Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Juliet And The Lonesome Romeos: “No Regrets” (2013) CD Review

I first became aware of Juliet And The Lonesome Romeos when a friend handed me a flyer for one of their shows. Knowing I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, she pointed out the band’s name. So right away I was interested. But it was after watching a couple of the band’s live performances online that I knew I had to get their CD.

No Regets is the debut album from Juliet And The Lonesome Romeos. This album is mainly folk and country, but definitely with heavy pop and rock influences. For example, listen to “Narcissus” for more of a rock tune, and “Last Kiss” for a pop song. All of the songs here are originals, all but one of them written or co-written by Juliet Simmons Dinallo. 

No Regrets opens with its title track, a song about being strong on one’s own, and Juliet has just the voice for it. Her voice has beauty, but also power; hers is a voice that’s not shy or fearful.  In this one she sings, “You cast a spell on me, but I’m alone all the time, all the time/Empty words you say are killing me today/So goodbye, this time I can’t stay.” I also like this line: “I can’t see your face, but I could always see right through, right through you.” Of course, endings are rarely definite, as Juliet hints in a line late in the song: “So goodbye once more until we meet again.”

“Wishing Well” has an interesting structure with regards to the way it tells its story, the way it creates the character and relationship through shifts in time. It begins “Just a girl of twenty-two/Thinking long and hard about you/Since I got the news today/Telling me you’ve gone away.”  Then, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel/It’s a little bit surreal/Been wishing for the day/You would finally go away/But it doesn’t ease my mind/It just takes me back in time.” So then she uses images of childhood, including a wishing well. The song then moves forward ten years from its opening point: “Just a girl of thirty-two/Thinking long and hard about you.”  There is also some nice work on electric guitar, and that part shows time passing, after which Juliet sings, “Still a girl at forty-two/Thinking long and hard about you/But what am I supposed to do/This is all I ever knew.”

“Song For You” is a pretty song, an unabashed love song, in which she sings, “If I could, I’d give you the world.” In this one she sings about the song itself, saying that “it’s straight from the heart,” and you get the sense that that’s true of all her songs. She really opens herself, giving herself in lines like “I simply I don’t know what I’d do without you/I don’t know what I would do/This is a song especially for you/It’s all that I have, it’s all I can do.”

“Narcissus” is more of a rock tune, with a certain amount of anger in Juliet’s delivery, and an electric guitar lead part. She sings, “So I’m packing it up, I’ll see you in hell/Maybe one day you will tell/That I wish you could have loved me like you love yourself.”  (It’s also one of the world’s many songs that rhyme “self” with “shelf.” Not to call this band out, but I think it’s time to call a moratorium on that particular rhyme.) Juliet And The Lonesome Romeos follow this rock song with a pretty acoustic tune, “Winter Night.”

As I mentioned, it was the Shakespeare connection that first got me interested in this band. And as it turns out, Juliet’s father was a Shakespeare scholar, so she is actually named after that famous teenager. There is another Shakespeare reference on this album, in the song “Unkindest Cut,” a song about her father. The song’s title comes from a line from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar. In Act III Scene ii, Antony tells the crowd about Caesar’s murder, and when he mentions Brutus’ part, he says: “This was the most unkindest cut of all;/For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,/Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,/Quite vanquish’d him.” About her father, Juliet sings, “Between me and the madness he didn’t get to choose/To see him fall is the unkindest cut of all.”  (By the way, in this song, she mentions how people say “Everything happens for a reason.” I too hate when people say that, for it’s such a simple, meaningless thing to say, and it is always a lie.)

“Faded Highway” is one of my favorite tracks. It’s a gorgeous country tune that is really driven by Juliet’s vocals. There is a delicious sadness in her voice. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “On a faded highway just this side of nothing/Will I ever find my way/Broken hearts and lost souls/They’re scattered all around me.” There are also some nice backing vocals. “Faded Highway” was written by Michael Dinallo.

No Regrets ends with “Learn To Love Again,” a song of heartbreak and hope. “I want to sail away on a ship of fools/To a desolate isle/When I can hide for a while/Where my heart can mend/And I can learn to love again.” She adds an appropriate weariness to her voice for certain lines. This is one of the album’s strongest tracks, and there is a really nice lead section on electric guitar.

CD Track List

  1. No Regrets
  2. Wishing Well
  3. Song For You
  4. Narcissus
  5. Winter Night
  6. Last Kiss
  7. Unkindest Cut
  8. Faded Highway
  9. September Day
  10. Learn To Love Again


Juliet And The Lonesome Romeos are Juliet Simmons Dinallo on lead vocals; Michael Dinallo on electric guitar and acoustic guitar; Jonas Kahn on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass; Michael A. Gray on electric guitar and backing vocals; Steve Sadler on lap steel, accordion, fiddle and backing vocals; Justin Kolak on bass; Marc Hickox on bass; Jeff Allison on drums, percussion and B3; and Amber Casares on backing vocals.

No Regrets was released on January 15, 2013 through Tree O Records.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Philip Boone: “A Light And A Line” (2013) CD Review

Philip Boone’s new CD, A Light And A Line, is a wonderful blend of folk and country music, with some pop elements. There are lots of sweet, positive, somewhat laid back vibes to these tunes (like “In The Meantime”). I love the general feel of this album. Certainly, one element leading to that overall vibe is Philip’s voice, which has a sweet vulnerability and earnestness (like in these lines from “The Truth Is”: “But if there’s a way/To make a good thing stay/The truth is I don’t even want to know”). There is something true, even timeless about this music – it feels neither contemporary nor nostalgic (though the CD cover art has a certain early 1970s look). There are times when I wonder just how much his living in Topanga Canyon has had an influence on his style, and on the imagery he uses, a lot of which comes from nature (sun or sunshine is mentioned in many of these songs, for example).

A Light And A Line is Philip Boone’s second album, and the songs are all originals. The entire album is good, but there are some stand-outs. My favorites are “Margarita (A Good Friend of Mine),” “Three Short Stories” and “Don’t You Know.”

A Light And A Line opens with "Either Way," a bright country rock tune. Its first lines are, “Well, you can tell me I’m the one/Or use me just for fun on Saturday night/Either way, I’ll be all right.” How’s that for a good attitude? And I love his delivery on “all right,” holding onto “all” a little longer than you might expect. I also like the following lines: “You can buy me fancy clothes/Or keep on talking until my boredom shows.” This is kind of a playful tune about a resilient spirit, sung with a sweet voice. But there is a hint of vulnerability too, in lines like “You can fill the void in me.

The second track, “Margarita (A Good Friend Of Mine),” is one of my favorites. It’s a pretty folk tune that begins with just acoustic guitar. Its real, full beauty becomes apparent when the other instruments come in (I’m particularly fond of the piano). It’s sung like a letter to someone who is missed: “Dear Margarita, we haven’t spoken in some time/Oh, for the most part things have been working out fine/The weather is warm, there’s almost too much sunshine/Your life’s looking up, but I’m missing a good friend of mine.” The vocals on this one are particularly good. And I love the instrumental section with harmonica and piano. This is a really wonderful song. (By the way, the album’s title comes from this song’s lyrics: “From my dark hole, with only a light and a line/You drew me up, now I’m missing a good friend of mine.”) I could go for a margarita right now.

“Nowhere To Be Found” is quite different, beginning with vocals and a steady thump on the kick drum and handclaps (with some background noise). I prefer the sections with the rest of the band.

“Brother” has a simply beauty to it, with vocals and acoustic guitar. This is an unusual and really good song. Check out these lyrics: “Brother, are you running from the law/In a faded photograph I think I saw/The same face that I once wore.” There is something wonderful in the occasionally somewhat awkward guitar playing – it gives the song an added sense of being true, of being immediate (rather than planned and perfected), which really works for the material.

“Country Song” has a fun, bright, kind of playful feel. It’s one of those easy-going folk and country tunes that make you feel good, with an enjoyable harmonica part. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, please consult a physician. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Now here I stand beside the sea/I caught the sun, and then I set it free/I touched the land with my bare hands/Now I own my life, now I own my life.”

“Three Short Stories” has a really nice groove, and features banjo, which I love. I also really like this song’s lyrics, with lines like, “Going nowhere and taking you.” This is another of the album’s many wonderful songs, and it includes some nice work on harmonica.

“Don’t You Know” begins so sweetly, so quietly, with just acoustic guitar and humming, sounding truly pretty. Then the vocals and keys come in, and it’s just wonderful. “Don’t you know I’d climb the mountain for you.” Now this is what I call a love song. Check out these beautiful lines: “Don’t you know that we could live forever more/On the sandy beach of any given shore/And the waves will wash us to sleep/And the stars will be ours to keep.” I absolutely love this song.

It ends at 3:12; then at 3:30, there is another tune, an instrumental – solo piano – that is really pretty. On the CD it’s referred to only as the “piano outro,” so perhaps it’s considered part of “Don’t You Know,” even though there are several seconds of silence before it starts. This piece was written by Charlie Hale.

CD Track List

  1. Either Way
  2. Margarita (A Good Friend Of Mine)
  3. Nowhere To Be Found
  4. Brother
  5. One Star
  6. In The Meantime
  7. Asking The Wind
  8. Country Song
  9. After Morning
  10. The Truth Is
  11. Three Short Stories
  12. Don’t You Know


Musicians appearing on this release include Philip Boone on vocals, guitar and harmonica; Angelo Felder on guitar and banjo; Charlie Hale on piano and organ; Steven Smith on bass; and Greg Rogove on drums.

A Light And A Line was released on March 19, 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Brian Kinler Band: “Not Your Everyday Amateur” (2013) CD Review

Not Your Everyday Amateur, the new CD by The Brian Kinler Band, is an excellent collection of songs showcasing Brian Kinler’s talent on keys. This one is quite a bit different from Brian’s previous release, Stories From The Quarter (2010). In some ways this CD feels more like a return to the style of his first CD, Two. But here he is also broadening his scope, reaching into some new territory. Brian is an amazing jazz pianist, as he’s proved on his earlier releases and in concert. On this album he shows also what he can do on keyboards – performing not just piano parts, but several other instruments. And though this is listed as a Brian Kinler Band CD, the only other band member to appear on this release is Andrea Whitney (nee Gaspar), who adds a gorgeous violin to several of the tracks. The rest is performed by Brian Kinler.

If you’ve seen The Brian Kinler Band in concert in the past year, some of this material will be familiar to you. Songs such as “Mama’s Gumbo Pot” and “The Fall” have been performed live several times. Some of the other material will likely be surprising, particularly “The Bean Tree,” with its dance beat.

Not Your Everyday Amateur opens with “The Fall,” one of Brian Kinler’s most beautiful tunes. This is one he’s performed in concert several times. He has said it’s one of his two favorites to perform (the other being “The Leap,” which is on Two). There is such a good, positive vibe about this song, from its sweet, quieter moments, to the great joy and jubilance of its louder, more energetic sections. Andrea Whitney’s work on violin is excellent.

“Morphine” is a song Brian introduced at his live shows approximately a year ago. While “The Fall” makes you want to reach out, this song has the opposite effect, turning your thoughts inward. It feels like a journey into one’s self, through a letting go, a journey that eventually leads back out again.

“Mama’s Gumbo Pot” is a lot of fun, and has become a favorite during his concert performances. Brian sometimes stretches out on it, like he does with “Mr. Walter’s Park.” The version here is a bit tighter, but still retains that great energy, and that sense of play. I love this song. (By the way, there’s a brief moment that always reminds me a bit of the Grateful Dead’s “The Other One” – approximately from 2:06 to 2:18 on this track. Is it just me? Let me know.)

“Open All Night” really feels like the journey of one night, with several different sections, different places the song goes. My favorite part is that loose playing (approximately two and a half minutes in), which then leads to that more manic and wild section. With Brian, you can really hear the joy in his playing, with his fingers dancing on the keys, particularly on this track.

“I’ve Never Seen Snow” is a sweeter tune (this is one that reminds me of the style of some of his work on Two). Andrea’s playing is absolutely gorgeous. There is a wonderful warmth to this song.

“The Ecstasy Of St. Teresa” is one of the more surprising tracks, in that right away it begins with electronic percussion and a pulsing dance beat. It’s quite a bit different from what we’ve heard from him before, but of course still with his unmistakable touch on keys, which is always at the heart of his material.

“Not Even The Rain” is a very pretty and moving piece inspired by the e.e. cummings poem somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond. Woody Allen fans will recognize the line that gives this song its title from its use in Hannah And Her Sisters. A title card in that film reads “…nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” Michael Caine buys a book of e.e. cummings’ poetry as a gift for Barbara Hershey, and tells her the poem on page 112 reminded him of her. Later we hear her read it. If you haven’t seen that film, you should.

“Not Even The Rain” is followed by “I Want To Love You.” The first time I saw Brian Kinler perform these two pieces in concert, the first led directly into the second, and it was a great combination, so it’s really nice that they’re positioned together on this disc. This one has a more relaxed vibe, but has a distinct beauty. It feels like someone speaking directly, openly, honestly to one person. It’s candid, and even vulnerable in its directness, and is one of the album’s strongest tracks.

“The Bean Tree” is one of the CD’s surprising tracks, with its more electronic sound. It’s a fun tune with a very good groove. Then a couple minutes in, the dance beat becomes more pronounced, driving the song. But it’s Brian’s playing over that beat that, for me, is the most fun element. There is something loose and playful about it which I totally dig, but all within a well-defined structure.

The biggest surprise for me, however, is the album’s final track, “When It Comes To You,” which is so beautiful that it actually brought tears to my eyes the first time I listened to it. This is one of my favorite tracks. The guitar (which is played by Brian on the keyboard) sounds wonderful. This song works to push away the world, so it’s just you and the music. It’s always a great thing when music can hold you and transport you like that.

CD Track List

  1. The Fall
  2. Morphine
  3. Mama’s Gumbo Pot
  4. Open All Night
  5. I’ve Never Seen Snow
  6. The Ecstasy Of St. Teresa
  7. Not Even The Rain
  8. I Want To Love You
  9. The Bean Tree
  10. When It Comes To You

Not Your Everyday Amateur was released on May 28, 2013.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Raquel Rodriguez CD Release Party 6-21-13 Photos

After The Howlin' Brothers finished their show last night at The Mint, another band started setting up for a CD release party. Because there were horns, and because we hadn't finished our drinks, we decided to check out their set. And we were definitely glad we stayed. Here are a few photos of Raquel Rodriguez, celebrating the release of her first full-length CD, Miss Me.

The Howlin’ Brothers at The Mint, 6-21-13 Concert Review

The Howlin' Brothers performing "Down By The Riverside"
My friends might be tired of hearing me rave about The Howlin’ Brothers. But after seeing this band in concert last night at The Mint, I realize I’ve only just begun (friends, be warned). My expectations were pretty damn high. After all, Howl, the band’s new album, is my favorite CD of 2013 (so far). We got to the venue early. They open at 7 p.m., and we got there a couple of minutes before 7 p.m. Yes, we were the first ones there, which is exactly how I like it. I had my pick of the tables, and grabbed a table front and center. And we ordered our first (of many) drinks, and settled in for the long haul.

The Mint is a pretty good venue to see music. It’s not that big, and there are several tables in the front. And the staff is friendly, which always helps. My brother and his wife bought me a new recorder for my birthday, and I figured The Howlin’ Brothers is the perfect band to test out this new equipment. I’m not big on reading instruction manuals, so we’ll see how it all turns out later.

The opener was Drew Davis, on vocals and keyboard. She’s got a great, emotional voice. I think my favorite tune of hers was “Ohio.”  She ended her set with a cover of “People Get Ready,” a song I’ve always loved in spite of itself.

The Howlin’ Brothers took the stage just after nine o’clock and kicked their set off with “Katie Kline,” and then went straight into “Down By The Riverside.” No stage banter, just right down to business, playing some great songs and pulling in the audience. From there, they did the first tune of the night from Howl, one of my personal favorites, “Gone.” This song is ridiculously fun, and they were clearly having a great time with it.

After that, they talked a bit about their new album, saying that it reached number six on the Americana charts. Very cool, though as far as I’m concerned it should be higher.  They did a little blues number titled “Can’t Be Satisfied.” There’s nothing like hearing the blues played on a banjo.

Some folks were dancing, and to the others, Jared said it was okay if they weren’t up for dancing yet. “All you need is one more drink,” he told them. They then went into “Soldier’s Joy” – “fifteen cents for morphine, twenty-five cents for beer.” You really can’t beat those prices.

They did a couple more from the new CD – “Tennessee Blues” and “Julia Belle Swain,” the latter getting this Los Angeles audience clapping along (without the band even asking – that’s huge in this town – seriously). And Jared was tap dancing on a miked wood plank, playing guitar and singing at the same time. 

A little later in the set they did “Delta Queen,” the one song from Howl that I did not expect to hear because percussion and horns play such a big part in it. But Ian used the banjo as a percussion instrument, while also playing the kick drum. And holy moly, it totally worked.  From there they went into the new CD’s opening track, “Big Time” (which was the one song I was certain they’d play).

The Howlin’ Brothers ended their set with “Dance All Night With A Bottle In Your Hand,” after saying this was everyone’s last chance to dance.

I had gone into this show absolutely loving this band. And I left loving them even more. I highly recommend checking them out whenever you get the chance. And guess what? They’re coming back to Los Angeles in October. They’ll be playing at The Echo. So, friends, you might as well make your plans now. For you know I’m going to be gathering the troops for this one. You don’t want to miss this band.

Set List
  1. Katie Kline
  2. Down By The Riverside
  3. Gone
  4. Can’t Be Satisfied
  5. Soldier’s Joy
  6. Tennessee Blues
  7. Julia Belle Swain
  8. The Illinois River
  9. Take Me Down
  10. My Dog Can’t Bark
  11. Delta Queen
  12. Big Time
  13. Yuma Train
  14. All Night With A Bottle In Your Hand
The Howlin’ Brothers are Ian Craft on banjo, fiddle, kick drum and vocals; Jared Green on guitar, harmonica, wood plank and vocals; and Ben Plasse on upright bass and vocals.
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Tennessee Blues"
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Take Me Down"
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Delta Queen"
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Delta Queen"
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Big Time"
The Howlin' Brothers performing "Big Time"