Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Corners Of Sanctuary – Metal Machine
Metalizer Records
Sometimes you have to appreciate a band that sticks to their roots, but does it well. Philly’s Corners Of Sanctuary release their fourth CD and are very comfortable about reminding people what metal was. Feeling like Sacred Reich hanging out with Ozzy at an Iron Maiden concert, this is loud, brash, intense, and, to boil it down, metal at its fist-pumping, sweat-pouring purist. Not really pushing any envelopes, these guys just cut loose and say, “here we are!”  And as I previously stated that is to be appreciated, 

The Dave Muskett Acoustic Blues Band – Recorded Live at the Slippery Noodle Inn
Dave Muskett has always gone a bit deeper than typical blues. He has folk, Americana, and country influences here, and his talents really shine in a live environment. You can imagine his fans tapping their toes and dancing as you should be affected the same way. His lyrics tend to be more upbeat and fun and he matches it with hooky, enjoyable musical backdrops, and, of course his signature finger-style picking expertise. This CD can give you a private concert experience wherever you choose to listen to it (but hey, support live music, too, and check this guy or any other fine musicians out at your local venue!).

Dennis Jones – Both Sides Of The Track
Blue Rock Records
L.A.’s Dennis Jones cuts loose with some serious blues, rock, and soul here with his fifth release. The second song is called “Enjoy The Ride” and that is not a hard credo to follow with this guy at the wheel. Wicked guitar chops, solid rhythm grooves, touches of sax and harmonica, and deep soulful vocals dominate here. Even the mellower songs have a serious edge. Some of the music is reminiscent of Hendrix’s more bluesy efforts. This is gut-busting, smoke-billowing blues at its finest. 
Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins – Mike Lepond’s Silent Assassins
UDR Music
Mike Lepond has unleashed a metallic monster that runs amok through a maelstrom of incredible power, OK, you get the idea, this stuff is seriously intense, but also has some of the prog sensibilities Mike brings from his years as bassist with Symphony X. Baroque and classical stylings draw you in leaving you helpless when the fiery guitars and exploding rhythms run roughshod over you. But you will be banging your head while all this happens as this is a great example at what metal sounded like at its zenith. 

Phono D’Enfant – Ambrose Psychic 
Singer-songwriter Trevor Sloan has a knack of creating unpretentious feel-good music that you can just listen to, smile and enjoy. Simple but slyly intricate with ethereal touches against a more traditional acoustic folk backdrop, the music seems a bit Simon & Garfunkel, a touch of McCartney, a waft of Fogelberg, but overall, it is his own music and it just has such a comforting and infectious vibe, you can’t help but kick back to it. 

Riff Riders – Hit The Road
Power Waggin’ Records
This five piece band from Erie, PA put this sort of rock edge to the blues that is a bit unique from typical blues rockers. They seem to take influences from the rockabilly side of oldies and add extra power to it, then bending it and twisting it to get that deft touch of bluesy feelings. Amy “Shally” Shallenberger’s gritty vocals add further potency and all the band members have serious chops.  From mellower songs to full-fledged rockers, these folks funnel their talents and passions into every microsecond of every song. 

Stoneman – Shine Dee Light
Nub Country Records
Stoneman, AKA Stonewell Towery, really gets what reggae is all about. He also really gets what putting modern slants on a classic style is about and it works wonderfully here. The Marley school is given subtle jolts of dub, hip-hop and R&B with tasty instrumentation and emotive vocals. The lyrics preach love and positivity, even in the face of troubles such as in songs like “Hunger” and “Danger.” Definitely feel-good music and that has always been the main prerequisite with reggae. 

Tommy Z – Blizzard of Blues
Tommy Z is from Buffalo, NY, so he knows all about blizzards. He knows all about the blues, too, and the music he creates is hot enough to melt a two-foot snowfall. He is another artist who obviously respects his roots, but has enough songwriting prowess to do just enough different things with them to really grab your attention. The band flat out smokes, the vocals burst with fervor, and the words range from painful to humorous. This album is a great listen, no matter what the weather may be doing. 

Walkin’ Cane Mark – Tryin’ To Make You Understand
Enable Records – 1001
When you are a self-proclaimed “disciple” of the great Howlin’ Wolf you had better bring something serious to the table. Walkin’ Cane Mark not only does that, but he smashes the table to splinters and burns it to ashes just with the power of his music. This is deep blues, intense blues, BLUES blues, and it definitely smokes. Mark is a true slide guitar shredder and has a dusky, growly voice that can’t help but get it’s hooks deep into you. I would bet Wolf would highly recommend this, ‘nuff said. 


James Houlihan – Multitudes

James Houlihan – Multitudes
Gumbo Luvah Music – JAHOUL03
Songsmith James Houlihan who has received notoriety for being in several popular Boston indie bands goes indie himself here and I mean very indie. Not to say some of the music here is not a bit more straight forward alt-American, but his songwriting eccentricities add serious vibrance to the mosaic. James seems to be a veritable encyclopedia of folk music, ranging from traditional to futuristic, comforting to wonderfully strange. The lead track “Fires Of Mercy” fits in the later category, like visiting a twisted carnival with James as the crooning barker beckoning you to join him on his intriguing journey. “The Rogue Song” has a crisp edge to it, with snarling power and an ear-opening range of emotive vocal gymnastics. Showing another side is “Morning Sun,” a lush but bare-bones ballad with sweetly harmonic vocals flowing through a delectable finger-style acoustic guitar backdrop. Lyrically James feels like the kind of wordsmith who can adeptly transpose his thoughts and ideals in a captivating fashion, drawing the listener into his world so there is a mutual understanding of the stories being told. I did call this guy an encyclopedia and I need to embellish that his entries are extraordinary no matter which folk/American direction he goes in. This is the kind of music that any craver of pure songwriting prowess is bound to enjoy. – MW


Backwater – The Unholy

Backwater – The Unholy
Bad Language Racords
Although Sweden is more known for loud, fast and guttural metal, Backwater seems to be more comparable to the American nu or alt metal scene. This is a good thing as the music is no less intense, but has a harmonic sensibility while still not hanging on any direct coattails. The influential template seems rooted in more “classic” acts like Soundgarden or Faith No More, but there is still that more modern sensibility in the subtleties of songwriting that really kick this music in the rear with a steel tipped boot. A song like “Black Star” is a great microcosm of both the songwriting and musical talents of this band, with a subtle hookiness fueled by explosive riffs, thunderstorm rhythms, and slick but intriguing song structuring. Unlike many nu-metal acts, the vocals here are quite legible –  just the right blend of sonic fervency and melodic sensibility – the perfect vehicle to convey the thought-provoking lyrics. This music is perfect for anyone who does love their music loud and intense, but wants a bit more from it than just that. – MW