Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chris O’Leary: “7 Minutes Late” (2019) CD Review

You might know Chris O’Leary from his work with Levon Helm And The Barn Burners, Levon’s blues band, where he sang lead and played harmonica. And for the past decade or so, Chris O’Leary has been releasing albums of his own. His latest, 7 Minutes Late, is a great mix of blues and soul, featuring original music. Joining him on this release are Andrei Koribanics on drums and percussion, Matt Raymond on bass, Peter Hopkinson on guitar, Greg Gumpel on guitar and mandolin, Jeremy Baum on organ and piano, Andy Stahl on tenor saxophone, and Chris Difrancesco on saxophone and clarinet, plus a few guests on certain tracks.

The disc opens with “What The Devil Made Me Do.” A good, steady thumping beat gets things going and gets me excited. Then the song kicks in to become a delicious rhythm and blues tune with a classic style, featuring some nice work on organ and a cool vocal performance. Chris Vitarello joins the group on guitar for this track, and there is a lot of great stuff on guitar. Also, there is a groovy bass line. “When it comes to my heart, baby, now you hold the key/And you jacked that key right down the side of my brand new Mercury.” I really appreciate the twist in those lines. The lyrics also contain a reference to William Congreve, and toward the end a little nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps.” That’s followed by “Your Day Will Come,” which has a cooler, mellower western sound at the start. The lyrics surprised me. Based on the initial vibe, I wasn’t expecting a political song, but its opening lines are “Say anything to get you elected/Tell the people what they want to hear/Divide and separate, play up the hate/Stoke the devil’s fires of fear.” And I am totally on board. I think we can all appreciate the song’s title line, “Your day will come.” Just please, please, please let that day be soon. Our country can’t take much more of this dreadful administration. Chris O’Leary delivers a soulful vocal performance, and I really love those touches on keys. Check out these lines: “Judge a man on the content of his character/Not on the color of his skin/A killer or a crook/You shouldn’t need the good book/To figure out what constitutes sin.” Man, this song really gets its hooks into you, while its power is sort of understated. It features more delicious work on guitar. Peter Kanaras plays guitar on this track.

“Second Time Around” is a groovy blues rock tune with a solid rhythm. I love Chris O’Leary’s delivery of these lines: “So I asked her what’d I do/What did I do?/But I guess I already knew.” Here he is honest with himself, as well as with us. And, hey, everyone wants a second chance at some point, right? But the woman of this tale isn’t buying it. “It’s going to be a cold day in hell, fool, before you get a second time around, a second chance at me,” she says. That’s followed by “She Ain’t Coming Back,” which begins as a delicious back porch raw acoustic blues tune. I immediately love the vibe of this one. And when it kicks in, it becomes a glorious number, with some powerful vocals. And of course I dig that great work on harmonica. This track features an interesting choice of drum work, a march of sorts. And then, when I thought the song couldn’t possibly get any cooler, suddenly we get a fantastic horn section. And with that drum beat, it takes on something of a New Orleans vibe in that section. Oh man, I love this track. The band’s sexy, slow playing is just perfect. The New Orleans vibe is stronger in “Circus Just Left Town,” a tune that is pure fun. I’m waiting for the circus to leave Washington D.C.  Details of Donald Trump’s funeral have been leaked: his body is to be tossed onto a dung cart, which will be pulled by a clown car through the streets of our capital, while “Yakety Sax” plays over and over. Yeah, it promises to be a fun time for all. In the meantime, we have this song to get us dancing and put us in the mood for a celebration.

The album’s title track, “7 Minutes Late,” is a much more serious affair. I particularly like the harmonica work in the second half of the song, during that moody jam. It seems to tell a story itself. “Bones” comes on strong, with a great blues force. This is raw, slow blues, with plenty of good stuff on harmonica and lines like “He got a hole in his soul that you’re never gonna fill” and “You’ll do anything to feel alive.” “Driving Me Crazy” features more delicious New Orleans vibes. I love the horns. And Chris O’Leary employs a loose vocal style that works perfectly with overall feel of this song. This is a fantastic tune. “It looks like we’re going to straight to hell, so mama let me drive. The album then concludes with “Daddy’s Here,” a mellower and moving acoustic number with a soulful vocal performance.

CD Track List
  1. What The Devil Made Me Do
  2. Your Day Will Come
  3. One More Chance At Love
  4. Second Time Around
  5. She Ain’t Coming Back
  6. Circus Just Left Town
  7. 7 Minutes Late
  8. Unbelievable
  9. Bones
  10. Heartbreak Waiting To Happen
  11. Driving Me Crazy
  12. Daddy’s Here
7 Minutes Late was released on January 18, 2019 through American Showplace Music.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Dave Wilson Quartet: “One Night At Chris’” (2019) CD Review

I’ve been a Grateful Dead fan since I was twelve or thirteen. And though the band came to a sudden end nearly twenty-five years ago, their music has continued to thrive, some of the songs becoming almost standards. Lyricist Robert Hunter is reported to have once said that if any Grateful Dead song might become a classic or standard, it would be “Friend Of The Devil.” Seems like he was onto something there. It is certainly the Dead song I’ve heard covered the most, and it’s been performed in several different styles. One Night At Chris’, the new live album by The Dave Wilson Quartet, features a good jazz rendition, and that is the track that sparked my interest in the release. Joining the saxophonist on this album are Kirk Reese on piano, Tony Marino on acoustic bass, and Dan Monaghan on drums. The music here is a mix of covers and original material. It was recorded at Chris’ Jazz CafĂ© in Philadelphia, but you don’t hear all that much from the audience. It seems to be edited in such a way that the crowd is cut from the end of the tracks, with at least three tracks actually fading out.

The disc opens with an original tune, “Ocean Blue,” written by Dave Wilson (on the CD case it is erroneously titled “Ocean Blues”). This track jumps and moves, and features some joyful and solid playing, particularly by Dave Wilson, who seems to have a tremendous amount of energy. We’re a few minutes into the track before he relaxes so that Kirk Reese can lead on piano. That’s followed by “Friend Of The Devil,” which – as I already mentioned – was the track that first got me excited about this release. It’s an interesting rendition. The pace is more in line with the original version from American Beauty, rather than the slowed-down versions the band performed in concert later on. This surprised me. I had fully expected a nice, slow jazz exploration of the song, but we get something exciting and animated, popping and bursting along. It’s an instrumental rendition, obviously, and at first I find myself singing along. But soon this cool jam really takes over, succeeding on its own, apart from Hunter’s lyrics. There is a brief drum solo toward the end. By the way, this isn’t the first time that Dave Wilson has covered the Grateful Dead. On his 2015 release, There Was Never, he delivered a beautiful and energetic rendition of “Cassidy.” The band then does slow things down for a nice take on The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” Dave Wilson’s saxophone delivering the vocal line, then venturing into other territory. This track also features a cool lead on bass, which is when things really start to get interesting. And when the sax returns to that main line, it seems to work even better and sound even prettier. This is a wonderful rendition.

The band gets us moving again with “My Own Prison,” a tune written by Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti, and originally performed by Creed (a band I never cared for). Yes, it is a surprising choice, but it works, and the track features some groovy work on piano. This version is far superior to the original. It moves and breathes, unlike the original, which seems to drag. The Dave Wilson Quartet also delivers a seriously good cover of “God Only Knows,” one of the best Beach Boys songs. This song is so beautiful, and these guys handle it nicely, taking the song into some unusual territory, but never straying too far from its core. The saxophone soars gloriously in this rendition. This is a song that the Dave Wilson Quartet also included on There Was Never. That’s followed by an original tune, “Untitled Modal Tune,” one that moves at a good clip, that bass pushing things along, and features some delicious and impressive stuff on piano, Kirk Reese’s fingers dancing over the keys. And check out that work on drums, particularly during Dave Wilson’s lead on sax, which itself rises and twists and explodes in wonderful ways. Yeah, all four musicians are on top of the world here, and toward the end, this track just comes at you with a delightful force. Listen to those brief drum solos, and the horn blaring, and the piano rushing toward a climax. And yet that isn’t the climax, which is fine, because I don’t really want this one to end, but rather want to see where they will take it next, where it will take us. This is one of my favorite tracks.

So, as I mentioned, the main thing that got me excited about this release was the Grateful Dead cover. But the other track I was particularly eager to hear was the eleven-minute version of “Summertime.” I’ve said it before, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. This is not a mellow rendition, but one that crackles and shakes, with the piano having a whole lot to say here. And the saxophone leads the band right to the rooftops and spires and beyond. A little more than halfway through, there is a drum solo which begins somewhat softly, then gathers force and energy. This isn’t the first time The Dave Wilson Quartet has covered this one. Versions of “Summertime” were included on both There Was Never and My Time. The disc then concludes with an original tune, “Spiral,” which has a different sort of energy, the rhythm propelling it along its path with a joy and determination. This is yet another of my favorite tracks, and it also includes a good drum solo. It fades out, even as the party is clearly continuing.

CD Track List
  1. Ocean Blue
  2. Friend Of The Devil
  3. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
  4. My Own Prison
  5. Biggest Part Of Me
  6. Movin’ On
  7. God Only Knows
  8. Untitled Modal Tune
  9. Summertime
  10. Spiral 
One Night At Chris’ is scheduled to be released on May 27, 2019. By the way, on the CD case spine, the name of the band is listed as “Thew Dave Wilson Quartet,” an odd mistake.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Yale Strom’s Broken Consort: “Shimmering Lights” (2019) CD Review

Happy Hanukkah, everyone! No, it’s not anywhere near Hanukkah yet. And no, I’m not Jewish. But neither of those things matter when listening to the new album from Yale Strom, Shimmering Lights. The music is not only excellent and at times gorgeous, but it’s also needed right now. We are living in a dark time when racism and anti-Semitism are once again on the rise, when one of the two major political parties in this country has essentially become the Nazi Party. We need to reach out to the human qualities that everyone (well, nearly everyone) possesses, and this music does just that. I don’t speak Hebrew or Yiddish, but the disc’s extensive liner notes provide English translations of the lyrics. However, the first time I listened to this album, I didn’t look at those translations. I just let the music itself, including the vocals, and the passion of those vocals, speak to me, and it was a truly moving experience. I recommend it. Yale Strom’s Broken Consort uses quite a wide range of styles in these tracks, and the music, while mostly traditional, feels both fresh and vibrant. The musicians on this album include Yale Strom on violin, Fred Benedetti on acoustic guitar, Sara Caswell on violin, Alexander Greenbaum on cello, Amos Hoffman on oud and electric guitar, Jeff Pekarek on contrabass, David Wallace on viola, and Elizabeth Schwartz on vocals.

The album opens with “Maoz Tzur,” a beautiful piece featuring some absolutely phenomenal and moving playing by Amos Hoffman on oud. There is a nice instrumental section before the vocals come in. Then the strings have a strong and glorious (and at times intense) voice of their own. This track takes us on an intriguing journey, to the point where I was surprised when the vocals came back in. They sort of pulled me back to Earth in a way. That’s followed by “Khanike, Oi, Khanike,” which has a very different style and vibe, more of a folk vibe. It is a playful, totally enjoyable tune, this one driven by the vocals, at least during the first section. Listening to it, I imagine a large room of people listening with me. It feels odd to be alone listening to this track. There is more wonderful work on strings during the instrumental section. At the end, the lyrics are sung in English. “And while we are playing/The candles are burning low/One for each night, they shed a sweet light/To remind us of days long ago.”

“Kita’l Tas” begins with some beautiful and impressive work on violin, and features more incredible playing throughout. It has a somewhat more serious tone. This track has a tremendous power, particularly as it builds toward the end, transporting you to another realm, a more meaningful place, of beauty and devotion. Then “Latkes” has a sweet, pretty sound at the start, a sound that makes me feel good, relaxed. The track takes a turn when the vocals come in, a steady rhythm on strings backing the vocals, slowly building. This section is totally enjoyable, and I can’t help but love the vocals, which have a somewhat playful vibe. But the strings during the instrumental sections are really the stars of this track. There is also a really nice lead on electric guitar. That’s followed by “Azeremos La Merenda,” an intriguing track with different sections. The first time I listened to this album, this track struck me as taking a more serious or somber approach. But after reading the English translation of the lyrics, I have to alter my thoughts on it.

“Beshir Mizmor” is a beautiful instrumental track that works carefully, slowly to draw us in and ease our tensions. This is an original composition by Yale Strom. Then suddenly the strings take over in a strong, almost forceful way, taking the track in a different direction, raising us up. There is cheerful vibe to their playing that I appreciate. Then it eases into another gorgeous section. That is followed by “Akht Kleyne Brider,” which is a delight from its opening. This jazzy tune features some wonderful stuff on guitar, and a cool vocal performance. What a pleasure it is to listen to this track. The excellent, joyful playing is perhaps just what we need to lift us from the dark mire that has taken over the country. “La Fiesta De La Hanukia” features more wonderful work on strings, and is a fun and enjoyable track. That’s followed by “L’Chvod Chanukah.” Right from the start, there is an energy to this song that promises some excitement, and it delivers. I enjoy just letting this track carry me away. It is one of my favorites. Toward the end, the lyrics are sung in English. The disc then concludes with an original tune, “The Fool Over Yonder,” written by Yale Strom and Elizabeth Schwartz. This one has kind of a cool, jazzy vibe from the start, and its lyrics are sung in English. “The world has enough for mankind’s need/But never enough for mankind’s greed/If the link is broken the whole chain breaks/Got to work together or repeat mistakes/Come on, children, come on.”

CD Track List
  1. Maoz Tzur
  2. Khanike, Oi, Khanike
  3. Kita’l Tas
  4. Latkes
  5. Azeremos La Merenda
  6. Beshir Mizmor
  7. Akht Kleyne Brider
  8. La Fiesta De La Hanukia
  9. L’Chvod Chanukah
  10. The Fool Over Yonder
Shimmering Lights is scheduled to be released on CD on June 15, 2019 (though apparently it has been available as an import since last October).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Suzanne Lavine: “Crystal Clear” (2019) CD Review

Suzanne Lavine is a singer and songwriter based in Pennsylvania. Her new release, Crystal Clear, signals her return to music after quite a long absence. This EP contains all original material, written by Suzanne Lavine, who takes some inspiration from some of the 1960s folk-rock bands, and perhaps a bit from the paisley underground bands of the 1980s as well. She has a good group of musicians backing her on this release, including Marc Seligman (whom you might know from Fools On Sunday) on bass, Seth Baer (whom you might know from his work with The Original Sins and The Ben Vaughn Quintet) on drums, and Cliff Hillis (whom you might know from his own solo career) on guitar and keys. Cliff Hillis, Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried provide backing vocals.

The EP opens with “Hangin’ Around,” a cool and interesting tune. There is a bit of a folk feel to it, but with a solid rock style, a good groove, and some nice touches on keys. And of course, the lyrics have a pop feel: “Just hangin’ around in the afternoon/It’s such a cold day, will you be here soon/Just hangin’ around in the afternoon/Waiting for your call, won’t you follow through.” There is a light, kind of breezy, fun vibe to this tune. That’s followed by “Hurry Up And Kiss Me,” which has something of a similar style, a cheerful folk-rock vibe with 1960s influences, a bit of a Byrds thing happening. It is a catchy and sweet tune. “You’re running all the time/I’m asleep by nine/So hurry up and kiss me/Please tell me that you’ll miss me.”

“Crystal Clear,” the EP’s title track, has some delicious, trippy touches. It might at first seem like a sweet-sounding pop song, but the lyrics have something of a bite, which I like. “Can’t explain what I mean/Is this real or just a silly dream/Seems crystal clear/I don’t want you near.” Ah, yup, the person she is addressing seems a bit daft, and at the end she has to repeat “It’s crystal clear/It’s crystal clear.” This is one of my favorite tracks. And it is followed by my other favorite, “Bridges.” I really dig this song’s groove, which is strong from the start. Later, the song returns to this opening bit, which sounds like it could fit into some 1970s detective show, a scene in an alley close to the show’s climax. You know? Anyway, it’s a totally enjoyable song, with some playful work on backing vocals. “Don’t get me wrong/How was I to know you might be gone/For so long.” Then “Comfortable Chair” is a slower pop tune, with a pretty vocal performance. “I often wonder/But it makes no sense/Because we are here/And we’re living in the present tense.” The EP then concludes with “Lucky Charm,” which is also a slower one, an unusual sort of love song. “My eyes are set on you/And the beautiful things you do/You fell into my arms/Now you’re my lucky charm.” It then starts to build, feeling like it might burst into another level, and features some oddly soothing backing vocals toward the end.

CD Track List
  1. Hangin’ Around
  2. Hurry Up And Kiss Me
  3. Crystal Clear
  4. Bridges
  5. Comfortable Chair
  6. Lucky Charm
Crystal Clear was released on May 4, 2019.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Paula Harris: “Speakeasy” (2019) CD Review

The blues can make us feel good, and though all conscious people in this country are currently suffering from some serious blues, this music can help lift us up a bit, particularly when delivered by a powerful female voice. Paula Harris is a vocalist of tremendous power and style, knowing just when to be smooth and when to let it rip. Her new album, Speakeasy, features a lot of original material, though it is full of classic vibes and sounds. Joining the vocalist on this release are Nate Ginsberg on piano, Rich Girard on acoustic bass, and Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on drums, as well as special guests on a few tracks. It is a thoroughly enjoyable album, and a perfect choice to help pull us all out of this country’s bleak and miserable mess, at least for a while.

The disc kicks off with “Nothing Good Happens After Midnight,” and right away this music establishes a wonderful groove. Paula Harris’ vocal approach is at first intimate, even conspiratorial, pulling us in before she then begins to belt out the lyrics. Oh yes, she has us in her hands straight away, and not a one of us wishes to escape. You can tell from her delivery that a whole lot of good stuff is going to happen after midnight. After, before, during, just so long as we stick with this woman. This song was written by Paula Harris and Nate Ginsberg, and features some wonderful stuff on piano by Nate. That’s followed by “I Wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow (For Raising Hell Tonight),” also written by Paula Harris and Nate Ginsberg. A funky, cool bass line gets this playful track off to a great start. “I’m gonna party with my friends/Like the world ain’t going to end/And act like there ain’t no sorrow/Because, baby, that can come tomorrow.”

Then Paula Harris delivers a gorgeous and moving song titled “Haunted,” another original number. And “haunted” is right; I am haunted by her vocal performance here. She is good. “And you’ll be haunted with thoughts of me/Haunted by my memories/Haunted, haunted, haunted/Wait and see.” Yeah, she is sure of herself here, and so she should be. Is there any question but that the man will be thinking of her? And when she sings that she can make it on her own, I have no doubt that that’s true. This is such a great song. “Soul-Sucking Man” is a fun, lively number. And when Paula sings “I know what’s good for me and baby it ain’t you,” I want to dedicate this song from the good people of America to Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party. “And I’m hip to your game/And I know temptation is your middle name.” Christopher “Kid” Anderson plays bongos on this one. “A Mind Of Her Own” is another fun tune, this one written by Scotty Wright. It features some cool stuff on keys. The line “You want to dislocate his head” made me laugh out loud the first time I listened to this album. And these lines strike a strong chord especially these days: “A woman is not a possession/She acts by her free will/And she knows just what to do/When she’s got a need to fill.” The line “Well, baby, those days are dead and gone” is not so certain anymore. This country is taking giant leaps into the terrible past with regards to women’s rights and equality.

There is something sexy and sly about “Something Wicked,” particularly that horn. That’s Bill Ortiz on trumpet. And of course Paula Harris’ vocals are fantastic, so seductive and wonderful. “Black hair and eyes of green/All my thoughts turned obscene.” This song’s title and title line are references to Macbeth, so I love this track even more. And suddenly in the middle, another vocalist comes in, Big Llou Johnson, delivering a strange poetry section that feels like something to be played at the sexiest of Halloween parties. And he ends that section with the line from Macbeth, “Something wicked this way comes.” Delicious! And that trumpet is so bloody cool. This is one of the album’s best tracks. I just completely love it. And they are clearly having a lot of fun with it. That’s followed by “Trouble Maker,” a track that rocks and sways. It comes on strong and doesn’t let up, the piano being the driving force. I love the way Paula delivers certain lines, like “You can’t fall in love without risking a heartbreak” and “Trouble maker, irresistible to me.” Then there is even a bit of scat. Yup, it’s a cool track from beginning to end.

“You Don’t Look A Day Over Fabulous” is a delightful and playful tune. The lines “You don’t look a day over fabulous/And you’ll be beautiful until the day you die” express just exactly the way I feel about my girlfriend. Somehow as she gets older she is becoming even more beautiful. I don’t know how she does it. This track features some delicious work on bass and some wonderful touches on keys. This is a song that makes me smile every time I hear it. “He thinks I’m perfect/I think he’s sweet.” Another delicious groove gets “Do Me Good” going. As bright and cheerful as the sound is, in this one she expresses doubts about her man, about her relationship. Well, based on the sound, which makes me feel optimistic, I think it’s all going to work out just fine. After all, how can things go wrong when you’re dancing and moving to this beat? There is a nice little jam toward the end. The instruments sound like they’re smiling, don’t they? I feel like that bass line is going to buy me a beer. And then Paula belts out some lines. Ah, so nice.

The rest of the tracks on this disc are listed as bonus tracks, apparently only available on the CD (so not digitally?). It still strikes me as odd to label a track a “bonus track” on an album’s initial release, but no matter. The first of these tracks is a cover of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” Written by Al Kooper, this song appeared on Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 LP Child Is Father To The Man. Paula Harris does an excellent job with it, and when she dips into her lower registers, I get shivers. Her voice rises to some spectacular heights on this track too. There is so much passion in her voice when she sings “I love you more than you’ll ever know,” leaving no doubt whatsoever that what she says is true. That is followed by “Forever And A Day,” with Bill Ortiz joining the group again on trumpet. Then “Scratches On Your Back” is a song about an infidelity that is obvious, but the man still offers denial after denial. I do, however, appreciate the man’s explanation for the unfamiliar panties wrapped up in the woman’s sheets. “You say it’s a secret that you keep/Because you get kinky all alone/And you put those panties on.” The disc concludes with a delicious cover of Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” featuring some wonderful stuff on piano.

CD Track List
  1. Nothing Good Happens After Midnight
  2. I Wanna Hate Myself Tomorrow (For Raising Hell Tonight)
  3. Haunted
  4. Good Morning Heartache
  5. Soul-Sucking Man
  6. This Love Is Gonna Do Me In
  7. A Mind Of Her Own
  8. Something Wicked
  9. Trouble Maker
  10. ‘Round Midnight
  11. You Don’t Look A Day Over Fabulous
  12. Do Me Good
  13. I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know
  14. Forever And A Day
  15. Scratches On Your Back
  16. Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby
Speakeasy was released on May 1, 2019.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Meghan Hayes: “Seen Enough Leavers” (2019) CD Review

Meghan Hayes is a talented and engaging singer and songwriter based in East Nashville, her music combining elements of folk, country and pop. Her new album, Seen Enough Leavers, is her third, following Snow On The Waves and Go And Give The Guard A Break. A lot of time has passed since the release of those first two albums, and during those intervening years Meghan Hayes clearly went through some stuff. This new album follows the end of a long marriage, and in some ways feels like a return to the world, or perhaps was itself the way back. The music here is passionate and sincere, and features some excellent lyrics. Joining Meghan on this album are Audley Freed on electric guitar and 12-string acoustic guitar; Goffrey Moore on acoustic guitar; Thayer Sarrano on pedal steel and piano; Dex Green on bass, guitar, piano, organ, mellotron and backing vocals; and Tommi Rautiainen on drums. There are also some guests on certain tracks.

Meghan opens her new album with “Georgette,” which begins as a simple and haunting folk song, and then starts to build from there, featuring some nice work on pedal steel. “One light bulb is enough to burn this lamp, Georgette/Start burning two or three, you’ll drown yourself in debt/You like to say we’re dying but we ain’t dead yet.” That last line grabs me every time I listen to this disc. It’s an arresting line, full of sadness and hope, characteristic of the style and poignancy of Meghan Hayes’ lyrics. That’s followed by the album’s title track, “Seen Enough Leavers,” which has a faster pace and a more lively sound, but still with a certain haunting aspect to the vocal performance. Something about her voice takes hold of me. And the older I get, the truer these lines become: “Time’s the fastest thing I know/It’s run away with everything I’ve had to show.”

“Burley” features another striking vocal performance, as well as more moving work on pedal steel. “Plenty of people want to call this suicide/But you can’t kill something that ain’t there.” That’s followed by “Potholes,” an interesting, unusual song. The line that stood out from this track the first time I listened to this disc was “The first fucking Noel fills my shopping cart.” That’s a great line. But again, her songs are filled with excellent lyrics. Take these, for example: “Year turns, I can’t learn/The simple equation to force your return/The half dozen reasons I made you squirm.”

“A Birthday In The Pawnshop (Morristown)” is one of my personal favorites. In fact, even before I first put this disc on, I was digging the track’s title.  Check out these lyrics, which open the song: “Lightning turned the leaves on the trees around/Every night that summer down in Morristown/Thunder shot curses across the sky/By morning not a single blade of grass was dry.” Those lines do such a great job of giving us a feel of the place, setting the tone. Here is another excellent line from this one: “And tried on lives we’d never see.” This song has a vibrant sound, though its story is told from the perspective of someone who is dead. Apparently, this song was released on a compilation back in 2006, The Other Side: Music From East Nashville, though on the track list for that disc it is titled simply “A Birthday In The Pawnshop.” Also, just so you know, a video for this song has been released.

Another track that stands out for me is “Next Time Around,” a song about a home that is no longer a home after the end of a relationship. “You swore we’d die in this place/I bet the people we bought it from/Once said exactly the same.” It’s a sad song, of course, but somewhere deep in there, there is still hope, “Maybe we all get more chances the next time around.” Yeah, it’s not much, but we have to cling to whatever scraps of hope we can get these days. Mando Saenz joins Meghan on vocals on this one. The album concludes with “Story Of My Life,” with Meghan on acoustic guitar, accompanied only by Derry DeBorja on accordion. “I’ve been offered nothing/Nothing will suffice.” The album ends with the line “That’s the story of my life,” and indeed, listening to this disc, it feels that we’ve been treated to a very personal experience.

CD Track List
  1. Georgette
  2. Seen Enough Leavers
  3. This Summer’s Sleeper
  4. Burley
  5. Potholes
  6. Cora
  7. A Birthday In The Pawnshop (Morristown)
  8. Second To Last Stand
  9. Next Time Around
  10. Story Of My Life
Seen Enough Leavers is scheduled to be released on CD on May 31, 2019.

Burning Manilow at Genghis Cohen, 5-18-19 Concert Review

Burning Manilow performing "I Can't Go"
I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but those nights at The Peak Show Compound back in 2003, 2004 were some of the most enjoyable nights of my life. The vibes were right, the people were good, and the music was fantastic. Since then, I’ve tried to keep up with all the projects the members of The Peak Show have been involved in. So far, none of them have steered me wrong. Guitarist Derock Goodwin is now a member of Burning Manilow, which up until last night somehow I had missed seeing perform. But they did a gig at Genghis Cohen, which ended up being a whole lot of fun, and was a serious family celebration. More on that in a moment.

I arrived a bit early (even after stupidly getting off the 101 at Highland and working through the bloody Hollywood Bowl traffic), and when I got there, a talented kid named Garrett Podgorski was playing some classical pieces on guitar, a nice surprise. He chose some gorgeous, famous pieces, and my anxiety over the state of the world was put on hold for the duration. He finished just after 8:15 p.m., and his crowd exited, and a different crowd entered – the Burning Manilow crowd. It had been a while since I’d been at this venue, and I’d forgotten just how tiny a room it is. What I like is that the benches are padded, and there is a little shelf in front of each bench where you can put your drinks (or recording equipment, as the case may be). Lena Embry took the stage at 8:36, and did a really nice set of original material. Her brother joined her on stand-up bass for a song. I mentioned this was a family affair. Well, Lena’s parents are both members of Burning Manilow, as is her brother. Her brother also plays drums with Lila Forde Group, who closed out the night. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lila Forde joined Lena on harmony vocals for a song, while Lena switched from guitar to keys. By the way, this was Lena’s thirteenth birthday, and everyone sang happy birthday to her. It really was a family celebration. She finished her set at 9 p.m.

No time was wasted, and Burning Manilow was on stage and ready to play less than ten minutes later. They opened the show with “Old Shoes,” a tune with a nice groove, a good vocal performance from Laura Embry, and some wonderful touches on keys by Andrew Hindes. Then toward the end Derock let loose on guitar for a bit. Yeah, it was definitely a good start to the set. After just the slightest of pauses, they began their next song, Niko Embry establishing a good groove on drums to start it off, the crowd shouting out his name in encouragement. Then Darren Embry’s bass line got things pumping. But the main energy of this song came from Laura’s vocals. Afterward she said, “It’s hot in here.” She then added, “We warmed up the room.” Indeed!

One of my favorite tunes of their set was “Don’t Think.” Derock started this one on guitar, holding onto a note and creating a cool atmosphere. I dug the interaction between guitar and keys near the beginning. But it was when the song kicked in for the chorus that things got really good and funky. This one featured some great stuff on drums, as well as some delicious stuff on keys, and became a very cool jam. This was exactly what I went there for. The only shame was the lack of space to dance. Then Lena Embry and Lila Forde joined the group on backing vocals for “The Truth Inside,” a slower, pretty tune with kind of a 1970s vibe. There was even a wonderful section with just vocals and drums, the vocals having a good amount of soul. Afterward, they noticed that a microphone cord had knocked over Laura’s glass, and she sent her daughter out to the bar to replace her drink, which was only a soda anyway.

“Crawl” was a new song, a slow, groovy tune with an excellent, engaging atmosphere. Darren and Derock provided backing vocals. That was followed by another strong and soulful number, “Afraid.” “I don’t want to close my eyes/And I don’t want to be afraid of the truth.” Oh yes, this was one you could really sink your teeth into, and it built wonderfully toward the end. As it ended, Niko started to go directly into “Gimme A Chance” before realizing they had another song before that. The band then went into “I Can’t Go,” another of my personal favorites, a song with a very cool vibe. Darren and Derock again provided backing vocals. They closed out their set with “Gimme A Chance,” another highlight. The saxophonist from Lila Forde Group, Ben Lindenberg, joined them on this fun, funky jam, another tune you want to dance to. It was a perfect ending to their short, but excellent set.

Burning Manilow Set List
  1. Old Shoes
  2. Forever Project
  3. Don’t Think
  4. The Truth Inside
  5. Crawl
  6. Afraid
  7. I Can’t Go
  8. Gimme A Chance
The Lila Forde Group then closed out this family celebration. And what a talented group of young musicians this group turned out to be, delivering an absolutely delicious combination of jazz and funk, powered by Lila Forde’s fantastic voice. Their set was mostly original material, and totally enjoyable.

Here are a few photos from the night:

Lena Embry
"Old Shoes"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"The Truth Inside"
"Afraid" 
"Gimme A Chance"
Lila Forde Group

Genghis Cohen is located at 740 N. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles, California.