Album Review: Cody Webb – Cody Webb

Cody Webb

photo courtesy of Miles High Productions

Cody Webb – Cody Webb

EP Review of Cody Webb: Cody Webb

Cody Webb EP cover

artwork courtesy of Miles High Productions

The voice, the song style, the delivery… Cody Webb sounds like the new breed of country stars. His vocal style is right in line with Florida Georgia Line on some tunes, perhaps a hint of Jason Aldean-meets-Luke Bryan on others.

The EP opens with a trickling guitar hook and a musical build-up that captures the listener’s attention, a very promising introduction to “More Than a Little.” This song shows off the way Cody blends his ability to hit tuneful notes with his authentic twang. It proceeds at a mid-tempo pace with a steady, very-country-music rhythm.

Cody Webb

photo courtesy of Miles High Productions

“She Ain’t Right” and “My My My Girl” are the tunes that most seem like they could be Florida Georgia Line hits. The vocal twang is cranked up a bit here – Cody’s use of “cain’t” in “She Ain’t Right” is about as country as it gets – and there’s a bit of a funky vocal rhythm in spots. As you can tell just from the title, “She Ain’t Right” is sung with a bit of a smirk and a sense of fun; this’ll be a radio or concert favorite. “My My My Girl,” meanwhile, is a good ol’ laid-back new-style country tune.

“Love Me Like I’m Gone” adds a little twang while also hitting Cody’s mid-tempo, pulsing rhythm-driven country sweet spot.

He then slows it down, putting the full depth and warmth of his voice into a corny, heartstring-tugging ballad, “Nothin’ On You.”

Cody Webb

photo courtesy of Miles High Productions

Of course, Cody returns to his trademark medium-speed bailiwick with “Better At Night,” a good-time party song the closes his eponymous EP with a smile.

Looking Ahead

There are several upcoming tour dates listed on Cody’s website. On November 11th, he’ll be at the Wild Wing Cafe in Charlotte, NC. On November 12th, he’ll be at the Wild Wing Cafe in Greenville, SC. On November 16th, he’ll be at The Country in Nashville, TN. And on November 23rd, he’ll be at the Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon in Augusta, GA. Cody heads out to California in December. His December 7th gig in at The Saddle Rack in Fremont, CA is followed by two San Diego gigs – December 9th at Moonshine Beach and December 10th at Moonshine Flatts. Check out Cody’s website for already-scheduled 2017 shows and for more gigs to be added.

Album Review: Gonzalo Bergara – Zalo’s Blues

Gonzalo Bergara

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalo’s Blues

Album Review of Gonzalo Bergara: Zalo’s Blues

Gypsy jazz guitarist Gonzalo Bergara‘s new album, Zalo’s Blues, showcases a variety of musical influences, all centered around the blues. This isn’t a typical blues album. No, it’s Zalo’s Blues. It walks the fine line between blues-based rock and rockin’ blues. With other influences, most obviously the occasional jazz infusion. Of course, if Gonzalo’s bio hadn’t mentioned his gypsy jazz pedigree, I’d’ve dubbed him a blues-rock guitar wizard with broad-based influences.

Gonzalo is joined on this disc by Mariano D’Andrea (bass) and Maximiliano Bergara (drums), except for one track, “Woosh,” on which he’s joined by bassist Vince Bilbro and drummer Michael Partlow.

Gonzalo Bergara - Zalo's Blues

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Gonzalo shows off his guitar virtuosity right from the start, kicking things off with “Drawback,” a fun, energetic, jazzy blues instrumental. One of a few instrumentals on the disc, all great fun because an adept axemaster doesn’t always need vocals to engage the listener.  Another instrumental, for example, “Ines” is a soulfully blue, close-your-eyes-and-soak-it-in piece. “Dirty Socks,” meanwhile, is a funky, rather syncopated blues dish. And “Been Runnin'” is a fast-paced guitar-pickin’ number with just a hint of a carnival fun house vibe. Variety. Even on the instrumentals, this disc has variety.

But most of the songs carry lyrics. One of my favorites is “Woosh,” in part because it could almost pass for a hard rock number.

“Singing My Song,” meanwhile, is a slow-paced blues song with a bit of a ’70s or ’80s rock edge to its guitar work, particularly in its extensive, amazing solos, as if it might be the closest-to-true-blues song on a blues-based hard rocker’s disc. And the axework? It’d make Jimi Hendrix proud. I love when artists mix in different influences.

“Gonna Go,” for example, embarks on a fast-pickin’, almost rockabilly-infused breakneck pace, leaving the listener engaged and exhausted by the song’s end. “Drinking” employs a Chuck Berry-esque guitar riff to provide an old-school blues based rock ‘n roll number. And the one cover song on this disc, Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go,” sounds exactly like George Thorogood jamming with the London Quireboys in a seedy blues joint.

Gonzalo Bergara

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

This collection is an enjoyable, ebbing-and-flowing rock-influenced journey, though it doesn’t entirely sit on the rock-blues border, as it explores various corners of the blues, showcasing how it can transform other genres’ influences into a complete, cohesive blues-based package. As such, the album settles down at the end, with “Won’t Stay With You” serving as a slow, bluesy vaudeville tap-dance off stage.

I’d think guitarists are going to love Zalo’s Blues, while blues fans, blues-rock fans, and anyone who enjoys talented musicianship will get a kick out of it, as well. To top it off, with such varied offerings, there will be plenty of disagreement over which songs are the best.

 

Live Review: Jann Klose house concert

Jann Klose

photo by Monica Mansfield

Jann Klose

House concert in Shrewsbury, MA

October 22, 2016

The Backstory

As I noted when I reviewed Jann’s album Mosaic earlier this year, I first met Jann at the Undercurrents music conference in Cleveland, Ohio back in the late nineties. Interestingly, after years of reviewing his music and meeting him a couple times, this was my first opportunity to see him perform live. This concert was part of a series held in Shrewsbury; sometimes these events are held at the historic Sumner House, but this concert was a bona fide house concert.

Jann Klose

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Concert

First of all, Jann Klose has an amazing voice. And he knows how to use it. Full and rich, emotive at the high and low ends of his broad range. I always have a hard time explaining his “place” on the music spectrum. He is, indeed, a singer-songwriter, and he often wields his acoustic guitar, but I hesitate to use that description because it tends to conjure up folk images. And there’s something much more rock ‘n roll about Jann’s vibe than you’d understand from that description. The most convincing description I’ve come up for Jann is that he’s a rock ‘n roll troubadour. But I’d also suggest you listen to his music and decide for yourself.

A house concert is a terrific venue for a singer like Jann who can fill the room with his voice. And this particular room offered terrific acoustics, as well. Jann opened the evening by sharing a new song with us, “Dear Mel.” It’s as good as his best; it left us already looking forward to what he has in store for his next recording.

Jann Klose

photo by Monica Mansfield

He followed that with “Fair Weather,” from the Stereopticon album he released with Gary Lucas earlier this year, and then a couple songs from Reverie that showcased the breadth and sensitivity of his vocals, “Doing Time” and “Mother Said, Father Said.”

He kept the emotional train rolling with his “Wedding Song,” ein Lied auf Deutsch, und mein Deutsch ist nicht gut, so I can only imagine the words were as beautiful as the melody. From crowd reaction, we’re all looking forward to his English translation. That was followed by “Question of the Heart,” a song in which he emits a tuneful vocal howl near the end that conveys well its pain.

Jann closed his first set with a couple songs from Mosaic, the powerful “Rain is Water” and tuneful, melodic, smile-inducing “Four Leaf Clover.”

Jann Klose

photo by Monica Mansfield

Set number two began with the energetic, catchy “Make It Better,” a song with the perfect message of inclusion for the world we live in today.

Jann’s next song was an inspired cover of Adele’s “Skyfall.” As perhaps the most rocking of Adele’s hits – and my personal favorite of the diva’s songs – it was well-suited to his interpretation.

Next came “Beautiful One” and “Long Goodbye” from Mosaic and “Clouds” from Reverie. During the second set, the audience was fully engaged throughout, easily encouraged to participate, and some of this middle stretch was audience requests of some of Jann’s most beloved originals.

Jann closed the second set with the Jeff Buckley tune “Song to the Siren,” which also appears on Mosaic. Jann’s connection to Buckley’s music, of course, goes a bit deeper, as he was the singing voice of Jeff Buckley in the 2012 film Greetings From Tim Buckley.

Jann Klose

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The quickly agreed-to encore consisted of two songs. Or three, actually, as Jann began with a two-song medley of Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee” and “Kiss.” The “Kiss” portion quickly became an enthusiastic singalong. I can’t say I was expecting a Prince cover from Jann, but he continually surprises me with his range, both vocally and stylistically; I should know better by now. Then the evening ended with Jann’s original “Still,” an emotional closing number that left the audience drained but happy.

Of course, as with any good house concert, the fun extended a bit later into the evening, and Jann later reclaimed his guitar for a few impromptu tunes in the kitchen. A thoroughly enjoyable event featuring an exceptional talent. So, tell me again why you don’t yet own at least one Jann Klose album…

Jann Klose

photo by Monica Mansfield

Looking Ahead

Jann, per his website, will be touring Germany for the first three weeks of November. He returns to the States in December, performing Thursday, December 1st, at The Luna Star Cafe in North Miami, FL; Saturday, December 3rd, at the ACMA Listening Room in Fort Myers, FL; Sunday, December 11th at Cozy Cabin Concerts in Green Brook, NJ; and Saturday, December 17th with Annie Haslam at Sllersville Theater 1894 in Sellersville, PA. Keep an eye on his website for additional dates as they are announced.

Album Review: DiMino – Old Habits Die Hard

DiMino

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

DiMino – Old Habits Die Hard

Album Review of DiMino: Old Habits Die Hard

DiMino - Old Habits Die Hard

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Frank DiMino was the frontman for 1970s rock band Angel. Frank has recorded with a laundry list of top-shelf performers – and led a late ’90s Angel reincarnation – since then and contributed to several television shows and movies, even receiving a platinum record for his contribution to Flashdance. But Old Habits Die Hard, released on Frontiers Records in 2015, is his first solo record.

You can hear the ‘70s influences in the ‘80s bands DiMino’s record reminds me of… or perhaps it’s more of a ’70s re-influence as DiMino kept current.

Frank DiMino

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The disc opens with “Never Again,” a full-tilt, blues-based metal rocker that has a bit of Kix in it; “Never Again” was released as the album’s second single this past summer.

“Rockin’ in the City,” probably my favorite track on the disc, deploys a Dio-esque tempo and vocal approach mixed with ‘80s glam-metal screams. Stylistically bit like Turbo-era Judas Priest, this was the album’s first single.

Frank DiMino

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

The rest of the disc continues to produce old-school hard rock at its best. “Even Now” is a soaring, Steve Perry-reminiscent vocal, slower-tempo power rock tune. DiMino delivers Shout at the Devil-era Motley Crue meets Legs Diamond on “Mad As Hell.” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” recalls House of Lords. “Tears Will Fall” is like “Headhunter”-era Krokus with a Metallica tempo. And there’s even a little Dio in DiMino’s howl during “Sweet Sensation,” though the song itself seems like it would most likely be found on a Fastway album. If any of that sounds like your kind of music, then DiMino’s Old Habits Die Hard will be your kind of album.

No one rocks like a classic rocker who has kept at the top of his game, and this album proves DiMino hasn’t lost a step.

Looking Ahead

The “live shows” page of Frank DiMino’s website lists one upcoming gig, a show tomorrow night, Friday, October 21st, at the Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood, CA.

Album Review: Melanie Crew – Further Away

Melanie Crew

photo courtesy of Melanie Crew

EP Review of Melanie Crew: Further Away

Released on October 3rd, Further Away is Melanie Crew‘s second EP, a follow-up to 2015’s Until the End. London-born and London-based, Melanie wields a sweet, crystal clear voice, ideal for her soft, comforting folk music style. Throughout the disc, the warmth of the sun in a flower-filled field shines through the music.

Melanie Crew - Further Away

image courtesy of Melanie Crew

Disc-opener “Bring You Back” carries a modernized, almost Peter, Paul and Mary vibe, as Melanie’s sweet voice navigates from low to crisply high notes.

“Ghost” is pleasantly surprising, as even though it is clearly from the same family of songs as the rest of this disc, the tone and style carry haunting overtones in the guitar-picking, vocal key, and even choice of phrasing. It’s actually a bit “Greensleeves”-esque in the way it carries itself.

“All That I Want” has an appealing edge to it, coming across as perhaps a 1970s movie soundtrack song from a modern (for the ’70s) love story, while EP-ender “Can’t Find a Way” is similarly-styled but sports just a hint of a more powerful “Age of Aquarius” flavor.

Melanie Crew

photo courtesy of Melanie Crew

Of course, any of the six tracks may end up being your favorite, as the subtle intonation variances and lyrical flourishes suggest a very personal listening experience.

In the end, this is a well-written, throwback modern folk collection from a singer-songwriter who is precise in both lyrics and vocal delivery. I imagine Melanie Crew as potentially a fondly-greeted mainstay at folk festivals and coffeehouses throughout the UK. She is making a bit of a splash already in her young career, as her music has been heard on local radio stations as well as on BBC 6 Music and BBC Kent. If Melanie sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to try a sip of Further Away.

Album Review: Van Ghost – The Ghost Unit

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

Van Ghost – The Ghost Unit

The Backstory

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

I introduced you to Van Ghost during my first days publishing this BlogMy review of the band’s appearance at the Newburyport Music Festival and of the band’s last CD, The Domino Effect, was entry number two of the nine-part “Road Back to Music Journalism” series with which I kicked off Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog. If the world was fair, that would have been the album to launch Van Ghost on a headlining arena tour. But the world isn’t fair, and that’s why I’m able to introduce you to so much great music you may not have heard before. So now I’ll walk you through this exceptional band’s new album.

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

Bandleader Michael Harrison Berg discusses the recording of this album a year and a half ago in a Vermont studio here on the band’s website. Such an assembly of talent, I want to name them. In addition to Berg on vocals and acoustic guitar, on The Ghost Unit, Van Ghost comprised Jennifer Hartswick (vocals, trumpet), Natalie Cressman (vocals, trombone), Nick Cassarino (vocals, electric guitar), Chris Chew (bass), Dominic Lalli (saxaphone), Grant Tye (electric guitar), Chris Gelbuda (acoustic guitar, keys), Rob Marscher (synths, keys), and John Staten (drums). The SoundCloud stream of the new album lists the band members’ current gigs next to their names in the text, in case you want to catch any of them with their current bands.

Album Review of Van Ghost: The Ghost Unit

Van Ghost - The Ghost Unit

image courtesy of Van Ghost

The influences on this album are more varied than on the band’s prior studio release, but the essence of Van Ghost remains unchanged. This rock band, with its mid-range arena rock center surrounded by soul and funk influences and pop sensibilities, delivers another memorable disc. The soul influence is a bit more apparent than on The Domino Effect; overall this is simply an enjoyable next step from an exceptionally talented rock band.

Disc-opener “Dead Radio Club” follows a laid-back, mildly syncopated rhythm, thriving on vocal harmonies and a mellow edginess, like Toto or Chicago Transit Authority on a mildly subversive rock ‘n roll bender.

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

“Strength & Pain” continues in the same vein, but the soulfulness is significantly amped up. And it has perhaps a bit more Chicago influence, as the horns play a more prominent role.

“Simplify” is one of the standout tracks in this collection. The ultra-rich harmonies, subtly trickling music bed, and well-placed soft rock guitar solo suggest this could be both a radio staple and an arena rocker.

“Follow Me” adds funk to the Van Ghost mix, with a prominent bass line running through the song, providing a home base to which the riffing always returns, with forays into Chicago-style horns and even very-nearly disco-era-flavored harmonies.

Hard rock guitar debuts in the opening riffs of “Cold Panic,” an almost Foreigner-esque rocker in tempo and mid-level heaviness. This one’ll sneak up on you and be a favorite by the 10th or 20th listen.

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

For those of us who love an immediate tempo change, “Cold Panic” is the perfect lead-in to perhaps the album’s most heart-laid-bare instance, the more acoustic-flavored “I Ain’t Gonna Fight You, For You,” a lyrically well-conceived number in which the acoustic melody is well-augmented by a dancing electric guitar line whose first solo leads to a mid-song climax… and whose solo of screams and wails end the song as an extension of the vocals, expressing a level of emotion beyond the capability of a voice.

“Fool For the Pain” follows, a song that could be a modernized Quarterflash tune. Ironically (at least in light of that comparison), this is a song where the dominant instrument is guitar, with scarcely a horn to be noticed.

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

The next track, “If It Ain’t Crazy, Then It Ain’t Love,” is another standout song, with Chicago-esque horns, soft rock guitar riffs, and powerful vocals. Also that vocal smirk that suggests this could be turned into a country song by a talented artist of that genre. Then again, great songs transcend musical classification.

“ATX” follows, a bit of a hard rock screamer with a country edge. I could almost hear Kid Rock doing this song, though he could never match Michael’s vocals. But the tune does thump along and occasionally roar in that vein, leaning on howling heavy metal axework and aggressive drums for power.

Van Ghost

photo courtesy of Van Ghost

But, of course, Van Ghost mellows things out again to close the disc, with “Birds” soaring vocally, a musical sunset that excels at making the sad and poignant pleasant to listen to.

I’d still love to see Van Ghost perform at a big arena, though the festival stage on which I saw them a few years ago was a pretty good substitute. Still, these guys could fill a stadium with sound.

Putting on my imaginary record industry hat, if I were a label exec, I’d pick “Simplify,” “I Ain’t Gonna Fight You, For You,” and “If It Ain’t Crazy, Then It Ain’t Love” as the first three singles, in no particular order, with perhaps “Cold Panic” as a fourth release, though with such a strong disc from beginning to end, it’s hard to go wrong. Go get ahold of these songs. Enjoy them. One of my favorite bands for several years now, Van Ghost is a rare gem of a rock group.

Album Review: Screw – Hot Mess Express

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Screw: Hot Mess Express

This is the second release from Detroit punk rockers Screw. This follows in the footsteps of their debut Fight at a Funeral, which came out in 2014. The members of Screw include Tommy T. on lead vocals, Hot Rod Tusek on guitars, Stevie Silvers on bass, and Nik Savage on drums. In many ways they are the real deal, as members of this group paid their dues in formidable and influential Motor City bands like 60 Second Crush and The Cult Heroes. They bring that raw-yet-refined pedigree to the grooves here.

Screw - Hot Mess Express

image courtesy of Screw

Screw is a dynamic and thoroughly engaging live act. They bring the sweat, vitriol, humor, and musicianship and leave it all on the stage. Sometimes that integrity gets lost in the translation of the studio. But that’s not the case here. Right from the get-go you get swept up with the opening track “Government Fool.” This starts out with a fuzzed out guitar reminiscent of Dave Allan and the Arrows’ classic “Blues Theme.” It quickly develops into a scathing uptempo diatribe on the futility of the modern political climate. Tommy T. delivers words that really pack a punch, with an authenticity and clarity rarely heard in modern rock. The rhythm section is solid and airtight as Tusek’s controlled use of feedback and clean distortion is a delight.

“Lips” follows and is catchy in a Social Distortion-meets-Stooges kind of way. Tommy’s phrasing is right on point and dovetails well with Tusek’s short wah-wah inflected solos throughout. This is tight, tough, and in your face. “Much Too Much” seems to offer a cautionary tale about substance abuse, with the hook “don’t throw your life away.” It’s a short and sweet message, with solos that are equally succinct and hit you where you live.

The disc concludes with “Turn Away.” The guitars and bass mimic a strong rhythmic undertow that goes into double time later in the tune. This is a really energetic track that seems to draw from modern masters like Bad Religion and The Descendents or All.

Screw is a loud and proud tour de force that picks up where classic Motor City bands like The Stooges and Sponge have left off. As aforementioned, they are a killer live act, so be sure and catch them when you can.

Looking Ahead

Per Facebook, you can catch Screw today, Friday, October 14th at the Maidstone Theatre in Ypsilanti. According to ReverbNation, Screw has an upcoming concert scheduled at Tangent Gallery on Friday, November 25th. Watch Screw’s Facebook page and local concert listings for additional dates.