Funkyjenn – Rock & Roll Voodoo Queen

Funkyjenn – Rock & Roll Voodoo Queen
Golden Joy Records – GJR001
If the Black Crowes had a female vocalist, this is what it could sound like. Not being bashful about cranking out hard, blues-edged rock and making no apologies about avoiding modern styles, the debut from this L.A. act flat out smokes. Listening to it may make you feel like it is 1976 or 1983, but like the Crowes and other bands such as Buckcherry, Jet and The Darkness have proven previously, retro rock works as long as you are passionate about it…and passionate they are. “Shoulda Been My Lover” kicks things off with fiery licks and driving rhythms. “Boom Boom” has a sort of swampy feel with a tasty infusion of Hammond B-3 melding with the fat guitar riffs. “Butterflies Bleed” proves a prowess for ballads, too, with smoky vocals like a melding of Janis Joplin and Ann Wilson. Featuring veteran musicians who have played with the likes of Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, Shooter Jennings, and the Spencer Davis Group, this is just a plain ole good time rock and roll record – powerful in its unpretentiousness and just brash enough to be bold. – MW


Ed Kowalczyk – The Flood and the Mercy

Ed Kowalczyk – The Flood and the Mercy
Soul Whisper/Harbor Records/Caroline Records
Former Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk really hits his solo career stride with his sophomore effort “The Flood and the Mercy.” Ed bares his soul and emotions with powerful words and his undoubtable vocal prowess, whether on rockers like “The One” and “Parasite” or the more acoustic efforts such as “All I Wanted.” While some vestiges of the sound of his former band are apparent, Ed creates a personal intensity here, carving a signature sound that weaves “classic” alt with a more current vibe. The first single “Seven” has an ethereal feel and the right touch of edgy hooks flowing through a subtle intensity that builds, drawing you in and holding you tight. “Holy Water Tears” is a potent duet with fellow singer/songwriter Rachael Yamagata, while “The Watchman’s Lament” blazes with a snarling rock fire and fervent vocal work. Guest appearances by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck adds extra flavor and intensity to the tunes. You don’t have to necessarily be a fan of Live to enjoy this, because the music Ed has created has widespread appeal without becoming pigeon-hole commercial. It is obvious that he loves his new solo career and is channeling that love and passion along with a deep pool of creative talent into this excellent effort. – MW


Celtic Woman – Home for Christmas

Celtic Woman – Home for Christmas
Manhattan Records – 2537539116
If you enjoy more traditional Yuletide music with a slightly different slant than typified presentations, you will absolutely love “Home For Christmas” by Irish vocal/musical group Celtic Woman. The vocal work alone is worth the price of admission; mesmerizing and stunningly beautiful, powerful yet joyous, these ladies can really tug at your heartstrings and enliven your holiday mood. Tasteful musical backdrops ranging from minimalist to full orchestration featuring more classical string and piano interpretations flavored by traditional Celtic embellishments flesh out the often amazing presentations. Reverent versions of hymns like “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night” are interspersed with lively takes on secular standards such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The dramatic version of “Adeste Fideles” – the Celtic version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” – will absolutely blow you away. The live DVD that is packaged with the CD is just as, if not more, entertaining, as witnessing these lovely ladies and their backing orchestra portray their talents, passion and joy live will really enrapture you. This is the kind of holiday entertainment the whole family can enjoy, while also creating appreciation for the musical and vocal capabilities that went into its creation. – MW


Flabby Hoffman – Coup De Ta-Ta’s

Flabby Hoffman – Coup De Ta-Ta’s
Picture Frank Zappa and Jim Morrison getting beat up in slam dancing at a Dead Kennedys concert, and then crawling into their car and listening to a Phish CD with Ian Anderson. OK, despite the anachronisms, could I have embraced brevity and just said “eclectic?” Maybe not a strong enough word for this third CD by Chi-Town singer/songwriter/wildman Flabby Hoffman. And he has plenty of room to flaunt his eclectic musical capabilities here on the fifty tracks – that’s not a typo, I said FIFTY! He has a knack for creating an intoxicating energy that will keep you listening, and finding that it takes some solid talent and creativity to get you to want to listen to this much music that is not packaged in a Beatles or Led Zeppelin box set. You can hear influences of the aforementioned stars as well as others in the melding of rock-jazz fusion, punk, alt, jam, and just about any type of music that does not require a cowboy hat, and manages to avoid being overly repetitive or monotonous in the vibe. Enlisting a plethora of talented musicians, Flabby has created a musical buffet that can spread out over several delectable meals and leave you satisfied and going back for seconds…and thirds…. – MW


The Good Intentions – Travelling Companion

The Good Intentions – Travelling Companion
Drumfire Records – DRMFR015
Liverpool, UK, last I heard is a “pretty good” breading ground for music, but may however seem a strange place for an Americana/folk act. One listen to the latest from The Good Intentions however will make it not seem strange at all. This is their third CD and people need to pay attention because they are just that good. The music feels like a breeze of spring air with the scent of wildflowers, comforting but undeniably intriguing. There is a simplistic, bare bones approach to the music but it is a true mark of folk talent when you can be that subtle and still showcase a plethora of talents. The vocal harmonies are stunning and will tug at your heartstrings with the emotive lyrics, sometimes seemingly from tortured souls, and at other times hopeful and uplifting storytelling. The uptempo boogie of “Black Dog Blues,” haunting traditional country of “Hank’s Last Ride” and simple but luscious ballad “I Dreamed About You” really give you a good cross section. The Civil Wars blazed a trail for folk of this type and it is time more fans reached across the pond to discover this excellent group. – MW

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Lauren Lapointe – Superhero

Lauren Lapointe – Superhero
Sometimes it is the subtleties that make a singer-songwriter stand out, and Savannah, Georgia’s Lauren Lapointe definitely possesses that quality. Subtle strength in her vocal control, still showing emotion but not overdoing it or pushing it, letting the natural beauty of her voice portray feelings in an honest fashion. The same can be said of the music, which stays fairly tightly in the Americana/country/folk realm, but has enough flavor to the songs to show a prowess in songwriting as well. “Heroine”, for example, has a bit of a hooky Nashville feel to it without sounding commercial, and has one of those vibes that just sneaks up on you and draws you in. “Scotland Tonight” shows how Lauren can handle ballads – with grace and poignancy allowing you to experience her words that are often intriguing stories. Perhaps she is displayed at her soul-bearing best with the acapella Gospel-esque “Rattlesnake Mountain Road.” This is just pure, honest music here, created with talent and passion and deserving of wider spread notice. – MW



Irish Moutarde – Raise ‘em All

Irish Moutarde – Raise ‘em All
It is not like this Canadian act is breaking totally new ground, as bands such as Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys have been fusing traditional Irish music with edgy rock for years now. But that fusion itself is perhaps the only similarity, as Irish Moutarde tends towards thrash metal of the Megadeth school in their rock fusion with vestiges of brashness nodding in the Supersuckers direction. Of course, the fusion would not work if the Celtic and Irish musicianship were lacking here, but they are not. In fact, the “traditional” musicians are phenomenal, and also includes some guest appearances by the Pipers of Quebec City 78th Fraser Highlanders. The metallic side of the music is also excellent with guitar licks and solos to rival any shredder out there. The lyrics are often wickedly humorous, delivered with an intense fashion that mirrors the music. Some of the standout tracks include “Farewell to Drunkenness,” “The Cabin,” and ”D.O.E.” which has enough of a hooky sound to have the potential to be an “anthem” in the vein of “Shipping Up to Boston.” These guys are going to be a new force among those who like to rock their bragh, if this debut is any indication. – MW