250 Word Album Review: Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free gets 3.5 Stars

Jason Isbell’s last record “Southeastern” catapulted him into a whole new stratosphere of stardom. He used good songwriting as his main selling point and gladly traded in noisy half full bars for sold out mid sized theaters where the crowd hangs on every word. “Something More Than Free” is released once again as a critic’s darling. He advances even more into his quiet singer/songwriter career and moves further away from the angsty southern rocker he used to be.

24 Frames” has the markings of another strong lead single (if singles even mean anything anymore for an artist like Isbell.) The big chorus and mid-tempo pace make it a clear favorite among this group of songs. Other than “Palmetto Rose” where Isbell gets a little bluesy but still keeps himself well under control there are no rockers here. Most songs are quiet thinkers where you wait for the story to unfold. “Speed Trap Town” is a great example of what he does best, tell stories that are foreign to the listeners life but aren’t all that far fetched from being a reality and that is what Isbell thrives on.

The vinyl once again is a double LP, at 11 songs and 44 minutes I really don’t understand why it needs to be three (or less) songs per side but it is. It makes listening a less enjoyable experience for me, I’d rather have 6 songs on one side and five on the other, I don’t think that the sound quality would suffer all that much from it. This album is still worth seeking out, it is no “Southeastern” but it is still very strong and an appropriate follow-up.

Key Tracks: “24 Frames” “Speed Trap Town”

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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in 250 word album reviews


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The Vinyl Corner: Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black US Vinyl cover

  • Artist: Amy Winehouse
  • Album: Back To Black (2006)
  • Purchased at: Hastings (St. Joseph, MO) for $11

Amy Winehouse was far more than a mid 2000s chart sensation. With her sophomore album “Back To Black” in 2006 she was catapulted into stardom with the success of the single “Rehab.” Her stature as a pop star was actually eclipsed by her critical acclaim. With her influences running deep through Erykah Badu back to Etta James and even Billie Holiday she obviously had a good pedigree for her music career.

Unfortunately in 2011 at the all too familiar age of 27 her career was cut short due to drug use. So “Back To Black” suddenly became her last album as well and the irony of her biggest hit “Rehab” now hitting way too close to home. The album is filled out with solid songs however, many better than “Rehab.” There is the jazzy “You Know I’m No Good” that is a solid go-to for women who carry guilt with them. The incredibly delicate “Love Is A Losing Game” is the perfect song for a woman to drink a glass of wine to as they morn an ended relationship as well. The title track falls right in line as late night partying song to sing along to while keeping the tempos mellow and showing off Winehouse’s great vocals as most tracks here do.

This album is a good example of a modern LP that is good to own on vinyl. Soul records just seem to fit better on this medium. Maybe it is all perspective but it is hard to deny that some records seem to have more life when presented with a dragging needle and a few pops. It’s a shame we don’t have more Amy Winehouse records to listen to but this one is still good to hide on the edge of the collection for something a little different.

Rating: B+

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Posted by on July 24, 2015 in The Vinyl Court


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Concert Review: The Coterie at Cafe Acoustic 7/16/15 in St. Joseph, MO

The Coterie live at Cafe Acoustic poster

Volume doesn’t scare those who aren’t faint of heart. Every acoustic singer probably has the urge to plug in and rock every now and then. A great example is The Coterie led by chief singer/songwriter Matthew Coman and the band was a needed outlet for him. Coman is a second generation songwriter with an undeniable talent for putting a song together. He put in his time trying solo acoustic shows without much of a splash, which isn’t uncommon for a guy with a guitar because it’s hard not to be lumped into that “one in a million” category.

So Coman put together The Coterie, this enabled him to rock out on his electric instead of strumming the night away on his acoustic. He recruited heavy hitting drummer Christgen “Binky” Solomon to be a refreshing live drum sound to his shows and Andy Blumer on bass who has a great feel for music that he inherited from his amazingly talented family which includes current Money For Nothin’ frontman Aaron Blumer. Former Grindstone Creek multi-instrumentalist and singer Tanner Ferguson was also added to the fold on keyboards and guitar. This backing band provided Coman the comfort he needed to really bring out songs he had played for years the way he always wanted them to sound. Suddenly he could play songs like “The Host and the Parasite” and the yearning “Fix On You” off his great 2013 album “No Other Animal” the way they should sound.

The Coterie performing live at Cafe Acoustic on 7/16/15. From left: Tanner Ferguson, Matthew Coman, Christgen Solomon and Andy Blumer.

The Coterie performing live at Cafe Acoustic on 7/16/15. From left: Tanner Ferguson, Matthew Coman, Christgen Solomon and Andy Blumer.

The Coterie’s show at Cafe Acoustic on a hot Thursday in July just reaffirmed all of this and much more. The smokey bar will punish your eardrums but is still the finest spot to see live music in town. The Coterie is far from just Coman’s backing band though, they are truly a group effort. Coman can jam out as the excellent guitar player he is and still belts out songs just over the sonic noise in his raspy style that isn’t at the front of his vocal class but still gives him a distinct sound. His true secret weapon is Andy Blumer on bass who is great with backing harmonies to songs and has a very loose bass playing style not unlike his late father Tim from the band Remedy and his uncle Sam most know for playing in Pompous Pilot. Tanner Ferguson and Blumer are even contributing to the songwriting of The Coterie now as well making the band gel even more.

Coman’s ear for country isn’t getting satisfied as much by the group but the alternative rock edge more than makes up for it. Some newer songs like “Love To Call My Own” and a re-worked “Cold Dead Stare” show the direction they are going for their first full album as a band. Their live shows are coming together now and while they may not have the distinctiveness of Cupcake or be riding the wave of a popular trend like The Souveneers they are still a major player in St. Joseph’s music scene.

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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Concert Review


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Album at a glance: Amy LaVere & Will Sexton – Hallelujah I’m A Dreamer

Amy Lavere & Will Sexton - Hallelujah I'm A Dreamer

This touring husband-wife duo is locked in on loungey bar music. LaVere plays upright bass while Sexton plucks away on an acoustic guitar on this live recording. It sounds live in studio because it is so well recorded and the performances are great. The Duet “It’s a Thing To Do” is a perfect example of what they do best, a gentle and subtle country tune with spot on musicianship. Most songs find LaVere taking the brunt of the vocal duties though, with her sexy rasp this is far from a bad thing. Sweet tunes like “Cupid’s Arrow” and “Dreamer” make you fall under her trance. The songs display what real modern country sounds like, it is far from what you’ll hear on the radio, in fact the album owes much more to Bob Dylan than Johnny Cash. You can call it whatever genre you want but it is unmistakably a good listen.

Key Track: “Cupid’s Arrow”

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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Album at a glance


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Album at a glance: Ryan Lombard – Mercy On The Loud Speaker

Ryan Lombard - Mercy On The Loud Speaker

Ryan Lombard’s album “Mercy On The Loud Speaker” seems to have come out of nowhere to be a well written and recorded addition to St. Joseph’s music collection. Spanning a deceiving five songs, it might make you think it’s an EP but there is nearly 40 minutes of music here. It is a display of a well crafted studio effort in the vein of Death Cab For Cutie with more of a jamming sensibility. The 11 plus minute “I Was Cured, Alright” starts at a slow crawl and builds to an all out rocker before dropping back into ambiance and fading away. “More Than I Can Take” is a shot at squeaky clean power-pop with a strong hook while Lombard still patiently waits for the song to unfold. It’s a quiet listen overall but manages to avoid monotony on the longer songs and shows what a lot of time in a studio can produce.

Key Track: “I Was Cured, Alright”

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Album at a glance


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250 Word Album Review: Ike Reilly – Born On Fire

Ike Reilly - Born On Fire

Ike Reilly - Born On Fire gets 4 stars

Ike Reilly is so underrated it makes orphan children cry themselves to sleep. Alright, maybe not but the fact that he isn’t a more well know act if baffling. If you’ve never listened to Reilly before this is as good of place to start as any. This is his 7th studio album and it is as confident as you’ll find him: spitting out his memorable one liners, letting his band create heavy handed rock grooves and writing solid hooks consistently.

“Born On Fire” and “Am I Still The One For You” show his ability to spin meaningful lyrics into a song relaxed enough to feature them over the music. On the more groove oriented tracks “Job Like That” and “2 Weeks A Work, 1 Night A Love” he shows he can also rip lyrics as fast as his band can play and put solid hooks over the great rhythms. “Job Like That” has the consistent dance strut that made “Uptown Funk” such a huge hit last year, it even has a similar breakdown to the huge hit. Reilly shows his true colors on “Hangin’ Around” where sings a slightly disturbing tale that most people wouldn’t care to admit but he gladly puts himself in the story. It is also a standard Reilly track with a huge chorus and driving guitar. “The Black Kat” is another Reilly classic with his vocals following the trail blazed by a powerful guitar riff. This record could easily blow you away if you don’t know Reilly’s music but if you do you’ll know most of his records are this good.

Key Tracks: “Hangin’ Around” “Job Like That” “Born On Fire”

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in 250 word album reviews


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Album at a glance: The Souveneers – Heartbreak In Really Cool Town

The Souveneers - Heartbreak in Really Cool Town

The Souveneers quietly released their second full-length record “Heartbreak in Really Cool Town” but if you are one of the many anxiously awaiting it’s arrival, be prepared. Jerrad Hardin and company in the interest of not wanting to sound stale pulled a 180 on us all. Instead of the solo adorned Americana tunes we know so well, we get a trouncing of delta style horns on this 8 track effort. The crowd favorite “Blood Diamond” makes an appearance in an updated form along with the albums strongest track “Hell or High Water.” The sound here is loose while sounding live and jangly like on “All The Mystery” where a wandering sax forms the rhythm giving the vibe of a group of buskers. The album is short, relaxed and anything but a simple follow up to their debut.

Key Track: “Hell or High Water”

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Posted by on June 24, 2015 in Album at a glance


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