Gina Villalobos – Sola

Gina Villalobos – Sola
Pony Farm Music
Americana songstress Gina Villalobos has come back from a five year recording hiatus in a huge way. Honest, soul-touching emotion is apparent throughout the seven tracks, portrayed by Gina’s wonderfully dusky vocal lilt. “Taillights” is exquisitely potent, with a subtle power vibe to the music that enhances the poignant words. “Come Undone” is a heart-rending sparse ballad that pulls you straight into Gina’s soul where you can experience her feelings. “Walk Away” is an intoxicating blend of sincere words, sweet harmonies and bare-bones and understated uptempo instrumental work. Staying primarily in a midground between folk, traditional country and Americana, this is a great example of what happens when pure songwriting talent meets equally pure emotional depth. It is not cliché at all to say this music was well worth the wait, as I am sure Gina’s fans both old and new will agree. – MW


Sam Sniper – Throwing Rocks

Sam Sniper – Throwing Rocks
Remember when Athens, Georgia used to be a hotbed of new musical talent? Still is. Sam Sniper proves that on their own. This is truly edgy music that can range from pulsing ethereal to punk-tinged, sometimes even masterfully weaving those opposing styles together. “Nothing Is Wrong” is a song that blurs several genre lines, with a subtle hookiness and a blistering guitar soloing of the Van Halen school fueled by a post-emo galloping vibe. “Sunshine” feels like the result of if Husker Du went back in time to knock back shots of red-eye with Howlin Wolf at a smoky Clarksdale juke joint. And can I really say there is a mash-up of Coldplay and the Dead Kennedys? Well, listen to “Something To Say” if you doubt that unlikely coupling. Adding the familiar names in here feels a bit hyperbolic to me because in some ways Sam Sniper’s music defies description. It is innovative, fresh, put together with obvious passion and songwriting talent, and has the capability of reaching fans far beyond the confines of the college town music world. – MW


The Bluesmasters – Volume 3

The Bluesmasters – Volume 3
The blues is just something you can never give up on. I know a lot of cynics think the blues is running out of anything sounding new or fresh, but these cynics could eat some serious crow with one listen to The Bluesmasters. Guitarist and producer Tim Tucker has put together one of those albums that just absolutely gets its claws deep inside your soul, which when you boil it down is what blues is all about. This group was originally formed with Starship’s Mickey Thomas on vocals, but now the mic is in the hands and unbelievably searing vocal cords of Hazel Miller. She has one of those voices that makes you deeply experience whatever she is feeling at the time, whether on the smoldering grit of “Can’t Let You Go” the or the rollicking stomp of “Good Time Woman,” or the driving rock take on Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On.” Fleshed out with talented musicians including contributions from well-known players including Doug Lynn, Hubert Sumlin, Jake E. Lee and Aynsley Dunbar, The Bluesmasters prove here that not only is the blues alive, but it is kicking like a pack of mules on steroids. – MW


Druckfarben – Second Sound

Druckfarben – Second Sound
Toronto’s latest entry into the progressive rock world proves with their sophomore effort that they are a band even the most ardent of finicky snob fans can enjoy. There are some obvious influences running from the more pop side such as Kansas and Yes to the edgier facets ala Marillion or Spock’s Beard. They infuse their own personalities into how they weave these influences together and also possess a high level of musical prowess, something that is definitely a prerequisite for any prog band. They are adept at innovative song structuring, whether in the epic length title track or the radio hook fueled “In Disbelief.” “Dandelion” and “Liberated Dream” are a couple of the really ear-opening tracks where they push the envelope more and the aforementioned influences are more of a subtle enhancement for their own songwriting capabilities. It is gutsy to become a new prog band these days as prog connoisseurs can be notoriously tough on any act that does not meet up to their high expectations. The pure talent level and stellar songwriting alone should easily be enough to perk and hold their interest in Druckfarben, both now and with future recordings. – MW