COMING SOON: Cory Branan to The Riot Room in Kansas City, MO 3/23/17

WHO’S PLAYING?  Cory Brenan (Memphis, TN) also featuring Dead Ven and Tommy Donoho of Dollar Fox

Cory Branan plays The Riot Room in Kansas City on 3/23/17


WHAT TO EXPECT?  One man commandeering your evening with stories of heartbreak, regret and the occasional triumph. All set to the tune of a guitar.

Cory Branan is an outlaw in pedestrian clothes. He shows more versatility than ever before on his new record “Adios” as he navigates through his past trying to figure out how he got where he is now. In the end it’s clear he stands alone, confident and never showing weakness.

On “Imogene” Branan throttles through the most accessible song of his career. It’s well produced and radio-worthy and with Branan’s natural ability to throw great hooks effortlessly it is easy to see how it can be a clear favorite here. He shifts gears with the weird ZZ Top (the most intriguing version of the band) sounding “Walls, MS.” He goes for a straight up anthem with “Yeah, So What” where he shows his ability to mindless rock out. On the “Another Nightmare In America” he shows his teeth in a song that is so shap it sounds like it could have came from Against Me’s catalog. Songs like this just prove Branan is made up of more Replacements than Johnny Cash and that is just fine. On the closing “My Father Was An Accordion Player” you’ll find Branan wandering like he’s in a drunken circus with dark lyrics and sloppy horns to navigate his journey. This being the only song not by Branan on the record but by Memphis songwriter Andy Grooms yet it fits with the madness of this record nicely.

Cory Branan has found a way to carve out his niche among the alt-country world by never sacrificing himself to preconceived notions. His music is unique and it’s clear he calls plays from his own playbook. “Adios” is that much better for its versatility and shows he will be making interesting records for years to come.

“Adios” is available April 7th, 2007. You can preorder here.

Cory Branan - Adios


WHERE IS IT?  The Riot Room (4048 Broadway, Kansas City MO 64111)

WHEN IS IT?  Thursday March 23rd, 2017; 8:00 PM, $12

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.


  • Tickets are $12… so that’s pretty affordable
  • You’ll get a preview of Branan’s great new record, “Adios”
  • You can start your weekend early with an alt-country barn burner of a show
  • The Riot Room is a cool venue, very intimate to see a great songwriter.
  • You can pick up Branan’s hard to find albums at the show
  • The weather is good, get out of the house enjoy it

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: Esmé Patterson – We Were Wild

Esmé Patterson - We Were Wild


Esmé Patterson takes you a little off guard at first. Her music is mellow but there is plenty of interesting guitar play throughout her album “We Were Wild” and the songs  consistently settle into good rocking grooves.

On the album opener “Feel Right” you’ll find Esmé rattling along with a rockabilly style that sounds like it could have been a cover of a lost Buddy Holly tune. On the next track, “No River” you see how powerful Patterson can be. She follows her steady electric guitar strums with a bouncy beat and a big chorus. The message of the chorus on the song of “I’m human” can be taken politically as empowerment or as a submission of everyday life. The sound of a pedal steel opens the most delicate song on the record, “Wantin Ain’t Gettin” and Patterson’s subtly sweet vocal delivery guides you through the song like a sailor being guided to jagged rocks. Emotionally vulnerable moments are in abundance throughout, like on the softly strummed “Yours and Mine” right down to the least softly strummed song here, “Feel Right.”

Many moments on this album are easily relatable only increasing the songs’ accessibility. Patterson certainly has a way with words as she smoothly manipulates them and packs an emotional punch without using too many typewriter keys. This is the kind of album that will likely get looked over by the masses but there is a ton of good material here that is more than worth checking out.

Key Tracks: “No River” “Feel Right” “Wantin Ain’t Gettin”

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Mosh Poets- A Talk with poets Jay Claywell & Lory Lacy

Mosh Poets with Lory Lacy and Jay Claywell Cafe Acoustic poster. Poster by Bret Yager.

“Mosh Poets” Thursday March 9th at The Café Acoustic Concert Hall

By Danny R. Phillips

Author’s note: I wrote this while listening to the MC5

I first met the poet Jay Claywell within the confines of what would become our adopted home base, Paper Moone Books. He was an angry young man, in those early days, with an affinity for Henry Rollins, Hubert Selby, Jr. and the patron saint of angry drunks, Charles Bukowski.

My weapons of choice in those days were Kerouac, black coffee and punk rock. That still rings true to some degree but I have given up poetry for the critic’s squinting eye, while Jay’s approach and practice of poetry has only grown stronger, resolute, and clearer. Journaling at least 250 words a day, every day since his teens, Jay has taken something he enjoyed and turned it into something he must do to survive, a joyful, addictive habit, passing the time in ingenious ways. Getting at the marrow of life, throwing life in your face, showing the perfection and iniquity of men. Jay’s poetry is now and allows has been in your face, fiercely introspective and above all else, nothing but the truth.

Born with Cerebral Palsy (as was I), Jay seems to survive or thrive creatively on the frustration given by CP, taking the limitations of body and expanding his mind, pooling with the colossal stupidity that runs the world today. Nothing is off limits to Claywell as he releases the pressure of his time. In doing so he has managed to create some of the finest poetry I have read anywhere; using his mind and the view of a world that has lost itself. Never afraid, Claywell steps back and takes a good, long hard look at what we have before us and tells all who will listen how he sees it. Jay looks at the world with eyes wide open; seeing everything, all the beauty, all the slime, all the honesty and treachery, wading through the muck, crutches in hand, challenging life to a debate.

I’ve only just met Lory Lacy but her reputation preceded her. Lacy’s deep history in music, along with an impressive vocabulary, made for an interesting and lively conversation. The lead singer of The Royal Absinthe Company says she has nearly seen everything, the joy and absurdity of it all. “I was on The Gong Show once, playing a piccolo in a bikini. California is weird.” Lory’s style and use of a mammoth knowledge of the English language, spreads her all over the musical and literary maps. Taking inspiration from Wagner or Led Zeppelin, opera to heavy metal, arias or “Over the Hills and Far Away,” her words are nearly psychedelic in scope, bees and envy intertwine, strong, vulnerable, spaced out and on the groove. Lacy’s love of the word, the song, every note, every phrase makes for a formative linguistic adversary; goddamn, she would be a great partner in Scrabble.

These two wonderful writers have decided to join forces for “Mosh Poets” at the Café Acoustic Concert Hall located inside the historic D&G (1918 Frederick). It will be a night to empty their souls through words and music, in the process giving something to St. Joseph, unique in its delivery and voice. “We met at the Café Pony Espresso readings I believe,” says Claywell, the host of the monthly Thunderbird Sessions at Unplugged, “Sometimes Lory will get on a roll, really go into outer space and that just knocks me out. It’s just phenomenal.”

“My idea for this is to take my rock and classical backgrounds and use them as a way to deliver my poetry,” said Lacy with a shy look. “I really just want to talk to people and see the impact the poetry has on people whether it be positive or negative; I think we should do things like this, keep taking shots until people have no choice but the say, Hey, there’s something going on here.” Claywell expanded, “I want people to know that there are good writers here, there is a good scene here. I absolutely want to see it grow, for people to join in and use their words to create something impactful, something solid and real.”

Feeding this scene are The Thunderbird Sessions at Unplugged and The First Saturdays Readings at Café Pony Espresso. “Those two groups, those two scenes are cross-pollinating. Going into either one of those readings, you can almost tell who wants to be there and who NEEDS to be there.” While Lacy and Claywell are both lovers of the written word, warriors in the artistic world, kings in the battle to try something different, in one way, they diverge: “Lory likes to watch people, to report on what she sees,” Claywell says, “I just want them to get the hell out of the way.”

Join Jay Claywell and Lory Lacy aka The Mosh Poets

Thursday March 9 2017 @ The Café Acoustic Concert Hall

This is also a book signing for Lacy’s “Virgo Logic,” and Claywell’s “Grey Spaces: Demolitions and Other St. Joe Uprisings”

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Album at a glance: Like Rabbits – The Devil In Your Eyes

Like Rabbits - The Devil in Your Eyes

Like Rabbits doesn’t pull any punches on their debut album. It’s straight forward bar bluegrass. The rustic music (stand-up bass, banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar) is fronted with raspy, whiskey soaked vocals with lyrics to match. Songs like “Keep On Drinking” and “Turpentine Wine” sound as true to life as possible as Like Rabbits is a great drinking band. They get some boogie going on “Kansas City Girl” with some hot Tennessee Three style lead guitar licks but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They shift into a mellow gear a couple times like on “I Want To” showing they are no one trick pony. All in all, it’s great drinking music and that is the true endearing part of “The Devil In Your Eyes.”

Key Track: “Kansas City Girl”

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Up Front with Danny R. Phillips: Ben Constable

By Danny R. Phillips

Ben Constable is many things. A dedicated father, punk rocker, troubadour, friend, singer/songwriter, Giver of bad band names.

Over the years that I have known Ben, we have spent many an hour over Jameson and PBR; like minds and a shared love of the band Bad Religion fueling hours of debates, sometimes arguments but always able to see each other’s side.

One thing that strikes me about Constable as we sit with drinks in the back patio area of Magoon’s during a break in his set is how steadfast his conviction is to the music of his youth. Also with the ideals that loving punk rock instills in some: stand up for your brother, raise your voice against the tide, question authority and the concept of right and wrong, never hold any one down, if you work for it you should get your due. Constable has very particular thoughts on certain things; paying an artist for their work is just one he struck on tonight.

Ben Constable performing live at The Rendezvous in St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Bret Yager.

Ben Constable performing live at The Rendezvous in St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Bret Yager.

“I had a friend say to me “Man, don’t buy the record, I’ll download it.” After a pause, Ben clears his throat. “Man, I want those bands to have that money, I want for them to be able afford to tour so I can see them again.” Drawing from his story vault, he punctuated his point. “I once drove to Texas to buy a t-shirt so they’d have gas money. Being a fan is about dedication. Wanting to buy the record, needing to buy the shirt, dedication, absolutely needed all you can get from a band.”

From his days in the straight ahead punk band Benkirland, to the surf rock/country punk hybrid Jerkface, alongside drummer Brian Shank and singer/guitarist Jesse James (he was also in Spastic Assholes with James), onto his current solo adventure crafting songs of loss and triumph, tragedy and hope. Drawing from the influence of performers like Tim Timebomb, Chuck Ragan, Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie, The Flatliners, Days N’ Daze, and the late Tony Sly, Constable has traded his electric guitar for a Fender 12-string acoustic.

He’s traded amplified bombast for the clear chime of music mixing fully with words of rage and worry. Rage at the political system in America, worry for the music scene in our fair city.

“When it comes to politics, government and, especially the upcoming Presidential election, whether we go with Clinton or Trump, we are screwed. Those people don’t care about people like you and me, the people that need help, that may be struggling, that need a good education system to push them ahead. They (politicians) are out for their selves. We need to find our own way.”

We seemed to agree on one good thing about Trump being elected, the ONLY good thing: Perhaps a Trump Presidency would stoke some anger, throw fuel on the fire of disappointment, sparking an explosion of new, exciting punk rock. It worked when former movie star and California Governor Ronald Reagan was placed in the high office, stirring up an already smoldering scene helping to create hardcore punk.

“Do you think growing older and the changes in styles qualifies your growth as a musician?” I asked, catching a glimpse of our friend Bob, sitting on the bench, listening, a big smile crossing his face. “Well, I am getting older, Constable answered, “and I’ve also matured as a person and a musician. I’m open to more things but I still like what I like. I don’t like KKJO 105.5, I don’t like the stuff that my girlfriend listens to, it’s manufactured bullshit. There’s so much good stuff out there that most people won’t hear because they only listen to the radio. Those people are missing out.”

When I ask Constable if he fit into St. Joe’s music scene, he hesitates. “Oh, I guess I do because I adapt to it. I don’t think I belong here, the west coast, east coast maybe. I play shows here and there, Magoons, The Rendezvous. Filling in a spot if someone can’t make it. I’m playing tonight because Barry (Woodhull, owner of Magoons) asked me to. I adapt and try to cater to the audience I have. Honestly, I may be done here soon. I’m settling down, raising kids. I’m not out trying to get shows; I’m staying home writing song cycles, playing guitar.”

Constable has seen St. Joe music’s heyday; the wonder years gone by when bands like Ramey Memo, The Rogers, Lovebucket, The Waystation and Hooray for Me, roamed Felix Street, packing The Rendezvous with people eager to hear live music, ready to be part of something. Constable believes those days may be gone for good.

Ben Constable performing live at The Rendezvous in St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Bret Yager.

Ben Constable performing live at The Rendezvous in St. Joseph, MO. Photo by Bret Yager.

I asked, in my patented defeated tone, “Do you think there is even a scene left? Is it dead?” His answer didn’t surprise me; “I don’t think it’s dead, it’s hurting right now but not dead.”

“Don’t get me wrong, we have good bands. The Creeps, Scruffy and the Janitors to name a couple; we used to have a thriving scene (in St. Joe), people supporting each other, going out, seeing shows. I just don’t see that anymore. Here’s the thing, it’s important for me to go to shows because I may encounter my next peer that I look up to. I get to talk with them, get to know them and discover their music.” He continued his thought after answering a call, an action he apologized for repeatedly.

“We have a small scene here and it seems like everyone is in a bubble. It’s almost like we’re secluded from the rest of the world, like there’s a wall around St. Joseph. People like John Riha (of DOA Productions) who are trying to change that, to make bands aware of St. Joe. It’s a slow process but at least he’s trying.”

Constable has always tried. Whether he was screaming at the Universe with a ragged voice and boiling blood, trying to bring a friend out of a deep depression by showing love, acceptance and understanding or sitting on the corner with his guitar, Constable is genuine, sometimes intense and always looking for the next song. He’s there to give a leg up or a floor to a traveling band, a dollar to a man on the street or a kind word of encouragement. Constable is what he is: real. And if he leaves this town, he will be sorely missed.

Ben Constable is currently writing and recording a new solo album.

You can find him on facebook or check out the Ben Constable page on Youtube.

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Up Front with Danny R. Phillips: The Creeps

The Creeps next show: Friday February 17 @ Café Acoustic Concert Hall

The Creeps with Act Naturally live Cafe Acoustic 2/17/17 poster

The Creeps/Act Naturally poster designed by Bret Yager

By Danny R. Phillips

Does punk rock have a true place in St. Joseph’s diverse music scene? St. Joe resident purveyors of punk, The Creeps think there is.

On a grey afternoon, Vocals on Top spoke with Creeps lead singer Zachary Thomas and guitarist Chris Mallory ahead of the band’s February 17 show at The Café Acoustic Concert Hall (1918 Frederick). They talked of the musical prospects in our fair city, where the epicenter of a potential punk explosion could most likely be and how the right woman can show you a whole new world.

“I got into punk because of my girlfriend/now wife Clarissa.” Mallory said, “She turned me onto a lot of music.” Her taste in music wasn’t the only thing that got his attention. “She walked around school in a plaid skirt and oxblood Dr. Martens. I followed her around all day just looking at her butt.” Mallory’s draw toward punk was not only a beautiful woman; it could have easily sprung from frustration, alienation brought on by a professional wrestler look-alike ex-Marine stepfather that constantly wore, of all things, a leather fanny pack. “He used to take me to the gym to lift weights, then put me down because I couldn’t. I was a scrawny kid… and I was 8.”

As the band is recording an upcoming album with Tice Thomason, they are poised to bring the live experience of songs like “Suicide Party,” “Undead Hot Rod,” and “Bride of Frankenstein” to glorious life on tape. “We’re planning to do two records; one of our horror punk stuff (possibly to be named “Deadtime Stories”) and one of our random stuff called “Chad Sucks” (the Chad in question here is Creeps superfan Chad Porter),” said Mallory. “We don’t think Chad sucks. Chad Sucks has been his nickname since he was like, 15. He’s a great dude, goes to all our shows; he even got a Phantom Creep on his leg for the band.”

It is great to hear that my favorite St. Joe band is in the process of recording but one question needs an answer: “Why does drummer Alex Long always take his shirt off?” Mallory explained, “He just gets really sweaty. He started taking his clothes off in high school. We were in a band called EIS in high school and he used to play our shows in a mesh see through thong. It wasn’t pretty.” Surely, it was not pretty but punk is never “pretty,” you can save “pretty” for the spandex warriors and butt rockers.

The Creeps performing live

The Creeps performing live

In 2013, The Creeps came to life, as many bands do, out of friendships among like-minded people striving to carve themselves a place in a world that marginalizes them. Thomas began his time in a band the same way many in punk’s history had: with no experience. “I had never played music before I met Chris. I got a bass, learned some songs and we had a band. It just kind of fell together.” Mallory continued, “I had always been in metal bands, pop punk bands (Mallory’s first go with Trevor Phillips was One Headlight High) whatever was popular. I wanted to get back into music after the birth of my son and I really wanted to play punk rock. I wanted to sing and play guitar but I realized I’m retarded and couldn’t do both at the same time.” Bass guitar duties have since been taken over from Thomas by St. Joe music scene mainstay Drew Ellis. “It’s nice just singing but now, I don’t know what to do with my hands,” Thomas said with a laugh.

As for the drummer, Alex Long, the connection with Mallory runs deeper. “Alex’s family actually took me in when I was younger, I learned to play music with Alex, he’s like my brother.” Long brings a versatility and power to the band that allows them to grow sonically. “Alex would be a great session drummer,” Mallory said, “he can come in and play anything. If I’ve got an idea or Zach or Trevor (Phillips, the band’s lead guitarist) has one, we can just start playing and he knows what will work.” Long has won the distinction of being one of St. Joe’s hardest hitting drummers. “It’s weird, “Thomas said, “he doesn’t break sticks but he cracks cymbals, I can’t explain it.”

That brings us to well-traveled guitarist Trevor Phillips. “I’ve known Trevor since high school,” Thomas said. “He used to wear these huge Goth pants and this blonde chili bowl haircut. Everyone called him Mosh because he would come up to you in the hall and hit you, push you, trying to start a mosh pit in the middle of Central. That how I met Trevor, pushing me in the hall.” Mallory continued, “Alex and Trevor were friends so when I started hanging with Alex, Trevor was there.”

And he’s still there, they’re all still there fighting the good fight, forging a place for punk in St. Joe (the most likely physical landing pad for punk being The Rendezvous) and spreading the virtues of horror and mayhem like their heroes The Misfits before them. The Creeps are here; ready to deliver our city into the loving arms of punk rock. It is about fucking time.


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250 word album review: Wayne Hancock – Slingin’ Rhythm

Wayne "The Train" Hancock - Slingin Rhythm


Wayne Hancock is going to give you a constant record every time out, without a doubt. “Slingin’ Rhythm” is no exception as he hammers out classic honky tonk with a virility that suggests he hasn’t been doing this for two decades already.

“Slingin Rhythm” is just downright fun, he takes his standard repertoire and keeps it pretty light and fun here. Even “Killed Them Both” reads as a fun number even though it is exactly as it sounds. The common country theme of catching a cheating women doesn’t end well for her or her back door man here but Hancock spins it with such pride that it is difficult not to view this as a happy tune. On “Two String Boogie” he breaks the fourth wall being very self referential and straight forward. The song is kickin’ it silly talking about breaking strings and keeping the songs going. More humor pops up on “Divorce Me C.O.D.” where Hancock puts forth one of his best vocal performances on the record.

Overall what holds the album together is Hancock’s driving rhythm guitar and the sweet sweet sounds of the humming steel guitar. This album shows what is great about Western Swing and traditional country. It can take on topics that aren’t necessarily the happiest and keep them upbeat with song structure. Hancock is a pro at it and “Slingin’ Rhythm” is great example. This record is a small resurgence for him, not that he has ever made a bad record but it seems this album has more life than some of his past work.

Key tracks: “Killed Them Both” “Slingin’ Rhythm” “Two String Boogie”

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