Album at a glance: Til Willis

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

GunsNRosesLies

  • 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

Stars4.5

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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250 Word Album Review: Joey Kneiser – The Wildness

Joey Kneiser - The Wildness

Stars5

Back in February of 2013 My Morning Jacket’s Jim James released his debut solo record called Regions of Light and Sound. That record was extremely disappointing. Joey Kneiser has just released the record we all wanted and expected from Jim James at that time.

With The Wildness Joey Kneiser has put out a gem, his vocal stylings are similar to Jim James and at times, like on “Every Port in the Storm,” he jams like My Morning Jacket.  Kneiser puts a country tinge on his music and is careful to include some rockers as well. On “Heaven Only Wants Us Once We’re Dead” he shows off his penmanship with his lyrics only sounding better with his sweet bellow. “The Heart Ever Breaking” finds him spitting out a deadpan Tom Petty song, Kneiser even nails Petty’s vocal inflections and of course his sense of melody and hooks. The song sounds like it wouldn’t have been terribly out of place on Damn The Torpedoes back in 1979. “Run Like Hell” and “The Wildness” capture americana music perfectly, with bits of twang paired with guitar riffs and big choruses. The Wildness wins the best lyrics competition with this great roll: “Rock n Roll doesn’t lie / You just don’t wanna know the truth / it loved you more when you were young / before you had so much to lose.”

It’s rare an album clicks instantly. The Wildness is an incredibly smooth listen, the songs flow naturally and there are enough hooks and change-ups on the album to keep it away from monotony.

Key Tracks: “The Wildness” “Heaven Only Wants Us When We’re Dead” “The Heart Ever Breaking” “The Good Ones”

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Album at a glance: The Flood Brothers – Boom Land

The Flood Brothers - Boom Land

These bluesy fuzz rockers from Columbia, Missouri have a great sound. The two-piece band is adorned with distorted guitar picking, noisy slide guitar and driving drum beats to create some loose noise. “Girl I Know” is a slowed down jam that stands out and “Run, Run, Run” is essential listening with it’s almost live, improvised feel. On “Woman of Mine” they lose themselves in a Hendrix-style groove and they lament for old styles in “’41” which is fitting because it’s obviously inspired by old bluesmen. In fact the whole 16 song album reeks of love for electric blues, Chess Records and any Muddy Wolf correlation you wish to draw. If you are looking for an easy comparison, The Flood Brothers and Black Keys obviously share influences, so yes, they sound alike.

Key Track: “Girl I Know”

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Concert Review: Reverend Horton Heat / Unknown Hinson / Nashville Pussy / Lucky Tubb live at Knuckleheads in Kansas City 6/17/16

A tour poster for Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, Nashville Pussy and Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours for spring 2016.

A tour poster for Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, Nashville Pussy and Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours for spring 2016.

It was really as much a carnival as a concert. An adult carnival of course. Knuckleheads is buried deep in the train yards along the Missouri River in Kansas City and it served as a logical spot for such an event to occur. The bands on the bill serve as an interesting combination of people; hillbillies and metalheads joined by their love of live music and PBR.

The trains would coast by throughout the night and get cheers when the whistles blew as they chugged by. The balcony area of the outside portion of Knuckleheads is an excellent place to watch the trains in addition to the bands. For this larger show the side street by the honky tonk bar was barricaded off and filled with tables for overflow from the show, this proved to help the pressure in front of the stage without a doubt. The audience resembled a bike rally in most cases, many had actually driven their motorcycles. It wasn’t uncommon to see a man’s beard longer than a woman’s hair and the majority of the audience would be sporting tattoos. This goes with the crowds of these bands.

Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours would take the stage while the sun was still attempting to set. So if you are seeing this tour, be warned, it will start early. TheTroubadours throwback country set, complete with an open-mouth bass and a steel guitar, would last a half hour and prove to be a solid lead-in for the night. Tubb would hit favorites like “I’m Comin’ Home” “Heard Your Name” and “Sweet Sweet Kisses.” The four piece band would also indulge in some western swing with “Cowtown Boogie” and toward the end of their time pay tribute to Ernest Tubb with a cover of “Thanks A Lot.”

Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours play live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours play live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

How do you follow a twangy set of songs from a band? Bring on a metal band of course. Nashville Pussy took the stage to a roar and quickly got the crowd riled up with a furious version of their anthem “Come On Come On.” The band is a balding rocker in a leather vest in front of a drummer with a long greying beard flanked by two women on bass and lead guitar, making for a pretty interesting stage show. Ruyter Suys, the lead guitarist, would thrash and headband for the entire show, her curly blonde hair and low cut shirt made her a bigger star in the set than lead singer Blaine Carwright. Carwright would howl out favorites like “Pillbilly Blues” “Wrong Side of a Gun” and “Go to Hell” while playing his black flying V guitar. He would even take off his Pantera style cowboy hat and drink a beer out of it at one point. At one point during the cock-rock showcase there would be a ridiculous drum solo, but can’t we agree all drum solos are ridiculous? The show would end the same way most Nashville Pussy sets end, with a raging performance of the crowd favorite “Go Motherfucker Go.”

Nashville Pussy play live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Nashville Pussy play live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Next the roadies would remove a tarp over the large lit letters spelling out “REV” indicating who would take the stage next. You might think Unknown Hinson would be up next but on this tour his set is within the Reverend Horton Heat’s set. The reality is that most people were waiting on the Rev to take the stage the whole night. The crowd would really respond well to lead guitarist and singer Jim Heath’s first picks on his signature guitar. His surfbilly style is very distinct and after over 25 years for the band is easily recognized. Heath can captivate the entire audience with his guitar runs because of his impressively fast fingers and use of distortion and whammy bar. “Psychobilly Freakout” was, as always, a fan favorite with Heath’s awkward vocals added to the largely instrumental song. “Jimbo Song” is always a fan favorite as the crowd can sing along by spelling out the bass player Jimbo Wallace’s name in a song that sounds like it could be for a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

Jim Heath of Reverend Horton Heat plays live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Jim Heath of Reverend Horton Heat plays live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Halfway through the set Heath would introduce Unknown Hinson as a special guest. Reverend Horton Heat would back him as he ran through about 5 of his own songs. These tongue in cheek songs were of course well known by the crowd. He would indulge in some twangy country on “I Ain’t Afraid of Your Husband” then some hilarious balladry for “Your Man Is Gay.” He would leave the stage as the REV would continue their set. They would blast into a strong number from their latest album, titled REV, with “Let Me Teach You How To Eat.” They would also hit that record for the driving rockabilly tune “Smell of Gasoline” and the nonsensical mostly instrumental “Zombie Dumb.”

Unknown Hinson and Reverend Horton Heat play live at Knucklehead's Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Unknown Hinson and Reverend Horton Heat play live at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri on 6/17/16.

Jimbo would introduce Heath by telling his love of country and sliding into a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” as it was given the rockabilly Horton Heat treatment of course. A roaring “400 Bucks” would whip the crowd into more of a frenzy than any other song on the night before Unknown Hinson would make his way to the stage again. Hinson would come out from backstage wearing leather gloves and take them off to grab his guitar, he isn’t quite as good as Heath at playing it but he definitely holds his own. Ernie Locke from the now defunct Kansas City band Tenderloin would also come out to play harp as a special guest. As a finally the band and Hinson would jam out on a long version of the Unknown Hinson song “King of Country Western Troubadours.”

A tour poster for Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, Nashville Pussy and Lucky Tubb for spring 2016.

A tour poster for Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, Nashville Pussy and Lucky Tubb for spring 2016.

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