Billy Jonas "Life So Far"-Bang A Bucket Music -
There are actually two Billy Jonas' on this record. One Billy is the multi-layered, percussion-driven, tribal-rythym, urban-harmony, folk music maestro (wow, that's a mouthful!). Or as Billy describes it himself, "industrial re-percussion... junkadelic folk music". The other Billy is a folkie in the classic James Taylor tradition, with a voice eirily like Taylor's and the songwriting sensibilities of Paul Simon. So, what do I think of LIFE SO FAR? Well, my feelings are exactly on the fence - I really like five of the ten tracks on this album (not counting the two short, instrumental/conversation songs).
Billy's "junkadelic folk music" songs are my favorite; fascinating and refreshingly original in approach. "ONE" has urban flavored percussion and vocals mixed with an inticing word play. Billy is at his most appealing on songs such as these, where the textured tracks are layered with Billy's unique percussion/vocal expressions. Jonas writes interesting lyrics, too, becoming a Dylan-like wordsmith on this song. "LATE" and "COUP D'ETAT" continue with Billy's "industrial re-percussion" approach.
Now, for the "folkie" songs. O.K., so I'm not a big James Taylor fan, and Billy's only weakness is that some of the songs would fit perfectly on a James Taylor album ("HIT THE BOTTOM", "THE BUS", "LIGHTING OF THE LAMPS"). To me, his voice sounds uncannily like James Taylor and when you play slow folk songs, the innevitable comparisons will creep in. "YOU COME TO ME" is interesting, acoustic raga, but once the singing starts, I hear Sweet Baby James. The 15 minute, "MY LIFE SO FAR" is a little too long for my song attention span. However, Billy rises above his Taylor tendencies on two songs. "SLEEEEEEEPING" is a touching, charming song, guaranteed to make you say, "awwww" (in a good way mind you). The hidden gem on the album is the phenomenal, "GOD IS IN". It is a catchy, often humorous and inspirational take on religion. It is one of those songs which could (and WOULD in a perfect world) cross over and be a "hit" in many music genres. You should buy this album for THIS song alone! You wont be dissapointed, and hey, you might be pleasantly suprised at the remaining songs...
In Bloom "Music"-Indie Release -
You don't often expect a "heavy" sound when you have melodic songs and tight harmonies, but IN BLOOM has achieved it on their debut CD. The songs are often sparse & quirky, taking you in an unexpected direction with their unique vocal arrangements. And that's what I like about this record: IN BLOOM consistently infuses hard driving, heavy guitar music with pristine, often soaring harmonies. But, I'm not talking faux Green Day guitars and harmony which every flavor-of-the-month band has picked up just to get on the latest Warped Tour! IN BLOOM displays their integrity by performing their own hybrid of heavy metal, blues, punk, ska, and groove jammin'. But, by adding their own blend of harmony, they have come up with a unique style that is hard to catagorize in the often piegeonholed world of today's rock.
Some of the standout tracks include: WHITE DOG (excellent, soaring harmonies!), CRAZY 'LIL MOUSE (riff driven ska), I DON'T KNOW (begins as a kind of Sublime rip, but has a very cool middle with great harmonies), HEAVY DUTY (hardcore punk), NOT CONFIRMED (heavy song which goes off on a jamming guitar tangent), BLOOZEN'T (blues rock with IN BLOOM harmony!), TAE KWON DOE (from trippy laid back rock to super fast hardcore punk speed) and MARIO (hard driving rock with fun lyrics and cool harmonies). Sure there are a few songs that are forgettable and sound a little too much like Sublime and the Offspring. There is also a tendency on some tracks to go off on a guitar jamm (however, not too excessively). But on the whole, IN BLOOM has taken the harder road of developing their own sound, rather than sound just like what they think WILL sell! And, as a result they've come away with a memorable debut.
Travis "The Invisible Band" Epic Records-
I'm dissapointed. After last year's excellent Travis CD, "THE MAN WHO", I thought that maybe, just maybe, Travis might be the next big thing. The last new hope for corporate rock. Looks like I was wrong. THE INVISIBLE BAND, should have been called, THE INVISIBLE ALBUM. It alternates between dirge-like, painfully slow songs and apparent rejects from THE MAN WHO. Sure, "Sing" (the 'hit') is a a pleasant song, but forgettable nevertheless. And the song, "Side" rises slightly above the mediocre. But, the ONLY, and I do mean ONLY good song on this entire album is "Flowers In The Window". And like a good song should, you find yourself humming this infectiously catchy tune throughout the day. I don't care that it IS a blatant rip-off of any song on George Harrison's CLOUD NINE. I wonder if Sony truly knows what a dud they were given? Do you really think that Warner Brothers would accept a new REM album that was this lame?
However, look on the bright side. Whatever Travis puts out, at least they are trying (albeit lamely). Oasis gave up years ago.
13 Stories "Naked Party" -Indie Release -
Note: Although this album is more than a year old, and they promise a new release very soon, I wanted to review some of the work of 13 Stories to accompany this months interview. We will review the new CD is next month’s issue.
Atlanta’s own 13 Stories blends Blondie with the Rolling Stones, with the final effect being melodic-catchy-get-up-and-move songs. Three of the songs on this CD have been featured on VH-1's Fashion Television, which is an indication of the commercial possibilities of this group!
My favorite song on this CD has to be “Lexi Sterling”, hands down! It is “get up and shake your ass" (oops! that's another 13 Stories song) funk-rock, with a bass line that borrows unashamedly from "You Sexy Thing" from the '70s. Written about the character from the now defunct Melrose Place. Hey, I admit it...I was a big fan of the show (and of this song!). “Playtown” (featured on VH-1's Fashion Television) is catchy pop, again with impressive guitar work. FUN is a good, one-word description of this song. The ska-tingued “Temporary Tattoo” has scathing lyrics about the facade of apparent love. Not since REM's "the One I Love" has a song dealt with this subject so sarcastically. But now, the shoes on the other foot and its the woman giving her view. “What to Wear” (synchronization rights to this song have been acquired by VH-1's Fashion Television) is a ballad in which the singer disguises her feelings about breaking up and promises with thoughts of "what to wear". Cool premise. Another great & tasteful guitar lead! Finally, “Shake Your Ass” (also featured on VH-1's Fashion Television) has a keyboard part which makes the song sound like a Blondie out-take. However, despite the title, this song doesn't make you want to shake your ass...at least not as much as “Lexi Sterling”!
Just these songs alone make the CD a worthy buy. And I can’t wait for the followup!
Jeff Evans/Chickens and Pigs "Preachin' Blues"-Indie Release -
The next time I take a road trip across the south, I'm takin' this CD for a soundtrack to my journey! This is the album version of that peculiar southernism called, "primitive art". It just has that southern, Americana "grits and moon-pie" feel. Within the confines of this CD, Chickens & Pigs give you: blues-raga, country-folk, Rolling Stones-type rockers, blues rag, traditional folk and groove-blues. When I say "Stonesy songs", I'm talking the type of songs that the Rolling Stones WISH they could still write on their albums! Gritty guitar licks with Jeff's, Dan Baird- type vocals. Almost as entertaining as the songs themselves are the lyrics. Sometimes strange, sometimes humorous, but always interesting.
Just a quick overview of the songs within: BOCA GRANDE (spooky background slide? guitar giving it a eastern raga feel & strange lyrics about getting rid of the dead body of his ex-wife!), PREACHIN' BLUES (Hilarious groove-blues song about the woes of the Bible belt South), HURRICANE BETSY (Stonesy rocker-the kind of songs the Stones wish they could still come up with! You can almost picture "Keef" [Richards] on the guitar lead and backing vocals!), I'M IN LOVE WITH HER (another Stonesy rocker), FLOODS AND RAIN (depression-era traditional folk sound), PERCOCET RAG (sleepy blues rag with funny lyrics), NO MONEY DOWN (Alt country, again with hilarious lyrics: "do you have any pictures of your mamma in the nude? Wwould ya like to buy some?"), BURMESE MOUTH (slow blues...only thing lacking is that the song is screaming for drums!), BEARS LIKE CORN (traditional folk), LONELY AIN'T SO BAD (another Stonesy song-GREAT STUFF!)and MAMA CAUGHT A CHICKEN (country song, hilarious lyrics and the cool effect of having the acoustic pluck sound like a cluck).
There ain't a "dog" on this album! Great contrasts of styles without losing that "chickens & pigs" sound.I hope Mr. Evans can get good distribution with this CD, because it really needs to be heard...
Jeff has no official web site (yet), but you can get info on the CD by clicking here
My Ruin "A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish" SpitFire Records-
YES !!! My first 5 Star review for the Heavy Metal catagory. Get this CD. These 3 ladies and a gent just rocked my world. Whoa! Why haven't I heard of these guys? On guitar is Mick Murphy, on bass is Meghan Mattox. They claim to be from America, that's all we know. The vocalist's name is "Tairrie B", and she is angry. It shows in the music. This is what Metal was supposed to be; Dangerous. I'm impressed. I didn't expect to hear this from a majority female band. This is amungst the heaviest of Metal and you can expect nightmares. This girl screams herself raw and the guitar tracks are HOT! I found the drums a little down in the mix, but not bad enough to subtract a star. This CD is DANGEROUS.. "A Prayer Under Pressure of Violent Anguish" is some of the best metal I've heard in a while. Nothing new compares. If you're a Metal fan , get this CD. I read that Track #2 made the UK charts, and their shows sell out there. It's time for America to know about this band.
The Groovenics "The Groovenics" SpitFire Records-
Nothing really caught my attention until track #3. "Teach Me". This seemed pretty original. This band is some sort of groove techno metal. They sound fine, but sound like alot of other bands. "Booty Barn" was loaded with techno fun and I enjoyed that one. "Get it started" also did the trick for me. Good job here. The Groovenics cover of Def Lepard, "Pour some sugar on me" is probable worth the price of the CD alone. Very entertaining. However, these guys sound like too many other bands.
Hayseed Dixie "A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC" -Dualtone Music-
Heavy Metal Hillbilly? Granted, this is hilariously twisted, wicked pleasure! Just the thought of a hillbilly tribute to AC/DC is enough to make hardcore AC/DC fans cringe. But you know what? This record really ROCKS! Being an AC/DC fanatic back in the old high school days, I couldn't get enough of this record. Clocking in at only 28 minutes, I'm rating this CD on a purely entertainment scale, not a scale of originality.
The CD starts with those instantly recognizable guitar chords to "Highway to Hell", but played on an acoustic guitar. Then the fiddle and mandolin comes in and you are in for one helluva hard-rock-meets-Deliverance ride! All the hits are here: "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep" and "Back In Black". The humor continues on "Hell's Bells", the song starting with a hotel-service-bell instead of the church bells used on the AC/DC tune. Instead of the "oi, oi, oi" background chorus on "T.N.T.", you get the hilarious "oink, oink, oink"! But, by playing all the better known AC/DC songs I have to wonder (in a hillbilly accent of course), "didn't ya put all yer eggs in one basket?" I'm just curious how they could follow up this CD, using just AC/DC songs. I would love to hear Hayseed Dixie cover other bands as there is an endless source of parody in rock and roll. Sure, this ain't original, BUT it is excellent satire played by a band with excellent instrumental chops. Who knows, it might just spark an interest in bluegrass!
I just wish the CD had been available back in my party, kegger days. It would be hilarious to alternate this CD and the original AC/DC tunes to an unsuspecting beer drinking crowd!
Burnt Taters "Strange But True"-Planetary Records-
Burnt Taters are not a "retro" band per se. I see them more like the Stray Cats, "evoking" a certain era of rock 'n roll, in this case being the Everly Brothers/Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison era. But, where the Stray Cats bring their own original sounding songs to that flavor, the Burnt Taters have a little problem with some of their songs sounding just a little too much like recognizable oldies.
For example: TRUTH IS sounds like "Peggy Sue" mixed with "Heartbeat"; I DON'T WANT TO KNOW is Ricky Nelson's "Traveling Man"; ANYWHERE THAT'S PRETTY is remiscencent of Hank William's "Lonesome Mansion on the Hill"; BY MYSELF is an interesting Roy Orbison does "sunshine superman"! However, the Taters really come into their own on several songs, such as LITTLE BIT LEFT IN ME and NEVER CALL ME HERE with its rockabilly style). They've got Everly Brothers-type stylings on: ACROSS THE ALLEY, WITHOUT YOUR LOVE and CIRCLE OF LOVE. The Roy Orbison flavorings of DO YOU DREAM? and ALREADY DREAMING ON YOU. EXPLANATION is especially spine-tingling in its Roy Orbison imitation! If the Taters ever break up, this guy could do a cool, Roy Orbison-type tribute show! Finally, SLOWPOKE is hilarious, old style country.
Although not original, the Burnt Taters still show us that the original vision of rock and roll is sometimes still the best!