Live Review: Carmel Liburdi at Hamtramck Korner Bar

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Carmel Liburdi

Hamtramck Korner Bar, Hamtramck, MI

November 3, 2017

There was certainly a lot of love in the room as assembled fans and friends gathered to celebrate the release of Detroit area singer-songwriter Carmel Liburdi’s new CD Insomnia Slumber Party. Liburdi is a gifted lyricist and songsmith who knows how to connect with her audience. She writes tunes that are personal and somewhat confessional, with a broad appeal that most folks can relate to. Affairs of the heart, religion and self-reflection are some of the prime topics of her songs delivered with a sense of irony and whimsical introspection.

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

The place was packed and, after some introductory pleasantries, she jumped right into the title track to her latest release “Insomnia Slumber Party.” Armed with her trusty acoustic guitar, Liburdi dove into the folky, laid-back rhythms with ease. It’s a small tale—perhaps a personal account—of two people who find themselves fatefully together at the end of the night after the other partygoers disperse. She appeared to have the crowd dialed in from the get-go and followed that up with a wry and lighthearted tune called “This Song is About You.” The tune had a ragtime Tin Pan Alley vibe where she puts a cad in his place with the line “You dirty cowboy riding atop your trusty steed; I need you now, boy, but it’s a want more than a need.” Talk about turning the tables!

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

“Umbrella Tattoo” contains vivid imagery and a dream-like rapid stream of conscious lyrical delivery. As she refers in her own song, it’s like “grunge pop punk played on acoustic.” “Sewerstar” is kind of progressive in its structure and how it takes several twists and turns in mood and tempo. Liburdi whips out her ukulele for the cute and somewhat surreal tale “The Vine.” She cleverly observes various fruits and vegetables within a garden and gives them all human qualities, not unlike Simon and Garfunkel’s classic social observation “At the Zoo.” This woman can write about pretty much anything and give its characters purpose and integrity. Toward the end of this tune Liburdi also played “mouth trumpet” and brought the house down. “Zoe” followed and was another catchy piece, with a light rock and boogie edge.

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

The last two songs in her set really played to the emancipated woman. In “Not for Consumption,” she pulled no punches singing the line (after defending her position in an encounter with someone) “I’m here in the now. I don’t know why and I don’t know how.” “Genuine Creep” closed the main part of the show and was probably one of the more poignant songs of the night. Love is confusing sometimes as she sings, “I’ve shown I can love even if I can’t love you.” And then in the next breath she emotes, “When you think I’ve moved on and I came back to you. That’s just what I do.”

Carmel Liburdi

photo by Eric Harabadian

She concluded with an encore from an earlier release called “Ice Cream in Heaven.” It was a clever little number where she called up acoustic bassist Gwen McPhee and percussionists Mike Land and Phil Warren to help her out. Actually, at a few select points earlier in the performance, Liburdi received a little help from those friends as well.

Carmel Liburdi is a unique and singular talent. She can, essentially, carry her own as a solo performer and is totally authentic and believable. Aside from her obvious songwriting prowess, perhaps that is her biggest asset.

Album Review: Morosity – Low Tide

Morosity

photo by Andrew Vickers; photo courtesy of Morosity

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Morosity: Low Tide

Morosity is a multi-faceted rock quintet from Minneapolis, Minnesota that began as an acoustic duo in 2001.  Childhood friends Jesse Albrecht (vocals/guitars) and Dave Rowan (guitars) adopted influences like Tool, Alice in Chains, Days of the New and Opeth into their sound. Feeling the need to expand their approach they gradually added Sean Bachinski (bass), Jason Wolfe (violin, guitar and mandolin), and Nick Johnson (drums). Their debut album release was Misanthrope in 2011. The follow up, Low Tide is their current focus.

Morosity - Low Tide

album artwork by Heather Albrecht; image courtesy of Morosity

The album Low Tide begins with a track called “Mind Over Matter.” It’s heavy on the drums and rhythmic vibe, conjuring up a world beat meets Gothic feel. The mood is dark, with unison-like vocals and a nice string accompaniment. “The Answer” continues a late ‘90s drop tuned tonality that is derivative of that time period, yet not clichéd.

“Ouroboros” is a piece that is very dense with the full depth and breadth of the band’s instrumentation. Wolfe’s violin and mandolin figure prominently, and it sounds like drummer Johnson adds some East Indian tabla-like elements to the fray, as well. A Distinct Middle Eastern essence on top makes for an interesting and exotic work.

Dave Rowan and Jason Wolfe

photo by Andrew Vickers; photo courtesy of Morosity

“Moon” follows and is a bit more straightforward as an acoustic kind of Alice in Chains inspired track. Albrecht and Rowan’s blend of guitars dovetail very natural and in sync.

“Smoke & Mirrors” has a laid back Soundgarden or Pink Floyd feel to it. Perhaps a lot of that can be attributed to the slide and ambient guitars a la Kim Thayil or David Gilmour.

The ominously titled “Death Grip” comes off as a kind of folk song, with haunting vocals and whistling from Albrecht. There is kind of an odd juxtaposition here of the light chordal backing and surreal delivery.

Jesse Albrecht

photo by Andrew Vickers; photo courtesy of Morosity

“Limbo” continues in an eerie sort of vein. There is an almost chamber choir matched with a stark and understated mandolin accompaniment. Wolfe’s light strings add a semi-classical effect.

The title track “Low Tide” is kind of bittersweet in approach and execution. The minor mode and pairing of acoustic guitar and violin almost suggests Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” to a certain extent. The somewhat melancholy mood and dramatic character in Albrecht’s voice seem to evolve and build toward the coda.

Jesse Albrecht

photo courtesy of Morosity

“Adrift” appropriately concludes the album with the soft and tranquil sounds of ocean waves. Albrecht’s austere vocals paired with a dark and dream-like soundscape provide a short and sweet finale.

Morosity certainly draws from its musical peers and heroes such as Alice in Chains and Days of the New, but is so much more than that. Their use of world beat, psychedelia and traditional instruments liberally tap into Americana, progressive rock, and, on occasion, even blues. They are an interesting act with a somewhat familiar sound that is adventurous and diverse.

Morosity

artwork by Heather Albrecht; image courtesy of Morosity

Looking Ahead

The “calendar” page on Morosity’s website is currently blank, as is their Facebook “events” tab, but those are the places to look to see when and where they’ll be performing live.

Live Review: Brian Charette and Jordan Young at Kerrytown Concert House

Brian Charette

photo by Anna Yatskevich; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Brian Charette and Jordan Young

Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, MI

October 23, 2017

Brian Charette is an internationally renowned jazz organist/pianist/multi-keyboardist who has been a creative force on the music scene for over 20 years. He has played with many luminaries from all walks of the music world. Jazz legends Houston Person and Lou Donaldson, pop icons Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, and Cyndi Lauper, and the Allman Brothers’ drummer Jaimoe have all employed Charette’s services at one time or another.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

On this particular night in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the keyboardist was joined by frequent contributor and right-hand man Jordan Young on drums and vocoder. The intimate and acoustically perfect theater was host to a musical journey that included an intoxicating mix of straight ahead bebop, acoustic piano musings, and “circuit bent” electronica. The term “circuit bent” refers to the manipulation of certain electronic gadgets (i.e. effects pedals and patch boards) that have been manually altered to “misfire” or change their natural pattern of sequence or flow. The result, in conjunction with keyboard-triggered samples, makes for a sensory roller coaster ride with few boundaries.

The majority of the music played during the concert was drawn from one of Charette’s newest recordings entitled Kürrent. While there were visually only two people on stage, the wealth of sounds that emanated from them both was quite amazing. They began with a tune called “Doll Fin” that firmly established their working relationship and affinity from the start. Via a modular SK1 Hammond keyboard, Charette initiated the tune, with a pulsating left hand bass and assured comping. A convergence of synthesizer swells from his Korg unit along with assorted odds and ends soon conjured up a cacophony of otherworldy sounds. The slithery groove was further cemented by Young’s nimble drumming that consistently pushed and played off the beat. With the array of keyboard whimsy and circuit bending in full display, Young added to the mix by playing “real time” samples on the vocoder as well as speaking into the device creating “Daffy Duck”-like sounds. Yes, I repeat, “Daffy Duck” sounds which were oddly appropriate and cool!

Brian Charette

photo by Melanie Scholtz; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

That was followed by a piece that was slightly more mainstream called “Time Changes.” It was kind of a straight-ahead Jimmy Smith style blowing tune in which the inventive duo swung like crazy. Charette tastefully integrated flourishes of color on synthesizer to add accents and atmosphere to things. “Mano Y Mano” was the line repeated in robotic fashion by Young through the vocoder. This set the pace for a tune that was part experimental and part acid jazz freak out. Quick and taut bebop framed lines comprised the main body of the melody and were another strong vehicle for the duo’s improvisations.

Charette shared with the audience the fact that the follow up composition, “Standing Still,” was one of the very first tunes he had written. It was a very lilting and upbeat piece, with a light swing. That soon gave way to throbbing and pulsating loops that reverberated in the background as Charette stepped over behind the beautiful house piano to the side of the stage. He played some great Chick Corea/Herbie Hancock-like accompaniment before returning to the Hammond to resolve in a samba and swinging coda.

Another highlight of the night was a tune dedicated to quirky NYC scat singer Shooby Taylor called “Shooby’s Riff.” Charette playfully triggered samples of Shooby’s voice amid a killer bass line and Young’s consistent rhythms. They included another dedication to composer/instrumentalist Tadd Dameron by playing an acoustic piano and drums duet called “Tadd’s Delight.” It was a swinging and really sweet piece, with a hint of ragtime and some wonderful brush work by Young. They concluded the evening with another cut off the Kürrent album called “Conquistador.” It basically put an indelible stamp on their ambitious, nearly 90-minute set, with an array of shifting tempos and time signatures, staccato melodic lines and smooth transitions in mood and sonic textures.

Brian Charette

photo by Simon Yu; photo courtesy of Brian Charette

Brian Charette and Jordan Young are exemplary artists who are doing something very significant and interesting, with their dedication to upholding the jazz tradition while simultaneously fusing a myriad of seemingly disparate elements within that context. This is the future of jazz and improvisational music.

Looking Ahead

Brian’s tour continues, so check the itinerary page of his website to see if he has any upcoming live dates near you. Tonight, Friday, October 27th, he’s at the Blue Note Bistro in Miamisburg, OH; tomorrow, Saturday, October 28th, he’ll be at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati, OH; and Sunday, October 29th, he’ll be at The Greenwich, also in Cincinnati. Beyond that, Brian will be in New York, NY on November 6th and in Miami, FL on November 7th, 8th, and 9th. He has additional November dates in Beacon, NY; Rochester, NY; Methuen, MA; New York City; and Nyack, NY; with shows in South Africa, Europe, and the U.S. West Coast also on the calendar. Again, be sure to check his website to see if he’ll be in your neighborhood.

EP Review: Company One – Dissonance

Company One

photo by Sascha Deng; photo courtesy of Company One

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Company One: Dissonance (Five By Two Records)

Company One are a Boston area trio comprised of Marcello Costa on lead vocals and bass, Eoghan McCarthy on guitar and Steven Richardson on drums. Dissonance is their latest EP release and is a gripping and dynamic cross-section of heavy progressive and ambient styles. This talented young group draws from the well of classic artists like Pink Floyd and The Who coupled with more contemporary counterparts like The Mars Volta, Caspian and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Company One - Dissonance

image courtesy of Company One

Perhaps the initial factor that grabs the listener right away is the emotional range and depth of vocalist Costa. He seems to be a shape shifter in the way he is able to manipulate his voice. He can go from a low whisper to a caterwauling scream in an instant and remains fluid throughout. Guitarist McCarthy and drummer Richardson follow suit and provide a tapestry of sound that varies in an ebb and flow formation.

“Lay Me Down” kicks off this four-song release that follows the band’s previous album, In the Womb. The track begins with an ambient wash of sound; almost cello-like in a wavy ethereal pattern. That soon gives way to ultra heavy guitars and gut-wrenching vocals. There is a somewhat gothic/doom quality that is pervasive when things get amped up. But this track remains inventive and doesn’t slip into the typical clichés of said genres.

Company One

photo by Sascha Deng; photo courtesy of Company One

“One Hundred Years or Less” is similar to the previous track in that it is a slow burner that morphs into a dynamic and eruptive “B” section. The structure is somewhat minimalistic, with shifting tempos and time signatures. Everything kind of hangs on a droning tonal center for a time and then explodes. Once the mood and concept of the piece are established McCarthy steps out, with a striking guitar break.

“Look at the Boy” features odd arpeggios that frame a strange and cryptic vocal. The music shifts from darkness to light and seems to swing in ¾ time over a layered multi-dimensional platform.

Company One

photo by Sascha Deng; photo courtesy of Company One

Clocking in at a little over 12 minutes, the opus simply entitled “Drain” concludes the EP. The track sounds like something out of a dream where sonic images float and mesh into each other. The low end really hits you in the chest and the overlapping of harmonies and erroneous audio seems otherworldly.

Company One is a progressive band that successfully bridges the gap between experimental and adhering to somewhat traditional and relatable song structures. Their music also lends itself to film and TV soundtracks, with lush production and vivid imagination.

Company One

photo by Sascha Deng; photo courtesy of Company One

Looking Ahead

Company One has some live gigs booked in the coming weeks. You can catch them at the Bungalow Bar & Grill in Manchester, NH on Saturday, October 14th; at UnchARTed in Lowell, MA on Friday, November 3rd; at Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery in Cambridge, MA on Friday, November 17th; and at the Raven in Worcester, MA on Sunday, November 19th. Check the band’s website for more information about those performances and for additional shows as they’re added.

 

Album Review: Rick Barth – Hand Me Down Soul

Rick Barth

photo courtesy of Rick Barth

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Rick Barth: Hand Me Down Soul

New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Rick Barth didn’t start his career as a thoughtful and introspective acoustic-oriented artist. He cut his teeth on hard rock and metal like many other burgeoning star struck kids . But, over time, if one stays with it, one amasses many influences and styles. As a mature artist you not only are a product of those influences, but, if you continue to grow and are paying attention, begin to establish your own sound and voice. That is the case here.

Rick Barth - Hand Me Down Soul

image courtesy of Rick Barth

Upon first listening to Hand Me Down Soul what strikes this reviewer is how the album cover and title is immediately indicative of Barth’s vocal approach. There is a comfortable, yet world-weary gruffness to his delivery. The ragged emotional weight in his voice is totally in line with the aged and vintage concept of the album graphics. Barth has done some living, and he brings that well crafted experience and wisdom to the material here.

Hand Me Down Soul is a little Butch Walker, a little Steve Earle, a smidgen of Tom Petty, a dollop of Jason Isbell mixed with a generous helping of Neil Young. It’s a bit country, a bit rock & roll, and all soul! While every song on the album plays like a single and stands on its own, there is a flow to the track sequencing that provides a very satisfying and complete album-oriented experience.

Rick Barth

photo courtesy of Rick Barth

The album opens with “Wherever You Are.” It’s some fine mid-tempo rock, with solid guitar work that prepares you for this audio journey. “Please Don’t Go” follows and is some classic traditional sounding country. This is kind of a slow burner of a track that sounds like it could’ve been pulled from Young’s early ‘70s Harvest release. A little down the list, the title track “Hand Me Down Soul” reveals some of Barth’s best vocals and writing. He also has a biting wit on tunes like “I Love You (Now Go Away).” This one features ironic lyrics coupled with some cool harmonica work and a catchy chorus. “Good Old Days” seems to tap into somewhat of a nostalgic vibe, with some really strong harmonic accompaniment. And the album concludes in ¾ time on a dramatic upbeat note, with the opus “Invincible.”

According to his bio, Barth is currently working on follow up recordings that will take him well into 2018. And many thanks to Paul and Dave of the podcast the Homegrown Sunday Ramble Show who convinced the gifted singer-songwriter to venture out from strictly the cover band circuit in pursuit of his own destiny.

[Rick’s performing frequently throughout New Jersey in the coming months. Check out the schedule on his website to catch a live gig near you… if you’re in New Jersey (or Stroudsburg, PA, which appears to be the only non-Jersey gig currently on his calendar). -GW]

EP Review: Nate Jones – Testing the Waters

Nate Jones

photo by Jill Moninger; photo courtesy of Nate Jones

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Nate Jones: Testing the Waters

This EP represents a nice cross-section of what you would get at a live Nate Jones show. He is a Detroit area singer-songwriter cut from the same cloth as artists like Jason Mraz, early John Mayer, and, even, classic James Taylor. No doubt a take-off on the local indie brew pubs and taverns Jones plays on a regular basis, the disc sleeve bears the stamp: “100% Genuine Craft Music; Made in Michigan.”

Nate Jones - Testing the Waters

image courtesy of Nate Jones

The dream-like ballad “Autumn Road” opens the disc and sets a romantic scene, with a vivid aural portrait suitable for framing. He begins with solo acoustic guitar lightly arpeggiated as he softly sings of a fall stroll—crunching leaves under foot—where two lovers are lost in each other. This is a great place to start as Jones immediately grabs your attention, with his graceful and engaging vocal style.

“Blonde in the Ballroom” follows and has a lilting and entrancing waltz-like feel. Jones sings in a buoyant and wistful manner about dancing with the song’s dream girl. Bassist Barry Schigelone and drummer Dan Bourquin give it a light kick that recalls something Fairport Convention or Mumford & Sons might do.

“Smoke Filled Room” features a lyrical tale of a femme fatale, with a steady propulsive groove and Oscar Sosa’s flamenco-tinged lead guitar. The song is rooted in a minor key and is the perfect vehicle for Jones’ emotive and dramatic delivery.

Nate Jones

photo by Brandon Hawk; photo courtesy of Nate Jones

“Love is Not a Victimless Crime” explores the perspective of songsmith as the prey or victim in a relationship. In it he sings “I’m the victim, you’re the thief, you stole my heart right from beneath my feet.” With practically anyone else those words might come across somewhat forced or a cliché. But Jones has a knack for conveying sincerity and vulnerability that is convincing and totally for real. This also has a bubbly rhythmic hip-hop vibe that bops along in a catchy and free-spirited fashion.

Subtle social relevance enters into the mix here with the track “Good Morning Rome.” It is a sly and clever reference to the fall of ancient Rome at the hands of its own people. The song makes comparisons to American society and its common foibles and faults.  The tune has a very loose, yet steady beat where Jones spins his cautionary tale while Sosa turns up the heat via sizzling blues riffs.

The bonus track here ends the disc as it began, with a solo acoustic piece. “King of Hearts” has all the majesty and wordcraft of a Shakespearean tragedy blended with masterful and brilliantly executed guitar work. Again, Jones sells the song right up to the final plea where he cries to reclaim his queen.

Nate Jones is a diverse and personable musician that lays it on the line by wearing his musical heart on his sleeve. That sincerity comes through loud and clear, with production that is lean, open, and brings out the best in this refreshing and original young artist.

Album Review: Zucchero – Black Cat

Zucchero

photo by Ari Michelson; photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Zucchero: Black Cat (Polydor/Universal)

Many folks may not know the name Zucchero in the United States, but he’s something of a musical phenomenon in his native Italy. Born Andelmo Fornaciari, Zucchero is kind of a cultural bon vivant, able to hang with opera greats like Luciano Pavarotti and filmmaker Tinto Brass, tour with Miles Davis, and rub shoulders with everyone from Nelson Mandela to Dan Aykroyd.

Zucchero - Black Cat

image courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

This latest effort finds the Italian blues and soul-inspired pop star taking that same approach and applying the star-studded celebrity concept to this powerful and charismatic collection of tunes. You know you’re on the right track and have set a good course when you’ve got Don Was, T-Bone Burnett, and Brendan O’Brien producing, and everyone from Bono, Mark Knopfler and Elvis Costello helping out in the composition and playing departments.

This is a very interesting album in that many of the songs have a very rough-and-ready American raw blues and rock edge to them. But, contrary to a lot of other cultural crossover projects of this nature, the leader chooses to sing much of the album in his native Italian. This, of course, gives things a very cosmopolitan flavor and a very unique and somewhat provincial perspective. Zucchero has a powerful, almost operatic, voice and he really sells these songs in the process.

Zucchero

photo by Ari Michelson; photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

“Partigiano  Reggiano” opens the album, with the phrase “Black cat, my bone.” Forgive the fact that you may not speak Italian, but the feel and intent is one of a bluesy romp, with a New Orleans groove and kickin’ horn chart. One doesn’t have to be fluent in the language to get the gist and energy of the tune that Zucchero conveys.

Another strong showing is “Ti Voglio Sposare.” It features more of a hard rock format, with a memorable chorus and a nice mix of Dobro and acoustic guitar elements.

The song “Streets of Surrender (S.O.S.)” is significant for its blend of Zucchero’s music with lyrics by U2’s Bono. The Italian crooner sings in English with a cadence and tone not unlike Joe Cocker or Gary Brooker of Procul Harum. The addition of strings makes this a real highlight.

Zucchero

photo by Ari Michelson; photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

“Hey Lord” blends Italian and English in a seamless, yet, unusual mix of blues and gospel.

“Turn the World Down” is a tune penned by Elvis Costello that finds Zucchero delivering a hearty ballad with a strong message of hope, pause and reflection. In it he sings, “Get the word out, let the globe spin. Save everyone and everything. Turn the world down.”

There are over a dozen songs here, and each one features contributions from some of the top session musicians on the planet such as drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Nathan East and select National and Dobro guitar spotlights from Knopfler. Zucchero’s organ and pianowork on many of the tracks adds a choral and light classical feel to much of the album as well.

Zucchero

photo by Meeno; photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors

This is, perhaps, Zucchero’s most Americana-sounding release to date. The Italian pop star was inspired by America’s Afro-diasporic musics. Apparently he discovered in a lot of African American communities that the “black cat” was a symbol of good luck. “I decided to give this name to the album because, more than the others, it is a black album, with its roots in Afro-American music,” explains Zucchero. “The sounds are rough and rotten and anarchistic—cats are not as domesticated as dogs. I loved the sound of the words ‘black cat,’ and I felt it was in tune with the album.”

Looking Ahead

Zucchero is concluded the American portion of the tour earlier this spring, but he has dates throughout Europe steadily through September, with a South American tour scheduled for October. Check the “Black Cat World Tour” page of his website for details.