Friday, August 31, 2018

Alberto Pibiri: “Jazz Legacy” (2018) CD Review

Alberto Pibiri is jazz pianist and composer who was born in Italy and now resides in New York. His new album, Jazz Legacy, features all original material, written (or, in two instances, co-written) by Alberto Pibiri. Backing the pianist on this release are Paul Gill on bass, Paul Wells on drums, and Adrian Cunningham on tenor saxophone and clarinet. Guitarist Dave Stryker joins him on one track, and vocalists join him on a few tracks. This is an excellent album, one of the most enjoyable jazz releases I’ve listened to this year.

The album gets off to a fantastic start with “For Oscar,” a fun, joyful tune with the focus on the piano. There is a bit of rock and roll flavor, and a bit of a parlor music vibe. Then nearly two minutes in, the song becomes a jazzier gem, with some cool stuff on drums. There is even a brief drum solo. This track is a total delight, something to bring a smile to your face. Though original, it certainly has a familiar vibe about it. The Oscar of the title, by the way, is pianist Oscar Peterson. That’s followed by “Walkin’,” which also has a familiar feel, particularly the work on horn, which I love. It’s a wonderful, cheerful tune with an easygoing groove, a tune you may find yourself humming before too long.

Then “My Sunshine” is a wonderful composition that starts as a pretty solo piano piece. One thing that’s striking about these tracks, these compositions, is that they have a wide range of flavors, of feelings, of styles. When the other musicians come in, I am particularly fond of Paul Gill’s work on bass. Approximately halfway through, the song turns a corner, becomes a kind of peppy, fun number, with more bright, merry work on piano. Then it returns to a gorgeous piano section to close out the track.

“New Bossa” is a lively tune featuring nice work on saxophone and a really good drum solo. Oh yes, I am always a sucker for a good drum solo, and this one hits the spot. Then the bass leads off on “A Blues,” giving it a cool vibe and groove at the start. I love the way this track builds, and it isn’t long before it becomes an energetic number. This music is making me feel better about the world; hey, it will be around long after the current administration is laid to rest. As it began the track, the bass finishes this one solo. Then “Kiss Kiss” comes on fast, the bass and drums rushing along, gathering us up as they go and taking us along. I love the clarinet on this track.

The next three tracks feature guest vocalists. Sheila Jordan joins the group on “Be Free,” which she co-wrote with Alberto Pibiri. It’s a mellower, kind of romantic tune with an intimate vocal performance. “With the blues in my heart/And my eyes full of tears/All these memories of you haunting me/So here comes the night/The sadness is gone.” Sheila Jordan also sings on the following track, “For Sure,” along with Jay Clayton, the two providing some fun scat, making it one of the album’s most delightful numbers. Then Miriam Waks joins the group on vocals for “Oh Yeah!” She also wrote the lyrics for this cheerful song. “I ain’t got money/Ain’t got time/Got no reason/For this rhyme.” This track becomes a lively, rockin’ tune, featuring some wonderful work on horn, and also featuring Dave Stryker adding some cool stuff on guitar. The album then concludes with “It’s Me,” a gentle, pretty piano piece.

CD Track List
  1. For Oscar
  2. Walkin’
  3. My Sunshine
  4. New Bossa
  5. A Blues
  6. Kiss Kiss
  7. Be Free
  8. For Sure
  9. Oh Yeah!
  10. It’s Me
Jazz Legacy is scheduled to be released on CD on September 7, 2018. It was made available digitally last year.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band: “Lock Up The Liquor” (2018) CD Review

The Little Red Rooster Blues Band, based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania (just a bit north of Philadelphia), has been playing for thirty years. That’s a hell of a long time for any band, but it certainly doesn’t sound like these guys will be stopping any time soon. The band’s new album, Lock Up The Liquor, is vibrant and fun, with a lot of impressive playing. It features all original material, but with some classic vibes and sounds. The band is made up of Kevin McCann on vocals and guitar, Dave Holtzman on harmonica and vocals, Jeff Michael on bass, and Bob Holden on drums. Anthony Geraci joins them on piano for approximately half the tracks, and Steve Guyger joins them on harmonica and vocals for one tune.

The classic sounds are present right from the start, as the album kicks off with a cool instrumental track titled “Pitchin’ Woo.” The band is clearly having a good time, and you will too as you listen and let the music take over. It’s got a great groove, and Anthony Geraci’s work on piano is wonderful. There is a drum fill toward the end that I just love. All in all, it’s a perfect start to the album. It’s followed by “Drinkin’ Wine On My Dime,” a fun blues tune about how dating can be expensive, and how sometimes you just have to put a stop to it. “Cabernet, chardonnay, port, and merlot/Put a big dent in my cash flow/I ain’t financin’ this romancin’ no more.” I also really like this line: “To take you on a date I need to take out a loan.” There is a lot of great stuff on harmonica here, and the song becomes a good little jam, with some delightful work on keys. (Yeah, Anthony Geraci is on this track too.)

In “Rather Be Lonesome,” they sing “Well, I’d rather be lonesome than to stay with you.” Ah, we’ve all felt that at one time or another. I bet that prostitute Melania feels it right now.  This song features a steady, light and totally enjoyable rhythm. The driving force, however, is the harmonica. That is also the case with the following track, “Cotton Mouth,” an instrumental tune dedicated to James Cotton, a tremendously talented harmonica player who died last year. This is one of my favorite tracks. It’s a whole lot of fun, along the lines of J. Geils Band’s “Whammer Jammer.” James Cotton certainly had an influence on that band, and he and J. Geils did play together. James Cotton also sat in with the Grateful Dead. Anyway, I absolutely love this track. In addition to some phenomenal work on harmonica, it features some excellent stuff on guitar. Then “Ready For Goodbye” is a slower number, with a really nice vocal performance. Man, I love these classic sounds. And during the instrumental section, I dig the interaction between guitar and harmonica. Anthony Geraci adds more great work on piano.

“Thrift Shop Rubbers” is a goofy, lively and totally delightful tune in which we learn that “Secondhand protection ain’t no protection at all.” Sure, it’s absurd, but it’s funny. It’s interesting (and surprising) that a little after he sings “Not even my size,” he goes in the direction of the rubbers being too big rather than too small. There is some completely delicious work on guitar, and I love the backing vocals singing the title line. But then it turns out the song is about galoshes. Sure it is! That’s followed by another of my favorites, “Nothin’ Left Between Us.” Harmonica starts this one, and harmonica is at its heart, with some fantastic work on keys supporting it. “There’s nothing left between us, and I don’t even want to try/If I told you I still love you, I’d be telling you a lie.” Oh, that harmonica sounds so wistful, so wounded, so wonderful. The guitar likewise is so expressive. This tune just gets better and better. Do yourselves a favor and check out this track.

I always enjoy that Bo Diddley beat, which this band uses in “Trouble In The Jungle,” a tune that also features a cool lead on bass toward the end. That’s followed by yet another of the disc’s highlights, “Six Strong Men.” It has something of a New Orleans flavor, particularly in that it’s a fun tune about one’s own death. “When my time is up, I can no longer stay/I need six strong men to carry me away.” Death is a fearsome topic, and songs like this help take the edge off. You know? They help relieve us of some of the fright. And, yes, this is another of the tracks on which Anthony Geraci plays. Then Steve Guyger joins the band on harmonica and vocals for “4 O’ Clock In The Morning.” That is a magical time for music; it seems a lot of songs take place at that time, including “Famous Blue Raincoat” and my favorite Josh Lederman Y Los Diablos song. “Such a lonesome, lonesome time” is the way it is described in this Little Red Rooster Blues Band song.

“Can’t Believe She’s Mine” is a fun number about the luck some of us have with regards to women. I myself am completely bewildered to have ended up with such an extraordinary woman. “She’s so fine/I can’t believe she’s mine/When she tells me she loves me, she makes me feel all right.” Oh yes! The CD then ends with the title track, a lively tune to get you on your feet. “Your eyes were blurry and your speech was slurry/Sure hit the liquor cabinet in a hurry.”

CD Track List
  1. Pitchin’ Woo
  2. Drinkin’ Wine On My Dime
  3. Rather Be Lonesome
  4. Cotton Mouth
  5. Ready For Goodbye
  6. Just A Distant Memory
  7. Thrift Shop Rubbers
  8. Nothin’ Left Between Us
  9. Oughta Be A Law
  10. Trouble In The Jungle
  11. Six Strong Men
  12. Livin’ At Jerry’s House
  13. 4 O’clock In The Morning
  14. Can’t Believe She’s Mine
  15. Lock Up The Liquor 
Lock Up The Liquor was released on July 15, 2018.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Kimia Penton: “Where The Rain Falls” (2018) CD Review

Kimia Penton is a vocalist, violinist and songwriter who creates a potent and gorgeous mix of pop, folk and jazz music on her new EP, Where The Rain Falls, a CD that features all original music. Joining her on this release are Kelyn Crapp on guitar and piano, Mike Luzecky on bass, Matt Young on drums, and Jordan Gheen on keys. This is a disc that had me fully in its grip by its third track, a disc that I enjoy more and more each time I listen to it. It follows her 2015 release, Lessons From Life And Love.

The CD opens with “Not Goodbye,” which has a gentle folk vibe at the beginning. “I think it’s funny that I’m here again/Going over lessons learned/I thought that I had moved on/I thought that I could start again.”  It begins with an introspective bent, and then as she turns more outward, the music shifts to bring in the other person. I love how the music changes as this change occurs within her. “I’m not letting you go/I’m letting you know/I’m here to stay.” That’s followed by “Show Me Love,” which has a kind of jazzy vibe, and features some absolutely wonderful work on violin. I also like the bass line to this nighttime tune. “I’m sick of all the back and forth/I’m tired of all the closing doors/Show me love, love tonight.”

The first time I listened to this disc, the song that really impressed and excited me was “Where The Rain Falls,” the title track. It’s an incredibly effective and captivating song, featuring a beautiful and uplifting vocal performance. “But don’t be afraid/Nothing has to stay the same.” There is some wonderful work on violin too, as well as some nice stuff on percussion. It is a sweet and reassuring song. “Where the rain falls, that’s where life grows.” Then “Stepping Stones” begins sweetly with some pretty work on piano. This is an excellent and emotionally engaging song. Kimia’s voice is the focus here, and it rises to some wonderful heights. There are many great lines and phrases, such as “a different time with different pains” and “The road I traveled didn’t always make sense” and “If the noise in the world drowns out the voice in my head.” “First And Last Time” is a beautiful love song, this one with a folk sound. “You’re too good to be true/But I’m trusting in you/I’m ready to say yes/I’m ready to say yes for the first and last time.” The disc then concludes with “Alive Again,” which has a livelier sound right from the start, a bright and cheerful vibe, and some good work on guitar. “I’m alive again/My heart is beating.”

CD Track List
  1. Not Goodbye
  2. Show Me Love
  3. Where The Rain Falls
  4. Stepping Stones
  5. First And Last Time
  6. Alive Again
Where The Rain Falls is scheduled to be released on CD on September 14, 2018.

Bird Streets at The Federal Bar, 8-26-18 Concert Review

Bird Streets performing "Bullets"
Earlier this month, Bird Streets released their self-titled debut album, a fantastic set of rock and pop tunes featuring some damn good lyrics. This is the project of John Brodeur and Jason Falkner, and today they brought Bird Streets to North Hollywood, performing at The Federal Bar as part of the Mimosa Music Series. The crowd was a bit slow in arriving this morning, perhaps because the band played last night in Hollywood, just over the hill. I heard word the show last night was excellent, with a lot of energy. I expected the same for this show, even if it was early in the day. I’ve never been led astray by any of these Mimosa Music Series concerts. What better way is there to start a day than with some good music and alcohol in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere?

The show got off to a good start with an opening set by Stoll Vaughan, who performed solo on acoustic guitar. He focused on material from his new album, The Conversation (I need to pick up a copy of it), playing “Roll On,” “Forgiveness,” “Meet You In The Middle” and “Own The World.” I enjoyed his entire set, but especially “Own The World,” a beautiful and sweet song in which he sings, “If I got you, I own the world.” His set ended at 12:20 p.m., and within a few minutes, Bird Streets took the stage. No waiting around this time. These guys were eager to play, and by 12:30 they were ready. In fact, Mimosa Music Series host Gary Calamar didn’t even have time to get on stage to do a proper introduction. As they began, he gave the briefest of introductions from near the front of the audience, and then the set was underway. They kicked it off with “Carry Me,” the lead-off track from the album, a perfect way to get things going, what with phrases like “to new beginnings” and “the beautiful unknown.” Here we go!

The album has eleven tracks, and the band played all eleven at this show, though not in order. They followed the lead-off track with the album’s closing track, “Until The Crown,” with just a brief thank-you in between. There was not a whole lot of stage banter at this show, just some great pop music to make you feel good. And actually, it felt a bit strange being seated for this music. It seems like great music for dancing, and, yes, the energy was there, even though it was an early Sunday show. “Until The Crown” was followed by “Thanks For Calling,” one of my favorite tracks from the album, and then by “Heal” and “Same Dream” and “Bullets.” In introducing “Pretty Bones,” John Brodeur said, “Okay, we’re going to do the spooky one now.” “Pretty Bones” was followed by “Spaceship” and then “Betting On The Sun.” By the end of “Betting On The Sun,” some crazy sounds were coming out of Jason Falkner’s amp, leading him to ask, “Is there an amp doctor in the house?” John Brodeur than said, “We’ve got just two more, but they’re the last two, and we can’t just cut those.” He joked that they had a carefully sculpted set list. While some quick repairs were being done, John asked, “Should we go around the room, talk about what we had for breakfast?” It was really the one moment of some extended stage banter. And I’m glad they worked it out rather than just ending the set there, because the next song was one of my favorites from the album: “Direction.” Something about this song always makes me happy. They then wrapped up the set with “Stop To Breathe.” The show ended at 1:22 p.m. There was no encore.

Set List
  1. Carry Me
  2. Until The Crown
  3. Thanks For Calling
  4. Heal
  5. Same Dream
  6. Bullets
  7. Pretty Bones
  8. Spaceship
  9. Betting On The Sun
  10. Direction
  11. Stop To Breathe 
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Carry On"
"Thanks For Calling"
"Same Dream"
"Same Dream"
"Betting On The Sun"

Here is a shot of Stoll Vaughan:

"Roll On"

The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, California.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Gavin Chappell-Bates: “The Last One” (2018) CD Review

Gavin Chappell-Bates is a singer and songwriter based in England, working in the folk-rock and pop realms. I was turned onto his music a few years ago when he released the EP We Are The Ones. This year he released a full-length album titled The Last One, featuring all original music. On this album, in addition to writing the songs and providing the vocals, Gavin Chappell-Bates plays guitar, bass and percussion. Paul Richards is on drums, and there are a few guest musicians on various tracks. At times, this album is a lot of fun, while also touching on some serious subjects including the end of the world. So, yes, it is a perfect album for these strange times we find ourselves in, when things seem dire and ridiculous.

Gavin Chappell-Bates begins this one with “The Philosopher,” which has a bright folk-rock sound seemingly designed to lift our spirits. And check out these lyrics: “No past, no future, just the present tense/We could see everything/We could dream everything/We could be anything.”  I appreciate the positive spin this song has, particularly now. The world drags us down daily, but the music will counteract that. It ends with the repeated line, “We can be anything.” Okay! It’s followed by “Lovely Day,” and this one too immediately has a bright vibe. The “la la-la la la la” vocals, which are at the beginning, can never let us down, right? “It’s going to be a lovely day,” Gavin tells us in this song. Well, it certainly sounds like it. This song does exactly what it’s supposed to, and I find myself smiling and my optimism returning. “Whatever it will be, it will be okay.” I believe it.

“Young Lovers” begins with sound of a radio dial turning, searching for something, but finding mostly static. And then the song really begins. It’s like, not finding what he’s looking for, he just leaves the radio on static, and provides the song he needs himself. It’s a rock song about young lovers in Hollywood, and has something of late 1970s/early 1980s vibe. Then “Mother” has a gentle, nostalgic and loving sound. This pop song features Duncan Maletka on keys. That’s followed by one of my favorites, “Bad Faith/Good Faith,” a totally catchy rock tune that got me excited just the way music did when I was first buying albums in the early 1980s. Wonderful stuff! Neil Bruce plays lead guitar on this track. And check out these lines: “Morality bound by rule is no morality at all/This anguish we can’t escape, a burden, a heavy weight/This freedom is yours, it’s yours to embrace.”

There are more positive sounds in “Do What You Like,” and if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, you might think it’s a cheerful tune. But I love the way the song addresses certain people, perhaps drawing them in with the cheerful sounds, then slapping them with some powerful lyrics. “Take what you want to/Take what you like/Scorch the planet/Leave it to die/You think it’s your own endless supply/So you take what you like.” This is another of my personal favorites. And it provides a warning: “We can’t just continue to grow/Until it all explodes/When nature tells us to go/We won’t do what we like.” That’s followed by the album’s title track, “The Last One,” a solid, unabashed rock tune about the end of the world, and it is seriously fun. Yes, this one will get you dancing into destruction. There certainly are moments these days when it feels like we are close to the end, particularly here in the U.S.  But this tune has a sense of humor about it, with lines about getting stoned after everyone’s dead and about thinking the apocalypse would be more fun. The lines about going to the mall remind me of Night Of The Comet more than Dawn Of The Dead. And the repetition of “Everyone’s gone” and “You’re the last one” are like twisted mantras. Tim Gifford plays bass on both “Do What You Like” and “The Last One.”

“The Sanctuary Of Stars” is also about the end of the world. Hey, it’s on the minds of a lot of us these days. This one has more of a folk sound, and even though it’s about the end, it looks to the future. “We float into space/The end of the human race/Now we’ve been released/There will be peace/No countries, no race/No divisions, no hate.” Yes, there certainly will be peace when humans are gone. The album then concludes with “This Is It,” a song written by Neil Bruce and Gavin Chappell-Bates. The guitar part at the beginning worried me because it sounds like “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I know I’m in the minority here, but I detest Guns N’ Roses (and, people, it should be Guns ‘N’ Roses, not Guns N’ Roses, unless it’s supposed to mean “Guns No Roses”).  But this is a good song, particularly because of the lyrics. “Time, we all take too much time over nothing/Then it’s gone, it’s lost and we’re forgotten/We cling to a hope that things will get better/Dreams aren’t for today or tomorrow, they’re for never.” Life is short, and we all waste all too much of it. “This is it/This moment/This is your life.”

CD Track List
  1. The Philosopher
  2. Lovely Day
  3. Young Lovers
  4. Mother
  5. Bad Faith/Good Faith
  6. Do What You Like
  7. The Last One
  8. Cinematic Memories
  9. The Sanctuary Of Stars
  10. This Is It
The Last One was released on March 23, 2018.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Jim White: “Waffles, Triangles & Jesus” (2018) CD Review

Waffles, Triangles & Jesus is – by my count – Jim White’s third album to have “Jesus” in the title (following The Mysterious Tale Of How I Shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus and Jim White Presents Music From Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus). What significance does that fact hold? I don’t know, maybe none; let’s not dwell on it. This is a seriously good album, containing all original material written by Jim White and Mike Pratt. Jim White also plays a good amount of the instruments, including guitar, banjo, slide guitar, flute, melodica, keyboard, piano and percussion. Yet there is room for several other players. The band Hog-Eyed Man backs Jim on most tracks, and a whole lot of guest musicians join him on various songs.

“Drift Away,” the album’s opening track, builds slowly, establishing an eerie, haunting vibe that gets its hooks into me. Sometimes Jim White’s vocal delivery is so intimate, as it is when he sings these lines: “Night is falling/And I would love to find that current which leads to the sea/I hear footsteps on the shoreline/I see you standing watching me/Drift away.” That long pause before “Drift away” is so potent, captivating. This song has a gloriously dark vibe, like bluegrass’ troubled cousin. It’s followed by “Long Long Day,” the sound at the beginning takes us to a different time. This one gets you in its grasp from the very beginning, and then takes you on an unusual and singular ride. It’s interesting where this song goes and how it gets there, and I love its use of backing vocals. Then after those first two strange tracks, “Playing Guitars” comes as a surprise with its more upbeat, somewhat traditional folk and country sound. This one has a playful sense, and some humorous lyrics. It’s a little silly, but completely wonderful. This song is about how everyone is a guitar player. Does it lament or celebrate that fact? Maybe both. He includes himself, obviously, among the multitudes of guitarists. Holly Golightly joins him on vocals on this track. Josh Klein then joins him on trumpet on “Silver Threads.” The lines from that song that always stand out for me are these: “Setting fires in the foothills of our minds/Seeking mysteries that lay somewhere behind/Hidden truths that only broken hearts can find.”

Things get strange again at the beginning of “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” and then suddenly it’s like we break through a dense jungle to come upon a clearing populated by magical jazz beings. But we are not out of the woods yet. This song goes in some interesting directions, and I like the percussion. There is an odd spoken word section, recalling an incident and the arrest. “That if I am a prisoner/Then that’s just what the good lord made me.” Jeff Crouch plays trumpet on this track. That’s followed by “Reason To Cry,” which becomes a sweet-sounding folk number, with violin. This track also features cello, an instrument I love. As always, I could do without the rain sound effect, but I still really like this song. “I found a young woman unknown to these parts/And from her lips came that terrible sound/In her wailing she heard not a word I said/When I asked her the cause of her pain/So after a while I just left her lying there/All alone in them woods in the rain/Figured she might just have a good reason to cry.

“Here I Am” has a sweet, pleasant sound to make you feel good. “What can you say but hey hey hey, well, here I am?/Can’t lose your mind trying find your way to some promised land/Between what’s here right now and what might be there up then.” And I love that horn. “So I might as well just get used to me,” he repeats as the song comes to an end. Sounds about right. The album then concludes with “Sweet Bird Of Mystery,” which has the sound of a young child at the beginning and features gentle, pretty work on guitar, piano and strings. The vocals have a certain beauty, even as some of the lines have a bit of humor to them, like “By the time that you hear this, I’ll be wearing store-bought teeth.” This is a sweet and loving song. “I wish you good luck in the future/Sweet bird of mystery.”

CD Track List
  1. Drift Away
  2. Long Long Day
  3. Playing Guitars
  4. Far Beyond The Spoken World
  5. Silver Threads
  6. Prisoner’s Dilemma
  7. Reason To Cry
  8. Wash Away A World
  9. E.T. Bass At Last Finds The Woman Of His Dreams
  10. Here I am
  11. Sweet Bird Of Mystery 
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus was released on February 9, 2018.

Jerry Joseph: “Weird Blood” (2017) CD Review

Jerry Joseph is a singer and songwriter working mainly in the rock genre, performing and recording with his band The Jackmormons, which these days includes Steven James Wright on bass and Steve Drizos on drums. Earlier this year, he put out Full Metal Burqa as part of the limited edition Record Store Day releases. And late last year he released Weird Blood, an album I’ve been listening to a lot lately. One thing I love about this album – and about all of Jerry Joseph’s music that I’ve heard – is that the lyrics are so good. These songs include lines like “And we toast old friends/But it’s time we put ‘em to bed” and “Put a flame to the page/Recanting the blood in our bones.” Actually, those lines are just from the first song. But they give you an idea of how good the album is.

Weird Blood opens with “Sweet Baba Jay,” a song which has a bit of an Elvis Costello sound. It’s rock, with something of a punk attitude, which I love. This is a strong track, an excellent start to the album. “Well, we come to you now on our knees/We smell of defeat/If your right hand is glory/We beg you/Save us a seat.” That’s followed by “Peace In Our Day,” which comes in with a thumping, driving rhythm, but ultimately has an uplifting, positive vibe about it. Its first line is “Can I get an amen?” and it ends with that same line delivered a cappella. “Can I get an amen?” Oh yes! Jeff Crosby, Michael Lewis and Joe Kempler provide backing vocals on this track, giving it a bit of a gospel-rock vibe. Jeff Crosby is also on electric guitar, while Mookie Siegel is on organ.

From the beginning of “The Eyes,” it sounds like something John Mellencamp might do, with that guitar part and that drumbeat, and of course the vocals. I like this track a whole lot. Check out these lines: “Howl in the heat, bathe in the rain/Look in the fire, it calls you by name.” Then the repeated promise “I will never let you down, baby” is followed by some nice work on electric guitar, and this track also features some great stuff on keys. This song has the energy of an early Rolling Stones song. It’s followed by “Think On These Things,” a mellower tune with a good deal of soul, and nice gospel-like backing vocals by Kelly Hogan, Casey McDonough and Scott Ligon. “This is the morning of your better days/And the promise they bring/Come, let us think on these things.” “Wild Wild West” has something of a sweeter vibe, but still with an edge. “Folks ‘round here think she’s lazy/But they’ve yet to see her dance.” Little Sue Weaver joins Jerry Joseph on backing vocals on this one. That’s followed by “3-7-77,” a song that when I first glanced at the title I thought might be about my fifth birthday. But, no, the title refers to the Montana Vigilantes, though the exact meaning of the numbers is something of a mystery. Some believe they represent the dimensions of a grave – three feet by seven feet by seventy-seven inches. In this song, Jerry Joseph sings, “We’re leaving nothing here but graves,” so perhaps he subscribes to that theory. The song has an angry, desperate tone, fitting for its subject.

One of my absolute favorite tracks on this album is “Late Heavy Bombardment,” which has a quiet folk sound and some excellent, poignant lyrics. “Hold on to each other and rise up out of the dust/There isn’t a fire as hot as the love between us.” This song gets to me every time. “When the fire rains down, your eyes are what I need to see/When I see that you love me I know in the end, that there’s peace/Don’t look away from me.”  That’s followed by “Weird Blood,” the disc’s title track, which comes on strong, like it means business. It maintains an intense vibe throughout, with lines like “Our blood will seep right through the page/It was in our scripture to read/Coyote chews right through his leg/Let it bleed.” I love Steven James Wright’s work on bass. The album then concludes with “Buddha Jim.” The lines that always stand out for me are these: “To be untethered and free/Another stone among the lunar debris.”

CD Track List
  1. Sweet Baba Jay
  2. Peace In Our Day
  3. The Eyes
  4. Think On These Things
  5. Wild Wild West
  6. 3-7-77
  7. Late Heavy Bombardment
  8. Weird Blood
  9. Buddha Jim 
Weird Blood was released on November 17, 2017 on Cavity Search Records.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Dennis Herrera: “You Stole My Heart” (2018) CD Review

The blues can make you feel so damn good. Dennis Herrera knows this to be true, and shows it with his new release, You Stole My Heart, an album full of great grooves and classic sounds. Two different bands back Dennis Herrera on this album, one based in northern California, the other in southern California. The first includes Sid Morris on piano, Frank DeRose on bass, Jack Sanford on saxophone, and Robi Bean on drums. The second features Rich Wenzel on keys, Bill Stuve on bass, Lee Campbell on drums, Gordon Peeke on percussion and Denis Depoitre on harmonica. All songs are originals, written by Dennis Herrera.

The album kicks off with its title track, “You Stole My Heart,” which has something of a classic rock and roll sound, complete with great work on keys and saxophone. And there is joy in his vocals, as he sings lines like “Maybe give me a chance/For some love and romance.” Because, hey, this is a love song, and not one of love gone wrong. This is just the thing to get your body moving and your mind off the state of the country. This song is a rock and roll party, and we’re all invited. See you there! This track features the northern California players, and they do jam on it. That’s followed by the southern California musicians joining Dennis Herrera for “Takes Money,” a groovy rhythm and blues tune with some delicious work on bass. “I learned it takes money for this/It takes money for that/It’s all about the money, babe/And that’s a fact/I don’t want to believe it/But it’s true.” It develops into a good blues jam led by Denis Depoitre on harmonica. That band (without Depoitre) also plays on “Fore,” which features more classic vibes, and an easygoing stroll-like rhythm that is so damn appealing. This playful track is so much fun that I don’t even mind that it’s about golf, an activity I do not care for at all.

In “With No Refrain,” the line “Well, you make me feel just like a king when you call my name” makes me think of Donald Trump. This is why he has those rallies, he feels like a king when his moronic followers shout out his name. But even though it reminds me of that mendacious prick, this is a good tune, and features some nice work on guitar. And other lines make me think of my girlfriend, someone I’d much rather have on my mind. Take this line, for example: “One day without your loving is one day too long.” True. That’s followed by “Look Out,” a song about aging, and about how life is short, stuff I am well aware of these days. Yet the song has a positive, empowering vibe. I mean, that cool, steady rhythm feels like something we can latch onto and ride forever, through life, through death, and beyond into whatever might be out there.

“Recovery” is a groovy, jazzy tune that also deals with getting older and perhaps wiser, looking back at certain choices. This one becomes a cool jam with some good work on saxophone. It’s followed by “You Can Name It,” a delightful instrumental track with a somewhat relaxed groove and nice stuff on keys. Denis Depoitre returns on harmonica for “Backed-Up,” a song about a topic that is familiar to those of us in Los Angeles. “Lord knows I’m tired/I’m sick of waiting/Just creeping along, lord/This back-up I’m hating.” He then adds, “It’s hell on the highway.” You’d be surprised how many conversations in Los Angeles are about the roads and traffic. And for good reason. Last night (or this morning) I got off work at 2:30, and traffic was stopped on Route 5. Fortunately, someone who left a bit earlier sent messages warning us, and we were able to take another route. Traffic is ridiculous in Los Angeles, and – as Dennis sings in this song – “It gets worse every day.” But don’t use the solution offered by Dennis Herrera in this song: “Might just buy me a motorcycle/Scoot on down the middle lane.” Motorcycles riding between lanes are so bloody dangerous.

“My Past Time” is a wonderful slow blues number, one of my personal favorites. It’s about looking back, taking stock. He sings, “But I have my regrets, people/Maybe more than I should” then quickly adds, “And I don’t like to think about that.” This track features some really good stuff on organ. “Some say don’t live in the past/If you want your peace of mind to last.” Then “Run With The Losers” is a fun, bluesy rock tune. The album then concludes with “Bittersweet,” a very cool tune with a back porch blues vibe, performed solo by Dennis Herrera.

CD Track List
  1. You Stole My Heart
  2. Takes Money
  3. Fore
  4. With No Refrain
  5. Look Out
  6. Recovery
  7. You Can Name It
  8. Backed-Up
  9. My Past Time
  10. Run With The Losers
  11. Bittersweet
You Stole My Heart is scheduled to be released on August 24, 2018.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Vivian Lee: “Let’s Talk About Love” (2018) CD Review

Let’s Talk About Love is the title of skilled jazz vocalist Vivian Lee’s new release. And, yes, it seems like the right time to talk about love. Most of the time these days is spent talking about treason and racism and gun violence, and though these are all important topics, it seems that we’re being worn down by them. We need to also talk about those enduring and endearing human qualities that unite us, and love is certainly the strongest of these. Vivian Lee explores some of the aspects of this perennially intriguing emotion on the tracks of this album, and she certainly has the voice for the task. She has one of the most appealing, friendly voices I’ve heard. Joining her on this release are Brendan Lowe on piano, Buca Necak on bass and Jeff Minnieweather on drums.

Vivian Lee opens the album with “Wives And Lovers,” a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Though this song has always been popular and has been recorded by a lot of artists over the years, it has never really done much for me. That being said, I do like this rendition. I appreciate the way the bass starts it off, and then suddenly the other musicians burst in, leading the way for Vivian’s vocals. It is her voice that makes this rendition something special, and I like the way the track concludes with just vocals and bass. That’s followed by “Before We Fall In Love,” a beautiful song that has an intimate, romantic sound. And this is a love song that also contains the voice of wisdom in lines like “The truth is we have both been here before/Been caught in love’s revolving door/So if we can, let’s take our time/And get it right, not just tonight.” But ultimately this is a song about giving in to desire, and you get the sense that everything is going to work out right. “Let’s rush into each other’s arms/Before we fall in love.” And as the lovers embrace, the piano takes over, for clearly she is too busy to sing at that moment. This is one of my favorite tracks. I love the warmth and honesty of her voice.

Joe Gilman joins her on piano for “Some Other Time,” a song written by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein. There is a moment that is so bloody adorable that it catches me off guard every time I listen to this album, and makes me smile. It’s the way she delivers the phrase “Oh well” that first time. It’s so youthful and feels spontaneous. Yes, it’s surprising and delightful. You have to hear it. This rendition makes me optimistic that the two people involved will actually catch up some other time, as they say they will. Sometimes when I’ve listened to this song, I felt that they’ll never see each other again. “There’s so much more embracing/Still to be done, but time is wasting/Oh well, we’ll catch up some other time.” Vivian Lee delivers a fun, light rendition of “Secret Love,” a tune written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster that was a big hit for Doris Day. Each instrument gets in on the joy of this version, adding little touches, little comments. The world of this song is so much better than the world outside. Perhaps it’s time to escape into music. The joy continues in her rendition of “You Turned The Tables On Me.” I love that section with the bass taking the lead. It feels like the instrument is doing a little tap dance or something. Seriously, you have to hear it.

Jeff Clayton joins Vivian Lee on saxophone for “Emily,” written by Johnny Mercer and Johnny Mandell. The saxophone lead halfway through the track is gorgeous. That’s followed by “The Man I Love.” I’ve said it multiple times, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. Vivian Lee delivers a really nice rendition, and I love that lead on piano. Then there is a whole lot of joy in her version of “Out Of Nowhere.” That’s followed by “Didn’t We.” Something about this song always makes me sad, even with Vivian Lee’s sweet vocals. It’s the idea of almost doing things, and then asking the other person for validation of almost making it. “This time we almost made it to the moon/Didn’t we?” There is a futility about life, isn’t there? We are all destined to fail, or at least to not quite succeed. And that strangely hopeful tone that the song has also seems so sad to me, in the face of it all. Maybe it’s hitting me harder now than it used to. Then the piano sounds like magic at the beginning of “Waltz For Debby.” And indeed, the song is a fanciful jaunt into a child’s world. Vivian Lee concludes the CD with “Bein’ Green.” This choice surprised and delighted me. The Muppet Show was one of the best television shows ever, not just because it was hilarious but because it had important things to say, as it did with this song (which was also performed on Sesame Street). It’s nice to end the album with a song about loving who you are.

CD Track List
  1. Wives And Lovers
  2. Before We Fall In Love
  3. Some Other Time
  4. Secret Love
  5. You Turned The Tables On Me
  6. Emily
  7. The Man I Love
  8. Out Of Nowhere
  9. Didn’t We
  10. Waltz For Debby
  11. Bein’ Green 
Let’s Talk About Love is scheduled to be released on August 30, 2018 on Tara Records.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Ben Bostick: “Hellfire” (2018) CD Review

If you’re looking for some kick-ass country rock music, full of attitude and energy, check out Ben Bostick’s new album, Hellfire. This is his second full-length release, following his self-titled album, and it features all original material, written by Ben Bostick. Joining him on this release are Kyle Lalone on guitar and backing vocals, Luke Miller on piano and organ, Perry Morris on drums, and Cory Tramontelli on bass. This album is a tremendous amount of fun, and a lot of these songs demand some volume. Let loose and enjoy. These are songs that will you get you drinking and dancing and singing along.

Ben Bostick kicks off the album with “No Show Blues,” a great, angry bluesy country rock tune tackling some of those timeless blues and country themes – a crummy job and a mean woman. And, of course, drinking. “I’m gonna go to the bank and cash out my account/Drive straight to the tavern and drink a disgusting amount.” Man, sometimes that sounds so appealing, particularly these days, when our country is being run by racist morons. Check out the keys during the instrumental section. “I had a job in the valley, but I doubt I do anymore/I took a day off and then I took four more.” There is a bit of a Springsteen sound to the vocals on this track. That’s followed by “Hellfire,” the album’s title track, a playful country tune with a lot of attitude. And there is more drinking. Hey, if you’re like me, you’ve been drinking heavily since November 2016. I love the lines about the church, where once he feels free of sin, he starts drinking: “So I stumbled into church and sat down for a spell/A few minutes in, I felt free of sin, so I polished off my bottle of bathtub gin/And got stinking, dirty, awful drunk as hell.”  After all, who wants to feel too clean and holy? It just won’t do, not these days when Nazis wander the land in red baseball caps. (Remember, friends, Nazis are still the enemies of the United States, and should be treated as such.) Have I mentioned how cool his voice is? His voice fits in with that great tradition of country outlaws. Listen to him on “No Good Fool”; his voice is low, strong, without artifice or bullshit. “So you say you like bad boys/Well, run away while you can/I told you I ain’t no bad boy/I’m a bad, bad man.”

“Blow Off Some Steam” is fantastic fun, coming at you at a fast pace, with some wonderful work on guitar. Plus, I seriously dig that stuff on keys. This track features some playful vocal work, with a sort of stutter. “I got to blow off some steam before I b-b-b-b-blow up/I’ve been holding it in through the whole work week.” Shit, a lot of us have been holding it in since the 2016 election. That’s followed by another totally enjoyable tune, “It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor.” Sure, it’s a song about struggling financially, but it is a lot of fun, one to get you tapping your feet. “Well, it ain’t cheap being poor, and I can’t take any more/Of the tickets and the taxes and the fees/I work hard for my pay, then they take it away.” And, yes, there is more cool work on keys. Then “Tornado” is about a woman who comes along and changes the man’s life, and not for the better. “Well, I lost my job and all of my money/Most of my friends and half of my mind.” And the story takes place here in Los Angeles, beginning on a hazy day. Ah, you know just exactly what he’s talking about. “I want to hate her, but I love her instead.”

Things go wrong in “The Other Side Of Wrong” too, which is basically a list of mistakes and woes. It also includes the line, “But if I didn’t make bad decisions, I wouldn’t make no decisions at all,” a variation of the old “bad luck” line. There is something of a Bo Diddley beat at times. Then “Work, Sleep, Repeat” employs that familiar western rhythm, like a horse trotting along casually. What is it about that rhythm that always makes smile? I think a lot of us can relate to these lyrics: “Work, sleep, work, sleep, that’s all I ever do anymore (work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep)/Somewhere up the line I forgot what I was working for/There goes life, looks like it ain’t slowing down for me.” The album concludes with “The Outsider,” a solid, thumping, rocking song. “Yeah, I’m on the outside but I ain’t looking in/What everybody’s doing really ain’t that interesting/Yeah, I’m on the outside but that ain’t far enough.”

CD Track List
  1. No Show Blues
  2. Hellfire
  3. No Good Fool
  4. Blow Off Some Steam
  5. It Ain’t Cheap Being Poor
  6. Tornado
  7. The Other Side Of Wrong
  8. Work, Sleep, Repeat
  9. How Much Lower Can I Go
  10. Feeling Mean
  11. The Outsider 
Hellfire was released on June 29, 2018.

Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne: “Eastern Standard Time” (2018) CD Review

In 2013, they gave us West Coast Cool. Now jazz vocalists Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne join forces again on Eastern Standard Time. However, it’s not like they haven’t worked together in the intervening five years. They performed two duets on Mark Winkler’s 2015 release, Jazz And Other Four Letter Words, and sang together on his 2017 release, The Company I Keep. These are two singers who work wonderfully together, and the resulting tracks on this new album are full of joy. Backing them on this release are Rich Eames on piano, Gabe Davis on bass, Dave Tull on drums, Grant Geissman on guitar, Bob Sheppard on saxophone, and Kevin Winard on percussion.

They start things with “Devil May Care,” and right away, the bright energy of these two vocalists takes hold and pushes aside the dark clouds that hang above our heads in this country these days. “No cares or woes/Whatever comes later goes.” Then approximately two minutes in, the tune shifts for a delightful lead section on piano, followed by a lead on saxophone. “Devil May Care” was written by Bob Dorough and Terrell P. Kirk, Jr., and originally recorded by Bob Dorough. This album is dedicated to Bob Dorough, who died a few months ago. That’s followed by “Rhode Island Is Famous For You,” a goofy, likeable tune written by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. Mark sings lead on this one, and he totally commits to it, even with the silly wordplay like “Tentessee” and “Wyomink.” This track features more nice work on piano.

They then deliver an original composition by Mark Winkler and Larry Steelman, “Like Jazz,” a song that Winkler originally included on his 2000 release, Easy The Hard Way. Ah yes, a song that reminds us all of how cool even the idea of jazz is. And this new rendition is wonderful. I love Cheryl’s playful way of delivering the line about “wicked ways,” and I dig that bass. Plus, there is a cool lead on saxophone. This tune makes us all want to “live like jazz.” Think of that world for a moment. Oh man, there’d be a lot of dancing, a lot of sex, a lot of drinking, a lot of city lights, a lot of spontaneity. Cheryl then sings lead on “The Gentleman Is A Dope,” delivering an excellent vocal performance. This track features more cool work on bass, as well as some good stuff on drums.

“I Could Get Used To This (Bumpin’)” is a song that was originally a Wes Montgomery instrumental titled “Bumpin’” to which Mark Winkler added his own lyrics. “I could get used to this/Not being alone/Turning this house I have into a home.” Oh yes, I could get used to that too (well, if I had a house). There is a cool instrumental section, featuring some wonderful work on guitar. That’s followed by a good rendition of “The Best Is Yet To Come,” that begins with snapping and Cheryl’s vocals. Yes, sometimes I believe that the best is yet to come. We have to keep a bit of optimism, right? Then Pat Kelley plays guitar on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” which Cheryl sings, giving another remarkable performance.

“Walk On The Wild Side” opens with a bright burst, before the bass takes its due prominence. This is an interesting version of the famous Lou Reed tune. It’s a lively, kind of cool version with a bit of swing, a bit of swagger, and a bit of jazzy chaos. Although it’s lame that they don’t sing the “Even when she was giving head” line; instead, Cheryl sings “Even when she was, you know.” They also drop the “colored girls” line. Still, I really like what they give us here, and they do include the “doo doo doo doo” part, delivering it in an unusual manner. Plus, there is some great stuff on horn. There is also a brief spoken word section toward the end, in which they mention Lou Reed and William S. Burroughs. “Things Are Swingin’” is a lot of fun. Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne deliver a lively, bright rendition of the Peggy Lee song. “Things are swinging,” indeed! The disc then concludes with a medley of “The Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and “The Lies Of Handsome Men,” featuring Stephanie Fife on cello. The lines “All the news is bad again/Kiss your dreams goodbye” seem particularly pertinent these days, eh?

CD Track List
  1. Devil May Care
  2. Rhode Island Is Famous For You
  3. Like Jazz
  4. The Gentleman Is A Dope
  5. I Could Get Used To This (Bumpin’)
  6. The Best Is Yet To Come
  7. Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
  8. Walk On The Wild Side
  9. You Smell So Good
  10. Things Are Swingin’
  11. Ballad Of The Sad Young Men/Lies Of Handsome Men 
Eastern Standard Time was released on CD on August 13, 2018 on Café Pacific Records.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bird Streets: “Bird Streets” (2018) CD Review

Bird Streets is the new project by John Brodeur and Jason Falkner, and on their self-titled debut release, the two musicians play most of the instruments as well as providing the vocals. In fact, only a few tracks feature guest musicians (and those guests include vocalist Miranda Lee Richards). The songs are all originals, with lyrics written by John Brodeur, and music by John Brodeur and Jason Falkner. The music is rock and pop, with an engaging sound and meaningful lyrics.

The album opens with “Carry Me,” a cool rock tune with a nod to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in the lines “Marching slowly down the road/Coming for to carry me home.” That line, “Coming for to carry me home,” has an uplifting feel almost regardless of context, even in a stanza about a car crash. And earlier in the song, they sing, “Flip the hourglass again/’Cause the morning’s breaking soon.” Those lines sound so positive these days, as many of us are eager for a new morning to take us out of these dark times. There are a lot of lines and phrases that stand out for me, such as “Every night’s the longest night” and “beautiful unknown.” Then the first lines of “Betting On The Sun” made me laugh out loud the first time I put on this disc. They are “I remember when/We were tighter than Steely Dan.” I always felt that band was too tight, too clean, too mechanical. But my favorite lines of this song are “It’s a very fine line/Between living and just getting by/And you’re so comfortable/Being miserable to even try.” Those are fantastic lyrics. This song has a fairly bright sound, in contrast to lines like that and “Darkness falls on everyone’s daydream.” This song also features some really nice vocal work. Then the lines that stand out for me in “Direction” are “We walk in the direction of home/But we are never getting any warmer.” I love those lines, but it is the catchy pop rhythm of this one that makes it such an enjoyable track.

“Spaceship” has a quieter, serious folk sound to start. “No way of stopping/Until life has passed me by/Life had passed me by.” Is there something Kinks-ish here, in the vocal line?  And check out these lines: “Having the time of someone else’s life/Until the alarm sounds/And the morning arrives/If it ever arrives.” This album contains a lot of seriously good lyrics. “We’ve got a long way to go,” they sing here. Yes, it certainly feels that way. By the way, this is one of the tracks to feature guest musicians. Craig Greenberg in on piano, Chris Kelly is on bass, Scott Tofte is on drums, and Jeff Litman adds some work on guitar. There are some gorgeous backing vocals by Maesa Pullman, Miranda Lee Richards and Michelle Vidal, helping to make this track one of my favorites. The song’s last lines are “I’m just a capsule floating in space/No destination/But my resting place,” and I can’t help but think that soon hundreds of people will be floating in space thanks to Donald Trump’s new Space Force scheme. Ah, if only we could send every Trump supporter deep into space.

Another of my favorites is “Thanks For Calling.” It has a catchy rhythm and lyrics that make me laugh. The first lines, in fact, make me laugh: “Thanks for calling/I would have been better off never knowing/But you had to tell me everything.” And then also these lines, which are wonderful: “Every time the phone rings/I get a chill, it could be you/But when it is, it’s always bad news.”  “Pretty Bones” is yet another of this disc’s highlights. It has a quiet acoustic sound to start, soon creating a haunting, intense vibe, but still with moments where sunlight gets through. And of course there are some excellent lyrics, such as these: “After all the times you’ve reached your last resort/You’re still coming up short” and “Hollywood’s a graveyard/All the stories have been told/But you’re sifting through remains/Looking for some pretty bones.” This is an excellent, engaging song. The album concludes with a solid pop tune titled “Until The Crown.” “You think you’re the king of the world/Solved every problem/Until the crown wears off.

CD Track List
  1. Carry Me
  2. Betting On The Sun
  3. Direction
  4. Spaceship
  5. Stop To Breathe
  6. Thanks For Calling
  7. Same Dream
  8. Heal
  9. Pretty Bones
  10. Bullets
  11. Until The Crown 
Bird Streets was released on August 10, 2018 through Omnivore Recordings.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes at The Federal Bar, 8-12-18 Concert Review

Charlie Faye And The Fayettes
Democracy is truly in danger of being extinguished in this country, and the entire right wing couldn’t care less. In fact, they cheer its destruction. It’s bewildering, infuriating and depressing. More and more, I seek refuge inside of a song. And today I found joy and spirit at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood. Charlie Faye & The Fayettes headlined the latest concert in the Mimosa Music Series, hosted by Gary Calamar. I love attending these shows, and today’s was a bright burst of cheerful pop with an early 1960s flavor, just exactly the right thing to momentarily push aside our fears, our anger, our despair. This music couldn’t help but raise the spirits of all who attended the concert.

At 11:49 a.m., Gary introduced the opening act, Whispertown, a band I hadn’t seen before, but whom I immediately liked. They did songs from their 2017 release, I’m A Man, including “Big Fish,” “Born To Ride” and “Free Faller,” as well as newer material. Then, after a very short break (less than fifteen minutes), Charlie Faye & The Fayettes took the stage. The band actually got things going with a brief instrumental tune, titled “Party Song,” as the girls danced onto the stage. They then went straight into “I Don’t Need No Baby,” and the fun early sixties sound immediately took hold and made me smile. They followed that with “Stone Cold Fox,” which featured some nice stuff on guitar, and then got into some of the material from their self-titled 2016 release. “Eastside” is a whole lot of fun, and the girls have synchronized moves which are wonderful. This song never fails to make me happy, and the band jammed on it a bit at the end, which I appreciated. They followed that with “Sweet Little Messages,” another cool tune from that album.

“That’s What New Love Is For” is a sweet, pretty song, and after it Charlie Faye mentioned the group’s upcoming release. “Here are a couple of new ones,” she said. They played “1-2-3-4” (which I had assumed was titled “Elementary”) and “The Whole Shebang.” “That’s what we decided we’re going to call the next record – The Whole Shebang,” she said afterward. Well, from what they played at this show, the new album is bound to be something special. They went from something new to something old, a cover of The Ramones’ “Rockaway Beach,” which, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a lot of fun. They did that song the first time I saw them perform too, which was nearly two years ago now (geez, time is racing along).

That was followed by “Cream Rises” and “Tonight’s The Night,” and then “Green Light,” the lead-off track from their debut release. They finished off the set with an absolutely delightful cover of “Seven Nights To Rock,” a song that was originally done by Moon Mullican in the 1950s, and has been performed by Bruce Springsteen, Nick Lowe, The Refreshments and others over the years. This rendition by Charlie Faye & The Fayettes featured some excellent work on keys. All it was missing was a saxophone. The band continued to play as the girls danced off the stage into the audience. There was no encore.

Set List
  1. Party Song
  2. I Don’t Need No Baby
  3. Stone Cold Fox
  4. Eastside
  5. Sweet Little Messages
  6. That’s What New Love Is For
  7. 1-2-3-4
  8. The Whole Shebang
  9. Rockaway Beach
  10. Cream Rises
  11. Tonight’s The Night
  12. Green Light
  13. Seven Nights To Rock 
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Stone Cold Fox"
"Stone Cold Fox"
"Sweet Little Messages"

The Federal Bar is located at 5303 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, California.

James Scott Bullard: “Full Tilt Boogie” (2018) CD Review

Perhaps the only way to approach things is to go full tilt boogie. Why do something with anything less than complete dedication and focus? That seems to be the case for James Scott Bullard, and his music. The title of his latest release, Full Tilt Boogie, was not chosen haphazardly, but is an indication of his drive. The music here is country rock with the emphasis on the rock. These songs have energy and passion and movement. The band is made up of James Scott Bullard on vocals and guitar, Mike Knight on drums, Justin Banks on keys, Kevin Singleton on bass, Jeff Springs on guitar and lap steel, Rebecca Morning on backing vocals and Jordan Adams on backing vocals. All the tracks are originals, written by James Scott Bullard.

The album gets off to a good start with “Lord, Have Mercy,” country rock with a full sound and just the right amount of twang to the vocals. “So go paint the town, my dear/’Cause I don’t feel much like dancing/You look too good to stay here/But have a little mercy on me.” Oh yes, let that electric guitar carry you away. “Now, honey, don’t you forget me/If I should stay gone for too long/And don’t treat me like a stranger/When I come rolling back home.” Then the ripping guitar leads us into “Wicked Ways,” a tune with a promising title for those of us of dubious faith. And it’s a whole lot of fun. The lines that first made me love this track are “One Sunday morning, a preacher told me/He said boy, you’re going straight to hell/I said, well preacher, when you get to heaven/Have the good lord to forward my mail.” Is it a cautionary tale? Hmm, it’s like gospel if every church had a full bar and an active night life.  This one has a false ending, like a brief death from which it rises to boogie once again, praise the lord.

“Hey, Hey Mama” is a rockin’ tune that encourages us to enjoy the good life. “Shake it ‘til it rattles/Shake it ‘til it quakes.” The line that stands out for me each time I listen is this one: “I’m going to love you, woman, like it’s against the law.” Oh, hell yes. How’s that for going full tilt boogie? This goes a bit more in the blues direction than toward country, but rocks throughout. James Scott Bullard keeps things moving with “Warpath,” after a mellow intro. In this one, he sings “Take me to a place where nobody knows my name,” sort of the opposite of the Cheers theme. This one got me dancing in my apartment, especially during that great jam toward the end. While “Warpath” is about moving on after a woman nearly drove him insane, “Jesus, Jail, Or Texas” is about telling the woman it’s time for her move on. Hey, someone has to be moving, right? Well, the music is getting my feet moving. This song is a lot of fun. When “Oh me oh my” is followed by “Oh my oh me,” you know things are good. I love the backing vocals on this track. And check out these lines: “Honey, you ain’t the first one/You ain’t gonna be the last/You might not be the worst one/But you damn sure ain’t the best.” And then “Evil Lovin’” includes this great line: “I said I might be crazy, but, mama, I ain’t crazy about you.” And in both songs, the woman is the cause of some serious drinking. There are more troubles and more moving on in “The Next Tear,” in which he sings, “You won’t get a chance to leave me hurting/I’ll be gone before the next tear hits the ground.” Ah, a song of self-preservation, and one featuring some nice work on guitar. The album then concludes with “Back To You,” which has a kind of sweeter vibe. Yeah, there is still movement here, but in a different direction. “Down every road that takes me back to you.”

CD Track List
  1. Lord, Have Mercy
  2. Wicked Ways
  3. All To Pieces
  4. Hey, Hey Mama
  5. Warpath
  6. Jesus, Jail, Or Texas
  7. Evil Lovin’
  8. Leavin’ On My Mind
  9. The Next Tear
  10. Back To You
Full Tilt Boogie was released on April 27, 2018.