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Music Review - `By the Risin’ of the Sea` by James Kahn (lz)

James Kahn -- By the Risin’ of the Sea   (click on image to watch )

 25 May 2022



James Kahn has been called a renaissance man, and for good reason. A writer and producer for a number of high profile television series —“Melrose Place” and “Star Trek: Voyager” chief among them — as well as the author of such popular novels as “Return of the Jedi” and “The Goonies,” he’s adept at sharing spellbinding stories that manage to both entertain and enthrall. And while lately he’s put his focus on making music, he remains focused on offerings that are both creative and compelling in equal measure.


Kahn’s latest undertaking of a musical nature goes by a telling title. By the Risin’ of the Sea: Shanties for Our Time taps into a centuries’ old tradition, one shared by seafaring souls ever since mankind began crossing the oceans, facing nature’s fury and contending with the elements in the process. Mostly, it was a way of passing the time while recounting their exploits and creating a communal bond.

That’s the spirit shared here, but these tales that are told are flush with gravitas and alarm. Mostly conveyed through a-cappella reads and scant traditional instrumentation as accompaniment, the songs — “The Risin’ of the Sea,” “In the Covid Times,” “2020:Ship of Fools” and “No More A’Whalin’” in particular — sound the alarm on an array of modern perils, including threats to the environment, the Covid crisis and the populist’s general resistance to the plight of refugees. Kahn takes the lead vocals, while a chorus of tenor, baritone and bass voices sing of that happenstance in harmony. It’s a meaningful and moving mix of sound and suggestion, imbued with emotion but inspired by the need to take immediate action in order to protect the planet.

Craft and creativity have long been part of Kahn’s grab bag of resources, and By the Risin’ of the Sea offers yet another example of the way he’s able to utilize those resources for the sake of a forthright mission. One can only hope that the lessons shared here are eventually learned.



 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

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Music Review - `Flight Risk` by Shoebox Letters (lz)

Shoebox Letters -- Flight Risk   (click on image to watch )

 29 April 2022



It’s worth noting that Shoebox Letters may be one of the most under-rated outfits in the entire Americana universe. Granted, their name offers no indication of what they have to offer, but given the opportunity to delve in deeper, it becomes clear that their melodic charms more than make up for whatever false impression they may offer at the outset.

For starters, the man at the helm — vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Dennis Winslow — is a decidedly astute songwriter. A listen to their latest effort, a six song EP titled Flight Risk, makes that fact absolutely apparent. For starters, his songs offer instant attraction, as if they’ve been floating in the ether forever. So too, they capture certain sentiments common to all, whether dealing with the challenges of sustaining romance or simply maintaining one’s own bearings in a topsy-turvy world. 

None of that would matter if the melodies weren’t effortlessly accessible, and indeed, they’re seemingly timeless in both tone and treatment. They’re so ably executed in fact, one could assume they’re not only radio-ready, but already part of a playlist somewhere on a far horizon. 

Ultimately then, one can only conclude that it’s long past time Shoebox Letters gained the greater awareness they so assuredly deserve. The latest in a steady succession of excellent outings, it’s apparent that with a little luck, Flight Risk could be cleared for takeoff.


 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here



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Music Review - 'Threadbare` by Honey Don't (lz)

Honey Don't -- Threadbare   (click on image to watch )

 15 February 2022



”I’m threadbare, worn out too, broken down, showin’ through, Showin’ through my love for you, Threadbare.”

This confessional lyric from the infectious  title track of their new album offers all the insight needed into Honey Don’t’s decidedly down-home MO. Helmed by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bill Powers and singer and upright bass player Shelley Gray, the group share an archival sound that brings in elements of folk, country, bluegrass, swing, and various other old-time additives perfectly suited to a back porch gathering or the comradery of a campfire. It’s music of a vintage variety, but played with an exuberance and enthusiasm in accordance with today’s populist precepts.

That ebullience is apparent in every track on the new LP, from the giddy vibe of “Big Water Ahead” to the obvious infatuation shared in “Denver Ramble” — with the easy, ambling “Anything for You” and “Wine, Whiskey, Beer and Gin,” the rousing revelry found in “High Country News Girl” all sharing that celebratory sensibility in-between. The fact is, the majority of these songs exude that feel-good attitude courtesy of an upbeat delivery that rarely falters throughout. That said, “Red Mountain Pass” conveys a sense of urgency in the intent, although here again, the interplay of fiddle, mandolin, guitar and dobro keeps the energy intact. The sorrowful ballad “Ain’t No Damn Up On the Yampa” and sweet sensitivity of “For the Roses” and “The Wrong Way To Run” bring other emotions into the mix, altering any impression that this is strictly a one-dimensional ensemble.

Far from it.

Credit Honey Don’t with maintaining loyalty to a bluegrass tradition and the willingness to carry it forward towards the future. And given their sprightly approach and eager attitude, they’re perfect candidates to carry it on. There’s something to be said for maintaining a reverence for the roots, tapping tradition and ushering in an appreciation of all they have to offer. With Threadbare, they make it clear that the past can provide all the fresh finesse needed.

 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here



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Music Review - 'Midnight Rain & Roses` by Luanne Hunt (lz)

Luanne Hunt -- Midnight Rain & Roses   (click on image to watch )

 3 March 2022



Luanne Hunt has somehow escaped wider notice, but the fact that she’s a three-time Grammy nominee with 20 albums and some 17 number one independent hits to her credit speaks more to the public’s lack of awareness that it does to any detail of her talents and ability. With a new album, Portraits in Song, she mines a template that crosses the transom from country and Americana to her own nu-folk finesse. 

The lead single from that album, “Midnight Rain & Roses,” effectively sums up her strengths, courtesy of its mesmerizing melody, cerebral suggestion and a sultry sound that has it coming across as captivating and compelling. Critics have likened it to classic Fleetwood Mac, with a hint of Tom Petty, but clearly it’s much more. 

Indeed, mere comparisons don’t necessarily do her justice. Given its darker designs and fluid finesse, it reflects a sound that’s deeply ingrained in a modern musical motif. That’s not surprising, especially given a career that stretches across the span of some 27 years and a collection of kudos that includes her 2016 induction into the Independent Superstars Hall of Fame, six American Songwriting Awards and three CD of the Year awards from the National Traditional Country Music Association.


Ultimately, it’s the song itself that’s a standout and a nice prelude piece for the album itself. Hopefully, it will be the teaser that’s needed to open the door towards the wider recognition that’s long overdue. As for the tone and temperament of the song itself, while it may seem somewhat dark, there’s one thing well worth remembering.  Any midnight rain inevitably helps the roses to bloom. 

 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here



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Music Review - `Kieran Ridge and the Moonrakers` by Kieran Ridge (lz)

Keiran Ridge-- Kieran Ridge and the Moonrakers   (click on image to watch )

 11 Oct 2021



Kieran Ridge & The Moonrakers offer a generally unpretentious, down-home sound that appears equally suited to a communal back porch gathering or the populist appeal found in a festival-style setting. Although they’re relative newcomers in terms of the broader Americana scene — Ridge’s last album, Nothing Left To Lose was released in 2005 — the band’s new self-titled offering indicates they’ve caught up quickly.

The band — Ridge himself on guitar and vocals, Liam Dailey on mandolin, banjo and vocals, Hannah Rose Baker on fiddle and vocals, drummer Patrick Hanafin and bassist Michael Harmon — are an agreeable bunch, a group adept at purveying homespun melodies with an easy, unobtrusive flair. “Killing Time,” “Wasted” and “Blind in Time” all provide ideal examples, all perfectly pleasant narratives about doing nothing more than simply taking things in stride, free of dictates or distraction. Likewise, “Somewhere on the Edge of Town” maintains a quiet drift that further reflects an unhurried happenstance. “Straight to the Heart of Love” comes across with a casual caress as well, doing so in a way that allows for reflection and respite in stress-free environs. Here again, it’s a sound that’s carefree and comforting in equal measure, fully indicative of the band’s rural and wistful approach.

Not that Ridge wholly abandons more serious circumspect. The slow and steady “To Get Back Home” maintains a more deliberate drive, while the steady thump of “The Last One to Know” suggests a general need for further awareness of one’s general circumstance. On the other hand, “Three Sheets to the Wind, Five Miles from Home” puts things in clear perspective, sharing a message that when life takes us where it will, the best we can do is simply go along for the ride. “No one said it was easy,” Ridge insists. The final track, “Close Your Eyes,” follows suit, suggesting that at times, it’s best to let things lay.

Ridge’s dryly stirred vocals reflect his carefree attitude, adding an approachable element to the effort overall. It proves especially effective on the otherwise emotional entreaties shared in songs such as “Fear of Flying” and “Your Drifting Heart” in which the object of his affection seem somewhat elusive and out of reach. Nevertheless, there’s no urgency or immediacy dictating Ridge’s response, simply a matter-of-fact attitude that’s as engaging as it is enticing.

Ultimately then, that’s the pure pleasure that comes through overall. In this troublesome and tumultuous world, we all could use more music of this soothing sort.


 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

To Read All of Lee's Reviews, Click Here



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