250 word album review: Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains

Colter Wall - Songs of the Plains

Stars4.5

Colter Wall’s pleasing baritone is so soothing and rich it almost feels like an act. This album is filled with vintage cowboy songs from america’s neighbor to the north and the entire album relies heavily on Wall’s vocals alone, finding itself in many acapella moments.

Even though you may question how real these songs are, they pass the ear test; they seem honest and true and the stories are entrancing. The obvious comparison is Mr. Johnny Cash vocally and it isn’t that far off. The subject matter is a little more based in the middle of nowhere geographically but that comparison rings true. On the opener “Plain To See Plainsman” you get ushered into Wall’s world right away and will be captivated to stay until the end of the album to see what he has to say. “Saskatchewan In 1881” is, like all these songs, in such tight character that it is almost hard to believe. This album plays like a well written movie of collected short stories of the pastures on Canada. On the acapella “Wild Dogs” Wall’s voice vibrates to the point of almost being chilling while on “John Beyers (Camaro Song)” you’ll be left dying to see or hear what happens next. He gives just enough information to allow the listener to paint the picture but what happens off screen is up to us.

This powerful true folk western album is fiercely unique. It’s hard to categorize and recon with so it’s probably best if you just sit back and listen. Whether this music is in your wheelhouse or not you really need to hear this album.

Key Tracks: “Plain To See Plainsman” “Saskatchewan In 1881” “John Beyers (Camaro Song”

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Album at a glance: Toward Space – Gently With A Chainsaw

TowardSpaceGentlyWithAChainsaw

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Toward Space is a loose and erratic band that specializes in bluesy romps that stay energetic and unpredictable. The playful sound of this bare bones rock band is closest to punk but you can clearly her the blues backbone on many songs.

Vocalists Seyla Hossaini and David Patton split duties throughout the album creating more of a divide in the songs, this probably prevents any hint of monotony. With the emotional delivery and lively band performances it is far from boring though. It is reminiscent of the Jay Retard singles years as the band plugs and plays on songs like “NERVE” where the erratic music barely stays in check. On the brilliantly titled “Nosferattitude” the band really lets loose with some fuzz rock jams. On the slightly down tempo “Neon Signs” Hossaini delivers some ghostly vocals as the band speed shifts through the song at times locking in to some good grooves.

“Gently With A Chainsaw” is aptly titled as there is little gentle about this, it should be filed more closely under aggression and tension. If you’re looking for some erratic underground punk or garage rock, look no further.

Key Tracks: “Neon Signs” “NERVE”

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250 word album review: Reverend Horton Heat – Whole New Life

ReverendHortonHeatWholeNewLife

 

Stars4

Reverend Horton Heat has always been about revivals and new beginnings and obviously by the title of their new record (“Whole New Life”) not much is changing.

When you dive into the music you’ll find that assumption to be precisely true. The song “Whole New Life” kicks off the record and is a barn burner. The blasting rockabilly number immediately catapults itself into the bands best five songs of all time, a tall task considering this is the groups 12th effort. While the rest of the record can’t hold to that standard, it still is very good. “Hog Tied Woman” is a good rocker that is vintage Heat and “Hate To See You Cry” is a typically good slower change of pace for the album. Not everything is business as usual here though, a permanent piano player is installed here and really helps add to the rockabilly rumble on many songs and there is even a piano solo on the lead single “Whole New Life.” Other high points are the elated “Got It In My Pocket” where the Rev is excited to pop the question and “Don’t Let Go of Me” which clocks in as the slowest song on the record but is still a slow burning winner. The album ends on a cover of the tiredest variety, the world didn’t really need another version of “Viva Las Vegas” but you get one here, it isn’t particularly bad but it is likely the most unoriginal cover imaginable.

The band really cashes in here and shows they are as good as they ever have been, their career has a couple lowlights but this will definitely not go down as one of them.

Key Tracks: “Whole New Life” “Got It In My Pocket” “Don’t Let Go of Me”

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Coming Soon: William Elliott Whitmore with Raye Zaragoza at Record Bar in Kansas City 12/13/18

WHO’S PLAYING?  William Elliott Whitmore (Lee County, Iowa) Raye Zaragoza (New York City)

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William Elliott Whitmore

 

WHAT TO EXPECT? Roots to the core; honesty, compassion and two acoustic songwriters fighting for what they believe.

Everyone knows William Elliott Whitmore hails from Lee County, Iowa. In Lee County they care about the dirt, pride, moonshine and respect among other things. Whitmore pushes all of these agendas in his songs, not because he’s trying to change anybody’s mind, it’s simply because he sings about what he cares about. His career has been filled with albums about his farm and his life mostly stripped down to acoustic guitar or banjo accompaniment only. His latest release (and first for killer record label Bloodshot) is a collection of cover songs that have influenced Whitmore. Among the artists covered are Johnny Cash, Bill Withers and even punk legends Bad Religion. He’ll likely be mixing in a few covers from that effort along with his massive catalog of his own songs.

William Elliott Whitmore sounds like: Howlin’ Wolf, Waylon Jennings and the music you hear about your fifth pull from the jug.

When it comes to Raye Zaragoza you’ll encounter a great compliment to Whitmore in some ways and the opposite in others. Whitmore prides himself on his gruff sound while Zaragoza’s songs are really beautifully constructed and gentle on the ears. Don’t think it’s all fluff though, she has powerful messages hidden behind her siren voice. As a quiet, acoustic performer

Raye Zaragoza sounds like: Hurray For the Riff Raff, Paul Simon and dropping the needle on a record with a glass of wine.

RayeZaragoza

Raye Zaragoza


WHERE IS IT?  The Record Bar (1520 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO)

WHEN IS IT?  Tuesday, December 13th, 2018 7:00 PM doors, $15, 18+

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Tickets are $15… yeah, just $15
  • Whitmore always puts on an intense show
  • You’ll feel like part of something if you go, it’s an event, not just a concert
  • Raye Zaragoza is a sweet voiced siren with a steel trap idealistic heart
  • Both Whitmore and Zaragoza have records they will be selling
  • The Record Bar is a pretty pimpin’ place in it’s new location
  • The Record Bar has some nice beer waiting for you, they also serve food
  • Whitmore is libel to pull out almost any song from his catalog
  • Both artists will have some cool shirts to pick up too, be the first on your block to own one.

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: Rhett Miller – The Messenger

Rhett Miller - The Messenger

Stars3.5

Rhett Miller wanders from his band the Old 97’s occasionally to record some solo records, “The Messenger” is his fifth to be exact. Many frontmen have solo careers that are essentially stripped down and quieter versions of their band, for the most part this isn’t the case for Miller.

While Miller’s solo material doesn’t sonically match his rowdy Texas band’s output sonically, it’s also quite different musically. The arrangements and structures are noticeably different, the Old 97’s have a distinct sound and this is because they follow certain templates. Rhett Miller colors outside those lines on his solo albums and it’s very evident here on songs like “Did I Lose You At I Love You” where there is almost a 60s soul feel. On the opening track “Total Disaster” and later on “I Used To Write In Notebooks” the thumping bass lines are obviously outside o the regular as well. The smooth delivery makes these songs distinct, the experimentation he uses on songs makes them feel less cohesive than his band’s efforts too though. Miller specializes in cross-eyed love songs like “If You Were A Stranger” and “The Human Condition” where he spins a love song on it’s head and finds a weirdly unique perspective to narrate from. His crowning achievement here might well be “Close Most of the Time” where he tells the history of his love life, giving a more personal peek at him than you normally hear.

Overall the album is like most Miller solo records, refreshingly different but a bit of a scattershot of love(ish) songs.

Key Tracks: “Close Most of the Time” “Total Disaster”

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Album at a glance: Reliant Tom – Bad Orange

ReliantTomBadOrange

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Reliant Tom’s electronica fueled “Bad Orange” concentrates on grooves and vocal prowess. With a vocalist that sounds like Shirley Manson drowning in “Kid A” inspired instrumentals that album is definitely unique.

On the opening song “Bad Orange” the duo kicks into an artistic funk groove that bears the weight of the album as it works as a perfect microcosm of what follows. On “Happy Birthday” some PJ Harvey-esque singing once again is backed by ambient keyboards and digital drum sounds that almost sound mathematical. The moody “Divergent” slows things down and lets your mind wander and has less of a push and pull quality that many songs here possess. If you are a fan of keyboards and how songs can be formed around them this could be a great album for you, the songs just seem buried beneath that.

Key Tracks: “Bad Orange”

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250 word album review: GospelbeacH – Another Winter Alive

GospelbeacH - Another Winter Alive

Stars3

GospelbeacH has really tapped into the Laural Canyon vibes for their album “Another Winter Alive.” The folky psyche-pop approach fits right in line with bands like the Fleet Foxes where bands created soundscapes and concentrated on the mood of a song.

The record is cleanly produced and filled with good melody, for the studio side at least. The album is split between studio takes and live cuts right down the middle. The peak is on the studio tracks, at times you’ll think of alt-country leanings like The Jayhawks on songs like “Down South” and other times they harken back to 70s FM rock. It’s hard not to feel the 70s influence of bands like Badfinger and Nick Lowe when you’re listening to the ultimate roadtrip song “Runnin’ Blind” where the band spits lyrics like Tom Petty. The build to the chorus of “Dreamin'” is well constructed and the song really typifies the mood of this record. Sonically the live side of the record is a bit jarring like on “California Steamer” and the band really sounds like a Velvet Undergound disciple on “Out of My Mind.”

The live side stands as it’s own animal, not bad but very different from the flip side. When thought of as two different pieces of work it is easier to take in and they can become complimentary of one another but are never quite in sync.

Key Tracks: “Runnin’ Blind” “Down South”

 

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