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

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
markmckinney

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Dave Fields – Unleashed
FMI Records
Highly regarded blues guitarist Dave Fields rips loose a masterful collection of live tracks, originals, and cover songs in this excellent release. Dave’s arsenal of talents is on full display here, from the jazzy licks of “Anticipating You” to the gut-busting barrelhouse romp of “My Mama’s Got The Blues” to his explosively unique take on “Hey Joe.” Featuring a who’s who of talented musical partners in crime, this is a must if you are a fan of Dave’s, and a phenomenal introduction if you have not experienced his guitar and vocal prowess yet. 
davefields

John Ginty feat. Aster Pheonyx – Rockers
American Showplace Music
John Ginty is highly respected for his sublime organ work with artists ranging from the Dixie Chicks to Santana to Robert Randolph. After releasing several solo CDs, he enlisted fellow New Jerseyan Aster Pheonyx for his latest project. They are definitely rockers…with flourishes of blues and funk, but mostly this is a smoking mesh of John’s potent keyboard licks and Aster’s sultry vocals. Even the mellower songs have intensity and the “rockers” flat out blister. Hopefully, these two will decide to do more musical collaborations as the chemistry is positively electric. 
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Joe Goodkin – Record of Loss
Quell Records – QR-1011
Chicago’s Joe Goodkin is making serious efforts to redefine “singer-songwriter.” With a mesmerizing voice and delectable guitarwork from his uniquely tuned 1960’s era Gibson, Joe clutches at your heart and soul from the first strains. Mostly bare-bones but also full-sounding, the music is hypnotic and entices you to experience his emotive stories. As the middle child of a three EP set, “Record Of Loss” is stunningly beautiful and undeniably real. 
joegoodkin

Peter Karp – Alabama Town
Rose Cottage Records
Veteran singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist Peter Karp has never forgotten his roots.  His eighth CD takes you back to his home state of Alabama weaving the homespun tales and varied musical styles into a wonderful Americana mosaic. The overall vibe explores various tendrils of the blues, but also wanders into paths of jazz, bounce, country, and good ol’ rock and roll. Featuring many prominent guests including long time cohort Mick Taylor, this CD is a songwriters and blues lovers’ delight.
peterkarp

Kathy and the Kilowatts – Let’s Do This Thing
Lectro Fine Records – 022017
Some musicians from music mecca Austin, TX feel they have to be eclectic for eclecticism’s sake. Kathy Murray draws from her Texas roots, and unleashes a rocking blues machine that is both comforting in its simplicity and ear-catching due to the talent and passion fused into it. Not ground-breaking, but done very well, this music just feels Texas real – as real as a pasture of long horn steers or the star on a Dallas Cowboys helmet. Kathy’s robust vocal croon and the wicked guitar pyrotechnics of her husband Bill “Monster” Jones make music that is entertainment in its purest form. 
kathykilowatts

David M’ore – Passion, Soul & Fire
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Those three words that mark the third release of Argentina-born blues artist David M’ore are not mere hyperbole. From the first blistering guitar licks and the emotive chortles of his throaty voice, you know he possesses all three. He is also unafraid to be a bit unique with his songwriting, particularly with the microcosmic ten minute “You Said You Love Me” showcasing his deep talent well. David definitely feels “it” – that particular “it” that true masters of the blues always feel, and when he feels “it” he slams the throttles forward and doesn’t let go. 
davidmore

Patty Reese – Let In The Sun
Azalea City Recordings – ACCD-1602
If any place should personify the blues at anytime, it should be Washington DC. Patty Reese though would personify the blues if she lived on the moon, because she obviously lives, breathes, and sweats it. From traditional back porch stompers to rollicking funk-fueled neon-splashed dancers, Patty lets loose, gracing every track with her provocative vocal power and heart-felt storytelling. Her music will grasp you and not let you go from start to finish…but you won’t want to go as all the songs are strong and enjoyable in their own ways. 
pattyreese

 

Capsule Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury

Matthew Curry – Shine On
There is a buzz about this young guitar slinger/vocalist from central Illinois and one listen to this CD and you can tell why. Matthew spits out tube-amp-fueled rock like the Black Crowes and Deep Purple having a bar brawl, but he adds a fresh feel to the retro stylings as well. His soulful vocal wail perfectly compliments his wicked guitar work which flat out smokes throughout this EP. This guy can really rock even on the ballads and buzz may not be a strong enough word…he is this close to roaring!
matthewcurry

Dave Keller – Right Back Atcha
Tastee Tone – TT-3043
Massachusetts vocalist/guitarist Dave Keller is known as a modern blues master, but he proves once again there are more depths to his talents. He also has deep passions for funk and R&B, creating a full sound that still is not overbearing and has a very down home sound to it. His gritty voice and thought-provoking lyrics contribute to the uniqueness of his sound, blending wonderfully with the more comforting hooky vibe. 
davekeller

Emily Maguire – Bird Inside a Cage
Saktu Records
Veteran London born singer-songwriter Emily Maguire is a survivor and a storyteller unafraid to bare her soul, creating another feast of stunning music.The lead track “Beautiful” describes her voice perfectly, weaving her tales in various intoxicating fashion, from breathless piano kissed ballads to to edgy pop rock. She slips effortlessly in and out of the edges of various styles holding the listeners’ intrigue from start to finish. 
emilymaguire
 
Dave Vargo – Burning Through
New Jersey singer-songwriter showcases strong songwriting skills on this very listenable debut. While a bit folksy, it also has a solid rock and roll vibe that separates it from many singer-songwriters these days. Dave’s voice has a deft feel for letting loose the proper emotions to fuel his thoughtful words. There is a nice blend of catchy and edgy here, with subtle eccentricities and just the right potency. 
davevargo