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

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

 24 June 2022

 

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“She looks good on paper, she dots all the I’s, you can’t decipher the truth from a lie/She makes an impression, she’s hard to forget, she has all the answers, she’s always correct, don’t fool yourself, she’s a flight risk.” That’s the Shoebox Letters sounding the alarm about a too-good-to-be-true temptress on the title track that opens their latest EP, Flight Risk.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, this four-piece includes Dennis Winslow (acoustic/electric guitars, keys and vocals) Dave Strickler (bass), Stephanie Cox (vocals) and Greg Paul (backing vocals, steel guitar and bass). The aforementioned opener cuts a wide swath, the melody and arrangement echo ‘70s Power Pop antecedents like The Raspberries and Badfinger, while a wash of steel guitar adds a bit of high lonesome ache. The six-song set is uniformly excellent, front to back, but stand-outs include the raucous “I Drink To Much” which is powered by angular guitars, wily bass lines and a hi-hat kick. Introspective lyrics reference Phil and Don Everly and kinda contemplate sobriety.

Then there’s the low-key charm of “Bed Of Roses.” “Red Handed In Love” Slashing power chords strafe across a rock steady rhythm. The lyrics offer up a tender encomium to a long-term romance. The record closes with “A World Out There.” Something of a restless farewell, it features sparkly guitars and burnished keys. It’s a moodily elegant finish to the EP.

On Flight Risk, Shoebox Letters serve up a deft combo-platter of infectious Power Pop and good ol’ Country Comfort.

 

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 - `By The Risin’ Of The Sea` by James Kahn (ea)

James Kahn - By The Risin’ Of The Sea  (click on image to watch video)

 20 April 2022

 

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James Kahn is a musician who keeps an eye on the big picture. Something of a polymath, he seems compelled to push the envelope, taking his music to the nth degree. His last album, “Matamoros” served as a musical companion to his novel of the same name. His new long-player is 12 song-set devoted to addressing climate change, Covid, and assorted maladies that threaten the human race.

On paper, this seems like it would be a saturnine song-cycle. But in reality, he’s created a dozen rollicking revelations that he’s dubbed “Shanties For Our Time.” The record opens with the boisterous title track, which wraps Celtic instrumentation and freebootin’ vocals around a delicate diatribe that name-checks acid rain, global warming and “bear cubs driftin’ on the floes” and closes with the lachrymose lament of “Sundown.”

In between, songs like “In The Covid Times” and “2020: Ship Of Fools” tackle polarizing pandemic days with wit, grit, gravitas, insistent rhythms and acapella grace. Other highlights include the poignant “O The Ocean Rolls,” which is powered by courtly requinto and honeyed harmonies. 

Then there’s the ramshackle stomp of “On The Other Side.” Strummy acoustic notes and flinty vocals envelope a sad-sack aga of economic downturn, unrequited love and the pitfalls of being tardy. Finally, on “Cast On The Water,” lyrics limn the pleasures and perils of the seafaring life. Meanwhile, the instrumentation is an irresistible blend of acoustic guitar, string bass and hammered dulcimer that bookends brawny and briny vocalese.

“By The Risin’ Of The Sea” effortlessly fuses the personal, political and the planetary and wraps it up in a rich musical tapestry.

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 - `Midnight Rain & Roses` by Luanne Hunt (ea)

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

 5 April 2022

 

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The first single off Luanne Hunt’s 21st album, “Portraits In Song,” is “Midnight Rain & Roses.” The critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter delivers a track that is equal parts poignant and resilient. Powered by gritty guitars, a wash of keys and an insistent back-beat.

Luanne’s supple contralto lands somewhere between late Country legend Lynn Anderson and a young Stevie Nicks. Lyrics limn the heartbreak of a sudden loss. Triggered by flowers that arrive right after the sender haspassed, she’s left to contemplate their rollercoaster romance; “In spite of his many sins, she loved him nonetheless, she was the last thing on his mind, before he took his last breath.”

Taking in the bitter and the sweet, she ponders the ephemeral nature of life; “When one door closes, are you free, or still in chains?”

 


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 - `Threadbare` by Honey Don't (ea)

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

 20  April 2022

 

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Honey Don’t’s music tends blur the lines and that’s a good thing. The hardly, strictly Bluegrass band adds hints  of Country, Folk, Blues, Gospel, Jazz  and Rockabilly into their songs, which seems highly apropos since they take their name from a classic Carl Perkins song.

The brainchild of Bill Powers and wife Shelley Gray (the pair made their bones as half of the venerable Bluegrass four-piece, Sweet Sunny South),  Honey Don’t beganin the Western Colorado town of Paonia, but really took flight in Bend, Oregon.  Threadbare is their third long-player.

The album is dotted with a couple of covers, the record kicks into gear with a fresh take on Kieran Kane’s “Eight More Miles.” Toward the end of the record they acquit themselves nicely on Willy Tea Taylor’s “The Wong Way To Run.”

Several songs have been in the band’s live sets for a few years now, a couple were inspired by the Centennial State.  “Denver Ramble” blends prickly guitars, walking bass, rippling mandolin and a do-si-do rhythm.  Lyrics pay tribute to a thriving club scene that features “Hot Rod cars, Honky-Tonk bars, hardwood floors and steel guitars.” Meanwhile, “Big Water Ahead” is a propulsiveshuffle powered by cascading mandolin, roiling dobro riffs, flinty basslines and in-the-pocket harmonies.

The record’s highlights include the rollicking Texas Two-Step  of “Five Foot Four From Fort Worth,” the chugging title track, the raucous fun of “High Country News Girl” and the dipsomaniacal delight of “Win, Whiskey, Beer Or Gin.” 

Jazzy elements coalesce around “Anything For You,” a finger-poppin’ encomium to Bill and Shell’s two sons. Although “For The Roses” takes it’s title from a vintage Joni Mitchell song, this percolating, Honey Don’t original pays homage to the late labor-activist, Hobo Folksinger, Storyteller/Poet, U. Utah Phillips.

Other interesting cuts include the keening, Gospel-inflected shiver of “Red Mountain Pass” and  “Ain’t No Dam Up  On The Yampa,” which shares some musical DNA with the Allman  Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” and philosophical leanings with Edward  Abbey’s “Monkeywrench Gang.” The record closes with the sweeping instrumental, “Daybreak On The Muddy.” 

Along with Bill Powers on vocals, guitar and mandolin and Shelley Gray on vocals and bass, Honey Don’t includes Benji Nagel on vocals and dobro, CJ Neary on fiddle and Don Hawkins on snare. “Threadbare” is a wild ride from start to finish.


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 - `Kieran Ridge & the Moonrakers` (ea)

Kieran Ridge & the Moonrakers - 

 08 November 2021

 

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Somewhere between Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band and Luka Bloom,  stands Kieran Ridge and the Moonrakers. A Boston-based songwriter, Kieran Ridge has recorded three albums with his Kieran Ridge Band, but this is his  first one with his new four-piece combo, The Moonrakers.

The self-titled debut opens with the rollicking barroom lament, “The Last One To Know.” Kieran’s raspy growl is bookended by rippling mandolin, sawing fiddle, jangly guitars, sturdy bass lines  and a shit-kicker beat. Hoping for a bit of liquid courage, raucous  lyrics like “Give me beer if you’ve got no whisky, water if you’ve got no wine, all I ask don’t send me home, don’t tell me that it’s closing time” nearly camouflage the loneliness and hurt buried deep down.

For the rest of the 11-song set, Kieran and the Moonrakers sidle through a plethora of styles. From the Celtic-Country breakdown of “Killing Time,” the backwoods Blues of “To Get Back Home” and the loping, banjo-riffic “Three Sheets To The Wind, Five Miles From Home.” Then there’s  “Your Drifting Heart” which is  sprightly and shambolic in  all the right ways.

 Meanwhile,  there’s a tender flintiness on display with “Somewhere On The Edge Of Town.” Perspicacious lyrics catalogue  a life filled with missed opportunities. 

The best tracks, “Blind In Time” and “Wasted” arrive back-to-back. The former blends finger-picked guitars and fluttery mandolin. The latter is crackling and concise, opening

with this stinging couplet; “You lost the keys to your own salvation.” Kieran handles lead vocals and guitar. The Moonrakers consist of Liam Dailey on mandolin, banjo and vocals, Hannah Rose Baker on fiddle and vocals, Patrick Hanafin on drums and percussion and Michael Harmon on bass. 

Although they’re considered Americana, Kieran and The Moonrakers’ sound isn’t easily pigeonholed. Their music is all over the map. Believe me, that’s a good thing.

 

 


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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