Single Review: Home Cookin’ Band – “Working for a Good Tip”

Home Cookin' Band

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Home Cookin’ Band: “Working for a Good Tip”

Home Cookin’ Band is a talented blues-rock troupe from Chicago. The band consists of Anastasiya Protasevych on lead vocals and guitar, Kevin Lahvic on bass, Michael Costelloe on lead guitar and Jeff Gilbert on drums. Protasevych, originally from Western Ukraine, relocated to the Chicago area in 2017. Her unique vocal style reflects notes of such disparate artists as Chrissie Hynde, Nico and Annette Peacock. It’s a sexy, come hither approach that is hauntingly memorable and smooth as silk. Costelloe simply smokes on leads and delivers a real meat and potatoes rock ‘n roll tone. Lahvic and Gilbert spent many years in the popular Chicago act Matthew Morgan and The Lost Brigade.

Home Cookin' Band - Working for a Good Tip album cover

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

The single “Working for a Good Tip” makes for a strong debut. Protasevych and Costelloe penned the tune and it’s a straight up depiction of life as a waitress. They certainly know of where they speak, having both plied their trade amongst wait staff in the many clubs they have played. The band lays down a classic mid-tempo Stones-like groove that should really connect with folks on the dance floor. Home Cookin’ are air-tight and really know how to succinctly present a hit. They seamlessly walk that line between blues and pop. This track has a lot of personality and soul. It’s also got some great hooks and clever turnarounds that prompt this reviewer to want to hear more.

Looking Ahead

Obviously there aren’t any live gigs at the moment, but when there are, you will be able to find them on the “Upcoming Shows” page of the band’s website or on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page.

Single Review: Todd Rundgren – “Flappie”

Single Review of Todd Rundgren: “Flappie” (Cleopatra Records)

If you’re looking for a demented bloodbath of a sweet little Christmas song, well, rock luminary Todd Rundgren has obliged with one. “Flappie” is Todd’s English-language cover of Dutch comedian Youp van ’t Hek‘s original. The most important takeaway is that, if a Dutch person tells you to avoid the bicycle shed, perhaps that’s a good idea. I suppose another useful lesson is not to mess with children’s pet bunnies.

Todd Rundgren - Flappie single cover art

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Musically, it’s performed in a music box style, almost a jack-in-the-box style, lightly instrumented and tinny. Todd delivers his vocals in spoken-singing fashion. Stylistically, it is performed very faithfully to the original.

You’ve certainly not heard a Christmas song like this before – unless, I suppose, you’re Dutch. And it’s a little too dark and off-screen gruesome for me to listen to it with any frequency. But hey, it’s memorable, which may not be a good think if you’re easily haunted, and Todd did a great job with it, that’s for sure. And if you’re a big Rundgren fan, it’s available as limited-edition colored vinyl (250 each in red and green), signed by Todd.

Looking Ahead

Todd has been keeping busy. He has been releasing singles every few weeks from his upcoming album, Space Force, to be released in early 2021. He has also been planning the Clearly Human Tour, a series of 25 geo-targeted virtual concerts, beginning with Buffalo, NY on February 14th. You can get tickets to these shows, produced by NoCap, here: https://nocapshows.com/artist?name=toddrundgren.

Single Review: Electric Maestro – “On the Way Up”

Electric Maestro - On the Way Up single cover

image courtesy of Exodus Music

Single Review of Electric Maestro: “On the Way Up”

I was doing a little new music exploration back in June when I first listened to the music of Electric Maestro, a musical identity of electronic funk musician Waynebo. Interestingly, he and I were members of neighboring – likely overlapping – musical spheres for many years back when I was publishing Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter out of East Lansing, but we never crossed paths. That’s my loss, as this dude has serious talent.

Waynebo/Electric Maestro has been releasing a fair bit of music during 2020, much of it back catalog material. This seems to be one of his new 2020 releases, and it’s quite a compelling piece of music.

Electric Maestro

photo by Wes Stephens, Keep On Clickin’ Photography; photo courtesy of Exodus Music

An instrumental piece of classic-reminiscent, electronic, synth-driven, dance club dance music, “On the Way Up” reels the listener in initially with a sparse note, then a rhythmic hook, and next a beat. It’s a terrific slow-build, as the song forms element by element, engaging the listener each step of the way. As the song progresses, different beats, rhythms, and scenic aural landscapes come and go, woven in and out throughout a much-too-short six and a half minutes. Knowing its length at the beginning, it’s surprising how quickly the song flies by. You’ll hear a funky rhythm, some light, airy pop beats, and several rhythmic hooks throughout the track, such a variety that it’s amazing, in retrospect, that “On the Way Up” is able to feel so cohesive from beginning to end. It’s in part, I’m sure, due to repeating and recurring hooks, but mostly thanks to the mastery of Waynebo, the Electric Maestro.

“On the Way Up” is a welcome addition to my personal playlist; I eagerly await future releases from Electric Maestro. Based on what I’ve sampled of his recent and past work, this is an artist you simply must know about.

Electric Maestro

photo by Wes Stephens, Keep On Clickin’ Photography; photo courtesy of Exodus Music

More from Waynebo

There’s a lot going on at Waynebo’s website. You’ll find links to his various projects, free DJ mixes, a link to his podcast, The Afterglow, and more. You’ll also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Most recently – just yesterday, in fact – Electric Maestro released “Dance of the Refugee.” I won’t do a full review, especially not based on a single listen, but the beats on “Dance of the Refugee” are exceptional. I’m a sucker for “radio edits,” but I can see spending the full seven-plus minutes on the dance floor to the full version and wondering how it went by so quickly. So be sure to check out Electric Maestro’s newest track, too.

Single Review: Jamie Hart – “Shadow”

Jamie Hart

photo courtesy of Jamie Hart via Off the Stage Music

As you may have noticed, I’ve spent 2020 playing catch-up on some reviews I’d hoped to write the previous couple of years. Well, I’ve finally made it to music I received in 2020, starting with this single, a January 31, 2020 release by award-winning Boston-area artist Jamie Hart.

Single Review of Jamie Hart: “Shadow”

Jamie Hart - Shadow single cover

image courtesy of Jamie Hart via Off the Stage Music

This marked the second single since Jamie Hart dropped the “Lynn” from her moniker. (Worth mentioning in case you were already familiar with her as Jamie Lynn Hart.) And wow, did she ever come out swinging for the fences with this big single release! “Shadow” is one of those substantial pop songs you’d likely hear in The Voice auditions, if it were famous, that highlights a talented vocalist’s strengths. It’s a tuneful, catchy showcase for Jamie’s full range and skill set. Moving effortlessly from booming power to soft emotion, while traversing an appealing melodic path, you can hear Jamie connect with the emotional essence of the lyrics. And, as a fun bonus, you’ll find yourself singing some of the “oo-oo” parts along with her after a few listens. This is a song you’d turn up the radio for when you hear its first few notes.

Jamie Hart

photo courtesy of Jamie Hart via Off the Stage Music

Now, if this is your first introduction to Jamie Hart, yowza! I had sampled a little of her music before – not much, but enough to know she was on my short list of must-cover local artists. This, however, was the first song I’ve had the opportunity to give innumerable listens – the first I’ve gotten to know really well – and it’s an ideal introduction to this incredibly talented vocalist. So, enjoy the vocal showcase of “Shadow” and, if you’re like me, track down some more of her music, too, when you’re done.

I’m now looking forward to hearing a multi-song collection of Jamie Hart’s powerful pop masterpieces – I believe there was an EP in the works, but I haven’t heard more about it, so I assume this may be one of the many 2020 plans scuttled by the pandemic. And I can’t wait to get a chance to experience Jamie’s voice live sometime, too, when things get back to normal again.

Jamie Hart

photo courtesy of Jamie Hart via Off the Stage Music

More recently…

This fall, Jamie was featured on Steeple Doves‘ single, “Louder,” a soaring, rhythmically addictive, defiant anthem that takes great advantage of Jamie’s vocal power. Of course, if you want to go back to last fall, you can listen to Jamie’s impressive September 2019 emotionally powerful pop single “Get Closer.”

Looking Ahead

You can find Jamie’s live show schedule, when there is one, on the “Shows” tab of Jamie’s website or on the “Events” tab of Jamie’s Facebook page.

Oh, and for the full range of sites where you can hear “Shadow” for yourselves, here’s Jamie’s “HearNow” page: https://jamiehart.hearnow.com/.

 

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.

Single Review: Debbie Hennessey – “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey

photo by Matt Gendal; photo courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Debbie Hennessey: “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey - True Me Single Cover

photo by Matt Gendal; image courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

Debbie Hennessey is an award-winning singer-songwriter, with many television and film credits. She has also released three full-length albums and seven singles. Her latest single is called “True Me.” It’s a heartfelt ballad that seems to draw from personal experience. Trying to put thoughts and feelings into words is, perhaps, quite challenging for most, but Hennessey does it in a plaintive yet uplifting manner. She sings with seemingly effortless phrasing that hits you where you live. The singer-songwriter’s vocals are full, rich, and dynamic, supported by Jonathan Haynes’ ethereal and somewhat bluesy guitar. “True Me” is a stellar tune in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow but remains totally unique in style and substance.

Live Performances

Debbie has a performance scheduled for February 20th Petie’s Place in Tarzana, CA. Check the calendar page of her website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Single Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – “What It Is”

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: “What It Is” (Producer: Adam Hanington)

Jimmy Lee Morris - What It Is

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

The latest release from British singer-songwriter extraordinaire Jimmy Lee Morris comes in the form of a tight, nifty single entitled “What It Is.” Morris has previously released fine independent acoustic-based folk and pop that has always put the emphasis on wordsmithing and strong melody. This latest single adds an infectious beat to his resume that recalls everything from the Beatles and the Kinks to Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. The song is a pure collaboration of Morris’ ever present acoustic guitar as an anchor, with the addition of Hanington’s production gloss of synthesized keyboards and bouncy rhythms. The result is a tune that is extremely catchy and fun, with a nod to the ‘60s as filtered through a mid-‘80s lens. If you don’t start tapping your feet and gyrating in some form or fashion upon the song’s first downbeat, then you better check your pulse!

Looking Ahead

The “live” page of Jimmy Lee Morris’ website shows several dates coming up in 2019, including three in March: Friday, 1st March at Napoleon Inn, Boscastle, Cornwall (9:00 pm); Saturday, 23rd March at Crowhurst Park, Battle, East Sussex (8.30 pm); and Saturday, 30th March at The Jolly Sailor Inn, West Looe, Cornwall (8:00 pm). For dates April and beyond – and to check for additional gigs to be added – be sure to check the website.

Single Review: Chris Ruediger – “Country at Heart”

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Chris Ruediger: “Country at Heart”

If you are blessed with the talent to write and sing music, it often helps if what you do fits snugly into a musical genre. If you are going to choose a genre to perform in (if indeed you have the choice, it may just be in your blood), then country music is certainly a massive scene to be part of. It’s hard to be groundbreaking in such an established and competitive market but there is a level of quality to aim for, a high water mark of achievement. Not everyone can be that lucky, but it just may be that Chris Ruediger has the talent to reach that goal.

Chris Ruediger - Country at Heart

photo courtesy of Off the Stage Music

I would certainly say that Chris Ruediger’s latest single “Country at Heart” has the potential to be right up there with the country music mainstream. He seems to have a natural and easygoing ability to put a song across, and the song itself has a classic but contemporary feel, a pleasant memorable melody, and I expect for many country music fans, a lyric that they can relate to. Like he says in the song, “I’ve always had this in me from the start, I’m country at heart.” His rich voice belies his 19 years of age, and having listened to his previous singles, I would say this latest one is his strongest to date. There is an increasing maturity to his writing, and this song is a tour de force of classic country pop. A coming together of all the right musical ingredients to make it easily his best yet.

It was recorded at the legendary Sound Emporium in Nashville, written by Chris Ruediger and produced by Off the Stage Music‘s Nina Pickell. It was recorded in the room where “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and countless other hits have been recorded over the years.

Chris Ruediger

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Chris would appear to be something of a rising star having been nominated for the 2018 New England Music Awards in the Male Performer of the Year and Country Act of the Year categories as well as a nomination for Country Act of the Year 2018 by the Boston Music Awards. Things look like they are heading in a positive direction for Chris Ruediger, and it is exciting to hear that he is working on a bigger project to be released in 2019.

You can catch Chris live in Nashville on Thursday 7th February from 8.30 pm at Frisky Frogs or at Belcourt Taps on Thursday 14th February from 6 pm.

Keep up to date with his music and live shows through his social media and website, chrisruediger.com, or on Facebook and Instagram.

Looking Back

For more about Chris Ruediger, you can also read publisher Geoff Wilbur’s review of Chris’ 2017 EP, Secrets.

Single Review: Open Strum – “Wildfire”

photo by Krista Powers; photo courtesy of Michel Goguen/Open Strum

by James Morris, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Open Strum: “Wildfire”

This new track from Open Strum is a breezy, light and open-ended song. On this single, Open Strum comprise of Michel Goguen, Frank Goguen, and George Belliveau. When you listen to more of the Open Strum back catalogue, you appreciate just how diverse they can be. A range of styles from ambient acoustic through to funky electronic.

photo by Nancy Boudreau; photo courtesy of Michel Goguen/Open Strum

“Wildfire” is at the mature poppier end of the scale with a style that is engaging and warm. A drum beat ushers in rich harmony vocals and jangly Byrds-type electric guitars which lead you into a very easy going, bright and highly listenable track. There are some subtle and lovely touches on the mandolin, and the airy production allows the track to shine. It’s a refreshing and gripping 2:39 in length, and whilst the listen is short it absolutely soars, particularly into the uplifting choruses. When the song ends, it feels like it could just be a lull before crashing into some thunderous solo and carrying on for another couple of minutes. However, its simple brevity actually works really well, leaving you ready to go again, time after time.

For those who like a hook to hang it on, I would say that it immediately struck me as an Eagles groove with a Jackson Browne twist.

Check this one out, and then go explore more of Open Strum’s work. You can find them at www.openstrum.com

They will be heading back into the studio, so not much time to head out and play live. But if you plan ahead then you can see them play on June 8th 2019 in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada to kick off next year’s “Music for Critters” fundraiser to help out animal shelters and rescues.