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

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Debbie Bond – Enjoy The Ride: Shoal Sessions
Blues Root Productions – BRP1601
Debbie Bond’s deep Alabama roots shines through in her robust, soulful vocal work. Like Ann Wilson on a Bonnie Raitt trip, Debbie belts it out with the best, but also shows deft vocal and emotive control and an excellent range. The music co-written by partner Rick Asherson is non-pretentious feel good blues, rock and soul, the perfect compliment to Debbie’s vocal prowess. If you love ladies who sing the blues, don’t miss out on this one! 
DebbieBond

Callenberg – Lost In The Mail
Bend Records – BENDCD002
Swedish alt rockers Callenberg producing music that is refreshing, intriguing and in many ways intoxicating. Pulsing ambient soundscapes with folksy subtleties and the right wafts of rock sensibility create songs that are both catchy and edgy. Emotively mesmerizing vocals and provocative stories are afloat on a sea of wondrous musical eccentricities. This group continues to show further maturity in their songwriting capabilities. 
Callenberg

Mark Cameron – Playing Rough
COP Records
From the wilds of southern Minnesota, Mark Cameron plays both rough and smooth. That is always the proper recipe for great blues; rough edges but a smooth delivery, and Mark’s vocals run their own balance of smoothness and emotive timbre. Comforting grooves and stoic rhythms are punctuated by searing guitar and harp licks. With both deep roots and edgy modern sensibilities, Mark channels his feelings through some very enjoyable tunes. 
MarckCameron

Mary Ann Casale – Restless Heart
Subcat Music Records
Long Island born Mary Ann Casale has one of those husky, folksy voices that is infectious and works well with whatever music is augmenting it. You have a tasty feast here ranging from coffee-house folk to burlesque blues, from Americana rock to country boogie. Whatever the styles, Mary Ann’s vocals will snare you with their honest emotion and the intriguing stories conveyed. 
MaryAnnCasale

Trey Forbes – Restless Freedom
The music by this indie singer-songwriter is a bit on the raw side, but he makes no apologies for doing things a bit different, and that in itself makes this an intriguing CD. Wide ranging influences from West Coast punk to country folk, there is often an haunting ambience to the songs, giving them a nice edge and enticing you to hear more. Lyrically dark but also provocative, this music is interesting in all the right ways. 
TreyForbes

Walter Forbes – Bull-Bat Time/Just For Fun
Veteran Georgia based song-smith and actor Walter Forbes seemingly has fueled a lifetime of musical and life influences into this highly enjoyable duo of CDs. Twisting and turning down the back roads of folk, country, Americana and Appalachian, this is story telling music at it’s purest and finest. From humorous to heartbreaking, life experiences to introspective views, this is music where you can hang on every word but also savor the musical and vocal talents that swirl around them like a cool Southern breeze. 
WalterForbes

Mike Jacoby – NorthEastSouthWest
Born on one coast and now living on the other, Mike Jacoby draws influences more from the heartland and the south. Organic and folksy at times, and in your face rocking at others, this is a delectable blend of various tendrils of Americana. From the rocking “Nevermind Me” to the rollicking country blues of “Explaining To Do” and the sweet folk ballad “Lie In Bed,” Mike is quite talented in creating comfortingly intriguing music. 
MikeJacoby

Peter Karp – The Arson’s Match
KarpFoley Music
There are live albums and then there are live albums, and this one you can almost feel the sweat coming off Peter Karp and his cohorts as he unleashes his fiery blues/Americana rock gospel on the audience. Joined by legendary Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Peter, Mick and the boys sizzle through a ten song set with crisp but lively production that transports you to the front row. You may end up sweating after listening to this, too. Also, 100% of the sales of this CD go to ovarian cancer research. 
PeterKarp

R.B. Stone – Some Call It Freedom (Some Call It The Blues)
Middle Mountain Music
Actually you can call music from this stoic Ohio born blues master a lot of things. You can call it rock, you can call it country, you can call it roots and, yes, you can call it blues. You can also call it smoking as it is that type of blues that will just about literally cause smoke to waft from your CD players. Even the mellower songs have a potency to them, with snarling guitars, thick rhythms and R.B.’s robust vocals. I call it a killer CD! 
RBStone

Von Zimmer – Freddie’s Extra Teeth
Tasty Treat Records
South Dakota does not sound like a state where you would expect edgy, punk influenced music to come from. Von Zimmer is changing that in a loud and distorted but clear voice. There is a depth of punk influences, from the early NY glammers to the L.A. hard core scene, with the added subtleties of folk, pop and Americana. It’s raw, it’s noisy, it spits in your face lyrically, but wasn’t that what punk was about? Von gets it and unleashes it with serious fervor. 
VonZimmer

 

Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats – The Avenue

Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats   – The Avenue
KC bluesman Jason Vivone is a storyteller extraordinaire, telling tales that can make you laugh or cry, sing along or sit and think. Perhaps is is too simplistic though to call him a “bluesman” as he definitely pushes the blues envelope not just beyond the traditional boundaries, but beyond many traditional offshoots as well. His music backdrops are eclectic – he is unafraid to break away from any blues purist ideology and twist the music into his own signature version of it. The tongue-in-cheek Bo Diddley beat strewn opener “The Vivone Song (Pronounced Viv O Nee) gives you a good first glimpse of the journey you are about to embark on. Songs like the rollicking “Kansas City Blues”  and ballad “Calendar” come closer to true blues styles, but even they have some internal eccentricities. The title track is a haunting, deeply moss-covered dirge with an eerie potency. “Train Musta Jumped The Track” is a wild ride with a catchy, mid tempo groove. This music would be cutting edge no matter what genre it is in, and it is particularly so considering how finicky many fans of the blues can be. You can definitely find the blues here – you just have to take a twisted path to get there.Trust me, you will enjoy the journey. – MW
JasonVivone

 

The Skylarks

The Skylarks 
L.A.’s The Skylarks produce thought-provoking but also feel good music that seems like it draws more influence from the Heartland. Blending Americana with a rock vibe in a comforting midground between Mellencamp and the Bodeans and just the right essence of glam-pop edginess, they have a knack for creating music that has a subtly rollicking intensity without having to be loud or brash. Take snappy rockers such as “Our Own Enemy” or “Almost Feel the Breeze” as good examples, where you can tap your toes to the infectious grooves but still immerse yourself in the wonderful vocal harmonies and intriguing stories. Songs like “Sheer Bliss For Me” and “Just One Of The Crew” have a sly atmospheric touch meshing delectably with the hookieness of the music vibe. The ambient country tinged “No One Else But Me” shows a slightly mellower but emotively intense side to the band. The players are all talented and know their places – that is, no one goes off on ego-stroking passages. Instead. they showcase their talents on how well everything comes together. This is their fourth release and if they have not received more recognition before, they deserve it as this CD shows a band comfortable with its sound, mature in its capabilities, and brimming with passion to create great tunes. – MW
TheSkylarks

 

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight – Paradise City

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight – Paradise City
Hot Tramp Records – HTR006
Mick Rhodes cut his teeth in the L.A. punk scene, and you can feel subtle pieces of those influences in the music here. He likes straight up rock, too, and with further journeys into country and folk, he has obviously a wide taste in music. He is a master at weaving those various influences together into highly enjoyable tunes. “Married Girls” launches the CD with a sort of Elvis Costello hanging out in the Heartland feel. Songs like “Since You” and “Keep It Simple” are smoking rockers, the former straight ahead and Springsteen-esque, the latter being a more hooky punk-edged romp. “Don’t Remind Me” feels like it wafted out of a smoky west Texas honky-tonk, while “Whisky Girl” is power blues at its best. Along with his songwriting eccentricities, Mick writes catchy and often subtly humorous lyrics, spinning interesting tales. Backed by some excellent musicianship, this sophomore CD should wake up more people to this creator of music that is both fun and intriguing. – MW
MickRhodes

 

Bruce Gibson – Moments In Between

Bruce Gibson – Moments In Between
Coming from the music rich area of north Georgia, Bruce Gibson obviously draws from a deep pool of influences to create music that is both melodically and lyrically comforting and intriguing. With a soulful voice that is a touch Petty, a waft of Dylan warble, and just the right dose of a Darius Rucker kick,  Bruce weaves interesting tales that fit wonderfully with the vehicles he drives them with. He launches the CD with the brooding ballad “Small Hotel” which starts mellow, but unleashes deft touches of intensity that ratchets up the emotions. “Light Of Day” is a folksy ditty that shows further depths of Bruce’s vocal capabilities. The music is far from the quiet side of singer/songwriting as songs like “Know What I Know” and “Soldier On” prove that Bruce can rock out with a subtle edge when he wants to as well. The bawdy blues of “Sonny Liston” and bare-bones folk of “Love Is Grand” show further songcrafting explorations. “My Way Home” is a stand out track bursting with emotion and featuring a duet with Tara Simon. Enlisting some very  solid players to flesh out the sound, Bruce seems very adept at taking his various styles and channeling a signature feel into them. This is a very ear-opening effort – high on the listenability and enjoyment scale.  – MW
BruceGibsonCDCoverart

 

Speedbuggy USA – South of Bakersfield

Speedbuggy USA – South of Bakersfield
Nearly six years ago, Speedbuggy USA vocalist and songwriter Timbo checked into a hospital with a brain aneurysm. There must have been some higher purpose for Timbo’s survival of the mostly fatal condition, and with one listen to the latest CD from California’s cow-punk kings, you get the idea that the music was one of those purposes. Timbo and his talented mates kick it into high gear from the get-go with the rollicking and perhaps apropos titled “Still Movin’ On.” The foot never comes off the accelerator on the rest of the journey, as even mellower songs like the balladic “Wrong Side” carry a subtle potency. “Set ‘Em Up” is a bawdy shuffle that harkens to smoke filled honky-tonks and sawdust covered dance floors. Most of the songs’ lyrics are written from the band’s experiences in their home base of Bakersfield, weaving both the humorous and the poignant. Timbo, who was born in Louisiana, also penned the song “Rusted Cars” lamenting of the affect of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, Timbo has so much more to give to the world of music and, with his friends, that translates into some killer, sun-drenched, mud-flecked, tobacco -stained tunes. – MW
SpeedbuggyUSA

 

Les Copeland – To Be In Your Company

Les Copeland – To Be In Your Company
Earwig Music – Earwig CD 4970
Les Copeland has only been recording for around five years, but he sounds like he could have been sitting on a front porch on a steamy Clarksdale, MS summer night tearing up his six string and laying out his stories to the rapt attention of his neighbors. Eighteen simple songs; just a man and his guitar and there is nothing here that won’t catch your attention. His guitar work is like the ghosts of both Robert Johnson and Chet Atkins fought for control of his fingers, while his raspy vocal wail ensures you that he has felt every minuscule bit of the stories he tells. Just listen to the way he attacks his guitar on a songs like “Borderline” and then throttles back for a near folky vibe on “Somethin’ Nice and Sweet.” Listening to “Swamp Witch” makes you feel the fog swirling around you as you stand in a cypress bog, while “Moonshiner” is has a lilting musical boogie gracing words of pain and redemption. Whatever emotions and life experiences fueled Les’s songwriting, he has found a stunning way to channel them into absorbing music. – MW
LesCopeland

 

Josh Smith – Over Your Head

Josh Smith – Over Your Head
Modern blues journeyman Josh Smith deserves his due. As a guitarist and vocalist he has the knack of conveying that blues feel, the feel that he really experienced everything he is singing about, everything his guitar is “talking” about. His songwriting seems as if it is being done with a vengeance, because the music smokes like a twenty-alarm forest fire. Featuring a killer rhythm tandem of drummer Lemar Carter and bassist Calvin Turner, Josh capitalizes every letter of the term “power trio.” You can think Zeppelin, Cactus, even King’s X in the way that these three just seem to be very adept and wringing every drop of blood, sweat, emotion, and power out of their instruments. This is evident right from the initial onslaught of the pouncing tiger “How Long.” Josh still shows his more traditional roots in the back alley boogie of “Still Searching” and the west-texas shuffle instrumental of “…And What.” but still manages to find an extra gear with those songs. More notice is being given of Josh’s talents – the fact that Joe Bonamassa and Charlie Musselwhite are among the guests on this CD attest to that. If you still doubt it, just give this a spin. All doubt will be erased and you will be satisfied that it was. – MW
Druck

 

Andy Cohen – Road Be Kind

Andy Cohen – Road Be Kind
Earwig Music – Earwig CD 4969
Andy Cohen has been around a long time and has not run out of stories yet. Nor has he run out of creating the musical expressions to tell his stories. Andy’s music is as organic as it gets – just him and his dusky voice picking his acoustic guitar in a delectable finger-style way that harkens to the great Chet Atkins. Melding folk, blues, country, and a bit of bare-bones rockabilly, Andy is the kind of musician that you just can never tire of listening to as his stories are so infectious, from the heartbreaking to the humorous, from the dark reaches to the bright lights. Weaving that with his guitar work – well, when I made the Chet Atkins comparison I was not being solicitous or hyperbolic – his talent on the six string is stunning. And I can go a step further to put Andy in the lofty perch of comparisons with many of the songwriting greats; his sad songs reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt with his happier ones nodding to Woody Guthrie. If a song like “The Goodnight – Loving Trail” doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, no need to check to see if you have a pulse. Same instructions if you don’t start tapping your toes to “Seaboard Train.” Too many great songs here to talk about them all. Please check this CD out. Andy does plenty of good ol’ talking and picking, and can say far more about his music than I ever could. 

 

AndyCohen