Author Archives: VocalsOnTop

Album at a glance: Clawhammer – Clawhammer

Clawhammer - Clawhammer album cover

Clawhammer’s self-titled album thrives on grittiness and power. The scrape of a washboard, plucks of docile banjo strings and reverb of the guitar fill out these minimalist songs. Each track seems to center around possessive relationships. On the frantic duel female and male vocals on “Chickenscratch” the female antagonist swears independence. “One Good Eye” finds the junkyard sound staying suspicious while the banjo driven “Skillet” finds a gravelly male vocal howling about his desires. Just because it sounds like they are playing instruments they found in an old wood shed doesn’t mean they can’t snap into a groove either, like on they yearning “Lovesick.” “Clawhammer” is a very rigid record but it is by design, the female vocals help smooth things out with a sinister sweetness that will draw you in for more.

Key Track: “Chickenscratch”

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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Album at a glance


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250 Word Classic Album Review: Cracker – Greenland

Cracker - Greenland

Cracker - Greenland gets 5 stars

Cracker’s Greenland is a late career triumph. The band achieved mainstream success early in their career and toyed with returning to the promised land for several albums to no avail. Greenland is where it sounds like they punted that idea and just made a great album that they wanted to make. These 14 songs take you on a journey all the while showing all Cracker’s repertoire along the way.

Simple country strums ornate “Something You Ain’t Got” to start the record off as strong as possible. Even thought the song is a cover, it feels more like a Cracker song than many that the band did write. David Lowery looks back with the calm delivery of “Where Have Those Days Gone” and gets a funky and energetic on “The Riverside.” While guitarist Johnny Hickman doesn’t take lead vocal on any of the songs, he does dominate “Sidi Ifni” with some amazing guitar work making the song sound like a mid-evil sci-fi adventure. “Gimme One More Chance” and “Everybody Gets One Free” are straight up rockers with big sing-along choruses and “Darling We’re Out of Time” and “Fluffy Lucy” are as delicate and fragile as anything the band has ever recorded. The humorous side of Cracker even shines on “I Need Better Friends” and “Everybody Gets One For Free” showing this album has everything.

The disc shows amazing versatility and has some of the strongest songs of the band’s career. “Something You Ain’t Got” is a hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking song to start the record and the same could be said of “Darling We’re Out Of Time” to close it. This album has survived years of repeated spins and still sounds as fresh and good as the first time. That is why Greenland is my favorite Cracker record.

Key Tracks: “Something You Ain’t Got” “Darling We’re Out Of Time” “I Need Better Friends” “Gimme One More Chance”


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The Vinyl Court: Lucero – That Much Further West


Lucero - signed vinyl copy of That Much Further West

  • Artist: Lucero
  • Album: That Much Further West (2003)
  • Purchased at: Lucero Concert (The Crossroads, Kansas City, MO) for $20

As a music fan I do my best to support the artists that I like. Listening to them on Spotify is no way to support a band you love listening to. I found myself at a Lucero concert in Kansas City recently and in front of an expansive merch table. I picked up 3 LPs there by the band, none of which I could find at Best Buy or any record stores. It feels good when you cut the middle man out and hand your money directly to the band, so I did.

Not only did I support Lucero (who tours their ass off to make a living) but I found myself standing at the merch table with lead singer and songwriter Ben Nichols after the show. He was happy to slop his signature on my newly aquired LP jacket cover and snap a picture with my brothers and I. Now I can spin my 180 gram vinyl copy of “That Much Further West” and enjoy the unashamed rocker “Tears Don’t Matter Much” or the delicate “Mine Tonight” or even the powerful prophesying of “Tonight Ain’t Gonna Be Good” and know that my money helped to let a great band make their next record. Best Buy or any other middle man didn’t get a piece of the price tag and that makes the album sound just a little bit better to me.

Rating: B+


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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in Signed!, The Vinyl Court


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VOT Compilation: The Best of… Lucinda Williams

Here is the custom artwork for the 10th Vocals On Top best of compilation, for Lucinda Williams. The songs range from her whole catalog including her latest single off the recently released album “Where The Spirit Meets Bone.”

Fruit: The Best of Lucinda Williams artwork

Fruit: The Best of Lucinda Williams artwork

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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The Vinyl Court: Tom Waits – Frank’s Wild Years

Tom Waits - Franks Wild Years

  • Artist: Tom Waits
  • Album: Frank’s Wild Years (1987)
  • Purchased at: Half Price Books (Independence, MO) for $15

A vinyl record is more personal than a CD or cassette in my opinion; it requires more attention, care and devotion. This inevitably leads to a closer relationship to the album which is a very good thing.

When trolling Half Price Books in Independence after a Royals afternoon game I was shocked to see a Tom Waits album on the front of the rack, not a common sight in the used bin. It was 1987’s Franks Wild Years, the $15 price tag was inconsequential; I owned it the moment I laid my eyes on it. With “Hang On St. Christopher” “Way Down In The Hole” “Temptation” and the beautiful ballads “Innocent When You Dream” and “Yesterday Is Here” it is easily one of Waits’ shining moments and a record I’ve been looking for.

Pulling the record from the sleeve at home would reveal newspaper clippings from a 1987 New York Times live review the original owner probably had seen. Somebody planted these in the jacket because they loved and cared for this record; I owe it to the record to do the same. I’m not sure of its journey in between 1987 and 2014 but you can rest assured it has landed in the right hands.

Rating: B+

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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in The Vinyl Court


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Album at a glance: Whiskey For The Lady – Too Many F Holes

Whiskey For The Lady - Too Many F Holes


Whiskey For The Lady – Too Many F Holes

Bluegrass is a love or hate it thing for most people. It can be unpredictable and enthralling or it can be boring and monotonous. Luckily for Whiskey For The Lady, they tap into an intriguing mix of songs for their album “Too Many F Holes.” As “No Pants Party” and “Catch The Gout” suggest, they have a playful side and that will become even more apparent when you hear “Where’s the A?” Vocal comparisons to Yonder Mountain String Band and Primus are inevitable but never taint any song during the album. Coated with a heavy dose of violin (although calling it a fiddle may be more appropriate) and a loose, junkyard jam band style, the songs keep the record from falling into any ruts it can’t get out of.

Key Track: “Where’s the A?”


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Album at a glance: Paul Collins – Feel The Noise

Paul Collins - Feel The Noise

3 Stars

Paul Collins holds steady with a sound he has had for years with his album Feel The Noise. Collins lets his age show just enough in the songs here to not make it seem like he is just trying to recapture past successes. He blasts out mid-tempo punk with a minimalist approach while keeping a very strong pop sensibility to result in a slight rockabilly result. If Johnny Ramone would have joined the Beach Boys it may have sounded like this.

On “Lonely Girl” the call and answer technique is used to break up the grungy song while on “Reach Out I’ll Be There” it is hard not to think of The Clash’s “London Calling” with the first notes of the song. There is a little bit of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” in “Baby I’m In Love With You” so it is obvious Collins keeps his influences in the forefront. This album feels like an aging rocker acting his age like you’ll hear in an Ian Hunter or Graham Parker record.

Key Track: “Reach Out I’ll Be There”

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


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