Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 1 (2022) Vinyl Review

Some albums just demand to be heard on vinyl. It seems the only fitting and natural way to listen to them, you know? Such is the case with the three volumes of Chicago/The Blues/Today!, originally released in 1966. The first volume is now being re-issued on 180-gram vinyl by Craft Recordings. It contains tracks from three artists – The Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, J.B. Hutto And His Hawks, and Otis Spann’s South Side Piano. Yes, some of the best mid-1960s Chicago blues. And the music sounds just exactly right on this new vinyl issue. It features an all-analog mastering from the original stereo tapes. Each artist gets five tracks on this record.

Side One

The album opens with music from The Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, beginning with a track titled “A Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson.” Interestingly, this track begins with a spoken word introduction, in which he says he wants to pay tribute to an outstanding musician. “It’s a number that he made that I think that will linger in your hearts forever.” The song he covers is “Help Me.” And it has a sound that is exactly what you think of when you think of Chicago blues. And of course it features some delicious work on harmonica. In the middle of the track he adds another spoken word section, saying that he was one of Sonny Boy Williamson’s students. It is a personal and wonderful rendition. “Goodbye, old man, goodbye,” he says toward the end. Sonny Boy Williamson died in 1965. The Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band is made up of Junior Wells on harmonica and vocals, Buddy Guy on guitar, Jack Myers on bass, and Fred Below on drums. “A Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson” is followed by a fantastic rendition of “It Hurts Me Too.” Just listen to that bass line. This is a song I first heard done by Chuck Berry on a cassette I had when I was a kid, and loved it immediately. Then I heard several recordings of the Grateful Dead covering it. But the version on this compilation might be the best I’ve heard. It features more excellent work on harmonica, plus some cool stuff on guitar and a passionate vocal performance.

It is on “Messin’ With The Kid” that the band really cuts loose and has some fun. Check out that vocal performance. This song has a catchy rhythm, one to get you sharking and grooving. And yes, there is another good lead on harmonica. They then slow things down with “Vietcong Blues.” This is one of many blues songs that open with a variation of the line “I woke up this morning,” in this case “I woke up early this morning.” Interestingly, later in the song he sings, “You wake up early in the morning, baby,” the song shifting to another person who is struggling. “You might not have no respect for your country, darling/But that’s why, that’s why I’m singing these blues.” This track features some excellent work on guitar, which should come as no surprise. After all, it is Buddy Guy. “How would you feel if it was your brother over there, huh? /How would you feel?” The final track from The Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band is “All Night Song,” which has a familiar blues rhythm and features some fantastic and fun work on guitar. “Lord, you just don’t know how good, baby, just how good you make me feel.”

The first side concludes with two tracks from J.B. Hutto And His Hawks. The first is “Going Ahead,” and immediately that guitar takes charge, sounding so good. J.B. Hutto And His Hawks are made up of J.B. Hutto on guitar and vocals, Herman Hassell on bass, and Frank Kirkland on drums. “Down on my knees I beg/Baby, I want you to help me if you please.” It is interesting that in several of these songs the singer is seeking help. This side opened with a call for help, and it likewise ends with one, “Please Help.” This song moves at a good clip, immediately giving us the sense of motion, of a train or car. So the opening line comes as a surprise: “Well, I couldn’t do nothing but stand on that road and cry.” This track is a whole lot of fun. At one point, J.B. Hutto repeatedly calls out “Help.” Oh yes, we could all use some help.

Side Two

The second side of the record continues with three more tracks from J.B. Hutto And His Hawks, starting with “Too Much Alcohol,” a totally enjoyable tune. I love how earnest he is about trying to just get himself a drink. Also, this is one of those blues numbers where the singer calls himself out by name: “My baby said, hey J.B., J.B. you ain’t no good at all.” That’s followed by “Married Woman Blues,” a slower gem with a powerful vocal performance. You can hear the pain and angst as he sings, “Yeah, you ask me how I feel, baby/How would you feel when you just lost your girl/Yes, she’s a married woman/But she’s the only thing I ever loved in this world,” lines near the beginning of the song. The guitar work on this track is phenomenal. What is interesting and great is that it does not overpower the vocals, the lyrics remaining the focus. The final of the J.B. Hutto tracks is “That’s The Truth,” a tune with a lot more movement to it. I dig that rhythm. This is blues that makes you feel good, and that’s the truth.

Then we get into the Otis Spann’s South Side Piano tracks. Otis Spann was the pianist in Muddy Waters’ band, and here he is backed only by S.P. Leary on drums. Leary played drums in Muddy Waters’ band. The first of Otis Spann’s tracks is “Marie,” an instrumental number that is great fun. It feels like a blues party, one you want to take from the clubs and bar rooms out into the streets until the whole world is grooving. I still think music has the power to put an end to violence and hatred. He then slows this down with “Burning Fire,” a sexy and delicious love song. Check out these lines: “I’d walk through a blaze of fire, baby/If I’d known you was on the other side/Just to put my arms around you/Baby, to keep my love alive.” This track features some fantastic stuff on piano. Does he cough at one point? Well, that works, you know, if he walked through fire and smoke. This song ends with him waiting for his love to call him. It is an incredibly cool track.

“S.P Blues” is another cool tune, this one an instrumental featuring some great stuff on drums. This one has a kind of playful mood. That’s followed by “Sometime I Wonder,” another slower blues gem, with some delicious work on piano. This music is just so good, the perfect thing to help lift my own personal blues while I have been isolated with COVID. “If I don’t go crazy, baby/Little girl, I’m gonna lose my mind/I’m in love with you, woman/Keep me bothered all the time.” The album concludes with a completely fun instrumental tune titled “Spann’s Stomp,” just the thing to help us all shake our remaining cares away.

Record Track List

Side One

  1. A Tribute To Sonny Boy Williamson
  2. It Hurts Me Too
  3. Messin’ With The Kid
  4. Vietcong Blues
  5. All Night Long
  6. Going Ahead
  7. Please Help

Side Two

  1. Too Much Alcohol
  2. Married Woman Blues
  3. That’s The Truth
  4. Marie
  5. Burning Fire
  6. S.P. Blues
  7. Sometime I Wonder
  8. Spann’s Stomp

This special vinyl re-issue of Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 1 is scheduled to be released on September 16, 2022 through Craft Recordings. My copy is on black vinyl, but I see that on the Craft Recordings website an olive vinyl rendition is also available.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

I wonder why people like Marjorie Peach Tree Dish Greene even exist. I asked her that very question a couple of times via social media, but she has yet to respond. Some people seem to be here just to make life more difficult for everyone else. What a horrible and pointless way to spend one’s brief and fleeting time on Earth. Fortunately, there are musicians to counteract that kind of destructive energy, to remind us of our better natures and of what can be accomplished when we reach out to each other. Here are some brief notes on a few new jazz releases you might be interested in.

Henry Godfrey Jazz Orchestra: “Attitude & Gratitude” – Henry Godfrey is a drummer and composer. The second release from Henry Godfrey Jazz Orchestra contains all original compositions. The album opens with “For McCoy,” which is a tribute to pianist McCoy Tyner (and not to Doctor Leonard McCoy, which is where my brain initially went). This track is dramatic and exciting at times, other times settling into a cool place, and features some excellent work by Rowan Barcha on piano, and by Pritesh Walia on guitar. And of course there is plenty of great stuff on drums. There is something cinematic about the style and presentation. That’s followed by “Mad Max,” which begins with the good groove. With that title, I was expecting something perhaps frantic, with an ominous edge, but this track is a lot of fun, with some great funky energy. Nicholas Suchecki offers some delicious work on baritone saxophone. And then check out Eli Block’s cool work on trumpet. It is easy to get completely caught up in the vibrant power and joy of this track. And before the end, there is even a drum solo. So, yes, this is one of my favorite tracks. Henry Godfrey Jazz Orchestra changes gears with “Forgetting What Will Never Be,” which has a more contemplative air as it begins, and develops a nostalgic vibe. This one clearly has its own tale to tell, and takes us on an interesting journey. That’s followed by “Hot Water,” and almost immediately there is the sense of something building here, getting ready to explode. There is a certain excitement, expressed mainly by the brass section. The album then concludes with “We’ll Get There,” as hopeful a title as any I’ve seen lately (assuming “there” isn’t Florida or Texas or Kentucky). I think many of us have been repeating this to each other and ourselves over the course of the last few years. That we’ll get through this pandemic, that we’ll through this crisis to our democracy, that we’ll all get back on course somehow. And it is music that still makes me believe it (even as I am stuck at home with COVID). And this track does feel like a path forward. Plus, I love that drum solo. This album is scheduled to be released on September 23, 2022.

The Jazz Professors: “Blues And Cubes” – On this album, the group is inspired by the work of Pablo Picasso, particularly during his blue period, as the title suggests. This release contains mostly original material, and opens with “Blue Lamp,” which was composed by saxophonist Jeff Rupert (Rupert also contributes the disc’s liner notes, by the way). The piece has an easygoing vibe as it begins, featuring some nice work on tenor saxophone. Dan Miller’s trumpet then takes the track in a slightly different direction, and the rhythm is developed more. I really like Marty Morell’s work on drums here. This track also features a wonderful lead by Per Danielsson on piano. That’s followed by “Dora Maar,” which was composed by Danielsson. Dora Maar was a photographer who was depicted in several of Picasso’s paintings. There is a strong sense of movement as this track begins, in large part because of that cool rhythm, the way the piano is part of that force. And the saxophone takes off over that rhythm. There is a good deal of joy in the playing. And in the second half of the track, there is a good bass solo from Richard Drexler.  “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” a piece composed by Jeff Rupert, takes its name from a 1907 Picasso painting which shows five nude women, who seem to me to be leaning against a large upright mirror, perhaps even emerging from it in great flat shards. This track too seems propelled by its rhythm, and there is a certain excitement. I love the way that lead on piano flies. In the second half, guitarist Bobby Koelble delivers an excellent lead that likewise cooks and dances. His guitar lead in the next tune, “Blue Steel,” is a major part of that track’s appeal. That is followed by the album’s first cover, a seriously enjoyable and exciting rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” Talk about movement, this one races along like a determined beast. I especially love Jeff Rupert’s work on saxophone here. Things then turn more romantic with “View Of Heaven,” composed by Per Danielsson. Then the group’s cover of “Promenade aux Champs- Élysées,” written by Sydney Bechet, is absolutely delightful, with that great French flavor. I have not visited Paris, but I imagine it is exactly like this music (don’t disappoint me, Paris). That’s followed by “Promenade In Blue,” a track that is several shades of cool, the tone set immediately by Jeff Rupert, who also composed this piece. Richard Drexler contributes “Picasso’s Blue Lobster,” another incredibly cool track that draws you in and maintains its hold on you. As you might guess, it features a good lead on bass. The album concludes with “The Iberian,” a lively track written by Jeff Rupert, who plays alto sax on it. This album was released on August 5, 2022.

Doug MacDonald: “I’ll See You In My Dreams” – For someone as prolific as guitarist Doug MacDonald is, for him to also be consistently releasing excellent albums is remarkable. It seems like a mediocre one should have sneaked in by now. But no. And his new release is in fact one of his best. From the moment the title track begins, there is a delicious joy to the playing that seems capable of brightening the day of the saddest among us. On this album, MacDonald is joined by Tamir Hendelman on piano, John Clayton on bass, and Jeff Hamilton on drums, and each of them shines on that opening track. They then slow things down with a rather warm rendition of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good).” This track will make you feel good too, but of a different sort, giving you a more relaxed, peaceful feeling. Doug MacDonald delivers a wonderful and unusual rendition of “My Ship” that begins with drums, announcing this version will have a good energy and faster tempo. Approximately halfway through, I realize how much I am loving the groove of this track. Such great stuff on drums, and that helps this become one of my personal favorites. This disc also includes a nice rendition of “Easy To Love” that contains a wonderful section of bass and drums interacting. Then “‘Tis Autumn” contains some beautiful and passionate work on both guitar and piano. In additions to standards, there are two original compositions written by Doug MacDonald. The first is “New Mark,” which begins with a delicious blues groove that immediately has me tapping my toes and smiling. Interestingly, it suddenly changes gears after a minute or so, moving into a different but equally enjoyable direction. And soon it goes into a delightful rhythm and blues place, featuring some excellent work on guitar. This track is full of movement and surprises, and everything about it works perfectly. And it ends back in the blues, with a short guitar solo. The second, “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows,” is a sweet waltz, and perhaps fittingly is the shortest track on the album (the CD case erroneously lists the final track as being shorter). Hey, who doesn’t have the brevity of existence on his or mind these days? The album then concludes with a breezy version of “Will You Still Be Mine” that features some great work from all four musicians, and includes a short drum solo. This album was released on August 30, 2022.

Ana Nelson: “Bridges” – This album is Ana Nelson’s debut full-length release as band leader, and it includes all original material.  Ana Nelson plays both alto saxophone and clarinet on this album. She is joined by Jamaal Baptiste on piano, Brendan Keller-Tuberg on bass, and Carter Pearson on drums, as well as by some special guests on a few tracks. The album opens with a track titled “Wanderlust,” which has a gentle, easygoing, yet playful opening, like someone who is thinking of taking a journey. And then the saxophone takes us on that journey, gathering energy and excitement as it goes. And when a rest is required, the piano takes up the story. Ana Nelson switches to clarinet for “Waltz,” a mellower, more serious-sounding number. I particularly like the work on drums here, giving the sense of something brewing within. Ana Nelson moves back to alto saxophone for “LCB,” and is joined by Garrett Fasig on tenor saxophone. When it begins, there is a contemplative and comfortable air about it. Then it starts to take off in a playful way, like a spirit beginning a dance. The piano picks up on this vibe, on this dance. On “Blue Flower,” one of the album’s most beautiful pieces, Ana Nelson is joined by a string quartet. Marina Alba López and Jodi Dunn are on violin, Alice Ford in on viola, and Kevin Flynn is on cello. The mood changes for “NelBap Choro,” a light and joyous number, on which Ana Nelson plays clarinet. On this delightful track, Ana Nelson is joined by just Jamaal Baptiste on piano. Both musicians seem to be dancing with their instruments, and calling us to join in the feeling of joy. Ana Nelson also pays clarinet on “Let The Light In,” where she is joined by the string quartet again. This time, it is just Nelson and the quartet, so this track has quite a different sound and vibe from “Blue Flower.” There is a sweet and peaceful beauty to this piece. The album concludes with “Fruit Of The Groove,” a lively and fun tune featuring some great work on piano. Here she is also joined by Bill Nelson (her father) on tenor saxophone, Jeremy Allen on bass, and Steve Houghton on drums. This album is scheduled to be released on September 2, 2022.

Dave Slonaker Big Band: “Convergency” – The new release from Dave Slonaker Big Band features original material, with all but one of its tracks composed by Dave Slonaker. It opens with its title track, which grabs our attention immediately with that first section, which seems to be issuing a warning of sorts, or a calling, a summoning. And soon the tune is off and running, building from those initial moments, and featuring a nice lead by Clay Jenkins on trumpet and a groovy bass line by Edwin Livingston. Interestingly, in the second half there is a sudden break in the action, and then Ed Czach leads things into a different direction for a moment, again aided by that bass. That’s followed by “Uncommonly Ground,” the title a playful reference to coffee. This one eases in, and features a somewhat mellow, but wonderful lead on guitar Larry Koonse. Then “Duelity” swings and moves right from its opening moments, with that delicious rhythm. Peter Erskine is on drums, by the way. Yeah, a seriously talented group of musicians was gathered for this release. That’s followed by “A Gathering Circle” which begins slowly, then, seemingly when all the pieces are ready, develops a good groove, and that’s when the communication can begin. This track features some excellent guitar work by Larry Koonse. But perhaps the album’s best track is “A Curve In The Road,” which is catchy and exciting, and breathes and dances. It features cool leads by Clay Jenkins on trumpet, Tom Leur on tenor saxophone, and Brian Scanlon on alto saxophone, as well as more delicious work on both bass and drums. Everything about this track seems to move just right. Another of the disc’s highlights for me is “Sometimes A Notion” (the title of course reminding me of a certain Ken Kesey novel, as well as the line from “Goodnight, Irene”). This one features some nice work by Alex Iles on trombone and by Rob Lockart on tenor saxophone. We then enter a more contemplative, space with “Vanishing Point,” which is at times pensive, at times more whimsical, and is yet another of the highlights. I love Bob Sheppard’s work on soprano sax here, as well as the interesting work from the rhythm section. The album concludes with its only cover, “I Had The Craziest Dream,” which was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. This album was released on August 19, 2022.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Claudettes: “Go Out!” (2022) CD Review

There is nothing subtle or ambiguous about the message in the title of the new album from The Claudettes, Go Out! It is simply and directly stated, and there is even an exclamation point. And while the pandemic is certainly not over (my uncle ended up in the hospital this week from the coronavirus, and I just tested positive this morning), it is an appealing message to many at this point. I am still nowhere close to the number of concerts I would attend in an average pre-pandemic year, but I have been making a point to go see live music more (though largely at outdoor venues). To get out, to enjoy myself. Because, let’s face it, reality has kind of sucked for several years now. Well, The Claudettes are here to help. This is a band that I got turned onto back in 2018 when Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! was released (another album with an exclamation point in its title). That album took me on a wild ride, and ended up being one of my favorite releases of that year. That was followed in 2020 by another excellent release, High Times In The Dark. This new release features all original material, written by Brian Berkowitz (who is also known as Johnny Iguana). The band is made up of Berit Ulseth on vocals; Zach Verdoorn on bass, guitar and vocals; Johnny Iguana on piano, keyboards, and vocals; and Michael Caskey on drums and percussion. There are some guests joining them on one of this album’s tracks.

The album opens with “A Lovely View,” an oddly sweet and endearing song. One thing that is particularly remarkable about this band is the songwriting. Their songs aren’t quite like those of any other band. Check out these lyrics, at the beginning of the track: “I walked into your store/I watched you folding clothes until/I couldn’t take it anymore/Can’t you come and fold your clothes in my room/Can’t you come and fold your clothes in my room.” There is something dreamlike in Berit Ulseth’s vocal delivery. The song then becomes more serious in its second half: “You were right on course/I was passing through.” Turns out this track is an earnest, and gorgeous, love song, with her delivering a wonderful proposal. “Won’t you come over and live your life in my room/My place is small, but there’s a lovely view.” And it builds in power as well as it reaches its climax, no longer feeling like a whimsical invitation, but a life-changing moment. This is a fantastic song. That’s followed by “Park Bench,” a delightful pop number. Probably most people can appreciate this line: “And I’m not even close to getting what I desire.” This song features a string section, with an arrangement by Jim Cooper. Nora Barton is on cello, while Andra Kulans is on both viola and violin. Anthony Gravino plays acoustic guitar on this track. This one has a positive sound. “And there’s love all around me/And there’s love all around me/Some days.”

“The American Sky” opens with the line “He loves the sound of his voice,” which clearly sets up a certain character we are all familiar with. But this band is not satisfied with just that, and these guys add the surprising modifier “in spring.” And now we are in the territory that this band has created and continues to populate so well. This song also features some finger snaps. “Up in the sky, oh so beautiful,” Berit sings. And this song itself has its own beauty. Then “Dozing In The Crypt” comes on strong, with a totally different vibe from the previous track, and features some great stuff on piano. “And then he gave us all the slip/And now he’s dozing in the crypt/Trying to keep from getting wet/As it goes drip, drip, drip/But he’s not licked yet.” Yeah, it’s a cool tune. There is some great stuff on piano on “Time Won’t Take Our Times Away” too, getting looser toward the end during that great instrumental section. This one also has a sweet vibe, with a beautiful vocal performance. “But the memories are mine/And time/Time won’t take our times away/And loss/Loss can’t make me lose what I gained/From knowing you.” Then there is some gorgeous and enchanting work on piano and vocals as “The Waves” begins. This is an absolutely wonderful song, another of this album’s best. “The waves reflect the moonlight.” And as we listen, it’s not difficult to place ourselves there in the water, in the moonlight, in a strangely magical spot.

“There’s Too Much Affection In The World” is a delightfully quirky number, which you could probably guess from its title. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I would like to love you/But who has the time/And I see what you are saying/But that’s a nice try/But there’s too much affection in this world.” There is a bit of a 1970s flavor to this one at times. That’s followed by another unusual song, “Exposure,” which goes in a very different direction. “Overstated/Overrated/Overripe/Overpriced/It’s over.” Then Berit comes in to sing, “Nobody knows ya/You need some exposure,” with the backing vocals chiming in, “People die from exposure.” Have I mentioned how much I love this band?  Everybody knows it’s over.” That in turn is followed by “Cowboy,” an adorable song about music and alcohol. I love the way it plays with the idea of quitting drinking or quitting music, where alcohol and music sort of swap places. “I just know that drinking is my calling/It’s what I was put on this earth to do/But music distorts my vision/Gives me unrealistic ambitions/And I’m tired of all the revisions.” Again, no one writes songs like this band. The album concludes with “The Show Must Go On (And Then The Show Must End).” “I can’t believe I got to do this with you/The days we had, and all the nights too/And all the while we knew/It wasn’t like we had no clue/We knew what was coming around the bend/The show must go on, and then the show must end.” It is all over much too soon, so we have to enjoy the time we have.

CD Track List

  1. A Lovely View
  2. Park Bench
  3. The American Sky
  4. Dozing In The Crypt
  5. Time Won’t Take Our Times Away
  6. The Waves
  7. There’s Too Much Affection In This World
  8. Exposure
  9. Cowboy
  10. The Show Must Go On (And Then The Show Must End)

Go Out! is scheduled to be released on October 14, 2022 through Forty Below Records.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Newbury Comics Vinyl

No matter how many records I have, I always want more. There is so much great music out there, and when that music is on colored vinyl, well, how could I resist? In this video I talk about some limited edition vinyl releases and last week’s one-day sale at Newbury Comics.

Vanderwolf: “12 Little Killers” (2022) CD Review

You might know Max Vanderwolf from his work in the band Last Man Standing, but he’s also recorded under his own name. Earlier this year he put out a disc featuring two wild, psychedelic tracks, “When The Fire Grows Cold” and “Extinction.” And now he’s followed that with a full-length release titled 12 Little Killers, which includes twelve original songs. Joining the singer and songwriter on this album are Will Muldrew on bass, Sam Sallon on keyboards, Chris Cordoba on guitar, Oli Hannifan on guitar, Chris Wyles on drums, Kevin Petillo on drums, Alex Thomas on drums, Malin-My Nilsson on violin, Amy Langely on cello, Cyrus Reynolds on marimba, and Victy Silva on backing vocals.

The album opens with “I Am Not A Mountain,” which begins gently, drawing us in with its acoustic folk vibe, the focus being on the vocals, the lyrics. Check out these excellent lines: “I dreamed I was a hero/Fulfilling every task/Steadfast with an answer for/Everything you asked/And slaying all your daytime dragons/And spitfire syntax cluttering your mind.” Then the song suddenly swells, particularly the vocal work, coming as a surprise, and it is at that moment that this artist has me completely rapt. “But I am not a hero/And this is not a dream/And I can’t find the words to say/Exactly what I mean.” Ah, yes, I think we’re all in touch with that feeling. This is a beautiful song. Chris Cordoba plays guitar on this track, and Chris Wyles is on drums. That’s followed by “Ain’t Gonna Hurt,” with Oli Hallifan on guitar, and Alex Thomas on drums. There is a bit of a Beatles vibe as this one begins. This track features a passionate vocal delivery. He does not hold back, and doesn’t feel a need to make it pretty. This one has more of a raw power in the vocal performance, and that electric guitar matches that power, creating a completely captivating track. “And it feels like hello, but it’s really goodbye/No, I ain’t gonna hurt no one no more.”

There is a goofy bit of banter at the beginning of “Something For Nothing” (which is listed as “Somethin 4 Nuthin” on the CD case). This rock song is about the changing music industry, and how people expect to get music for free now online. It contains a reference to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in these lines: “Everybody wants something for nothing/Everybody wants something for free/God knows when, but you’ve been doing it again/Like a download devil with a social disease.” There is also a good lead by Oli Hannifan on electric guitar. It is a cool, raw track. That’s followed by “Stand By Your Fool,” in which Max Vanderwolf sings, “Forgive them/For they know not what they do/And the others/Know it, yet still do it too/So remember to stand by your fool.” There is a wonderfully sweet and vulnerable aspect to this song and to the vocal performance, which pulls us in. Chris Cordoba is on guitar, and Chris Wyles is on drums.

“If This Is Love (Please Make It Stop)” has one of my favorite song titles of this album, and for that reason, it is one of the tracks that initially drew my attention to this release. Well, it turns out to be one of the album’s best songs. From that initial growl and that guitar work, to its simple and catchy rhythm, everything about this track works so well. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I wait and I pray for this anguish to stop/If this is love, please make it stop/My heart’s like a blister that needs to be popped/If this is love, please make it stop.” Oli Hannifan is on guitar, and Kevin Petillo is on drums. But oh, where would be without love? None of this craziness would be worth it if not for love. Then “NYC” basically announces itself as a delightful song with that playful sound. Even though this song is rather serious, tackling the subject of how cities lose their character through development, for some reason I really want to see The Muppets sing this one. Can someone please make that happen? “The streets that gave us stories/Now tell the tale of greed/And avenues that sang the blues/Are silent in defeat/Take another piece of me, NYC.” “The Existential Terrier” is the other song title that drew me to this disc. This is a strange one. It feels like a 1970s rock song, but told from the perspective of a dog who is searching for purpose and meaning. “Live forever and live today/The spectacle has begun/Live tomorrow and you will say/We are here, we are one.” (On a related note, when I had a band in Oregon, I wrote a song called “The Existential Twist,” its only lines being, “There is no meaning/But, yes, you do exist/Everybody do the existential twist.”)

“Walking Away” begins in a contemplative and melancholy place, and has an exciting and unexpected power as it grows. “Worlds we once knew/You are walking away/Tossed like a hand grenade/From the cold hand of deceit/Wars call to you/You are walking away.” There is something rather beautiful about this song, and it ends up being one of the disc’s highlights. Oli Hannifan plays guitar on this track, and Alex Thomas is on drums. That’s followed by “Glisten,” another interesting track. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “And we’ll glisten through the darkness/For the ones that lost their way/Now the path is clear, the time is near/The light shines from our eyes.” Then “Aftermath” begins in a darker place, and features some nice work on strings. “Shoot me down with your electric truth tonight/In the cold morning air it may seem all right/Shoot me down with your electric truth tonight/While the wicked of the world unleash their spite.” There is then a brief pause before the song takes on a bit more urgency, more intensity. I love the strings on this track. There is also some good work on guitar toward the end. Chris Cordoba plays guitar on this track. And as the track approaches its climax, there is some wonderful backing vocal work. This is another highlight.

“Headway” creates an interesting atmosphere at the start, then allows things to build from there. This is another fantastic track featuring a strong vocal performance. “Just as the past dissolves away/The present fast is yesterday/The future calls and so we go/We stagger forth with all we know/Got to learn to live this life before I love again/Before I love again, before I love again.” This track also features a cool bass line, but the jam at the end might be the best part of this one. Kevin Petillo plays drums on this track. The album the concludes with “Somebody’s Love Song.”  This one has something of a classic sound, like some crazy gem from the past that is now finally getting some new attention. “Know in the end/I never meant to hurt you/And if you beat me to pulp/Stomp me to bits/Loving me the way you do/I still keep a flame, my love/Just for you.”

CD Track List

  1. I Am Not A Mountain
  2. Ain’t Gonna Hurt
  3. Something For Nothing
  4. Stand By Your Fool
  5. If This Is Love (Please Make It Stop)
  6. NYC
  7. The Existential Terrier
  8. Walking Away
  9. Glisten
  10. Aftermath
  11. Headway
  12. Somebody’s Love Song

12 Little Killers was released on July 20, 2022. Though my copy is a promotional CD, this release is on available on vinyl, and as a digital download.