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Music Review - 'Another Sky,` by Kelly's Lot (jh)

Kelly's Lot -  Another Sky (click on image to watch video)

13 September 2020 

 

Another Sky, Kelly Lot’s 15th CD, marks another progression on the roots music continuum for The band is now celebrating their 26th year since founder Kelly Zirbes, a folk singer/songwriter, with a heart for the blues fronted the band for their first gig at the Roxy in Hollywood. In a larger sense, this recording represents a return to Kelly Z’s folk roots. Kelly Z met guitar player and sound man, Perry Robertson in 1996, who soon after produced Kelly’s Lot - Live at the Troubadour. Within a year he joined the band, started writing songs with Kelly Z and added the southern rock and Texas influences that have shaped their sound. Early on they toured as duo but in the last decade they have played as a 5-8 piece blues band. Robertson, who shares songwriting and band leader credits with Kelly Z, has recorded and produced most of the band’s music including the 2019 release Can't Take My Soul which featured Americana, blues, folk, and roots/rock creations. For Another Sky Kelly Z and Perry worked with Doug Pettibone to record a new selection of songs that stressed genres like contemporary folk, roots rock and alt country.  Six of the tracks on the album were inspired by words from fans on Facebook. Kelly Z challenged them to look in their hearts and share just one word. She then challenged herself to choose a word and write a song in two hours. 

The core unit for Another Sky is a five piece with Kelly on vocals, Robertson on acoustic guitar, Pettibone on electric guitars, pedal steel, mandolin, and supporting vocals; Art Mendoza on drums, and Matt McFadden on electric bass. Eleven other collaborators contribute to select tracks. Pettibone sings “Tangled” as a duet with Kelly and Rick Monroe takes a vocal turn on “Sleep On It.” The album opens with the folk song “Butterfly” ushering warm farewells to those we love as guitars and mandolin caress Kelly’s vocal which is augmented by the background harmonies. “I Will Find You Again” gives a good sampling of Pettibone’s melodic, stirring electric guitar work, (the same kind that served Lucinda Williams well for years). There’s an Irish feel to it with Aubrey Richmond’s fiddle which weaves in and out of a rich backdrop of B3 and pedal steel.

The interesting musical flourished continue as accordion and mandolin imbue “Foolish Try” while Richmond’s mournful fiddle colors the solemn “Freedom,’ one that really captures Kelly’s vocal nuances. The wailing aspects of Kelly’s vocals appear in angry, bluesy “Took It Back,” a standout. The accordion returns for “Tangled” as Kelly takes to the whistle and trades lines with Pettibone. “Irish Luck” sounds just as one would expect a reel and jig dance number complete with fiddle and accordion. “Simple Man” is another strong Kelly vocal and has Bill Johnston on a clarinet solo providing yet another new sonic touch, as Phil Parlapiano’s accordion is heard for the third song consecutively. “Lock Me Up,” like “Took It Back” was written by Kelly, Robertson, and Pettibone and has a similar theme but heads more in a country direction. 

“Christmas Is Calling” is a potent song of yearning and it reminds us how much most of us miss family and close ones during these stay-at-home times. “Sleep On It Tonight” is a folk song written by Kelly and Pettibone, like some of the others echoing British Isles folk, rather unusual for this California-based outfit. Monroe’s vocal proves the perfect complement to Kelly’s against Pettibone’s weeping pedal steel, making this another standout. The closer “Hurricane” opens with Frank “Cisco” Hinojosa’s harmonica and has a ‘big sound’ replete with B3, multiple guitars and a rave-up vibe befitting its title, as Kelly wails away.

Considering that this is a band that built its reputation primarily as a blues band, they demonstrate a facility for many roots forms with impressive vocals from Kelly, some outstanding songs, and stellar musicianship all around.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - 'Same Shirt, Different Day` by Rodney Rice (jh)

Rodney Rice - Same Shirt, Different Day (click on image to watch video)

01 September 2020 

 

As you view the album title it looks normal enough, but Rodney Rice uses graphics cleverly to spell it out this way, “SAME SHIRT, DIFFERENT DAY.” Whether he intended it or not, it encapsulates the spirit of the stay-at-home quarantine effect of pandemic days, where one can often lost sight of what day it is, as routines set in.  Who knows? Maybe Rice was conveying the monotony of everyday life, but it does grab one’s attention and sets the stage for some good songs too. He gives another reason to explore his music by assembling a top-notch cast. The album was recorded in Austin with drummer Rick Richards and string man par excellence Jeff Plankenhorn, keyboardists Mark Hallman and Austin De Lone, and pedal steel player Mike Hardwick, among others. Hallman also mastered the album.

Stylistically, you’ve heard Rice’s brand of music before. As this write listens to make singer-songwriters these days, growing numbers of them pattern their approach on Dylan or the late John Prine, with Rice clearly falling into the latter camp. This West Virginia native blends the simplicity of folk with a healthy dose of country., to weave stories of sharp observations, witty and oft sarcastic commentary. He begins with “Ain’t Got a Dollar,” a surging rocker that could serve as a blue -collar anthem, with heavy B3 and a wall of guitars backing his talking blues (okay, this one favors Dylan). The next tune “Hard Life,” however could come straight from the Prine songbook. Like his mentor, Rice uses deceptively simple music to underpin his clever lyrics found in “Middle Managed Blues,” “Company Town” – succinct portrayals of the daily grind, befitting the title.

In fact the strength of the album is clearly in the lyrics because, despite the skills and studded resumes of his backer, much of the music has a sameness, amplified by segueing into one another often, as it it’s one long track. Much of that owes to Rice’s delivery which rarely changes, no matter how emotional the song becomes. There are notable exceptions.   The horns on “Company Town” evokes the sound of The Band and some hints of New Orleans. Producer Andre Moran’s resonator work on “Middle Managed Blues” impresses as well. “Pillage and Plunder” and “Memoirs of Our Youth” seem to owe directly to Prine, the latter with a nice harmony assist from Bonnie Whitmore; both songs being standouts.

As the album unfolds, it takes on some Texas flavor, certainly with the waltzing “Walk Across Texas” and another blue- collar hymn, “Rivers Run Backwards,” replete with some wry commentary on climate change and the socio-political landscape. Rice clearly knows the country idioms for the requisite tear-jerker to with a line such as (“I can’t get over her while she’s lying next to him” in “Can’t Get Over Her.” He seems to genuinely impart wisdom and encouragement on the strong closer “Don’t Look Back.” Rodney rice is a first-rate songwriter. Two albums in, he is making great progress. He bears watching.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - 'Under the Influence` by Guy Schwartz (jh)

Guy SchwartzUnder the Influence (click on image to watch video)

24 April 2020 

 

Guy Schwartz is a Houston legend, having played blues, rock, and just about any kind of music for 50

years or more. This is apparently his 60 th album and we can likely name the number of artists who have

recorded that many without using all our fingers. At one time, Schwartz dubbed himself “The Blues Guy”

and had a website under that moniker but today he’s comfortable simply being called a singer-

songwriter. This album, Under the Influence, subtitled “New Original Classic Rock from Houston,” has

“Vol.2” written on the spine of the jacket but if there’s a Vol. 1 out there, this writer couldn’t track it

down.

Schwartz has played just about every conceivable genre of music loosely labeled roots except bluegrass.

In recent years he’s been playing with his band called New Jack Hippies but he’s not using that tag here,

instead using several different lineups, suggesting it might be a compilation of things recorded over

several years, especially since the late beloved drummer, Billy Block, appears on five of the 13 tracks.

Several other notable Houston musicians grace the credits such as drummer Matt Johnson (Mike Zito),

saxophonist Eric Demmer (B.B. King, Carlos Santana and many more), blues harpist Steve Krase (Trudy

Lynn), guitarist Corey Stoot (Annika Chambers) and bassist Roger Tausz (Sisters Morales) to name just a

few.

These are likely a collection of tunes that didn’t make to his other albums because they sounded too

much like the original influence but here, he’s proud to make those associations. One can guess some of

them just by gleaning the titles - Dr. John in “Mac Said,” The Doors in “Lost In Time,” Jimi Hendrix with

“Far Away From Here,” as a few examples. He returns to his blues persona on “Stepping Stone” (not

Paul Revere & the Raiders or the Sex Pistols who had songs of a similar name) and “Blues Rumble.” He

plies southern rock in “Two Sides of a Mountain.” References to Ernest Tubb and Willie Nelson abound

in the opening “Waltz Across Texas.” “This is the One” seems to channel another iconic Texas singer-

songwriter, Billy Joe Shaver. Singing about abuse of power by 45 and his henchmen in “Out of Control”

recalls Blaze Foley’s “Oval Room” although the piercing guitar and swirling organ may lead one to other

references. “Bad Storm Coming” echoes Leon Russell, with the piano and especially the background

vocalists. “The Lonely Ones” bring in a two-piece horn section and his bluesy closer “Gotta Keep the

Music Alive” is a testament to survival and may as well be his theme song, paying homage to all those

who paved the way

. You might have fun guessing the various influences. And, maybe yours will be better than these in

some cases. If nothing else, that’s a nod to Schwartz’s songwriting. He can be both direct and keep one

guessing.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - 'Amanda Cevallos` by Amanda Cevallos (jh)

Amanda Cevallos -  Amanda Cevallos (click on image to watch video)

8 June 2020 

 

This is the fifth album for Amanda Cevallos, who created quite a stir with her debut, Rainy Day, in 2006. There are so few artists making credible classic country these days, that her impact remains vital and her new offerings are eagerly anticipated. The Houston-raised, Austin-based singer/songwriter stays consistent with her sound on this eponymous effort, bringing honky-tonk, classic country, and alternative country. She wrote ten of the eleven songs here, all except the closer, “Ready For the Times to Get Better” (aren’t we all?) which she sings in Spanish, nodding to her Latin heritage.

On past efforts, like her debut and 2012’s I’ll Never Honky Tonk You, Cevallos called on big name session players like Lloyd Maines, Earl Poole Ball, Redd Volkaert and producer James Hyland. Hyland returns with a group of lesser notoriety but equally effective backers in Eldridge Goins (drums, backing vocals), Jimmie Greaves (lead guitar, backing vocals), Vance Hazen (bass) and Danny Hawk (pedal steel). Cevallos carries herself with mature confidence, capable of several personas be they dejected, joyous, playful, or sultry.  

From the opening “All My Boyfriends,” a witty lament about not quite finding the right one and needing a little of each, we know we’re in for an enjoyable set.  She then settles into the tear-in-the-beer ballad, the gorgeous perfect classic country sounding “Got Me Where You Want Me.” She revisits “Freddy Ain’t Ready” from a previous album, as if it’s the sequel to the opener, saying that “Freddy ain’t ready for love like mine.” She’s having fun playing hard to get and her feisty attitude, which could be annoying coming from others, is instead alluring.

She brings more tender emotions of “Crazy,” carried by Hawk’s swirling, weeping pedal steel while staying in that mellow mode for “Gonna Lose Me,” bringing the requisite heartbreak. “Love Me Together” is rendered in a hush, with gently strummed acoustic guitar punctuated by snippets of electric guitar and again by Hawk’s terrific pedal steel. These are as good a tri-fecta of ballads you’ll hear from anyone singing authentic country music today.She picks up the tempo with “The Way I Go,” with her attention-getting line “Baby I’ve been smoking weed” while taking the honky-tonk route on “Goodbye Truth. She even revisits one of her classic songs in a new arrangement of “Jose Guadalupe,” a mid-tempo swing song about her dad.

Go ahead, compare Cevallos to some of the bigger female names in country music. Cevallos has so much more talent and is far more worthy of donning that cowboy hat than most. Yet, 14 years into her career, she remains criminally under the radar. She deserves a far better reception. We can only hope that this fine recording points her in that direction.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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Music Review - `Still Life – The Legacy Collection` by Dave Greaves (jh)

Dave Greaves  -  Still Life – The Legacy Collection (click on image to watch video)

1 April 2020 

 

Dave Greaves’ double CD Still Life -The Legacy Collection is one of those magic treasures that just suddenly appeared through the auspices of acclaimed Austin singer-songwriter Bob Cheevers. Greaves is originally from Hull, England and now resides in Scarborough, England on the banks of the North Sea. Greaves played electric guitar on Cheevers’ tours of the UK so Cheevers reciprocates by assembling this collection of 24 tunes across the two discs, feeling he had a critical mission to fulfill. Sadly, Greaves’ days are now numbered due to an incurable neurological disorder and there’s a hope that this terrific music will outlive him. 

When singer-songwriter, on the cover cradling an acoustic guitar, releases such a torrent of work at one time, some trepidation sets in, thinking that at some time it will all begin to sound the same. Fortunately, that’s not the case here as varied instrumentation, melodies and incisive storytelling keeps one engaged. It’s also evident that Greaves is a veteran craftsman. It comes as no revelation then to learn that during the height of the English folk and rock music in the ‘70s Greaves toured with the biggest names in those genres including Sandy Denny and John Martyn. He was also one of the few artists that shared billing with Nick Drake during his time. He also had deals throughout his career with Island Music, EMI Music, and several other high-profile labels.

These two dozen songs, proving once again that the best music is timeless, are poignantly expressive, each relating to some aspect of Greaves’ life and musical career. His by turns gently tender and roughly hewn voice, “gin-soaked,” as he calls it, bears some resemblance sans accent to legendary Texas singer-songwriters like recently passed Eric Taylor, Butch Hancock, and in just a few places, the legendary Guy Clark. It’s no wonder that Cheevers felt a special connection.

If you are to search for a Greaves video, you’ll find the title track, elongated to “Still Life With Piano,” on of several examples where he’s accompanied by more than simply an acoustic guitar, albeit vocal harmonies imbue many songs. Brian Gotie plays bass on most tunes while Paul Peterson adds percussion and vocal harmonies with “Fool’s Gold” and “Killing Time (From the Neck Up)” being prime examples. Like many tunes, their subtle melodies will grow on you. Several harmony voices and Julie Wray’s tenor sax buoy “Rising Tide” and the bowed bass underpins the tale of “Frank.” “Danny Had a Girl” is somewhat of a throwback to those halcyon days of English folk with a veritable choir on the chorus. Likewise, “The Desperate Hours” has the vintage folk feel, ideal for this story song.  Just calling out a few tunes doesn’t do the project justice as the album is consistently strong.

Nonetheless, we’ll highlight some from Disc 2 which begins with another, seemingly autobiographical story song, “Me and Lucky,” which has plenty of strings and a smattering of keys supporting Greaves. The positively blissful brief “I Love Ya Babe” features another nice tenor sax solo and sparkling piano which adds to his emotive statement. “The Longing for You” exemplifies Greaves’ ability to deft match melody with a convincing expression as well his knack for bringing in harmony voices at just the right moments. “Page 75” reveals some nice guitar work before it morphs into an atmospheric vibe that continues and then subsides as two voices beautifully carry “Unguarded Moment.” Even when navigated the polar emotions of “In And Out Of Love With You,” Greaves’ lasting effect is like a reassuring hug, a gentle acknowledgment that all is okay.

So, let this serve as one grand introduction to the music of Dave Greaves for many.  Go ahead and research his back catalog where these await you:

“The Bright Side of Melancholy” (solo)

“Up Through My Window and Into My Feet” (Dave Greaves Band)

“Me and Lucky” (recorded in France with Paul Peterson)

“A Piece of this Life” (with Richard Adams)

“Younger by the Hour” (solo)

Dave was also part of experimental outfit NGO-X which recorded 6 albums that are still available.

In the meantime, enjoy what’s here. It’s an unexpected treat.

 

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

 

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