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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 - '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

 

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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 - 'Kieran Ridge & the Moonrakers' Kieran Ridge (dm)

Kieran Ridge & the Moonrakers

27 Nov 2021

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Kieran Ridge is not playing games. On his new album, recorded alongside his energetic and deft band, The Moonrakers, he delivers 11 original compositions with sincerity and urgency. Leading the band and his listeners through a forceful set of rollicking country, he reaches for territory familiar to Steve Earle, Chris Knight, Ryan Bingham, and Dan Baird.

Ridge is armed with an emotive and muscular voice, and a clever turn of phrase. On the latter, he routinely delivers lines like, “She feels good about her bad reputation,” and on the former, he is perfectly at ease rasping and shouting through hard luck tales of love, loss, and life at the bottom of the bottom of the bottle and top of a tough climb.

While Ridge’s vocal is mostly an attribute, there are times when more down tempo material call for less strident delivery. Songs like the opener, “The Last One to Know,” and “Wasted” become the highlights as the band’s performance, and the lyrical content, pair perfectly with Ridge’s hard singing. 

The Moonrakers provide a skillful tour of emotional variety channeled through the aggressive country of Ridge’s composition. The most valuable player is easily Hannah Rose Baker, whose soulful backup vocals and beautiful fiddle, allow the songs to stretch into higher artistic and emotive heights. 

Most impressive about Ridge’s writing is that his tough exterior, while immensely enjoyable in musical form, masks sustained lamentation of loneliness and regret. In creating a complex voice, he joins the best writers of the country tradition.

Despite the solemnity of some of the subject matter, it is a joy to hear Ridge and the Moonrakers play with efficiency and enthusiasm. One won’t need any persuasion when hearing Ridge call out for whiskey to join him and the band in raising a toast.

 

  

 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

 

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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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Music Review - 'Overdue' by Severin Browne (dm)

Severin Browne - Overdue (Click to watch the video)

27 June 2021

 

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Severin Browne writes songs with emotional resonance and lyrical creativity. His stories of ordinary life made dramatic, tearful, and evocative recall the work of similar soft rock, slightly country singer/songwriters, such as James Taylor and the non-synth Kenny Loggins.

His new record, Overdue, is an exercise in vulnerability and intimacy. “On My Way to Play,” a moving tribute to his father,” is a particularly adept example. Browne writes about how his father always encouraged his exploration and ambition, and it is still his the face of his father, now deceased from Alzheimer’s, that he sees in his audiences in the bars of California.

Browne has assembled an impressive variety of musicians to accompany his performances, often giving his songs a surprising range. Rather than simple and sparse singer/songwriter arrangements, he welcomes the sounds of trumpet, Hammond B-3, and backup singers. When he does drift back to familiar singer/songwriter territory, such as on the sentimental ballad, “My Friends are All Around Me,” he writes and sings with a clarity of emotional resonance.

“Miguel and Maria” brings a predictable, but enjoyable Latin-flavor to a story-song about Mexican immigrants seeking refuge in the United States. The song humanizes the people who risk life and limb for the safety and freedom that Americans take for granted, giving necessary pushback to right wing hatred and demagoguery.

Browne’s voice is thin, and in certain moments when he stretches to the limits, his vocal limitations distract from the songs themselves, but his voice is an honest and thoughtful one all the same.

  

 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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