Album Review: Karen Nash – Love & Justice

Karen Nash - Love & Justice album cover

image courtesy of Karen Nash

Album Review of Karen Nash: Love & Justice

That timeless style of country music delivered by its powerful female stars. Maybe a little Patsy Cline. Some Loretta Lynn. Modern, sure, and until the last decade or so, from country’s female stars, there was always a harkening back to this classic sound. A sound that dominated ’70s country music through stars like Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson, and Crystal Gayle. Or Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Tanya Tucker. Though mixed with a light California country airiness and energy, much like those ’70s stars and a bit like more recent country hitmakers, Karen Nash‘s music centers around that throwback twang and lilt. She’s a country music crooner, suited perfectly to those old dance halls whose huge dance floors were filled with couples in western shirts, big belt buckles, boots – and fringe, of course. Plenty of slow dances, but also a marching-forward rhythmic energy. And strength. Lyrics about adversity, but also the strength in facing it. These days, I suppose, you’d categorize Karen’s sound as soft Americana. But it’s really classic Opry music.

The album starts with “Safe,” a mid-tempo number with a subtle, jangly guitar hook whose opening lyrics set the table for Love & Justice: “Honey, you ain’t no angel, but you might just save me…” It’s also a great lead-in to one of my several favorites on the disc, “I’m the Fool,” which packs a little more energy and utilizes the whole bag of tricks to make it memorable: a catchy chorus, little guitar runs, backing harmonies, and a throwback, everpresent twangy guitar line.

Lest the energy get too high, that’s followed by a slow dance crooner, the melancholy, wistful, heart-achingly delivered “Let My Heart Break.”

Next are the two songs that seem to most often pop into my head from this album. First, “I Never Want to See You Again,” where ivory tickling, drum runs, and guitar flourishes support Karen’s powerfully assertive vocals, forming a deliberately-tempoed anthem for women trying to psych themselves up to kick their disappointing, worthless suitors to the curb. It’s followed by “Last Lost Cause,” the previous song’s smoothly swaying flip-side, utilizing the rich texture and subtle power of Karen’s voice as its emotional currency.

In addition to the vivid pictures painted lyrically by “Bright Star,” it’s notable for the a guitar line that follows the vocals through the melody. And its western flavor leads well into the next track, “Brave Eyes,” which sports a bit of a Chris Isaak-ish vibe, something you’d expect to hear in an indie film during strange goings-on in the parking lot of a rundown two-story motel on a rural southwestern desert highway somewhere.

“Circle” is a bit of a folk country song – structured like some of my favorites from songwriters like Davey O and Tom Ingersoll, but with a distinctly country twang in the soft guitar line supporting Karen’s sweetly reminiscent pleas.

“Somewhere to Be” follows, with driving guitar suitably accompanying Karen’s defiant vocals. The crunchy guitar on the following song, “Long Gone,” roars along with Karen as if it’s going 85 mph down a country highway, as is the first-person character in the song, likely, on the run. If one were to remake the Thelma & Louise soundtrack, “Long Gone” would be a perfect fit, stylistically for sure; lyrically, well, close enough.

With the final song, Karen calms things down again a bit with a very traditional-sounding crooner, “Too Close to Gone”: “Well, you’re too weak, and I’m too strong. We’re too far apart, and too close to gone.” And with that, the album itself is gone. Unless you have it playing on repeat, which you probably will.

Perhaps the only thing you could fault Karen Nash for is her timing. She would have found certain success if she had come along in the ’70s, when her style would have matched the dominant, rising female stars on country radio. Even today, though, this is timeless, classic, exceptional music. Written and performed with the utmost skill. Well-produced. Supported by an exceptional band. I first heard Karen’s music more years ago than either of us would like to admit, and this album is as good as anything she’s ever delivered. I’m so glad to have Love & Justice as part of my collection. Be sure to check it out.

Album Review: Jann Klose – In Tandem

Jann Klose - In Tandem album cover

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Album Review of Jann Klose: In Tandem

Longtime Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog favorite Jann Klose is a soft rock singer-songwriter. In old radio terminology, he’d be an adult contemporary staple with occasional pop crossover hits. In equally outdated music video parlance, he’d be in steady rotation on VH1 with his videos also finding some MTV airplay. You could drop him into any pop or rock festival line-up, and he’ll accumulate new admirers from a broad variety of fan bases. He’s a versatile, talented songwriter whose instantly recognizable, rich, comfortable voice has surprising range and carries an edge. And the songs on In Tandem carry a variety of emotions, depending on the song, though joy is the most infectious of the bunch.

I heard many of the songs on this disc during a very special stop on Jann’s 2018 tour in support of In Tandem, and as much as I like a live Jann Klose acoustic performance, the full studio treatment of these songs is outstanding.

Jann Klose

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

One of the many collaboration highlights on this album include an inspired rhythmic, light, airy version of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” on which Jann is joined by Annie Haslam, their voices well-matched and almost entwined at times.

Aside from the collaboration with Haslam, most of the album was recorded in South Africa, where German-born Jann spent some of his childhood, and features a who’s who of noteworthy South African artists. For example, Tamara Dey joins Jann as co-writer and co-vocalist on “You and I (Cosmic Love),” a fun, light, soft-danceable, catchy number that recalls images of bell bottoms and free love. Karen Zoid joins Jann as writing/singing collaborator on “Pour the Champagne,” an upbeat tune whose rhythm combines with light guitar flourishes as the song’s successful hook, with a late-song key change sealing the deal. And RJ Benjamin is featured with Jann on the slow-building, introspective “Win This Fight,” which is built upon the continually increasing range and power of Jann’s voice throughout the song, including nailing some high notes at the end.

Of course, additional songwriting credits and supporting musicians for the project also hailed from South Africa, naturally, with the recording occurring there. In fact, many of the writing collaborations stemmed from a 2016 BMI songwriting camp Jann attended in Cape Town.

The album itself kicks off with “Love High,” a bright, uptempo number that deftly utilizes a few trademark tools from Jann’s vocal repertoire. At times smooth, high, and strong, and at others emotional and straining, the tempo and vocals served notice about the type of energy that could be expected across the remainder of the disc. Soft but uptempo, emotional yet cheerful with a breezy sound bed.

A couple of my other favorite songs on the album, potentially hit-worthy, are “Dear Mel” and “What It Is.” The warm energy of “Dear Mel” supports the reminiscing lyrics in this song about past friends. “What It Is,” meanwhile, thumps along, slowly building to an explosive, catchy chorus melody. While I’m listening to it, it’s my favorite song on the album, though for some reason “Dear Mel” has more of that particular earworm quality that causes it to return to memory randomly several hours or days later. (What’s up with that?!)

Of course, let’s not forget “Take Me 2 Forever,” a hip-shaking number with jangly guitar and a syncopated rhythmic percussion that’s memorably original.

And, finally, a song Jann wrote for his mother’s wedding, appearing twice on In Tandem. First, “Hochzeitslied” in its original German, and later “Wedding Song (Hochzeitslied English Version).” The latter closes the disc, with its restful warmth setting the listener down softly at the end of an album-long journey.

As always, Jann is a songwriter whose pop-friendly soft rock style and exceptional vocal range carry broad appeal. This recording, in which the always-present South African segment of his life journey is brought to the fore and explored musically, is a terrific addition to his catalog and would serve as a great introduction for new fans.

Since the Album

I’m still working my way through a writing backlog after a couple years largely away from writing, so it’s not surprising Jann has created more music since releasing In Tandem in 2018. Most recently, this spring Jann released a new single, “Pilot Light.”

Looking Ahead

Jann’s itinerary currently lists two upcoming shows this fall – in Glen Head, NY on Friday, November 20th, and in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday, November 21st. Details are on the “Shows” page of Jann’s website. Obviously, no one knows what this fall will bring, so check with the venues closer to the shows’ dates to make sure they don’t fall victim to the pandemic. And also check back to Jann’s website for additional dates as they’re added.


Album Review: Annie Brobst – My First Rodeo

Annie Brobst Band

photo by Matthew Allen Photography; photo courtesy of Annie Brobst

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Annie Brobst: My First Rodeo

Annie Brobst is a master storyteller and singer-songwriter based in the Boston area. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she made the move to the North Shore in Massachusetts and has become a musical fixture on the traditional and modern country circuit. Brobst has performed at numerous festivals, community events and media-related functions throughout New England. And the list of contemporary country artists she has opened for is stunning, including everyone from Big & Rich, Frankie Ballard and Gretchen Wilson to Don McLean, Wynona Judd, Uncle Kracker, Darius Rucker, etc.

Annie Brobst - My First Rodeo album cover

image courtesy of Annie Brobst

Annie Brobst’s first full-length release is called My First Rodeo. And it’s the follow up to 2016’s EP Ghost. On it she mines personal influences such as Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde and Jason Isbell, with tales of human interaction; love and loss, with a focus on herself and the observation of others. Brobst partnered with top co-writers on this album, including Rodger Hagopian, Ryan Dupont, Brian Alex and Drew Smith.

My First Rodeo features a dozen original tunes that cover a wide swath of melodic invention, passion and emotional investment. Even though Brobst draws from a variety of sources she really dives into the material and owns it.

Annie Brobst

photo by Lisa Czech; photo courtesy of Annie Brobst

It’s an album that is experiential, with an arc that begins with “Before I Leave,” which is upbeat and melodically earnest, with a message of connection and staying in touch with the ones you love. “Still Water” has a traditional country lilt powered by a steady snare beat and the combo of banjo and fiddle.

“Love You More” changes things a bit, with a subtle funky pop undertone. Atop a great groove Brobst sings “Maybe I love you more than I could ever love myself.”

That’s followed by the 2018 New England Music Awards Song of the Year, “Change of Heart.” It’s an insightful tune about how love can erode over time, with tight harmonies and framed by some beautiful acoustic guitar.

In her bio Brobst, refers to “bro-country” as part of what she does. I guess “We Were Breakin’” would fall into that category. It’s got that playful Gretchen Wilson/Tanya Tucker kind of romp to it, with the hook “Breakin’ it down while we were breakin’ up.” Definitely a crowdpleaser to be sure!

Annie Brobst

photo by Lisa Czech; photo courtesy of Annie Brobst

“Ghost” is a strong song about changes in a relationship and picking up the pieces of one’s life. It has a very autobiographical feel to it as she sings “I’m moving out from the city I need the most. I’m movin’ out from the man I love the most. I’m movin’ out so raise your glass and make a toast, and that’ll leave me here as nothin’ but a ghost.”

Other highlights include “You Either Love Me,” with its old-time honkytonk vibe and hot groove. Tasty pedal steel, piano, fiddle, and lead guitars really make this a knockout. “The Teacher” also is a showstopper, with a fine melody and great hooks. Brobst really draws you in with the illustrative lyrics: “Some things teach you how to fall in love, some things teach you how to hold a grudge, from all the bridges I’ve burned, I still know I’ve got a whole world to learn. Thank God life’s one hell of a teacher.”

Annie Brobst’s newest releases, since My First Rodeo, include the singles “Little Girl Dreams,” which came out earlier this year, and “Red Wine on My Mind.”

Annie Brobst Live

Annie is a memorable live performer, and while shows are infrequent these days, for obvious reasons, hers have been much less infrequent. Annie has been staging “house tours,” performing from a trailer/stage around the region. Check out the “Tour” page of Annie’s website for upcoming live performances, both now and as more are added. She has upcoming performances on Thursday, August 20th in Danvers, MA; Friday, August 21st in Hampton, NH (with a livestream available); Friday, August 28th in Danvers, MA (also featuring a livestream); and Saturday, September 19th in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.

Album Review: Mychael David – Heroes & Honkytonks

Mychael David - Heroes & Honkytonks album cover

image courtesy of Beard Artist Management

The Backstory

I first heard Mychael David about four years ago, when I checked him out in advance of a local concert and realized there was a veteran, elite country music singer in the area, if only I had previously taken the time to investigate.

Mychael has that classic country voice, but with the energy level to bring “real” country to the masses in a powerful arena setting, with a hint of classic rock power that only adds to his appeal. His patriotism, support for the troops, and appreciation of good police officers is at the forefront of his performances, and it’s genuine and sincere. There’s no need to try to package Mychael David. He is the package. I love that he plays frequently here near his New England home, and we enjoy the heck out of him, but I’d love for the big-arena, national country music world to discover what we already know: This guy’s one-of-a-kind. The real deal. 100% USDA prime country music.

But you already know the purpose of the Blog is to introduce you to music you really need to hear. So with great pleasure I’ll begin my review Mychael David’s most recent album, Heroes & Honkytonks.

Album Review of Mychael David: Heroes & Honkytonks

Mychael is known for consistently stocking his band with top country/classic rock musicians, and Heroes & Honkytonks doesn’t disappoint, with guitar runs and a rhythm section that provides supportive and, at times, explosive music behind Mychael’s world-class deep, strong country voice.

Mychael David

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Mychael kicks things off with a number that hints at some classic country roots, the uptempo, room-rockin’ “Goodbye is Still Goodbye,” with a subtly hooky riff you’ll be humming in your head for hours afterwards, a hook I swear reminds me of a guitar lick from an ’80s rock hit, but I can’t quite place the song. He follows it by going all-in old-school and keeping the tempo up with his rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues.” Mychael has a rare voice that can do icons like Johnny Cash justice, yet he maintains a tone of his own that makes every song he performs a Mychael David song, even if it is a relatively faithful version of someone else’s.

Next up, “Little By Little” is an engaging, energetic song about building a life together, about everyday life – one of those identifiable, everyday life, everyman songs.

It’s followed by a powerful song that’ll leave you choked up, guaranteed. Recalling the good ol’ days, when the “good guys” used to win, referencing several of our favorite TV show sheriffs as a proxy for the changes in modern life, as well, in “Put Your Badge Back On.” Mychael’s spoken/sung delivery on this song is well-suited to the emotion. And oh, man, there’s some sweet Southern-rock-meets-country guitar noodlin’ going on in the background, too.

Mychael David

photo by Geoff Wilbur

How do you follow a song that emotional? With humor. “The Dog Don’t Know Sit” is one of those well-crafted fun ditties you might have expected on a Ray Stevens record, though I’d posit this is a silly song with plenty of heart.

The album’s lyrical content turns toward varying degrees of sorrow for the next three songs. “Stranger in My House” kicks things off with powerfully-voiced relationship-ending anguish supported by bluesy-country riffs. “Whiskey Ain’t the Only Thing (Running Out On Me)” adds some twangy slides and a lower tempo to support a more sadly acquiescing vocal tone with just a hint of an emotional quaver, so well-suited to the track. And “This House Just Ain’t a Home” utilizes piano as the primary support for Mychael’s vocals in a soft-yet-strong, powerful lament.

If you’ve been paying attention to either the words or the tone of the preceding tracks, you’re in dire need of a pick-me-up at this point, and Mychael delivers. The next song is a dance hall dancefloor-filler that’ll lift your spirits, “Who Wants to Honky Tonk.”

Mychael David

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The disc closes with Mychael’s tribute to the military, the soaring, anthemic “Some Gave All.” I’ve seen this in concert, with Mychael walking through the crowd, shaking hands with veterans in the audience. It’s a powerful moment at a concert, and a strong finish for this record.

A big voice with a powerfully updated spin on classic country music. Again, why isn’t this guy headlining stadiums? So if you’re not familiar with Mychael, check out Heroes & Honkytonks; it’s an album that belongs in any serious country music fan’s collection.

Looking Ahead

As can be expected, a lot of Mychael’s summer dates have been cancelled, but some outdoor summer concert series performances have gone on as planned, just a little more socially-distanced than usual. There’s currently one upcoming show on Mychael’s schedule, per the “Tour” page on his site: a Sunday, August 16th date as part of the West Boylston Summer Concert Series at the Town Common in West Boylston, MA. Keep an eye on Mychael’s website for additional upcoming show dates, as they’re added.

Single Review: Houston Bernard – “American Dream”

Houston Bernard - American Dream single cover

image courtesy of Houston Bernard

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Houston Bernard: “American Dream”

Singer-songwriter Houston Bernard has graced the Boston and Northeast U.S. music scene for years now. He has delighted audiences, with his emotive vocal style and rootsy Oklahoma charm. He has shared bills with some of country music’s finest such as Luke Bryan, Old Dominion, Marshall Tucker Band, and Clint Black. And now he is poised to join those esteemed ranks, with his latest single “American Dream.”

Houston Bernard

photo by Geoff Wilbur

“American Dream” tells a story that is simple in delivery, yet complex in content. Bernard spins a tale about two American kids from the heartland of the USA. In fact, they could be the grown “Jack and Diane” of ‘80s John Mellencamp-penned fame. But, in this case, the couple in question is Johnny and Annie. A lone banjo and electric guitar set the tone for the story followed by a strong, incessant beat. Johnny is a kid that grew up on a farm and continues to work the fields because it’s the family business, and he doesn’t wanna let his father down. Johnny marries Annie the homecoming queen, and they raise a family together. But after a while, reality sets in, as Bernard sings “A month lasts longer than money and Johnny’s coming apart at the seams.” As the couple tries to accomplish their goals in life, the “American Dream” seems tangible, yet murkily elusive.

“American Dream” is a song that seems to praise the hopes, aspirations, and values of the traditional United States while questioning them at the same time. It shines a light on that struggle. Bernard delivers a strong narrative and has a distinctive, dramatic voice. The guitar work on here is lively and wonderfully succinct. It really helps to drive the song home. It’s a tuneful single that is just starting to make some waves at radio and CMT.

Houston Bernard is a star, and it’s intelligent, well-crafted material like this that will pave the way. “American Dream”’s thoughtful lyrics and honesty will surely resonate with audiences for some time to come.

Looking Ahead

You can see the video for “American Dreams” on YouTube, but also be sure to watch for the video’s debut on CMT on Friday, August 14th.

If you’d like to catch Houston Bernard live, you have a couple chances coming up this month, per the Events tab on Houston’s Facebook page: On Thursday, August 13th at Breakaway in Danvers, MA, and on Thursday, August 20th at the Sea Shell Stage in Hampton Beach, NH.

Single Review: Simon Scardanelli – “It Really Is a Pity”

Simon Scardanelli

photo courtesy of Simon Scardanelli

by RST, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Simon Scardanelli: “It Really Is a Pity”

Genre-defying, retro-futuristic, or just plain anar-chronistic, “It Really Is a Pity” is a surprising and entrancing new release from Simon Scardanelli which takes the listener on a voyage to a mysterious point in spacetime. Simon’s early influences of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and Vangelis glimmer through the track as he continues to play with the inexhaustible human fascination for machine-made synth sounds. As a comment on the state of humanity, it remains true to Simon’s consistent message throughout his catalogue – we might not quite be on the right path.

Simon Scardanelli - It Really is a Pity single cover

image courtesy of Simon Scardanelli

The track starts in an eerie, empty place, with a lone alien machine voice broadcasting, somehow emotively, the pitiful state of affairs.  Imagine Daleks, but sensitive, and vulnerable. A constellation of strange, familiar, and beautiful sounds create an enthralling dimensionality for the track, and the listener can’t help but groove in assent while they’re being judged. Despite the verdict, this song is neither bitter nor angry, but instead presents a possible perception of our reality with clarity and understatement. The song pays off, and as the aliens announce their necessary departure (probably something to do with the “dangerous mad men in charge”) the drop will have you dancing to your own damnation, and wishing these aliens well as they get out of Dodge. Can I come with?

[Editor’s Note: The reviewer is Simon’s daughter, but that I love what she wrote and agree completely with her assessment of his music and this single. -GW]

Upcoming Events

You can find Simon’s upcoming performances via his Songkick listings. It currently lists a single upcoming show, Friday, August 14th at Café de la Forge in Guillac, France.

Album Review: Ali Handal – That’s What She Said

Album Review of Ali Handal: That’s What She Said (Red Parlor Records)

One of the best guitarists you’ve (probably) never heard of. That’s Ali Handal. Not sure? Ask her to play some Zeppelin for you. She’ll rock it on an acoustic better than most axewielders will do with an electric, as I witnessed at a house concert two years ago. And sure, That’s What She Said showcases some of that, but only within the context of driving a song; that’s right, it’s a rock ‘n roll singer-songwriter release that’s more about her songwriting chops and delivery than her jaw-dropping guitar skills.

Ali Handal - That's What She Said album cover

image courtesy of Red Parlor Records

That’s What She Said is a collection of songs serving up attitude and wisdom, starting with the album-opening “You Get What You Settle For,” a song that’s musically a bluesy rock riff and lyrically an anthem imploring women not to sell themselves short. And, of course, with a singalong-worthy “whoa-oh-oh,” it sets an energetic tone for the disc.

Song two, “Smoke More Pot,” is a very Sheryl Crow-ish tune, a funky-rocker with lyrics sarcastically lamenting having done things the right way: “I should’ve smoked more pot, dropped out of high school, joined an all-girl band, broken all my mom’s rules. I could’ve been someone by now.” The musical hook here is a subtle, repeated jangle, but it helps make the music as memorable as the lyrics. A recurring theme on this disc, by the way.

After rockin’ “The World Don’t Owe You a Thing,” Ali follows with guitar and organ rock-flavored mid-tempo (and multi-tempo) “Let Go,” an autobiographical tune about how her cancer battle shaped her approach to life for the better.

Then comes a turn away from songs with lessons, though I’d suggest there is a lesson in how to live on the fun, jazzy-bluesy-rockin’ “I Love My Pussy.Cat.” Not the double entendre-filled romp you might expect; just a song about Ali’s love for her kitty-cat. And a few spots where you can – nay, must – meow along.

Next up, turn on the lava lamp for a psychedelic, mellow rocker, Ali’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be.” That’s followed with folk-structured, guitar and organ rock-styled, uplifting “Enough For Me,” featuring the lyrics “What if I let it go, what if I say it’s so, what if I am enough for me, I’m enough for me.” Stuart Smalley’s new mantra, perhaps.

That’s followed with a slinky, sexy musical entrée in the next number – something from a dimly lit joint where a stand-up bass player is a permanent fixture on the front left corner of the stage – only to be confronted with some unjazzy lyrics in the clever, lighthearted “Thank God for Birth Control.” (I just checked the songwriting credits; why am I not surprised Eric Schwartz was involved?)

Ali Handal

photo courtesy of Red Parlor Records

Another powerful song follows, Ali’s other cover on the album, Ani DiFranco’s “Not a Pretty Girl.” The song is on-point with the album’s feel and theme, and Ali delivers it in her own style, making it very much an Ali Handal tune.

Back to the superficiality of success theme first touched upon in “Smoke More Pot” (or in that neighborhood, at least), and a good track to follow “Not a Pretty Girl,” “Everybody’s So Naked” is a funky, fun number sporting lyrics like “Everybody’s so naked. It’s a race to the bottom. Everybody thinks they’ve gotta show ’em if they’ve got ’em. Naked. I don’t wanna play your way.” Yep. Self-esteem and talent championed in a clever, rhythmically super-catchy song.

“Better Man” delivers another self-esteem message – clearly a That’s What She Said theme – with a haunting, smoky old west ghost town guitar vibe and an edge in the vocal delivery the belies its insistently uplifting tone.

And what better way to close an album by drifting away softly, nodding off to “Last Lullaby.”

With that ends a collection of memorable music from a world-class guitarist, singer, and songwriter. A disc with plenty of earworm-caliber hooks and memorable lyrics that are dependably one or more of three things – insightful, clever, and deeply moving. If you haven’t heard it yet, you owe yourself to remedy that.

More About Ali

If you’d like to read more about Ali, there are song great interviews online, like this one at Guitar World and this one at Guitar Girl Magazine. For young women trying to make it in the music world – and in life – she can be an inspiring role model, and for musicians she’s an example of how much support you’ll get when you’re super-talented but kind, work well with others, and do things the right way. But I didn’t dig into any of that in this review so I could focus more one how her talent, musicianship, and songwriting simply rawk!

Now, to avoid distracting from her original music style, I tried to avoid mentioning this at the top of the review as evidence of Ali’s guitarslinger street cred, but you can sometimes also catch her as lead axe for a group she joined just within the past year or so (if memory serves), filling Joe Perry’s role in Aerosmith tribute band RagDolls.

Looking Ahead

When things return to normal, next time Ali hits the road, you’ll be able to find info about her shows here, on the “Tour” page of her website.

In the meantime, Ali has been producing a “Quarantine Series” of videos you can find on YouTube.

Album Review: Tom Ingersoll – Friday

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

Album Review of Tom Ingersoll: Friday

If I were to write a quick-hit review of this recording, it would be: Tom Ingersoll is a homespun storyteller from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, and Friday is a journey well worth joining him for. Give this album a good, deep listen.

Tom Ingersoll - Friday album cover

image courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

Of course, such an abbreviated review would be a disservice to Tom’s unique American folk-based sound. And Friday‘s album-opener “What You Want” encapsulates that very sound energetically – there’s a rockabilly twang and energy underpinning Tom’s Americana-meets-folk delivery, and this song showcases his signature style ideally. Tom’s core strength is as a songwriter, and he’s created the ideal audio experience to highlight his impeccable songwriting chops, with Friday changing tempo frequently, highlighting Tom’s variety of delivery, style, and influence, centered around a cohesive, identifiable Tom Ingersoll sound.

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

“What You Want” is, indeed, a great disc-opener. Its pull-out-the-stops soft energy is contagious, reeling the listener in and eliciting a commitment to ride along for the rest of the disc… within limits, of course, but this album never tests those limits, as it definitely doesn’t disappoint, even for a song. Off the bat, there’s no chance to catch your breath because “High Road” follows, a jangly-raucous number that paints a vivid picture of said “high road.” It sounds like there’s a hint of a Tom Petty influence in “High Road”; it’s subtle hint.

Tom slows it down with smooth, reminiscent “Goin’ Through the Motions,” a wistful, thoughtful number. But then he brings the rougher-edged storytelling delivery back – deploying a soft version of the rough-edged vocal delivery he used in “High Road” – on “The Poorest Poet,” with its fiddlin’ and pluckin’ around a campfire vibe. Two different singing styles with the same level of emotion.

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

“Don’t Expect to Hear” is one of my favorites on this record. A jerky-tempoed soft opening explodes into energetic sound, all supporting Tom’s tellin’-it’-like-it-us, insightful-everyman voice. There are elements of ’70s folk-pop, California country, and Southern rock in this song, with tempo changes that keep the listener entertained and a little off-balance.

Especially on the heels of the previous songs, the soft, sweet “Nighttime on the Water” is practically a lullaby. But, of course, Tom generally follows soft songs with energy on this album, so there’s a bit of a rockin’ edge to “Where’d You Go?” – the sort of tune you might crank up just a little when you’re at the lake, during a relaxing nighttime on – or near – the water.

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

“Sixes and Sevens” adds a little bluesy edge to a jangly rockin’ sound bed, which Tom textures with some rhythmic vocal delivery – and, really, you can’t imagine this song being constructed any other way. There’s a slightly uneasy tension among the instruments, vocals, and song structure throughout, reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “Pressure,” and not just because “pressure” is a featured, oft-repeated lyric in “Sixes and Sevens.”

Next, and I can’t necessarily pinpoint the detail that seals it, but “Journey of Joy” is one of Friday‘s several James Taylor-recalling tunes. Earnest, relaxed, and comfortably happy, it’s another well-placed track, a great release from the previous song’s “pressure.”

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

Tom concludes, then, with the silliest two tracks on the album, G-rated versions of the sorts of songs one might expect from Eric Schwartz. First, “Love Letter Writer,” a truly enjoyably, clever, cheerful, a-pickin’-and-a-grinnin’ ditty; then album-ending “Why,” in which Tom seems to be almost arguing with himself. Or perhaps the voices in his head. Definitely a great way to close an enjoyable album.

More complex than you’d expect from an album so pleasant. Filled with more surprises than you might expect from a collection so cohesive. Friday is surprisingly good a delivering good surprises. Well worth a listen, which will certainly be the first of many.

Tom Ingersoll

photo courtesy of Tom Ingersoll

Looking Ahead

Tom doesn’t have any recent or future shows listed, but you can keep track of upcoming performances at the Events tab on his Facebook page or the “Live” page at his website whenever they’re scheduled.