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Kathleen “Kristy Love” Brooks – The Soul of Rock n Roll

Kathleen “Kristy Love” Brooks – The Soul of Rock n Roll 

URL: kristylovebrooks.com/bio/ 

A natural outgrowth of Kristy Brooks’ stage musical The Legend of Kristy Love in the Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll is the accompanying soundtrack album The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll which, as its title implies, aims to do nothing less than survey the vast expanse of stylistic variations rock music is capable of while remaining a focused, coherent effort. Her attempt is uniformly successful. Brooks is, obviously, a seasoned vocalist, writer, and performer who only abides by personal restrictions, never any arbitrary ideas of what sort of role her talents should slot into. She’s just as convincing with sultry, slow evolving R&B as she is with its funkafied counterparts and even tackles straight up radio rock with a total command over the material. Her earlier recordings with the RCA label, a stint with The Platters, and countless live appearances over the years have sharpened her skills into something capable of laying an audience open. She does so on The Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll with immense results. 

“Keep On Believing-Believe In Yourself” sends the album into the stratosphere from the first. This is a rousing reminder to empower yourself through faith in your own uniqueness and gifts fate has seen to bless you with filtered through an invigorating musical arrangement. The majority of The Soul of Rock n Roll deals with R&B and soul in various permutations, but the sound on this song mixes R&B with gospel stylings to particularly memorable effect. “Good To See You” glows with genuine warmth and has some gently sparkling passages thanks to the contributions from synth and other keyboards raining down throughout the track. Brooks shows great sensitivity with her vocal. “Love Is On My Mind” gives listeners a thoroughly sensual, yet classy, musical and lyrical experience with Brooks giving a lightly theatrical and intensely atmospheric singing performance.  

“Get Smooth” has a nice, ambling dance groove and a strong reliance on recurring synth figures. The song balances a modern sound with some basic fundamentals that go back in the genre thirty years or more and there’s some first class backing vocals joining Brooks throughout the song. “Rainbow of Love” has a light reggae bounce without ever trying to slavishly imitate the musical style and Brooks only slightly twists her voice to attempt framing her phrasing in a manner complementary to the style. “Time for Love” is reminiscent of the earlier track “Good to Meet You” in the ballad-esque way it slowly unfolds for listeners and focus on lush melodic structures. “Find a Good Woman” is a great R&B mash up with some stronger than normal blues influence and an appropriately strong vocal performance from Brooks. The finale “Dream Your Dreams” forms a natural bookend with the album’s first song as it is another song aiming to stir the spirit and it’s impossible to quarrel with its positive message. It’s a great way to wrap up this album because it emphasizes a critical component of Brooks’ presentation – she doesn’t fall for the easy despair affecting so many performers in popular music and, instead, makes deeply personal music that shows us a better way.  

CD BABY: store.cdbaby.com/cd/kristylovebrooks6 

Michael Saulman

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Albert Cummings – Live at the ’62 Center

Albert Cummings – Live at the ’62 Center

URL: albertcummings.com/

Albert Cummings’ journey through the world of blues music has paid off with a loyal following allowing him the luxury of cutting a live album. His latest album Live at the ’62 Center draws the bulk of its material from his latest studio recording, 2015’s Someone Like You, but Cummins does an excellent job of providing his audience with a broad overview of his overall career and certainly makes a case that he’s every bit as talented as higher profile peers like Joe Bonamassa. The engaged crowd for this Williamstown, Massachusetts performance, Cummings’ hometown, clearly inspire Cummins more than a little and they are uniformly responsive to whatever he does. Live at the ’62 Center is a powerful audio document that makes a strong case the blues genre is as alive as ever, though its practitioners may not be as legion as they were thirty years ago or more.

Cummings likely wouldn’t deny it, but he’s got a rocker in his heart as well and the configuration of his band alone, including female backing singers and a prominent keyboard/organ role, tips his hand. The blues, naturally, forms a foundation for everything he does and the opener “500 Miles” illustrates that with ease. It’s blues, through and through, lighting up the song’s changes and informing its sound, but there’s a hard-charging swagger to the song that owes every bit as much to younger members of the musical family tree than Muddy Waters. Cummings isn’t all about the whiskey soaked hard loving blues rock style, thankfully. Songs like the album’s second cut “Finally in Love” and the later album cut “Cry Me a River” show off his softer side as a performer rather than marking him as bombastic blues lacking any subtlety. His enthusiasm for the music is apparent in his guitar solos, if nowhere else, and “Cry Me a River” is one of the more emotive moments of its kind on Live at the ’62 Center while the former track shows off some of the humor that’s an underrated ingredient in the best blues music.

“I’ve Got Feelings Too” continues that wont for incorporating some humor into the song’s for added heartbroken pathos and there’s a raucous go-for-broke quality coming off the band on this cut that’s impossible to ignore. It’s a very physical, raise the roof type of number and Cummings never cheats its need for energy. His Stratocaster driven lines are colorful, sinewy, and snap through the arrangements with electrifying results. Few songs illustrate the way his guitar can take over a song better than this track. “It Hurts Me Too” revamps a classic blues cover in Cummings’ own musical image and the results are memorable. The album’s penultimate number “Movin’ On” dives deep into some electrified swamp blues peppered with a funky bite and nicely seconded by the organ attack. Bringing these two instrumentals proves key to the success of many performances on Live at the ’62 Center and this is one of the most glaring examples of that. What a powerhouse blues album and it’s dosed with just enough rock and roll to get anyone bobbing their heads, tapping the feet, or shaking a white-knuckled fist in the air.

I-TUNES: itunes.apple.com/us/artist/albert-cummings/id22139012?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Lance Wright

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Helen Kelter Skelter drop new LP

Helen Kelter Skelter drop new LP

YOU TUBE: www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6DgC1TCRgU

Melter, by the tongue and ear twisting Helen Kelter Skelter is their new album, their second release which make you long to hear their first album if you haven’t. Take the opportunity or start in the chronological order. It doesn’t make any difference because they’re chock full of everything that is good about all forms of rock, and the lighter side of it too. They seem to have it all and are taking no prisoners, or I am hearing things. Singer Eli Wimmer, bass player Cody Clifton, percussionist Scott Twitchell, guitarist Jay Jamison and keyboardist Tim Gregory, all rock with the best it takes.

Trip back in the mind to the 90s and then go all the way back to the 60s and you’re getting the picture of what they sound like. The album comes out flying right into your face on “21st Century” which is a track for all centuries by any measure. They loosely weave dance rock stylings with a surf and spy appeal. It’s a killer visit to the way back machine, like an amusement ride of melody and vocal swagger. There is nothing polished about it, but it sure sticks to the brain anyway. That’s something to find about HKS you won’t in very many out there, it’s contagious once you get wind of them.

“Gudd” plays like a signature track to demonstrate their dark side, and it’s something to get out of their system early on, so don’t lose sight of the prize with it. For some reason it sounds a little bit like Smashmouth with lyrics they’d never mature to. It’s very edgy but there’s something very likeable about it. And the album takes off from there with flying colors on “Palamino” with one of the higher standards kept on what is another slice of their own perfection. Their musical chemistry is fully displayed on this track which is a thing of beauty that reflects the title and pulls out all stops.

“Minding” is another story, with some guitar and keyboard passages of the jaw dropping level with some awe-inspiring work. They take you where nobody has in a while with songs that you can’t let go of once they sink in, and this is an up-front example of their ability to do so. It’s continued-on “75” but the pop side of his voice starts to surface more on this track, making it all-the more contrasting from the former but still complimenting it. One thing is for sure, these are all massively compelling tracks for all they contain and these two lead the bunch for my taste.

“Time Bomb” is where things turn and never look back, setting up the rest of the rocket to the moon of tracks. This is dirty and groove with drone dropping effects. If you like things dark, prodding along and moody, this is the token track for it. “Tracers” weighs in at about the same poundage but it’s the preferred mood of the two for me. Both do create the same level of magic, it just depends on whether you favor melodies to power chords. The album has it all for the rock fan and plenty for the alternative and the rest to dig into. It will turn you “Inside Out.”

SPOTIFY: open.spotify.com/artist/2w78FQxMnyQff7CjvW2oZ5

Randy Jones

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Brian Hutson – Midnight Sessions

Brian Hutson – Midnight Sessions

URL: brianhutsonmusic.com/

Midnight Sessions, a five song EP release, does something that few pop oriented releases can ever manage – exhibiting full on pop music appeal while still speaking to adult concerns, all in an entertaining fashion. Hutson’s vocal chops are unquestionably the centerpiece of the release, but he’s well backed by some expert musical performances that err on the side of brevity and, in turn, create a stylish and often elegant musical landscape for his voice to inhabit. Renowned producer Joe Vulpis has an outsized influence on the presentation of Hutson’s music and he wisely emphasizes Hutson’s phrasing and emotive edge while still keeping the instrumental virtues firmly in focus. Midnight Sessions has nice atmospherics, as well, and Vulpis works with Hutson to show quite a steady hand in this regard; not a single song can be heard as self-indulgent in this regard. Instead, Brian Hutson’s debut EP builds on the promise of his first single and shows this promising vocal talent and songwriter taking the next necessary step into his future.

“Break My Heart” introduces the EP in a way sure to provide comfort for first time listeners. Hutson places his audience in recognizable territory, both in terms of music and subject matter, while impressing with stylistic choices and a personality that are all his own. Piano is the primary instrument on this song, but it never overwhelms the other instruments and, instead, the song reveals Hutson as a steadfast adherent of blending various strands into a wider ranged, coherent whole. You might expect, based on title alone, “Kiss Me Feel It” to be a far jauntier number, but Hutson opts for keeping emotion on a low but steady simmer throughout the entirety of this tune. He leans on guitar more here and it’s recorded quite nicely – detail and warmth alike help make it one of Midnight Sessions’ more memorable musical performances.

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/brihutson/

“One Night Stand” continues the same mood as the previous two numbers, especially during the verses, but producer Joe Vulpis and Hutson earn our attention and respect with an exhortative chorus that connects more solidly than virtually any other single instrumental passage on Midnight Sessions. We hear a bit more of his songwriting sleight of hand as what the title suggests about its lyrical content really has nothing to with the lyrics at all. “Behind the Wall” is a much harder pushing tune than anything else on the EP, bonus truck included, and sports some particularly big guitars to drive home its sentiments. Hutson ramps up his singing for this one, as well, and throws himself into the song with abandon. “Keep the Faith Alive” is deemed a bonus track, but what is typically a bit of filler on many releases is, here, a viable part of the EP as it was released and finds Hutson in an interesting moment of self reflection as a listener and winning over listeners with a show-stopper vocal. It’s the final crowning achievement on an EP certain to turn ears in his direction.

Photo Credit – Zachary Shapiro

SOUNDCLOUD: soundcloud.com/brihutson/sets/midnight-sessions/s-9nAIq

Dale Butcher

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Theo Czuk – The Black Bottom

Theo Czuk – The Black Bottom

URL: tedczuk.com/

Theo Czuk’s album The Black Bottom definitely seems like a near obsession for the artist that resulted in a full length album chock full of original compositions and even a novel exploring some of the same subject matter. His ambitions for the album aren’t small. The Black Bottom seeks nothing less than a panoramic overview of jazz and its many different styles while still serving to audiences a coherent and complex collection that remains accessible to the widest possible listener base. Theo Czuk has succeeded on all counts. The dozen songs on this collection dazzle with the sheer variety of their approach and Czuk keeps the material working on a very accessible level throughout while never pandering to the lowest common denominator in an attempt to attract listeners. The Black Bottom is a remarkable musical experience in an era where such experiences are increasingly paltry and stands as Czuk’s most substantial achievement yet as a recording artist.

The album begins with its first instrumental and title song “The Black Bottom”. Czuk strikes pay dirt for the first time thanks to a fantastic bass line that anchors the track, top notch percussion accompaniment, and some appropriately restrained yet substantial keyboard contributions. Many of the songs on this release will succeed with jazz newcomers because, despite his pursuit of authenticity, Czuk orchestrates these songs in a way recognizable to anyone who’s heard a rock song and the first instrumental is a key example of this. “Cold Corridor” is the album’s first song with vocals and lyrics. It’s another home run for the release thanks to the abundance of concrete details in the lyrics and the familiar, albeit grim, world they paint a picture of. There’s a hint of the hard boiled or noir creeping in along the edges of his lyric that makes for a strong atmospheric experience. “Mi Casa Bossa” demonstrates, via its title, some of the humor that’s one of The Black Bottom’s strongest qualities, but it also demonstrates the band’s versatility by tackling a jazz/Caribbean/Latin mix that takes considerable chops to pull off – but Czuk and his musical partners make it sound easy.

“Let It Swing” has some of the qualities we’d associate with a musical workout rather than a traditional singer/songwriter styled piece but it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb because of it. Instead, the song occupies a place as an enjoyable diversion and a testament to their considerable musical talents. Though it should be interpreted as no slight to Czuk’s songwriting powers as a lyricist, “Lunch Wagon on Highway 57” stands out as one of the best marriages of music and words on the album and Czuk gives us a superb reading of Kenneth Patchen’s original poem set to a memorable musical arrangement. “Good Night’s Sleep” has some humor and lyrical bite alike, plus ample musical energy, and “Pi to the Nth Degree” rates as another of The Black Bottom’s best instrumentals while exhibiting a different, denser sound than we heard on earlier cuts. The Black Bottom is an important work, more than just reverential, and will garner Czuk a more sizable following than ever before.

CD BABY: store.cdbaby.com/cd/theoczuk1

Scott Wigley

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