Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Lauren Adams – Somewhere Else
Lauren Adams is one of those hard-working west coast troubadours who may not have massive recognition, but sure creates music with the passion and talent of anyone who does. She is a wonderful storyteller with a knack of conveying various emotions with her vocal inflections. From the heartrending to the humorous, to just down home good tales, Lauren’s weaving of folk, Americana, and other roots stylings is intoxicating. If you have not listened to her yet, you really need to check her out.

Jeff Crosby – Walking Dogs
Veteran Idaho singer-songwriter Jeff Crosby is a talent that should have more attention paid to him. His music is familiar in a comfortable way; Americana, country and rock blended in the vein of Jackson Brown, John Hiatt, and maybe a bit of Tom Petty. He just does it so well and his bluesy voice makes me think of a bit of Chris Stapleton as well. His stories are enthralling and his emotive vocal control and the crisp, hooky but noticeable musical talent surrounding him augments his words. Highly enjoyable music that can really grab you. 

King Llama – Return To Ox
This L.A. instrumental trio produces an amazingly full song and I am not even sure I would call this avant-garde as they push the envelope even on that. The music has the feel of an unbridled jam session, effortlessly flowing and ebbing from rock to jazz, from progressive to power funk. You have to be talented to pull this kind of improvisation off and not sound sloppy or like you are hanging on coattails, and these guys obviously have that. Expect the unexpected here, and prepare yourself to enjoy every little twist and turn. 

JJ Thames – Raw Sugar
Dechamp Records – DCH 30003
Many musicians and songwriters work hard to make sure true R&B never dies and Detroit born JJ Thames takes that particular work effort into the stratosphere. Fueled by the strong roots of her hometown, but not ignoring Chicago, Clarksdale or East Texas either, her sophomore effort is a blistering reminder that no matter who old the genre is, there can still be a freshness to the music if in the right hands. Her mesmerizing soulful croon couples wonderfully with lyrics written from the heart and adept talent at handling anything from mournful blues to rollicking feel good tunes. R&B is alive and kicking butt here!


Boo Ray – Sea Of Lights

Boo Ray – Sea Of Lights
Feralette Media – BR1601
Blazing out of the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Boo Ray tears up a mid-ground between roots country and Southern rock tornado-fueled pick-up truck. Both genres have been waiting for some folks willing to push the envelope, and those ranks have been swelling as of late. This is Boo Ray’s third effort and no one can deny he knows how to cut loose with the best of them. “Redneck Rock & Roll” launches the CD with the muscular grit of a backwoods honky-tonk on a Saturday night. “Chickens” has a punkish edge reminiscent of Jason & the Scorchers. Boo also can show a softer side on songs like “Sea Of Lights” and “A Melody, Some Guitars & a Rhyme,” but even they have an undeniable potency to them. The bluesy ballad “One More Round” tears at your soul with its heartfelt emotion. The musicianship is excellent throughout the CD with his studio band consisting of top musicians including Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ drummer Steve Ferron and Taylor Swift’s pedal steel player Smith Curry. The real star here is the amazing versatility of Boo’s fervent voice and the incredible life-experience stories he tells with it. Most of his lyrics are tried-and-true tales of life in the country, but his honesty, inventiveness and quirky sense of humor really take them over the top. This CD should really wake up more people to an obviously talented musician and songwriter who deserves a wider spread popularity. – MW


Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain

Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain
To say that New Jersey is fertile ground in the cultivation of rock and roll is an understatement. Iron Bridge Band is making there own statement that the Garden State’s crop of great bands is nowhere near petering out…a loud and clear statement. The type of ride you are going to be taken on is apparent when the fivesome hits the accelerator with the hooky but raucous opening track “A Little Too High.” While there is plenty of just straight ahead jeans-and-t-shirt rock and roll here, there is further stylistic depth to the music. “America Boss” and “Every” have strong Americana roots, while “Backwoods Charm” feels more Macon than Trenton. “Day Get Me Down” is a passionate ballad that pays homage to the soul influences of the region. The bare bones, folksy “Light In August” show you don’t have to be loud to be potent. I’m not going to be hyperbolic and say they are next Springsteen/Bon Jovi/Skid Row or whoever. What I am saying is they do New Jersey proud, they do rock and roll proud, they do music proud. This is music that grabs you in many ways, and they are not riding the coattails of the bands I just mentioned, other then the fact that they are from the same geographical location, and they have the talent and the passion to produce some killer tunes.  – MW

Moossa – Right Way Round

It is very hard these days to pigeon-hole any band into the genre of “jam band.” The term has become more ambiguous over the years, straying in multiple tendrils from the original trunk that sprung from the roots of the Grateful Dead. Veteran Richmond, Virginia rockers Moossa have been classified as “jam” before and some of that description does fit as they have that uncanny knack combining a sort of loose abandon with undoubtable musical prowess, blended with various root influences. After a hiatus of several years Moossa returns with “Right Way Round,” and it can be very simply defined as flat-out, great, enjoyable music. There is a delectable flow throughout the ten tracks with music that can simultaneously sooth you and entice you to get up and boogie. A soul/R&B influence is prominent here, obvious at the onset when you experience the opening strains of the title track. The subtle influences branche out from there with the bawdy bluesiness of “Petrified,” reggae-kissed “Nothing But a Name,” and funkified “The Coming Of Dawn.” Ryan Davis, Moossa’s groovin’ bassist, experienced an extremely creative songwriting phase, penning all but one of the tunes on the CD. Singer Nancy Waldman adds serious spice to many of the songs with her own soulful vocal chops. Guitarist Trey Batts pays compliment to John Moossa’s vocals, Telecaster, and acoustic guitar with his extraordinary work on the Strat, and adds a further vocal dimension on a couple songs. Drummer Dennis Vignola melds in perfectly with Ryan’s bass work to drive the rhythmic boogie. This may be the best line-up Moossa has had since their inception, showing why if you do wish to call their music “jam” it is in no way a slight to the band as that is often a nod to bands who have stellar musical capabilities. To me, it feels much more like the “retro soul” genre the band has deemed its music. Moossa easily fits into the category of having incredible musical talent, a quirky approach to songwriting, and the way to translate the obvious joy they experience in creating their music so the listener can also experience joy as well. – MW