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JOANNA CONNOR – Six String Stories

Album: Six String Stories

Artist: Joanna Connor

Label: M.C. Records

Release Date: August 26, 2016

http://mc-records.com

Connor

The Upshot: Few blues guitarists have distinguished their careers by sitting still, creatively. This restless spirit first launched her trajectory by breaking all the boundaries of sexism in what had been – traditionally – a man’s world. First mastering her instrument, she further developed her vocal powers to further go where the boys couldn’t go.

BY ERIC THOM

It depends where you hail from of course, but to fans of Chicago blues, Joanna Connor has long been a touchstone for searing, hard-edged electric blues. Granted, she’s been MIA for a few years but, through an odd quirk of fate (and the internet), she’s back to claim her rightful piece of the pie. When a fan’s live recording at the North Atlantic Blues Festival in 2014 went viral on YouTube, she was suddenly ‘discovered’ by the masses – yet Connor is perhaps the antithesis of being an Overnight Success. The ever-fiery, singer-songwriter/guitarist first made her mark with her debut release in ’89 – a true labour of love. Five years prior, the Brooklyn-born blues spark had made the pilgrimage from Worcester, Mass. to Chicago, determined to sit in with her heroes and cultivate her own distinctive definition of the blues. Regardless of how this Second Coming happened, her latest release will come as no surprise to existing fans of her other nine releases. Yet, Six String Stories has, by itself, all the feral power required to enlist and baptize fresh legions into the electric-blues fold. Launching with the molten ”It’s A Woman’s Way”, Connor and her band rip a page out of Helen Reddy’s feminist songbook with impassioned vocals and her ever-blazing Les Paul. Sounding slightly spontaneous as if recorded live, you’ll find a few off-key vocals, yet there’s no denying the fleet-fingered ferocity of her attack.

Tenacious slide work continues with “By Your Side” – a comparatively half-speed grind allowing her band – Marion Lance Lewis (drums, bass, synthesizer, vocals and romance), Jeff Lewis (keyboards), Omar Coleman (harp) and the horns of Charlie Kimble, Gary Solomon and Charles Pryor – to catch their wind as Connor explodes all over her fretboard. In an ode to old-school marriage, “We Stayed Together” is somewhat autobiographical and one of the disc’s best songs – a slowed-down ‘duet’ with partner Marion Lance Lewis, accompanied by minimal B3, bass and drums. A slight about-face with Jill Scott’s “Golden” demonstrates Connor’s creative range, transforming the handclapped silvery funk of the original into slick, uptempo jazz as she George Benson’s her way into a soulful place. Despite a minor rap outtake, it’s Jeff Lewis piano work and the soothing backup vocals of Steve & Hope Lewis that lend a little sunshine, offsetting the heavier side of Connor’s personality. Left turn again, with Coleman’s harp, Lewis’ tasteful percussion as Connor works her fretboard in a more adventurous direction to give the delightfully instrumental “Swamp Swim” its winding river feel. “Love Coming On Strong” is another powerful composition as all elements of the band come together to build another highlight track – acoustic guitar, Lewis’ plucky bass, background vocal and synth sting set the stage for Connor’s strongest vocal and the lethal tone she squeezes from her fingers. African percussion sets up the upbeat revival feel of “Heaven”, introducing the Lewis Family Singers and full horn section, as Connor dances through the piece, keeping her acoustic guitar largely at bay while featuring Charles Pryor’s trumpet as Marion Lewis plays it like a testifying preacher.

Of course, the much-ballyhooed subject of the link-gone-viral, “Halsted Street”, allows Connor the podium and the chance to refine it with a slightly Spanish edge. Of course, Elmore James’ “The Sky Is Crying” is where Connor first cut her teeth, this live performance paying homage to the much-covered song – but slowed down to a crawl, delivering some of Connor’s best singing and – without the need for speed – most expressive guitar-playing. On the back of Marlin Lewis’ heavy bass-lines, Connor approaches ‘Young Woman’s Blues” with the bite of a jazz player, using a slightly more melodic, effects-laden approach and a slight bend to her vocals, accompanied by an unnamed rhythm guitarist. Not unlike something you’d expect from Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour, Connor underlines her absolute versatility across much of Six String Stories reminding us, at the ripe age of 55, she’s got plenty of stories yet to come.

Check out Connor on the web as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWter1w4vWE  (“going viral” 2014)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkHzX_Bl23A&list=PLihhLeRu4qBAipANnUmeruKvZFioXlq4l&index=1  (“By Your Side”, live)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_pHmxVuxxg&index=2&list=PLihhLeRu4qBAipANnUmeruKvZFioXlq4l  (“Love Coming On Strong”, live)

 

SCOTT H. BIRAM – The Bad Testament

Album: The Bad Testament

Artist: Scott H. Biram

Label: Bloodshot

Release Date: February 24, 2017

www.bloodshotrecords.com

Biram

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

By now it ought to be apparent that Scott H. Biram is one irascible individual. Ornery and unruly to a fault, his albums betray the fact that he fancies himself the heir apparent to any number of edgy outlaws — Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, Bobby Bare and Merle Haggard included — even as he goes several steps beyond in affirming his tenacity. “I’m the mother fucking train wrecker,” he declares four songs in on the aptly titled The Bad Testament, and from first song to last — with various sound bites tossed in between — it’s obvious he’s all he claims to be. Even when he settles for an acoustic guitar on songs such as “Righteous Ways,” “Feel So Wrong” and “Swift Driftin” (“It takes a real piece of shit to be a real piece of shit”), his sass and spunk remain intact. There’s little room for compromise in Biram’s MO, but chalk that up to his crude charm, if that’s how one prefers to characterize it. The acapella gospel of “True Religion” aside, this is a gritty set of songs, performed by an obviously unhinged individual who takes pride in his warped weirdness. Indeed, when he offers a self-deprecating description of himself on the perfectly titled “Crippled and Crazy,” any further explanation hardly seems unnecessary.

DOWNLOAD: “Swift Driftin’, “Crippled and Crazy,” “Trainwrecker”

BANJOVI – Laredo

Album: Laredo

Artist: Banjovi

Label: self-released

Release Date: April 01, 2017

https://www.facebook.com/hadji.banjovi

Banjovi CD

The Upshot: Outlaw country with a desert twist, suitable for Sturgill Simpson fans and more.

BY FRED MILLS

From Oracle, Arizona (near Tucson), banjovi—lower case, please—is one Hadji Banjovi, who plays acoustic guitar and banjo, and sings, on this elegant, quintessentially Southwestern opus. Presumably, he also writes the dozen songs here, although the credits indicate the material was written by one Tom Hodgson, so it’s up to you, the listener, to discern the difference between the man and the nom du rawk—if there is any.

Me, I just know this sound when I hear it, having spent a decade in the Lower Sonoran Desert awhile back. I also recognize a slew of Tucson names among the credits, like studio rats Gabriel Sullivan and Jim Blackwood, and pedal steel maestro Neil Harry (all from the extended Giant Sand family). That’s a Tucson TMOQ for sure. And Laredo has a sun-baked immediacy impossible to ignore.

From the lonesome cowboy vibe and guitar-according interplay on the title track and the deep, dusty twang of “Disappearing Ink,” to the windswept, pedal steel-powered country of “Baggage Handler” and the shimmery mandolin lines arcing through “Paradise Just Lost a Fool,” it’s a gorgeous, evocative album. It’s worth additional note that Banjovi has at least one foot in Sturgill Simpson territory—indeed his vocal inflections are similar to Simpson and George Jones—and it’s not a stretch to imagine this record being embraced by the same audience. Check “Oklahoma’s Worry Now,” about a troublesome gal who left and never came back, for a perfect example.

Ultimately, Laredo comes across as the real deal, outlaw country with a desert twist, and well-worth the effort in seeking it out. Look for the record at his Bandcamp page—it’s listed as officially released on April 1, but you can snag the digital version now. There’s also Hodgson’s other project, The Infinite Mercies, whose Texas State Bird was released a little less than a year ago and can also be found at Bandcamp. It’s very similar in tone and texture, if a bit more straight-up country, and features a number of the same musicians. Listened to back-to-back, the two records make a compelling case for yet another unique iteration of the “Tucson sound.”

Incidentally, if you try to search for “banjovi” you’ll come across a slew of bands that employ the monicker; rest assured that this banjovi is not likely to break into a chorus of “Living On a Prayer” anytime soon.

DOWNLOAD: “Oklahoma’s Worry Now,” “Baggage Handler,” “Bluebird Eggs for Breakfast”

 

SAMANTHA FISH – Chills & Fever

Album: Chills & Fever

Artist: Samantha Fish

Label: Ruf

Release Date: March 17, 2017

www.rufrcords.de

Fish CD

The Upshot: Stunning set of early rock and soul covers that places blues guitar prodigy Fish in Daptone-goes-to-Detroit (and maybe New Orleans, too) territory.

BY FRED MILLS

When rock artists are looking to get their mojos workin’, they head to Memphis or Mississippi for a blues infusion. So what does a blues artist do when it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll? If you’re Samantha Fish, of Girls With Guitars (Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde) fame and, increasingly, solo acclaim, you don’t even linger considering New York, L.A., or Seattle—it’s time to book a flight to the Motor City, baby. That’s where the young guitar wizardess hooked up with members of the Detroit Cobras and producer Bobby Harlow, who, prior to being a go-to studio guy for numerous garage outfits, fronted Detroit punk provocateurs The Go. Throw in a New Orleans-based horn section, and you’ve got Chills & Fever, a blisteringly fine set of rocking soul that both showcases Fish’s estimable fretboard skills and demonstrates her intuitive gifts in selecting classic, maximum-impact material to perform.

Indeed, it’s an intriguing setlist, kicking off with “He Did It,” which sharp-eyed readers with long memories will recall both the Ronettes’ original version and the Detroit Cobras’ 2001 remake—the latter looming large for Fish’s romping j’accuse here. Another iconic female’s song closes out the album, Lulu’s ’64 hit “I’ll Come Running Over,” in Fish’s able hands (and pipes) transformed into a pure garage-rock anthem. In between you get a spine-tingling take on Skip James (“Crow Jane,” featuring some seriously bad-ass cigar box guitar work from Fish), not to mention Nina Simone (“Either Way I Lose,” wherein Fish consciously adds some Simone-like vocal inflections to give an already moody, mournful tune a downright haunted, desolate vibe).

And when she turns her attention to straight-up soul, she’s clearly in her element: Her shudder/shimmy/shake appropriation of R&B perennial “Chills & Fever”—which some may recall from Tom Jones’ over-the-top performance—is authentic enough to give Amy Winehouse nu-soul devotees pause; tackling Barbara Lewis’ eternal “Hello Stranger” puts her squarely in Daptone Records territory (additionally suggesting that Gabe Roth and his Dap-Kings have a potential protégé in Fish); and “It’s Your Voodoo Working,” originally a regional hit in the early ‘60s for Louisiana R&B singer Charles Sheffield, is simply jaw-dropping, as Fish, against a throbbing beat punctuated by jabbing horns, figuratively drops to her knees and howls in pain while unleashing primal peals of guitar.

I used the terms “nu-soul” and “appropriation” a few seconds ago, and that was intentional. White artists sometimes get accused of trespassing upon another race or ethnicity’s territory, but while a half-century ago this might’ve occurred tainted with patriarchal, even malicious, intent, in 2017, it’s time to get over it. There will always be opportunists who jump at the chance to hitch their boxcars to a profitable musical locomotive. But when someone like Fish comes along who so transparently exudes nothing but love, admiration, and respect for artists and songs that have had a profound impact on her, you need to take it at face value. Most of the people who originally wrote these 14 songs (12 if you get the vinyl) have passed on by now, but one can only hope that, at some point, Fish has the opportunity to bring those who are still with us onstage and show the world how it was done and how it’s gonna continue to be done.

DOWNLOAD: “Chills & Fever,” “Crow Jane,” “It’s Your Voodoo Working”

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Son of Deseret: A Bob Moss Tribute

Album: Son of Deseret: A Bob Moss Tribute

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Regional Underground Elevators

Release Date: January 20, 2017

www.bobmosstribute.com

Bob-Moss-Son-of-Deseret

The Upshot: Two-disc tribute to late Salt Lake City musical and visual polyglot suggests he shoulda been a national contender.

BY FRED MILLS

On one level, there’s nothing particularly illuminating about a tribute album devoted to an artist who probably wasn’t known all that well beyond the local scene that spawned him. Musician comes to prominence, is respected throughout his community, dies far too young, and his friends and peers subsequently mount a memorial in order to give him a permanent salute; happens in towns with thriving music scenes all the time, right?

But—and this is major but—if you peer closely, you’ll discover that Utah’s Bob Moss was an unusual individual, one so immensely talented (in more than one artistic discipline, it turns out) that it’s literally a cultural crime he wasn’t known far and wide. The quality of songwriting displayed on Son of Deseret is, quite frankly, off the charts; that the 20+ musicians contributing tracks here evidence such a remarkable range of styles and textures on Moss material further suggests a songwriter of uncommon breadth. If this had been released in Moss’ lifetime, I have no doubt that national critics would have been falling all over themselves to find out more about this cult artist.

By way of capsule bio: Bob Moss was a fixture on both Salt Lake City’s music and visual art scenes, a long-haired, bespectacled rocker/folkie/roots musician with a tendency towards the eccentric who also created eye-popping folk art images along the lines of Rev. Howard Finster and Jon Langford. He passed away in his sleep in December 2011 (Below, see a photo of Moss holding one of his pieces; I have borrowed this from SLC’s City Weekly but could not determine a photo credit.) In fact, from Jan. 20 through Feb. 13 a gallery homage to Moss was mounted, Covering Moss: A Bob Moss Visual Art Tribute, so highly regarded was the man. Among his fans was legendary underground artist Daniel Clowes.

Moss

As far as the musical tribute is concerned, it grew out of a backyard jam held at Moss’ good friend Mike Kirkland (late of NYC band Prong) with a bunch of locals playing Moss’s songs. The emotions were so high that Kirkland decided it would be appropriate to get things down for posterity, and, along with fellow SLC musician and radio personality Bad Brad Wheeler, got the ball rolling. A list of all the performers appears on the poster at the bottom of this page, and yes, the demon feline image is one that Moss himself created. It’s a nicely-recorded, well-sequenced collection that literally has something for nearly every musical taste.

Highlights? Opening cut “True Love Is Hard To Find,” by Chubby Bunny, a self-described “chick band,” kicks things off in fine, distaff indie rock fashion, handclaps not optional. “The Ballad of John Baptiste” continues the indie rock thread, this time going for a rowdy Pixies vibe, right down to the quirky lyrics: “I’ll tell you about John Baptiste now/ He’s the kind of old-timer didn’t dig the vows/ So he got a shovel and he did run/ To the graveyard, baby, did he have some fun!/ Weird, weird fun…” The gorgeous “Croppingham Fair,” by Tracy Medley, shifts gears yet again, this time heading off in a folkrock direction a la Fairport Convention. “Killer’s Lament” suggests a cross between Johnny Cash and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and with a performer named Aldine Strychnine you know it’s gotta be great. “Paradigm Shift,” by Murder Mystery Party, is pure Ramones. The whimsical “Captain Nemo Sea Shanty,” by Dave Bowen, Patrick Kenny and Audrey Smith, is a strummy, sunny singalong guaranteed to get toes to tappin’ as the musicians swap verses then sonically embrace on the choruses. “I Believe In Ghosts” finds Lara & The Haole Boys is alt-country as sweet as it comes, with a pedal steel and mandolin arrangement and sweet, Neko Case-like vocals. “Pete the Pacer” takes a Chuck Berry (R.I.P.) progression and gives it a kind of Fred Schneider-fronts-the-Beach Boys twist; the trio of Staker, Randito & Royal is a kind of rock critics summit, so it makes sense they’d do this kind of mash-up. And “Big Top Blues,” by Schneider, Balsam & Atwell, is just plain gonzoid, almost like Tom Waits singing beat poetry over a collage of found sounds.

And that’s just a handful of the 24 tracks. Aside from the inherent “fun” factor derived from trying to figure out just what made Moss tick musically—good luck with that; he seemed boundaryless—the outpouring of Moss verbiage is guaranteed to keep you amusedly scratching your head for the duration. Some of them jump out from the stereo, like the line “Nyquil habit suddenly made a wreck out of me,” while others are merely inscrutable. But it’s clear Moss was both a poet and a storyteller, sometimes both at once, so there’s plenty of quality time that awaits you once you cue up the first disc.

“Deseret” is a word derived from The Book of Mormon, “deseret” meaning “honeybee”; Wikipedia informs us it’s part of “the language of the Jaredites, a group believed by the Mormons to have been led to the Americas during the time of the construction of the Tower of Babel.” Armed with that insider knowledge, it now makes perfect sense to label Utah’s Moss and his songs a “son of deseret.” I’m betting he wouldn’t have it any other way.

To learn more about Bob Moss read “Resurrecting Deseret’s Son” by Jeremy Cardenas, about the tribute project’s origins; “I Believe in Ghosts,” by Brian Staker, a remembrance five years after his untimely death; and “The Cult of Bob,” by Randy Harward, a 2007 profile.

DOWNLOAD: Just drop the digital needle anywhere, it’ll come up aces.

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WESLEY STACE – Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding

Album: Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding

Artist: Wesley Stace

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: February 24, 2017

www.yeproc.com

Stace

The Upshot: A natural heir to the Brit rock tradition, with a charm and exuberance that clearly complements that handsome heritage.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Having previously shed his John Wesley Harding persona the last time around and assumed his birth moniker seemingly for good, the ubiquitous Wesley Stace takes a half step back via Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding, presumably a transitory step towards combining the two identities for future referencing. Still, Stace by any other name is as potent as he’s ever been, a master of melody whose attitude and aptitude is fully engaged in the joys of simple, straight forward pop and roll.

There’s no denying the immediate, hook filled charms of “For Me and You,” “How to Fall,” “The Wilderness Years” and “I Don’t Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll,” songs that extol the singular joys of getting into a groove with the object of one’s affections. Melodic to a fault, this new offering continues a trajectory begun two decades back when as a folkie-turned-rocker he first plied his charms and initiated a brand that never ceases to satisfy. Even in its quietest moments — the autobiographical “Hastings Pier,” the lilting “Audience of One” and the sweetly sentimental “You’re a Song,” Stace/Harding maintains his momentum, alluring and enticing to a fault.

Like Nick Lowe, Squeeze and Robyn Hitchcock, he’s a natural heir to the Brit rock tradition, with a charm and exuberance that clearly complements that handsome heritage. Call him what you will, Stace is simply superb.

DOWNLOAD: “I Don’t Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Hastings Pier,” “The Wilderness Years,”

COLIN HAY – Fierce Mercy

Album: Fierce Mercy

Artist: Colin Hay

Label: Compass

Release Date: March 03, 2017

www.compassrecords.com

Hay

The Upshot: Erstwhile Men At Work frontman turns in his most consistently solid record in a decade.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Colin Hay has done a masterful pivot over the past couple of decades away from being known simply as the front man of the very ‘80s band Men At Work to having an impressive career as a solo performer. Neil Finn may be one of the few other Hay contemporaries that can make a similar boast.

On Fierce Mercy, Hay’s 13th album (10 more albums than he recorded with Men At Work, by the way), he turns in his most consistently solid record in a decade. Save for the song “I’m Walking Here,” with the dreadful rap/talk portion that completely brings this otherwise great album to a momentary standstill, there is hardly a weak moment on the record. In Hay’s defense, even Springsteen included that clunky rap portion on the song “Rocky Ground” off the Wrecking Ball album.

Lyrically insightful, Fierce Mercy is a mix between blissful contentment (“Come Tumblin’ Down,” “Secret Love”) and melancholy (“I’m Gonna Get You Stoned,” “Two Friends”). Coming in at a tight 10 tracks, the deluxe edition includes three additional songs, each of which clearly earns their spot on the album.

Hay is proof that there is still artistic life after being slapped with the One Hit Wonder label.

DOWNLOAD: “Come Tumblin’ Down,” “The Best in Me” and “I’m Inside Outside In”

 

Suicidal Tendencies + Havok + Crowbar 3/7/17, Memphis

Dates: March 7, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphiis TN

ST 3

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

On March 7th the old school cross over thrash/punk group of Suicidal Tendencies took the stage at New Daisy Theatre in Memphis, Tn. Lead singer Mike Muir has been kicking ass and taking names ever since he was young and wanted a Pepsi and couldn’t get one. Mike is out on tour in support of the World Gone Mad Tour with bands Havok and Crowbar.

Havok 2

Havok

Havok (above) reigning from Denver Colorado took the stage first with lightning fast riffs and began to get the crowd into the mood for a great night.

Crowbar 2

Crowbar 3

Crowbar

Crowbar (above) was up next and the crowd received them by beginning to mosh all around the front and middle of the crowd. I actually felt sorry for one young lady who apparently had never been to a heavy rock show, or at least not up front. She eventually worked her way out of arms way and scurried off to the back. Crowbar was a perfect setup for Suicidal Tendencies. Crowbar’s set was just as heavy as Havok’s set and both bands are gaining new fans and winning over the old heads who once thought that the bands such as Megadeth and Slayer might be an end to an era. After Crowbar said goodnight and left the stage the crowd was shouting ST over and over waiting for Mike and the crew to take the stage.

ST 2

ST came out with their powerhouse song “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and didn’t slow down for the entire night. It’s hard to believe that Muir has put out thirteen albums under the Suicidal Tendencies band since forming in 1980, and that’s not counting the side project Infectious Grooves with Robert Trujillo who is now with Metallica. Trujillo and Muir even got Ozzy to sing the line “therapy” in the song “Therapy”. It’s a cool story how they managed to get Ozzy who was down the hall in studio to sit in with them. You can see interview on YouTube for the full story.

ST

ST 4

Mike may be getting older but you would never know it with his stage presence. He never stood still and kept up the iconic stomp that he has always strutted on stage. The band did stop the show just long enough to invite a few skater and young fans on stage to jam with the band for a couple of songs. The night wouldn’t have been complete without hearing “I Saw Your Mommy” and “Institutionalized”, and Mike didn’t disappoint!

Bryan Ferry 3/14/17, Atlanta

Dates: March 14, 2017

Location: Tabernacle, Atlanta GA

Blurt Bryan Ferry - March 2017 - John Boydston-15

Roxy Music mainman turns Atlanta’s Tabernacle venue into a temple.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

Bryan Ferry is on tour – and it’s a don’t miss show for even the most casual Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music fan, as if such a person exists. Not a Roxy Music reunion, but no complaints from this packed Atlanta crowd, with plenty of great RM songs on the playlist.  Ferry is in unbelievable form — looks great, voice amazing, crooning set to stun, rocking hard, and he’s still Mr. Suave.  He’s 71.

And get this, Brit guitar rock legend Chris Spedding is in the band, bringing his never-not-brilliant-chops to the upbeat mix of excellent players.  From the best Nilsson stuff, to helping record the Sex Pistols, to Robert Gordon’s rockabilly heyday later in the decade, Spedding played on or steered some of the best rock of that era and he’s still got the magic, so it was a pleasure to see this guy.  The other guitarist rocked too, but hey, this is Chris Spedding.

Blurt Judith Owens - March 2017 - John Boydston-2

Blurt Judith Owens - March 2017 - John Boydston

Don’t be late for this show – you don’t want to miss opener Judith Owen, pictured above. Think Laura Nyro, but now.  Owen’s band also features some top players, including LA legend Leland Sklar on bass. Owen, incidentally, is satirist (and Spinal Tap member) Harry Shearer’s spouse. Now THAT is show business.

Tour dates and ticket info is here – extra US dates have been added for August so fish around for those.

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THE GENTLE CYCLE – The Gentle Cycle LP

Album: The Gentle Cycle

Artist: Gentle Cycle

Label: Psychedelphonic

Release Date: January 24, 2017

thegentlecycle.bandcamp.com

Gentle Cycle LP

The Upshot:  Psychedelic gem wherein all the cranial pleasure boxes get checked here, with revved-up raveups galore and a general vibe of joyful abandon at play throughout. Below, listen to some of the music via the Bandcamp app.

BY FRED MILLS

Shazam. That “5” out of 5 potential stars isn’t something I award lightly, but this platter’s an obvious future classic. Now, let it be acknowledged that it’s also journalistically dubious to quote from a band’s self-description, not to mention risky; Yo La Tengo used to submerge misinformation in their bios precisely to see what would get recycled as fact by the press, and sure enough, a number of foreign journalists who perhaps didn’t know any better took the bait. Here, though, I so wholeheartedly agree with said self-description, in classic wish-I’d-said-that style, that I see no point in going to the trouble of what would ultimately be a paraphrase.

Uttereth this San Jose-based outfit:

“The Gentle Cycle is utilizing vintage gear and a bygone recording ethos to birth a swirling, grooving style of rock ‘n’ roll that’s both timeless and relevant. The band come from an abstract foundation that’s more modern & forward thinking than most musicians beholden to period-correct tones. The Gentle Cycle balances universal emotions with astral, atmospheric sonic architecture.”

Damn. Wish I’d said that… What I will say, then, is that guitarist Derek See, having woodshedded with the latterday reincarnation of fellow San Jose icons the Chocolate Watchband, the Bang Girl Group, Joel Gion (Brian Jonestown Massacre), and more, finally makes his official debut as bandleader on The Gentle Cycle’s eponymous debut. It’s a delightfully rocking, ramshackle exploration of time and space via the inner eye, loaded with echoey, reverbed, and flanged guitar riffs, rough ‘n’ tumble rhythms, and cosmic lyrical ruminations—at least one foot and one paw firmly clutching the late ‘60s, while staking out a claim with the other pair of appendages as a contemporary avatar of all that is wylde and psychedelic.

From the throbbing orgaz-mo-tronic opening track “Follow Light,” which is all tumbling drums and clanging, cavern-filling riffage, and the fuzzed-out, Spacemen 3-esque overdrive of “Memory Day”; to the rippling, acoustic-based modal twang ‘n’ jangle of “Way to Decay” and the lengthy, hypnotic “Far Beyond,” a classic slice of Feelies-do-Velvets drone-choogle (there’s some Television worship in the guitar leads as well); The Gentle Cycle is as impressive a debut album as I’ve heard in eons. All the cranial pleasure boxes get checked here, with revved-up raveups galore and a general vibe of joyful abandon at play throughout. Hands down, yours truly’s favorite new release for 2017 thus far.

gENTLE cYCLE COLORED VINY;

There doesn’t seem to ba a wealth of info out there on the band yet. Willfully obscure or mystique-fostering? Who know? Who cares! Head straight to the Bandcamp link listed above and grab this slab of wax pronto, before the secret gets out and all 309 copies are gone. The limited-to-200 green vinyl edition is apparently sold out, but there may still be a few of the 109 black vinyl left. Plus digital, of course. And take note: according to the Gentle Cycle Facebook page, if you donate to Planned Parenthood, Dakota Access Pipeline Fund, PBS, Oxfam or the ACLU, they’ll send you a copy of the LP ($18 or more donation), or a download ($5 donation). How cool is that?

DOWNLOAD: Not a weak track, but if backed against a wall: “Far Beyond,” “She Came This Way,” “Memory Day”