Author Archives: VocalsOnTop

Album at a glance: A.J. Gaither – Live at The Westport Saloon

A.J. Gaither - Live At The Westport Saloon

A.J. Gaiter is a one-man band that performs shows raw and unashamed, warts and all. His performances make him a perfect candidate for a live record so that is precisely what Little Class Record released for him. Gaither likes to get rowdy like on “Don’t Wanna Go To Heaven” and “Ain’t Enough Whiskey” and work the crowd into a frenzy with his kick drum and fast strumming. He also turns the pace down well as he coasts into the reminiscing “Old Truck” and examines his path on “Faith or Fate.” Once you hear Gaither’s rough backwoods snarl and stories of whiskey, weed and worse, it will click with you why he is on the same record label as Missouri Homegrown.

Key Track: “Faith or Fate”

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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Album at a glance


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Album at a glance: The Souveneers – “Tales of the Ne’er Do Wells”

The Souveneers

The Souveneers are hot on the heels of their debut album “Dance American” and recently left on their first tour. To help fund the tour they released this two-song EP with fresh tracks that weren’t show tested like on their full-length. The two songs show the band’s sound going in a slightly different direction but still contain Jerrad Hardin’s patent smooth vocal swagger and the band’s vintage feel. “The T.V. and The Radio” has a soft, buzzing guitar lick that never gets old and some gentle shout vocals to make it a winner. “From Here To Fan Nan Nan” is a slower song filled with sentiment and some unhurried mandolin picking making for a pair of songs that are locked in and comfortable for a nice sampling from the band.

Key Track: “The T.V. and The Radio”

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Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Album at a glance


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The Vinyl Court: Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

Tears For Fears - Songs From The Big Chair

  • Artist: Tears For Fears
  • Album: Songs From The Big Chair (1985)
  • Purchased at: The Lucky Tiger (St. Joseph, MO) for $7

The 80s had tons and tons of really, really crappy music. The drum sound of 80s songs alone makes my head hurt. There weren’t a ton of mainstream acts that did the bulk of their work in the decade that find their way into my listening rotation much if at all. One notable exception is Tear For Fears.

The two members of the band pictured on the cover, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, provided for a dynamic songwriting duo that embraced the 80s sound and were clearly among the best at crafting it. Everybody knows the mega-hits “Shout” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and they are both here on Tears For Fears’ second release and best album. Woven in are horns and instrumental parts that are reminiscent of soundtrack scores. Also here, hidden on the second side of the album is the song “Head Over Heels” which could be considered better than the two giant hits found here on “Songs From The Big Chair.”

At this point it can be tough to listen through the drums on this record because it makes it sound so dated but this music is clearly a keyframe of its time and place and any eclectic record collection should consider finding room for this album.

Rating: B

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Posted by on November 19, 2014 in The Vinyl Court


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250 Word Album Review: Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Lucinda Williams - Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

Lucinda Williams - Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone gets 4.5 Stars

  • Artist: Lucinda Williams
  • Album: Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (2014)
  • Purchased at: Hastings (St. Joseph, MO) 3xLP vinyl for $34

A triple album is a lot to swallow. Throughout history double albums (as in the CD version of this release) have almost always been met with a lot of skepticism. It is just so easy to pick the strongest half of the songs and think about how good it could have been if just that would have been the song selection.

For Lucinda Williams this is her 11th album since her debut in 1979. It is definitely a career highlight for her. As her record company didn’t want to put out the bulky release she simply decided to put it out herself and now we can all see why she wanted it released a single piece of work. Spread over the three LPs are the big choruses of “Burning Bridges” and “Walk On” as well as the swagger and attitude of “Wrong Number” and the gentle duet with Jakob Dylan, “It’s Gonna Rain.” The 20-song collection is all appropriately capped off by a nearly 10 minute version of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia.”

Williams is hitting on all cylinders here, her age and maturity shine through but she still has enough angst left to keep the album from dragging. For a songwriter this good, if she says she has two albums worth of material, that is exactly what I want to hear. No less.

Key Tracks: “West Memphis” “It’s Gonna Rain” “Burning Bridges”


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Album at a glance: Tracy Huffman – Pieces

Tracy Huffman - Pieces


Tracy Huffman is one of the most talented hidden gems in the Midwest. He delivers Chuck Berry style guitar riffs like clockwork on his album “Pieces” but it is his lyrics that deliver the knockout punch every time. Whether he is being playful like on “Rockin Jones” and “Pissin’ In The River” or mysterious like on “Jerry” or dealing with heartbreak on “Dark Side of the Road” and “Jealous Boy” or just marred in deep though during “Ain’t Got That Much To Say” he repeatedly hits his mark. “Pieces” is a collection it took a lifetime to build for Huffman and it is all the better because of it.

Key Track: “Ain’t Got That Much To Say”

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Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Local Album Reviews


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Vocals On Top Cover Story: Kilmaat

Here is the cover story from September 2014’s Tuning Fork Magazine, lightly edited and re-purposed for Vocals On Top.

“Metal is the feeling of being an outsider, but still being part of something huge.” comedian and hardcore metal head Brian Posehn famously quoted. When all the outsiders are part of the same thing they suddenly aren’t as solitary anymore. The stature of metal music is nothing frail or vulnerable either. Metal is more than a kind of music; it’s a lifestyle.

St. Joseph’s heaviest band Kilmaat (pronounced Kill-mot) fits right in with the metal lifestyle. The group just released their first album, “The Architect of Human Failure” on August 29th of this year. “This will be the heaviest thing that has ever been put out in St. Joseph,” guitarist Nathan Kight says “and we get to sort of kick start that.” The album is undoubtedly one of the sludgiest, thickest and most metal records you’ll hear come out of the area and the band is proud of that. The town’s metal scene is definitely not flourishing right now with only a handful of bands playing it without falling in with the 98.9 The Rock sound that traps so many. “Todd Cooper and those guys doing Full Power back in the day is the only other really heavy thing that has come from St. Joe.” lead singer William Seay says.

The seeds that became Kilmaat originated from guitarist Nathan Kight and drummer Joseph Moesch when they had a mainly studio project named Caldera. Bassist Brent Furst and his brother and guitarist Aaron Furst would later join as Kilmaat began to take shape. The pieces would finally all fall into place when metal enthusiast William Seay blew the band away with his first audition as a vocalist. “How could you not be in a band where the people love the music like this?” Seay says “Everybody in this band, all five of us, are passionate about music. It’s an obsession for all of us.”

When Aaron Furst first joined the group he was half the age of the band’s drummer but added a vital dynamic to the sound. “We had to slow him down.” Moesch says of Furst’s guitar skills, “I was like “slow down dude, I can’t even count the notes you just played.’” Aaron would add, “When I was 16 I think I didn’t even know a song, I just shredded.” After joining Kilmaat he refined his raw skills to play in the band alongside his brother Brent. “Brent is the mastermind of never forgetting any song we’ve ever played.” Moesch says of the band’s bass player “He’s a walking songbook.” Now the brothers are obviously essential to the group as Moesch elaborates “The Furst brothers have their own riffs and rhythms now with the band collaborating on the sound of it.”

Moesch should know, being the bands drummer is just part of his duties, he also serves as Kilmaat’s man behind the controls and is largely responsible for how professional “The Architect of Human Failure” sounds. From Caldera’s start, he and Kight have spearheaded the band but everything came full circle when Seay joined. The growling vocal singer wasn’t looking to join just any band however. “I was attracted to the progressive and technical elements of the instrumentation but also the attention to just being aggressive.” Seay says.

Kilmaat - The Architect Of Human Failure

The heaviness and aggressiveness can’t be understated; the group even has a 5 string bass and two 7-string guitars to add to their tuned-down sound. “The strings kind of flop around there in some spots” Kight says with a laugh, “Playing a 7th or 8th string is no different than adding toms to a drum set, it just adds range.” Aaron Furst says as he explains why those particular instruments are used. Their sound is still far from mindless rage and playing as fast as they can; “We’re coming out as a metal band and coming out strong but we are also discussing atmospheric passages that we are great at opening up.” Kight says. With the low, growling vocals and the mathematical way this band constructs songs it is easy to see how they don’t fit in with mainstream metal, their sound is much more intellectual and elaborate than that.

Behind the thick guitars, thunderous bass and percussion style drumming you might be shocked to find there is no blood and guts, gore or cursing or even religion prevalent in the lyrics. There is a fair amount of struggle however, the album title “The Architect of Human Failure” tells you a lot about the subject matter they cover. The band name may also give you some insight; if you have heard of the kilmaat you get some good nerd credibility because it is an obscure reference to the 1997 Playstation game PowerSlave. The kilmaat is the insectoid alien race you must defeat in the game. The songs of the new Kilmaat album all tie together and come from a bleak place of struggle. Seay sums it up by saying “Humanity is a germ on a rock ball. If there is a bleak message from Kilmaat, that is it.”

The album was carefully and painstakingly crafted to be up to the high standards of the band. “We’ve been very meticulous on the recording,” Seay says, “we didn’t want anybody else to hear it unless we knew that it was ready to go and we feel the same way about the packaging and artwork.” Local artist Phil Sanders with the help of Stacie Gaston carefully created the cover artwork based on the songs to top off the entire package. “We’ve been so relaxed in this whole process,” Kight says “we’ve had no deadlines or anything like that.” This is the way the album has been able to receive the nurturing it deserves.

The best way to push a new album is to impress on stage and Kilmaat isn’t intimidated by this notion as their live show is carefully planned as well. With a particular set order and each of the songs carefully practiced so they can pull them off without a hitch. Kight sums up the band’s desire to impress when performing by simply saying “We make sure when we walk out on that stage we aren’t going to leave anybody’s jaw attached.”

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in VOT Editorial


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Album at a glance: Andy Frasco & The U.N. – Half A Man

Andy Frasco & The U.N. - Half A Man

Andy Frasco & The U.N. are a flat out good time. Putting a positive spin on things comes second nature to Frasco like on the couch surfer anthem “Smoking Dope n Rock n Roll.” The “Half A Man” album has all out dance party numbers like “Shakin Ain’t A Crime” complete with a call and answer chorus as well as lazy day blues like on “Sunny Day Soldier” and “What Would I Do” that finds Frasco crooning like Rod Stewart. Horns fill much of the album keeping an upbeat jazzy vibe going, never used more effectively than on the erratically energetic “Struggle” where the song sounds like amped up version of Brendan Benson. “Stop Fucking Around” has an ornery tone that just contributes to the humor and fun of this whole album and sums it up nicely.

Key Track: “Struggle”

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in Album at a glance


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