250 Word album review: Beth Bombara – Map & No Direction

Beth Bombara - Map & No Direction

Stars3.5

Beth Bombara is a midwest songstress in the vein of Lucinda Williams and with the delivery of Aimee Mann. Her latest release “Map & No Direction” finds her skillfully weaving her way in and out of soul searching numbers while never shying away from a clean pop sensibility. She seems to be heading in the same direction as one of the bright spots of 2016, Lydia Loveless.

You can call it folk, country, rock… there aren’t many wrong answers here because it is a very present and self aware album not committing to any genre. She shows off her smooth vocals on “Sweet Time” where she flirts with a soul tune reminiscent of the direction Sam Cooke always took songs. The slide guitar work on “I Tried” starts the album off strong with likely its most radio friendly track. On “Map & No Direction” Bombara finds herself being guided through the jangly tune be a violin and on a gentle telling of the Bob Dylan classic “Blind Willie McTell” she finds the necessary gear to burn like is appropriate for the song.

The new era of country-rock songstresses has begun, Bombara is making as good of clean pop friendly songs in this genre as you will find. Her voice fits the songs here nicely and her band is spot on in keeping these songs interesting.

Key Tracks: “Map & No Direction” “Blind Willie McTell” “I Tried”

This album is available for pre-order through PledgeMusic Here. It is set to be released March 4th, 2017.

Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album at a glance: Here’s To The Life! – Eternal Means Forever

Here's To The Life! - Eternal Means Forever

Here’s To The Life! is among the more prolific artists in the Midwest. This is another EP of strong songs with a little different flavor. Lately Patrick Rivera has started to plug back in and this 4 song EP is fully electric. Here’s To The Life! had always been acoustic punk but now the project is evolving. On this EP the song “Don’t Believe The Hype” could be a mantra for the band as a whole. The songs are typically spitfire lyrics with big hooks, just like you would expect. On “Weezer For Now” it is undeniable that the opening guitar riff is instantly associated with Weezer and the song is the power pop structure much like you’d expect from the mentioned band. “Second Place” wouldn’t even sound all that out of place on a Blink 182 record just showing what Here’s To The Life! does best. This is another solid EP to add to the band’s resume.

Key Track: “Don’t Believe The Hype”

Posted in Album at a glance | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming Soon: Wayne “The Train” Hancock at Knucklehead’s In Kansas City 2/12/17

WHO’S PLAYING?  Wayne “The Train” Hancock (Denton, TX)

Wayne "The Train" Hancock

WHAT TO EXPECT?  The purest of country music and the best western swing that money can pay for…

Wayne “The Train” Hancock like his name would suggest is relentless. He just released his excellent 9th studio album “Slingin’ Rhythm” and in typical Hancock fashion is out on the road promoting it. This album finds him in familiar territory, mixing classic country with a bit of blues and laying on twang so thick it’ll make your soul wear cowboy boots. He sounds bouncy and fresh here at the same time. Songs like “Killed Them Both” spit with anger and vengeance but there are also songs like “Slingin’ Rhythm” and “Two String Boogie” that are oozing with western swing and danceable upon their first notes.

Wayne "The Train" Hancock - Slingin Rhythm

 

 

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

WHEN IS IT?  Sunday, February 12th 2017; 8:00 PM (7:00 doors), $15

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Hancock is a country mainstay, one of only a few people making true, traditional country music.
  • If the gal likes to dance… this is the show.
  • Western swing is a different breed of country, it has boogie for days.
  • It’s in the Midwest, Hancock is king here, he owns the Midwest.
  • There is a train that drives about 75 feet from the stage, how cool would it be to see a guy nicknamed “The Train” there…
  • Hancock has a 5 piece band now, complete with an awesome pedal steel.
  • Don’t like drums? You won’t find any at a Hancock show, his pounding rhythm guitar is all the percussion the songs need.

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

Posted in Coming Soon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Mike Doughty – The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns

Mike Doughty - The Heart Watches While The Brain Burns

Stars4

It’s a bit of a mystery exactly why Mike Doughty’s music is so appealing. It just feels very authentic and original, he’s also a good songwriter but what it just might be is the way he sings.

Not only is his voice very interesting and unique but he uses his vocals as an instrument. Being a true solo artist now he uses all the weapons he has at his disposal. He uses them in different ways too, he crafts a great radio friendly songs on “I Can’t Believe I Found You In That Town” and “Making Me Lay Down.” He also reduces things to a skeletal remain on “Sad Girl Walking In The Rain” but then uses his studio clout to pile things on top of eachother on the song “Brian” creating a sideshow of sounds engulfed in texture. He is also a master of creating mood like on the nervous sounding “Don’t Jerk The Wheel” that makes the listener twitch. Overall he is best at creating great vocal hooks, there are tons of examples here but the lead single from the record “I Can’t Believe I Found You In That Town” is probably the best example of not only how unique Doughty’s music is but how good he is at just writing damn good songs.

His records always get a pass because he doesn’t fall into the pitfalls many songwriters do where their material becomes boring. His off-kilter sense of rhythm and hooks makes all of his albums worthwhile.

Key Tracks: “I Can’t Believe I Found You In That Town” “Making Me Lay Down” “Sad Girl Walking In The Rain”

Posted in 250 word album reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

250 word album review: Todd Snider – Eastside Bulldog

Todd Snider - Eastside Bulldog

Stars2.5

Todd Snider is one of the most entertaining acts around. He puts on brilliant concerts and puts out great records. Lately he has experimented a little and it has had mixed results though. His two records with his supergroup Hard Working Americans were pretty good but undoubtedly had a different mood than much of his previous work. His latest solo album “Eastside Bulldog” is influenced by his time with the supergroup.

The singer/songwriter being irresistibly clever and writing brilliantly funny yet sad songs is not on this record. Snider originally started messing around with a side project known as Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs and put out a digital EP and played some shows. The project was great for that but the project morphing into a full Snider solo album is disappointing. After the brilliant “Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables” it is difficult not to be disappointed here. These are mindless bar songs with shout along chorus’ which are fun but not as good as you’d hope from Snider. “The Funky Tomato” is funny and “Hey Pretty Boy” is entertaining but they are just mindless fun. If you are having a drunken party this might be a good album to put on, the music is good and the vibe is extremely positive. Even the fighting song “Enough is Enough” is realistically drenched in a good time.

This is a good thing to exist for Snider fans but there simply isn’t very deep content here. This seems like it would have been a great release if it remained a side project.

Key Tracks: “Enough Is Enough” “Bocephus”

Posted in 250 word album reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album at a glance: Hawk – I’m On Fire

Hawk - I'm On Fire

Hawk wears their influences on their sleeve and there is nothing wrong with that. A ton of their sound is inspired by the classic rock roots many musicians have, Hawk just is very direct about them. On “Mother Road” you can hear that they like the Crazy Horse version of Neil Young better than his “solo” releases. The mood the album lives in is similar to the Black Crows, you can hear it on the song “I’m On Fire” most but also throughout the album. On “You & Me” the band stiffens their throttle foot and rocks hard around a nimble bass line. You can hear the classic rock FM radio stations pumping in the veins of this record and it isn’t a bad thing.

Key Track: “Mother Road”

This album is a re-release originally from 2014, Hawk is working on a follow-up record due in 2017 featuring notable guest appearances and a new group of songs.

Posted in Album at a glance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming Soon: Robbie Fulks in Kansas City 2/14/17

 

WHO’S PLAYING?  Robbie Fulks (Chicago, IL)

Robbie Fulks will play Knuclehead's Saloon in Kansas City on 2/14/17

WHAT TO EXPECT?  Classic country and engaging storytelling…

Robbie Fulks is a professional and accomplished musician. At 53 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. 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. The Grammy awards on on 2/12/17 so everyone will know if Fulks wins the Grammy’s he is nominated for by the time of the Kansas City show.

Here is the VOCALS ON TOP review of his latest Grammy nominated album “Upland Stories”:

Robbie Fulks - Upland Stories

Robbie Fulks flexes his alt-country versatility on Upland Stories. He can turn up the twang with banjo laden tunes or put together a soothing vocal performance adorned by hesitant acoustic strums.

Possibly the most striking thing about this album is how good of singer Fulks is. On “South Bend Soldiers On” the melody and vocals make you think of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” while “A Miracle” may be his best vocal performance on the album. On songs like “Needed” and “Never Came Home” you can clearly hear how Fulks could have paved the way for current alt-country superstars like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. On the more raunchy “Katy Kay” and “America is a Hard Religion” he plucks tunes out of what could have been contributions to the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, singing them with a yearning vigor. More bluegrass ensues with some snark humor on “Aunt Peg’s New Old Man.” What also helps this album flow so well is his Steve Earle like songwriting where the words flow so smoothly and effortlessly out of his mouth that you feel like any alternate order for them would just sound wrong.

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.

Key Tracks: “America is a Hard Religion” “Needed” “Alabama At Night”

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

WHEN IS IT?  Tuesday, February 14th 2017; 8:00 PM, $15

Here is a link to buy your tickets right NOW.

WHY SHOULD I GO?

  • Fulks is nominated for TWO Grammy’s… GRAMMY’S!
  • He’ll be sure to do his Grammy nominated song “Alabama At Night”
  • Concerts aren’t always the best Valentine’s Day idea but this would be a nice chill evening with a great performer, it’s guarenteed to be moshpit free.
  • Knucklehead’s is one of the best venues in KC, it sits right beside the train tracks
  • Do you really want to stay home on Valentine’s Day?
  • You can pick up Fulks’ GRAMMY NOMINATED album “Upland Stories”.
  • The Grammy’s are two days before, you might be one of the first people to congratulate a Grammy winner in person.
  • Fulks will put on an excellent show, this is a given.

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

Posted in Coming Soon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment