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Music Review - `Matamoros` by James Kahn (ea)

James Kahn - Matomoros  (click on image to watch video)

 28 March 2020

 

Black

Remember when Steve Earle and The Pogues collaborated on Steve’s epochal 1988 album, “Copperhead Road?” James Kahn sure seems to. He has taken that gritty Country Rock-meets-Celtic Punk sound and added some intriguing flourishes on his latest album, “Matamoros.”

The album serves as a companion piece to his novel of the same name. A Civil War saga that takes place below the Rio Grande, it’s filled with smugglers, soldiers, good-time gals, reprobates and rogues. The sprawling title-track sets the scene, powered by piquant mandolin and sawing fiddles. The lyrics chart a course, as the novel’s protagonist winds his way from Memphis to Mexico.

Over a 14 song set, the listener is introduced to a French Foreign Legionnaire on the jaunty “Scully’s Lament” a seafaring buccaneer on the rollicking “Solomon’s Shanty” and El Guerrero Quintero,” a covert Cuban confederate who’s tale is anchored by peppery Mariachi horns.

The best tracks here range from the fanciful “Rio Allie” which blends cascading mandolin and barbed-wire banjo fills, the courtly and propulsive “Mighty Fine Texas Rangers” and the poignant “Mildred’s Waltz.” He even touches on the legend of “La Llorona.” Other interesting songs include the piano-driven “Gypsy Moth” and the bluesy twang of “Harley’s Lament.”

James Kahn has created an insular world richly detailed and deftly executed. The characters of “Matamoros” come alive through this melodious Celtic-Country convergence.


Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

 

 


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Music Review - `Blood Red Moon` by Barbara Bergin (ea)

Barbara Bergin - Blood Red Moon  (click on image to watch video)

 24 March 2020

 

Black

Barbara Bergin traveled many roads before beginning her music career. Born in the Bronx, she spent time in Kansas City and Houston before settling in Austin, Texas. It was there she began a thriving career as an orthopedic surgeon and raised her family. Now that her kids are grown, she traded in her surgical scrubs for spurs and a guitar. She has just released her debut, “Blood Red Moon.”

The album opens with the title track. Thrush acoustic guitar notes lattice over high lonesome harmonica, electric riffs, and shivery slide guitar. Barbara’s vocals sandwich somewhere between Nanci Griffith’s bespoke grace and Mary Gauthier’s world-weary rasp. The lyrics chart a course of romantic confusion; “Now I want a man who can give me all he can, and I’m following his footsteps in the sand, and when I find him, I’m gonna hold on with both hands.”

Both “My Life’s Good” and “Possum’s In The Corn” speak to the bucolic pleasures of life on the farm. The former is a rollicking shuffle, the latter a banjo-riffic barn-burner. Meanwhile, “She Danced With The Prince Of Whales” and “Captain Of The Robert E. Lee transport the listener to bygone eras.

The best tracks here include the Folk-flavored regret of “Warm Place,” the hard-charging travelogue of “Whistlin’ Train,” the shimmery “Low Water Bridge,” the Gospel Rave-Up of “Let’s Get Up” and the playful “Daughter’s Lament.” The album closes with the rollicking skip-to-my-lou of “Like Father, Like Son.”

To quote the Jayhawks, “slow, steady, wins the race.” Armed with an arsenal of great melodies and a lifetime of experience, Barbara Bergin has created a debut that will continue to resonate for years to come.” 

 


Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

 

 

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Music Review - `American Dirt` by Jon Fox (ea)

Jon Fox - American Dirt  (click on image to watch video)

 20 February 2020

 

Black

If Steve Forbert, Steely Dan, and Bruce Springsteen ever decided to collaborate, it might sound a bit like Jon Fox. The North Carolina native and former long-haul trucker is a bit of a nomad, having spent time in every state except Hawaii. Following a lengthy stay in Alaska, he has also called Nashville and Austin home.  His third album, “American Dirt,” has just been released.

The opening track “Love Is All You Need” has a ‘70s AM radio sheen that could sandwich nicely between “Reeling In The Years,”  “Smoke From A Distant Fire and “Romeo’s Tune.”  The  melodies and arrangements here are surprisingly sleek and polished. But it’s clear from his pleasing,  homespun tenor, as well as heaps of mandolin, banjo and  pedal steel  accents, that his roots are pure Americana.

Songs range from the farmer’s lament of “It Ain’t Rain,” to the piano-driven “Baby Don’t You Leave Me” to the expansive “What It’s Not.” Stand out tracks include the burnished “Forrest Through The Trees,” the jangly hoedown of “Mountain Life,” and the willowy ache of “Tears We Cried.”

The twinkly “My Country,” which is powered by urgent banjo and searing electric guitar, is proudly patriotic without resorting to jingoism. The arrangement and the instrumentation on “Every Town” are sharp and sophisticated, even as the lyrics attempt to explain his sense of wanderlust.

 

Jon Fox’s music is shot through with tenderness and grace. While he mostly adheres to the Americana playbook, he also manages to color outside the lines.

 

 

Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

 

 


 

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Music Review - `I’m Into Now` by Shoebox Letters (ea)

Shoebox Letters - I'm Into Now  (click on image to watch video)

 19 March 2020

 

Black

Shoebox Letters is a band based out of Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington.  Dennis Winslow, Dave Stricker, Greg Paul, and Stephanie Cox have all earned their keep creating songs and scores for film and television.   They formed in 2009  and have recorded  11 albums since then. They characterize their music as Americana, but occasionally it takes some delightful detours into classic  Power Pop territory.

They recently released an eight-song EP entitled “I’m Into Now.” The album kicks into gear with the muscular title track. Guitars shimmer and twang over a sturdy backbeat. Plaintive lead vocals from Dennis are shadowed by Beatlesque harmonies fromDave Greg and Stephanie.

Humor manages to camouflage the pain of heartbreak on both “I Drink For Two” and “Running.” The former is a slow-burning Country lament that seeks to medicate away the pain; “Now when the night chill comes, I reach for my favorite rum, in the quiet I try to pretend that you’re coming home again.”

The latter is in search of some emotional rescue; “Words that seem so smooth, I can’t even say.” If Tom Petty ever collaborated with the Raspberries it might sound a bit like “Please You.” Blending rustic guitar riffs and a buoyant kick-drum beat each verse is bookended by brawny baritone guitars. Other interesting tracks include the frosty blahs of the “Snowman’s Blues” and the jangly regret of “Last Night’s Lie.”

Shoebox Letters seem to take inspiration from artists like Badfinger, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan, distilling it into an exceptionally heady brew.

 

 

Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

 

 


 

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Music Review - `What Kind of World?` by Arlan Feiles (ea)

Arlan Feiles - What Kind of World?  (click on image to watch video)

 1 January 2020

 

Black

Arlan Feiles is the kind of engaged, political songwriter America needs right now. The L.A. native first emerged in the ‘90s and was nearly swallowed whole by the gluttonous music business. But he lived to tell the tale, carving out a compelling career working with the Band, legendary music producer, Tom Dowd,  as well as Dave Grohl.  He even had his music featured in the Academy Award Winning feature film, “Dallas Buyer’s Club.”

Arlan put down roots on the Jersey Shore and recently recorded his new album, “What Kind Of World.” The 10-song set blends Gospel, Country, Folk, and Rock. The opening cut is the sanctified title track, here lyrics ponder what kind of world will he leave for his children. 

Songs range from the tender encomium of “Layla” to the Big Easy ramble of “If I Were A Dinosaur,” the stately grace of “Homeward” and the poignant piano ballad, “This Broken Heart.” 

But the best songs buzz with socially conscious angst. “You Can’t Ban My Love”  blends conga and mandolin accents, as lyrics quietly excoriate the cruel policies of the tangerine hued despot that occupies the Oval Office.  Even better is the unvarnished antipathy of  “50 Years Of Kavanaugh.” 

Much like Woody Guthrie and ‘60s era Dylan, Arlan manages to vilify the controversial Supreme Court Justice with a few neatly turned verses. Arlan balances the political with the personal. All the while he maintains his passion and commitment without sounding preachy or didactic. He speaks truth to power.

 

 

Music Reviewer - Eleni P. AustinEleni P. Austin - I was born into a large, loud Greek family and spent my formative years in the Los Angeles enclaves of Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz. My mother moved us to the Palm Springs area just in time for puberty and Disco.  I have spent over 40 years working in record stores, starting back in High School.

I wrote music reviews for the Desert Sun from 1983 to 1988. I began doing the same for the Coachella Valley Weekly in 2012.

I live in Palm Springs with my wife and our amazing dog, Denver. 

To Read All of Eleni P.'s Reviews, Click Here

 

 

 


 

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