Capsule Reviews by Mark Waterbury

Tim Bennett – The View From Here
Sandy Beach Records
With Chris Stapleton leading the blues-influenced country rebirth, there are also those who are going retro in the honky-tonk direction. Tim Bennett’s second CD proves that he is giving serious credence to that direction with a great collection of toe-tappers and heart-breakers. With a subtly robust vocal croon, Tim’s surprisingly topical lyrics are fueled by buoyant hooks and solid musicianship. The songwriting is interesting and entertaining, keeping the retro vibe fresh as well. This SoCal native knows how to do it the way the Nashville crowd used to do it “back in the day.”
Joshua Jacobson – Good Little Thing
Fatmouth Records – FRCD 1001
Joshua Jacobson delves deep into the roots of blues and country to create this wonderful debut. Like a roadmap from Memphis to New Orleans via east Texas, Joshua’s ditties ooze a heady flavor cheap whiskey at smoky juke joints, with a dose of fun. Yes…FUN in the blues, because his lyrics tend to be tongue-in-cheek and whip-smart with even the typical blues themes seeming a bit darkly humorous. If you want to go retro, the path Joshua has blazed is a good one to follow.
Sam Marine – Big Dark City
The third CD by this L.A.-by -way-of-New York and Florida songwriter packs an incredible amount of intensity into its five tracks. Maybe his music could be called “Powercana”, because it has an Americana vibe that just seethes with furious power – sometimes tempered in subtle doses, other times unleashed with fervent potency. Sounds like something that say Steve Earle and Billlie Joe Armstrong could write together hanging out in Austin. If people have not been awakened to Sam’s presence yet, then this CD is a sonic alarm clock.
Johnny Oskam – In My Shadow
It is actually quite challenging to write original blues these days. Johnny Oskam proves with his second CD that he is adept at rising to that challenge. His blues tends to the hard rock fueled side, but also forays into bits of country, Americana, and funk. While this stew has been cooked before, his recipe features his own unique spices, flavored liberally with incendiary guitar work and powerful vocal calisthenics. Too edgy and intense to even think about ignoring.
Andrea Stray – Into Blue
San Francisco singer-songwriter Andrea Stray has a delectable knack of taking lush, subtly orchestrated musical beds and making them homey and simple, a great conveyance for her thought provoking words. Think Pink Floyd meets Bonnie Raitt musically, with vocal emotions that will grasp your soul as they flow through various moods with intoxicating fervency. This five song EP is a wonderful glimpse at a pool of talent that I assume runs very deep.

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Case Garrett – Aurora
Suitcase Records – 001
As the alt/outlaw country rebirth continues, more nuggets of gold keep getting overturned. Case Garrett is a full-on blazing nugget of pure songcrafting talent, fueling a voice that ranges from robust blues-edged to melodic crooning. His vocal emotions help drive the home-spun poignant stories and musically you have a wonderful mosaic ranging from rocking toe-tappers to bittersweet mellow ballads to smoldering retro honky-tonk. Some serious tunes from this Louisiana native.
Karen Lovely – Fish Outta Water
A lot of gritty music has come out of the Pacific Northwest and Karen Lovely exemplifies that with her latest release. Gritty, gutsy, smoking like the engine of an overused trawler, Karen unleashes her take on the blues, making even the mellower songs powerful. Backed by excellent musicians, her thought-provoking stories will drive straight into your soul with her fervent vocal work.
John Pagano Band – One More Round
Midnight Circus Records – MCP 1003
Jeff Healey, Walter Trout, Johnny Winter, and a number of others knew what blues rock was all about. Just listen to “99 Problems” by the John Pagano Band and you cannot argue that they know what it is about. Then listen to the rest of this CD and strap in. “Power trio” seems to fall sonically short of describing these guys as they unleash a stew of rock, blues, funk, and R&B that burns hotter than a supernova. I know, lots of hyperbole here, but check out this CD and you will see I am in no way exaggerating.

Appice – Sinister

Appice – Sinister
When the names of Carmine and Vinny Appice are spoken, it is easy to immediately have the word “power” come to the forefront of your consciousness. Because this family of rock drumming royalty has been driving the rhythm power plants of numerous legendary bands and musicians for nearly half a century. Now they have unleashed that power into a masterful CD of original works featuring a prodigious amount of insane drumming and so much more. “Sinister” explodes like the Tsar Bomba and doesn’t throttle back on the intensity throughout the thirteen tracks. The brothers enlist a plethora of highly-talented guest stars including vocalists Jim Crean, Paul Shortino, and Chas West; guitarists Craig Goldy, Bumblefoot, and Mick Sweda; bassists Tony Franklin and Phil Soussan; keyboardist Erik Norlander, among others. The songs range from full-ahead rock to subtly progressive works and face-melting metal. It is obvious that Carmine’s and Vinny’s talent runs much deeper than their drumming prowess…this has considering their cumulative previous works. The music is just flat-out phenomenal in every direction and easily competes with any hard rock or metal releases available today. Of course, there is plenty of stunning drum work from Carmine and Vinny, allowing their cohorts to unleash their musical strengths as well.  Rock and drumming fans: pay heed. This is a definite must-have CD/download. The Appice brothers have graced the rock world with some of the best and most dynamic beats here and we hope to see more excellent work like this in the near future.  – MW


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


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


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


7 Miles To Pittsburgh

7 Miles to Pittsburgh
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.
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.


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


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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


By musicmorsels Posted in Music