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Music Review - 'Gratitude' by Dan Imhoff (dm)

Dan Imhoff  - Gratitude (Click to watch the video)

5 October 2022

 

Black

Dan Imhoff demonstrates delightful dexterity and variety on his new record, Gratitude. Aptly titled, given that he composed and recorded it at the height of the pandemic, the album showcases a light, soulful touch as Imhoff and his adept crew of supportive musicians move through gospel, folk, pop, and jazz.

Imhoff’s knack for melody, composition, and arrangement emerge most clearly and colorfully on the lighter material. “Coming Into View” sounds like a soulful-pop hit, and it leads into, perhaps, the album’s highlight, “So Good To Be a Dog.”

Showing an effective sense of humor, Imhoff sings about the pleasures of the canine life, and the endless enjoyment of having humans cater to one’s every need. The song moves into a jazzy shuffle after each chorus, occasionally slowing down for drawn out verses.

Imhoff has ample skills as a guitarist, playing with a rock and roll rhythm on the opening title track, and even picking with a southern rock meets jazz fusion hybridity on the innovative, “Accidentally Valencia.”

A mini-choir of backup vocalists provide a gospel punch, but never overwhelm the arrangements. The production choices are always tasteful and element, allowing the songs to shine no matter how virtuosic the instrumentation.

Another triumph, “Factory of Tangled Dreams,” exemplifies a Steely Dan style understanding of how jazz can meet pop/rock, along with richly emotional and detailed lyrics about the small frustrations of the blue collar grind.

Forgive such an on-the-nose and predictable closing, but Gratitude offers an auditory of pleasure. Give it a spin, and prepare to feel grateful.

  

 David Masciotra

 

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 

  

 

 

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Music Review - 'The Sidemen' by Nick Justice and Feter Martin Homer (dm)

Nick Justice and Feter Martin Homer  - The Sidemen (Click to watch the video)

4 June 2022

 

BlackSeasoned songwriters and musicians Nick Justice and Feter Martin Homer commence a meeting of the minds on their new record, The Sidemen. Together, they have crafted and delivered ten beautiful songs of traditional country and folk music – songs that puncture the human heart. On “Light as an Angel,” a particularly effectual lyric describes the lessons one can learn from the “scar on my heart.” On The Sidemen, Justice and Homer are looking to leave and repair a few cardiac scars.

With the minimal accompaniment of guitars, mandolin, harmonica, bass, and Gabe Witcher’s gorgeous fiddle, the songs maintain a soft, but emotive mood. They are melancholic, and artistically cohesive. Even if Justice and Homer’s vocals are similar, the music acts as a powerful vessel for Justice and Homer’s heartfelt and thoughtful lyrics.

“Come Dance with Me,” “Light as an Angel,” and “Let’s Get of Here” offer the sweet intoxication of romance, while “This Storm Shall Pass Away” meets the promise of its title in the brandishing of hope.

Justice and Homer’s guitars entangle and mingle with chemistry and wisely restrained musicality. “Lady of the Roses” and “Secret Soul” are particularly illustrative of their collaborative effect.

The Sidemen is the first release in Justice and Homer’s partnership. After listening to the record, it is easy to anticipate future music, and to do so with joy.

David Masciotra

 

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 

  

 

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Music Review - '1000 Horses' by Bruce Smith (dm)

Bruce Smith  - 1000 Horses  (Click to watch the video)

17 October 2022

 

Black

Bruce Smith, a spirited and gifted singer/songwriter, advertises his new record, 1000 Horses, as a rollicking journey through small towns, big cities, and the emotional range of human experience. It is also a trek through various country and rock influences – Sun Studio, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams.

Smith’s writing has a deft touch that enables him to explore and exercise these influences with originality and effectuality. His lyrics are clever, but still emotionally resonant, and his band of soulful musicians hit all the right notes. “Take a Picture” moves with the rhythm and guile of Whiskeytown, and acts as a vehicle for Smith to sing one of his many memorable lyrics, “It’s true that the camera steals your soul / It puts it on a piece of paper for me to hold.”

“Satao” takes listeners west, giving them an effective glimpse into the Latin stylings of American music, and “See You in the Movies” rocks with abandon, highlighting a crunchy guitar riff and dance beat fit for a late night at a honky tonk. Speaking of late nights, the album closing, “Late Night DJ,” is a love letter to a road trip with a good radio station. 

Smith’s songs would fit well on that station.

 

 David Masciotra

 

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 

  

 

 

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Music Review - 'By the Risin’ of the Sea' by James Kahn (dm)

James Kahn  - By the Risin’ of the Sea  (Click to watch the video)

18 May 2022

 

Black

The necessity to confront the urgency of the ecological crisis facing humanity should pervade pop culture and the arts with an unavoidable consistency. James Kahn – a modern day renaissance man who has written novels, episodes of major television program, and songs, in addition to his former day job as an ER doctor – has conceived and composed an album that meets the occasion. By the Risin’ of the Sea is a collection of sea shanties about, appropriately enough, global warming. Kahn, reacting to the consensus of climate science, has said that climate change is “the biggest existential threat facing us,” and has aspired to create modern sea shanties that combine “poignancy, black humor, and hope” to speak from and to the heart.

By the Risin’ of the Sea succeeds – simultaneously resurrecting a traditional genre and achieving a timely declaration of outrage in the face of widespread danger and injustice. The sea shanty originated with sailors passing the time with tunes sung to the natural rhythm of the boat rocking on the water. Kahn and his small choir of stationary sailors take their listeners through a tour of the world’s folly – rising sea levels, oil spills, habitat destruction, Covid-19, and the endangerment of many animal and plant species. As one would expect, there is minimal instrumental accompaniment – at times light accordion and/or banjo.

The record maintains a sonic and spiritual authenticity, transporting the audience back in time and onboard a historic ship. The effect is, at once, spooky, sad, and enchanting. It reminds us that as much as our problems remain the same – greed, corruption, and the endless damages wrought by the human ego – they have taken on a newfound menace, threatening not only the sailors navigating a rising sea, but all people, plants, and animals who live on a planet of interdependence.

“O the Ocean Rolls” describes the inevitable outpouring of climate refugees, while “Sundown” depicts the slow suicide of political leadership, along with many voters, ignoring the signs of doom from annual climate reports and the evidence of ecological danger that manifests in melting ice caps. There is still time for delightful and wild humor, most especially “Buck O’ Bones,” which imagines a 17th Century pirate working on a luxury cruise liner in present day.

The third song, “Landfall,” offers something of a mission statement. Kahn and his musical brethren sing about the search for a home on land. Beyond the literal imagining of sailors searching for a shore, it takes on profound application to a world adrift. As the uncounted masses hope and fight for a peaceful and sustainable world, songs like “Landfall,” and records like By the Risin’ Sea, will keep us company and help us get there.

  

 David Masciotra

 

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 

  

 

 

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Music Review - 'Threadbare' by Honey Don't (dm)

Honey Don'tThreadbare (Click to watch the video)

31 March 2022

 

Black

Honey Don’t, an Oregon based roots music band, is taking its listeners on a romantic journey on its third record, Threadbare. The opening track could belong a century long past, or present day. Bill Powers, guitarist, songwriter, and lead vocalist, sings of a journey “eight more miles” from completion.

“Denver Ramble” and “Big Water Ahead,” the subsequent titles, preview the band’s cartography – locating listeners somewhere in the American soul between history and myth. The backup vocals of bassist, Shelley Gray, add sweet harmony and plaintive longing to Threadbare’s tales of hard travel, pioneer struggle, Americana snapshots, and tributes to the natural world. CJ Neary’s fiddle, coupled with Benji Nagel’s dobro, makes ideal accompaniment for a funereal lament, or a downhome boogie. Don Hawkins keeps a steady beat.

The uptempo songs occasionally bear too strong resemblance to each other, making the inclusion of 13 tracks on Threadbare slightly questionable. However, it is difficult to resist dancing to the likes of “Five Foot Four from Forth Worth,” and more contemplative material, like “For the Roses” and “Ain’t No Damn Up on the Yampa,” effectively pull on the heartstrings as if they belong to another instrument in the band’s lineup.

Honey Don’t produced the record themselves, which seems like wise choice. There are no sacrifices on authenticity, but the songs still sound clear and vivid, and each solo pops like a late night campfire.

Gather round and enjoy!

  

 David Masciotra

 

 

David Masciotra (www.davidmasciotra.com) is the author of four books, including Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing, 2017) and Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky, 2015).

To read all of David's reviews, click here 

 

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