Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Lauren Adams – Somewhere Else
Lauren Adams is one of those hard-working west coast troubadours who may not have massive recognition, but sure creates music with the passion and talent of anyone who does. She is a wonderful storyteller with a knack of conveying various emotions with her vocal inflections. From the heartrending to the humorous, to just down home good tales, Lauren’s weaving of folk, Americana, and other roots stylings is intoxicating. If you have not listened to her yet, you really need to check her out.
laurenadams

Jeff Crosby – Walking Dogs
Veteran Idaho singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby is a talent that should have more attention paid to him. His music is familiar in a comfortable way; Americana, country and rock blended in the vein of Jackson Brown, John Hiatt, and maybe a bit of Tom Petty. He just does it so well and his bluesy voice makes me think of a bit of Chris Stapleton as well. His stories are enthralling and his emotive vocal control and the crisp, hooky but noticeable musical talent surrounding him augments his words. Highly enjoyable music that can really grab you. 
jeffcrosby

King Llama – Return To Ox
This L.A. instrumental trio produces an amazingly full song and I am not even sure I would call this avant-garde as they push the envelope even on that. The music has the feel of an unbridled jam session, effortlessly flowing and ebbing from rock to jazz, from progressive to power funk. You have to be talented to pull this kind of improvisation off and not sound sloppy or like you are hanging on coattails, and these guys obviously have that. Expect the unexpected here, and prepare yourself to enjoy every little twist and turn. 
kingllama

JJ Thames – Raw Sugar
Dechamp Records – DCH 30003
Many musicians and songwriters work hard to make sure true R&B never dies and Detroit born JJ Thames takes that particular work effort into the stratosphere. Fueled by the strong roots of her hometown, but not ignoring Chicago, Clarksdale or East Texas either, her sophomore effort is a blistering reminder that no matter who old the genre is, there can still be a freshness to the music if in the right hands. Her mesmerizing soulful croon couples wonderfully with lyrics written from the heart and adept talent at handling anything from mournful blues to rollicking feel good tunes. R&B is alive and kicking butt here!
jjthames

 

Boo Ray – Sea Of Lights

Boo Ray – Sea Of Lights
Feralette Media – BR1601
Blazing out of the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Boo Ray tears up a mid-ground between roots country and Southern rock tornado-fueled pick-up truck. Both genres have been waiting for some folks willing to push the envelope, and those ranks have been swelling as of late. This is Boo Ray’s third effort and no one can deny he knows how to cut loose with the best of them. “Redneck Rock & Roll” launches the CD with the muscular grit of a backwoods honky-tonk on a Saturday night. “Chickens” has a punkish edge reminiscent of Jason & the Scorchers. Boo also can show a softer side on songs like “Sea Of Lights” and “A Melody, Some Guitars & a Rhyme,” but even they have an undeniable potency to them. The bluesy ballad “One More Round” tears at your soul with its heartfelt emotion. The musicianship is excellent throughout the CD with his studio band consisting of top musicians including Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ drummer Steve Ferron and Taylor Swift’s pedal steel player Smith Curry. The real star here is the amazing versatility of Boo’s fervent voice and the incredible life-experience stories he tells with it. Most of his lyrics are tried-and-true tales of life in the country, but his honesty, inventiveness and quirky sense of humor really take them over the top. This CD should really wake up more people to an obviously talented musician and songwriter who deserves a wider spread popularity. – MW
booray

 

Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain

Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain
To say that New Jersey is fertile ground in the cultivation of rock and roll is an understatement. Iron Bridge Band is making there own statement that the Garden State’s crop of great bands is nowhere near petering out…a loud and clear statement. The type of ride you are going to be taken on is apparent when the fivesome hits the accelerator with the hooky but raucous opening track “A Little Too High.” While there is plenty of just straight ahead jeans-and-t-shirt rock and roll here, there is further stylistic depth to the music. “America Boss” and “Every” have strong Americana roots, while “Backwoods Charm” feels more Macon than Trenton. “Day Get Me Down” is a passionate ballad that pays homage to the soul influences of the region. The bare bones, folksy “Light In August” show you don’t have to be loud to be potent. I’m not going to be hyperbolic and say they are next Springsteen/Bon Jovi/Skid Row or whoever. What I am saying is they do New Jersey proud, they do rock and roll proud, they do music proud. This is music that grabs you in many ways, and they are not riding the coattails of the bands I just mentioned, other then the fact that they are from the same geographical location, and they have the talent and the passion to produce some killer tunes.  – MW
ironbridgeband

Moossa – Right Way Round

MoossaCoverArt
It is very hard these days to pigeon-hole any band into the genre of “jam band.” The term has become more ambiguous over the years, straying in multiple tendrils from the original trunk that sprung from the roots of the Grateful Dead. Veteran Richmond, Virginia rockers Moossa have been classified as “jam” before and some of that description does fit as they have that uncanny knack combining a sort of loose abandon with undoubtable musical prowess, blended with various root influences. After a hiatus of several years Moossa returns with “Right Way Round,” and it can be very simply defined as flat-out, great, enjoyable music. There is a delectable flow throughout the ten tracks with music that can simultaneously sooth you and entice you to get up and boogie. A soul/R&B influence is prominent here, obvious at the onset when you experience the opening strains of the title track. The subtle influences branche out from there with the bawdy bluesiness of “Petrified,” reggae-kissed “Nothing But a Name,” and funkified “The Coming Of Dawn.” Ryan Davis, Moossa’s groovin’ bassist, experienced an extremely creative songwriting phase, penning all but one of the tunes on the CD. Singer Nancy Waldman adds serious spice to many of the songs with her own soulful vocal chops. Guitarist Trey Batts pays compliment to John Moossa’s vocals, Telecaster, and acoustic guitar with his extraordinary work on the Strat, and adds a further vocal dimension on a couple songs. Drummer Dennis Vignola melds in perfectly with Ryan’s bass work to drive the rhythmic boogie. This may be the best line-up Moossa has had since their inception, showing why if you do wish to call their music “jam” it is in no way a slight to the band as that is often a nod to bands who have stellar musical capabilities. To me, it feels much more like the “retro soul” genre the band has deemed its music. Moossa easily fits into the category of having incredible musical talent, a quirky approach to songwriting, and the way to translate the obvious joy they experience in creating their music so the listener can also experience joy as well. – MW

 

Shane Alexander – Bliss

Shane Alexander – Bliss
Buddhaland Music – BLM022416
Prolific singer/songwriter Shane Alexander always finds ways to do things subtly differently on each new CD. Here with his sixth release, Shane, for the first time, is also the producer and it is obvious from the first luscious strains of the bare-bones acoustic lead track “Evergreen” that producing is another facet he is quite talented at. As usual, here you have songs ranging from snappier pop-alt rock like “Something Real Never Dies,” to haunting folk ditties such as “Nobody Home” and emotively powerful ballads like “Hold Me Helpless.” Shane is someone who pursues perfection in all aspects of his musical creations. From his stunningly clear vocals to his thoughtful words to the musical landscapes he weaves around them, his music flows, caresses and snares you, not merely with the aforementioned prowess, but with the incredible life he breathes into his songs. And the production? Nothing less than amazing. This CD is very aptly titled because if you enjoy great music in its purest form, this collection will leave you in a blissful state.  – MW
SA_Bliss Cover Art

Jim Crean – Insatiable

Jim Crean – Insatiable
Rocker Records – RKR-1143
There is no denying that Jim Crean knows how to rock. A lot of his friends know this about him. That is why they are joining him on his latest potent release “Insatiable.” We are talking about friends like Mike Tramp, Frank DiMino, Tony Franklin, Phil Lewis, the late-great Jimmy Bain, the Appice brothers Carmine and Vinny, and many other well-known rockers. When you can rock like Jim and possess his songwriting talents, you can draw those kind of folks into your recording sessions. What Jim creates here is powerful magic – music that blends the perfect amount of seething intensities and melodic sensibilities. Take a song such as “Touch” for example: the grittiness of the powerful guitar snarl is nicely balanced by harmonic vocals and the right waft of hookiness. “Follow Your Heart” rips your head off with a relentless attack, but still snares your soul with fervent vocal passages. The quasi-ballad “Miss Me” has a kiss of prog rock leanings that has a comforting and epic feel to it. Jim also creates some excellent cover versions from bands his cohorts on the recording were members of including exciting takes on the L.A. Guns nugget “Over The Edge” and Dio’s “Caught In The Middle” featuring one of the last studio appearances of bassist Jimmy Bain. Jim’s talents are firing on all cylinders from his sonic but melodic vocal pyrotechnics to his prolific songwriting capabilities. This is pure hard rock at its finest, proving once again that Jim Crean is more than up to the task of rocking at the same high level of some of the best in the business. – MW

Steve Grimm – Bad Boys Bad Girls

Steve Grimm – Bad Boys Bad Girls
One of Milwaukee’s most famous bad boys is still cranking out the tunes decades since he first co-founded the “band Milwaukee made famous.” When Steve Grimm kicks off his latest effort with “You And Me Against The World,” it is plainly obvious he has not lost any of his passion to rock, with a delectable mix of edginess and harmonic hooks. “Saints And Sinners” has a snarling intensity while “American Legs” cuts loose a nasty boogie quality with both songs harkening back to the early days of Bad Boy. Steve is quite adept at showing an occasional mellower facet to his songwriting, particularly noticeable in the rootsy “Broken” and the subtly potent power ballad “End Of The Story.” The tunes prove Steve’s songwriting strength has not diminished in the slightest, and his lyrics feature thought-provoking and absorbing stories coming from his heart and experiences. His talents are also nicely augmented by several well-respected Milwaukee area musicians including part-time fellow Bad Boy bassist Craig Evans and “bad girl” Char Fiore. People tend to wonder whenever Steve releases a new album, “is Bad Boy going to do anything new?” I will not make assumptions, but instead will say that if you want to hear some great tunes from one of the architects of those Beer City legends that still have a lot of life, punch, and grit to to them, check out “Bad Boys Bad Girls.” Steve and his cohorts will more than satisfy your cravings. – MW
bad_boys_bad_girls.widea

Capsule Reviews by Mark Waterbury

AG Weinberger – Mighty Business
Bigfoot Records – BFCD0072015
Blues can come from a lot of geographical places, but would many think of Romania as one of those locales? AG Weinberger not only thinks that, he lives it, and definitely plays the living hell out of it. Recorded live in Bucharest, this is rocking blues at its wicked-licked best, augmented further by AG’s throaty vocals. A blend of American blues favorites and very well-written originals, AG proves that blues…like music itself knows no boundaries. He puts a blazing six-string stamp on that statement.
AGWeinberger
Aria Cortes – Chrysalis
World Conquest Records – WCD137013
New York-based Aria Cortes creates an intriguing blend of pop, Americana and folk styles on her sophomore effort. This dynamic-voiced young lady channels a diva style into more barebones atmospheres, although she likes to stretch the envelope of her musical backdrops from the cabaret feel of “Shut My Mouth” to the snappy folk vibe of “All Of The Above.” Some unique but also subtly comforting music here.
AriaCortes
Crooked Eye Tommy – Butterflies and Snakes
Piano Road Records
Pretty stunning that this is the debut CD for brothers Tommy and Paddy Marsh. The NorCal siblings have been around music for a long time though, and you can tell with the incredible maturity and musical prowess on the CD. Melding power blues with touches of folk, funk and Americana styles you have some very well crafted songs overflowing with life and at times can knock you out with their emotive intensity. All I can say is don’t wait so long to do another one, guys!
CrookedEyeTommy
Joel Zoss – Lila
Catalan Records
Veteran songwriter Joel Zoss releases another tasty collection of delectable music taking various paths on a virtual roadmap of blues styles. You can find him in the back streets of Chicago, the front porches of Mississippi, the parks of San Francisco, and even places like Laredo and Montego Bay. No matter where his journeys take you, you will immensely enjoy the trip as Joel’s wonderful voice, musical talents and words ranging from the painful to the humorous will enthrall you the entire way.
JoelZoss
Lasers Lasers Birmingham – Royal Blue
This EP from the band created by singer-songwriter Alex Owen is another example that country music is breaking from the commercial mode and getting back to its roots. The title track has a Texas-swing bluesiness to it, followed by the honky-tonk toe-tapper “Hard Man To Please.” “Anyway You Slice It” is a heartfelt but darkly humorous ballad. Thoughtful lyrics and a stellar blend of classic influences and modern edginess will make you hunger for far more than the wonderful four tracks here.
LasersLasersBHam

Sammy Eubanks – Sugar Me

Sammy Eubanks – Sugar Me
Underworld Indie Records – UND0026
Tearing out Spokane, Washington, Sammy Eubanks cranks out his fifth CD of blues, country and rock hybrids. From the Nashville friendly “It’s All Blues To Me,” to the funky western groove of the title track and the thunderously gut-busting take on “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” Sammy unleashes an obviously deep pool of talent and influences. He does not disappoint fans of more traditional blues stylings either, particularly on songs like “No Excuse For The Blues” and “It’s My Lie Baby.” Sammy has a voice with one of those pleasant-to-the-ear timbres, but can still convey the emotions of the interesting stories he weaves in remarkable fashion. Here is someone with the knack of taking such diverse styles and making it into his own signature vibe. The music feels like it comes from someone who has paid his dues, and, hopefully, this CD will break him to a larger audience as the music is good enough to deserve that. – MW
SammyEubanks

 

Tinsley Ellis – Red Clay Soul

Tinsley Ellis – Red Clay Soul
Heatfixer Music – HFM1013
One of Georgia’s favorite music sons Tinsley Ellis always seems to give us something a bit different, without compromising the fact of him being one of the best blues rockers around. The Atlanta native does not disappoint in either facet with his latest effort. As the title indicates, there seems to be a bit more touch of R&B and soul in this latest effort, even though the disc launches with a tried and true smoking blues jam “All I Think About.” Songs like “Callin’” and “Hungry Women Blues” have a deeply street-smart feel to them. There is a touch of influential flavorings from fellow Georgia musicians The Allman Brothers, particularly in the rollicking boogie of “Givin’ You Up.”  Tinsley also adds a subtle Santana-like Latin influence to “Estero Noche.” Despite the bit of a different feel here compared to some of his more rocking CDs, he still does not let up on the emotion one iota or shy away from reminding us what the blues is all about. When he sears the final song “The Bottle, The Book or the Gun” into your soul,  your satisfaction level should be high as Tinsley is a master at enticing you to not merely listen to his music, but to truly feel and experience it.  – MW
TinsleyEllis