John Masino -Phase Into Change

John Masino -Phase Into Change
To say that Midwest guitar maestro has stayed busy during the pandemic’s void of live performing is an understatement…a glorious understatement. For the second time in just a short period the Madison, Wisconsin native has released a CD of songs penned and produced by him with John also handling all the instruments and vocals. John’s songwriting personalities have such a wide variance that this is nowhere near a rehashing of the previous release. There is plenty of intriguing and inventive music here. After waking you up with the Robin Trower-ish instrumental title track, “Those Days of Rock N Roll” has a hooky Brit-glam-pop feel especially with the vocal work that could make Ian Hunter blush. “Remember” is an emotive quasi-ballad with a lush groove and poignant, timely lyrics. “The Last Time” wonderfully blends subtleties of blues and new age into a track that is mesmerizing and comforting, followed by the spacey funk pulse of “Drop The Chop.” John turns up the heat on the closing tracks with the seething power of the instrumental “Kinetikos,” and an avant garde take on the classic “Voodoo Child” that made me imagine I could hear Jimi whispering, “Whoah.” John Masino proves again that he can give you both the unexpected and the expected. Unexpected is the ear pleasing surprises around many turn in this CD. The expected is that he will pour every ounce of his talents and passions into every song he creates. Listening to music like that is great therapy for any pandemic. – MW

Dukes of the Orient – Freakshow

Dukes of the Orient – Freakshow Frontiers Records – FR CD 1051
When a musical “project” provides excellent music, the listener hopes that particular project is not a one-time effort. Thankfully for fans of Dukes of the Orient, the brainchild of bassist/vocalist John Payne and keyboardist Erik Norlander, the former cohorts from Asia featuring John Payne have produced another masterful collection of songs,  While still primarily a blend of prog and pop, John and Erik further expand on their prodigious songwriting talents to produce ear-opening twists and turns throughout the ten tracks. “The Dukes Return” launches the disc with a hooky power that rivals anything on radio, even with its retro vibe. “The Ice Is Thin” has a subtle Supertramp feel, perhaps because of the delectable sax blowing of Eric Tewalt, who lends his chops to several songs. There is plenty of musical intricacy for prog aficionados on songs like “Man of Machine,” “The Last Time Traveler,” and “The Great Brass Steam Engine,” the later being an amazing instrumental brimming with Erik’s passion and talents on classic synths. The avant-garde pulse of the title track is perhaps a microcosm of what is happening here; a duo of very talented song-smiths and musicians with a massive tank of capabilities and ideas to pull from to create incredible music. “Freakshow” definitely exemplifies the hope that there will be more to come from this project of music royalty in the future. – MW

7 Miles to Pittsburgh – Revolution On Hold

7 Miles to Pittsburgh – Revolution On Hold
A67 Records – B0845NL9CD
If you ever run into a road sign reading “7 Miles to Pittsburgh,” you may want to strap in for an intense ride. Hyperbole aside, this band with a very American sounding name hails from the Netherlands, but their sonic brand of rock and roll can easily reverberate across the “Big Pond” and beyond. The brainchild of former Sleeze Beez vocalist Andrew Elt and Elegy bassist Martin Helmantel, their second CD “Revolution On Hold” further fleshes out their sound, fusing straight ahead hard rock with subtle doses of prog and grunge. The inventive song craftsmanship is both ear opening and soul clutching. The lead track “Bad Enough” is a perfect launchpad, with power riffs and thundering rhythms weaved with passages that are both hooky and edgy. “I Feel Your Pain” could be a new definition of “power ballad” as melodic verses morph into explosive choruses that drive the point of the song home like a nuclear sledgehammer. “God Only Knows” has the most pop feel to it, with a snappy, acoustic fueled vibe juxtaposing the provocative lyrics. “Think” is pretty much a straight ahead rocker with a sly edginess. There is some brilliant work done here, with the overall hard rock vibe drawing you in but your songwriter appreciation psyche kicking into high gear with the intricate little twists and turns popping up around many corners. The words are well thought out and topical and Andrew’s voice is in amazing form as he smoothly rolls from sonic rocker to bluesy crooning, driving the point of the lyrics home in fervent fashion. The solo interplay between guitarist Joris Linder and keyboardist Remco van Zandvoort is often incredible, and drummer Dirk Bruinenberg is a perfect foil for Martin driving the rhythms. 7 Miles to Pittsburgh may seem like simply a “project” but in reality this is an amazing band with prodigious talents who are unafraid to push the songwriting envelope while still creating ear friendly songs. It makes one feel and hope that they are nowhere near done creating music that can surely be enjoyed by rockers of all generations. – MW

John Masino – In For The Night

John Masino – In For The Night
If one good thing is happening in this year of craziness for the music biz, it is that musicians and songwriters are producing music, often times organically and/or on their own. John Masino is well known and respected throughout the Midwest and beyond for his prowess on electric guitar, electric live performances, songwriting chops, and vocal work. The Madison, Wisconsin native has taken to his home studio to produce his latest gift to the music world, “In For The Night.” Performing all the instruments and vocal work on the CD, John showcases the many facets of his musical capabilities, particularly his songwriting talents. With both instrumental and vocal songs, there is a plethora of subtle genre influences here, weaved masterfully together into a signature sound that is both ear-catching and intriguing. John’s always-stunning guitar work invokes names like “Hendrix” and “Satriani,” while retaining a personality that is distinctly his own. His performances with other instruments goes beyond just background work with solid chops adding extra flavor to the songs. Some of the standout tracks include the ethereal yet hooky “Don’t Wake Me,” the mesmerizing prog-tinted instrumental “Space Walk,” the radio ready pop rock powerhouse “Love Lights”, and poignant ballad “It’s Just A Matter of Time.” John’s lyrics are intelligent without being pretentious, enticing the listener to experience the story or ideal he is portraying. This music is highly enjoyable to anyone, and for those still having it rough right now, John Masino has created an excellent repast that will cut through the darkness and brighten your day. – MW


Bonsai Universe – Too Many Ghosts

Bonsai Universe  “Too Many Ghosts”

The sophomore effort from highly sought after vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Woody Aplanalp opens the envelope of his song crafting psyche even further, which is quite ear opening considering the innovation of his first CD. There are interjections of blues, rock, psychedelia, retro electronica, and many other styles, and, at times, it feels like a rugby scrum with Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, OMD, and a lot of their fringe friends. But it all works so well together and perhaps that is one of the greatest measure’s of Woody’s talent: that he can weave such diverse influences into songs that breathe incredible life while holding a comfortingly familiar feel. Individual song vibes range from ethereal soundscapes to bare bones folks, to power punch blues rock and jazzy jam fueled passage and other styles. Add to this Woody’s intoxicating vocal work and thought- provoking lyrics and you have a masterful pastiche capable of digging hard into the soul of any lover of innovative music. – MW



Ted Russell Kamp – Walkin’ Shoes

Ted Russell Kamp  – Walkin’ Shoes
Poetry Of The Moment Records – TRK-001
After taking a break from original writing to tribute the Beatles, stoic L.A. singer/songwriter/musician Ted Russell Kamp is back with another wonderful collection of originals. The journey blends country with rock, blues, jazz, and other styles with Ted’s wise, soulful and sometimes sharply witty lyrics. Ted’s vocal work shines brightly as always from the the haunting bare-bones of “Highway Whisper” to the barrelhouse growl of “We Don’t Have To Be Alone,” backed by excellent musicianship throughout.  Ted has proven to be a master of weaving diverse styles with intelligent songwriting and a down-home feeling, far better than a lot of what is emanating from Nashville or, for that matter, other cities these days. – MW

RJ Chesney – Amateur Revolution

RJ Chesney – Amateur Revolution
I have often wondered what Hank Williams Sr’s songs would have sounded like if he were alive today. L.A. (by way of Macon and Biloxi) songsmith RJ Chesney channels those types of roots with his latest release. Vocally, it has a bit less twang and more grit than Hank, and the songs ,while strongly retro, have an earthy depth to them giving them a subtle modern kick. The lyrics tend to be introspective and occasionally dark with a touch of humor in the right places. With excellent production from highly-regarded Norwegian producer H.P. Gunderson, this music just feels like it came from the formative years of country and that is a very good thing these days. – MW

The Royal Hounds – Low Class Songs for High Class People

The Royal Hounds – Low Class Songs for High Class People 
If you have not checked out the latest from Nashville’s wild and crazy The Royal Hounds, you had better strap in. This is like driving down Monteagle with a load of nitro and no brakes. Not that you would expect any less from this band, and adding some serious extra spice to the already spicy stew is are the prodigious chops of Brazilian guitar slinger Matheus Canteri. Of course, there are a lot of madcap lyrics here with songs about “Chinese Buffets,” “Pizza Parties,” “Tweakers from Outer Space” and other bizarre subjects. Beyond the lyrical antis though are some seriously talented musicians ripping through songs fueled by honky tonk, rockabilly, glam punk, and other styles in often blistering fashion. If you have any doubts about the talent of Matheus Canteri, just listen to the instrumental  “Manteiga Braganca” and those doubts will be blown away with the force of a Great Plains tornado. They also do probably the most raucous version of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” I have ever heard (apologies to the Outlaws and the Man in Black.) If you love unbridled music with equally unbridled lyrics, you really need to check out The Royal Hounds. – MW

Lasers Lasers Birmingham – Warning

Lasers Lasers Birmingham – Warning
The first full length release by the brainchild of L.A. singer-songwriter Alex Owen continues the current retro country renaissance with a winding road of quirky, mesmerizing, and heartfelt music. There is far more depth here than someone who listened to Waylon or Hank Sr. in his formative years. It is really difficult to get a handle on what that different vibe is, but that is a very good thing since the CD appears to be crafted with a comforting swagger. It is no doubt country at its purest with plenty of lyrics about heartache, simple living, and baring one’s soul, but as with the overall music mosaic, the words delve fully into the depths of Alex’s songwriting spirit. From the haunting title track to the sweetly potent ballad “Sugar Mamma” and the hook- driven but still edgy “Wild Animals,” Alex has a knack for channeling subtle extras into his songwriting that take even the barest bones track to a further level. With this CD, Lasers Lasers Birmingham could easily ride the crest of the next wave of bands washing the generic posers out of Nashville and letting real country take back over the town.  – MW

Dominic Gaudious – AcousticElectric

Dominic Gaudious – AcousticElectric
Dominic Gaudious is undeniably an acoustic instrumental guitar maestro. He has released numerous albums over the years showcasing his prowess on the six and twelve strings, along with his other musical weapon of choice: the didgeridoo. Starting mostly in the new age realm, Dominic has never been afraid of exploring different directions of his songwriting soul, often pushing the envelope in the process. His latest release “AcousticElectric” is just that; a blend of both acoustic and electric stylings mostly in full-band sound configurations. An immediate astonishing factor is that Dominic handles all the instruments on this album, graduating to an ethereal multi-instrumentalist plane. The lively groove of “Downtown Springs” launches the CD with delectable fervor. Songs like “Mouse House” and “Inside The Trance” pulses with an electronica feel –  the latter sizzling with wicked but tempered electric guitar licks. After the whimsical ditty “The Happy Hobbitt,” you are treated to the frenetic, world-music kissed title track, the country-tinged rocker “Moonshine,” and “Satriani,” a wonderful tribute to one of Dominic’s influences. The final two songs actually feature some subtle vocal work by David Cagle with “1000 Years Alone” being a stunning prog-rock fueled composition. This is some of Dominic’s most innovative music releases yet, proving that even after being on the scene for a long time, he still has a massive and deep talent reservoir to draw from. His songwriting inventiveness seems limitless as he demonstrates multiple times on this phenomenal effort.  – MW