Friday, October 22, 2021

Detailed Review Writing on New Music Releases

October catches the Cromwell range of view fully engaged on new recorded works from artists either previously featured here, or first time entries to this site.  All of this new material show musicians taking their creative ideas - much of it developed by way of live show performances over the years, and forging it all into high-quality studio recordings.  Each artist exhibits true emotional commitment to their respective style of music.

A band this site has been keeping a close eye on over the last year or – The So Lows - hail from “the land of enchantment,” that beautiful wide-open big sky southwestern state of New Mexico. In full disclosure, I'm compelled to mention having lived there on two separate occasions after my parents retired and moved to that locale. I've since been back on vacations with my current family, and can attest to it's rugged natural beauty. The So Lows have just released a new album ‘Times Not So Weathered,’ and receives a most-worthy DaveCromwellWrites track-by-track review analysis. Led by the singing/songwriting duo of Molly Miller and Ronnie Rael, the sophomore album is the first to feature Troy Krusz on slide and lead guitars, Barron Preuss on bass guitar, and Haven Willis on drums.

Album opener (and the record's first single) “Smile” comes on intimately at first – with Ronnie's vocals out front asking an existential question “and I wonder how you ever got this far – with a feeling that just won't shake.” The accompanying acoustic guitar is warm and vibrant, as Molly comes in with matching harmonies on the following lines. The rest of the band thunders in and the rootsy, blues/folk/rock progression swings into full motion. This easy groove vibe immediately brings to mind what a guy like Izzy Stradlin brought to GNR as well as his own solo work. Which in turn points back to The Rolling StonesExile On Main Street.” The chorus here is simple and to the point – “I wanna smile like you” celebrates the best things in life – all against a backdrop of tight, rhythmic accents and snaking slide guitar.

Follow-up cut “MMIW” sets everything in motion with chunky electric guitar and syncopated deep tom tom percussion. Ronnie sings out with a more passionate, soulful edge right from the start here. Depicting a situation of imbalance and potential negative results, the repeated hook line “heartbeat and a look away” is delivered with precise harmonies and slide guitar. Guest vocalist “Quiltman” adds authentic chanting for a crucial passage, while a blistering guitar solo brings the track around to the final chorus.  Third track “Engine” builds off a bright, chiming 12-string guitar instantly laying down a descending progression. Soaring solo guitar lines create a lightness as bass guitar and drums power along this fragmented 1-2 time signature. Full harmony vocals with Molly slightly out front create an enchanting overall feel as the song continues to unfold. There are a number of curiously mysterious sounds emerging underneath, with one approximating a diving down bass texture. Special props must be given to slide guitarist Troy, who's virtuoso playing here is equivalent to David Lindley's outstanding work on so many of Jackson Browne's albums. The overall combination of Ronnie's acoustic and Troy's various electrics are matched brilliantly with Molly and Ronnie's equally impressive star-turn harmony vocals.

Opening once again with vibrant finger-picked acoustic guitar (a Martin HD-28 dubbed “Lines” we learn via recent social media post), “On the Lam” embraces that particular form of escape. “I got to find a way – feed my dog if you would” (ah, that's sweet) “and tell 'em I'll be back some day.” Snare drum propulsion surges forward, approximating the stuttering rhythm of a railroad car. Deep twang guitar doubles down on the southwestern vibe pulsing through these grooves. Poetic lines roll smoothly throughout, like “I've been running that line – since before the railway,” and “you know the land is forever, I could just jump off this car – and go straight to the sky.” A honey-textured guitar solo creates additional melody and motion to this forward chugging train.

Worth the Weight” adds a soulful feel to those glistening acoustic guitars via a rich extended note undertone and higher pitch-bended fills on top. There's a subtle gospel element to Ronnie and Molly's harmonies here, embracing the spirt of a song like The Black CrowesShe Talks To Angels.” “Bring it down on me, so the truth can mean, what we want it to be” serves as lyrical entry not only to this song's title, but the overall album title too. “And we dream – of a time not so weathered” . . . ultimately concluding “it doesn't matter anyway – let it rain, I'll feel the pain.” Emotionally powerful moments continue to unfold, as on the lyrical refrain “And you can cry like you used to, 'cause it all makes sense. It's not a reason to falter,” (with Molly going solo here) “just a reason to try again.” Repeated passes through the title line creates a sense of duality on the word “weight” whereby “wait” could fit in just as well. An impassioned buildup to the songs ending (Ronnie and Molly's expressive vocals coupled with sinewy guitar figures) wraps up with a left-in studio voice definitively stating “there we go.”

It's a full on bluesy-rock stomp chugging out of the Rolling Stones influenced “Give All.” Ronnie and Molly's cascading vocals on lines “I heaaarrrrr youuuuuuu” joyously recreate the extended phrasing on their psychedelic 1967 release “We Love You.” Even the guitars here emulate the electrified rhythms of Keith along with the slide work Ry Cooder added to that band on their classic albums at that time. One often felt that Aerosmith's “Sweet Emotion” also looked to that original Stones track as point of reference on their hit song. The So Lows keep things closer to rootsy than anything really “psych” - other than the overall “cosmic” feel of everything they seems to put in all their songs. As this track progresses, Ronnie and Molly's tandem vocals push the feel closer to the swampy blue-eyed soul of Delaney and Bonnie. “Lay Down Misfortune” rolls out in three-quarter time, merging Country-Western conviction with a Folk-Troubadour narrative. Sounding like Greg Allman's Georgia-Country-Soul at points, a subtle change occurs in chords and vocal phrasing suggesting the eccentric jazzy folk-pop of underground legend Nick Drake. With those whimsical qualities emerging at times, a steady pedal steel-like guitar solidifies a country-home feel.

Female vocals take center stage with Molly's solo lead vocal turn on “Permanent Horizon.” Once again, an easy-groove Stones-like feel is established with electric guitars and more active, busy-loose drumming. “Sometimes we all need a place to go,” is how the smoky, emotive vocals begin. “What if  I can't get it right?” she asks – quickly followed by “what if - it get's worse when I try” (with those 5 words emphasized by bass guitar and drum punctuation). While the repeated title line chorus is smooth and straightforward, a testifying conversational style on subsequent lines adds an intimate charm to the delivery.

Let Go, My Atlas” dips back into three-quarter time for this acoustic guitar driven, reflective track. Ronnie's voice is fully out front, with Molly's rich harmonies adding depth to the plaintive melody. A variety of guitar fills and textures add color and motion to a song without any drums or bass. This allows focus on voice and lyrics contemplating mysteries of the universe. “In a way I feel I've seen myself in you – before. Rising with the moon – holding on. Trying to make sense of it all,” is how one passage goes. An unusual wind-rushing texture emerges underneath for the songs final :45 seconds, leading out to an ending where that is the only sound remaining.

Means a Lot” has Molly taking the lead vocals once again, for the final and longest cut on the album. Clocking in at 6:46, it serves an an epic and fitting close to everything leading up to it. While introductory guitar chords and wistful extended notes establish an initial melancholy feeling, a sense of hope develops. “If you really wanna know – we can do time together,” leads sincerely to “thanks so much, it means a lot.” A series of elegant guitar interludes surface in places, as one might expect from a song of this length. Thoughtful questions crop up, with lyrics asking “does anyone see – how I see – how everything connects?” Contemplating that universality progresses to a realization of “how everything reflects.” As the track builds instrumental momentum, mysterious spoken-word elements permeate the undercurrent. The intensity of the band rises, the tempo quickens and drives everything to a dynamic conclusion.

Listen to this band's wonderful new album on Bandcamp, and find how how to acquire it in your preferred format via all of their social media.

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Adam Lippman is an indierock singer-songwriter who's been close with the DCW world here for quite some time now. In fact, first contact was established nearly a decade ago. However, his long musical journey goes back much further as a member of various noteworthy bands from the mid 1990's up until recently. Inbetween he released a few solo albums and EP's, while playing well-known tri-state area clubs and festivals as a supporting member as well as fronting his own bands. Adam is now back with his first new solo music in 15 years. With a full album on the way, new single “Sunblind” is the lead track out now on his own Papa Tone label. Mixed and mastered by James Mauri at @aberlin_sound_recorders, the track features Chuck Beckman on bass and Pete Wilhoit on drums. Adam plays all other instruments along with vocals and the songwriting.

A lush synthetic orchestra opens the track with a touch of reverence, until bright chiming guitar chords forcefully push through. Bass guitar and drums rumble up from underneath as additional guitar tones, back-and-forth pulsing keyboards and distant voices mark out the progression. A quaint story unfolds with opening lyrics “Once you gave me a chance - for your hand - at the back yard dance - in the rain - in New York - we were younger.” Those vocals are delivered with soft inflection at a measured pace, with certain words elongated for affecting emphasis. It's a vibe similar to the cool processed voicings on The Alan Parsons Project 1982 hit “Eye in the Sky.” While significantly different than that aforementioned classic, the chorus here jumps just as hard, with the hook lines “takes me forever and forever takes me forever you know. Now we had better get it together bring back that yesterday glow.” Attention to complete songwriting craft is on full display with the post-chorus turnaround “time is all we need to find put it all behind I am on your side.” The second verse serves up an impressively crisp drum fill and the song title reveal with the line “your sun drives me blind.” An instrumental interlude combines rising synth melodies with countering guitar notes, creating a lovely push-pull sensation.

Check out the track right here:

Follow Adam for album updates and info on how to acquire his music on preferred streaming services Hear Now, Spotify and YouTube.

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Finding their way back once again into the DaveCromwellWrites universe are the Sydney, Australia based gazey-noise-rockers Trillion. The 5 piece collective have a new single “Sure” set for release on the 27th of October. Having covered their work extensively over the last two years (with the band making “Best Of” in both 2019 and 2020) “Sure” is the first salvo from the band’s forthcoming “Atomic Sunshine” album.

The track kicks off in full motion (no fade in here) with pitch-bended guitar chords sawing back and forth as the bass guitar and drums throttle along. A murky 3-note rise/descend becomes audible, adding ghostly textures to the proceedings. With only a hint of possible voices leaking in, a shift downward into an impressionist murk emphasizes grinding distortion over a recognizably steady drum beat. Exploding back into the initial hook, additional layers of brightness shear through the sonic spectrum, evoking those timeless qualities associated with psych and gaze. A deeper trench is further explored blending low rumble modulation with soft narrated voices.   As the steady drums briefly drop out, a shimmering wash of guitars provides momentary reprieve at the 2 minute mark. Quickly bringing the rhythm section back, an elevated wall of sound pushes everything upward for the next :30 seconds. More low-end grumble returns to the fray as a mixture of guitars, voices and tom toms press the behemoth onward. While drums remain busy (in that way Colm Ó Cíosóig does during MBV's otherwise shapeless “Holocaust”) guitars and bass are more about texture than any actual chord progression. Voices float into the overall mix, adding one more level of blissful reverie before it all comes to a quick stop conclusion.

Preview the track right here:

Full song release on on the 27th of October.

Also check out these complete DaveCromwellWrites reviews of previous Trillion releases HERE and HERE.

Connect with the band via their Linktree HERE.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Collected Works of New Music and Memorial Tribute

Relationships are a significant driving force in much of what appears here on this website. Trusted record labels and artists who've previously shown appreciation for detailed analysis on recorded music meaningful to them are prioritized. Finding new composers and their unheard works within that framework will always continue to expand this overall field. Finally, losing a four-legged family member is heartbreaking, and celebrating the life-affirming years spent together is the best way to honor them.

There never seems to be too much time passing before another ShoreDive Records release finds it's way into the DaveCromwellWrites reviewing sphere. The independent Brighton, England based label provides a continuous supply of high-quality dreampop, gaze, electronica, post-rock and post-punk releases. Recently landing in the DCW mailbox is a six-song mini-album debut from Lyon, France residents Lunation Fall. Titling the collection “Near,” their mission to blend melancholic dreampop and explosive noise is fully achieved here.

Opening track “Sweet Misery” originates via a rising hum before whip-crack drums and pitch-bended guitars mark out a four-chord progression nodding to all the glory MBV has given us. Sweet, fuzzy, angelic voices roll out those incomprehensible stories we've come to know and love within this genre. Its far more about “feel” than anything actually being said. While the guitars and voices envelope the listener in a candy-floss cocoon, impressive drum accents stand out, with a piercing high-hat slice foremost amongst them. At the 2 minute mark, the guitars turn a bit harsher, bringing to mind the edgy-chaos of William Reid and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Follow-up cut “Aube” switches gears, choosing gentle arpeggiated guitar notes for it's extended :30 second intro. The presence of bass guitar is more clearly felt with the emergence of this gloriously romantic melody line. With high-hat percussion shifting to double-time, a soft, sugary vocal line of blended voices encourage the shelter of warm memories. A lovely ambient interlude breakdown at 3 ½ minutes in allows for a triumphant re-emergence of gazey goodness. Conversely, “Precious Time” serves up classic cleanly strummed jangle guitars which allows the bass to lay down it's melody progression. Male voices step out front somewhat in the blended hybrid of storytelling, sketching out a track that would not be out of place on the pre-Loveless MBV classic “Isn't Anything.”

Mercury” adjusts the guitar textures further, adding a level of shimmer and distortion to the overall melange. Dreamy female voices take precedence with a similar allure one might find on a number of Ringo Deathstarr songs. Once again, bass guitar embraces the opportunity to make melodic statements as guitars hold chord structures in place. All goes momentarily quiet at the midpoint, allowing for a re-assembly of each element in dramatic detail. Buzzsaw guitars bring this powerful track to it's conclusion.

All that's dream-gazey glory is wrapped in the fifth entry “Reflections.” A quick crash-cymbal and deep thump percussion sets the table for massive detonation guitar sonic reverie. The progression is slow-groove shuffle, as voices blend in supple harmony. A quick time change ramps things up to hyperspeed, as playful melodies become the immediate vocal focus. Time shifts again, this time down into a stoner-rock lumber, providing fertile ground for harsher guitars and softer voices. With the quick progression returning one more time, a furious guitar solo leads the track out to it's conclusion.

Album closer (and longest track at over 6 minutes) “Mydriasis” accentuates a glimmering, uplifting progression with melodic bass guitar figures (think The Cocteau Twins Simon Raymonde or even Peter Hook from the original Joy Division and New Order) and lively drumming. Male vocals take the lead here with straightforward, unadorned resolve. This mostly instrumental composition rises, ebbs and then rises again for a pure dreamscape experience and a fitting ending to this gorgeous song collection.

Listen to and find out how to get this dreamy record here:

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When last heard from Italian-based musicians Dead Rituals, an intimate acoustic release was given review treatment here on this site at the beginning of this year. Now into the calendars final quarter, a new track finds its way into DCW's sphere. “Tangled Up” is a collaborative effort with Swedish singer/songwriter Francis Moon, inspiring the core Dead Rituals team of Andrea Caccese (Italy) and Brita Penfold (Australia) to new sonic heights.

Rising up out of a distant cloud before the instantly likeable progression and lyrics kick in simultaneously, comes a pop song relatable on multiple levels. “What if I told you that I don't really wanna know - What you've been up to lately - But, it's hard to not get caught in your cobweb,” is how the opening salvo goes. With driving rhythm, precise instrumental placement and vocal delivery bringing to mind the glorious Raveonettes, a bittersweet story unfolds about unrequited relationship failure. “What if I told you what's been on my mind. That I'm somehow holding on. I don't know what to call this - but you can call it whatever you want,” brilliantly spells out the eminently relatable frustration felt.

A gorgeous bridge section underpinned by a perfectly executed back-beat drum pattern spells out exactly what's wrong with this relationship here: “oh, you gotta gotta give me more” points to someone not following through on their promises. However, it's the lush and heavenly chorus that not only delivers the song's title - “I wish we weren't so tangled up” but also drives everything along with a dual vocal performance of male voice “call” and female vocal “response” on the lyrics “can we make it like we used to be? Yeah, we had it, and it made sense. I've forgotten what you used to see in me. Now we're fading the the past tense.”

The second verse strikes even closer to an utterly relatable point. “What if I told you that things still weigh me down? Sometimes I'm happy that you're not around! Because it beats and it breaks inside of me. What if I told you what's been on my mind. That I'm somehow moving on. I don't know what to call this, but YOU can call it whatever you want.” It all references the futility and resignation that the one your holding out hope for is just a toxic waste of time. Second pass through the “oh you gotta gotta give me more” bridge surprises with some brilliant snare-drum press rolls that further attest to the quality detail within this song.

A dramatic emotional peak is reached with thirty seconds to go as guitars and voices rise on the lyrics “We're fading, We're fading in the past tense – Yeahhhhhhh. We're fading (We don't know what to call this) We're fading in the past tense (but we can call it – call it whatever we want).”

Listen for yourself to this exquisite song right here:

Connect with the artists via these avenues:

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This past June saw DaveCromwellWrites featuring a detailed review of England's The Suncharms first preview from their 30 years in the making (!) proper full-length debut album. No doubt over those three decades there have been numerous one-off singles and perhaps an EP or two. This site has been a sharer in two of the most recent compilation releases, with 2019's “Jet Plane” and the aforementioned “Liquid Through My Hands” garnering feature review. Now with the release of “Distant Lights,” ten full tracks (with two bonus cuts on the CD release) are given deep-dive treatment.

Coming right out the gate with the title track, a mysterious low buzz texture introduces an indie guitar-bass and drum progression, while continuing to rumble underneath. Marcus Palmer's vocals come on smooth and intimate, with enough FX's to create an subtle otherworldly feel. There's that familiar sandpaper quality to Marcus' voice when reaching the penultimate line “gotta reach those distant lights tonight (last word pronounced “na-ha-hight”). A churning low-end chuggernaught swirls around one set of guitar textures, while cleaner chiming chords compliment on a parallel course. Bass guitar steps out on the final half-minute, driving the melodic pattern to it's conclusion.

Dream of a Time Machine” opens with celestial tones and twinkling forms before heavier guitar and bass amble in with relaxed purpose. Percussion is crisp cymbal busy as extended melody notes ride over top. Vocals lines come alternately clean, then double-phased and echoed on verses, while the chorus runs in harmony with a distinct guitar-line. A monster-hook develops right after that with full trap-set drumming, dominant guitar melody and featured turn-around bass-line. Overall, the easy-going groove and vocal lines like “the sound of the tambourine” (with that instrument suddenly prominent at that moment) “and a dream of a time machine” touches on a similar 1990's appeal The Stone Roses or even Oasis frequently captured.

A whip-crack drum fill kicks off “Three Billion Heartbeats,” as dual guitars spill out chiming melodies conjuring up feels of days gone by. Marcus' fuzzy vocals and those prominent guitars evoke the best of 1960's era British Invasion pop. Gerry and the Pacemakers, Hermans Hermits, The Hollies, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Searchers and of course that Liverpool band that begins with a “B” all formed a Merseybeat sound that is exquisitely portrayed in this song. “I don't know why” serves as the lyrical focal-point on it's beautifully plaintive chorus.

The aforementioned “Liquid Through My Hands” (slotted in the fourth spot) previously received a full review here. Initially released on the wonderful Sunday Records compilation "Something Beautiful," this full album is once again being distributed by that great indie label. Fifth cut “Cast a Spell” launches into it's chiming rhythm at full speed right from the start. With steady-strummed guitar blocking out it's progression, a commanding extended-note guitar line pours out the catchiest of melodies. Solid tom-tom fills abound, adding depth and weight to the proceedings, before the lyrical story unfolds. “Can you cast a spell on me?” is asked at the chorus, as substantial guitar melodies swirl around this request. Brilliant use of dynamics appear to be a hallmark of what The Suncharms do, never allowing a song to just “lay there,” but rather lift things to new levels. Another exalted instrumental break at the tracks midpoint conveying one more testament to that.

Precious Hour” digs in deeper with a full bore indie pop feel. Chiming guitars ring out like clarion bells and Marcus soothes with razor rough vocals, summarily enhanced by softer female tones. A slightly off-kilter texture works into the mix, creating an unexpected sonic foil for the twangy guitar licks on top. “Gotta live in the moment,” Marcus coos - “accept that things will pass” comes presented in total Jesus and Mary Chain style. “Expect the darkness and the light,” he continues - “is just the passing of time.” Arriving at the ultimate denouement “just give me – that ONE hour – where the planets are aligned” - indeed.

Propulsive drums and bass guitar drive the solid rhythmic currents on “Seas of Titan.” Not that there isn't a strong lead guitar melody (there assuredly is) to go along with this mythical nautical lyrical theme. “I shook my fist, I can't believe – this – is – true” becomes the repeating vocal hook that catches your ear and takes hold.  “Jewels” dips back into the Merseybeat pool with it's bright guitar hook and Beatle-y rhythmic progression. A perfect blend of sweeping guitar line on top, bass guitar counter rhythms and quick shuffle drumming. Even the vocals take a turn with higher-pitched verses against more familiar tones stating “those precious nights we spent, on the coastal path – that path was lit by the light of the moon” - ultimately concluding with “a path that's lit by treasures and jewels.”

Casting Shadows” takes an alternate direction, opting for a softer ballad approach. Instrumentation is understated, with light percussion and acoustic guitars providing just the right minimal touch. That said, there is a lovely guitar solo woven through the middle that compliments an overall sentimental feel. Against the lyrics “looking up – taking flight” - what sounds like a trumpet creates one more unexpected sonic moment.  A big, bold and buzzy guitar line kicks off album closer “Lucifer.” With acoustic guitar churning out the chords progression (and impressive rhythm section doing what's done the entire album), one more toe is dipped in Jesus and Mary Chain (sonic) waters, while lyrical references to the songs title suggest a cautionary tale.

Check out this fantastic album, including how to acquire it here:

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On September 13, 2021 we lost our beautiful boy cat Nicky after 14 wonderful years together.  He came to our home as a two month old (with his sister, who mercifully is still with us) in August 2007.  He was the most perfect cat you could ever be so blessed to share this life with and will be sincerely missed.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.  There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor.  Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing, they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.  His bright eyes are intent.

His eager body quivers.  Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.

The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together . . .

A serious book reader.

I've got my eyes on you.

Could be quite stylish at times.

But always adorable.

Will be remembered forever.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Live Show and Record Reviews: Alternative, Indie, Dream, Pop, Gaze, Synth, Rock, Country

 The ability to attend live music shows out in public with your friends once again has been a long time coming. After a soul-crushing shutdown / lockdown of 2020 that continued into early 2021, we are finally getting back to in-person appearances. Summer in NYC and adjacent Long Island has always provided many opportunities for mostly-free events in open park theaters as well as clubs and restaurants. Along with a variety of recorded music both new and vintage covered in this months feature, comes a long-overdue return to live presentation recaps.

Among her many talents and accomplishments, Laura Schaefer is an impressive singer in the soft rock, country, adult contemporary, and pop music realm. Catching a recent run of live appearances both indoor and out in the open street festival environment showed the performer captivating audiences with her nuanced vocal interpretations. Appearing on Sunday night's during these summer months at the highly-regarded Westbury, Long Island restaurant Cassariano, the duo act of Laura and Bill (with the equally accomplished Bill Blais on keyboards and vocals) entertained patrons with a dramatic set of classic cover songs.

You can't go wrong digging into the summertime soul of The Drifters 1964 classic "Under The Boardwalk."

The same can be said about exploring late 80's/early 90's mega hits like The Eagles "Love Will Keep Us Alive."

Street festivals are always a great place to check out live music on a warm summer night.  A band Laura has been doing some guest vocal appearances with are the wonderful Americana Country Rockers Tri State Alehouse.

This band are equally adept at covering a wide range of classic covers songs as well as their own original music (more on that further down in this feature).  Adding a female voice for solo and backup work fits in seamlessly with these guys.

In addition to her current collaborators and bands frequently offering guest vocal spots, Laura co-wrote and released a number original songs as the lead vocalist in a band called Blue Mile. The album's opening track “What I'm Cookin'” serves up an easy-going acoustic guitar and bongo percussion groove, with clever lyrics on the essential art of flirting. “Caught my eye . . . 'cause you knew I was looking,” gives way to references of “recipes” and “dishes done” tying together the song's title theme. Attraction may come via “checked makeup” and “straightened skirts,” however the cautionary chorus warns “don't you think that I'm just a fool in love” because after “spending some time with you” - well, they're “moving on.”

Deeper emotions are explored on the country-rock tinged “Rest Of Our Lives.” While the multi-tiered acoustic guitars mirror classic-era Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Laura's passionate phrasing and vocal tone bring to mind two legends of that same early 70's period - Emmy Lou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. “You expect me to take this lightly?” she questions - “sorry but I had to pause” is her immediate response. “Because when you showed your emotions – it took me by surprise.” “Why did you have to ask me – where do we go from here?” “Well I guess that brought up – All Of My Fears” (singing those last four words with powerful feeling), “and I got so many fears”. The chorus (and title line) is sung in tandem harmonies, with both male and female voices pulling it all together.

Gentle acoustic guitar picking introduces the predominantly Laura penned “Nobody Lives Here.” Singing out with tender sincerity, the listener is immediately drawn into her world of honest introspection. “I didn't come to break your heart, but somehow my life feels so incomplete. I've gotta take my world apart, I'm sorry but that means I've got to leave. I think it's time, to shed the skin, keeping me wrapped up so carelessly. I look inside real hard, for what I just might have to see, is a heart so dark and cold and oh so empty.” Rather than a simple recitation of these already well-crafted lyrics, key words are extended and held for dramatic purpose, embodying the power of storytelling in a musical setting. Reaching the chorus (and song's title), male harmonies and tambourine percussion add richness to this poignant tale that resolves on the line “but the voices that I hear tell me to start again, make this heart a home - for you and me.” A second verse serves up one more truly insightful lyric, “when you're blind, to all that's true, the ghost of what you dream is all you see.”

A slinky cat shuffle melody provides the basis for Laura's frank look at manipulative relationships on “You're Not The Person.” Far from pointing an accusatory finger (only) a sense of complicit behavior is also noted. “Lovers and liars, we're both some of each – I guess that's the way it's gonna be,” sets the tone for a harmony-laden chorus. “You want me when and only, I can be your prize. Too bad for you I'm only using the same lines,” comes as a musically elevated punchline. “You're not the person I thought you would be. And maybe you're saying the same about me. But I won't be waitin' for you by the phone, I'd rather be lonely all alone,” is the ultimate conclusion.

Country-ballad acoustic guitar chords enhanced by chiming single note emphasis rolls out the heartfelt “Didn't You Know.” Against this lean accompaniment, Laura delivers her lyrical prose of loss and it's aftermath. “You walked through the crossroads of heaven - did you know, you'd leave me behind? You said that, you'd love me forever – you said that you'd always be mine. They told me that time would do the healing, they told me that you'd still be here. But now that you're gone all I'm feeling is the heartache of a life all alone.” As the chorus emerges, subtle slide guitar bends expand the country feel, as a harmony voice joins in on each “Didn't you know,” leaving Laura to complete each line with “that I would believe you” - “that life would deceive you” - and “that I would be left here – to make it alone.” Not content to resolve it all there, a extended bridge immediately follows with full tandem harmony vocals “Time passes by, I see you again, but only inside of my heart. You hear me cry, alone in the night, I need you to say it's alright.”

A lighter mood is set with the good-timey Bo Diddly-beat influenced “Party Dress.” Perhaps more inspired by the classic rhythm of “Willie And The Hand Jive,” Laura sings about the joys this life also provides. “Gonna get up for work and put my party dress on, gonna pick out some lipstick and put a lot on. Gonna shake like a tree in a warm summer storm when I hit the dance floor and party tonight. Gonna drink from the sweetest molasses tree, gonna love you and leave and then we'll see. Gonna let myself fly so high and so free when I hit the dance floor and party tonight.” Harmony voices join in on a joyous chorus that goes “Yeah life is treatin' me so fine so I'll take a minute and spend some time, with friends who dance and party all night – these kind of people make me feel right.” Essential rhythm acoustic guitar backing tasty lead acoustic finger pickin' and shuffling percussion completes the happy-to-be-alive party atmosphere.

Although Blue Mile's time has come and gone, there are rumors Laura may record updated versions of some of these songs at an as-of-yet-to-be-determined point down the road. In the meantime, select live show appearances continue throughout the summer days ahead.

Live events attended, indoor and out

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While we wait for potential new recorded material, the previously mentioned band Laura has been doing guest vocal spots with recently – Tri State Alehouse has a more current album out with their inspired recording “Open Here.” Core members Jonathan Crist, Jeff Schumacher and Mark Ambrosino wrote and produced these 12 original songs (and one surprising cover) with a variety of guest co-songwriters and musicians. What you get on this recording is a quality Country/Rock Band with an “Irish Edge” from the Long Island/NYC area.

Opening the album on a reverential tone, “The Price” blends patriotic American country with the aforementioned “Irish Edge” by way of guest musician Eamonn O'Rourke's strong fiddle throughout.  Follow-up cut “Highway” jumps right into the harder rock and roll realm with it's quicker rhythm and multiple guest lead guitarists delivering piercing solos. The song's title serves as a metaphor establishing open road driving as a means of alleviating life's pain. “Jump Right In” takes that rockin' vibe and swings it over into a deep shuffle groove. There's a southern rock feel to this good-time tale of calling on some sweet lady catching your eye.  A hybrid of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Black Crowes and a bit of The Rolling Stones, essential lyric “you and that little tight red dress, I'm about to lose my mind” says it all.

Everything's Gonna Be Alright” combines a jubilant country groove, southern Irish fiddles and sinewy electric guitar solos, with lyrical advice to focus on the positive around you. “Whitaker” builds off steady shuffling percussion, telling a tale of one man overcoming hardship to ultimately live a full and happy life.   An emotional peak is reached at the album's mid-point with the Gospel infused “Who Am I To Judge?”  A Neil Diamond feel runs through much of the lead vocal recitation (who has embraced Gospel elements on some of his own hits), with this track bringing in the Kellenberg Memorial High School Gregorian Consortium for spiritual backing vocals. Special props to guest musicians Steve Skinner (credited with piano, hurdy gurdy, keyboards, electric guitar) and Gus Fafalios (lead and rhythm guitar) for some truly firey licks on it.

Check it out right here:


Loudest Party” serves up an appreciation for NASCAR racing, complete with opening engine rumbles before kicking in with a full-on fast and furious rocker. Chunky wah-wah enhanced guitar riffage sounds like Slash on GNR's “You Could Be Mine.” Shifting gears in every possible way, “Rock A Bye” presents an emotional story of life and the guiding hand of your dad. For those fortunate enough to have had a caring paternal role model throughout their lives (and having become one themselves), it's easy to relate to and embrace these affecting lyrics. It's a family affair involved with songwriting for the uplifting “On The Other Side.” Traumatic loss can either lead you down a dark road or conversely to one of forgiveness. Seeing the good your presence can offer and the family ties that bind convey views into our living years as well as the hereafter.

It's never a bad idea to include at least one classic cover on an album, and the band does just that with their version of the Rolling StonesAngie.” While the original track relied predominantly on acoustic guitar, piano, orchestra (and Mick's voice, of course), this version has a harder electric guitar fueled edge to it. The overall pace is quicker, with the originals softer piano now replaced by hammond organ, more forceful drumming, a rougher lead vocal and soulful backing singers. Speaking of soulful, “Freedom Rise Up” approximates a similar electric guitar-based rhythmic groove of a song like Eric Clapton's “The Core” with a spiritual chorus elevated by additional expressive voices. “I See Harry” tells the story of a man who helped out wherever he could, wrapped in a country music form. Final cut “Wendy” serves as something of an homage to the Springsteen mystique of “amusement parks, boardwalks” and taking the night on the run with a girl – well, a girl named “Wendy.”

Check out all of these songs at the band's official site – including how to acquire this album, as well as when and where their next live appearances will be.

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Continuing their relentless quest for sonic excellence, Ottawa-based Paragon Cause have now released their third album “Autopilot.” Expanding on the auditory palette they've been building since their first two albums “Lies Between Us” and “What We Started,” (both meticulously reviewed previously here on this site) a bolder evolution in composition and sound design has arrived.

The core duo of Jay Bonaparte (guitarist/songwriter) and Michelle Opthof (vocalist/keyboardist/lyricist) bring back Raveonettes legend Sune Rose Wagner as an equal songwriting partner for all of the songs. In addition to his impeccable production work, Sune adds guitars, backing vocals, percussion and keyboards, creating an instantly recognizable imprint on much of the work.

Lead off cut “Two To Play” builds out of a straightforward snare drum and high-hat pattern before a deep-bass guitar rumbles out front, defining the progression. Poetic lyrics describing motion (“looking forward, falling back – running – moving along”) and dual involvement (as the title would suggest) come wrapped in glorious rising hooks and lush keyboard enhancements. Second track “I'm Not Here” puts out an icy late 80's film-noir homage vibe, with it's long-note synth pads, distinctive heavily FX'd guitar figures and stalking beat. The mental image of Terri Nunn with Berlin or Dale Bozzio fronting Missing Persons walking mysteriously through a Blade Runner future scenario (so popular at that time) is evoked through this audio experience. The shimmering vocal lines “I can't live like this” and “I scare myself sometimes” furnish necessary hook resolution.

Reaching the third entry finds the first of six total versions for the album's initial single “Think I'm Going Crazy Over You.” With five separate remixes (and one bonus track live version) “Jupiter Mix” is up first, receiving a full video treatment along side it as well. Enlisting the aid of producer and Sneaker Pimps co-founder Liam Howe, the notable English collaborator relies heavily on celebrated 80's synthesizer Roland Jupiter 8 (inspiring this mix title) for the retro sound quality and overall mood. “Brooklyn Mix” leans more on a traditional bass guitar approximation at first, before bringing back the recognizable buzz of that polyphonic analog synth heard on so many of the 1980's biggest hits.

Acorn Mix” (the longest version) takes yet-another approach, building up via an over 30 second drone, before a traditional rhythm second of drums and bass drive the progression forward. That trad-band feel is the direct result of PC recruiting formidable assistance in the form of veteran LA musician Eric Avery. That angular, melodic bass pattern combined with more forceful, syncopated drumming affords a foundation for dynamic synth flourishes throughout. It's not until the “613 Mix” that Mr. Wagner makes his presence felt on this song. Providing his own bass and drum treatment, more atmospheric space is allowed overall. One more SRW version shows up dubbed the “Staten Island Mix,” whereby Sune's fondness for hip-hop percussion creates a busier undertow. Those privy to the “Live” (Bonus Track) version will get the most guitar heavy version of all.

A sense of relief in the act of unplugging and focusing on internal well-being comes shining through on “Disconnected.” A driving beat, electronic hand-claps, buzzing guitars and tinkling-ice keyboard fills dispense audio delights. However, it's the chorus that yields an instantly catchy sing-along hook that would slot right along side any pop-hit Charli XCX has written. The majestic “Making Up For Lost Time” becomes the album's high-point, combining precise songwriting with opulent production. Overdriven guitar chords, slow-moving riffs, Phil-Spector-like tambourine and minimal bass drum percussion render a lush sonic field for the emotive vocals. The truly beautiful chorus proves once again that simple ideas are often the best, when expressed with this much passion.

Check that one out right here:

Play Me” continues with that rough-edged guitar sound (near industrial) while adding some welcome pitch-bending for good measure. Alluding to the games people play with each other in relationship, the relatively brief track (at a mere 2:15) benefits from it's quirky rhythm and towering vocals (particularly at the end-out). Alternately, the albums longest track (at 5:06) “More Than We Can Handle” materializes out of softer, distant synths, mechanized percussion, low-growl bass and ethereal guitar figures. Voices float in, sharing space between the gentle reverberated guitar textures. Relying more on mood than defined structures, a Cocteau Twins feel is diffused throughout.

Denied” embraces a gothic atmosphere using dungeon-synths, lyrical guitar figures and melodramatic vocals. A new level of backing voices emerge with a synthetic echo line following the primary one. The overall feel is dark and foreboding, with accusatory lyrics suggesting nefarious activity needing to be exposed. The album's final track “Time To Leave” is keyboard-driven with ghostly background voices, steady bass-synth pulse and melodic electric-piano figures. Against the repeated line “time always tells the truth,” a variety of expanding structural changes and diverse instrumentation enhance the overall experience.

Find out how to listen to and acquire this album at the band's Official Website and Bandcamp Page.

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