Album at a glance: Red Kate – unamerican activities


If you don’t like punk there is no need to read further. This is unapologetic punk, harsh and rash, everything a good record from the genre should consist of. The anger of “You Don’t Speak For Me” is intentionally transparent and aggressive. “Get Out” has the same edge musically but is actually a Ramones-ish love song. There’s actually a lot about love here like on “She Doesn’t Need Your Love” and “Her Lips Say Yes.” Jangly guitars and crashing cymbals scatter on the record all over songs like the Misfits inspired “Punch The Clock.” “On My Mind” is irresistible to not like with it’s soaring chorus all while Red Kate manages to keep their edge. This is high-strung but not too heavy to sing along to, a good match that will please the hardcore fans and also those who like some pop hooks mixed in.

Key Track: “On My Mind”

  1. You Don’t Speak For Me
  2. Get Out
  3. I Got A Gun
  4. Better
  5. Punch The Clock
  6. Take It Back
  7. You Ought To Know
  8. On My Mind
  9. I Want You
  10. She Doesn’t Need Your Love
  11. Her Lips Say Yes
  12. Waited
  13. Heart of the City
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250 Word album review: Massy Ferguson – Run It Right Into The Wall

Massy Ferguson - Run It Right Into The Wall


This kind of twang you wouldn’t expect to come out of Seattle. The band’s northwest leanings do explain the heavier guitar driven sound though. With the thick, Jay Farrar sounding vocals it would always be difficult for the group to totally escape being associated with country, not that they are particularly trying.

Songs like “Firewater” are just simple, driving bar songs, the kind of tunes that sound intentionally tired and worked over. The guitar crunch on songs like “Makin’ It” leap off the page in contrast to slower songs. There aren’t a lot of unexpected turns and twists throughout the album but the concentration on putting together a concise, consistent effort is apparent. Twangy guitars replace the late 80s garage band crunch on “Sante Fe” where the band possibly shows where their spiritual home is. Songs like “Sante Fe” show their ability to deliver a solid hook and surround it with interesting guitar licks, twangy or not. While the band may owe a tip of the cap to Jay Farrar and Son Volt alongside the Bottle Rockets, they are equally influenced by R.E.M. and the Meat Puppets. Massy Ferguson is a refined and confident band, you can hear it in songs like “Away From The Devil” that they are steady and sure of what they are doing with each step.

This may not be a straight-up americana effort but it is still close. After all, you could take the band out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the band.

Key tracks: “Makin’ It” “Away From The Devil”


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250 word album review: Robert Finley – Age Don’t Mean A Thing

Robert Finley - Age Don't Mean A Thing


Robert Finley is as true of a modern blues artist as you will hear. His debut album “Age Don’t Mean A Thing” was recorded at age 62 and contains splashes of all the musical influences that you would expect.

On the title track he howls like BB King, as he does through most of the record but he provides much more as he samples soul and funk as well. Tracks like “I Just Want To Tell You” are swimming in blues tradition with down and out lyrics but covered in jazzy horns to make it upbeat. His raspy vocals on “Age Don’t Mean A Thing” show he’s more into showing raw emotion that trying to deliver a Teddy Pendergrass style performance. He even gets loose with some funk with help of a solid horn section on “Come On” that sounds like it was transported straight from the 70s. The conflicting ideologies on “Snake In My Grass” and “Is It Possible To Love 2 People” is bothering. The latter is hard to take as sincere because of the former. He is shooting for some smooth soul but at times comes up short.

Overall the record feels rough at times but still has strong moments like the down home soul of “Make It With You” that make the album worth sampling. It seems the blues are where his strengths lie and where he is most sincere. An album more focused around those songs could really be something worth investing in.

Key tracks: “Age Don’t Mean A Thing” “Come On” “Make It With You”

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Album at a glance: Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy – Habit of Being

Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy - Habit of Being

Habit of Being” is the latest release from the shockingly productive Lawrence, Kansas act Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy. The 4 songs only run about 9 minutes but give you a fair sampling of what Willis does. The EP is available on 7-inch vinyl in a few different colors that also unlock a bonus track. The opening title track is a punky romp while “Nobody Calls Me Home” is an obvious tip of the cap to The Replacements despite clocking in at under a minute and the lyrics consisting of nothing more than the title, the Stinson-style riff alone makes it worthwhile though. “When The Snow Melts” is easily the strongest track here ending the EP. A trotting bass line carries the song right into several harmonica parts adorning the slowed down number nicely helping it shine.

Key Track: “When The Snow Melts”

  1. Habit of Being
  2. Happy Birthday To The Bomb
  3. Nobody Calls Me Home
  4. When The Snow Melts
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Album at a glance: The Invisible World – Color / World

The Invisible World - Color / Echo

This 6 song EP from Kansas City’s The Invisible World expands on their debut EP “Welcome To The Invisible World” from 2014. This collection does find them more balanced and confident. The clean sounding production helps songs like the acoustic “Brick By Brick” and fuzz guitar of “Bellamy” thrive. Their strength here however is when they drop their inhibitions and rock out like on “Oughta Know” and “Color/Echo.” The shouting vocals don’t break as the band jams like a Foo Fighters hybrid. Big sounding drums aid these tracks in sounding bigger than some of the slower numbers here may suggest. These rockers countered by a couple almost beach bum sounding songs make for a nice balance for the EP and shows the group is only getting better at this point.

Key Track: “Oughta Know”

  1. Oughta Know
  2. Joliet
  3. Bellamy
  4. Brick By Brick
  5. Color/Echo
  6. The Way
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Vinyl Court – Guns N’ Roses – Lies


  • Artist: Guns N’ Roses
  • Album: Lies (1988)
  • Purchased at: Garage Sale (St. Joseph, Mo) for $1

On the heels of their giant breakthrough debut “Appetite for Destruction” Guns N’ Roses released this double EP to appease fans. It consists of 4 live tracks and 4 new largely acoustic songs. “Patience” became one of the band’s biggest hits and is well known for it’s massive radio play and sappy lyrics. This is long before Axl Rose became the biggest douchebag in rock history and the EP is actually not bad. Sure “Appetite” is better but it has that AC/DC’s “Back In Black” quality of being played so much nobody really ever needs to hear it again.

Other songs like “Used To Love Her” and “One In A Million” are pretty decent if you can ignore the murderous intentions of the first song and the blind, racist hatred contained by the second. Side A has a gem tucked away within its grooves in “Mama Kin.” It’s a cover of an Aerosmith song and it really embodies what was great about Guns N’ Roses for a few months. They were just different enough from bad 80s rock and just similar enough to 70s arena rock to be interesting. Overall this may be the most listenable GN’R release at this point.

For a buck at a yard sale this was an easy pick up. The cover artwork is made to look like a National Enquirer-type magazine to go with the album’s title. It’s ridiculous and over the top but stays consistent with everything that made the band what they were. Even if the album isn’t great it’s a nice addition to your collection.

Rating: C+

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250 Word Album Review: Austin Miller – Engine

Austin Miller - Engine


Austin Miller proves he is around to stay as a songwriter with “Engine.” His release “More Than One Way” was one of the best releases of 2013 with its great songwriting and versatile musicianship and Miller takes all the strongpoints of that album and adds them here making for another beautiful album of songs.

The combination of “Curse The Road” and “Bags at the Door” to start the album are a perfect microcosm of the record. Miller uses his lyrical wizardry and smooth voice to carry songs, he gives them a natural flow that not all songwriters can pull off. On “City Dweller” he explores the familiar topic of love but puts a nice spin on it with the chorus “The city’s not for me/but I have reason to believe you might be.” On “Ghosts of Carolina” Miller sings of battles in trying to moving on while his signature smooth songwriting style carries the song. Carefully placed horns adorn the album and in some cases hit their spot perfectly as the violin does on “Curse The Road.” An uplifting tempo is also something Miller does well, making sad lyrics spin and sound positive, like on “Sittin’ On Top of the World” where he preaches about a breakup isn’t going to get him down.

“Engine” is one of the strongest albums written so far this year, the songs are smooth and hook laden and the lyrics are dead on. There is no reason not to keep this album on repeat for a while, it only gets better with repeated listens.

Key Tracks: “Curse The Road” “Bags at the Door” “Ghosts of Carolina”

You can buy this album very cheap on Austin Miller’s bandcamp page.

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