Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Chris Laterzo – West Coast Sound

Yampa Records – 41685-2

If Chris Laterzo is trying to define a “West Coast Sound” here, it is a rootsy blend of rock, folk, Americana, and other earthy styles that brim with vibrant life. Jangly guitars with a potent rough-edge fueled by organic rhythm grooves create an excellent vehicle for a smooth drawling emotive vocal vibe. The stories appear to come from the heart and life experiences, further adding to the musical intrigue. So if this is representative of the “West Coast Sound,” what an intriguing and entertaining sound it is.


Ebony Jo-Ann – Please Save Your Love For Me

Both a highly respected vocalist and actress, this is a stunning collection split evenly among original and cover songs. Ebony has one of those intoxicating voices that can be bawdy one minute and sorrowfully emotive the next. Her vocal control could be described as subtle pyrotechnics as she doesn’t just sing the words; she deftly accents each one to make you really feel what she has to say. Backed by talented players, this is a must for anyone who loves R&B-tinged blues with beautifully intense vocals.


John Ludi – Obsolescence

A veteran musician who found himself wanting to finally record the ideas floating in the musical part of his brain, John Ludi obviously was holding back some serious talent and passion – enough to create two full CDs worth of music. This CD has a comforting but edgy retro feel, sort of in a Bowie-meets-The Police vein, particularly with his husky vocals that also have excellent range. There is further depth to the song, with some having a folky vibe while other tilt more towards alt rock and plenty of provocative lyrics. Definitely some ear-opening tunes here.


John Ludi – Rage

While I am not sure that I would say John is “raging” on this CD, there is a nicely subtle increased intensity. What was ethereal on “Obsolescence” now has a more up-tempo, organic bite. Check out the new-wave punk vibe evident in “Puppet,” one of the stronger songs that also shows further proof of John’s vocal depth. The lyrics do seem tinged a bit darker here, still thought-provoking and accented by the musical fuels. All I can say is, “John, why did you wait so long?”


Little Boys Blue – Bad Love

Jaxon Records

Tennessee can be a musical cross-breeding ground of country and blues and Little Boys Blue proves how well that mix can work. The blues feel tends to dominate but the country feel kicks in adding some twang to the guitar licks, lending a nice edge to the songs. Check out a song like “Death Letter Blues” and you can really hear what I am talking about. Robust, smoky vocals, rock solid rhythms, and a nice touch of Hammond B-3 make for some meaty, dynamic music.


Tawny Ellis – Ghosts of the Low Country

The Muscle Shoals Sessions

The sixth recording from this Savannah, GA born country singer now living in L.A. is only a four song CD, but it is brimming with luscious vocal work and well-crafted music. Tawny seems to have deep country roots tilting towards the grand ladies, but has a modern sensibility to add just the right touch of hookiness, even on her outstanding take on the Patsy Cline classic “Walking After Midnight.” Recording the music at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, she channels her inner country gal to wonderful effect.


Ted Russell Kamp – The Low And Lonesome Sound

POMO Records

Known originally as a session bassist working with the likes of Shooter Jennings, Wilson Phillips and Jessi Colter among others, Ted Russell Kamp backs his solo singer songwriting with bass plucking instead of guitar. Not only does this offer a unique perspective, but it allows his emotive, subtly potent vocals shine. You also get to experience his words first-hand and he proves to be a wonderful storyteller. A bit country, a touch blues, and a waft of Americana, this music is both refreshing and mesmerizing.


Them Travelin’ Birds – The Dreaming…It Was Colorful

Often eccentric and unafraid to push the envelope, the songwriting pair of Cassandra O’Connor and Tracy Hui whip up a frenzy stew of alt folk, new grass, blues boogie, and other organic stylings. The odd pairing of Cassandra’s bluesy vocal croon and Tracy’s growling rasp is highly flavorful. The lyrics are quirky and often wickedly humorous, and there is some seriously mean banjo plucking going on here. Sounds a bit like the Violent Femmes hanging out in deep Appalachia with…well, we won’t speculate. It also sounds deeply fresh and exhilarating, definitely worth a listen.


Tommy McCoy – 25 Year Retrospect

Earwig Music – Earwig CD 4971

If you are not familiar with hard working, hard playing blues master Tommy McCoy, there is no better way to get acquainted than with this excellent 2 CD set. Spanning his quarter century of turning his talents in songwriting, vocal work and guitar mastery loose, you have a veritable feast of blues styles here. From quietly painful ballads to snarling rockers and smoky back-alley gut-busters, you have plenty to savor.


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