Christmas on the Farm With….Farmer Jason

Christmas on the Farm With….Farmer Jason
For those of you who think right now is too early to start celebrating the Yuletide, don’t tell that to Farmer Jason. The latest gift from the alter-ego of Jason & the Scorchers frontman Jason Ringenberg is just that – a very enjoyable early Christmas gift. Although aimed at children, this is music that adults will get into as well, with rollicking original tunes as well as interesting takes on beloved classics. The gritty punk-fueled Americana Jason is very evident in songs like “Santa Drove a Big John Deer” and “All I Wont For Christmas (Is a Punk Rock Skunk). Yes, Jason has a silly sense of humor, but like movies by Zucker/Abrams, he knows how to make everyone laugh at silly.  “Up On The Housetop” gets a Johnny Cash boom-chicka treatment while the title track tilts in the bluegrass direction. Jason also creates lovely and reverent versions of hymns such as “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “Away in a Manger” featuring the wonderful embellishments of guest vocalists. Jason is not only an excellent storyteller with his musical lyrics, but he also tells stories before most of the songs, giving the CD a real folksy feel like you are sitting around the campfire with him. Of course, you can also mosh with him in the tongue-in-cheek pounder “Eat Your Fruitcake.” So, yes, kids…and adults: there is a Santa. h=He is early this year and his name is Jason. Strap the tree to the top of the family truckster and head to his farm. You will have a blast! – MW


Mason Summit – Loud Music & Soft Drinks

Mason Summit – Loud Music & Soft Drinks
Since I loved Mason Summit’s debut CD “Absentee,” it goes without saying that I was looking forward to the youthful singer/songwriters next effort. He didn’t disappoint me. Country, Americana, blues, even bits of punk are still the fuel for this now eighteen year old musical wiz who has further honed not only his songwriting talents but his musical and vocal prowess as well. “Two Friends” launches the CD with a subtly alt/punk meets Americana edge weaved into a good-time groove. “Kaleidoscope” is a heady brew of jazzy acoustic guitar pluckings, psychedelic flute warbles, and Beatle-esque harmonies – showcasing a lot of songwriting and musical talent in the mere sixty-six second length. “Right Mind” is an Austin dive, a smoky New Orleans jazz bistro and a Soho rolled up in a tye-dye rug. “Village Dogs” has a smoking heartland rock vibe with grungy rhythms. Lyrically, the songs subject matters can be intellectual, sardonic, sarcastic and soul-bearing, sometimes in the same song. Mason is another one of the few newer acts out there that is purely unafraid to take chances or be pigeonholed into a neat little package. Maybe he won’t be a massive star because he does not kowtow to the music business machinery, but he works hard, does what is in his heart, and if he keeps it up, he will have a successful career creating songs for lovers of music that is pure, intelligent, and plain damned good! – MW


Cave Women – Second Chance

Cave Women – Second Chance
Well, Sacramento is not that far from San Francisco and their scene has produced bands as diverse as Tesla, Cake and the Deftones. These four young (Cave) women are keeping that diversity intact. Folk, psychedelia, alt rock, and jazz are wonderfully weaved together into music that is both intoxicating and ear-opening. Ethereal vocals and breathless harmonies are enhanced by musical backdrops that are tempered sometimes to the point of being bare-boned, but still subtly showing musical talent. The mellow but pulsing groove of “Glimpse” is a perfect example with some excellent fingerstyle guitarwork interspersed with the vocal mosaic. The title track has a more up tempo lilt ala K.T. Tunstall while “Circles” has that smile-and-kick-back coffee house jazzy folk feel. This five song EP is the second effort from this quartet and it shows that they are not worried about musical labels or fitting into a pop category, but instead utilize their talents to create innovative, enjoyable songs that really lays its hooks into you and helps you appreciate the passion involved.  – MW


Laura Benitez and the Heartache – Heartless Woman

Laura Benitez and the Heartache – Heartless Woman
How about that! San Francisco does it twice in a row for me. Imagine if Tammy Wynette had taken opera lessons at some point in her life and you get a good idea of the vocal capabilities of Bay Area born and raised Laura Benitez. No, you won’t get any trilling arias or ceiling crumbling howls, but what you will get is a pure, melodic and soaring vocal timbre weaved with the honest emotion fused into her lyric writing. The music tends towards a more classic country sound – from the toe- tapping honky tonkers like the lead track “Good Love” to the two step shuffles like “Imitation Of You” and heart-rending blues-tinged ballads such as “Sweet Green Eyes”. Laura’s version of Gillian Welch’s “Tear My Stillhouse Down” packs a serious punch without straying into the “big hat” country bombast. This CD has everything good old-fashioned country lovers hold dear; great, emotive vocals; solid chops from the players; lyrics from the heart; and a serious passion for creating enjoyable music. If you are looking for the homogenized Nashville sound, look elsewhere. If you want pure country, dive into this. – MW


Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah

Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah
San Francisco is another town that was know primarily in a different era as being a hotbed of innovative, iconic music. There is still plenty of talent in emanating from the City by the Bay with Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah being one of the latest installments. While an inevitable touch of psychedelia is noticeable, this act has far more depth in both songwriting and musical capabilities to be even remotely considered as coattail riders. “Sugartown” jumps out at you with a pulsing vibe and a subtle intensity that sneaks up on you. “Empty Stars” is an Americana power ballad straddling a masterful mid-ground of hookiness and the edginess.  “Gloryland” stomps at you like John Mellencamp was hanging out at an Iggy Pop concert. Every track is graced by Lee’s airy, emotive vocal warble, with a surprising range particularly on display in “Feel Like Going Home,” which is also one of the many tracks that displays the blistering southern-friend guitar soloing of Jacob Landry. Bassist Kevin Grapski and drummer Joe Miller drive a potent rhythm machine while KIrby Hammel spices up the stew with delectable piano and organ passages. A heady mix of retro tube-amp fuzz, heartland tales and instrumentation, and modern alt grit, this is one of the more ear-opening acts to come from Frisco…and for that matter the West Coast… in a long time. – MW