Kanisha K – Bet On Me

Kanisha K – Bet On Me

REVERBNATION: https://www.reverbnation.com/kanishak/playlist/-4

Kanisha K’s latest single, “Bet On Me”, is co-written and produced by a major league production guru Joe Vulpis. The excellent job he does framing the newest track from this commercially significant and award winning singer is just the first of its many keys to success. The production enhances the performance’s naturally organic qualities; Kanisha’s voice, juxtaposed against the graceful arrangement, sounds profoundly responsive to every musical shift and naturally quite emotive. The musical elements of the track are outstanding, but there’s little question after even a single listen that Kanisha K is the undisputed star of the release. Her voice is placed front and center in the mix without ever completely overshadowing her accompaniment, but it is her unbridled way of throwing herself into the song and dramatic phrasing that’s certain to garner the bulk of listener’s attention. “Bet on Me” has an intensely personal message that, nonetheless, Kanisha K makes her own.

The song has a languid tempo with evocatively recorded drums and an unobtrusive sheen of keyboards in the arrangement’s background. Kanisha makes great use of guitars in this song, though they are turned in a decidedly orchestral way rather than working as a lead instrument, and the color they add is indispensible to the song’s ultimate success. There’s some strong acoustic guitar touches rising up from deep in the mix that further layer the track. Another key component in the song’s success is how the track gracefully transitions from one understated peak to another and, in particularly, the transition into the last quarter of the song is immaculately handled. The song doesn’t waste any time sliding under listener’s skin and plays in an immediately likable way from the first airing. Rather than sounding like merely a vehicle for Kanisha to sing over, the arrangement for “Bet on Me” stands on its own as a compelling piece of music.

It is her vocal and the lyrics, however, which ultimately sell the song. It’s nothing but sheer joy to hear how patiently Kanisha steers this track towards its inevitable conclusion. She sings like someone intent on squeezing all possible emotion from the lyrical content and her efforts elevate the song as a whole. This is emphatic and passionate without ever risking overkill. The bluesy quality in Kanisha’s voice contrasts quite nicely against the stately movement of the music and fits its mood quite nicely. Kanisha is, likewise, a performer who clearly listens to the backing track quite closely and attempts to sing with the band rather than positioning her voice against them and the resulting seamlessness is the final, crowning detail that sends “Bet On Me” over the top. Her rise continues unabated. Kanisha K is far more than just another vapid, shallow as a bird bath pop princess in the making. Everything involved in this song sounds like it’s coming from someone who intends to be in this for the long haul and genuinely wants to communicate while also aiming for her music to make a substantive difference in people’s lives.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1201538114?ls=1&app=itunes

Jason Hillenburg

James Patrick Morgan – Art + Work = Love

James Patrick Morgan – Art + Work = Love

URL: http://www.jamespatrickmorgan.com/

Georgia native James Patrick Morgan’s debut release, a five song EP named Art + Work = Love, has everything a first release needs to succeed. The presentation is flawless. Morgan is a good looking guy with ample charisma to burn and the accompanying packaging for the release frames it in the best possible light. The five songs compromising the EP include an unlikely cover of a classic Steve Miller Band tune, but the originals are well tailored for his voice, cut to a focused length, and expertly arranged into an effective track listing. Art + Work = Love has flow. His musical accompaniment on the album is likewise shaped in a complementary fashion and never obscures Morgan’s vocal gusto. The five song length of the EP is ideal because it sets the stage for future full length releases while still giving the audience a hopefully tantalizing glimpse into an artist’s full potential. James Patrick Morgan’s potential is boundless and, despite a music career already well versed in performing live, listeners will finish their first or second hearing of the release certain he’s only began scratching the surface of his immense talents.

“Expected” serves notice Morgan is a big deal. This is a song hopping out of its own skin from the first seconds on and the inspired feeling propelling it forward is, in due parts, thanks to a perfect arrangement of music and words given extra oomph from a singer able to take over a song and use it for his own devices. A big reason why this opener works so well is thanks to the pumping acoustic guitar running just below the surface. The pop side of Morgan’s musical personality takes over on the second song “Alone”. Morgan gives an especially colorful vocal giving lie to the song title’s implications and the surrounding electronica sound stacks up well against his soulful tone.

“Sign Language” is one of Art + Work = Love’s more individual musical turns. It’s nice to hear how Morgan clearly slides into virtually any musical style and makes his own place. The twirling piano beginning the song is soon joined by a propulsive backbeat and jangling acoustic guitar accompanying it. Morgan explores his vocal range much more here than some of the other songs and makes its mark with a more emotional performance. The comparative abundance of guitars in the song “Right Mistakes” comes down primarily to acoustic guitar work, but there’s a generous amount of electric lead guitar adding extra emphasis to the song. Morgan gives us another knockout singing performance relying on a combination of technical finesse, soul, and raw emotion to easily win over the audience. James Patrick Morgan finishes off the EP with an unexpected cover, perhaps, of the Steve Miller stalwart “Fly Like an Eagle” and the performance truly takes off despite sharing only a few similarities with the original. Purists might object, but Morgan certainly does justice with the track. The entire EP is a testament to the justice he does with Art + Work = Love’s songwriting.

9 out of 10 stars

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/TheJamesPMorgan

Shannon Cowden

Jimmy Shannon – Better Now than Ever

Jimmy Shannon – Better Now than Ever

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/jimm-shannon/i-dont-want-to-lose-you-horns

Jimmy Shannon’s last album Better Late than Never gave listeners a vivid look at the depth and emotion this artist is capable of and his latest, Better Now than Ever, builds on that with another excellent collection. The eleven songs on this release cut across multiple genres and never confine themselves to one style; there’s hints of pop and blues music peeking through in significant ways. He’s joined by an able cast of fellow musicians whose collaboration with Shannon further enriches an already stellar collection. Shannon is the best kind of musical talent – he’s a talented musician and songwriter, but there’s no self-indulgence here, no pretentious workouts designed to impress you with his skill. Shannon, instead, serves the song and the results will appeal to a wide gamut of fans. This is music not looking to serve one narrow swath of the music buying public. Shannon wants to communicate with anyone who loves music and does so marvelously.

“He Said… She Said” is one of the album’s best moments on every level. It has a little bit of urgency, even for a primarily acoustic tune, and the duet between Shannon’s voice and a female singer is quite effective. The crowning musical element of the song, however, is the emotive violin playing lacing its way through the entire song. Backing vocals are a crucial part of what makes many of these songs work and the multi-tracked vocals on “Hometown” help lift what might otherwise be a relatively mundane number to another level. He’s traveling through familiar thematic territory, a look back on the place where he was born and the experience of growing up there, but the surrounding arrangement and his evocative vocal treatment help elevate it above commonplace. The energetic “I Don’t Want To Lose You” features some stirring horn work and strong guitar to help propel its fine lyric. Shannon’s delivery is very good and helps get the songwriting over even more, but it also further accentuates the commercial viability of the song. It’s one of the album’s best examples of that sort of approach on Better Now than Ever.”I Lost My Way” is a very tender turn on the album and has a strong classic country music influence heard in the use of steel guitar. The instrument doesn’t overpower the song, however, and the influence comes through in other even more subtle ways.

“Reason to Stay” is the album’s longest track and it has enough musical variety to sustain its extended length. The subject of the song isn’t blazingly original, such songs are common place both in pop and singer/songwriter circles. Electric guitar doesn’t always exert its influence over the arrangements, but its presence is certainly felt on the track “I Can Help You” without ever throwing the song off balance. The album’s final track is a second version of the album’s third song “I Don’t Want to Lose You”. The key difference between the different take is the lack of brass on the last track and a stronger keyboard presence. The absence of horns forces listeners to focus on the vocals and guitar giving the performance a much rockier effect. Better Now than Ever has honest energy and everything fits into place, but it never plays everything entirely safe and its occasional gambles pay off for the audience. Jimmy Shannon’s written and recorded his strongest album.

9 out of 10 stars

CD BABY: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jimshannon12

Shannon Cowden

Intrinsic Nature – I.N. Concert With You

Intrinsic Nature – I.N. Concert With You

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/I-N-Concert-You-Intrinsic-Nature/dp/B012JA0DL4

Intrinsic Nature aims high. This isn’t a band content with releasing half-hearted or imitative pastiches of their musical betters. Instead, they emerge as a formidably talented three piece quite capable of holding their own in an increasingly fragmented musical world. Their EP I.N. Concert With You features five songs of great focus and concise length that, nevertheless, manage to incorporate a lot of imagination into a relatively brief amount of space. It follows up their 2015 debut Gothic Sun and reaffirms the value of that impressive release while building towards the future. Led by composer/front man and multi-instrumentalist Milo Keysington, the band features the complementary talents of Steve Myers on drums and Bruno Levy on lead and rhythm guitars. These three musicians have an unique chemistry that, even in the studio, listeners will immediately recognize. Intrinsic Nature is as powerful and appealing as any band you will hear in 2017 and beyond.

“Eyes That Flicker” has an impressive, forceful backbeat keeping the song charging at full speed throughout its duration. Keysington’s vocals aren’t classically beautiful, but that isn’t the point. Instead, he sings with natural ease and enough of an emotive edge in his voice that it brings a very human quality to his performance. Bruno Levy lays down a plethora of guitar licks, never overdoing it, but manifesting a variety of influences – orchestral influences, rock touches, bluesy flourishes. The song’s bridge is particularly strong. “Spend My Time” has a much more defined hard rock edge and plenty of attitude. Levy’s guitar, however, never embraces the grab bag of clichés typically haunting these sort of songs. The chorus illustrates the band’s pop strengths without ever compromising the song; no small feat. The band also alternates, as they did on the opener, singing and spoken word passages to memorable effect.

Steve Myers’ drumming stamps its authority on the track “No Time Like Now” and the breezy arrangement soon segues into a passionate, deliberate chorus with dissonant guitar work switching off with Levy’s more straight ahead riffing. There’s a bit of an ominous edge hanging over this song that contrasts nicely with the earlier tracks. Straight up hard rock is the order of the day at the beginning of “At the Top”, but the band’s quite convincing assuming that mantle. The rhythm section is very strong here and dominates the low end of the mix with their muscular playing. Keysington’s vocals are further strengthened by the added backing vocals and Levy takes a blistering guitar solo in the song’s second half. The EP’s closing track “Be With You” has a lot of snap and urgency thanks to its energetic keyboard work and more of Steve Myers’ talented drumming. This does an excellent job straddling multiple lines between pop influenced prog, love song, and guitar workout. It’s the story of this release in some ways. Intrinsic Nature are one of those rare bands capable of being all things to all listeners and that makes their work relatively invaluable in this day and age. I.N. Concert With You has the sort of easy going appeal rare in this genre while still asking the listeners to fully involve themselves with the experience of hearing these songs. It’s a spectacular success on all fronts.

9 out of 10 stars

SPOTIFY: https://play.spotify.com/album/0QOQIvVzA7eQgc4Tyq9xs1?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

Jason Hillenburg

Wayne Olivieri – Eclectic Mind

Wayne Olivieri – Eclectic Mind

URL: https://wayneolivieri.hearnow.com/

The third release from New Jersey based singer/songwriter Wayne Olivieri, Eclectic Mind, on his own label Oneway Records marks the return of an artist who has flown under the mainstream radar for many years while still boasting a personal and professional resume that, alone, hints at the scope of his talents. Olivieri began his professional musical journey as a teen and shared the stage at legendary venues like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City with legendary artists like Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Ramones among many others. His journey later found him headlining clubs like the famous Stony Pony in New Jersey and opening for other illustrious musical artists like Cindi Lauper, Huey Lewis, and Billy Idol. The multi-instrumental’s considerable live and recording experience emerges strongly from Eclectic Mind’s thirteen songs. Olivieri, initially, envisioned this as an EP release, but judged that the strength and wealth of material he had on hand for the recording merited a full length release instead. The inspiration in these performances isn’t difficult to hear.

“She’s My Girl” opens the album with an idiosyncratic bounce and a lot of buoyancy. It’s a playful, celebratory track with a charismatic Olivieri vocal that sounds like he’s having the time of his life. There’s some tasty guitar fills peppering the song with spice and the straight forward groove recalls Olivieri’s influences without ever sounding unduly beholden to them. There’s a wisp of desperation making it into his vocal on “I’m Broke Again”, but Olivieri never overdoes it and few singers in recent memory have made financial destitution sound so jovial. The percolating backing track helps keeps things equally lively. The bluesy guitar twang and harmonica riffing opening “I’m a Music Man” sets the stage well for one of Eclectic Mind’s most powerful tunes and a big, broad-chested rocker. There’s something quite exhilarating about the song’s pride and defiance without ever slipping into stridency.

“You and Me” has a much more stylized pop edge in contrast. Pop, however, isn’t intended as a slight in this context. Instead, it’s a top shelf expression of connection that never cheats the listener with musical or lyrical shortcuts. Olivieri’s performance is heartfelt without ever risking bathos and has a maturity in its point of view we don’t often hear from AOR rock. “Never Made a Stand” opens with some beautifully arranged piano work that seems to be setting us up for a ballad and he follows through quite well. The lyrics are remarkably vulnerable – few songwriters risk such culpability. Olivieri, however, sings it with impassioned and fearless honesty. There is no additional accompaniment and there doesn’t need to be. Instead, it’s just Wayne Olivieri, a piano, and one man’s personal truth. “How It’s Supposed To Be” moves the needle back to the rock spectrum, albeit not as forcefully as on “I’m a Music Man”, but it’s mid-tempo guitar rock with a steady groove and another deeply felt vocal from Olivieri. The album’s finale, “Heart of a Man”, is an excellent closer with a slow-burning blues feel and top notch lyrical content from Olivieri that displays some great, practically pyrotechnic wordplay. Eclectic Mind is every bit as eclectic as its title implies and the great thing is that Wayne Olivieri seems at home and comfortable with its myriad of styles. This is an excellent release from start to finish.

9 out of 10 stars

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Eclectic-Mind-Wayne-Olivieri/dp/B01NABYYNZ

Jason Hillenburg

Randy Moore – HWY 59

Randy Moore – HWY 59

URL: http://www.highway59records.com/home.html

Tennessee born singer/songwriter Randy Moore has been working in the world of popular music since the 1970’s and rubbed elbows with some of country music’s true artistic icons. His album HWY 59 makes it abundantly clear that those influences rubbed off on his own artistry in a significant and positive way. Moore is no imitator. The songs on his HWY 59 release are clearly informed by his influences, but Moore’s talent for filtering those influences through his own consciousness and experiences results in a collection of songs with rugged individualism and sure-footed musical skill. His songwriting and the unique turns of phrase inhabiting his work mark him as a veteran performer with talent to burn and an inspired eagerness to share his work with the widest possible audience. This isn’t niche entertainment designed to appeal to a certain crowd. Moore, as both a performer and songwriter, is accessible to the broadest possible audience and does so without ever pandering to listener’s expectations.

The album’s first single, “Sunshine State of Mind”, exists on the album in two forms – explicit and censored. The expletives are rather tame by today’s standards, but radio play remains an important component in the success or failure of country artists. The song begins with the plaintive whine of a steel guitar before settling into an easy going, quasi-Jimmy Buffet sort of groove and features a particularly strong chorus. The album’s nominal title cut, “Highway 59 Revisited”, is a fond reminiscence of Moore’s youth and the experiences of sharing moments with first loves, childhood friends, and how music played such an important role in shaping his memories and character. There’s some wonderfully free-flowing piano laced through the song, confident drumming, and tastefully played pedal steel. “Goin’ Back To Texas” opens with sparse musical accompaniment, an acoustic guitar and some unobtrusive pedal steel, before additional instruments come in. Moore excels at character driven songwriting and this is one of the best examples of that skill on HWY 59. There’s a light bluesy touch invigorating the tune thanks to the occasional lonesome harmonica wail that makes this all the more memorable.

“Roll Me Another One” has a stronger musical edge that some of the other songs thanks to more assertive electric guitar work and some solid organ work coloring in the edges. The slow, deliberate tempo is a perfect fit for Moore’s fantastic lyric that, instead of aiming for the lowest common denominator, turns this song title into a substantive piece of songwriting that says far more than just let’s party. The sweeping piano lines opening “Broken” herald the beginning of a fantastic ballad and it doesn’t disappoint. Empathy is the key building block to this track. Moore strongly identifies with the numerous characters he presents and this distinguishing feature of the song helps make it one of HWY 59’s most affecting numbers. This album is a powerful reminder about the impact high quality country music can have – there’s style, substance, and tremendous polish driving these tunes. Randy Moore’s album is something to value and cherish in these diminished musical times.

9 out of 10 stars

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/randymoorehwy59

Jason Hillenburg

Matt Hannah – Dreamland

Matt Hannah – Dreamland

BANDCAMP: https://matthannah.bandcamp.com/track/dreamland

Matt Hannah’s first album Let the Lonely Fade received a lot of much deserved praise upon release, but his new album Dreamland outstrips that 2014 effort while still remaining part and parcel of the same artistic vision. Hannah has written and recorded ten songs diving deep into a highly individualized experience and a number of able musicians assist him in realizing the potential of this collection. The Michigan native and Minneapolis based singer/songwriter stands out in a crowded field of would be songsmiths for his distinctive musical vocabulary and songwriting that is, invariably, one half spectacular updating of traditional musical values and the other half intimate performed poetry. His vocal delivery will remind many genre devotees of the weathered tone adopted by singers like James McMurtry and Townes Van Zandt, but Matt Hannah’s singing isn’t imitative. It exists within a long tradition and Dreamland illustrates how he occupies his own particular niche.

It’s always a sign of immense confidence when a performer opens their album with the title song. The slot is key on any release – in some senses, it defines everything around it and serves as a sort of lodestar shining its light across the work’s expanse. “Dreamland” is no different. It provides a critical reference point for anyone who decides to go further and examines the album’s biggest themes with easy, but well selected, language. The album’s second track “Broken Hearts & Broken Bones” has forceful acoustic guitar playing at its foundation, but there are recurring blasts of electric guitar dropped in throughout the duration of the track. These touches add some much needed sonic theatrics to an otherwise solid song and Hannah’s voice doesn’t sound at all out of place juxtaposed against those moments. The lyrics also have a slightly hard-bitten quality they share with few of Hannah’s other musings on the album. A gossamer thin layer of keyboards brings some discreet color to “Banks of the Mississippi” and there’s some ghostly percussion laying down a rhythm, but the song is largely dominated by Hannah’s carefully handled acoustic guitar and attentive vocals.

There’s a nice bounce to “Set Free” further accentuated by a sharply phrased electric guitar line, but it’s how Hannah’s laconic vocals play off against the accompaniment that gives this song much of its musical character. The lyrics utilize some familiar tropes in a way that other songs on Dreamland do not, but Hannah’s singing makes a big difference in how those lines come off. An understated, chiming melody carries much of “The Night Is My Home”, but the evocative detail in the lyrics and Hannah’s hard won delivery are the song’s marquee elements. The percussion and electric guitar parts adorning “Different Kind of Light” help make it a different kind of song from the rest of the pack and he varies his vocal delivery accordingly depending on the band around hm. Dreamland is some heady fare, but Matt Hannah keeps it accessible throughout and distinguishes the songwriting with the same impressive intelligence that helped Let the Lonely Fade stand out from the pack.

SPOTIFY: https://play.spotify.com/album/6T3GLSJ8wD7qvM28Z35AlF?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

9 out of 10 stars

The Righteous Hillbillies – Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway

The Righteous Hillbillies – Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway

URL: https://righteoushillbillies.com

There’s nothing new under the sun, but old Ecclesiastes never heard The Righteous Hillbillies. Somehow, someway, these Illinois based blues rockers manage to pick up an increasingly moribund music genre and revitalize its aging bones with vim and vigor quite unlike anyone else working in that area today. Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway, the fourth album from the five piece, explores the band’s strengths without ever sounding repetitive and manages to expand on their formula without ever venturing too far afield of their core sound. This delicate balancing act is the sort of thing only a top notch outfit can pull off and Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway finds this act at, or near, the peak of their powers. Rather than falling into the trap of covering blues standards, The Righteous Hillbillies serve up ten original tracks certainly intent on capturing a genuine bluesy spirit, but their personal signature is equally unmistakable.

A quick indication of their personal signature comes with the wide-eyed, free breathing movement of the opener “Rollin’”. This is a buoyant way to kick off the album and a bit of an unpredictability twist. For those listeners expecting a blues rock band to lay down thick swaths of overdriven weepy guitars, The Righteous Hillbillies answer with some much more light on its feet and capable of getting listeners to immediately take notice. They do move into more familiar territory with the album’s second track “Throwing Stones” and lead guitarist Nick Normando, a force throughout this collection, stands out particularly strong here with his scintillating and often melodic guitar work. The title track pushes the band further out on this release than any other single track and quite successfully. “Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway” mingles acoustic guitar, dramatic bursts of lead work, and great lyrics into a musical concoction that stands out from the band’s already fine discography. Brent James’ vocal is especially effective.

“Down to Memphis” is a slow-burning blues that shares some similarities with the opener, insofar as The Righteous Hillbillies give the music room to breathe rather than attempting to overwhelm their audience with one bluesy passage after another. It has the sort of down home, late night gravity the audience will associate with blues without risking any self-indulgence. The heavy, if not outright ominous, handed piano opening “Call Me a Doctor” sets up the song as exactly the sort of leering, half-woozy blues growl the album deserves this far in and the vocal responds in kind to the music with the same whiskey soaked anguish. “Drama Zone” is a thoroughly modern lyric given a strong blues treatment with Barret Harvey’s drums leading the way. Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway closes with the low-key, soulful acoustic blues of “Rock Salt & Nails”. It’s an excellent closing for a number of reasons, but chief among them is that it gives Brent James’ lyrics and vocals an unique chance to shine and they will leave an impact on listeners. This is a fantastic fourth album from a band that seems to continue improving with each new release.

8 out of 10 stars

YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/user/RighteousHillbillies

Michael Saulman

Emish – Sinners Make the Best Saints

Emish – Sinners Make the Best Saints

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/emishmusic/

2011’s third album from Celtic fusion outfit Emish stands as a crucial release in this band’s career. The New York based four piece are assuming a more clearly defined songwriting identity with each new release informed by traditional music, but never entirely beholden to its trappings. Emish use the elements of traditional Celtic folk as a jumping off point from which they manage to incorporate rock and pop music qualities into their songwriting, but the marriage is never incongruous. The twelve songs compromising Sinners Make the Best Saints are distinguished by highly literate writing, inventive arrangements, and substantive atmospherics that never sound like a band simply marking time and pandering to their audience. Instead, everything here serves a clear purpose. Bobby and Jennifer Curreri, along with Buffalo born Christy Halligan Brown, form the core of Emish, but they augment their chemistry with additional players on drums and bass who fill out Emish’s sound.

“Irish Ways and Irish Laws” opens the album with a highly theatrical bent. The ambient sounds of surrounding storms adds a little needed context for Emish’s storytelling here and the Curreris juxtapose their voices against each other in a dramatic way without ever risking hamfisted effects. The title track’s vocal is handled by Bobby Curreri with unobtrusive backing vocals and he does an exceptional job with this lean, unquestionable rocker. The fast pace and staccato guitar work never wastes a single note. “P Stands For Paddy” returns the band to more traditional footing and the contrast between the female voice here and Bobby Curreri’s voice on other recordings couldn’t be more pronounced or, ultimately, have a more pleasing effect. Halligan-Brown’s fiddle darts across the surface of the song matching the energy of the other players and bringing considerable color to the piece as a whole.

The instrumental “Julia Delaney” continues the traditional themes, but backs a bit off the gas pedal. Slowing things down affords the players an opportunity to layer things some more without being held in thrall to an amped up tempo and they respond accordingly. Halligan-Brown’s fiddle playing stands out again thanks to its lyricism, but she’s always a forceful player who can never be accused of approaching her instrument without a sense of purpose. The melodies she weaves over top of a tight and fluid rhythm section helps makes this song work. Halligan-Brown’s fiddle plays a much more supporting role on the track “Remember These Bones” and Bobby Curreri’s vocal really gets inside of this relatively dark lyric and makes it pay off for the audience. The album’s second to last number, “Glasses of Beer”, is a wonderful instrumental and the fiddle playing assumes some of the woozy, but garrulous, qualities one might associate with the song title. “Face of an Angel” concludes the release on a high note with its surging rock posture that the players carry off just well enough and never over-emphasize. Instead, listeners will feel much like the best material from Emish makes them feel – carried away by a musical moment and in good hands from the first note onward. Sinners Make the Best Saints shows a band continuing to evolve and this collection marks another high point in their careers.

9 out of 10 stars

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Sinners-Make-Best-Saints-Emish/dp/B00533Y67C

Jason Hillenburg

The Sound of Curves – Gone Gatsby

The Sound of Curves – Gone Gatsby

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/soundofcurves/

The third recording from San Antonio based four piece The Sound of Curves, Gone Gatsby, is a mammoth fourteen song release reflecting their musical development since the band first formed in 2009. Many will argue that fourteen songs is entirely too long and the album must be weighed down with filler. This isn’t the case with Gone Gatsby. Gone Gatsby’s lengthy running time and its assortment of approaches clearly shows an ambitious band at work and aiming to make some sort of substantive statement about their intentions from this point forward. The Sound of Curves doesn’t simply want to be just another good band on the scene. Instead, their wide ranging attempt to record an indelible recording is a band reaching for posterity and making significant strides in that direction. This band means business and every listener will be grateful for going along for the ride.

The first song “Galaxy” has some interesting rhythms in its opening passages thanks to the band’s inventive use of keyboards and percussion, but soon settles into a much more traditional pattern as the song progresses. The song shows, however, they’ve successfully managed to integrate two different aesthetics into something greater. The second track “Hummingbird” is much closer to customary alternative rock without any of the added color heard on the opener. The guitar work veers from cinematic peaks that sound like an amassed six string army into much subtler, quiet, and clearly rendered passages that provide the necessary balance. It’s a typical move from the band and the material would ultimately go nowhere without those latter shifts in mood. The title track is obviously written to be one of the marquee moments on this release and it doesn’t disappoint. Much of the composition carries the same distinctive traits common to the band’s material, but they spike it with some canny variations and it’s one of the most obvious crowd pleasers on the release.

“Disco” has the sound of a band with their parachute cut. The guitars give the feel of tumbling head over feet, freefalling through the air, but it isn’t indicative of a band failing to hit their marks. Instead, it is quite artfully done. There’s little here resembling any sort of disco beat or tempo, but a close listen to the lyrics reveals what’s going on here. The melodic content of “Josephine” covers a wide gamut. The opening of the song introduces listeners to the central melody and its exquisitely played without much accompaniment before soon spinning into a full on aural assault. It’s one of the album’s instantly identifiable numbers and a moment that genuinely sets The Sound of Curves apart from their peers. The thumping drums kicking off “Crawl” are the first salvo on one of the album’s more rollicking numbers and the body of the song retains that same airy energy. The bright guitar attack customarily heard on the band’s material is held back on “Tennessee” until nearly the end. The first half of the song is one of the album’s strong invocations of the band’s theatrical side. It never risks self indulgence and the concluding section brings everything around to the band’s core strengths. Gone Gatsby isn’t without flaws, but it ranks as The Sound of Curves’ most substantive achievement.

8 out of 10 stars

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/soundofcurves

William Elgin