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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 - '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 - `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 - `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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