250 word album review: Ike Reilly – Crooked Love

Ike Reilly - Crooked Love

Stars4.5

In the mid and late 60s there was a certain group of musicians fighting for a sound that is hard to define. It was pure rock and roll but also had a sense of self deprecation and swagger all at once. Dylan and Lou Reed pulled it off but it still isn’t common to this day.

Enter Chicagoland’s Ike Reilly 50 years later, you’ll hear some singing organs, squealing guitars and lots of strong blues roots. You’ll also get Reilly’s spitfire lyrics that ultimately give the songs their humility and shameless honesty. On songs like “She Haunts My Hideouts” you’ll find Reilly talk-sing-rapping over a full band going for, as Dylan put it “that thin wild mercury sound.” You’ll find the blues littered all over here too, on “Been Let Down” Reilly gets into a backrooom lounge jam and on the closing “To Die In Her Arms” you’ll find some horns decorating another straight up blues romp. It gets a little political on “Bolt Cutter Again” as Reilly takes on Trumps travel ban head on with his signature storytelling style. The most intoxicating story may be “Clean Blood Blues” though, the track is a catchy, has some hot licks and again the spitfire lyrics with a backhanded sense of humor steal the show.

If you’re familiar with Ike Reilly and his Assassination you’ll love this record, if you’re not familiar it would be hard not to enjoy it as well. It is another great record in a long line of really strong recordings for one of the most underrated artists in the country.

Key Tracks: “Clean Blood Blues” “Bolt Cutter Again” “She Haunts My Hideouts”

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250 word album review: Jack White – Boarding House Reach

Jack White - Boarding House Reach

Stars2

At this point it may be the “cool” thing to do to hate on Jack White. This isn’t that, or at least it isn’t intended to be. His latest solo album just isn’t that interesting of a listen. It’s far from boring as far as music goes but it’s just a very difficult album to get on board with.

Jack White is extremely conscious of his own legacy and it seems like that is painted on everything he does. He is a legend already, an innovator and an amazing songwriter. The lead single “Connected By Love” is a typically strong first single from him, after that it gets sketchy. There is plenty of weirdness and electronic noises here like on “Hypermisophoniac” and “Why Walk The Dog?” but the songwriting is absent. What White has excelled at was writing great songs, here he focuses more on being strange and abstract. This has it’s value in music and it’s obvious that recycling old blues licks isn’t a sustainable career but too much weight is given to some Zappa-style weirdness. There are good songs here though so no fear, it just isn’t a great album through and through. The largely instrumental “Corporation” may be one of his best songs ever and “Ice Station Zebra” has a good groove cutting in and out and holds together as a good song.

Overall the record is random and hard to swallow all at once, there is a lot going on here. Only time will tell if White is simply ahead of the curb here but it just seems like this is White trying to be innovative and sacrificing his fantastic songwriting because of it.

Key Tracks: “Corporation” “Connected By Love”

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250 word album review: Arthur Alexander – One Bar Left

Arthur Alexander - One Bar Left

Stars2.5

Arthur Alexander is a long time musician but this is his debut album under his own name. The former member of The Poppees and Sorrow had many past successes with those bands before moving into the production side of music but now is looking to make a splash once again.

The album “One Bar Left” leaves a lot of questions as it is a shapeshifting album that is difficult to pin down. Alexander’s power-pop background shines through a lot. You can hear the crunch of the guitars and desire for lofty hooks on almost every song. The album is loose and sound like Alexander and company are having lots of fun. On the opening song “One Bar Left” you’ll find a punk approach as guitar licks ring out and the lyrics are spit out as fast as anywhere on the album, even at one point dropping a “wham bam thank you ma’am” during the song. On the tongue in cheek “Wang Dang Doodle” the you’ll hear one of the best hooks here and the song’s sing-along chorus sticks with you. It’s goofy and fun, as much of the record is. On “Mary Lou Mary Lou” you can hear what sounds like some Huey Lewis and the News influence on the very 80s sounding track. There’s a Sam Cooke cover of “Bring It On Home To Me” that is muscled up a bit but still delivered as a bit of a slow jam for a rock record.

The album sounds like a good bar band jamming out for much of it, it’s never imposing and gives you a wide shot of influences all in one place.

Key Tracks: “One Bar Left” “(She Got Me) Wang Dang Doodle”

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Coming Soon: Robbie Fulks and Sarah Shook & The Disarmers in Kansas City 5/10/18

WHO’S PLAYING?  Robbie Fulks (Chicago, IL) Sarah Shook & The Disarmers (Chapel Hill, NC)

FulksShook

 

WHAT TO EXPECT?  Country storytelling about broken hearts and empty bottles…

Robbie Fulks is a professional and accomplished musician. At 54 years old his latest record “Upland Stories” was recently nominated for TWO Grammy’s (Best Folk Album and Best American Roots Song) along with wide critical acclaim last year. Being over 20 years after the release of his first album Fulks is extremely refined and and a renowned stage performer. From his spot on instrumental performance to his alluring storytelling within his songs his shows are consistently enchanting.

Here is some of what VOCALS ON TOP had to say about his latest Grammy nominated album “Upland Stories”: “Good albums have a flow to them and Upland Stories definitely fits the bill. It’s a well balanced record and is rough and smooth in all the right places. If you like storytelling you’re in luck too, the songwriting is the glue that holds this whole thing together.”

Robbie Fulks sounds like: John Prine, Steve Earle, that story you hope you remember to tell everyone at work tomorrow.

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers are about as far from pop country as you can get and still be in the country genre. You can tell by the bile and anger in Shook’s vocals that she isn’t a run of the mill country songstress from music row. On her album “Years” Shook uses her deep voice to punctuate stories of heartbreak and angst. The songs are in a classic dirty country vein, the solos are always pretty, the vocals aren’t always spot on but let’s face it, music is simply better when it is unique. The snarl and attitude of Shook and her ace country band will be well worth showing up early.

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers sounds like: Lucinda Williams, Waylon Jennings, the last drink of the bottle.

WHERE IS IT?  Knucklehead’s Saloon (2715 Rochester, Kansas City MO 64120)

WHEN IS IT?  Thursday, May 10th 2018; 8:00 PM, $12

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Fulks was nominated for TWO Grammy’s… GRAMMY’S!
  • He’ll be sure to do his Grammy nominated song “Alabama At Night”
  • Knucklehead’s is one of the best venues in KC, it sits right beside the train tracks
  • Tickets are $12… yeah, just $12
  • You can pick up Fulks’ GRAMMY NOMINATED album “Upland Stories”.
  • Sarah Shook & The Disarmers are a young and hungry band, tearing it up right now
  • Shook will be selling her latest album “Years”
  • Fulks and Shook are simply a great combo

You should RSVP on facebook to the event so you don’t forget, here is the link: FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

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250 word album review: Whiskey For The Lady – Passing Times

Whiskey For The Lady - Passing Times

Stars4

“Passing Times” is Whiskey For The Lady’s second album and it is distinctly different than their debut. The bluegrass band is four long years removed from their debut album “Too Many F Holes” and sometimes life comes at you hard forcing them to return with a more mature record. The band twice was struck with the tragedy of losing band members and as a tribute they continue to press on and this album exists.

The most obvious tribute here is “Rabbit Hole” the lone song sung by fiddlist Mallory Edson with a raspy tremble, punctuating how personal the song is. Other songs hit on the subject like the title track “Passing Times” sung by lead vocalist Phil Craven. That track builds into a speedy romp which is where the band really excels. Other band members even get vocal shots on “Goddamn Dollars” and “The Curtain” showing the band’s diversity. The band is best when jamming out though, just see the mid-album track “SquareMosh” that busts out of the gate with a screech of “squaremosh!” after being delicately introduced by the near spoken word track “B.F.D.” Other highlights are the funky breakdown jam of “Hail Damage” and the driving, trippy instrumental “Sky Jam.” While the record has several serious moments the group’s sense of humor is still very much in play here, like on “Winning” and the aforementioned “SquareMosh.”

The songs here at times are delivered with a heavy heart but it definitely doesn’t keep “Passing Times” from being a fun listen.

Key Tracks: “Rabbit Hole” “Hail Damage” “SquareMosh”

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Concert Review: Hurray For The Riff Raff / Waxahatchee at The Blue Note in Columbia, MO 4/25/18

Hurray For The Riff Raff and Waxahatchee tour poster 2018

When two heavyweights tour together they hope to pull from eachother’s fan bases. Hurray For The Riff Raff and Waxahatchee also had a strong theme to tie them together, it’s only natural their fans would cling to the other band as well. Both groups possessing strong, female frontwomen made this tour a no brainer.

As the tour drew to a close in Columbia, Missouri on a Wednesday night the two groups with songstress Bedouine in tow made their way into The Blue Note, a classic venue that fit the show perfectly. As the beginning of the set grew closer it became more apparent the crowd was a bit lackluster. The balcony would be closed and even at the show’s peak the floor in front of the stage would be easily navigated. It was a medium sized college town on a Wednesday so it was a bit of a tough sell. The good part is the performers looked very unaffected by it and still put on great shows.

Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Azniv Korkejian of Bedouine pay tribute to Big Star by performing "Thirteen" at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff, Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee and Azniv Korkejian of Bedouine pay tribute to Big Star by performing “Thirteen” at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Bedouine is actually just Azniv Korkejian solo acoustic but her quiet singer/songwriter vibe was the perfect segue into the evening that was about to unfold. Her calm and soft vocals sounded haunting against the echoey theater walls as she plucked her acoustic guitar. He nimble voice navigated lyrically driven songs like “Skyline” and “One of These Days.” As a finale she took on the task of playing a song just for Columbia. It happened to be the 25th anniversary of Big Star’s “Live at Missouri University” live album so Bedouine announced a cover song originally by the band. She then invited Alynda Segarra from Hurray For The Riff Raff and Katie Crutchfield from Waxahatchee to join her for a performance of the gorgeously gentle “Thirteen” in which each singer took a verse. With the three on the stage, shoulder to shoulder with the stage backdrop reading “We’re All In This Together” behind them the show really instantly gelled.

Bedouine setlist from The Blue Note in Columbia, MO 4/25/18

  • You Kill Me
  • Back To You
  • Nice and Quiet
  • Skyline
  • Solitary Daughter
  • Dusty Eyes
  • One of These Days
  • Thirteen (Big Star Cover) with Katie Crutchfield and Alynda Segarra

The quiet hippie-folk of Bedouine would soon be extinguished by Waxahatchee. After the quiet opener of “Recite Remorse” they would pound into the radio worthy “Silver” and the evening would morph into a different animal. Crutchfield would sling out a subtle “Thank you very much, we’re Waxahatchee” right before the grinding guitars of “Silver” would kick in. Her band, that included her sister Allison on keys and guitar, was young and eager. They rocked hard but seemed like they hadn’t spent the stage time the two sisters had, concentrating on hitting all their spots as they locked in with eachother.

The bass led “8 Ball” would prove to be a highlight with it’s traveling thump and slacker rock delivery. They would jam hard on songs like “Never Been Wrong” and “The Dirt” but still left room for several laid back songs like the poetic “Sparks Fly” and “A Little More.” The band would leave the stage after an overall blistering 45 minutes to leave Katie Crutchfield along on stage to play a solo acoustic version of “La Loose.” The band would return to grind out “Under A Rock” before the group would call it a set and let the headliner set up.

Waxahatchee lead singer and guitarist Katie Crutchfield plays live at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Waxahatchee lead singer and guitarist Katie Crutchfield plays live at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Waxahatchee setlist from The Blue Note in Columbia, MO 4/25/18

  • Recite Remorse
  • Silver
  • Poison
  • 8 Ball
  • The Dirt
  • Sparks Fly
  • Never Been Wrong
  • Swan Dive
  • A Little More
  • Coast To Coast
  • No Question
  • Peace and Quiet
  • La Loose (solo acoustic)
  • Under A Rock

Hurray For The Riff Raff came out with a sudden intensity and focus Waxahatchee never possessed. The band were pros. They were locked in from the first note and effortlessly backed the outgoing and strong Alynda Segarra who stole the show. Her powerful vocals were instantly felt. Bedouine and Waxahatchee both have vocalists who use restraint, Hurray For The Riff Raff does not have that. With her eyes laced with gold glitter Segarra put everything into the set, taking a few songs to play guitar but really getting intense when handing the reins to the band and just singing and dancing showing her impressive prowess as a frontwoman.

Segarra’s secret weapon was lead guitarist Jordan Hyde, who was simply torching all evening. His restrained approach visually didn’t match his spot on licks for the songs. On tunes like the driving “Hungry Ghost” this shone through the most. The live version of this song was the studio version on steroids, not just the kind that make you strong but the kind that make you angry. The inspired version would easily steal the show as the best song of the evening. An intense reading of a new song “Kids Who’ll Die” had a punk edge with a strong political tone would be one of few songs to pepper the set not from the band’s brilliant 2017 album “The Navigator.”

Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff leads her band during her set at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Alynda Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff leads her band during her set at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

 

On the jangly reading of “Living In The City” the song was transformed to sound like it was recorded for Bob Dylan’s album “Desire.” A few slower songs carried a heavy message with “Settle” “Life To Save” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” highlighting a intense set. The main set closing “Pa’lante” would punctuate this point well. As to not end the night with a heavy message the band would return to perform a bouncy version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” with a little help form Making Movies’ Enrique Chi on guitar and singing a verse. The line alone “You can’t start a fire without a spark” seemed to make the song fit right in. That line could have easily replaced the giant lettering “We’re All In This Together” behind the stage.

Hurray For The Riff Raff setlist from The Blue Note in Columbia, MO 4/25/18

  • The Navigator
  • Life To Save
  • Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl
  • Hungry Ghost
  • Rican Beach
  • Kids Who’ll Die
  • Lake of Fire
  • Settle
  • Living in the City
  • Pa’lante
    encore break
  • Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover) with Enrique Chi of Making Movies
Hurray For The Riff Raff perform on a rainy Wednesday night at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

Hurray For The Riff Raff perform on a rainy Wednesday night at The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri on 4/25/18.

 

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250 word album review: Here’s To The Life! – Surviving Is My Best Revenge

Here's To The Life! -Surviving Is My Best Revenge

Stars3.5

Here’s To The Life! is now fully amped up and doesn’t spare on the energy. This group of 8 songs is among their strongest, the songs are fun and fiery as they continue to be one of the Midwest’s most distinct sounding pop punk acts.

On the opening “Say It Like You Mean It” the chugging guitar licks set the tone early. Primary lead singer Patrick Rivera’s vocals are one of a kind with his up and down singing that helps give the music some extra bounce. The songs here are of a serious nature but in typical Here’s To The Life! style are portrayed with a wit and playfulness. The tone on numbers like “A Song For You” you get the idea that heartbreak is embraced and accepted. This redemption song finds the antagonist yearning for one more chance with someone but also singing “I don’t know what it is that I want from you,” how representative of true emotions in relationships is that? The honesty is refreshing. The take on The Marvelettes “Mr. Postman” actually blends right in here too. The only thing that sounds outdated are the snail mail references on the track. The pop-punk makeover fits the song well showing there really isn’t that big of a gap between classic R&B and Here’s To The Life! if it’s an amazing song.

It’s a typically loud and energetic affair here with brash guitar licks, thumping bass and drums. It’s just a fun album, repeated listens are a must. Also, the album cover is awesome.

Key Tracks: “A Song For You” “Mr. Postman” “Goodnight, I Think I Mean Goodbye”

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