Album Review: James Williamson & Deniz Tek – Two to One

James Williamson & Deniz Tek

photo by Anne Tek; photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of James Williamson & Deniz Tek: Two to One (Cleopatra Records)

With the pairing of guitarist James Williamson and guitarist-vocalist Deniz Tek you’ve got some proto-punk/alternative rock royalty right here. Williamson, of course, played on Iggy and the StoogesRaw Power and Kill City records. And Tek carved his legacy in the alternative rock world decades previous in the Australian-based band Radio Birdman. But, interestingly, they both have ties to Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and that Motor City rock ‘n roll sound jumps out of the speakers loud and clear. As Williamson puts it, “This is a no-frills, good old-fashioned guitar album.”

This 11 track album kicks off energetically, with “Jet Pack Nightmare.” The guitars are full and really mix melodically well. Tek sings in a low register monotone that grabs you from the get-go.

“Progress” follows and further solidifies that blend of Detroit-fueled power pop and Southern California panache. “Take a Look Around” features an earnest Tek vocal laced, with a socially-conscious sentiment. Williamson’s taut and focused solos really support the overall mood. The backup vocalists Petra Haden and Andrea Wasse further perpetuate a cool pop vibe.

James Williamson & Deniz Tek - Two to One album cover

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

“Good as Gone” mimics latter day Iggy Pop in a loving way. There is an immediate and urgent groove as Tek unceremoniously sings “We had a few good times, the rest was just a crime.” In addition, Williamson throws in some tasty minor-ish Spanish-type motifs ala Dick Dale.

“Stable” is a strong single that borrows slightly from the feel of The Stooges’ “No Fun.” Tek sings a pretty tough and honest lyric, with “Can’t you see that I’m less stable, trying everything to see what works. You say you got me, but I’m falling. What makes you think it doesn’t hurt.”

“Climate Change” is about as topical and current as they come. Tek bellows “Sun beats down on the city streets. They got nothing to believe in but the heat. It’s dry as dust and the old folks calling for rain. All the kids talking about climate change.” The mid-section features a Beach Boys-like vocal backing that gives the song an ironic surf’s up kind of twist.

“Birthday Present” is a break-neck rocker. The rhythm section of bassist Michael Scanland and drummer Michael Urbano offer a really smooth and brisk tempo. The solo parts recall early Amboy Dukes mixed with classic Beck-era Yardbirds.

“Small Change” is a song about the power of personal evolution. Tek sings “It only takes a little bit of change and a great big heart.” Truer words were never spoken. The song has a somewhat blues and folky-type veneer and Tek plays some appropriate harmonica to top it off.

“Liar” is a driving power pop masterpiece. Tek suffers no fools and takes no prisoners as he belts “I’m standing in the rain but looking for the sun. She’s a liar, can’t survive her.”

“No Dreams” is poetic and somewhat dark, with tasteful and dense solos and rhythms. Tek talks and sings his way through this one. The bonus track is a song about a coquettish femme fatale known as “Melissa Blue.” It’s a smooth mix of acoustic and electric textures. It’s also a nice way to conclude this diverse, yet thoroughly rocking album.

Two to One is a powerful statement, with great songs and brilliant guitar work. Overall, it’s a mix of lyrical honesty and technical prowess that is sure to connect with fans and six-string aficionados alike.

Album Review: Patsy Thompson – Fabulous Day

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Patsy Thompson: Fabulous Day

Released in 2020, this album from singer-songwriter Patsy Thompson was 12 years in the making. Essentially, that’s because family obligations came calling as the Canadian-born artist took care of her ailing mother. With not much support from family, she felt broken and burned out. But in the nick of time her long-time friend and co-writer/producer/guitarist Chris Rolin stepped in to offer her a chance to complete this album and get her back on a career track.

Fabulous Day is a record that is very personal for Thompson. She co-wrote 9 of the 10 songs here, and they all are taken from various aspects of her life and experience.

Patsy Thompson - Fabulous Day album cover

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

The title track opens the album with a tale of hope and new beginnings. The mood is ebullient as she sings with incredible range and conviction. It features a strong chorus and lyrical hook. That sets the stage for an enticing musical ride.

“Neon Lights” is a classic song of love and longing. It spotlights Thompson’s stellar vocals and her knack for storytelling. “Picking You Up” is an obvious single that should register mighty strong at country radio. It’s an uptempo honky-tonkin’ party tune. This focuses on throwing all your cares to the wind and stepping out with that significant other for a night on the town. Thompson sings with an aggressive growl that grabs your attention.

“Dreamin’” sounds like a cross between k.d. lang and Patsy Cline. It has a very ethereal vibe and a timeless country feel. Again, this shows another side to this stellar female crooner. “I Can’t Be in Love With You Tonight” contains a sentiment many folks can relate to. It’s a song for anyone that’s ever had any conflict over giving their heart to someone. Thompson talks about love feeling so wrong, yet feeling so right. Yeah, you’ve probably heard that used as a narrative many times before, but this is genuine and from her soul.

Patsy Thompson

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

“Misery and Gin” is the sole cover here, and it’s a good choice. Again, this contains familiar ground that really mines the human condition. She sings “Looking at my life through the bottom of a glass, all I see is a gal who’s fading fast.” There is a strong sense of melancholy here performed in the style of Tanya Tucker or Tammy Wynette. There’s a nice guitar break that supports a subtle jazzy/blues tavern-like atmosphere.

“Passion” is another Thompson original that is a bit different from some of the other fare here. This would be an appropriate song to dance the tango by. She sings a sweet romantic lyric atop accordion, acoustic bass and a pervasive gypsy feel.

“Someone to Blame” addresses the chaos an old flame can create when the former lover can’t leave well enough alone. Select fiddle work from Mike Sanyshyn and a rocking blues feel push Thompson as she sings “Bad news is coming down like rain as you’re looking for someone to blame.”

“Joy Ride” is a straight forward and simply stated country barn burner. It’s got a spry up tempo kick similar to “Picking You Up.”

Thompson closes the album with a Grand Ole Opry-influenced Christmas tune called “I Think About You.” It’s the kind of song that makes you feel good all over. Here she sings about all the things that remind her of the one she loves, like standing under the Mistletoe, the smell of pumpkin pie wafting from the kitchen, and all that sort of thing. This has all the makings of a modern perennial classic. There’s some nice guitar and fiddle work too.

Patsy Thompson is a terrific songwriter, as well as vocalist, that has opened for some of the biggest names in country music like Willie Nelson, Clint Black and Rusty Weir. She’s also appeared at SXSW and has recorded at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studios. This is a momentous release that’s sure to please, and filled with a treasure trove of memorable hits.