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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 - `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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Music Review - `Western` by James Hyland (jh)

James Hyland -  Western  (click on image to watch video)

29 February 2020 

 

James Hyland has been making music in Austin since the turn of the millennium. Folks may know him best as the frontman for the South Austin Jug Band, but he’s delivered rock n’ roll with the James Hyland Band and a psychedelic outing with the aptly named James Hyland & the Joint Chiefs. Western is an epic themed solo album of 19 tracks, running a full 80 minutes. It’s about the impact of the building of the transcontinental railroad on the American West, told from the point of view of several perspectives, be they Texas Rangers, Indians, women, cattleman, or infamous train robbers. Hyland’s long been the cynical type, so if you’re reading some socio-political commentary into his tales, you’re listening properly. These are felt in the opening “The Edge of Comancheria,” “Texas Ranger,” “Today’s a Good Day to Die” and “White Men in the Black Hills.”

With his well-established reputation, it’s not surprising to see Hyland recruiting some of Austin’s best for support including Johnny Moeller (Fabulous Thunderbirds) on guitars, Kim Deschamps (pedal steel/ dobro), Warren Hood (fiddle/mandolin), Kevin Smith (upright and electric bass), Robb Kidd (drums and percussion). The eight guests include Betty Soo in a fun western swing duet with Hyland called “Swing It Your Way” and Chip Dolan (keys) among others. These top-notch musicians shine throughout but take special attention to Deschamps’ pedal steel in “Dark and Weary World” and Hood’s fiddle in “Hill Country Nights” and “Ghost.” Hyland shows his country roots continually but perhaps most vividly, sounding like an early Steve Earle in “Nashville Song.”

There are some great story songs, perhaps none better than the upbeat “The Ballad of Eddie Mullet,” a rather humorous take on the stereotypical outlaw immortalized in western movies and television shows. The fun duet with Betty Soo precedes the heavy rock guitar chords that lead into “White Men in the Black Hills” (‘searching for gold”) as Moeller takes a scorching lead.  One of the best songs is “Dark and Weary World,” not only for the pedal steel spot but the wonder of the unknown they’ll be facing as Hyland tries to stay under control, uttering “I’ve got the lights in the dashboard to calm me down.”

Most of the story songs appear in the first half of the album which lightens in mood as it unfolds. Hyland seems especially proud of these tales. Here are some excerpts of his thoughts – “We’ll sit alongside the engineer who bravely drove the first westbound train across the country (“First Westbound Train”)and we’ll see the world through the eyes of an ex-civil war officer and veteran who happily turned brothel piano player.”(“Top Floor”)  And, another – “We’ll ride through the dangerous chaos with famous Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight, who immortalized by Larry McMurtry in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove.” (“Ramblin’ Man”) He makes a soothing exit with “Full Moon.” Hyland has so much to sing about but by his own admission, there are too many characters in the West to cover. His driving theme is a will to survive with love as the underlying driver.

 

It's so much to absorb in one listen. Stay patient. You’ll be rewarded.

 

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 - `Someday Soon Somehow` by Scott Fab (jh)

Scott Fab -  Someday Soon Somehow (click on image to watch video)

13 March  2020 

 

Few are as brave as Scott Fab, recording a solo album with just voice and guitar in single takes. As a follow-up to his acclaimed 2017 debut, Leave My Friends, he recorded Someday Soon Somehow in an analog direct to tape performance over a couple of days during the summer of 2019. Leveraging his selection as a Kerrville New Folk Finalist, and strong impressions at Folk Alliance showcases over the past few years, this collection represents these nine, his most often performed solo pieces. 

These kinds of albums are rare. We think of Patty Griffin’s demo take – like Living with Ghosts or some of the work of Ellis Paul, or even David Bromberg, although the Fab’s emphasis is clearly on lyrics, not picking. Yet, as tempting as it might be to lump Fab in with Americana names, he is pure folk music. This is as simple and straightforward as it gets. It may not bring a smile to your face as it’s mostly melancholy discourse on love (“How Is Your Heart.” “Place in Your Heart”), yearning (“Fancy Clothes”), and broken relationships (“Broken Branch”). Every so often a glimmer of hope appears such as in the title track which glides right along and “This Time of Our Lives” which is more even-keeled. Some like “Rain” will have the listener hanging on every word and in admiration of Fab delivering such a heartfelt tune in one fell swoop. 

He does sound positively enraptured in love in “Place in Your Heart” and then takes the opposite route, singing about a loss in the potent closer, “Oh Night,” imploring the darkness to erase a series of bad memories. Sit back with a glass of wine. Dim the lights. Go it alone and listen to each word. If even if it doesn’t make you feel better, you’ll appreciate Fab’s songcraft.

 

 

 

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 - `Blood Red Moon` by Barbara Bergin (jh)

Barbara BerginBlood Red Moon (click on image to watch video)

29 February 2020 

 

This one’s from the “never too late to start something new” department. Singer-songwriter Barbara Bergin is coming to this calling rather late in life compared to many, but she is so talented in so many areas that it’s not surprising that her debut recording comes off well too. By turns, she has been a professional orthopedic surgeon, a public speaker, mother of children, and a rancher par excellence. Most of these occupations are male-dominated and her work with horses may stand out the most given that she became  being a “Year-End Champion Reiner” as certified by the South Texas Reining Horse Association and the Texas Reining Horse Association. The question may still remain as to how all of that leads to this.

Taking up the guitar and writing songs around 1968 were at first just a pleasant diversion, a kind of at-home hobby and a way for girls to hang with boys until she got involved with a music school in Austin called Girl Guitar. She developed a close relationship with its founder, Mandy Rowden and began to take lessons, both traditional and performance, taught by women only. In her own words, “The classes are arranged in six-week segments, and in the end there is a live performance in a club or music venue. This is what really helped me take the step to perform my songs, and once I started this, I began writing again. I took a bluegrass band class at Girl Guitar and loved the genre. I started writing some old-time bluegrass tunes and folk ballads.”

One of her instructors at Girl Guitar was Jane Gillman who produced this album and played guitar and harmonica throughout. So, the songs, the chord structures, and even some of the melodies may sound comfortably familiar even though you haven’t heard these songs before. Basically, as she alluded to in the previous paragraph, she was working from trusted song conventions and she sings well enough but certainly not like someone who has made a career in music. That makes her even more relatable, like an ‘everywoman’ type going forth in an unassuming way. On many of these tunes, she is accompanied by the great guitarist Rich Brotherton, long a bandmate of Robert Earl Keen, as well as other Austin veterans who animate these songs, done mostly in a friendly style.

Bergin confesses to be a storyteller who likes to write about the past. She will likely publish a novel someday. So, other than the title track which may be the oldest one she wrote as a kind of stream of consciousness tune comprised of unrelated sentences, others were ones where she was careful to check dates, clothing of the times, and even words. That’s true for “Whistlin’ Train,” “She Danced with the  Young Prince of Wales” and “Captain of the Robert E. Lee.”  To her credit, there is considerable variation in tempos, moving in and out of ballads to bluegrass such as “Like Father Like Son/Cluck Ol’ Hen,” “Possum’s in the Corn” and even a gospel nod in “Let’s Get on Up!” Some of it may strike as just a bit too simple and straightforward such as “My Life’s Good (Cuz I Don’t Live in the City)”), but keep in mind her ranching perspective and, her newfound joy in music.

 

In a simple folk song like “Daughter’s Lament” she has lyrics like these –“Well my mama tried to warn me,/About them, shiny penny boys/They whisper you their lyin’ lies,/And they rob you of your coin./And my daddy always told me./Till his talkin’ days were through./Just put your trust in a thick legged horse,./And keep ten dollars in your shoe.”  Anyone who can write like that clearly has a promising future ahead.

 

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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