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Strawberry Moon LP by Sarah Parker

URL: sarahparkermusic.com/

The comforting hum of an organ. A soft vocal to remind us of our humanity. Playful guitars that beg for us to remember a simpler time. “You Can’t Tell a Heart” is one of the humbler songs I’ve reviewed recently, but it has a way of really sticking with you after you’ve heard it for the first time alongside its thirteen companion tracks in Strawberry Moon, the new album from acclaimed country singer/songwriter Sarah Parker. Both this tune, the title track, “Rose Hill” and the blazing “Sugartown” must have played over in my head a hundred times recently since coming across this LP, even though none of them share the same beat or narrative. The reason why isn’t as confusing as you’d might think, if we take a second to breakdown this awesome new record.

Strawberry Moon is a fourteen-song walkthrough of the artistic identity of one Sarah Parker. This is Parker’s official debut, and she spared no creative expense it making it everything it could be. There’s swing in “You Can’t Tell a Heart,” “Even When You’re Lonely” and “Keep on Movin’ (The Train Song);” a bit of rollicking balladry in “Road to Your Discovery,” “Talk in This Town” and “Lonely Highway;” and even a touch of folk-pop grit with “I Got to Wander” and “Gypsy Rose.” While each of these songs is a different take on a familiar strain of Americana, they each have one thing in common: the searing tonality of Parker’s divine voice.

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKjlW-O222WtxEH–OL52eHPCOT187QCi

Parker can sing. That’s putting it, well, more than mildly. Parker is working with a voice that seems to break through any wall of sound, no matter how intensely mixed or broadly conceived that wall may be. She can penetrate anything. The contrast between the tracks aesthetically, the lyrical differences, even the minute production cues that make one song a little moodier than another – all of this takes a backseat to what she does with the mic in her hand on this record. “Lonely Highway” and “Straight from the Bottle,” would not be as moving as they are here were she absent from the roster. Parker’s seductive crooning in “Road to Your Discovery” is what keeps the entire vibe of this album from going off the road and into a pure elegy-driven country.

A profound poet among us has emerged in Strawberry Moon, and her name is Sarah Parker. Not to be confused with the actress of the same name who bears a much more suspect skillset, Parker carves out an identity all her own in this record through a combination of witty, surreal lyricism that draws from her own personal experiences as well as common-sense storytelling with a feisty accent, and focused musicality that instantly takes an old fashioned country girl like me back to the one place I’ve always called home. Her style is still developing, undoubtedly more so with all of the attention this record is receiving right now, but I have no qualms with saying that she’s just perfect the way she is. Parker’s Strawberry Moon is everything one looks for in a smart new country album, period.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/album/2P63E4Uoiee2uGrGwcTu1G

Clay Burton

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Robert Parker releases Outside Ourselves full length LP

URL: freightrainband.com/track/1233587/outside-ourselves

Freightrain’s Outside Ourselves is a full-length album driven by the stylings of frontman Robert Parker and made up of nine different songs, each one of which is arguably as evocative and beautifully realized as the next. Beyond its illustrious surface cosmetics, however, lies a record that beckons us closer with every listen, enhances our grasp of Parker’s bold tonality, and lends tremendously to concepts of postmodernity in contemporary music. You see, though nine individualized tracks comprise Outside Ourselves, the album itself has a singular narrative. That narrative is expressionism, at the most organic, unclouded level possible. In “Better Man,” that expression comes to us in the form of a petulant, resisting groove propelled by an equally angsty guitar part. The title track employs dissonance in a nonconventional way, using it to define a cushy melody that is anything but chaotic. “I Still Believe” and “You Found Me” might sit on opposite sides of the blues spectrum, but their rhythm is bound by a lush muscularity that is both stunning and yet unrefined, gritty even. Outside Ourselves isn’t merely a new collection of Freightrain songs; it’s a fly-on-the-wall perspective of Robert Parker’s studio process in real time, and it couldn’t be much more thrilling a listen.

Vocals aren’t the primary focus of this record, though they do add a wonderful finishing touch to tracks like “You Found Me,” “Wake Up” and “Better Man.” While in some instances, i.e. “Elijah” and “Wake Up,” it’s easier for the band to stay focused on the textures within their instrumentation as a means of conveying the grander statement in play here, there’s other occasions, like with “Don’t Stop the Music,” where lyrics contribute a certain color to a track that makes the vibration of the music stand out a little more than it would have. There are so many varying degrees of melodicism here that range well beyond the typical lexicon of vocals, guitar and drums, but at the same time there’s never a moment where we feel like we’re being drowned in details and left with nowhere to go. Outside Ourselves is too crisp, too efficiently produced for that to occur.

While all music, at its core, seeks to personify expression in the most fundamental way known to man, it’s much more complicated than it would seem on paper to actually craft a song to be as engaging as anything you’ll find on Outside Ourselves. Parker’s Freightrain project delivers an exceptional performance here, with no one track acting as the centerpiece of this record and each aiding in the creation of a larger, moving narrative that speaks to the very essence of creativity itself. The music is tight, but the ambitions couldn’t be much more gluttonous and out of control. In this scenario, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little greedy – as a result, Outside Ourselves isn’t just a loaded LP with more tenacious tone and rich harmonies than anything else on the market presently, but a rather prophetic release from an artist who has proven himself to be one of the best and brightest in his scene. This is a look into Freightrain’s future, and from where I sit it couldn’t be more enticing.

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBeMjQP_a8w

Clay Burton

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“Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout” Bluegrass Gospel from the pen of Rick Lange

In the eponymous title track of the brand new compilation album Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout, Claire Lynch, Brandon Rickman, Josh Swift and producer Jerry Salley forge a harmony that seems to wash its accompanying rhythm in a sort of audiological holy water that makes every note sound blessed with beauty. Salley, Rickman and Bradley Walker do something similar with the tear-jerking “The Back of the Church,” while Walker’s “Henry Clayton Parker” finds its climax through the brawn and bristle of an old school bluegrass beat. These three sons alone would have been enough to warrant anyone who loves Gospel to give Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout a go, but in fact they’re just a taste of what composer Rick Lang has in store for us in this delicious collection of handwritten songs.

RICK LANGE: ricklangmusic.com/about/my-world/

The country croon of The Whites enters Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout in “Don’t Tune Him Out,” which along with Marty Raybon’s “I’ve Read the Book” and “I See God,” as well as “There Will Be Singing” by The Cox Family, tell us in their own musical way of God’s undeniable presence in our lives, no matter where we go or what we do. Their intense hooks fuel the same sense of excitement that is synonymous with country church singalongs, though these arrangements are unquestionably more complex and calculated.

Kenny and Amanda Smith give us “They Were Fisherman” with as much enthusiasm as Larry Cordle exudes when he shells out “Sunday Morning Gospel Jubilee,” and though both songs are constructed with contrasting approaches they both symbolize the connection that Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout has with its predecessors. Aside from the contemporary polish, these two songs have a rustic quality that is more pronounced than it is in the other tracks. They feel ancient in nature, and yet still so relevant to our everyday life in modern times. Bluegrass is a time-honored slice of American musical history, and while this record doesn’t suffer from the limiting black and white mix of storied albums from another era, it isn’t shy about giving a nod to the forerunners who made its classic tonality possible.

Rick Lang’s lyrical sentiment here is so organic and friendly that intimidating compositions like “Thinkin’ Outside the Box” aren’t as eviscerating as they would be if not outfitted with centered, faith-based verses. There’s nothing artificial about Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout; from the melding of the music and lyrics in “Heaven’s Back Yard” to the slickly equalized timbre of Claire Lynch’s voice in the album’s crown jewel, the idea that this sound was provoked by anything other than a dedication to the medium is never given credence.

I’ve been listening to gospel since I was a little girl growing up in the south, and while the genre has become so fascinatingly diversified in the last quarter century of American music, it’s really nice to have a record like this one that draws its essence from a raw, roots-based music like bluegrass. Rick Lang’s songwriting here is simply breathtaking, and the performers who give themselves over to his work do so with a respectful integrity that is really something to marvel at. Gonna Sing, Gonna Shout will have you doing everything that its title suggests you should when giving praise, and that’s what this kind of music is truly all about.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/album/4a84JlQfCHv3hNBoo58Tmg

Clay Burton

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Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam Releases Greetings from Serbia 

Last August, far away from the comforts of a posh New York recording studio, Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam took the stage at the Nisville Jazz Festival and left the crowd absolutely awe-inspired by the intense guitar shredding, sax soloing and vocal wooing of the young but iconic jazz collective. That performance was recorded, mastered and designated fit for delivery some five months later in January, and inside of the ten songs that it yielded listeners are treated to Project Grand Slam’s greatest work yet. Starting with the lumbering “You Started Something” and finishing with a ram-slam cover of “Fire,” Greetings from Serbia gives us much more than sweet salutations from the Balkans – it solidifies PGS as perhaps the most endearing and evocative band in all of contemporary fusion.

URL: www.projectgrandslam.com/

Robert Miller has never sounded as disciplined and on-point as he does in this record. Alongside drummer Joel Mateo, percussionist Guillermo Barron Rios, saxophonist Mario Castro, keyboardist Baden Goyo, guitarist Tristan Clark and the brilliant Ziarra Washington behind the microphone, the group draws the best from each other artistically as they dazzle us in workouts like “Lament,” “Free” and of course their breakthrough cover of “I Can’t Explain,” which is even more danceable on this album than it was in music video form. The fluidity between the tracks is surprisingly smooth despite the somewhat obvious rearranging of the set list for the purposes of transforming the performance into an LP. Every member of PGS is in top form here, and none ever feel compelled to try and overshadow the player standing next to them with unnecessary (nor unkempt) bells and whistles.

The tonality of the band isn’t lost in the translation from the stage, which from a production standpoint can be pretty hard to do with live albums. “No No No” particularly sounds rough around the edges, but the PA system doesn’t wash out the color in the bass or the slickness in Washington’s vocals. Here and in both “Gorilla” and “The Queen’s Carnival” there’s a lot of augmentation in the bass and treble, but if anything it helps magnify the smaller intricacies within the instrumentation. The percussion never stops galloping, and god knows that those sax solos are about as pushy and physical as any I’ve heard in the last decade or so.

For being a live piece, Greetings from Serbia is very textured and colorful, which really says a lot about just how awesomely skilled Project Grand Slam really are. They don’t try to water down any of their ambient cues or the mathy qualities in their arrangements; instead they dive head first into the deep end of compositional creativity and reemerge with a plethora of sonic gems to be appreciated for a generation to come. What I love about this record is that as indulgent as it is around every one of its many twists and turns, it doesn’t devolve into the sort of egotism that kills full-flavored jazz anthologies of a similar construction. The caliber of the content is beyond A-grade, and anyone looking to start off 2019 on a high note would be wise to acquire this album the day it comes out.

QOBUZ: www.qobuz.com/gb-en/album/greetings-from-serbia-project-grand-slam/ikrgzgpoxwuoa

Clay Burton

The music of Project Grand Slam has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here – www.daniecorteseent.com/

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Seven Against Thebes release Art of Deception LP

Anger. Disgust. Angst. All of these are the sort of elements one might expect from a band that labels itself as a “platform for misanthropy,” or essentially a latent disgust and distrust of the human species. But what one might not expect from the same mentality is an artistic sensibility that in fact celebrates the beauty of what humankind can achieve, delivering hard-punching lyricism alongside a prog-rock meets grunge metal soundscape that showcases true musical ability. Yet that’s exactly what’s waiting for fans of Seattle’s Seven Against Thebes and their latest effort, Art of Deception.

Founded in 2007, the band is comprised of Cyrus Rhodes (guitar, songwriting), Bruce Burgess (drums), Mr. Black (bass), and Rusty Hoyle on vocals. Building around Rhodes’ searing anti-establishment lyricism that simmers with latent hostility at points, the collective has developed a sound that merges the elements of prog rock together with the angst-filled grunge of their native Seattle, recalling the sound of bands like Tool, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots.

CD BABY: store.cdbaby.com/cd/sevenagainstthebes2

Art of Deception starts, well, rather deceptively, with the slow burning fuzzy guitars and throbbing bass tones of the instrumental “MMXXII,” the almost haunting tune setting the tone for the Alice in Chains-flavored diatribe against marriage “’Til Death Do Us Part.” Hoyle’s vocals are spot-on and Rhodes’ guitar runs hold strong, hammering home his message in more ways than one. “Collision Course” amps things up even more, with moody vocal tones and a thumping rhythm that keeps drummer Burgess more than busy while “Killing Time” showcases more of Rhodes’ stirring chops on guitar over against a lyric that rages against the apathy of the millennial generation.

Picking up again on the Seattle sound, “Mastervision” is a great listen as is the frenetic “Fly Paper,” with its ranging musical solos that set up the explosive vocals from Hoyle as he rages with all he’s got. “Judas Kiss” carries a similar energy, Mr. Black’s solid bass playing keeping time throughout as “Slave 2 The Needle” celebrates the artistry of the tattoo with big chops, shouted vocals from Hoyle and almost blues-influenced guitars from Rhodes that deliver solidly. The title track brings its own energy to bear, a subtle vocal through the verses before emerging into a raging fire in the chorus, the band chopping through musical wood to build the fire high.

And while Seven Against Thebes brings more than their fair share of big, bold sounds to the forefront, they actually shine even brighter on the tracks that are far more subdued. A track like “Ashes To Ashes” is simple, featuring essentially bass and an almost whispered vocal but it stands in possession of the promise of musical violence, the tension ripe beneath the bass notes. Album closer “Yama” draws from a similar blueprint, keeping the tension at a taut simmer that is almost as compelling as when the band lets it out all the way. Add in the unique instrumental “8 Husbands of Cleopatra” and you’re staring at a great album.

AMAZON: www.amazon.com/Art-Deception-Seven-Against-Thebes/dp/B073SN3YZQ

Seven Against Thebes’ Art of Deception is somewhat deceiving in and of itself. At the outset, it posits itself as a record that is full of anger and disgust with the human condition, it’s music at time reflecting that in its cacophony. Yet, underneath those layers there is a requisite beauty in the tension that the band holds musically, maintaining the line between love and hate, good and evil with tense care. And it results in a kick-ass listen.

Andrew Greenhalgh posted by Clay Burton

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The Danbees release The Veggie Tapes (EP)

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PxO_7Dx-Lw&feature=youtu.be

From the moment drummer Wade McManus cues The Danbees to unleash their sonic brutality in the band’s new single “Down at the Bar,” there’s no denying that the New York alternative rockers mean business in their new extended play The Veggie Tapes, which hits record stores and streaming services this fall and offers fans the sequel to 2016’s Fishnets Anonymous that they’ve been waiting for. The Danbees have never tried to convince critics nor audiences that they’re trying to fit in with the rest of their peers, and The Veggie Tapes goes a long way to establishing their sound as distinctively their own. It may only contain six tracks, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in splendid, dexterous substance.

The Danbees have made a lot of very visible improvements since Fishnets Anonymous, chief among them being their decidedly toned down guitar parts. It’s not that Mark Slotoroff or Shane Matthews have started to lose their chops, but more that they’ve made a point of defining the tonality in their riffs and making their entire style of attack much more accessible to casual fans. There’s still plenty of fire and fury to be found in numbers like “Down at the Bar,” “Can’t Sleep,” and “Going Down,” but all of it feels so much more controlled and focused that what we heard in Fishnets Anonymous. I don’t know for certain whether or not they’re intentionally going for a poppier look, but they definitely wear it well in this record.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/thedanbees

In addition to “Down at the Bar,” The Danbees cut “Can’t Sleep” as a teaser single for The Veggie Tapes and so far the reception has been pretty good. I myself like the swing of the tempo, which is somewhat reminiscent of Kings of Leon minus the brooding boisterousness that always felt like a thorn in the band’s side. Slotoroff’s vocals are as light as a feather, and the way they’re carefully embedded into the exotic guitar lick that builds our tension towards the chorus is simply stunning. I prefer “Can’t Sleep” to “Down at the Bar” purely because of its rollicking beat, which might be the sleekest and most affectionately simple that The Danbees have conjured up in the studio so far.

Their sound has all the hallmarks of a classic rock band but with a pointed, slick modern twist, and I would recommend The Danbees’ new EP The Veggie Tapes to any rock fan who is in the mood for uncut grooves and blistering rhythm that isn’t restricted by a commercial template. This is unquestionably The Danbees’ most accessible release to date, and I think that listeners who are unfamiliar with the band’s sound would do well to start with this record and then give Fishnets Anonymous a spin, just to appreciate how much progress they’ve made in the last two years (which could serve as a valid preview of what we can expect in the next decade to come). They’ve got my attention, and I’m eager to hear how they follow up this latest set of indie gems.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/artist/0e9ABClAYwndgk3RFrg82G

Clay Burton

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Dawg Gone Davis releases In the Dawg Pound

It’s abundantly clear that Dawg Gone Davis knows and loves music. The four songs included with her EP collection In the Dawg Pound hits a fun and intelligent note with the track “Forever Music” and the IT professional proves she is no novice as she reels through a number of often humorous observations accompanied with smart rhyming and astute phrasing. Her willingness to incorporate horns into the track hints at a daring in her approach matching up nicely with the humor and the focus of the song, never wasting listener’s time, is ideal for a performer who might be unfairly tagged with the label of a novelty act. This song, and everything that comes after, gives lie to that slur.

She definitely wants the audience to have fun however. “Butt On Fiya”, while obviously autobiographical in humorous ways, makes light of its situation in a way listeners will enjoy. The brass presence isn’t as omnipresent with this number as it is with the first, but contributes a lot to varying the largely electronic backing. I can’t say enough about her delivery – as a vocalist, she instinctively understands how her phrasing encourages a listener’s involvement in the track and connects with listeners on both a mental and physical plane. I think it’s one of the EP’s most enjoyable tracks and enormously fun. This last fact is crucial – while it is clear that Davis is having fun here, the most important thing is how she presents her songs in such a way that the listener has just as much fun.

URL: dawggonedavis.com/

“Middle Aged Woman – Hip Hop Style” was Davis’ initial introduction to the music world and it still stands as one of the more effective hip hop singles in recent memory. Longtime music devotees will enjoy how she mixes in a variety of reflections on the presumed incongruity of a middle aged woman tackling a genre typically pegged for the young, but she whips up plenty of lyrical and vocal pyrotechnics to prove she more than belongs. This is far more based around keyboards and synths than the previous two tracks, but Davis more than compensates for their absence with a vocal performance illustrative of how and why she’s garnered so much attention.

The track “Anthem Pandemonium” escalates in a way we don’t hear with the other songs and has a bit of profanity thrown into the mix, but never in an objectionable way for me. Instead, it’s another example of how Davis has a lot of tools at her disposal to make tracks diverse and entertaining, particularly working alongside producer Helmutt Wolf, and provides the EP with a bracing conclusion. This Kansas City, Missouri based performer is definitely cut from a different cloth than many of her peers and contemporaries, but she unabashedly loves what she does and provides us with individual entertainment and musical vision. You can’t dare call her an imitator. Instead, these four songs shine as testament to what a singular voice can still accomplish in the music world and we’ll likely enjoy further release after she’s enjoyed well earned success from the release of In the Dawg Pound.

REVERBNATION: www.reverbnation.com/dawggonedavis

The proceeds from the sale of this EP go directly to OPERATION BREAKTHROUGH: operationbreakthrough.org/

Clay Burton

The music of Dawg Gone Davis has been heard all over the world due to the radio plugging services offered by Musik Radio Promotions. Learn more – musikandfilm.com

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Steve Bonham releases “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart”

The exotic, rattling start of “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart,” the new single by Steve Bonham and the Long Road, conjures images of a weary traveler making camp at dusk and sparking up a campfire, beside which he plans to spin his latest yarn. Bonham acts as our storyteller in this song, sitting beside the roaring embers of his band the Long Road, who dispense fiery acoustic thunder in the backdrop as he plaintively tells his tale. There’s nothing reserved about his lyrics; Bonham has been around this wicked world, and he knows of the sinners who call it home. He’s looking for a girl who is evading him with illustrious skill, but the tone of his voice says he’s not about to give up so easily. The blaze burns on as we descend into the chorus of the song, and if you’re tough enough to stand the heat from the flames as it penetrates the speakers in the form of a rigid bassline, then you’re in for quite the adventure with “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart.” Steve Bonham didn’t just churn out a fun new single for us in this song; he and the Long Road assembled an engaging introduction to their intriguing style of folk-rock.

URL: www.artisan-creative.com/

Our singer might not be reserved in his prose, but his performance is nonetheless quite insular by nature. Bonham hides behind the smokescreen of the melody in this track as if to suggest that he doesn’t want to be the center of our attention here; the music is, after all, just as evocative as his verses, but it’s markedly more ominous in its tone. The harmony between he and the instruments is stellar, cerebral even, but it too plays second fiddle to the strut of the pushy percussion. The pulsating beat never gets any less tense than it does as we approach the chorus, but that’s exactly what made me fall in love with this single as much as I have; the climax is the tension that’s building around us. Instead of being a frustrating experience, this concept makes “The Girl With the Rattlesnake Heart” a seductive sonic temptress, who makes no attempt to conceal her true intention – to trap us in these angular rhythms and subsequently smother us with a gorgeous melody.

Haunting, dark and evocatively groove-laden, Steve Bonham and the Long Road’s new single was designed with Bonham’s hardcore fans in mind but satisfies outside admirers of folk-rock just the same. Other than the melodic cushion generated by Bonham’s striking vocal, this is an unforgiving track that basks in its eccentricities and shamelessly celebrates its rough edges, which in my opinion makes it quite a find in today’s stagnant music market. I also think that relative to past works, Bonham seems a little more confident in his performance here. The Long Road has come into its own musically, and I think that this single represents a turning point for the group as a solid unit. Based on the strength of this latest release, I’m quite excited to see what they have in store for us next.

TWITTER: twitter.com/SteveBonham01?lang=en

Clay Burton

The music of Steve Bonham has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here – www.daniecorteseent.com/

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Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite Canyon Diablo 

URL: patientlyawaitingthemeteorite.band/

It’s often said by narrow-minded critics in the music industry that a modern rock band can’t dabble in synthesized grooves without losing their edge. The notion arises from what transpired back in the 80s, when a lot of heavy metal and hard rock bands started to incorporate synthesizer into their sound as standardly as they would a guitar or a drum kit and their commercial output became decidedly more watered down as a result. What these critics fail to acknowledge is that we aren’t in the 80s anymore, and the palate of the modern music listener has grown and expanded far beyond that of their parents’. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite defy the idea that electronically textured heavy music can’t rock as hard as the classics did in their new album Canyon Diablo, which in my opinion could be the finest release the genre has seen in quite some time.

The harmonies we find in Canyon Diablo make great use of PATM’s stylish swagger without egomaniacally devolving into predictable, volume-centric pitfalls. Anyone within earshot of songs like “Strange Intuition,” “Electrified” and “Hit the Ground Running” is invited to take a ride on the moody, unhinged rails that its players’ dispatch with impunity. It’s rare to find a record that you can play from start to finish without encountering some degree of filler nowadays, but Canyon Diablo progresses so fluidly between its ten unique songs that when experienced in its entirety it takes on a totally different meaning than when broken apart into separate tracks.

TWITTER: twitter.com/patmband?lang=en

As conceptual a piece as Canyon Diablo is, there’s still plenty of multidimensional contrast between the tracks for us to see that PATM are anything but a one trick pony. Take “Don’t Lay Your Fate” and “Keeping My Head Above the Water” for example. “Fate” is a pointed, Nick Cave-esque elegy that swings just enough to keep it from becoming undyingly dark, while “Water” is a focused folk rock ballad, grinding away at a string of lyrics that crush us under their brooding weight. Both songs are ominously magnetizing, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find them sitting on the same album together. If all of their upcoming releases are as vastly explorative as this one is, there’s no doubt in my mind they’re going to rise to the top of the rock n’ roll hierarchy in no time.

I’ve listened to a lot of really fascinating records this year, but none of them blew me away the way that Canyon Diablo has. I wasn’t sure what to anticipate out of this album, which was described to me by a colleague as vintage punk sharpness mixed with the freeform nature of an ambient pop release, but having given it my full attention over the course of the last week I can only conclude that trying to assign it pre-existing labels is pointless. Patiently Awaiting the Meteorite are carving out their own path in the world of pop, and their style is truly their own. The bottom line is that whatever you want to call the music they play, it’s a more than worthy acquisition for anybody who is keen on premium audio.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/album/1eeNlLFhfcAHPAkeOmIr4s

Clay Burton

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Abby Zotz releases new Album 

Abby Zotz releases new Album

PRIMARY URL: abbyzmusic.com/

Critics from one end of North America to the other can’t seem to stop talking about Local Honey, the ambitious new album from Canadian singer/songwriter Abby Zotz, and just one listen to any of its stunning eleven tracks will clue you in as to why. Outfitted with a stylish production that features the caliber of high definition audio you would expect to find on a much more mainstream affair, Local Honey showcases an artist who has so much within herself to share with the world and has found the perfect medium in which to convey it. Her music speaks to the humbleness of mankind, but it also tells us a lot about the identity of Zotz as both a composer and as a human being.

“Big Hope,” one of the star singles from Local Honey, is by far one of the most exquisitely warm power ballads I’ve reviewed this year. Accompanied by a simple music video that features nothing more than Zotz playing an acoustic guitar and singing the affectionate lyrics of the song, “Big Hope” is a prime example of stripped down pop that utilizes melody over volume to capture our attention. Don’t let its surface minimalism deceive you though – beneath the delicate whisper of Zotz’ vocals and the accompanying instrumentation is a calculated arrangement that dexterously fuses influences from country, jazz and a touch of pop.

Although not one of the album’s singles, the song “Pirouette” is another essential excerpt from Local Honey that should be noted as one of the more evocative and poised compositions in Zotz’ repertoire. Focusing the spotlight squarely on her light, almost translucent singing while a storm of major key wonderment churns in the background, “Pirouette” has a timeless quality to it that is almost reminiscent of 1930’s vocal music. Zotz’ palate has so much depth to it, and this song is an excellent testament to her talents.

It would be criminal is any review of Local Honey failed to mention “Hush Baby Waltz,” which to me is tangible evidence that Abby Zotz isn’t just among the best singer/songwriters in the game right now; she towers over them. She doesn’t overcomplicate any of her music, but it’s moments like this one where there’s nothing but a guitar in her hands a voice to join it where we see just how melodically skilled she really is. She reaches into our hearts with Local Honey (and in this song especially), and the imprint she leaves behind isn’t one I’ll soon forget.

There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about pop music in general right now, but I don’t think anyone is garnering more attention and acclaim than Abby Zotz is. Rarely do I find myself agreeing with the majority of anyone on almost anything, but in this case the product is so divinely superior to everything else it’s up against that trying to deny its greatness would be futile. It’s still fairly early in her career to be certain, but if she keeps turning out records of this quality she’s going to find herself a part of the larger conversation in pop culture for some time to come.

I-TUNES: itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/abby-zotz/1420231384

Clay Burton

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Hughie Mac releases Great Songs, Pt. 3

URL: www.hughiemac.com/

Singer Hughie Mac has been quietly building a mammoth reputation as one of the last true blue lounge singers in America over the last few years, and his new record, titled Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Pt. 3, is by far his most exquisite and accessible offering to date. Styled for fans both young and old, Great Songs, Pt. 3 is one of the most affectionately simple and unfiltered glimpses into a subgenre of pop that has been grossly overlooked in recent years. Vocal standards have never sounded so concise and cutting as they do in the clouded musical climate of 2018, and Hughie Mac is just the man to bring them back to the surface.

It’s not easy to make some of the songs included on Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Pt. 3 sound fresh and non-recycled, but Mac’s individually tempered vocal style splashes a colorful texture onto these tracks that didn’t exist beforehand. He nimbly dispatches tunes like “Hello Mary Lou” and “I Have Dreamed” as if they were his own written word, and there’s never any need to question his ability to tackle virtually any composition and come out victoriously. His abilities are incalculable, but his self-control as an artist is really something to marvel at.

There’s a magnetism in Hughie Mac’s voice that is so easy to get completely lost in. I get the idea that he could sing almost anything, be it a Dean Martin classic or a few pages out of my mom’s recipe book, and make it into a gold standard without having to give much effort. Regardless of how hard he has to try, it’s clear in Great Songs, Pt. 3 that Mac never gives less than 110% of himself when he enters the studio, and we never get the impression that he’s trying to fill up space or woefully connect narratives in this LP.

I think that Hughie Mac would also sound awesome in collaboration with a live jazz band or even something a little more classical by design; he has so much versatility and knowledge of musicality that his options are practically limitless when considering what he might record next. He’s got the dexterity to do more complicated songs, but he also has the relaxed charisma that it takes to really make a slow song or a stripped down ballad feel larger than life. Finding songs for Mac to play isn’t the problem; the real challenge lies in finding ones that are up to the pedigree of his facilities.

The future looks overwhelmingly bright and positive for Hughie Mac and his career in the wake of his new album’s surprising (to some) success, and my gut tells me that he’s only just begun to show us what he can do when he’s got all the necessary recording tools at his disposal. Mac isn’t looking for his musical identity, but he also isn’t afraid to try new things and see what sort of opulence he can render as a result. If his next record contains the same level of showmanship that this one does, his status as a rising icon in this era of music will be solidified and impossible for even the most discriminating of critics to deny.

I-TUNES: itunes.apple.com/us/artist/hughie-mac/1173657813

Clay Burton

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Mikey See drops new Single

YOU TUBE:
youtu.be/K58bNNsU2VM

From a critical standpoint, American indie pop has never been more enthralling than it is right now, and eclectically stylized artists like Mikey See are the precise reason why. Like many of the other gems of 2018, See is creating his brand of rhythm from scratch, honing talents that have long been buried within his psyche and developing them using techniques that go against the grain of what traditional pop musicians have employed in the past. In “Love My Body,” the explosive single from his highly praised debut EP, See invokes all of the raw sexual energy of funk and exotic jazz minus all of the pomp and frills of radio pop, and in a complete twist of irony ends up creating something that is more appealing to mainstream ears than anything the establishment has rendered in the last half decade.

When I listened to “Love My Body” for the very first time, I knew that I was listening to a surefire hit for both See and the highly competitive southern California scene that he’s conquering at the moment. From the very start of the song, there’s a brutally catchy backbeat that grabs our focus and leads us around like a young pup on a leash. Mikey See gradually pours the rhythm through the speakers, and before we have any time to assess what’s taking place, we’re completely engulfed in the white hot heat that drives the chorus. I can’t say for certain, but I feel like anyone, even the most dedicated of wallflowers, would have a hard time resisting the urge to bust a move to this single.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/iammikeysee/

Mikey See comes off so composed in this song that I could have been easily convinced that he was working on his second or third album rather than pushing a debut release. He doesn’t sound like the typical first-timer in the studio; there isn’t any nervousness, unneeded bells and whistles or the feeling that he’s holding back from unleashing his full potential. It’s just Mikey See, a microphone, a melody and us, and that combination is the perfect formula for creating something that is both magically innovative and divinely ancient at the same time. He’s onto something good, and anyone with a pair of ears could tell you that he’s going to make a fortune with it.

If you haven’t heard his self-titled debut or for that matter aren’t familiar with Mikey See and everything that he’s doing both in and out of music right now, “Love My Body” is the perfect jumping off point to get familiar with his persona as an artist and as an individual. There are plenty of reasons that I could list as to why I think we’re witnessing the birth of a real star in See, but I’ve always found it annoying when critics like myself try to play lawyer for an artist that we believe to be relevant to the future of music. Instead I’ll just tell you to give “Love My Body” a spin at the soonest possible occasion. Trust me, it will be well worth your time.

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/track/2UfDvBn3H8B0VaTPFIq8qx

Clay Burton

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In/Vertigo presents “Bad Enemy”

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/getinvertigo/?__tn__=*s-R

To the critics who would say rock n’ roll hasn’t had a pulse in ten years and further that those who try and resuscitate its life force are wasting valuable talent, In/Vertigo presents “Bad Enemy” a blistering new single from their upcoming debut extended play, out everywhere that independent music is sold this autumn. A lot of my peers in the journalism community have been in love with this idea that rock is dead, hip-hop is dead, even pop is dead, but I for one have never bought into any of it. The underground is where all music lives and breathes regardless of the industry, and that’s exactly where In/Vertigo came together and found that they could be pretty brilliant when they put their heads together.

Looking for real rock amidst all of the chaotic white noise occupying the FM dial lately hasn’t been easy for the novice listener, but in reality it’s been right where it always was – existing just beneath the surface of commercialism where nothing can tarnish its pure relentlessness. In the Canadian wilderness, In/Vertigo found inspiration to make music as bold and beautiful as the nature around them, and their hometown of Calgary has seen their sound expand into a gargantuan powerhouse over the last couple of years. Now the group is ready to make the leap into the big leagues, and although this is only their first ever recorded song, I think that we’re bearing witness to the rise of an unstoppable giant.

“Bad Enemy” is dangerous and mischievously confident in its warring momentum, but more than anything else it’s In/Vertigo’s attitude that really makes this a standout song for the year. Vocalist Reed Alton is one of the more physical frontmen in the game right now, and not only does he spellbind us with his nimble navigation of the complex construction of “Bad Enemy,” he actually creates a lot of sincere melody along the way. Alton doesn’t compete for all of the glory though with guitarist Shaddy Elsaghir, who competently bludgeons us with one cruel riff after another, nor bassist Duncan McCartney and drummer Keaton Byfield who handle things on the backend with expert level care. Together these cats are making enormous waves, and Americans are bound to start feeling the mist in the coming months.

I’ll have to see them live and in person to know for certain, but if In/Vertigo’s sound translates onto the stage as well as it does through the speakers of my headphones then this could be the hottest touring act of the 2020s. I’ve been a harsh critic of the live rock circuit for the last half decade because it’s felt like no one was putting everything into their performances anymore; that isn’t the case with this crew. If anything, In/Vertigo put themselves out there so much that their vulnerability could be construed as avant-garde when stripped down to its bare bones. In either case I plan on finding out for myself what the secret is to their success, and I’m sure the band will give me plenty more material to study in the next couple of years ahead.

RELATED ARTICLE:  sleazeroxx.com/reviews/invertigo-invertigo/

Clay Burton

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Del Suelo release LP and Novel

URL: delsuelo.net

For the last week it’s been extremely difficult for me to get the jazzy sway of The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme out of my head. A progressive rock companion to Del Suelo’s book of the same title, it loosely follows the same plot as the novel. Featuring the protagonist Devon of the fictional folk punk outfit North By Choice, listeners shadow Devon as he chases after fame and glory in the rock n’ roll world, only to find that the journey to stardom is often littered with a lot of demons to encounter along the way. Del Suelo is one of the most enigmatic figures in all of indie rock today, but in this record his diehard fans get to know a side of him that most artists in his position would never dream of exposing.

Devon, much like Pink in the legendary Pink Floyd rock opera The Wall, is a character who stands to both gain and lose everything in the heat of the spotlight, and it’s only when he starts to embrace the power of the music he yields that he begins to learn a little more about himself and shed the pain and trauma that comes with a life of artistic suffering. Much like the novel, we can’t help but stay glued to our headphones as the story unfolds, constantly wondering whether or not Devon is going to make it through to the light at the end of the tunnel, and more importantly, what will be waiting for him when he gets there.

The Musician’s Compass doesn’t get so progressive in arrangement that these songs couldn’t be released on their own. In fact, “Pack Rats” has done quite well getting the attention of listeners who would otherwise avoid progressive pieces completely. I think the problem with most concept albums is that the people responsible for making them frequently don’t know how, or to whom, to properly market them. But Del Suelo isn’t even concerned with the marketability of this album – it speaks for itself in terms of aesthetics and doesn’t need a big ad campaign to get people interested in its statement. By not caring about the bottom dollar, Del Suelo has actually discovered the perfect marketing formula.

It’s been a hot debate lately as to whether or not art rock, and really all of progressive music, has a place in today’s modern format where pop songs rarely have any continuity between each other on an LP, and most artists with such lofty ambitions have tended to veer away from the mainstream completely. I think that with The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme, Del Suelo proves that progressive rock can still serve a pretty important purpose in 2018 and beyond, and you don’t even have to be all that familiar with his work to be able to see the impact he’s having. I loved this album, and I think that with time and the right exposure it will come to share the same iconic status as other titanic releases of its medium have.

BANDCAMP: delsuelo.bandcamp.com/releases

Clay Burton

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The Gary Douglas Band releases new Single

URL: www.garydouglasband.com/

A thinking listener can’t argue much with the message and imagery in the words for “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned”. The new single from The Gary Douglas Band spares no punches revealing our society as an unforgiving, violent, and inhuman world where the best laid plans of the best among us are often subverted by selfishness, madness, and greed. It’s notable, however, that the song never succumbs to despair. The musical mood harbors a light downcast air, but the sonic spirit of the tune leans much more to the exhortative side of things, a quality especially underlined by the song’s chorus. Full on backing voices answer the lead vocals during the chorus and Douglas caps things off with his most passionate moments at its conclusion. Rarely are any songs as put together as “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned”, everything slides into place, every idea and motif pays off for the listener.

Few elements in the song succeed as well as the vocals. Douglas may not have a bevy of releases to his credit, but he takes on this song like a canny veteran of both the studio and stage and applies both the right amount of force and personality to bring this song to life. The thoughtful consideration of his phrasing helps accentuate the quality of Douglas’ lyrics and mitigates some of the darkness in its imagery. The tone of the backing vocals has a much different feel than we hear from Douglas and the stark contrast between those sounds adds a lot to “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned”. The vocal melody matches up nicely with the arrangement without ever imitating it and it’s another important contrast making “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” work so well.

The song musically hinges on the acoustic guitar and percussion. The acoustic guitar maintains a fairly consistent tone throughout the song, but the drumming brings an evolving character to the performance that gives it genuine flair. Listening to how the drums are recorded provides a microcosm for how the production enhances “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” and the artful way the mix frames the song is a big part of its success. Most of the song has a warm crack in its snare drum sound that gives the single an emphatic and unwavering pulse.

“Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” is a magical second single from The Gary Douglas Band’s second album. The pending sophomore release Deep in the Water thus far shows a songwriting who has refined and developed on the talents we heard with the band’s debut Keepin’ Faith. It’s music and songwriting that stands behind its passion, never backs off, and unflinchingly gives the listener its take on the world with an ear always turned towards entertaining its audience as well. It’s uniformly successful. The Gary Douglas Band illustrates how passion survives no matter what paths we pursue in life and our deepest personal happiness comes when we obey our inner voice. “Nothing Ever Goes as Planned” is full of soul, artfulness, and a deadeye aim on its message.

FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/garydouglasband/

Clay Burton

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