Album Review: Sam Sherwin – Iodine Cocktails

Sam Sherwin

photo by Vincent Mineo; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

Album Review of Sam Sherwin: Iodine Cocktails

Straightforward rock ‘n roll from New Jersey. With roots in the ’70s and ’80s, Sam Sherwin‘s Iodine Cocktails is a bit of a rock ‘n roll, um, cocktail.

Sam Sherwin - Iodine Cocktails

image courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

Sam Sherwin’s Iodine Cocktails showcases musical styles that recall rock ‘n rollers as disparate as Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen.

Sam kicks things off with the cheerful, Randy Newman-esque “Anymore.” Picture a sunny day, two or three female backup singers adding emphasis, and a smile on everyone’s face, and you’ve captured the essence of this number. Moderately energetic with a laid-back, catchy, recurring guitar hook, “Anymore” has all the attention-grabbing elements perfect for an opening track, and it’s likely to become and remain a favorite.

Sam Sherwin

photo by Geoff Lee; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

But even within the sunny opening number, there’s a hint of regular-guy New Jersey in the song, and that’s a thread that’s found elsewhere in Iodine Cocktails, too. Notably on the mellow, slightly melancholy, harmonica and guitar-filled, most Jersey-esque rocker on the album, “Automatic Day.”

Sam Sherwin

photo by Dwyt Dayan; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

More prominent throughout the album, though, are the female backing vocals that add a fullness to the music. On “Without You,” for example, they’re paired with keyboards and well-placed organ for emphasis. Sam’s voice on “Without You” is smooth, melancholy, and gritty wherever the song calls for it, showing a range of vocal versatility within a five-minute song capsule.

“Well OK” features a John Mellencamp or Bruce Hornsby-ish tempo and well-suited harmonica intro, though Sam’s vocals have perhaps a smidgen more of a knowing sneer than you’d expect form Mellencamp, with maybe a hint of Springsteen’s grit. You’ll find the rich female backing vocals again on “And a Whole Lot More,” this time with more of the uptempo laid-backness of songs like “Well OK.”

Sam Sherwin

photo by Dwyt Dayan; photo courtesy of Media Stew Public Relations

That’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional outlier – the fun “At the Old Canal” is a bit of a barn-raising-ready, slow-tempo, almost-twangy Americana number. But even this has a bit of Sam’s rock ‘n roll show band flair to it, more of a fun, quirky number than a shift in his base style.

And, going the other way on the rock ‘n roll spectrum, “Lick Your Lips” starts with a George Thorogood-esque gritty intro before moving to a more energetic, accessible, gritty blues rock style for the rest of the song. Still rock ‘n roll. And, if you noticed, still “gritty.” A little of that is Sam’s vocals, but more, I think, is the recurring, wailing, blues-rock guitar hook.

Indeed, Sam Sherwin touches upon a variety of classic, mid-tempo, radio-friendly rock ‘n roll styles, infusing his music with elements reminiscent of a broad cross-section of top artists from that mainstream rock ‘n roll genre. A bulk of the songs, including those I failed to mention, fall within this range, providing a varied yet cohesive 10-song collection that’s a solid addition to any mainstream, multi-decade rock ‘n roll collection.

Album Review: Richard X. Heyman – Incognito

Album Review of Richard X. Heyman: Incognito

I’ve crossed paths with Richard X. Heyman a lot through the years. At least, I’ve crossed paths with his name. But I’m not sure I’ve ever reviewed one of his albums before. It’s greatly overdue. I think I may have ended up on his mailing list right around the time the ramping up of my real-life and career-job obligations caused me to stop publishing Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, so I’ve been following his career but haven’t had an opportunity to write about him for nearly a decade and a half.

Of course, even at the time, I was a bit late on-board, as Richard was already a household name in music circles. From his gig with The Doughboys to his solo career, which began in the late ’80s, Heyman is much revered in the industry. And it’s no wonder. Incognito is a diverse, engaging, catchy album. Songwriting is at the basis of the songs’ charms, with influences ranging from ’50s to ’80s (and beyond). These are timeless pop songs. At times, the delivery is a little ’70s folk-pop-rock in nature, sometimes there’s a hint of a punk influence, at times I hear Beatles (or Monkees) song influences. Incognito begins as an engaging album but slowly grows into a long-time favorite. I’m pretty sure this one’s going to have staying power, that I’ll still enjoy listening to it a couple decades down the road.

Richard X. Heyman - Incognito

image courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf Media

The album opens with perhaps the catchiest song of them all, the title track “Incognito.” Or maybe it just seems to be the catchiest because it’s the first song I hear each time through. But it’s memorable. This is a slightly psychedelic, mid-tempo ’60s-style rock number with an insistent edge to Richard’s vocals. And yet it’s combined with a bit of an ’80s new wave melodic undercurrent. Not straight-up ’80s music, but rather an ’80s song paying homage to the late ’60s, a catchy rock ‘n roller with its own hybrid sound. It’s a great way to begin the disc, an instant foreshadow that you’ve begun a song collection that’ll be well worth your attention.

“A Fool’s Errand” follows with a more Beatles-esque ’60s vibe. Then “Chalk It Up” amps up the energy and volume, with a raucous, rockabilly-ish recurring guitar hook adding a little jangle to an otherwise straight-ahead, pre-George Thorogood-type fast-tempo rock ‘n roll ramblin’ song.

Another personal favorite, “And Then,” follows. It’s sort of a summer-of-love-era mainstream rocker. In other words, there’s a rockin’ folk edge to Richard’s vocals and to the instrumentation of the melody itself, with well-placed harmonies adding richness to this pop-rock number.

“Gleam” is an energetic number for which there’s an accompanying YouTube video. It’s an emotional travelogue, a heartfelt, road-music-styled love song, the road-music energy helped along by some well-placed finger-picking, with the rock ‘n roll edge driven home by some multi-instrumental enthusiastic chorus-crashing.

Richard X. Heyman

photo courtesy of Howlin’ Wuelf media

That’s followed by one of the catchiest, poppiest songs on a disc full of catchy pop-rock songs: “So What” is a well-crafted, songwriter-evoked musical smile. “In Our Best Interest” then brings the mood down a bit with a more heartfelt introspective musical and lyrical design, sung with a more gravelly delivery than found elsewhere in this collection.

“Her Garden Path” has a psychedelic ’60s guitar rock vibe. “Lift” carries that mood on, but with more of a grand presentation; in fact, it would probably fit nicely on one of Asia’s hit albums in the ’80s.

Dialing up yet another influence, “Miss Shenandoah Martin” is almost full-on folk, particularly in the opening before adding a bit more tempo. This is the most Americana song on Incognito; it would be the most pop-rock song on a true Americana disc. Again with the many influences; this album showcases a broad variety, suggesting that Richard X. Heyman is a connoisseur of good music, regardless of genre, that his songwriting and performance goal is the pursuit of a good song, while his identifiable voice and delivery serve to provide a cohesive, identifiable sound across an album’s collection of songs. Next up, “All You Can Do,” serves up another dose of folk influence, with organ providing an engaging, original edge.

Then the disc shifts again, to perhaps its highest-energy number, a fun Motown-meets-’50s-flavored rock ‘n roller called “Terry Two Timer.”

“These Troubled Times” circles back to a melancholy, introspective storytelling delivery, almost like you’d expect from someone like Bruce Springsteen.

Disc-ender “Everybody Get Wise” opens with a Talking Heads-ish jangle before bringing in some Motown-inspired harmonies, settling into a bit of enjoyable musical tension between the two songs, delivering an enjoyable, satisfying end to Incognito.

I have some favorites on the disc – “Incognito,” “And Then,” and “So What,” probably the pop-hittiest songs of the batch – but enjoy the variety of influences and deliveries throughout the disc. It’s a great beginning-to-end listen, a journey narrated by one of our time’s most versatile independent singer-songwriter storytellers.

Live Review: Bob Malone at Barn #81

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob Malone

Barn #81, Hopkinton, MA

October 14, 2017

Bob Malone is one of the great rockin’ blues keyboardists of our time. Period. Berklee-trained, Bob has chiseled and honed his style among some of the best local musicians in Los Angeles, his performance skills polished over years in the studio and on the road. Since 2011 Bob’s “day job,” in fact, has been as John Fogerty’s keyboardist. And, of course, he has released some stellar blues recordings, performing his own stuff between his Fogerty gigs. On Saturday night, in this intimate “house concert” performance space in an outer suburb of Boston, Bob treated an appreciative audience to his skills.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

And he was supported by a great band – Jeff St. Pierre on bass, Chris Leadbetter on guitar, and his old college buddy Philip Antoniades on drums. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I love catching Bob Malone with a full band, so this was perfect.

Of course, those of you who have been reading the Blog from the beginning have seen my reviews of Bob Malone. Twice, to be exact. Both times within the first three months of launch. I reviewed Bob’s October 2015 concert at the 100 Club in London as part of my “Five Nights in London” series. And I reviewed Bob’s most recent album, Mojo Deluxe, in January 2016. So you know I’d be shocked – shocked! – if Bob didn’t deliver a world-class performance. Spoiler alert: He rocked the room!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob kicked the evening off with a bang. A rollicking, rousing, energy-filled rendition of “Certain Distance.” He then followed it with one of my favorite instrumental numbers, “Chinese Algebra.” And a room-rocking performance of “I’m Not Fine,” always a song worth shouting along with at the top of your lungs. These are all songs from his most recent release, Mojo Deluxe.

“Up on Cripple Creek,” a tempo-changing energetic number from Ain’t What You Know, followed before Bob really brought the room down with a mellow, contemplative favorite from Mojo Deluxe, an insightful consideration of middle aged-ness, “Can’t Get There From Here.”

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Bob reached back two decades to his 1996 The Darkest Part of the Night album for “I Know He’s Your Husband,” one of Bob’s songs on which his vocals sound the most Randy Newman-esque. Next up, “Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time,” portrayed a room-electrifying energy and wow, I do love that guitar line. The intensity remained, as “Rage & Cigarettes” came next.

What followed was a really cool rendition of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents.” In the lead-in to this homage to Petty, Bob asked “someone” to please tape this performance because, after many not-quite-right attempts, he thought he finally had it down. Indeed, he did.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

While most of the evening’s songs were from Bob’s newest album, he again reached back to 2009’s Ain’t What You Know for the exceptionally emotionally powerful “No One Can Hurt You” (…like me). Then back to a newer track, “Toxic Love,” which simply roars, and the energetic “I Wasn’t Looking For the Blues.”

Next up Bob dipped into his Born Too Late album for “Home to Me.” Light, melancholy; cool, almost jazzy. Very cool selection to showcase yet another side of Bob Malone. Bob picked things up again with chunky, “Walk This Way”-style Steven Tyler-inspire, fast-paced vocals on the next song (whose title I can’t read in my notes).

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final two songs of Bob’s set were from Ain’t What You Know. First up was the title track, which turned into a serious jam, and was followed by a rowdy rendition of “Stay With Me” that transformed the end of Bob’s set into a disco ball-spinning dance party (of which there is some photographic proof a couple pictures down).

Bob’s encore was the sentimental “Paris,” a slow, swaying, arena-filling ballad that’s a signature Bob Malone song, a sentimental, emotional, scene-painting, perfect selection to end the evening for an enthusiastic room full of his fans.

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I love gigs like this. If you keep your eyes open, there are chances to catch some of the most talented musicians in the world in intimate settings full of friends and neighbors, and they’re truly special evenings. I’m glad to have finally made it to my first Barn #81 gig, too – I had heard about the shows in this cool setting. And I knew Bob had played here before, but until Saturday night I didn’t realize the concert series was run by one of his old college buddies from Berklee. But hey, a friendly atmosphere with a talented band featuring one of the premiere blues musicians in the world, and it ended almost as a dance party? What a Saturday night!

Bob Malone at Barn #81

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Looking Ahead

The “tour dates” page of Bob’s website lists several shows around the U.S. over the rest of 2017 and into 2018, with solo gigs in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania in the coming months, and performances as John Fogerty’s keyboardist in Oklahoma and Texas, plus a 10-day stretch of John Fogerty gigs in January in Las Vegas. Be sure to check Bob’s website for details and for additional performances as they’re added.

Barn #81 is a great venue, a relaxed atmosphere full of friends. I don’t see any future events listed on the Barn #81 Facebook events page, but I do see Jennifer Tefft will be there on Saturday, November 11th. I almost hesitate to mention it, though, because I still haven’t figured out if I’ll be able to get there that night, and I’d hate to see the show sell out before I get my tickets.

Live Review: Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata (The Foundation)

with Shturcite (The Crickets)

The Regent Theatre, Arlington, MA

October 13, 2017

Last night’s concert at The Regent Theatre in Arlington, promoted locally by Face Bulgaria and the Bulgarian American Cultural Center Madara, was a big-time rock ‘n roll event for the Boston area Bulgarian community. Bulgarian supergroup Fondatsiata (The Foundation) performed along with special guests Valdi Totev and Georgi Markov from Shturcite (The Crickets), a legendary Bulgarian rock group formed in 1967 and popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s, sometimes referred to as Bulgaria’s Beatles.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

With spelling assistance from the Facebook event post, Fondatsiata is comprised of Kiril Marichkov (also from Shturcite), Ivan Lechev (from FCB), Donny Vekilov (from Donny and Momchil), Slavcho Nikolov (from B.T.R.), and Venko Poromanski (from “TE”).

I, of course, don’t know any of the songs, so I’ll be brief – no song titles or song-by-song rundown of the evening – but I’ll share plenty of photos instead. The crowd in attendance, however, knew most of the songs.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fondatsiata opened the evening with several songs, showing the skills one might expect from a “supergroup.” Slavcho Nikolov unleashed some serious guitar wizardry; Venko Poromanski displayed top-notch drumming that included an engaging solo; Ivan Lechev rocked the axe but brought something especially dazzling to the mix when he switched to electric violin; Donny Vekilov brought energy and an impressive voice to the bunch; and bandleader/bassist Kiril Marichkov has clearly discovered the fountain of youth.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Valdi Totev joined the band for a few songs, and then he was joined by Georgi Markov for Shturcite’s portion of the performance. For those of us unfamiliar with the band, Shturcite’s last line-up change occurred in 1976 (thank you, Wikipedia), when Valdi joined the group, and the line-up remained unchanged until guitarist Petsi Gyuzelev’s passing in 2013. Ivan and Slavcho remained onstage to join Shturcite during their segment of the show.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, as much as the crowd loved the Fondatsiata performance, thinks kicked up a notch when Shturcite took the stage to perform several old favorites. Boston’s Bulgarian community was standing, singing, and dancing in the aisles, even more than during the first portion of Fondatsiata’s performance.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

When Venko and Donny returned, the party atmosphere continued at a fever pitch, as Fondatsiata played several more songs.

Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Then came time for the encore. Three encores, to be exact. Before an appreciate crowd, the seven musicians of Fondatsiata and Shturcite regaled their fans with more favorite songs, and a two-plus hour concert experience came to a close.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Indeed, it would have helped if I had known even a couple of the songs so I could sing along. And, unlike new English-language performers, I wasn’t able to learn the songs partway through. But it was a pleasure to be there for such a high-energy performance. And even without the enthusiastic audience all around me, I’d’ve enjoyed the exceptional musicianship on display. I mean, I did enjoy it. Obviously.

Fondatsiata at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Stylistically, the music was classic rock, largely rooted in ’60s, ’70s and ’80s rock styles (though more ’60s and ’70s), with hints of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors in places, and even an occasional nod to progressive rock, generally packaged in a middle-of-the-rock ‘n roll-road, mainstream style that could be played across a variety of pop and rock radio stations and easily reaches a broad demographic. Not unlike the Beatles and the Stones in that respect. This music plays directly to my personal musical tastes; indeed, if only I could understand enough to sing along, I’d probably have a few of the songs still stuck in my head today.

Fondatsiata and Shturcite at The Regent Theatre

photo by Geoff Wilbur

As I’ve said before, when a famous performer from any country is performing – as I experienced at Belgian star Milow’s show in New York last fall and during performances by Bulgarian stars here in the Boston area (like Theodosii Spassov or Vasko Krupkata) – it’s always worth seeing one of the best musicians from anywhere perform, even when you don’t know the songs. And, of course, if you’re a Bulgarian in America, you’ll be scanning the other five tour dates on the schedule below to see if you can make it to see Fondatsiata and Shturcite during their U.S. concerts this weekend or next…

Looking Ahead

Yes, the two-weekend U.S. tour continues, per the band’s website, tonight (October 14th) at the Botev Academy near Washington, DC and tomorrow, October 15th, at the Copernicus Center in Chicago. On Friday, October 20th, The Foundation will be at Coco Cabana outside Atlanta; on Saturday, October 21st in Tampa; and on Sunday, October 22nd at Stache Drinking Den and Coffee Bar in Fort Lauderdale. Be sure to check the website or Facebook page for additional details.

 

EP Review: Cain Rising – Rear View Mirror

Cain Rising

photo courtesy of Cain Rising

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

EP Review of Cain Rising: Rear View Mirror

Following on from their critically acclaimed self-titled debut album Cain Rising, the band have been back in the studio to record new songs for release on this 5-track EP Rear View Mirror, out today, October 10th, 2017. All the songs have been released as singles over the past few months providing exciting glimpses, one song at a time, of what the band have been working on.

Where the debut album displayed the breadth of their influences, from East Coast rock to raw folk, the five tracks on Rear View Mirror show a band whose confidence is growing and who are not afraid to let their music grow with it.

Cain Rising - Rear View Mirror EP cover

image courtesy of Cain Rising

Since we last heard from Cain Rising, there have been some personnel changes. The core of Jo Parry, Jez Parry and Jimmy Price remains. Incoming guitarist Ian Hopper is edgy and creative; Matt Crawford on Hammond and piano gives the band a touch of soul; and Mick Ivory’s drumming is its beating heart.

The title track of the EP, “Rear View Mirror,” is an effortlessly catchy, hit the road, summer song that drives along from the opening chords to the mariachi outro. This is the first time the band have experimented with a brass section courtesy of Rebecca Gibson Swift and Pablo Mendelssohn.

“Glasgow City Spires” has the band rocking out behind lyrics reflecting the alienation that can hit you when returning to your home city after many years. It’s a feel good bouncy tune, with swirling organ, warm snappy guitars and a driving chorus.

“Soldier” takes the tempo back a touch with a real retro feel. A touch of Andy Fairweather-Low, a touch of The Hollies and an evocative Gretsch guitar solo.

Cain Rising

photo courtesy of Cain Rising

“Walk My Way” is a swinging rock tune. Once again adorned with horns plus a call and answer bridge in a Billy Joel “Innocent Man” style, which gives it all a foot tapping, bopping and breezy sway.

Finally the mood is taken down with “Social Man,” a tense, raw, stripped-back piano song. It’s good to be shown that the band have a versatility and confidence beyond the airy summer rock, and this track provides a perfect natural conclusion to the EP.

As well as the music, I should also mention that the drawing behind the cover art for the EP and singles is by Julian O’Dell. Julian’s artwork has long been a favourite of the band’s and has created a unique style for this release. His work can be found on his website www.artattackoncancer.org. All proceeds from his sales go to the Action Against Cancer charity.

Cain Rising

photo courtesy of Cain Rising

My previous reviews of the first two singles from this EP (here and here) have extolled the virtues of this band. Now at last you can get the full EP. With these 5 tracks you get a satisfying, hit the freeway, window down, summer blast. Get up close and personal with a pair of headphones, though, and you’ll find an equally enjoyable and rewarding listen thanks to the great production – credit for which goes to Jamie Masters, who seems to be able to get right inside the band’s sound and bring out the very best of the songs.

Great tunes, great songwriting, great production, great band. If you like Springsteen, Dylan, Tom Petty, Beatles, et al, you should really listen to Cain Rising’s new EP and then go get the album for good measure. Here is a band influenced by the greats and who then turn their own creativity into new wonderful music for now and for the future.

Follow the band on Facebook or Twitter @CainRising or visit their website at www.cainrising.rocks.

Album Review: The Stacking Stones Band – The Stacking Stones Band

The Stacking Stones Band

photo by Caitlin Cunningham Photography; photo courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

The Backstory

After checking out The Stacking Stones Band’s music online a while back and identifying them as an outfit I wanted to see live, I caught (and reviewed) them at Arlington Porchfest this spring. It was during the run-up to that gig I discovered they were working on this album, and I’ve been looking forward to reviewing it ever since.

Album Review of The Stacking Stones Band: The Stacking Stones Band

Mid-tempo, smooth, easy-to-listen-to classic bluesy rock. The Stacking Stones Band is so deceptively precise it makes the music sound as if it almost comes too easy; the band’s music is instantly comfortably familiar. Whether background music during dinner, road-trip or commuting car music, or in a concert setting receiving full attention, this band’s music and performance style are the sort that can easily integrate into listeners’ lives. The seven songs on The Stacking Stones Band’s eponymous album are straightforward, original and exceptionally well-performed. The band does nothing earth-shattering, but they do it well. The Stacking Stones Band is a tight outfit performing well-constructed, straight-ahead bluesy rock.

The Stacking Stones Band album cover

image courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

“Can’t Shake the Feeling” kicks the record off with a familiar rock ‘n roll rhythm, slowly building, adding crisp vocals first, then the rest of the band jangles its way into the party.

“Roses” was the first track to stand out to me from this collection. The verses flow along comfortably, so when the band features slightly greater energy in the chorus, a neat little guitar line, and slightly soaring vocals, though they’re still pretty relaxed, they stand out as a catchy hook. Add in some comfortable horn-work, and it’s a song you’ll remember.

“So Familiar” follows with a seventies soft rock almost Eagles-ish guitar line, a lying-back-in-a-hammock, peaceful, easy (see what I did there?) tempo, topped by a smoothly bluesy vocal, augmented by an ever-so-relaxed, perfectly-paced sax bridge. If this song doesn’t bring your blood pressure down while putting a smile on your face, nothing will.

“Lightning Rod” introduces some edgy funky blues to the mix.

The Stacking Stones Band

photo by Caitlin Cunningham Photography (www.caitlincunningham.com); photo courtesy of The Stacking Stones Band

It’s followed by what has become my favorite song on the disc, “Waste My Time.” A classic, low-fi blues-rock guitar line pulls the listener in as the song builds. ’60s rock-flavored, almost-psychedelic bridges and chorus offset the cheerfully energetic, guitar-powered verses. It’s a cheerful slow-build that eventually pays off in a late-song guitar solo before settling down just a bit. In all, it’s a fun journey driven by that hooky, crunchy guitar line.

“Las Cruces” carries a similar guitar signature, but it proceeds at a much more mellow pace. The song and its more specifically bluesy guitar riffs, matched well to slightly rougher vocals, give the impression of an open road in mirage-creating heat, wide-open like the picture on the album cover, though with some heat-driven blurriness.

The disc ends with another of my personal favorites, “You and Me.” This track brings the album to an end with a light, energetic cheerfulness. Jangly guitars, vocals with a hint of blues, and playful musical transitions that are somewhat Southern rock in nature. This is the one you’ll find yourself singing along with, rocking coolly, head bobbing with your shades on, to “you and me on the run.”

Looking Ahead

The Stacking Stones Band will be performing at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville, MA on Saturday night, October 14th. Keep an eye on the “Upcoming Shows” tab of the band’s website and the band’s Facebook page for future live performance information.

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.