Rocket Scientists – Supernatural Highways

Rocket Scientists – Supernatural Highways
Think Tank Media – TTMD-1056
I remember a long time ago when I got the album “Close To the Edge” by Yes, and thinking, how does a full album have only three songs on it? On my first listen to the title track, the word “epic” ran through my cranium and I immediately understood. The latest release from the Rocket Scientists gave me a serious case of deja-vu in this regard. Not surprising considering the track record of this gem of a prog rock act featuring the maestro trio nucleus of keyboardist Erik Norlander, guitarist Mark McCrite and NS/Stick player Don Schiff, with several very talented “assistants” including Gregg Bissonette, Greg Ellis, and Lana Lane. There are actually only two tracks on this EP, with the lead one being the twenty-six minute plus opus “Traveler on the Supernatural Highways.” Like the aforementioned “Close To the Edge,” the pure musical prowess alone is enough to keep you enraptured throughout the prodigious length. The song has seven distinct parts, ranging from ethereal soul caressing to intoxicating industrial throbbing to power rocking fire. This is the type of journey that the band entices the listener to come along for the ride, where you really can feel and experience their travels heightening the enjoyment of this delectable musical feast. Then you get a very tasty resort as the second song (a mere four minutes and fourteen seconds) is a groovy rockin’ version of the theme song from the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” complete with a horn section. When you listen to the Rocket Scientists’ music, both here and on previous recordings, it gives you a certain perspective about progressive rock. Musical talents of the highest order are a prerequisite in this genre, and that is a facet that is a no-brainer here. But some prog can get a tad pretentious, bombastic and even cold and calculated. Not the case with the Rocket Scientists as you can just get the idea here that they are smiling while creating this music, really enjoying being able to channel their capabilities into something their fans will smile about as well. This is the greatest gift that any band can give their fans, and the fans of the Rocket Scientists will now doubt be downright giddy with their latest present. – MW


Jim Suhler – Panther Burn

Jim Suhler – Panther Burn
Underworld Records
Texas has produced a lot of great blues guitarists over the years. From Blind Lemon Jefferson to Lightnin’ Hopkins, Johnny Winter to Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Lone Star State has had more than its share of six string masters. Veteran blues-smith Jim Suhler is a talent not to be overlooked in this regard. While admittedly not as famous as the aforementioned peers, Jim nonetheless has talents that can include saying his name in the same breath as any of them. His latest album is aptly titled because it flat out burns! Jim is not only a great player but also a highly talented songwriter. Anyone who thinks that most blues songs are based off of a handful of beats and riffs needs to listen to this CD to quickly dispel that misguided perception. Jim masterfully weaves bits of honky-tonk country, backwater Cajun, Austin folk and gritty rock into a stew that smokes like ghost pepper chili. Listen to tracks such as “Across The Brazos,” “Texassippi,” “Between Midnight and Day” and “Worldwide Hoodoo” just to get a glimpse of the diversity of Jim’s influences and capabilities. As I stated previously, Jim Suhler’s name should be mentioned when discussing the great blues masters emanating from Texas. If you don’t agree after listening to “Panther Burn,” please get your hearing checked. – MW



Vices – The Edge Of Done

Vices – The Edge Of Done
There can be a progression of certain vibes in alt rock. First THE sound is U2, then it is Coldplay, then it is The Fray, etc. L.A.’s vices may be the next progression of that vibe. There are influences from the aforementioned bands, although the music is not as pop as U2, and more intense than Coldplay, with further roots reaching into the once vibrant SoCal punk scene. The lead track “Co-Dependence” has that college/commercial feel, with breathlessly emotive vocals and a stimulating groove. “Everytime” is a mesmerizing, bare bones ballad that bursts with a subtle potency. “Long Road Back” kicks in a punk-edged power including horns, feeling like what The Clash may have done if they were born a couple decades later. So yes, while you do feel some of those aforementioned influences, these four guys do quite a bit more with their talent and fearless attitude in stretching the songwriting envelope to create songs that wake up all of your senses. One listen and you will agree that is by no means cliche or hyperbolic to say, watch out for this act!- MW


Aaron Poehler & Ryan Tully-Doyle – Dietrich

Aaron Poehler & Ryan Tully-Doyle – Dietrich
Diversity must be the key to what makes the music by songwriters Aaron Poehler and Ryan Tully-Doyle so intoxicating. Diversity mostly through inspirations, as you can hear anything from early Bowie to U2, from the Dead Kennedys to Talking Heads and maybe even a dash of Portishead. They make this music their own though, from the deeply sonic but emotive vocal work, to the occasionally lush, vibrantly ethereal pulsing soundscapes. “Sleeper” has a pop-ish alt-rock vibe driven by frenetic vocal work and waves of various emotional intensities. “Everyone Knows Her Name” has a hypnotic feel that alternately caresses and pounds at your soul. “Gotten Fueling” has an old school punk engine with atmospheric passages. This is not music to be pigeonholed into one category and it is obvious these two talented guys do not want to be pigeonholed. If you have to do it, maybe just call it “Innovative Rock.” Because innovative it is, with a rock and roll soul but oh, so much more. – MW


Haymaker – Now Now Now

Haymaker – Now Now Now
Honey Bucket Records
The third CD from this Long Beach, CA foursome weaves touches of rock, folk and Americana with country the way country should sound. That sound is produced by people with grit in their souls and heartfelt stories to tell, something Haymaker have mastered. The music is not pretentious: all four are excellent players but do not flaunt their talents for sake of ego stroking. Rather, they blend them wonderfully in songs that are feel-good experiences. “Different Girl” kicks off the disc with a Saturday night at the honky-tonk shuffle that homogenized Nashville country seems to have abandoned as of late. “Stomp The Gas” does just that, a rollicking romp that flexes southern rock and rockabilly roots. “Lie in Bed” shows the more balladic side, with a smooth, subtle emotion that will really gets its hooks into you. This effort is just an excellent collection of songs that you can either dance to, kick back and listen to, or hang out at a party and jam to. The kind of music that gives me hope that country will get back to its roots and realize that if you show true passion to create great songs instead of trying to write hits, that you have more potential to crossover to music lovers of various genres. This is something else Haymaker has down pat.  – MW