All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mobtown Moon - Mobtown Moon

Mobtown Moon - Mobtown Moon
2013, Mobtown Moon

Mobtown Moon is a collective tribute and experiment using Pink Floyd’s classic album Dark Side Of The Moon as its object.  A total of 41 musicians worked together to re-create the album, bringing a range of styles and sounds to the project.  You will hear Bluegrass, rock, jazz, classical, choral styles and even hip-hop on Mobtown Moon.  Award winning writer and musician Sandy Asirvatham and award winning singer/songwriter ellen cherry conceived and produced the project, which takes liberties with the original versions of tunes motivated by the music itself.

Mobtown Moon opens with the sound collage "The City Speaks", using industrial and found sounds o create an uncomfortable cacophony that segues into an acapella intro to "Breathe". "Breathe" is offered to listeners in a sophisticated easy listening rock arrangement. ellen cherry sings with a voice as smooth as silk, and the gently flourishing horns and accordion are nice touches.  "On The Run" is an eclectic mish-mash of sounds, driven by an incessant banjo line. Electronics take over as the song progresses, growing toward a noisy point on the distant horizon that is sensed but not seen. "Time" is rendered in subtle yet slick fashion. The guitar work stands out both for quality and panache, and lead vocalist Andrew Grimm sounds a bit like Colin Hay at times.  

Mobtown Moon approaches "The Great Gig In The Sky" with a chamber music opening, full of passing notes in the depths of the cello's range. This quickly passes into the diffuse instrumental section of the song, highlighted by a warbling vocal and unfocused muse. "Money" rocks and rolls on a hipster bass line and swanky, understated guitar riffs. Grimm is a fair vocal doppelgänger for David Gilmour, and this particular cover goes down like fine wine. 

Pink Floyd gets a low-key hip-hop treatment on "Dream/Counterfeit". The looped arrangement features some wonderfully off-kilter jazz piano work, and Femi The DriFish spits rhymes with an academic grace. "Us And Them" captures the spirit of the original as well as anything on Mobtown Moon. The vocal performance is exquisite with a laid back style and gorgeous vocal coloring and phrasing.  "Any Colour You Like" gets portrayed as an eccentric modern jazz piece. The musicianship here is solid, to say the least, but the piece just doesn't seem to work well in this setting. 

"Brain Damage" continues the jazz infusion, this time as something of a funhouse blue jazz concoction. This works better than the previous effort, but the pacing ultimately undoes the effort in a slow fury of drawling vocal lines. "Eclipse" gets treated as a Pink Floyd cover ala the musical Hair. The group vocal utilized is too relaxed and ends up sounding more like a disinterested junior high choir than an inspired group of musicians. 

Mobtown Moon is a wonderfully complex and delightful take on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon.  Not everything works completely well on the album, but even the tracks that don’t quite break through for the listener have their merits.  The album does get a little jazz heavy for influence at the end.  In a vacuum this is not problematic, but it does overbalance the back end of the album a bit.  Nevertheless, Mobtown Moon I a project worth spending some time on!

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 5)

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BluRum13 - Inverted

BluRum13 – Inverted
2013, BluRum13

BluRum13 is a New York City born and Maryland raised rap artist who plays outside of the proverbial box.  Whether on his own or with his group WaterPower (featuring Keyez, Primo the Cinematic and Resyte Theez); BluRums13 shows a level of creativity in his music that all too often lacking in rap and hip-hop.  Over time, BluRum13 has worked with artists such as US3, Bullfrog, True Ingredients, DJ Vadim, Luke Vibert and DJ Grandtheft, among others.  BluRum13’s latest release, a full-length album entitled Inverted, finds BluRum13 vacillating between blandness and brilliance.

BluRum13 gets the vibe rolling with "Kenetic", a rap anthem dedicated to becoming the best you can be and not allowing anyone to take that away. BluRum13 speaks to sociopolitical history in this number, noting the difference between hip-hop and other musical movements from history. "TLO" is an enjoyable song with wonderfully counter rhythms masking a simple dance beat. The key here is that BluRun13 keeps things simple and lets the cadence of his voice blend with the rhythms of the arrangement. 

"Strivin'" is all about overcoming the culture of violence and bettering yourself. Abstract Rude guests with a vibrant and intelligent delivery that's a breath of fresh air. "Inverted Intro" feels like a throwaway piece, perhaps an unfinished rhythm that BluRum13 likes bit hasn't been able to turn into something else. This segues into "Cereal". A pop/hip-hop number that's catchy enough to transition from house parties to clubs and perhaps even to commercial radio. "All Day" finds BluRum13 extolling the virtues of hip-hop both as an escape from life and a tool for social and personal change. This is terribly catchy, and may represent the best chance for a breakout track on the album. 

"Mash On" keeps up the assault of catchy, rock-influenced hip-hop. BluRum13 spits like a madman in another catchy number you'll have a hard time shaking. "First Signs of Paranoia" is a skit set to music about space aliens. This is an interesting sidebar but the piece really doesn't add anything to album continuity. "Quixotic" finds BluRum13 sinking into a more benign and bland style. This feeling continues through "Venga" and even "Warrior Souls". 

The skit "Rum Matter Master" is more of a collection of samples than any sort of cohesive skit. BluRum13 does set up a nice funky rhythm underneath it all, but the effort is wasted here. "Universal" has a much more vibrant feel, cranking out a macho beat, but losing any hip factor early on by spelling out the title repeatedly. BluRum13 picks up the slack with a whipsaw rhyming style that kicks. "Distortion" has a dreamy, new age hip-hop vibe, while BluRum13 rides a streaming style that as much about filling space as telling a story. There are great elements here, but the song never quite finds balance. BluRum13 closes with the eclectic cacophony of "Still Living", mixing a funhouse Caribbean sound with electro and hip-hop. There's a party atmosphere to the song that's undeniable, but there's also a surprising lack of cohesion. 

BluRum13 hits highs and lows on Inverted, but the musical highs make any lows worth wading through.  It’s interesting that Inverted takes steps to break out of format at times, but BluRum13 sticks to the typical rap album format with uninteresting skits.  BluRum13 has the talent to break the mold here, but stays stuck in the cliché.  Nonetheless, BluRum13 shows definite moments of brilliance here.  Don’t be surprised if one or two tracks from this album break out of the underground and take over the streets.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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NMercer - Crossroads EP

NMercer - Crossroads EP
2013, NMercer

Naomi Mercer was a singer and songwriter without direction or authorial voice.  She found the latter and added rapper to her list of talents after moving to L.A.’s South Central for affordable housing.  Embracing the culture she found herself living in, NMercer’s voice emerged in the form of Emcee and firebrand rapper NMercer.  With a lyrical flow similar to Santigold and MIA, and a sense of humor reminiscent of a rough and raw Meryn Cadell, NMercer makes social dissections and observations in her songs wrought with snark.

NMercer opens with the title track, a low-key rap ruminating on her life direction and possible choices. The song features a quietly catchy chorus and dark electronic grooves with spaces out tendencies. "Steal It" is a post-feminist statement of strength based on the dance floor. It's a solid tune with a quietly powerful groove that will do well in the clubs. "Why U Gotta B So Fine" is whiney, softcore desire set to a beat; too disjointed to establish a groove and too disaffected to really catch on. "DB" is a kiss-off song stitched together from various clichés. There's little pop sensibility, and there's a sir of pose running through the music that's closer to Meryn Cadell folk than hardcore hip-hop. 

The rest of the EP is comprised of live tracks from various clubs. "My Friends" rehashes a 'better get with my friends' philosophy with a decidedly more fight club feel. NMercer acts her way through the process to an apparently unenthused crowd. "Crossroads" doesn't have significant changes from the studio to the love version, except that NMercer is a bit freer with her poetry at times. "Steal It" is similarly unaffected by the transition to live performance. The small crowd is obviously quite into this tune, however. 

"People Talk" is a mediocre diatribe against a man who is not up front with the ladies. There is too much crowd crosstalk during this recording to really get into the vibe, which tells you all you need to know about the song. "Like A White Girl" is bland and unmotivated, but segues into the modern shopping anthem, "Five Finger Discount".   NMercer glorifies shoplifting as an appropriate response to high prices, justifying theft based on the premise that everyone else is doing it. The song is entertaining on one level, but reflects a lack of original thought either lyrically or musically. 

NMercer is intriguing.  There’s real personality in her writing, but there’s also, at times, a cartoonish nature to NMercer’s style on Crossroads that sounds like a pose.  NMercer is going to get as much attention from the novelty music community as she does from the rap/hip-hop community.  Her sense of humor is over the top at times, but is inherent in who she is as an individual and an artist.  Crossroads perhaps find NMercer still staking out the boundaries of her persona and voice as a performer, but it sounds like she’s on the right track.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ron Armstrong - Ready For Ya

Ron Armstrong - Ready For Ya
2013, Self-released

Ron Armstrong has been through the wars.  Playing rock and roll since the mid-1960’s with bands such as The Misfits, Jamul, Little Rock (Joel Sonnier) and the Ron Armstrong Band.  Armstrong’s voice is as eclectic as his writing style, and sampling his catalog of songs can be a dizzying experience.  The work on his latest album, Ready For Ya, is solidly written, full of subtle nuance and occasionally a gentle but insightful humor.

Armstrong kicks things off with "Old Folks Boogie", featuring wicked guitar work and a bantering, light hearted premise. An exotic dancer is on Armstrong's mind in "Oh Suzie", and his rumination is delivered in 60's pop style that is quite enjoyable. "Just Around The Bend" is a song of angst over the future. Hope and fatalism mix with gentle humor over a powerhouse arrangement. It's a great listen with surprising depth. "Fences" laments the privatization of nature, where what's intended to be a relaxing afternoon turns into a confrontation with fences and signs. 

Armstrong issues a bluesy/country invitation in the form of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", done up in classic style. The guitar work is top notch, and every musical detail sounds perfectly crafted. "You Can't Catch Me" is a love song to a car with serious horsepower and smooth lines. It's a fun little number you can dance to. "Movin' To The Country" vamps on loving the country and country music, but not fitting into a marketable niche.  Armstrong digs into the blues for "Little Red Rooster", laying down some nasty guitar licks while singing and growling his way through the vocal. 

"J Marie" rides on a 60's backbeat and classic rhythm and blues guitar sounds. Armstrong sings with heartfelt desire and brings the song to life. "Just Like A Woman" is a well intended ballad that falls flat. The pacing here is painful, and many listeners will move forward before Armstrong is finished. "Listening To Jimmy Reed" is a nice recovery, infusing a little honky-tonk attitude into the process.  This ode to the great performer is a bit gratuitous, but is written and played from the heart. Armstrong closes out with an energetic cover of Reed's "The Sun Is Shining". Armstrong and his band are at their best, closing out on a high note that shakes the foundations of country, rock and old school rhythm and blues.

Ron Armstrong sings with a voice both worn and warmed by age on Ready For Ya.  It’s a musically and lyrically enriching album that digs at the roots of rock, country and blues.  Ready For Ya is a quiet keeper.  It’s not an album you’ll obsess over, but don’t be surprised if you keep getting called back to it from time to time.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Paul McCartney - New

Paul McCartney – New
2013, MPL Music

Paul McCartney.  You know… the former Beatle.  He’s at it again.  His latest album is New, and it’s the most vibrant work out of McCartney since Flowers in the Dirt.  The energy and newness this time around come from McCartney working with a host of producers. The result is a different feel and mojo for each song. 

New launches with "Save Us", an urgent rocker with Wings era flair.  The chorus is pure melodic magic, and in the days of AOR radio would have been a major hit. "Alligator" is a quirky little pop song typical of McCartney. "On My Way To Work" is a brilliant observational love song with a twist. . Written with a swaying feel, McCartney’s subject is obsessed from a distance.  "Queenie Eye" is a silly bit of fun typical of McCartney. 

"Early Days" is a gorgeous reminiscence of the early days with The Beatles. Gone is any sense of fame or stardom, and in its place is the sense of inspiration that got it all started in the first place. "New" sounds like a classic Beatles tune, full of melodic gold and interesting little musical turns. McCartney goes for a decidedly more modern sound on "Appreciate", using a looped electronic arrangement as the bed for as bland and repetitive pop tune that McCartney has ever released. 

"Everybody Out There" hearkens back to McCartney' work with Wings, but with a more urgent feel. It's edgy and dark, but with that singular pop sensibility that stands apart from the crowd. "Hosanna" is an unwieldy yet appealing love ballad that's more speculative than anything else. It's an enjoyable look at McCartney writing in dark timbres. "I Can Bet" is a wonderfully edgy piece of song craft from a man perhaps cajoling a wary love along into something deeper. Te arrangement is at times diffuse and without direction, but the overall effect is stunning. 

"Looking At Her" explores insecurity in the light of beauty in a fashion that most everyone has experienced a least once in their life. The universality of the song is appealing, and the edgy pop sensibility is icing on the cake. "Road" is a story song that is less accessible than the rest of the album, but no less intriguing for that. There's a mix of hope and hopelessness hear that seems disconnected but is so closely sound they are inseparable. McCartney bows with "Scared", a lovely baroque pop ballad full of overcast light. Love and its complications are on display here in minor keys and beautiful reflections.

It's amazing that after all these years that McCartney can still reach into the depths of genius and pull out a surprise. New shows McCartney’s edge and experience, but behind it all is that same simple genius that has driven his success with The Beatles, Wings, and on his own.  The voice perhaps isn’t as strong as it once was, and not everything here works on all levels, but McCartney still retains the alchemy to spin gold out of eight simple notes.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Alan B. Salisbury - Dream And Believe

Alan B. Salisbury – Dream and Believe
2013, Opus One Studios

Alan B. Salisbury is embarking on a career as a children’s author and songwriter in his seventies.  The retired U.S. Army Major-General had a second career as an executive with Sybase.  These days, Salisbury has begun a socially conscious corporation called Opus One Studios, which publishes works and related projects which benefit various causes.  Salisbury’s first book is The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly.  It is the story of Rudolph’s younger brother, who dreams apart of Santa’s reindeer team but struggles with his aerial fears.  Salisbury has written an accompanying theme song for Ranger entitled “Dream and Believe”.

“Dream And Believe” is a feel good Christmas tune about believing in yourself and making your dreams come true. Ranger has to learn to overcome his fears when Santa’s entire team falls ill.  There’s medicine to treat the reindeer, but someone has to fly to get it.  Ranger overcomes his fears the team, and Christmas, are saved.  All of this is plotted out in a classic-style story song that’s solidly written.  Mary Allen is a very capable vocalist who brings the song to life with a light and easy air.

“Dream And Believe” isn’t going to take the place of any Christmas classics.  It’s really more of a secular tune about becoming your best… but it is well written and sends a positive message to children of all ages.  All sales of the song, book or any related merchandise benefit the Antonia Giallourakis Endowment for Art Therapy at the Massachusetts General Children’s Hospital Cancer Center.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more at the Opus One Studios Ranger page.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wildy's World Sunday Singles - October 27, 2013

Laura Trent - Let It Rain

Las Vegas-based singer/songwriter Laura Trent’s new single “Let It Rain” (from her album All On Board) is a forgettable piece of dance pop that makes a point of equating love and fellatio. Trent hollers her way through a ham handed and uncomfortable piece of songwriting. Her voice is intriguing, to say the least, but this is not a single that gets people to take an artist seriously, or at all. (

Rating: 2 Stars (Out of 5)
Milan Butler - My Muse

“My Muse” is a well meant love song with a classic pop and jazz sound. Milan's voice is too stentorian to carry this off, heavy and full of a vibrato more fitting to opera than pop. This performance is more likely to scare listeners off than draw them in, but the songwriting is actually halfway decent. (no link found)

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Krista Detor - Belle of the Ball

Krista Detor turns fairy takes on their head with "Belle of the Ball", a subtle and intricate story song that focuses on the drawbacks of being a princess. This is a brilliant piece of songwriting, and Detor's voice is smooth like velvet. If you’ve yet to be introduced to Detor, you’ll be surprised by just how good she is.  “Belle of the Ball” is the first single from her January 2014 album Flat Earth Diary. (

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

Merritt Whitley 

Kansas City native Merritt Whitley has been singing all her life.  Her recently dropped two-sided single shows many of the influences that brought her this far.  Whitley tackles “Landslide” with an anachronistic but interesting voice.  The song itself is pure cliché, but with some pop/country potential.  Re-record this with a bigger guitar sound and the song will get some interest from radio programmers and fans.  “Beyond Amazing” on the other hand, is a teenage love song about falling in love, full of all the fluff and filler of an adolescent diary.  Whitley shines on the first track, but falters on the second.  (

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Katie Bulley – Chasing

Former Barettas (Toronto) front woman Katie Bulley struck out on her own after four albums with the indie electro pop trio, only to find a completely different musical path.  Her first single as a solo artist, “Chasing”, is a low-fi folk pop charmer featuring Katie on vocals and guitar with a metronome for percussion.  Bulley sings with kittenish charm without become a cartoon caricature.  I’d love to hear this song fleshed out with some more instrumentation, but Bulley is more than charming enough to carry it off on her own. (

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lucy Wainwright-Roche - There's A Last Time For Everything

Lucy Wainwright-Roche - There's A Last Time For Everything
2013, 1-2-3-4-Go!
Lucy Wainwright-Roche’s family line shouldn’t be strange to anyone.  The daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche (The Roches), Lucy’s family also includes aunts Maggie and Terre Roche, Sloan Wainwright, and half-siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright.  Although Lucy started late in the family business of music (she was originally a school teacher in New York City); she is quickly establishing herself as one of the most talented songwriters of the clan. Her 2011 album Lucy showed an artist capable of taking everyday moments and emotions and turning them into works of utter beauty.  On her recently released follow-up album, There’s A Last Time For Everything, Wainwright-Roche picks up right where she left off.
Wainwright-Roche opens with "This Year Will End Again", placing things like success and failure in the light of the cycle of the year. This philosophical exposition is laid bare on the stones of an utterly beautiful, string-laden arrangement.  The listener is caught up in the slow and inexorable build of beauty and meaning. "Seek & Hide" is an exploration of expectations versus reality in light of falling in love. Wainwright-Roche looks at her life through the eyes of an academic philosopher, generating questions more than answers. "Last Time" seeks to mark out the space between never was and always will be when it comes to relationships. It's hard not be blown away by the subtle yet powerful imagery Wainwright-Roche conjures here. The deep arrangements and her singular, lovely voice are additional layers that please the ear, but the songwriting is the thing that drives this experience. 
"Monte Rosa Range" reflects on a non-distinct memory that seems more a pastiche of time than a singular moment. Consider this a still life with moving parts, and consider Lucy Wainwright-Roche a master painter. "Look Busy" is a musical monologue of a friend consoling another in the face of loss. There is a sense of mixed emotions here where friendship and love may intermix, but our protagonist is keeping a careful distance for now. "Canterbury Song" has a quiet energy that is impossible to ignore. There is a love song in here somewhere, but it is buried in a momentary reflection on the past, stories and sparks. All the while, Wainwright-Roche paints with instruments, words and voice a gorgeous tableau. 
"Call Your Girlfriend" is a plaintive suggestion to end a love triangle by one of the points of that triangle. There's a plain spoken honesty here that's compelling, whatever your thoughts on the subject. Wainwright-Roche turns an awkward transition into a moving monologue that could be the centerpiece of an off-Broadway musical. "A Quiet Line" has one of the most unutterably beautiful choruses you'll ever hear, and tracks the history and questions of love in a gentle but vibrant waltz. "The Same" mulls cycles once again, and inability to change amidst the changes that occur around us.  "Take What You're Given" is another monologue that contrasts childhood reflections, complicated thoughts and a quiet hope for redemption. Wainwright-Roche creates gorgeous images with her words; compelling images that haunt your thoughts long after the music has fallen away. There's A Last Time For Everything closes with "Under The Gun", a relationship post mortem built on half truths and misunderstandings. Wainwright-Roche plucks beauty out if heartache like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and sings it in tones of nascent confidence. 
Lucy Wainwright-Roche offers up a magical listening experience on There’s A Last Time For Everything.  Spinning musical webs around highly personal tales of love, loss and the inevitability of change, Wainwright-Roche bares her soul and psyche in subtly unrelenting fashion.  The power of her songwriting comes from simple truths buried in the lines, and the power of the music comes from the little touches; rhythms, counter-rhythms, sounds that seem extraneous but aren’t… the attention to detail on this album is mind-boggling, and every sound, note and rhythm is perfectly placed.  But what’s more, Lucy Wainwright-Roche sells each story without drama and without cliché; she simply tells it like it is in wonderfully poetic and flowing muse.  There’s A Last Time For Everything is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc, but even that might not tell you how good it is.  This is one of those rare heirloom albums that you will carry with you for a lifetime.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
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Friday, October 25, 2013

D.B. Rielly - Cross My Heart + Hope To Die

D.B. Rielly - Cross My Heart + Hope To Die
2013, Shut Up & Play!

D.B. Rielly stormed onto the music scene in 2010 with his debut album Love Potions and Snake Oil, landing on over a dozen “Best Of” lists for the year (including #1 album of the year on the Wildy’s World year-end countdown).  The New York City-based singer/songwriter brings an eclectic mix of country, zydeco, blues and rock and roll to the table, creating vast musical tableaux that serve as the perfect setting for his stories and songs.  Rielly recently dropped his second album, Cross My Heart + Hope To Die.  There is no sophomore jinx here; Rielly’s second album is as compelling as the first and perhaps even moreso.

Rielly gets started with a brilliantly rustic take on Bob Seger's "Turn the Page". There's a desolate beauty in the contrast between the stage and the hours of night where loneliness pervades. Rielly brings this to the fire with a utilitarian vocal style and subtle instrumental layering. "Wrapped Around Your Little Finger" finds Rielly and his band working a vibrant mix of zydeco and country. Sit still if you can.  "Some Day" is a swaying lament, played and sun in the style of Roy Orbison. Rielly handles this with a gentle reserve, channeling Orbison with an eerie precision. 

"Come Hell Or High Water" is one of the most powerfully elemental love songs you will ever hear, and Rielly delivers it in unvarnished fashion. There's a rough beauty here that is stunning. "Moving Mountains" is a song of faith in action built on a gently rolling arrangement. Reilly's band is at their low-key best here; everything is fluid yet full of a vibrant energy. "It's Gonna Be Me" is a bluesy tune with rock attitude.  The guitar work here is alive and kicking, and Rielly brings optimism and humor together in enjoyable fashion. 

"Untie Me" sounds like it could be a John Fogerty tune from the Creedencen Clearwater era. It's a great little number with a wicked backbeat guaranteed to get your hips shaking. "Your Doggin' Fool" is an anachronistic kiss off song that's well hewn and sung with a classic country sound. It's back to zydeco and country for "Roadrunner", with Rielly and his band turning in a bravura performance. Rielly closes with "Fiorchroi (True Heart)", a haunting ballad sung to a departed love one. Without cliché or glitter, Rielly offers a brilliant performance as elemental and lovely as you could imagine. 

After listening to Cross My Heart + Hope To Die, it is difficult to imagine Rielly not ending up on a bunch of year-end lists again.  The album probably dropped a bit late for GRAMMY consideration this year, but Rielly deserves that sort of attention for his work.  Cross My Heart + Hope To Die takes you through emotional depths without the saccharine or overreach common in pop music, but also conveys a level of mastery as a songwriter, performer and vocalist that is rare in any genre.  D.B. Rielly has done it again, and Cross My Heart + Hope To Die is nothing less than a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc!

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jonus Preston - Heaven To Hell

Jonus Preston – Heaven To Hell
2013, Jonus Preston
Jonus Preston is a New York City singer/songwriter with social conscience.  Inspired to set aside the rigidly flexible structure of Jazz by the Sandy Hook tragedy, Preston picked up a guitar and began to sing about the pain this event caused.  Hooked on the singer/songwriter style; Preston continues to record/release songs that show his love for different styles of, and approaches to music.  His current single is “Heaven To Hell”.
“Heaven To Hell” is a syrupy ballad with a rock and roll pedigree and odd lyrical constructs.  Preston’s voice is a pleasant listen, and the arrangement is pleasing to the ear with its sonic depth.  The lyrics dance on the edge of absurdity at times, but aren’t inconsistent with a geeky sort of infatuation.  Preston will be on your radar after you hear “Heaven To Hell”, and it will be curious to see whatever else he might have up his sleeve.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)


Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Consoultant - Hit It Out The Park

The Consoultant - Hit It Out Of The Park
2013, The Consoultant

Selita Boyd is a software consultant by day and a rising pop/R&B star by night.  Plying her wares in the city of Atlanta, The Consoultant can do it all, musically, with a larger than life personality and a healthy dose of wit.  Perhaps the nicest thing about the Consoultant is that her music is family friendly, meaning that everyone from 8 to 80 can get in on the party.  With a new album, Need Someone, coming in February 2014, the Consoultant recently dropped a new baseball themed single entitled “Hit It Out Of The Park”.

Don’t be surprised if you develop a love/hate relationship with this song.  From a writing perspective it’s absolutely derivative and unoriginal.  If you’re familiar with “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, then “Hit It Out Of The Park” is like a chopped version of that song.  To the left, the song is incredibly catchy, and fits in nicely with the 'Jock Jams' set. It's easy to imagine a major league stadium full of fans rocking out to this tune during a pitching change.   Don’t be surprised if The Consoultant gets stuck inside your head with this tune and simply won’t leave.  Of course, there is often an element of this in great pop songs.  You know, the songs you might complain about to your friends, but then you always turn the volume up real high when they come on in the car.

That’s the sort of experience The Consoultant has created here. 

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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R Michael Rhodes - Please Remember Me

R Michael Rhodes - Please Remember Me
2012, R Michael Rhodes

R Michael Rhodes continues to follow the boomerang of his life.  During the 1980’s Rhodes recorded sides in Nashville and had some minor chart success.  The path forward seemed clear until domestic responsibilities collided with his music career.  Rhodes chose the path of love, duty and responsibility and built a life around family.  But as nests began to empty and new pathways began to open, Rhodes found himself once again called by his muse.  Rhodes writes with a straightforward elegance, a pure observational songwriter.  His latest EP, Please Remember Me, is a collection of lamentations over loves lost.

Rhodes leads with the heartfelt duet "You'll Never Know", featuring an undisclosed female vocalist. This is a nice lead track, well written and sung with two voices that complement each other very well. Rhodes himself has an unobtrusive voice, but sings with a sincerity that's appealing. This comes across strongest in "Chasin' Ghosts", the lament of a road warrior who finally realizes he's been searching the wrong path all along. "Where Are You Now" seems a likely follow up after discovering the person at the end of the right path has stopped waiting. The chorus is beautiful in its sadness, and is sung without the dramatic clichés you might expect. 

Rhodes rolls into "A Little Bit Tighter", another son of regret, this time about a childhood romance. This is the lament of a man seeing his schoolboy crush marry someone else, and the perquisite 'what ifs' implied. Rhodes closes out with one final, hopeful lament with "Special Place For Me".  This gentle act of martyrdom is more self-soothing than anything else, and the easy country strains of the arrangement mark the precipice of a long winded goodbye. 

If it is true that songwriters write what they know, then R Michael Rhodes is one of the unluckiest artists you'll hear in 2013. This EP might properly be retooled Lamentations, and that heaviness weighs listeners down in spite of the generally gentle beauty of the music. Fleshing this EP out into a full length album interspersed with some more vibrant material would make it easier for most listeners to consume. As it is Please Remember Me is too inward focused and self-soothing to be of much interest to most listeners, regardless of how well written and how sincere it might be.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

YUCA - Rebuilding The Empire

YUCA - Rebuilding the Fallen Empire
2013, Rising Empire Records

Langley, British Columbia rockers YUCA don’t follow the typical formula for rock and roll success.  High minded and wide open arrangements are the order of the day on their second full-length album Rebuilding The Empire.  The band has a love for all things U2, or so you would gather from their sound, which is at times derivative but very commercial.  Rebuilding The Empire finds lead vocalist Matt Borck stretching his voice to the limits, while the rest of the band struggles to find a sound that includes their innate ethereality and a sense of vitality.

YUCA launches out of the gate with "Skeletal Desires", adding a touch of Latin jazz flair to a hard-driving melodic arrangement with a slinky horn section.  "Melt" is a big, wide open commercial rock song predicated on minimalist verses and a bland arena style chorus. The saving grace of the song is Matt Borck's voice. "Maybe We'll Riot" suffers from its own ambiguity.  An energetic, neo-disco arrangement surrounds lyrics that are more speculative than anything else. "Heavy As A Stone" keeps up the highly refined sound and the almost detached lyrical air that has been evident thus far. The chorus of the song is dressed up on gorgeous vocal triads, but there is a decided lack of conviction in the performance. 

"I'm Alive She Said" is a stadium churner done in the style of U2. Borck has the right sound, and the band presents the right approach, but the energy that turns this from ho hum to rattle and hum never materializes.   "Love" is a big skulking musical monster that tests the edges of Borck's voice. The song is all tension and no resolution, substituting drama for development.  YUCA gets personal on "Where Are My Soldiers At?"  The opening of the song is pretty and stripped down with a misty air, but this quickly resolves into a sort of cookie cutter adult rock arrangement. 

"Anthem Of Need" tries to shake off the distance with an insistent bass-driven rhythm, and YUCA partially succeeds with a memorable chorus. Unfortunately the cookie cutter feel of the songwriting never subsides. "Give Up My Ghost" amps up the energy, but the bland, post adult rock sound continues in what should be a dynamic rock track. YUCA closes with "Sparrow", which starts out as a stripped down, ethereal number. It stays there, bathing a song of support in emotional melancholy. 

YUCA mines the sound of bands such as U2 and Coldplay in trying to put forth their own band persona.  This ethereal, big rock sound is both enjoyable and frustrating as YUCA spends the time on Rebuilding The Empire making musical shadow animals when they should carving out their own niche.  The result is a well meant but hollow and derivative sound.  YUCA knows who they are trying to be, but it doesn’t seem like they know who they are yet.  That being said, there’s very solid musicianship here, and Matt Borck has a voice that can front a big time band. YUCA just needs to find that thing that makes the unique and bring it out in their music.

Rating: 2.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Kelley James - The Pattern Transcending

Kelley James - The Pattern Transcending
2013, Kelley James Music

Kelley James might just be the next icon of modern pop.  Mixing pop, rock, freestyle rap and electronic sounds with old fashioned acoustic guitars, Kelley makes a little bit of music for all tastes and styles.  James has toured with O.A.R., Mike Posner, Shwayze and Joshua Radin and has played a number of high profile gigs over the past five years.  Whether or not you like his style, James is a barometer of the moment, moving from style to style as no barriers exist between them.  Kelley James’ new album, The Pattern Transcending, sounds a bit young lyrically at times, but the infectious tunes are all most people will need to hear to fall for James’ quirky style.

James gets things rolling with the edgy, electro-alternative sounds of "Marinade", a coital daydream with foodie pretensions. "Sucks" is all about missing your favorite person. The simple construct of this song makes it a bit of affable ear candy with radio potential.  "That's My Girl" is a simple celebration of love or lust. The writing here is young, but the sentiments are clear. "Don't Want to Let You Go" features James in a speak/sing navel gazer lamenting the end of a relationship. This one has a whiny feel that weighs on the listener. 

James pulls out a reggae beat for "Stalker", wherein James details all the reasons he's not, but ends up admitting he may be. The lighthearted attempt at humor falls flat, as James goes for a joke that is too easy and obvious. "Secret Lover" laments being in a relationship with a woman who "acts like a dude'. James is left to wonder why she won't call or text the next day.  "Carolina" is a love song to the region, with a hook filled chorus that you can't quite get out of your head. James is at his best here. Don't be surprised of this song ends up as part of a tourism campaign at some point.  "Wonderful Place" has a mellower feel to it, and explores how any place can take on beauty if it’s enjoyed with the right person. 

"The Legend of Rip Venice" is the sort of pop song that makes serious waves. Killer hooks with elements of pop, soul and funk as well as a bit of 1970s flavor make this eminently listenable. "California" is a bit bland and predictable, but James recovers with the reggae jam "This Means War". There's good energy here, and James shows a bit more complexity in his song construction.  The album slips away with a lovely parting shot in the form of "Brother", a gentle ode to friendship; family and making dreams come true. This is a masterful piece of songwriting, both deeply personal and universal all at once.  The chorus does fall into cliché a bit, but it’s a trivial sin in an otherwise memorable song. 

Kelley James is both better and worse than advertised.  The main has a knack for catchy, hook-filled pop songs as well snappy lyrical flows.  Unfortunately he also has a tendency to arrive at some truly awkward lyrical backlogs at times.  These approach laughable status at times, but more often than not they serve merely as a distraction to the catchy pop craft on The Pattern Transcending.  One gets the idea that perhaps James is just trying to be too cute in his wordplay.  Either way, there’s a whole world of potential here.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Jitterbug Vipers - Phoebe's Dream

Jitterbug Vipers - Phoebe's Dream
2013, Jitterbug Vipers

Jitterbug Vipers are an anomaly in the Austin, Texas music scene, reliving the marijuana culture that infused American jazz music in the 1920s and 1930s.  Jitterbug Vipers celebrate both the music and the muse on their debut album, Phoebe’s Dream.  Let by the impressive pipes of Sarah Sharp and the exquisite guitar work of Slim Richey, Jitterbug Vipers take listeners on a whirling ride you won’t soon forget!

Jitterbug Vipers kick off with the title track, a jazz-noir story song about a woman trying to make her own path to heaven. Vocalist Sarah Sharp sounds like a utopian blend of Katherine Walton (Squirrel Nut Zippers) and Brianna Corrigan (late of The Beautiful South).  The dark undertones continue to hold away on "A Viper Just The Same", an ethereal and eloquent piece of jazz that mesmerizes.  Jitterbug Vipers show off their sense of humor on "Stuff It". Full of innuendo and sultry vocals, the song also highlights the sublime instrumental work of Texas' most dangerous guitar player, Slim Richey. "Undecided" is a jaunty little number that ruminates on an answer that never arrives. Part invitation and part interrogation, the song displays Sarah Sharp at her casual best. 

"When You're High" is an old school love song that's sung in dulcet tones. This sort of intimate vocal style has fallen out of fashion, perhaps, but reflects a time when melody, lyrics and the ability to sell a song were all that a vocalist had. "Dangerous" celebrates the talents of guitarist Richey with tongue-in-cheek humor and some fantastic guitar work. The Jitterbug Vipers let down their collective hair with "That Was Just The Sauce Talkin'", a post-amorous letdown that's artfully crafted and ultimately tuneful. This is an amusing tune perhaps unless you're the one it's directed at. "Billie's Blues" gives Sarah Sharp a virtual spotlight to show what she's made of, and she does not disappoint. 

"Viper Moon" is a duet between Sharp and Ricky's dulcet guitar that is not be missed. Each fills the space where the other is not, occasionally overlapping in a sort of coital muse.  Sharp purrs and preens her way through "Trouble" in a kittenish fashion that puts Ann Margaret to shame, and the rest of the Jitterbug Vipers match her measure for measure with a deliciously understated style. Slim Richey goes to town on "Django's Birthday", giving a virtuoso performance. The only thing missing here is a healthy dose of gypsy violin to balance it out. 

Jitterbug Vipers rock it old school on Phoebe’s Dream.  I don’t know if I would call Slim Richey dangerous, but he is certainly one of the finest axe men I have heard in some time.  His slithery electric groove and Sarah Sharp’s hypnotic and sultry voice are the perfect pairing.  The rest of the band, Francie Meaux Jeaux (bass) and Masumi Jones (drums) are killer in instinct and execution.  Phoebe’s Dream might be one of the most fun listening experiences you encounter in 2013.  Jitterbug Vipers aren’t original, per se, but these hep cats are in the real.  Phoebe’s Dream is a Wildy’s World Certified Desert Island Disc.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Escaping Pavement - UpRooted

Escaping Pavement – UpRooted
2013, Escaping Pavement

Escaping Pavement co-lead vocalists Emily Burns and Adam Markowitz met as teenagers at a blues open mic night, and they have not been apart in the ten years since then.  Over time the pair has added Niall Sullivan (bass/backing vox) and Evan Profant (drums/backing vox) to become one of the most dynamic Americana/rock bands out of Detroit, Michigan.  Burns and Markowitz split lead vocal and lead guitar duties, opening up a realm of possibilities with their mix of personal styles.  Escaping Pavement’s debut album, UpRooted, shows a delicious mix of Americana, country and classic rock styles, with two dynamic vocalists giving it all they’ve got.

UpRooted opens with "Burn This Bridge", a solid opening rocker with a bit of muted attitude. Vocalist Emily Burns has glorious pipes, but the vocals are mixed way too high here, giving the ensemble an unbalanced sound.  "Daydream's Haze" is a gently rolling rocker that gets your toes tapping. It's a solid album track that's a comfortable listen. "Here Again" finds Adam Markowitz taking over in a definite 1970's groove ala The Doobie Brothers. The southern rock flavor continues on "Smoke Filled Existence", a guitar driven anthem that would be right at home on an old school AOR format radio station. 

Burns takes the lead on "Part of Goodbye", sounding more than a little like singer Jess Klein.   There's a delicious energy to this blues-infused rocker that will get your toes tapping. "On The Wind" is built around a catchy, extended guitar riff. The path to freedom here is flight in one of the more melodically intriguing songs on the album. Markowitz is out front this time around, and his understated delivery is ideal for the song. "Drive Me to Sadness" finds Markowitz at his best, with a soulful Americana sound ala Darius Rucker. This is the catchiest song on the album, and the one most like to breach the crystal tower of commercial radio. Markowitz and Burns share vocals on "Winter Homecoming", a folk rocker with a Celtic inspired riff at its core.  It feels as if Escaping Pavement is really hiring their stride as the album progresses. The band closes with "4th of July", with Burns out front for a languorous blues rocker that clocks in at nearly five-and-a-half minutes. Burns is on top of her game, and Escaping Pavement is as tight as a band can be. 

Emily Burns and Adam Markowitz make the most of their talents, as well as those of their dynamic rhythm section on UpRooted.  Escaping Pavement really hits their stride about mid-album and never looks back.  The band manages to capture a live aesthetic on UpRooted, giving listeners an insight into the Escaping Pavement’s elemental on-stage feel.  Despite some early production issues, UpRooted will be remembered as one of the best Americana debuts of 2013.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

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