Showing posts with label MuzikMan Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MuzikMan Reviews. Show all posts


Folk-Rock Review: Ray LaMontagne - MONOVISION

Release Date: June 26, 2020
Label:  RCA

Roll me, Mama, Roll me," the first track on Ray LaMontagne's new release, MONOVISION rolls over the listener like a cold wave on the hot sand. It's an enchanting blend of his old bluesy-folk stylings and his more recent airy and subdued vibe. Fervent vocals ride upon the lush and layered hooks The breathy and soulful intonations deeply enrich the underlying vibe throughout the entire album. 

Let's face it, the most lasting impressions of a musical artist are typically formed based on the first album one hears from that artist. My introduction to Ray Lamontagne was 2016's slow-burning Ouroborus. Traveling back in time from there, I came to appreciate his earlier folk-ified country offerings. In recent releases such as 2018's Part of the Light and the aforementioned Ouroborus, LaMontagne has slowed his music pace. Yet on MONOVISION, he seems to have brought back a bit of the old down-home sound and blended it with his newfound airy vibe. 

"Misty Morning Rain" starts slow and intensifies. Reminiscent of the livelier songs from Van Morrisson Astral Weeks, the staggered rhythm and textured strumming makes it nearly impossible to sit still. As one of the better songs on the album, LaMontagne, as always, reveals the pain in his soul through his profoundly expressive voice. "We'll Make it Through," and "Strong Enough" are two other strong tracks that set the mood as inspiring, if not feathery anthems of the day. 

While the enthusiasm is infectious on most of these songs, the album is not without a few sedatives. "Weeping Willow", "Highway to the Sun," and "Summer Clouds" are as slow as molasses. They, too, serve as a sign of the times as we've all been forced (arguably for the better), to turn the cadences of our own lives down a few notches. 

Overall, MONOVISION is a quintessential Ray LaMontagne record. His subtle and soft guitar tones underscore an organic uprising of his deepest thoughts and feelings. A marriage of the old with the new results is an evolved and original listening experience. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


Folk-Rock Review: Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

Release Date: June 19, 2020
Label: Folk-Rock

On Rough and Rowdy Ways, his first release of original songs since 2012, Bob Dylan dishes on a wide range of topics from mortality, history, and inspiration to pop culture. He speaks more so than sings through a scratchy voice that bristles and pops like a dusty record spouting socio-political ruminations on a world that's not dark yet but getting there.  

The bottom line is that Dylan's lyrics overtake this collection. The crafty chord shifts, wailing harmonica, and rock rhythms, which defined the folk-rock sound in the '60s and '70s, are nowhere to be found. His soliloquies are, at times, poignant and prescient. Other times they are self-indulgent and self-aggrandizing, making the overall listening experience confoundingly hollow.  

If we focus on the more poignant lyrics, there is a lot to like. Dylan's masterfully infuses metaphor and weaves in pop references to create something of a hip hidden history lesson for the uninitiated. "Murder Most Foul" is by far the most potent track lyrically. Dylan skillfully uses the JFK assassination as a baseline from which to ruminate poetically on the thousand historical reverberations rippling from the impact of that fateful day. 

Still, I had a hard time picturing anything but Dylan on stage at a poetry reading with a bass player and a drummer in the corner laying down jazzy syncopations while Bob reads from a notebook of poems. Couplets that struck me most forcefully include: 

I Contain Multitudes: "I'm just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones. And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones. I go right to the edge, I go right to the end. I go right where all things lost are made good again."

Crossing the Rubicon: "I feel the holy spirit inside, see the light that freedom gives. I believe it's in the reach of every man who lives."

Mother of Muses: "Mother of Muses unleash your wrath. Things I can't see, they're blocking my path."

Murder Most Foul: "The day they killed him, someone said to me, "Son. The age of the Antichrist has just only begun."

Overall, words alone are not enough to hold Rough and Rowdy Ways together, there is no sonic earth for these verses of truth to take root. Guitar & Pen gives out no free passes, as some other magazines do. While we kneel at the feet of the Gods, we won't always kiss the ring. If only old Bob had brought in Mark Knopfler to play some backing guitar, or Jacques Levy on electric violin or Daniel Lanois to produce, this would be a record for the ages. As is, I consider it more of an audiobook than a record album. While the lyrics shine, the band's restraint makes this a largely forgettable release.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen



Blues Review: Shirley King-Blues For A King

Release Date: June 19, 2020
Label: Cleopatra Records, Inc.

Powerhouse? Check. Musical family lineage? Check. Try as you might, to find a smoother summer sizzler than Blues For A King, you won’t have much luck. Shirley King, the daughter of famous blues legend B.B. King, arranges a collection of 11 feel-good tracks of classic covers and original pieces. Not much is known of Ms. King personally. She was born in 1949 and unfortunately, most of her adult life remains spotty, other than the fact that she was an exotic dancer since 1969. In 1990 she switched over to the blues and has done her father’s legacy well.

Looking at the artwork for this record, it is simple and colorful. Much like the genre it embodies, the album is bold and captivating utilizing color and animation. Blues finds a way to show the same concepts keeping the lyric structure symbol and coloring the singer’s tone beautifully with the emotion of often strife and trouble.

With two albums under her belt, Blues For A King soars into the stratosphere with songs holding mainly a strong, upbeat tone. Select songs such as “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Gallows Pole,” and “Hoodoo Man Blues” do carry a more serious, darker sound but, not so much so that it completely changes the mood of the entire record for the listener.

“All My Lovin’” and “Feelin’ Alright” starts the album off as  “good morning world, how are you today?” and “sultry meets self-confidence” songs respectively. How can you not turn the volume up when the singer exudes so much love of life. “I Did You Wrong” is far from wrong at all. It acknowledges the pain the singer caused her significant other, feeling nothing but remorse for her part in a failed relationship. She then wants to reach out somehow to attempt to repair the damage in front of her.

We turn the volume back up to 11 when “That’s Alright Mama” comes blaring on. It’s an ode to what comes through every child vs parent situation, regardless of age, in terms of big decision making. One party might be uncomfortable with a decision like moving on or out, while the other party objects to any notion of the idea. “Can’t Find My Way Home” is calling upon those who live with their heads in the clouds or who might feel superior to other people or a group of persons. In this case, the singer is struggling to focus on the journey back to her home to spend more time searching for something greater than her home, not acknowledging a sense of superiority; rather comfort in simply being a wanderer for the time being.

“Johnny Porter” resembles a lot of a similar story-teller song “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia.” It speaks of a child who is making careless, destructive decisions on the streets. Meanwhile, his mother is worried sick about his well-being. The song is a coming-of-age combined with testing waters theme like no other.

This “Feeling Good” rendition is smokey, intense, and powerful where it often is light, bright and airy. Though, it still manages to keep a positive tone with the obvious lyrics and guitar accompaniment. “Give It All Up” is the honeymoon phase of life. Ready to throw caution to the wind and feel some constant goodness in her life, Shirley King is laying it all down for the one she loves. Then, we arrive at “Gallows Pole.” Another darker song on the record shows how human life can turn into a value for some people, with not a care in the world to rethink their action.

“Hoodoo Man Blues” is a struggle to find out why everything seems to be going topsy turvy in the singer’s world at the moment. She calls out for the Lord but, it seems the message isn’t getting through. Rounding out Blues For A King, a wonderful cover of “At Last,” makes the album shine and feels as though there is peace among the blues.

Key tracks include: “That’s Alright Mama,” “At Last,” and “Gallows Pole.”

Gregg Keniston- Staff
June 11, 2020

01. All My Lovin’
02. Feelin’ Alright?
03. I Did You Wrong
04. That’s Alright Mama
05. Can’t Find My Way Home
06. Johnny Porter
07. Feeling Good
08. Give It All Up
09. Gallows Pole
10. Hoodoo Man Blues
11. At Last 


Jazz Review: Rhy Dongju-Lions’den II: Arium

Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: 2020 Dongju Lee

Rhy Dongju is a youth progressive jazz and classical musician who grew up in the Republic of Korea. As a multi-disciplined, growing young man, Dongju exited the military in 2017 and then began to watch his music career blossom. Having released five albums so far, his latest Lions’den II: Arium, is his newest venture, creating an explosion of big-band flavors fused with jazz stylings.

“Ricasso” begins the album like the introduction of a theatrical performance as the curtain draws up, the number is exciting the listener for the start of the show. The tone almost makes the track sound as though it came from a spy movie. It’s a wonderful track to start with as there are no sudden or extreme changes, rather it is a simple, soothing piece.

As track two begins, and you glance over at this particular album artwork, you see a driver’s side car mirror. It's black and white, city street depiction is perfect for this album as it makes you feel like your right in the heart of a city That appears to be the theme of the record, along with a little throwback glance at the 1950’s scenery, painted in the listener’s mind. “Pp,” with a build-up of what might sound like a crescendo of tension, quickly dissipates back into a steady stream of uptempo, staccato strumming. What makes this track so appealing is that there are four different stages within the song; one which circled back to the crescendoing tension again to end out the song.

“Elvis Remember,” simply put, is pure fun. The song bursts with a cheery fanfare that becomes a toe-tapping two-minute tune. It’s appealing to the ear for as quick of a number as it is. Then, we fall into “Revenue” is the first track to have a bit of a somber note to it. The drumbeats offer up a variance of flavor to just having the guitar play through the entirety of the track. “Venue” starts as a dream sequence. It's light, piano keys offer beauty to the piece soon incorporating in the drums and as the guitar sets up to play, allowing it free reign. During the two to three-minute mark, the climax of the song has probably the most interesting exciting release of music throughout the whole album.

When “Syren” comes on it offers a cooler, mellow tone, and though it may be a little more melancholy than that of “Revenue;” it is still sleek with intervals of hill and valley moments particularly at the three-thirty to the four-minute mark. “Aroes Intro” is full-on spooky. It is a minute of elusiveness and piano pleasure. Getting into the main tune of “Aroes” is exciting and simplistic at the same time. There is a fair and even balance between the guitar and piano arrangements within “Aroes” which complement the track to have it be the standout track of the entire album.

Full of downbeats and dark tone “Rachmaninoff Rhapsody, Pt.1” is short but, a severe throw off course of what the listener has become accustomed to hearing through Lions’den II: Arium. As it’s follower, “Rachmaninoff Rhapsody, Pt. 2” comes to play, it offers a variance to its counterpart. While it sounds very dramatic, it gives off a vibe of a very high-speed chase or action-packed scene that might result in a grand finale. Coming to a close, “Arium” is the closing credit everyone can gather and stand and applaud to as victor has won or the hero is now enjoying a moment alone or with their love interest, after having accomplished whatever had needed to be done. It has a smooth and warm tone sure to leave you satisfied and just enough to want to know what the future might have in store for this rising, accomplished artist.

Key tracks include: “Venue,” “Arium,” “Ricasso,” and “Elvis Remember.”

Gregg Keniston- Staff
May 30, 2020

Track Listing:
01. Ricasso
02. Pp
03. Elvis Remember
04. Revenue
05. Venue
06. Syren
07. Aroes Intro
08. Aroes
09. Rachmaninoff Rhapsody, Pt. 1
10. Rachmaninoff Rhapsody, Pt. 2
11. Arium

Indie Pop Review - Hinds - The Prettiest Curse

Release Date: June 5, 2020
Label: Lucky Number

Madrid-based indie rock band, Hinds has released their third studio album, The Prettiest Curse, a collection of textured, guitar-driven power pop sure to please a broad range of music fans. Originally named "Deers," they changed their name in 2014 due to legal threats from a band name "The Dears." "Hinds" actually means female deers.  

Don't be fooled by the cover art. This ain't no pajama party. The sound is hard, hooky, and infectious without being syrupy. The music will march into your brain and take up residency. And while it ain't no pajama party, soul-bearing confessions and heartfelt admonitions overtake the conversation. The blistering guitar screaming out in the most desperate moments underscores a unique sense of both yearning and resolve in the lyrics. 

Hinds are benefactors of their geography. The sonic sensibilities and perspectives gained by creating music in Madrid and outside the influence of the U.S. pop machine are evident. This infusion is a jolt of adrenaline into the dying beast. "The Prettiest Curse" strengthens the band's restless abandon while adding more prominent drums, fuzzier guitars, and more passionate choruses. 

"Riding Solo," "Take Me Back," and "Burn" are a few of the standout tracks rife with hooks, clapbacks, and singalong choruses. There's a powerful punk-pop undercurrent and an unrelenting attitude which only serves to strengthen the offering and accelerate the rush of adrenaline to your brain. That said, there are moments on the album which drift into the more formulaic and predictable garage-pop sound, yet they are few and far between.  

All tolled, The Prettiest Curse has a quick absorption rate. It gets into your blood instantly and is one of 2020's biggest surprises. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


Adult Contemporary/New Age Review: Richard Shulman-Life Seasons

Release Date: July 1, 2020
Label: Richheart Music

Richard Shulman has recorded 28 albums and collaborated on dozens more. The soon to be released Life Seasons is the next proper album.

I like the thought of the seasons theoretically and how it fits each individual's age and current life situation. For instance, the winter of your life would likely be your seventies or eighties dependent on your health.

I would consider Life Seasons as a new age album thematically but musically it is adult contemporary with different elements sprinkled in. Richard’s beautiful piano playing takes center stage and he creates each track like the colorful pictures on the album cover.

“Summer Solstice” is performed by Richard’s trio. The lazy season is given the proper treatment with some cool jazz-inflected laid-back sounds. In the same frame of reference “Bohemian Summer” is a nice jazz number to kick off your shoes and soak in. As the notes are created your mind is set at ease, imagine just floating on a soft billowing cloud.

As we move into the changing seasons “Pre-Autumn” segues into “Sweet Autumn.” The tides of the music change with the season as the paces slow down and speed up in different parts of the composition, intimating the real-life changes you can see when nature does its magic. As autumn ends then we go “Spinning Into Winter” with a nice vocal performance from Wendy Jones, to follow is a solo piano performance from Richard titled “Winter Solstice.” His solo playing is very elegant and appropriate for the distinctiveness of the winter season and all its beauty as it covers the mountains and trees.

“Winter Solstice Dream” continues our seasonal walk through one of mother nature’s most celebrated seasons. It is the most prolific track that includes a spoken word performance from Wendy. The dialogue is significant and reflects much more than the actual season. It goes beyond relating to us as humans and how we translate mother nature’s work. The track runs for 9:52 with a backdrop of Richard’s tinkling ivories leading down the path of realizations as the spoken word continues telling a fascinating story. It is an exceptional track and presented beautifully.

The cycle continues with “Hope for Spring” and the beginning of the thaw with “Early Spring.” Richard’s piano is alive and thriving with exuberance and a consistent rhythm.

Now that I have heard all of the piano instrumentations, I have the belief that the foundation of this music was derived from classical and morphed into a new age, contemporary, and jazz leanings type of listening. All of it made for a perfectly enjoyable listen from beginning to end.

Life Seasons
is quite the journey, offering each listener a taste of every season through the eyes and hands of many talented artists through the piano and other assorted instruments. Everything that went into this recording is just as dissimilar as all the seasons. That is the one element that I found the most interesting and relatable. Of course, every listener will find something different and that is what makes it so unique and special to those that choose to listen.

The personal for this diverse musical collection includes:

The Trio:
Richard Shulman - piano, all compositions and arrangements,
Zack Page - bass on all except #8,10, 13.
Rick Dilling - drums on all except #8,10,13

Vocal Quartet:
Wendy Jones - soprano #4,7,9,10,13 and flute on #7
Paula Hanke - alto #1,4,9,13.
Sherman Hoover - tenor #4,9,13.
Bob Bencze - bass/baritone #4,9,13.
Ron Clearfield - cello #1,7

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
June 5, 2020

Track List:

01. Life Seasons - 5:00 - vocal feat. Paula Hanke
02. Summer Solstice - 4:40 - trio
03. Summer Night - 4:02 - trio
04. Bohemian Summer - 4:13 vocal quartet
05. Pre-Autumn - 5:13 - trio
06. Sweet Autumn - 4:33 trio
07. Spinning into Winter - 3:30 vocal feat. Wendy Jones
08. Winter Solstice - 3:39 - solo piano
09. Velvet Shoes - 3:22 - vocal quartet
10. Winter Solstice Dream - 9:52 - spoken word feat. Wendy Jones
11. Hope for Spring - 5:20 - trio
12. Early Spring - 5:36 - trio
13. The Fairy of Mystery Blue - 3:14 vocal quartet

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


Indie Rock Review: Muzz - Muzz

Release Date: June 5, 2020
Label: Matador Records

Newly-formed Indie-Rock supergroup, Muzz swings a velvet hammer on their self-titled debut album. Interpol frontman Paul Banks is joined by old friends Matt Barrick (The Walkmen) on drums and Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horsemen) on everything else.

There is a familiar soft acoustic 70's classic rock vibe that feels like a synthesis of Mike Nesmith, America, The Allman Brothers, and Marshall Crenshaw. Yet with all these strains crying out for recognition, the end result is inspiring and unique.

"Bad Feeling" sets the tone, fuzing in a subtle lo-fi hum, like crickets on a summer night. The lyrics are deep and profound and the meaning isn't often clear upon the first listen. "We're pretty ancient, that's what all the silence means. Speed runs the whole generation, the torment of ease." The velvet hammer hits hard on the infectious gem "Evergreen" which speaks of love, addiction, and dependency, "One medication, one thing to bring you over. ... Don't ever really need it, somehow it's taking over."

The single, "Red Western Sky" is a hauntingly perilous expression of low self-worth which feels a lot The National's dramatic hurtling. "Everything Like it Used to Be" is Byrd's-sounding track with layered rhythms and harmonies and one of the stronger cuts on the album. It's not all mellow gold, however. "Knuckleduster," and "How Many Days," pack a punch and Josh Kaufman's skilled guitar work comes front and center.

All in all, Muzz has dropped a promising debut from three friends whose talents blend well. Paul Bank's seductive and polished vocals ride nicely over Barrick and Kaufman's smart sonic textures. It's a laid-back summer sound which will go down nicely by the pool, along the beach or on the open road with the windows rolled down.

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


New Age Instrumental Review: Bernward Koch-Becoming

Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: Myndstream

Bernward Koch is a German multi-instrumentalist and Becoming is his fourteenth proper recording.

On Bernward’s website, he says "Music gives wings to a brighter life“ That statement is so true especially with what the year 2020 has brought the world. With all the pain and suffering on this planet, we are desperately in need of more artists like Bernward to keep making music that heals.

I also found something else noteworthy on his website that touched my soul. The US organization "Massachusetts Fallen Soldiers" uses his music to heal suicide-prone soldiers who have come back from crisis areas in different places in the world and often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I am from Massachusetts; I am a vet, and my father served in WWII so this means so much to me. Thank you Bernward.

This music is graceful, filled with beauty, and ultimately a wonderful tool for relaxing, meditation, contemplation, or simply listening enjoyment. That is without a doubt the entire reason this man makes his music. I am sure every time he records it is a process but a labor of love at the same time. He gives away sheet music on his website for two of his albums! I find that so generous of him to do that. Aspiring piano players can learn and play his music. So, the fact he gives us such beauty and peace through his music is one thing, then to give his actual sheet music away, well that is just amazing. May all of that good karma come back to you tenfold sir!

Listening to this music really helped me today. I had to walk away from the news that has been coming across our TVs and step back and take a breather. We all need it, especially now. I personally need to know that there are still loving and giving people out there and Bernward is surely one of them.

“Sparkling Eyes” was one of my favorites and I added it to my NAMR Spotify Playlist. It reminded me of my wife when I first met her and she still has that sparkle to this day. It is a gift to listen to this music and go through so many feelings, memories, and at times, sadness is coaxed out of me but I still feel good when the music finishes. This is music that puts me in a place that is not of this earth, we call it heaven. Maybe there is some truth that we choose our parents and start in heaven and return once we leave our bodies. It is possible, anything is if you believe.

is a very significant word. It can mean any number of things dependent on who you are and what frame of mind you are in when you are listening to this music. For me, it is about being me with no mask or wall to protect me, just me taking all of the sounds, textures, and colors in, then processing it all. What I get in the end is something very special, spiritual if you will, whatever one can call it, it is a blessing that I receive with a lot of gratitude. Every second of my life I am Becoming who I am, evolving, learning, growing, and sharing my experience, strength, and hope with everyone I know and meet.

I hope each and every listener can find a road to take within this music that allows healing. You just never know where Becoming is going to take you but that is exactly what makes it so intriguing. Every listener will find their way through this music, whether it is intentional or not, I am guaranteeing that these tracks are going to affect in you in a prolific manner, but you must let it happen, just listen and Benward, he will take you there.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
May 30, 2020 

Track List: 
01. A Magical Dream
02. Lavender Fields
03. Moments of Love
04. Sparkling Eyes
05. Alone on the Way
06. Becoming
07. Mysterious Afterglow
08. The Bright Spring
09. The Harvest  
10. A Swan Dream
11. Floating Leaves
12. September Impressions
13. Long Long Time Ago

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


New Age Vocal Review: Prem Vidu-Encounter – Medicine Songs from Ma

Release Date:  June 4, 2020
Label: Independent

Prim Vidu and his newest offering Encounter – Medicine Songs from Ma was a pleasant surprise for my new age tastes. Normally the vocals I hear on releases are some background embellishments. This however is all vocals with the traditional instrumentation you would come to expect from a new age release.

I had no idea what I was in for with this album, I just trusted that Prem was a new age artist looking for an opinion on his music. Well he asked the right person and everything does happen for a reason. This is Prem’s first release and everything was composed and performed by him and his team. Besides singing he plays a multitude of instruments. It is quite impressive as this album is his first and an independent release. This is about belief in your life, love, gratitude and the pureness of one enlightened soul.

Some of the instruments used are nylon guitar, shakers, kit acoustic guitars, electric guitars, mandolin, piano, synths, fretless bass, flugelhorn and trumpet. And that is the short list!

To create an album with all vocals and to have that new age color, depth, and meaning, you need all the right instruments. Based on what I heard, things were done properly and Prem and his fine team of musicians pulled out all the stops and present one beautiful recording.

The one and most important instrument is Prem’s vocals. I found an immediate attraction to his warmth and flowing vocalizations. The lyrics are from the heart and soul of a man that has found his true path through the music and spirituality. Prem says “"There is no shorter umbilical to your soul than singing!" How that rings so true for me and I am sure countless others that will enjoy Encounter – Medicine Songs from Ma.

At this particular moment in time I feeling some back pain and, in the music, and words of Encounter – Medicine Songs from Ma I found comfort and healing sounds. Although I must admit some of the lyrics are not understood because they are not in English, however that did not matter. Prem’s voice is so inviting and smooth that you just go with all the flow. The instrumentation is certainly quite excellent, which helps to get you at your comfort zone.

There is plenty of variety musically which keeps your interest besides the digging down deep lyrics presented on this amazing group of tracks. Anyone that can appreciate our humanity, spirituality, a variety of instruments, and incredible vocals, well, that about says it all doesn’t it. This is thoughtful words set to a magnificent array of instrumentation! You need to hear Encounter – Medicine Songs from Ma.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
May 27, 2020

Track List:
1. Holy Divine Mother
2. May I Have The Strength
3. Cancel The Show
4. Oh Your Glory
5. Mighty Presence
6. Floating
7. Your Love Heals Me
8. Everything That Is Here


Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


Rock Review: Airborne Toxic Event - Hollywood Park

Release Date: May 22, 2020
Label: Rounder Records

Being a sucker for what I'll coin as Literary Rock, I eagerly anticipated this latest Airborne Toxic Event release, Hollywood Park. The album is a soundtrack to founder Mikel Jollett's recently released memoir focusing on his experiences growing up in an infamous cult and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. If the book is as powerful as the soundtrack, we're in for a great read.
It's worth noting that the band takes its name from a 1985 postmodern novel called White Noise, which centers around a chemical spill that forces the citizens to face their mortality and learn to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around them. 

The sonic experience involves a back-and-forth between propulsive anthems and subtle, evocative piano ballads. "Come on Out" is one of the album's real treasures. With a driving rhythm and deep, resonant vocals, it captures the thrill and angst of youth, all the while steering the listener boldly toward a new future.

As the album progresses, the songs slowly become stripped of their production and presumption. They become more personal. "The Common Touch" features Jollett in a folksy singsong number, which feels as if he's about to lighten the mood and then heads in a different direction.

With our heads soaked up in alcohol, one hand on a cigarette. I swear I still got some good moves left. I've been fifty-eight since I was twenty-three. I got sixty-nine problems but one ain't me.

In addition to "Come on Out," the standout track to me is "All These Engagements." The lyrics are rife with veiled allusions of deep and dark childhood trauma, which has followed the protagonist has carried with him all his life. It starts slow as a remembrance and rolls along forcefully building toward an ultimate crescendo of rage. "Common Touch" adds a folksy singalong number to the equation to lighten the mood.  

All in all, The longing, anger, and regret are palpable on Hollywood Park. Yet after a close listen, one feels a sense of earned wisdom, a that which does not kill me makes me stronger feeling. What Airborne Toxic Event delivers is a powerful collection of songs that blends rock music with a well-told coming of age story. The result is a highly gratifying listening experience.  

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


Jazz Review: John Scofield, Steve Swallow, & Bill Stewart - Swallow Tales

Release Date: June 05, 2020
Label: ECM Records

According to his website bio, Scofield and his music lie “somewhere between post-bop, funk edged jazz, and R & B.” John Scofield has, over his 50 years within the industry, played with some of the biggest names in the music industry known to man. One of his biggest partnerships was with the late, great Miles Davis. This duo provided Scofield the capability to flourish from a springboard perspective into the spotlight of Jazz as both an instrumentalist and composer harmoniously. With his latest project Swallow Tales, the 68-year-old has not shown any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Steve Swallow, one of two partners on this album, is a jazz bassist and composer hailing from my home state of New Jersey,(who knew?) Swallow was one of the first bassists to switch up entirely to utilize an electric bass. Like his teammate, for more than 50 years, Steve has been writing and even educating youth at the Berklee College of Music. At 79, Steve is still contributing to upcoming works including Swallow Tales.

Bill Stewart is the mastermind behind the rhythm and beat of the newest album creation. If not for him, the record might lose a sense of excitement and anticipation that several of the tracks offer. As the youngest of the trio in this group, the 53-year-old collaborates once again with Scofield to impress upon new, upcoming artists incorporating his “polyrhythmic, or layered character” with that of their own new and inventive styles that they might develop in a quest to become a new “great” musician or artist of tomorrow.

In just a basic glance of the album’s artwork, Swallow Tales comes across as something one might listen to on that of the dreariest, dampest of days. Turning on the intro track, “She Was Young” reveals quite the opposite of mindsets. It’s cool, simple, film-like beginning lays the groundwork for an enjoyable nine-and-a-half minute electric guitar getaway. The flicks and picks amid the track keep the listener wondering where he might go next as he eases back into solemn, quiet playing.

“Falling Grace” is more of a somber tune but appealing nonetheless. Its shuffle-like sound and the consistent rise and fall structure throughout the playtime is a fun way to incorporate different techniques through the tracks. “Portsmouth Figurations” brings about a more-defined drum beat to change up the sound-alike chain of the prior two tracks, even if you can spot the differences. Instrumental pieces, often make it difficult to capture what separates one track from another, however, it is very-much still possible to do so.

“Awful Coffee” is most certainly apparent in its more mellow style, especially as the track opens. The track aligns very closely with the design and setup of the album’s artwork, where it might be best listened to within the confines of a darker room or under the haze of a gray, cloudy sky. “Eiderdown” blends quite seamlessly with its predecessor up until about the 2-minute mark where it differentiates with a rumble-like tone and more staccato-type form. The seven-minute tune avails more zig-zag maze imagery than the others heard so far as there does not seem to be one set theme in this track.

“Hullo Bolinas” brings the listener back down from a high of excitement and pop-infused playtime. The more elongated, allegro formation of this track appeals to those who like tracks that are more at ease and with less of an intensity that jazz can often possess. That’s the thing with jazz, it can range from a calm, soothing notion, to a highly clashing, bombastic, and lively sound that surprises the listener at every turn.

Next on the record, “Away” begins its music with an apparent country-like sound, like someone who has lost a love or who has moved away from settings or people familiar and typical to the individual. With every note that is played, your heart feels for when the guitar tweaks and crescendos with each note. The song reminds me much of the Christmas song by The Carpenters, “Christmas Waltz” (“And this song of mine in three-quarter time. Wishes you and yours the same thing too.”)

Rounding out the album, “In F” is a funky, groovy track bound to put anyone who listens in a great mood and get some up off their feet to dance. Its rock-pop vibe carries a difference from the rest of the record which might go unnoticed if you are one who likes to skip tracks or select your favorites rather than listen to the record in its entirety for what it’s worth. Finally, “Radio” keeps with the appeal of “In F” succeeding to send off the listener with a smile and a feel of how each groove and divet of jazz can be peculiar in their own right. Just when you think the artist is going in one direction, he or she takes your trained ear and throws it reverse. And just like everything else, oftentimes it works, and sometimes it misses the mark. Here, Swallow Tales accomplishes the mission of entertainment and experience for the unexperienced musician or just plain music lover.

Gregg Keniston- Staff
May 17, 2020


Track Listing:
1. She Was Young
2. Falling Grace
3. Porsmouth Figurations
4. Awful Coffee
5. Eiderdown
6. Hullo Bolinas
7. Away
8. In F
9. Radio



Alt-Blues Review: Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow

Release Date: May 8, 2020
Label: Heavenly

Mark Lanegan comes right out and says it, so don't say you weren't warned. These are Straight Songs of Sorrow. The deep lyrics riding upon guttural resonance evokes a cathartic empathy for the state of the world and the people inhabiting it which is nothing short of beautiful. It may not be the artist's desired effect, but after I put my headphones down, I feel a whole lot better about my own personal lot in life and the future of humankind. I suppose in this respect one could call this a blues album, but the blood mixed in makes it more purple. 

Founder of grunge pioneers and extremely underrated Screaming Trees, Lanagan rides the tailwind of his recent soul-bearing memoir, Sing Backwards and Weep. His book details the youthful search for "decadence, depravity, anything, everything." In it, Lanagan reveals the guilt he feels to this day about the death of his friend, Kurt Cobain. The vocals are reminiscent of classic blues singers yet bent with a blend of dark Iggy Pop mixed with Leonard Cohen, and infused with a twist of Nick Cave.

The distressed sonic texture strikes a chord from which the lyrics jump off and strike a nerve with tales of heartache and sorrow and warning signs of the hard road ahead. The album begins with Lanegan warning listeners not to take his advice. "Suddenly, everything I ever had is on ice. All those who tried to help me scattered like mice. No, I wouldn't want to say."

"Bleed All Over," the song with the most velocity in the collection, still reverberates with a vengeful sorry. "Don't you say it's over… I never wanted to… I'm a bleed all over." On "Skeleton Key," Lannegan laments, "I'm ugly inside and out… Love me, why would you ever love me? No one has ever loved me yet, pretty baby."

On Straight Songs of Sorrow, slow and soulful guitar travels on a gravel road of heavy bass and subdued drums. In the driver's seat, Lanegan couldn't care less what his passengers think. Unburdened by obligation and pretension, the artist is free to express his true self and travel wherever he wants. That is precisely what Lanegan has done, and we're all the wiser for coming along for the ride. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen