250 word album review: Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Volume 12

Bob Dylan - The Best of The Cutting Edge - The Bootleg Series Volume 12


This era of Bob Dylan is absolute gold. Every word he said or sang was legendary and every song he recorded was good. Between 1965 and 1966 he recorded and released “Bringing It All Back Home” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” and this volume of the bootleg series covers those sessions. First of all: If you don’t have those records buy them before this, without a doubt. “The Cutting Edge” does however serve as a perfect companion piece to that legendary trio.

There are great songs here that are recorded in different ways. One of the most notable is the sped up version of “Visions of Johanna” where the song doesn’t melt like the album version, rather it burns like so many other rompers that Dylan recorded do. “Just Like A Woman” gets a similar treatment here. “Desolation Row” gets a shot with piano instead of acoustic guitar making for an interesting change as well. Some bells and whistles are added to “Leopard Skin Pill-Box Hat” (literally added) to resemble the way Dylan recorded the song “Highway 61 Revisited” a year earlier. This version of “Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat” may be one of the few tracks here that are actually better than the original versions, most of these takes are still great though. There’s a version of “Outlaw Blues” with a rougher stomp that just doesn’t have the magic here as well. Many tracks here just barely missed their mark, with maybe a botched line or switched out word or two, that is the main story of “The Cutting Edge.”

Still this release is great and essential for any Dylan fan.

Key Tracks: “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” “Visions of Johanna””She’s Your Lover Now”



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Album at a glance: Christopher Bell – Rust

Christopher Bell - Rust

As if being a looping cellist ins’t unique enough, Christoper Bell writes oddly distinctive songs that could work if played on more traditional instruments as well. He takes on “Smokestack Lightning” and breathes new life into the blues classic. “Lost In The Rush” bumps like it could be a bass shattering funk song. “Gone Gone” burns the candle on the dark side of things while “Darling I’m Fine” sounds orchestrated and slows the record to a near complete halt. The slow, acoustic “Kiss Me” sounds like a love song via Tom Waits making it one of the best tracks here. “Sea of Women” possesses some more Waits-style rumble while “Path Back Home” sounds like a skewed hymn with it a little too slow of delivery. “Rust” overall is a little manic but really shows Bell’s ability to mix it up and has some great moments.

Key Track: “Kiss Me”

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250 word album review: The Electric Lungs – Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made

The Electric Lungs - Don't Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made


The Electric Lungs are among Kansas City’s best bands and hopefully this new record will bring them that recognition. With some of the best hooks in the game this album is every bit as good as their catchy debut. It’s way too easy to call them pop-punk but they have way more going on than that. The band is able to conjure an energy in the studio that most bands fall well short of.

“Play It When You Need It” and “Do You Wanna Know” are shout-along favorites here with their balls out singing and infectious choruses. “Fatally Pleased” also shows their ability to write a great power-pop song. This one in particular is led by a heart beat-drum beat and like many Lungs tracks is tinged with keyboards but not in an overbearing way. The Lungs’ ability to mix guitar riffs with keyboards and not have the keyboards overshadow everything is impressive. “Spanish Soap Opera” has an all too familiar feel that won’t stop rattling in your head and the burning delivery of the closer “Blink 2x” shows the band relies on lyrics as well as a strong rhythm to drive their songs. They add a new spin to the classic Tom Waits song “Diamonds and Gold” pairing the lyrics with a stomping drum and some crunchy guitar licks. Don’t be fooled by the pop-punk label, this group has a sound of its own.

Key Track: “Play It When You Need It” “Do You Wanna Know” “Spanish Soap Opera”

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250 word album review: The Yawpers – American Man

The Yawpers - American Man


The Yawpers are well on their way to being your favorite band. Their association with Bloodshot Records makes comparisons to Scott H. Biram a given but The Yawpers have a full band behind their sound. Biram is pretty rowdy by himself and The Yawpers up the ante on “American Man.”

The record is aggressive and unashamed. It has punk sensibilities but was conceived on a back porch, the twang is unescapable but when the band twirls into a slide guitar romp like on “Kiss It” you won’t be trying to classify them as county for long. They sound like a 70s arena rock band on “9 to 5” and prove they can tie their melodic songs to their aggressiveness. They channel a little Ryan Adams on steroids for “Tied” where they practice their sing lyrics/shout chorus technique. One of the most distinguishing things about this group is the sound of lead singer Nate Cook’s vocals, not particularly his singing voice but more his shouting voice. Some singers just sound great when they yell their way through parts of songs, this is one of the big keys to the Foo Fighters’ success. The pedal isn’t always on the throttle though, on “American Man” you’ll find the band slowing it down and embracing what is great about country music. The band works hard on dynamics in their songs and it obviously pays off. They are also putting a fresh spin on the “americana” genre, they aren’t the first to do it but they are one of many pulling it in a new direction.

Key Tracks: “Tied” “Kiss It” “9 to 5”

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250 word album review: Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco - Star Wars


Another 4 star album by Wilco…. yawn. Wilco has build such a reputation of greatness that the only thing they could do to surprise their fans is to put out a bad record. “Star Wars” isn’t that bad record. While it isn’t the glistening gem that 2011’s “The Whole Love” was, it is still a great rock record.

America’s best living band lets the guitars loose a little more this time around. The “Kicking Television”-esque “Pickled Ginger” is a prime example. The crystal clear guitar playing on “The Whole Love” is replaced by a dirty and sloppy distortion here. Keep in mind it is very intentionally sloppy sounding. The catchy “Random Name Generator” is another guitar rager as is “More…” for the most part. Tweedy and co. still have their slower tunes mixed in like “You Satellite” and the excellent closer “Magnetized.” The final track on the record is trademark Tweedy, excellent lyrics with just enough instrumentation to carry the song. After the abrasive and shocking instrumental opener “EKG” clocking in at just over a minute (but is still somehow great) “Magnetized” just makes tons of sense at the end of the album and closes it out perfectly.

To summarize: If Wilco puts out a record you should buy it. They continue to prove their greatness even with the absence of radio play for the most part. They still are noteworthy on every level, they simply make really good and relevant records. You can pick some being slightly better than others but overall every single one gets the thumbs up to buy.

Key Tracks: “Random Name Generator” “Magnetized” “Pickled Ginger”

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The Vinyl Corner: Dan Mariska and the Boys Choir – Bummer Songs

Dan Mariska and the Boys Choir - Bummer Songs LP cover

  • Artist: Dan Mariska & The Boys Choir
  • Album: Bummer Songs (2013)
  • Purchased at: Live show at Rendezvous (St. Joseph, MO) for $15

Dan Mariska and his band passed through St. Joe last year, hitting The Rendezvous with touring partners See Through Dresses from Omaha. Dsoedean provided local support for the weekday show that was a rare treat. Two true touring bands that were carrying vinyl with them turned out to be something not worth missing.

Mariska’s vinyl was particularly intriguing. Having nice cover art is one thing but this 12-inch record had a screen-printed jacket on both sides. On a flat pink sleeve the cover image and the back (including the songs) were printed in red and white ink with some nice use of half tones for the shading as well. This easily makes it one of the most distinct record sleeves you’ll see. It is also hand numbered 155/300 letting you know just how exclusive it is. The record itself was on pink vinyl to match the record sleeve of course as well. Also included was a lyric book with all the liner notes completing a well put together album package.

It’s easy for a vinyl geek to get wrapped up in all this as I did but luckily the album is pretty solid as well. It’s pure power-pop with clean humming guitars and hook-laden songs. Big Star and Nada Surf are obvious influences that can be heard all over the album. The bouncy “Get Down with the Frown” is a clear highlight along with the driving 70s-style grove on “Forward to Mess.” The sprawling “Real Life” focuses on lyrics and reaps of regret but the album is called “Bummer Songs” after all. What more would you expect? The album really isn’t a bummer though. The upbeat mix of songs seems to be a pretty solid cure for the blues in all reality.

Rating: B-

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The Vinyl Corner: Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy – Hatchetations

Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy - Hachetations

  • Artist: Carrie Nation & The Speakeasy
  • Album: Hatchetations (2013)
  • Purchased at: Live show at First Ward (St. Joseph, MO) for $15

Carrie Nation & The Speakeasy is a band that works their asses off. They are road warriors living out of vans and chasing a dream at all costs. They’ve become nationally known by simply hitting the road and have managed to build a following. When they stopped at the First Ward House on a Sunday night they actually drew a decent crowd given the circumstances. Sundays are always tough; Sundays in St. Joseph are extremely tough.

As it turns out, what motivated me getting out of the house to see the band on a Sunday was largely the fact that I knew they would be selling vinyl. They didn’t disappoint, carrying two different releases on vinyl. One was on colored but I opted for the newer of the two albums instead. “Hatchetations” had a cool cover and after taking a peek at a friend’s copy they just bought, I decided I needed one as well. As an added bonus I would later find out that the digital download card unlocked a couple extra songs not on the record and a complete split album they did with a band named Cletus Got Shot.

The group is best described as bluegrass but a solid horn section gives them a New Orleans vibe at times. On most songs they show their Split Lip Rayfield influence and succumb to speed bluegrass, which tends to wear thin quickly. The Speakeasy is clearly at their best when sticking to mid-tempos and letting the horns sooth the spaces in the songs. Songs like “Promised Land” hit the speed-grass nail on the head while more jazzy numbers like “At Least It Fits You” give the listener a nice break from the assault.

Rating: C+

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