Nashville and ideally suited to Cali’s voice.

blank CD

Songs on the EP that typify Cali’s punchy, energetic, rockin’, pop radio-ready sound include EP-opener “If I Close My Eyes,” which holds the attention with its building, soaring melody, plus the power-pop anthem “Loser Ex-Boyfriend” and “Hitchhiker,” whose unique hook involves and almost-dissonant volume variance.

“Pulse Check” is a bit slower and shows some of Cali’s range – it may just be me, but I think there’s a hint of a rock ‘n roll version of Taylor Swift in her lyrics, song structure, and delivery, too.  “First Kiss Consequence,” meanwhile, slows things down quite a bit more (though it’s still quite an energy-filled ballad), proving Cali can deliver the goods on the softer stuff, as well.

You’ll find no better pop-rock music than the songs found here – catchy and memorable. While “If I Close My Eyes” was my initial favorite, it’s now more often “Hitchhiker” with its unique rhythmic hooks, though some days it’s “Pulse Check.” Give this EP a few listens and you’ll undoubtedly have a favorite or two of your own.

This particular EP was a free download I received when I signed up for Cali’s mailing list via her website; it’s an exceptional introduction to Cali’s talent.

With the right guidance and a bit of luck, Cali has an almost unlimited ceiling on her career. Worst case scenario for us, as listeners, though, is that she’s producing some outstanding songs we all get to enjoy right now.

Also…

Be sure to check out Cali’s new song “Fan Girl.” The new tune shows off the insistent edge to Cali’s vocals, this time in the form of a ballad.

Album Review: Bob Malone – Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone – Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone

photo courtesy of Bob Malone

The Backstory

I’ve known Bob Malone since the late 1990s.  In fact, my interview with Bob landed him on the cover of the May 1998 Industry Edition of Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter. When Bob was preparing to release his latest CD, Mojo Deluxe, in May 2015 while I was still a “civilian” during my decade-plus hiatus from writing, I pre-ordered it. (The album dropped on August 21st.) More recently, I caught Bob’s London gig in October– the first time I’d seen him perform live – as part of my “Five Nights in London” series for Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog.

As for Bob’s backstory, he is classically trained, studied at Berklee, earning a degree in jazz, is based out of Los Angeles, and has crafted a two decade-long solo career, including the release of several critically-acclaimed albums. Since 2011, he has also served as John Fogerty’s keyboard player.

CD Review of Bob Malone: Mojo Deluxe

Bob Malone - Mojo Deluxe

image courtesy of Bob Malone

If you’re looking for rollicking, energetic blues, you’ve come to the right place. But there’s also something unique about Mojo Deluxe, Bob’s first full-length release since Ain’t What You Know about seven years ago. There’s something that suggests this is one of those “must-own” albums. With cross-genre appeal to blues fans, blues-rockers, blues-based hard rockers, and beyond, this disc recalls and expands upon many of Bob’s stylistic variances. Vocally, you may notice a bit of Randy Newman in Bob’s vocals but with a bit more blues growl; to be honest, after years of listening to his music, I can hear the stylistic similarity, but he mostly just sounds like Bob Malone to me. I’m sure a strong comparison is noticeably there, however, as first-time listeners still point it out.

Mojo Deluxe is twelve songs long, featuring a variety of blues styles. You can rock, stomp, and wail at the top of your lungs to album-opening, high-energy, get-on-your-feet, stomp-box blues tune “Certain Distance,” uptempo, soulful “Looking for the Blues,” or mid-tempo, energetic, sassy “Don’t Threaten Me (With a Good Time).”

Bob Malone

photo courtesy of Bob Malone

You’ll catch some more attitude in the lyrical storytelling of songs like “Toxic Love” and “Rage & Cigarettes.” These tracks play louder and faster in the memory than they do on disc, as many great blues songs do — oh, they’re full of energy, but in a nod-your-head, close-your-eyes, fill the room with sound and the sing blues kind of way (not in the loud, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, ear-bleeding rock ‘n roll way). Same emotion; different musical style. Hence, the term “rollicking.”

Mojo Deluxe shows off Bob’s softer side, too, most notably on the amazing, incredibly sentimental “Paris.” Many of us who love that city will nod knowingly when we hear these lyrics in particular: “All these crowds make me lonely, all these lovers make me blue/‘Cause Paris is just another city without you.”

“Hard Times” and “Someone Watching Over Me” are catchy, relatively typical, slow-tempoed blues laments that weave interesting stories. Also relatively typically-themed, “Looking For the Blues” (“I wasn’t looking for the blues/but the blues found me”) packs energy in its crescendos, background vocals, soulful horns, and a guitar solo that ties the song together nicely as a bridge. Indeed, “Looking For the Blues” is a fun, full-production number that’d get a crowd to its feet and deserves special mention. Finally, album-closer “Can’t Get There From Here” (which cleverly begins “Once I was beautiful/Now I just look good for my age”) is perhaps a more unique blues lament about looking back (and ahead) at life’s journey.

If you like the blues (or any adjacent style of music) even a little, if you appreciate a clever lyrical turn of a phrase, or if you simply enjoy hearing one of the best musicians at his craft, this disc is mandatory. With all of the great albums Bob Malone has released throughout his career, Mojo Deluxe is quite possibly his best yet.

Bob Malone

photo by Geoff Wilbur

What’s Next?

Bob is playing several Las Vegas dates in John Fogerty’s band in January, then he hits the road solo in February. His website currently lists tour dates in Alpharetta, GA (Feb. 4), Charlotte, NC (Feb. 5), Charleston, WV (Feb. 6), Houston, TX (Feb. 10), La Grange, TX (Feb. 12), and two dates as the opening act in The Woodlands, TX (Feb. 13 & 14, opening for Los Lobos and Gary Puckett, respectively).

Album Review: Roger Silverberg – The Old Dog

Roger Silverberg

photo courtesy of Roger Silverberg

by Stefanie Seskin, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Roger Silverberg: The Old Dog

As on his prior albums, Silverberg’s never been shy about letting his sixties and seventies sensibilities show, and on The Old Dog, they really shine, thanks to veteran engineer and producer, Philadelphia’s Jim Salamone. Vintage Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, Hammond organs are heard, mainly behind acoustic guitars. If you’re familiar with Daryl Hall & John Oates’s earlier albums and Warren Zevon’s mid-70s work, there’s plenty on The Old Dog to savor, both lyrically and melodically.

Roger Silverberg - The Old Dog

image courtesy of Roger Silverberg

On The Old Dog, Roger Silverberg weaves stories; about childhood memories, desire, courtship, marriage, and aging, with just enough specifics to make his stories relatable. The music itself has a classic feel – Silverberg is well past the point of caring whether his songs are hip enough to be pop hits even as he hopes that some of his music will outlive him – but that doesn’t mean he sounds trapped in the past. This is a very “listener-friendly” album that has an obvious Side 1 and Side 2.

Roger’s Upcoming Gigs

Per Roger’s website, he has a few upcoming shows scheduled: a Jan. 23rd gig, where he’ll be one of 13 artists slated to perform at an acoustic showcase in Ronkonkoma, NY; a Feb. 24th show at Lighthouse Waterfront Cafe in Glen Cove, NY; and his Feb. 25th NYC CD release show at Desmond’s Tavern in New York, NY. For additional details, check out the show listing page on Roger’s website.

About the Writer

Best known for her many years as lead singer/songwriter/flutist for blue number nine, Contributing Blogger Stefanie Seskin currently performs with Bad Ass Beauty. In addition to her music career, Stefanie has spent many years on the business side of the entertainment industry.

Geoff’s Night Out: Everett Pendleton at Chopps

Everett Pendleton

Chopps American Bar and Grill, Burlington, MA

January 5, 2016

Everett Pendleton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

I started writing about music during my first two years in Boston. One of the bands I wrote about back then was a jazzy pop-rock outfit called The Amazing Mudshark, Everett Pendleton’s band.  In fact, you can see me sporting an Amazing Mudshark shirt in this Throwback Thursday tweet from a photo op at the end of an Anthrax press conference back in the early nineties. So I’ve been a fan of Everett’s music for… a few years.

In any case, when I learned Everett was performing an early 6:00 show at Chopps tonight and realized it fit into my schedule, I jumped at the chance to hear him sing.

The Show

Everett Pendleton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I arrived a couple songs into Everett’s first set and was able to stay for about a set and a half. Everett has a smooth, rich, strong voice that’s well-suited to radio-friendly soft rock, country, and blues. And it’s always worth it to get out and hear this guy sing, even at a venue like this where he mostly performs cover tunes.

When I entered the room, Everett was singing the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.” He followed it with “Driving With the Brakes On,” a Del Amitri soft rock ballad he delivers with what could be interpreted as a hint of country style.

A couple songs later, I was treated to the one original Everett performed while I was there, “The Devil You Know,” a mid-tempo soft rocker with emphatic vocals; a song well-suited to his strengths.

Everett Pendleton

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Throughout the rest of the evening, Everett showed off the breadth of his vocal and stylistic range. Matchbox 20’s “When She Smiles” was one of the more uptempo numbers of the evening, showcasing the richness of his vocals. The variety of the evening, however, ranged from Men At Work’s “Overkill” to Vertical Horizon’s “Everything You Want” to Van Halen’s “Dance to Night Away.” Other notable covers included Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry,” and Train’s “Calling All Angels.” And a couple of my favorites were Everett’s delivery of Lowen & Navarro’s “The Spell You’re Under” and energetic strummer Ben Harper’s “Steal My Kisses.”

At least as far as I’ve ever seen, Everett always delivers. In this case, the early gig fit my personal schedule quite well, resulting in a great evening of soft, acoustic rock music, covering songs spanning several decades and multiple genres and sub-genres.

Album Review: Jann Klose – Mosaic

Jann Klose – Mosaic

The Backstory

I first met Jann Klose at Undercurrents Music Conference in Cleveland in the late ’90s, where I chatted with him briefly and later reviewed a recording that contained selections from his Enough Said release. Not too long thereafter, in 2000, Jann relocated to New York City. We stayed in touch off and on over the years. I followed his career even while I was out of the business, something made easier by the fact that he ended up working with a publicist whose press releases have consistently graced my inbox for the better part of two decades.

As for Jann’s backstory, as you can read elsewhere, he grew up in Kenya, South Africa, Germany and the United States and now lives in New York. More recently, his voice was featured in the 2012 film Greetings From Tim Buckley. The album I’m reviewing, Mosaic, won three 2014 Independent Music Awards.

EP Review of Jann Klose: Mosaic

Jann Klose - Mosaic

image courtesy of Jann Klose

During the last decade and a half, while living in New York, Jann has built a solid music career on the strength of his strong, versatile, identifiable vocals and his insightful, crisp, varied songwriting, joining the ranks of New York’s exceptional pop-rock singer-songwriters. With his album Mosaic, Jann has crafted a varied collection of memorable, radio-friendly songs with cross-genre appeal.

The disc opens with “Make It Better,” an energetic pop-rock song with a catchy hook that – paired with its engaging video and timely message of tolerance, acceptance, and equality – is perfectly in step with the marriage equality movement this past year. It’s followed by “Know What’s Right,” another song imploring action, this one leveraging Jann’s ability to deliver a powerful, insistent vocal with conviction within the confines of a mid-tempo acoustic guitar rocker.

Jann’s voice has a rich texture that helps create emotional ballads, as well, and he employs that extremely effectively on “On and On” and “Still.”

Another ballad, “Long Goodbye,” shows off Jann’s rockin’ guitar chops as it builds in power late in the song; combined with Jann’s wail, there’s a bit of ’70s wall-of-sound flavor during the latter parts to this particular track. You’ll find a similar ’70s guitar rock feel to the more uptempo “Falling Tears,” as well.

Jann shows off a folky side, as well, with catchy country-folk-pop-infused numbers like “Four Leaf Clover” and “Beautiful One.” I want to say “The Kite” also fits this style, though it’s really just more of a catchy song, one that will creep into your mind an unleash itself back into your consciousness when you least expect it.

Jann closes the album by showcasing a clear, almost Gospel-like vocal on his powerful, a capella version of Tim Buckley’s ballad “Song to the Siren.” Just wow. Seriously.

The “Special Edition” of Mosaic, it contains six additional songs. They’re demo versions of some of the 10 songs on the album (plus the song “Anything”), which tend to be rougher instrumentally, showing off Jann’s vocals. They’re a nice added bonus.

In total, Mosaic showcases a talented singer-songwriter’s skills by weaving many diverse influences into a cohesive, engaging album of hummable, radio-ready pop-rock songs with social, lyrical, and musical depth. As a listener, you’ll have a different favorite song depending on your mood each day, and you’ll catch yourself singing a few as you walk around during your day. This is an exceptional collection of songs and a great performance.

What’s Next?

Jann’s next release is a collaboration with Gary Lucas. Gary Lucas & Jann Klose: Stereopticon is scheduled for a January 8, 2016 release. (Watch for a review of that in the coming weeks.)

Jann will also kick off 2016 on tour. Dates listed on his website include shows in Germany January 2-10 (hitting Hamburg, Barmstedt, Lübeck, Kiel, Osnabrück, and Bielefeld), a January 13 gig at The Bedford in London (a venue I visited during my “Five Nights in London” a few weeks ago), and California gigs at the NAMM show in Anaheim on January 22nd and at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles on January 27th. Jann already has several other shows listed as he begins to fill in his 2016 calendar, so be sure to check his website to see if/when he’ll be near you next year.