John Lafayette Ramey – Exposition Lines

John Lafayette Ramey – Exposition Lines
L.A.’s John Lafayette Ramey shows further depth to his songwriting capabilities on his third solo release. You can feel this just in the first two songs; the hard-charging, edgy roots rocker “Cheap Rent (Move On)” and the touching ballad “Guadalupe” which displays not only his lyrical prowess, but his stunning emotive vocal control. The depth of his songwriting well runs deep throughout the ten tracks with wafts of Brit-pop, Americana, blues and other stylings weaving their way into the overall mosaic. From the haunting groove of “Amelia” to the catchy pop lilt of “Jenny,” John more than proves that he is unafraid to weave any of his varied influences into his musical creations. The result is both comforting and ear opening. – MW
https://johnlafayetteramey.com

JohnLafayetteRamey

Ben Bostick – Self-titled

Ben Bostick – Self-titled
Simply Fantastic Music
Chris Stapleton and others have helped aim country music back to its roots. South Carolina born and bred Ben Bostick understands this and infuses his own roots and passions into this wonderful first full length CD. Opening the CD by opening his heart with the potent ballad “Independence Day Eve” gives you a great idea of the journey you are in for. “Paid My Dues” cranks up a rollicking rockabilly edge, sounding a bit like something Elvis and Waylon could have collaborated on in their Sun Records era. “After The Rain” is a hooky but edgy foot stomper that is the type of track country radio really needs to spin. “Paper Football” wondrously displays Ben’s fantastic vocal emotion and knack for writing thought provoking but home-spun lyrics. Yep, Ben gets it, if you listen to this CD, you’ll get it. Hopefully more and more, Nashville will get it.  – MW
https://www.benbostick.com

BenBostick

World Church Unites – Maker Of The Heavens

World Church Unites – Maker Of The Heavens
Ever since Marty Paris shifted his musical talents from the secular world to praising God with his music, you can tell he reaches into the furthest depths of his passion when he writes songs. His latest effort “Maker Of The Heavens” under the praise band moniker World Church Unites exemplifies those passions on wonderful fashion, with reverent, touching songs that also carry a subtle potency. Joining Marty once again is long time cohort Parker Sipes, another secular musician impassioned by a higher calling. Amber-Lee Garcia adds further vocal intensity and reverence to the music. Thom Bumgarner on bass and Steve Niewulis round out the top-notch rhythm section. From the first strains of “It Is Finished” you can tell where the songwriters’ hearts are at, as the harmonic potency goes straight to your soul. “Spirit Breath” is a bit mellower, kissed by luscious piano passages, but infused with the power of Amber-Lee’s vocals. You are also treated to a wonderful reworking of Marty’s earlier hit “To Be Saved.” Any fans of praise artists such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman will no doubt thoroughly enjoy the unbridled soul bearing love that pours out from this music, but there is more to this CD than just the music itself.  “Love Eternally” ends the CD showcasing Marty’s vocal prowess with a sort of quiet dignity, before his spoken words explain how this latest music effort was created to uphold the very noble cause of Third World Vision, a non-profit foundation striving to bring clean water technologies to the impoverished areas of the globe. Those who donate to this cause will receive a free physical copy of this album. Beautiful music created with reverent passion and the ability to help those less fortunate definitely helps to exemplify what true worship music is all about. – MW
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7 Miles To Pittsburgh

7 Miles to Pittsburgh
A67/Bertus/Suburban
Something very potent is brewing in the Netherlands. Elegy bassist Martin Helmantel and Komatsu guitarist Joris Lindner enlisted sonic rock vocalist Andrew Elt, known from his days with Atlantic recording artists Sleeze Beez and indie acts The Moon and Gin On The Rocks, to write some evocative tunes. Collectively called 7 Miles To Pittsburgh, this exciting music will hit you with the force of a nuclear-fueled Saturn V. “Same Size” kicks off the disc with an edgy fire that screams “power trio” in a very fervent fashion. “Earth Dance” has a heady juxtaposition of gritty crunch and melodic flourishes. Even the mellow songs seethe with power – or in the case of “Lost And Found” – will blow away any preconceived notions you have about the term “power ballad.” “Grams” is the mellowest track, but it is intriguingly catchy, soothing, and intense. The music has an overall progressive feel with touches of grunge, blues, and just good old hard rock. Andrew’s voice is in excellent form, still possessing the powerful pyrotechnics from his aforementioned bands, adeptly conveying all lyrics as thought-provoking to topical to home-spun. Joris pulls double-duty on the CD, tearing loose with his prodigious guitar chops (anyone who misses REAL guitar soloing needs to hear this guy) as he joins Martin to drive the tornadic rhythm machine. This is an excellent marriage of songwriting prowess, vocal and musical talent. And there is an obvious unbridled passion to create music that pushes the envelope, yet can still have a comfortingly familiar element to it. Hopefully, we will hear much more from these musicians in the near future. – MW

 

Review Capsules by Mark Waterbury

Michael Packer – “I Am The Blues” My Story Vol. 3
IMG Records
A bright light in the blues chandelier burned out in May when Michael Packer lost his tenacious fight with cancer. He left behind an incredible musical legacy, punctuated by this excellent final collection. Introducing each track with a verbal story of what inspired the track, Michael’s perspectives translate wonderfully into songs with influential ranges from bare bones blues to hip-hop, country to jazz. This final gift is a wonderful reminder of how talented Michael is and how much his activism-fueled blues will be missed.
MichaelPacker
Gerry Spehar – I Hold Gravity
Before going into a non-music profession, Gerry Spehar opened for the likes of Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, and Boz Scaggs. Now, once again, turning his passion to music, it is obvious that Gerry has drawn influences from those legends while still pouring his own heart and soul into his writing. Twisting in a subtle portion of blues along with a road-map of Americana vibes, this is a delectable, ear-opening journey of music that is rootsy, gritty, powerful yet soothing. With the rebirth of more roots-oriented country, Gerry has picked the perfect time to make a comeback – and his love for music obviously never left him.

GerrySPehar

Mike Younger – Little Folks Like You And Me

Mike Younger – Little Folks Like You And Me
With his fourth album, Mike Younger proves why he is highly respected as a singer-songwriter and performer. Mike never holds back on unleashing his talents and passions, weaving his heady blend of roots folk, country, blues, and Americana into songs that touch your soul and grip you with their subtle intensity. From the haunting croon of “Poisoned Rivers” to the potent honky tonk kick of “Never Was A Dancer,” Mike’s versatile, emotive voice tells life-brimming stories that are both enjoyable and thought-provoking. He can snarl at you with the gutsy rock edge of “Walk In The Mud” or coerce a lump in your throat with “How To Tell A Friend Goodby.” As Nashville finally heads back to its roots, you would have to think that would bode well for Mike Younger, a not yet hugely famous hard-working songsmith who really deserves to have wider spread attention to his wonderful music. – MW

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Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Davis Coen – These Things Shall Pass
Soundview – SP1008
Veteran Mississippi blues songsmith Davis Coen casts his heart and soul wide open on this latest effort. The entire CD is spiritual music, mixing classic Gospel songs with more contemporary covers as well as his originals. The result is no less than phenomenal on all levels, especially the sparkling fervency of Davis’s vocals. The music is a bit bare-bones, but still features excellent musicianship and is the perfect augmentation for the words. Like an old fashioned Sunday that you can experience any time.
DavisCoen
Hurricane Ruth – Ain’t Ready For The Grave
Not only is veteran blues belter Hurricane Ruth not ready for the grave, she could get the dead dancing in their coffins. She cannot do the blues without unleashing every ounce of passion she has, whether kicking fat-chorded rockers into gear or jolting a ballad with her searing croon. Backed by top notch blues and country sidemen, Ruth not only reminds you of what the blues are all about, she makes sure you never forget it. Trust me, you will NOT want to forget it after just one listen.
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Bobby Messano – Bad Movie
The Prince Frog Record Company – BM1-41517
Bobby Messano is another blues rock veteran who keeps finding inventive ways to keep writing blistering entertaining songs. Perhaps it is his lyric writing that can be highly thought-provoking even when he is stick close to typical blues subjects. His uniquely powerful vocal warble intertwined with lighting-bolt guitar work and earth-shattering rhythms drives the words right into your soul. His potency even extends to the ballads.
Better strap in when you listen to this one.
BobbyMessano
Vin Mott – Quit The Woman For The Blues
Blind Racoon
With his first solo effort, blues harmonica maestro Vin Mott shows he will be a force to be reckoned with. With a surprisingly full sound for a quartet, the music sprinkles bits of country and jazz over the stoic traditional blues backdrop. The lyrics are quirky and sometimes caustically humorous, but what you really come to hear is Vin’s harp work and it is wickedly delectable. Somewhere in the afterlife, Frank Frost, Junior Wells, and Paul Butterfield are having a jam session listening to this guy.
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Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado- Change My Game
Ruf Records – RUF1240
This Danish singer/guitarist proves again that you don’t have to live in the U,S, to live and breath American blues. With his latest effort, Thorbjørn and his talented cohorts rip through a road map of styles from haunting Delta scorchers to heartland rockers and neon jazz-fueled fusion, with other tasty twists and turns. Along with the musical mosaic, Thorbjørn’s powerfully soulful growl will blow you away.
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Jack Spann – Beautiful Man from Mars
Big Boo Music – AZ51701
New York vocalist/keyboardist Jack Spann is carving his own unique perspective on music. Simultaneously understated and intense, you feel vestiges of Pink Floyd, Bowie with a waft of the quirkier side of the Beatles, and even a touch of Vaudeville. His talents are on full display and while you could call this progressive rock, it stretches the envelope enough to really avoid being pigeon-holed. If you enjoy music that can mesmerize you, grasp your soul, get you dancing or laughing at various instances…in other words, if you have an open mind, this is right up your alley.
JackSPann
Jared Tyler – Dirt On My Hands
The third solo record from longtime side-man and Dobro player Jared Tyler is another wonderful showcase of his musical tastes and talents. Entwining various tendrils of country with touches of blue, jam and Americana, Jared leaves a trail of thoughtful words, vocals dripping with emotion and non-pretentious, but, nonetheless, stunning musical prowess. Juxtaposing classic and modern styles, this Okie is another artist more than ready to tear through the mainstream country maelstrom.
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Vintage #18 – Grit
You need to go a million miles with this new band from Virginia. I say that as the first three songs on the debut of this blues/R&B/funk act are solid, but the eight-plus-minute power blues ballad “Million Miles” really lets loose and tells you how good these folks are. They are not reinventing the wheel, but they find their own comfortable niche and the result is songs that have a serious pulse, avoiding an overblown sound in favor of subtle intensities from all the players. Keep an ear out for them
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By musicmorsels Posted in Music

Jackie Brown Band – Life’s A Party 

Milwaukee’s Jackie Brown is honing her talents and it is very obvious with her new release. The six new tracks and remixed versions of her debut EP display some seriously entertaining music, toeing the country/rock line, but with much more depth. The title track is a hard-punching rocker melded with touches of reggae and hip-hop, definitely backing up the song’s title. “Crae Crae” has a nice folksy groove with a subtle potency, and “Time Wasted” cuts loose with a funky, country-blues grit. Jackie can handle ballads with emotive grace, as she does in the powerful “With Out You.” I previously stated that Jackie’s robust, bluesy voice reminds me somewhat of Bonnie Raitt, and while I still feel that way, she has so many vocal pyrotechnics with stunning control that are undeniably in her own style. The songwriting is sharp both lyrically and musically, and the veteran Cream City players in the band are top notch. Jackie is still young, and if her early works are any indication, she is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with. – MW
JackieBrownBand

 

Sara Petite – Road Less Traveled

Many male purveyors of country music are getting back to their roots lately, and if the latest release by San Diego’s Sara Petite is any indication, the women in country music have something to say about their roots, too. The fun and sassy title track gets the party started and it doesn’t end throughout the twelve tracks. Sara is like an encyclopedia of classic country styles, as she flows effortlessly from the haunting west Texas groove of “Blackbird” and the hooky pop edged “It Was Just A Kiss” to the emotive ballad “Getting Over You.” “Monkey On My Back” starts off with a traditional swing style before kicking into a high-octane honky-tonk foot-stomper. Sara has no problems letting the talented players on this CD showcase their capabilities, particularly in the over-nine-minute jam fueled “Sweet Pea Patch” – yes, you heard that right, a NINE MINUTE country song, but it really kicks throughout! Not lost at all is Sara’s knack for great storytelling that is both homey and thought-provoking. Check out tunes like “Patchwork Quilt” and “Good 2 B Me” if you want to really experience her talents in this regard. Sara is a Plains tornado of fresh air in the country scene and  lovers of any era of country really need to check her out.  – MW
SaraPetite

 

Mark McKinney – World In Between

Mark McKinney – World In Between
Mark McKinney has been slugging it out in the Texas country music scene for years. With this his fifth recording, he proves he can duke it out with anything Nashville has to offer. He shows his meddle by staying away from the typified sound, and obviously putting his heart and soul into his music. He is a storyteller first and foremost, following the trails blazed years ago by Waylon, Willie, and Johnny, eventually resurrected by Chris Stapleton and others. His music does have a certain catchiness, but is also a bit edgy and walks that Americana/country barbed-wire tight rope with musical poise. Songs like the snappy “Bacon & Eggs,” potent ballad “Yours,” and heartland grooving “Monday” showcase the various subtle edges of of his songwriting envelope, pushed adeptly to present his heart-felt, intelligent stories. McKinney exhibits excellent vocal pitch and control throughout, not trying to do anything that may detract from the words, but still catching your ear with the emotive timbres. A track like “Rainy Day Monday” is a good showcase of his vocal capabilities. Mark McKinney could be another of those (yes, I know it sounds cliche), but another of those storytellers that offers Nashville an opportunity to travel back to the good old days when the music had more of a raw feel to it, before everything became so glossy and corporatized. – MW
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