Author Archives: VocalsOnTop

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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VOT Cover Story – Deco Auto

Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracey Flowers) on the cover of Tuning Fork Magazine cover for April 2015. The power pop punk trio released their debut full length album "The Curse of Deco Auto" in early 2015.

Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracy Flowers) on the cover of Tuning Fork Magazine cover for April 2015. The power pop punk trio released their debut full length album “The Curse of Deco Auto” in early 2015. Cover Photo by Heather Kirchhoff.

It’s difficult to capture your audience as a band sometimes. This often has little to do with musical talent or how good a band’s songs are. Kansas City’s Deco Auto is a good example of a band that doesn’t have a specific group of fans that they can cater to. Many bands play a defined style of music and have the ability to seek out an audience by playing certain clubs or playing with certain bands. Deco Auto seems to lack this luxury.

“We weren’t really fitting in,” Deco Auto lead singer Steven Garcia says, “we are too pop for punk and too punk for pop. So there are punk bands in town and we don’t really fit in with them very well. We don’t really fit in with the indie-pop thing that is going on here either. That is the curse of Deco Auto” It’s not that the band hasn’t gained any acceptance with either crowd, it’s just that they don’t seem to fit. Calling them pop-punk could be seen in a negative light and Garcia really considers them more of a power-pop band as opposed to that. “We often get pigeonholed as a pop-punk band but a lot of times pop-punk to a lot of people means really fast, snotty, obnoxious music.” Garcia explains. These things really don’t represent what Deco Auto is about.

In 2012 the band had their debut release with the 4 song EP “Past Mistakes and Hauntings” and in early 2015 they have put together their first full-length album with “The Curse of Deco Auto.” The band is largely Garcia’s vision with him being the chief songwriter and playing guitar and providing vocals for most songs. Bassist Tracy Flowers will take vocal duties occasionally and provide a nice changeup on their albums and at their live shows. Drumming for the band is Pat Tomek, of the legendary Kansas City band The Rainmakers. Tomek also recorded and helped produce the bands two releases. “When he plays with us he plays balls out, he goes for it and doesn’t hold anything back. If he has a gig with the Rainmakers we understand that that’s going to take precedence though.” Garcia says. When Tomek can’t make it to a gig Keith Howell of fellow Kansas City band Man Bear can be found filling in.

Deco Auto - The Curse of Deco Auto

The band members have strong pedigrees even beyond their drummer’s notorious history with The Rainmakers. Flowers was in Kansas City band The Straight Ups with former Deco Auto drummer Michelle Bacon. Steven Garcia’s musical history runs pretty deep in the Midwest. He was a founding member of noteworthy bands Armchair Martian and Knee Jerk Reaction, which later became just Knee Jerk. He and another experienced musician with roots in the area, Jon Snodgrass, with him to form Armchair Martian. The band started to get traction and got signed to an independent label but Garcia exited the band when he felt it was going a different direction than he wanted to. “I think I had more of a pop vision and he (Snodgrass) had more of an alt-country vision and he was one of the first to be on that wavelength.” Garcia explains. He would move on to form Knee Jerk Reaction and Snodgrass would eventually move on to form Drag The River. “It (Knee Jerk) was my singular vision of upbeat punk rock,” Garcia says, “more melodic and more poppy, no country angle because I don’t have a country angle. That’s just me.” Knee Jerk would go on to get signed to an independent label as well. “It was great back in the 90s and early 2000s.” Garcia recalls, “There were independent labels and they could risk spending a few thousand dollars on an unknown band’s CD.” That band would pave the way for Deco Auto to form after Garcia moved back to the Kansas City area from Colorado.

Garcia doesn’t seem to share the same vision as he did with his former bands that were signed to independent labels now. Deco Auto is more about an outlet for him and having fun playing music. The success of his current band doesn’t touch what his other bands had done but he still focuses on their successes and is content doing so. “We get invited to play cool things like Center of the City and Screenland Armour’s Arts & Crafts Fest two years in a row which is pretty much the highlight of my year.” Garcia says. The Screenland Armour’s Arts & Crafts Fest is a much smaller event but he obviously holds it dear, especially since it is held in North Kansas City, right in his neighborhood. “Center of the City is the coolest DIY punk festival and to be part of it 3 years in a row is really humbling.” he raves.

The distinct style of Deco Auto may not fit in perfectly with Center of the City but the Kansas City festival has embraced them. Garcia’s strong songwriting earns the band much of the praise it gets and opens doors like this. He always related to personable lyrics growing up listening to bands like The Replacements and hopes that audiences of his bands get a similar feeling. “My songwriting has always been me telling stories, even if they are inspired by somebody else it has more of a personal feel.” Garcia says, “In a small way I hope that somebody will hear one of these songs and be like ‘Oh yeah, I know what he’s talking about.’”

The great photos in this article are by local photographer Heather Kirchhoff, find more of her great work and like her facebook page here.

You can buy Deco Auto’s latest album “The Curse of Deco Auto” here.

Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracey Flowers) pose for their Tuning Fork cover shoot in the Screenland Amour Arcade in North Kansas City, MO.

Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracy Flowers) pose for their Tuning Fork cover shoot in the Screenland Amour Arcade in North Kansas City, MO. Photo by Heather Kirchhoff.

Album at a glance review of Deco Auto’s “The Curse of Deco Auto:

Some people don’t like pop-punk at all, but how can they resist? Crunchy distorted guitars and hooky choruses? I don’t see anything wrong with that. Deco Auto isn’t for those people. Their first full-length release “The Curse of Deco Auto” hits on all pop-punk cylinders, exactly like you’d expect it to. Guitar riffs stacked on a solid backline make up nearly every song here like the crisp power of “The Introduction” or the ultimate hook laden choruses of “Such A Bother.” The surprising standout here is the espionage of “Deco Stomp,” an instrumental that tips its cap to the surf-rock style The Ventures making it the most distinct track on the album working as a great pallet cleanser. You really know what you are getting from this band, if you think you’ll like it; chances are you will.

Key Track: “Such A Bother”

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Posted by on May 19, 2015 in VOT Editorial


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