FOLLOW NO ONE – Single Review: “Fear No Evil”

Follow No One is the music project of two highly accomplished musicians from different parts of the world and two completely separate musical backgrounds – singer/songwriter and pianist Rich Hall, who’s originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but now based in Denver, Colorado, and guitar virtuoso Pedro Murino Almeida from Lisbon, Portugal, but with roots in Brazil. Rich began performing at a young age in theater, but found his true calling performing and writing music. Pedro was classically trained in music composition, with a successful career involving his own musical acts, and his work has been featured in film and video. Their dynamic style of rock music is influenced by such giants as Dream Theater, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters, Avenged Sevenfold, Imagine Dragons and Three Days Grace.

The duo released their debut EP, simply titled “5“, in September 2017, which featured five hard-hitting tracks. (My review of the EP has been one of my most successful, earning nearly 300 views.) They followed in 2018 with an excellent cover of the David Bowie song “I’m Afraid of Americans”, then “Your Time of Dying” in March 2019. Now they’re back with a killer new single “Fear No Evil”, which dropped August 9th. The song was inspired by Hall’s study of Demonic Possession, a topic he has researched for many years. The track has had quite a journey during its creation, having been recorded in both Portugal and the U.S., and mixed by Jarrod Headley (Music Supervisor for the History Channel program Counting Cars), before finally being mastered in Dallas.

The track blasts open with an explosion of Almeida’s gritty, chugging guitar, while Hall fervently wails the opening lyrics. Almeida’s guitar soon settles into an intricate back and forth dance of melodic jangly riffs alternating with some serious shredding and mind-blowing distortion. Holy hell, this man can play the guitar! Fortified with a rock-solid rhythm section of crushing bass and thunderous percussion, Almeida lays down a riveting backdrop for Hall’s colorful, impassioned vocals as he plaintively laments:

I tried to believe
And the people let me down
I gave them every chance
Changed every circumstance
People you think you can trust
Are not even people at all
Imagination or indoctrination
Chipping away at the edges of your soul
See no evil
Hear no evil

“Fear No Evil” is a fantastic, powerhouse track that gets better with each listen. Almeida’s guitar work is among the best I’ve heard lately, and both he and Hall make a formidable pair, delivering outstanding and hard-driving rock with every song they release.

Connect with Follow No One:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SoundcloudSpotify / Tidal / Google PlayYouTube
Purchase:  iTunesAmazon

LYIA META – Single Review: “Deserving of Love”

lyia meta2

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is a lovely woman both inside and out, with a dazzling powerhouse voice. With her deep, resonant vocal style and ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues and rock to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international star, winning numerous music awards over the past several years. I first featured her in early 2018 when I reviewed her gorgeous single “Without Walls”, then again this past January when I wrote about her pop-rock anthem “All of My Love”. Lyia now returns with a dramatic new single “Deserving of Love“, her first foray into metal rock.

About the song, Lyia told me “This is the first time I am doing/writing metal. As a multi-genre artist, I try not to limit myself, and because my heart/influence is rooted in rock and blues it seemed a natural sort of thing to gravitate toward this. As I started this adventure with [producer] Mike Hall, I must say I was a bundle of nerves throughout the entire process. Almost all my songs are written from a personal place. So this song is no different.”

“Deserving of Love” storms right out of the gate with an explosive mix of Mike Hall’s shredded guitar and Lyia’s raw, impassioned vocals. Soon enough, Mike delivers thunderous staccato riffs as Lyia demands to be heard and understood in her desperate longing to be loved.

Don’t cut me down
Cos’ I speak the words you need to hear
Don’t shut me out
Don’t cut me down

The dramatic soaring chorale vocals in the chorus have a chilling, almost Gothic feel that gives the track incredible power and depth. By this time, Mike’s shredding his guitar nearly to the breaking point as Lyia unleashes all of the raw emotion she can gather as she pleads:

Do you hear me?
Bare my soul I’m in need

Lay it there see me bleed
I’m so weary but I’m so deserving of love
So deserving of love
I’m deserving of love

“Deserving of Love” is a terrific song, and Lyia does quite an admirable job singing heavy metal. So play this one loud! As a side note, Lyia is also an accomplished visual artist, and designed the striking artwork for the single.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

New Song of the Week: DAVID VIVIAN – “Always”

David Vivian

Two months ago I featured singer-songwriter and guitarist David Vivian upon the release of his third single “Weekend”. Now the Santa Barbara, California-based musician is back with his beautiful new single “Always“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. David states that “Always” is “about the idea of trying to find someone in one’s art when that can only ever be a mediation.”

The song opens with a haunting little guitar riff, then expands with pleasing keyboard, bass and percussive synths to create a dreamy backdrop for David’s silky, ethereal vocals. He lays down some fine, intricate guitar work throughout the track, and his solo in the bridge is really wonderful. “Always” is a fairly simple track, but has a quiet intensity that hits us in the feels. It’s a beautiful song, and another in a string of excellent singles from this promising young artist.

Dear love, sorry I hurt you
Please know I didn’t mean to
And know I’ll always want you
I can’t explain—I’ve just got to
And I just want you to know

That I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Dear love, I don’t deserve you
Until all this pain has left you
I want you to have it all
Let’s throw a party, let’s have a ball
And know I’ll be here if you fall
Yes I’ll be here if you fall

Yes I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play

WILD HORSE – Album Review: “DANCE!! Like An Animal”

Wild Horse album art

Today I’m pleased to present the exciting young British rock band Wild Horse. Formed in 2013 while in their early teens, the talented Heathfield, East Sussex trio consists of brothers Henry and Jack Baldwin (both of whom play guitar and sing vocals), and their school friend Ed “Barking” Barnes on drums. While presenting a fun, lighthearted image with their high-energy, punk-infused style of blues rock, the guys take their music seriously with dedication, thoughtful lyricism, and a mature approach towards the music business.

Wild Horse quickly began earning recognition, first being nominated for the “Rock the House” competition in 2014, then later becoming finalists in 2016. The Baldwin brothers are also prolific songwriters, and in 2015 the band signed with a New York record company who released some of their original tracks on mixed EPs, leading to the release of their first album It’s Begun in January 2016. Now working independently, they recorded and released three EPs between late 2017 and early 2018 containing a total of 16 tracks. They followed up in June 2018 with their second album Songs About Last Night, and this past April (2019) dropped their third album DANCE!! Like An Animal – is that a great album title or what!

The album addresses themes related to transitioning from horny, angst-ridden teenagers to the sobering realities of adulthood. It was recorded at Cobham Sound Studios, and produced, mixed and mastered by Niall Squire. Stephen Baldwin (Jack and Henry’s dad) played bass, Hilary Squire played saxophone and percussion, and along with Ella Squire, sang backing vocals.

Wild Horse2

DANCE!! Like An Animal begins with the abrupt sounds of Jack’s distinctive vocals accompanied by a pleasing little guitar riff as he sings the opening lyrics to “Blame“. His unusual vocal style is hard to describe, but has an endearing quirkiness as he plaintively croons in his strong British accent: “Sometimes I feel like I’m on my own. Wandering around with a gun in my hand. I swear if it happens again I’ll start a band, and I’ll write a song about all of my troubles and what’s going on in my other life. The one you haven’t seen.” After the line “Don’t want you to feel as fucked up as I do“, the music ramps up with a volley of shredded guitars and raging percussion, and I’m now hooked on the guys’ exuberant punk rock grooves that set a joyful tone for the album.

They next launch into “Frustrations“, a rousing banger about sexual tension. This time Henry sings lead, channeling equal measures of Michael Hutchence and a young Mick Jagger both in sound and swagger as he seductively teases “Can’t you see I’m into you. I suppose you’re into me. Can’t you see it’s got to be. Frustrations taking over us. Dance like an animal. Dance like an animal for me!” Jack provides his charming backing vocals that contrast nicely with Henry’s as they both let loose with some tasty riffs while Ed hammers out the sexy beat. I really dig this song.

Those sexual tensions reach the breaking point on the provocative “LISTEN! Stop Messing Around“, where Jack laments about how his sexual desires continue to go unmet by an unhappy set of circumstances: “I wanna take you out but I’ve got no money to spend. So let me take you closer, closer to my bed./ That time you nearly gave me head. Oh I was feeling blessed. Then your phone started to ring. You walked out the door and you left me wanting more./ Got fucking on my mind but it never ends that way. Oh girl can’t you see what it’s doing to me. I can barely stand up and I’m begging for you please.” The song has an infectious bouncy melody with some fine gnarly riffs.

The guys touch on the perils of excessive drinking and how it wastes both time and brain cells on “9:10“. Jack moans of his inability to stop, despite his best intentions: “And I swear to god I’ll stop at ten past nine. But another brings me wine. And all I see are blurred visions of the night, and stories about how I totally died.” “Why Do We Pretend?” speaks to the coming of age experience of discovering that perhaps a relationship you thought was great is just not meant to be.  “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we don’t get along. And we say it will all work out in the end. But we know it’s wrong. And when you don’t answer your phone, and I’ve just had enough of you. And I’m sure you have too.” The guys’ bluesy guitars, combined with Hilary Squire’s soulful saxophone and her and Ella Squire’s impassioned backing vocals, make this one of the standout tracks.

The guys keep the punk grooves rolling with “Hypnotise“, a fun, upbeat track that has Henry singing about being under the spell of a girl. But they then take a more serious turn on “The Kids Are on Drugs“, one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song starts off with Henry singing in a somber voice, accompanied by a simple strummed guitar: “The kids are all on drugs just to keep them sane. Oh the kids are all in pain, and they want to escape. But they can’t, because the world won’t let them.” The music suddenly erupts into a frantic punk song with raging guitars and furious drumbeats as the guys rail about the myriad anxieties facing today’s youth. I especially like these pointed lyrics about the toxic need for acceptance and validation on social media that I can relate to: “Lying on the street on a tab of ecstasy ’cause you only got 74 likes on your Instagram./ Social media makes them sad.”

Things lighten back up on “Seduction“, a sexy tune about the power of erotic attraction. I love the spicy little flourish of Latin guitar at the beginning, as well as the great piano keys and sultry bass line. Hilary’s soulful sax makes a welcome reappearance in the chorus. “(Can’t Believe How Much) The Night Has Changed You” is a song to a friend who remains unsettled and unable to connect with their true self:  “I would say I wanna be you. But privately everyone is blue. So I’ll settle down. Settle down with who I am. And you should settle down with you.” The track has a lively, bass-driven beat with fantastic guitar work and Ed’s impeccable drumming. Henry’s vocals really sound like Mick Jagger on this track, and despite the huge contrast in their singing voices, he & Jack harmonize quite nicely.

Impossible Words” is a bluesy number with a Country-rock vibe, courtesy of some marvelous twangy guitars and harmonica. The tongue-in-cheek song seems to wrap up the album, not only literally but figuratively, by pulling in some of the titles of other songs: “I have frustrations, and you’re the one to blame. All you do is hypnotise me baby, at ten past nine./ Why do we pretend? Cause I can’t believe how much the night has changed you.” I love it! Following this track are three ‘clean’ radio edit versions of “Blame”, “LISTEN! Stop Messing Around” and “The Kids Are on Drugs”.

DANCE!! Like An Animal is a wonderful album that I enjoy more with each listen. Henry, Jack and Ed are immensely talented songwriters and musicians, and with an already impressive catalog of music to their credit, I’m confident they will only continue to grow as artists. They’re currently in the process of writing and recording new music for another album, and I can’t wait to hear it!

Connect with Wild Horse:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / Amazon

Top 30 Songs for August 4-10, 2019

1. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (2)
2. I SEE YOU – MISSIO (1)
3. MISSED CONNECTION – The Head and the Heart (3)
4. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (5)
5. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (4)
6. ROOM TO BREATHE – Made of Eyes (7)
7. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (8)
8. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (9)
9. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (10)
10. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (11)
11. OLD MAN’S WAR – Roadkeeper (6)
12. STRANGE KIND – Blair Dollery (13)
13. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (15)
14. HERE WE GO – Ben Priory & Charlie Pereira (16)
15. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (17)
16. GO – The Black Keys (20)
17. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (18)
18. HELP ME STRANGER – The Raconteurs (19)
19. ESCAPE – Ships Have Sailed (12) 20th week on chart
20. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (22)
21. I’LL BE AROUND – Morning Fuzz (14)
22. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score (23)
23. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (24)
24. BOOM – X Ambassadors (25)
25. BLOW – Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars (26)
26. BROTHERS – Harroland (27)
27. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (28)
28. DARK PLACES – The Frontier (21) 22nd week on chart
29. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (N)
30. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant (N)

New Song of the Week: PAUL LYNCH – “Little Man/Cold Will Always Win”

Paul Lynch2

Today I have a treat, as my ‘New Song of the Week’ is actually two songs – a double-single by British indie folk artist Paul Lynch. The London-based singer-songwriter is releasing five singles in 2019, and “Little Man/Cold Will Always Win” are numbers 3 & 4 (the first two were the beautiful tracks “A Different Way” and “Oh So Quiet”).

A civil engineer by training, Paul’s been making and recording music for several years, and released his first EP Searching for the Answer in 2018. He subsequently decided to go part-time in his job to focus more on his music. With his love for traditional world folk music, Paul took time off from his job to travel in Mexico and France, where the regional folk music he heard inspired him to write new songs. The five singles he’s releasing reflect those influences, especially his latest songs “Little Man” and “Cold Will Always Win”, both featuring sunny Latin-infused grooves.

“Little Man” is a cheerful, optimistic song about not allowing fears to keep you from realizing your full potential. Paul pairs a rich array of instruments, including layered guitars, maracas, bongos, trumpet and piano with a lively Latin beat to create a wonderful tune that just makes you feel happy. He has a silky high-tenor vocal style that’s incredibly pleasing as he sings “Hey little man don’t worry. This is your time, no worry. Hold your breath, and jump right in oh. But little man don’t waiver, this is your time to savour.”

“Cold Will Always Win” is a mellower, more introspective song, with a sophisticated throwback vibe that calls to mind some of the classic Latin and Brazilian songs of the 50s and 60s. Paul’s intricate guitar work is really marvelous, and his layered vocal harmonies are gorgeous as he croons about the inevitability of winter, which I think is a metaphor for the life challenges that come our way, and must be faced with strength and courage: “The misty wind is circling, stripping leaves from the trees. Catch them as they are falling, or the cold will always win. As the dim of winter, circles and there’s no escape. Time is forever shrinking. Chance must not be left to fate.”

Have a listen to these two great tracks:

Connect with Paul: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Google Play

Artist Spotlight on the massively talented TREVOR JAMES

I get followed by – and follow – so many artists and bands on social media that I often don’t have time to properly listen to all their music and, sadly, many slip beneath my radar. One such artist I’ve somehow missed out on listening to until yesterday is the massively talented and versatile singer/songwriter and guitarist/bassist Trevor James. The Los Angeles-based artist has been making music since the age of 14, and has been especially prolific over the past five years or so, releasing several outstanding albums and singles, the latest of which is the lovely and soulful “Always Be There”, which dropped earlier this month. Since hearing that song, I’ve been making up for lost time by binge-listening to his incredibly diverse music. I was going to review the single, but his music catalog is so varied, extensive and impressive that I’ve decided to do an Artist Spotlight on James instead.

James refers to his music style as “a combination of John Mayer and Lenny Kravitz with a touch of Jimi Hendrix“, and I’d say that pretty accurately describes one aspect of his sound, although it’s so much broader than that. In 2014, he released his first EP Show Time, a fine collection of songs melding pop, hip hop, R&B and funk. One of the standouts is “Mystery Girl”:

Completely changing direction, in 2016 he released two gorgeous albums – The Dreamer and World – that delved deeply into jazz fusion. The Dreamer is an instrumental-only production that really highlights James’ talents for writing beautiful and intricate melodies, and bringing them to life with his skillful musicianship and awesome guitar-playing. All 11 tracks are superb, but I’ll share the title track, which provides a good example of the album’s flavor:

World is more experimental and, like its title suggests, features greater use of world music influences, as well as sparse vocals on some tracks. James inserts elements of rock, funk, blues and soul into the jazzy mix, making for a fascinating and often captivating listening experience. The tracks are all named after natural or weather phenomena. One of the highlights out of many for me is “Earthquake”, where James’ funky guitar work shines. Take a listen to this gem:

Changing direction yet again, it’s on his monumental 2017 album My Train where James really taps into his John Mayer/Lenny Kravitz/Jimi Hendrix aura. Holy shit, this man can play the guitar! The Herculean album kicks ass with a mind-boggling twenty tracks (five of which are over seven minutes long), and every single one of them is fucking phenomenal! James lays down scorching, bluesy riffs in track after track, and I’m sorry I missed out on hearing this album when it came out in 2017, because I’d have named it among the best of that year. I strongly recommend my readers take the time to give this incredible album a listen, but I’ll share a few of my personal favorites.

First up is “Howling Wind”, a blistering, bluesy stunner that pays beautiful homage to Jimi Hendrix with some jaw-dropping guitar work:

Another spectacular track is the 9:22-minute-long epic “Drunken Blues”. James’ bluesy guitar runs are so gorgeous they bring tears to my eyes. Wow!

In 2018, James dropped his fourth full-length album Maxine, yet another exceptional work in which he continued to explore his rock side, only this time channeling his inner Lenny Kravitz by delving further into guitar-driven, melodic alternative rock grooves. Staying true to his eclectic influences, he still manages to incorporate ample amounts of funk, blues and jazz into the dynamic mix. The title track “Maxine” is one of the standouts, with dirty, bluesy riffs, soulful keys, crunchy drums and a funky-as-hell bassline. James’ raw vocals beautifully express his exasperation over Maxine’s intransigent and cruel behavior toward him: “Maxine, you’s the one I want. Maxine, what do you want from me? Maxine, how could you be so mean?

Since the release of Maxine, James has dropped a number of great singles in 2019, one of which is the fiery rocker “Turn Me On”, with a sexy video that’s as hot as the track. It really showcases his strong charisma and good looks, and Jennifer’s pretty easy on the eyes too!

“Pick Up Your Phone” is another fantastic R&B single, and here’s a wonderful video of a live performance of the song by James and his backup band. It was recorded this past Spring at Joshua Tree National Park (located an hour from my home) as part of Dynaudio Unheard’s Desert Sessions:

Finally, I get to his latest release “Always Be There”, which instigated this entire post! It’s a sweet and charming love song, and one of the more pop-oriented of his tracks, with mostly acoustic guitar, subtle synths and crisp percussion. James tenderly sings of his undying love and devotion:

You’re my everything
I can’t explain, you’re my sunny day
You’re sweeter than some sugarcane
I’ll always be there for you
Take my hand, baby I’m your man
Don’t you know, I’m your biggest fan
You’re my queen, baby I’m your king
I’ll always be there for you girl

The music and James’ vocals gradually build as the track progresses, and he thrills us with a scorching-hot distorted guitar solo in the final chorus.

As I’ve tried to make clear in this post, Trevor James is a remarkable talent, and one of the most versatile artists I’ve come across in a long while. He’s a great songwriter, composer, vocalist and, most of all, a truly gifted guitarist and bassist, and I cannot gush enough about him and his music! Plus, he’s a gracious and kind man. I hope my readers will take the time to listen to some of his songs, and grow to like him as much as I have.

Connect with Trevor:  Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Google Play / cdbaby

KILLER TAPE – EP Review: “Ghosts”

Killer Tape2

Killer Tape is the music project of young artists Ella Heaton and Luke Hudson. Originally from Leeds, England, Ella is currently studying in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Luke in Berlin, Germany. In June (2019) they released their debut EP Ghosts, featuring three stunning lo-fi tracks. Melding elements of shoegaze, ambient, electronic and psychedelia, the duo create mesmerizing soundscapes that transport us to dreamy, faraway places.

First off is the title track “Ghosts”, a haunting, ethereal song that opens with clicks that sound like a cassette tape being placed into a player, accompanied by a droning acoustic guitar and mysterious, sinewy synths that gradually build as the track progresses. With breathy echoed vocals that sound appropriately ghost-like, Ella gently croons “There’s a man on the ceiling, and he’s full of misdemeanour.

The dreamy “Scrimmage” features marvelous glittery synths and a fuzzy, reverb-heavy guitar that borders on surf. Ella’s echoed chanting can be heard in the distance, accompanied by a spooky organ riff at the end of the song. I love it!

The final track “May Day” is brief, lasting only 1:40 minutes, but is a wonderful composition, with more of that spooky organ and throbbing spacey synths that impart a fascinating otherworldly vibe. This time it’s Luke’s distant echoed chants that can be heard. The track ends with the same clicking sounds we heard at the beginning of “Ghosts”, signifying that the tape has been removed from the player.

Ghosts is a great little EP from this talented young duo, and my only criticism is that it’s too short, leaving me wanting to hear more.

Connect with Killer Tape: Facebook / Instagram
Stream or purchase on Apple Music / Google Play / YouTube

CULANN – Album Review: “The Great Ecumene”

Culann album

Culann is a band from Irvine, in North Ayrshire, Scotland. Comprised of PJ Kelly (Vocals, Guitar), his brother Sean Kelly (Drums), Greg Irish (Guitar), Ross McCluskie (Keyboards) and Calum Davis (Bass), they blend folk, Celtic-rock, alt-rock, prog rock and even a bit of reggae to create their uniquely colorful and dynamic sound. Largely ignoring the norms of conventional song writing, they employ complex melodies, time changes and a perfect fusion of traditional Scottish music with a contemporary lyrical approach, resulting in a deeply satisfying and distinct sound. Since forming in 2008, they’ve performed the length and breadth of their homeland, gathering adoring fans along the way.

They released their self-titled debut album Culann in 2012, and after dropping a few singles now and then, they returned this past April (2019) with their second album The Great Ecumene, which I’m reviewing today. Curious as to what ‘Ecumene’ means, I checked Wikipedia and learned that it’s an ancient Greek term now used by geographers to mean inhabited land. It generally refers to lands where people have made their permanent home. Accordingly, many of the album tracks touch on various aspects of Scottish life and its history, and its strong connection to the sea.

The album opens with “Evonium“, a jubilant, monumental song with symphonic rock overtones that call to mind the great 70s bands Yes and Boston, with a bit of a nod to Dream Theater. The song was first released as a single more than two years ago, in May 2017. Once again, I was compelled to Google ‘Evonium’, and found the following:

Evonium is a purported lost city in Scotland that was first described by Hector Boece in his 16th-century Scotorum Historiae. According to Boece, it hosted the coronation of forty kings and was located in the Lochaber area.” Writer A.J. Morton has suggested that if Evonium actually existed, it could have been located at the band’s home of Irvine, Ayrshire. Culann assembles a rich mix of roiling guitars, exuberant piano and organ, and lots of percussion to create a powerful song befitting of the epic saga of Evonium. Lead vocalist PJ Kelly passionately sings of how the historic legacy of Evonium has shaped the lives of all who are born there:

Blood of this town, the place where I was born
A strength that’s driven in across the sea
Cut from the coast, we wake with price each morn
For all that’s past, it’s richest history
We owe our lives to our western home
Where kings and rulers stole their destiny
Shaped their lives and carved them into stone
With all that’s seen and all were yet to be, all were yet to be 

Now I understand
It’s all because I’m from Evonium
Now it’s in my hands
The greatness past fuels greatness not yet done that’s still to come

The beautiful video shows scenes of the band performing the song in historic Dundonald Castle, interspersed with scenes filmed in the Scottish countryside and Duncarron Medieval Village, a replica of an early Medieval fortified village. The album version of the track includes a somber but beautiful synth instrumental beginning at 4:15 that continues through to the end.

Next up is “Event Without Experience“, a rousing, melodically complex extravaganza of Celtic prog-rock brilliance. The intricate guitar work is fantastic, and nicely complemented by some fine keyboards, humming bass, and aggressive thumping drumbeats. I really like how PJ’s Scottish brogue shines through in his fervent vocals. Culann deliver more Celtic folk-rock grooves with the philosophical drinking song “Brewing of Ale“, and once again, the guitars, keyboards and rhythm section are perfection. The just-released video was directed & edited by Stuart Breadner, and filmed on location in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Galloway Forest Park.

Century Box” is a stomper of a tune that took a couple of listens to grab me, but once it did, I couldn’t get enough of that wonderful melody. The lively guitars are killer and I love how they perfectly meld with the piano keys, something this band does so beautifully in many of their songs. The terrific organ riff and guitar solo in the bridge are real treats.

The title track “The Great Ecumene” is a near-epic six-minute-long ode to Scotland. This is true progressive rock, with a meandering (in a good way) melody, highlighted by a smooth organ riff and accompanied by delicate piano, measured drums and a wondrous mix of guitar textures that pull you deeply into the song. PJ croons about the complexities and contradictions of his homeland: “My country is bitter. My country is cold. My country is beautiful. My country is bold. My people are bitter. My people are cold. My soul it is sacred. My spirit is sold./ Join the great ecumene, see what you find. A road never ending, stretching through time.” Everything ramps up to a crescendo in the chorus, with impassioned vocal harmonies and a cascade of crashing cymbals for a dramatic finish.

Culann keep the energy flowing on “All Reverie” with rolling guitars, galloping drumbeats and passionate vocals. “Sunken Ships” appropriately opens with underwater sounds, then launches into a glorious mix of jangly guitars, sparkling piano keys, pummeling drumbeats and a deep, humming bassline. “Aegis” is perhaps the most high-energy track on the album (and also the shortest, though still running 3:51 minutes). Frantic riffs, pounding drums and exuberant piano keys make for a real banger of a track. PJ earnestly sings the lyrics to someone who’s been his aegis, or shield, helping him to overcome some of his self doubts and fears: “Closely, look at where I have come from. You made me, you taught me to be strong and lead the way. I can’t face the outside on my own. I can’t understand them. I can’t bear the inside, my unknown. Please don’t make me stand there alone.”

The guys really show us what they’re capable of on “Man Alive“, one of the standouts on an album filled with standouts. Running over seven minutes, this song has it all: melodic change-ups that hold our attention, complex and intricate guitar work, enchanting keyboards, a marvelous funky bassline, and some of the most impeccable drumming I’ve heard in a while, not to mention PJ’s always-great vocals. As I’ve mentioned on previous tracks, the interplay between the guitars and keyboards here is so freaking good. Finally, despite it’s length, “Man Alive” seems much shorter, always a sign of a great song (unlike some songs that seem to go on forever, with me wishing they’d come to a quicker end).

The lyrics speak to the resilience of the Scottish people: “Come gather ’round, meet the gladdest man alive. You see him everyday. Come gather’ round, meet the saddest man alive. He’ll never tell you so. A blackened sense of pride. No man alive could meet the broken soul of mine.”

The song immediately segues into the closing track “Queen Street“, a poignant ballad about life on the streets of Glasgow. The song has a more stripped-back sound than their other tracks, with mainly acoustic guitar, delicate piano and gentle percussion providing a somber backdrop for PJ’s heartrending vocals. With a strong sense of despair and pain, PJ laments: “I never needed a human being more. Sat down in the street, with a cup down by my feet. Oh but nobody seen me and the traffic arrow moving ’em on. And if I needed something, and I could reach out to you and I’d ask. I would beg of you one thing. Don’t make me beg for it. And if I needed someone, but I’ve turned my back on everyone that I had. I would beg of you one thing. Don’t make me beg for it.

Like a lot of progressive rock, it took me a couple of listens to fully appreciate all the nuance and complexity of the songs on The Great Ecumene, but once I totally immersed myself in the music, it really came alive for me. It’s a beautiful album, and Culann’s songwriting, lyrics and musicianship are all quite impressive. These guys are masters of their respective instruments, and operate as an incredibly tight unit to create music that’s flawless, exciting and a joy to hear.

Connect with Culann: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase: Bandcamp / Big Cartel

Top 30 Songs for July 28-August 3, 2019

 

1. I SEE YOU – MISSIO (1) 4th week at #1
2. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (2)
3. MISSED CONNECTION – The Head and the Heart (3)
4. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (4)
5. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (6)
6. OLD MAN’S WAR – Roadkeeper (5)
7. ROOM TO BREATHE – Made of Eyes (8)
8. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (10)
9. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (11)
10. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (12)
11. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (13)
12. ESCAPE – Ships Have Sailed (7)
13. STRANGE KIND – Blair Dollery (15)
14. I’LL BE AROUND – Morning Fuzz (9)
15. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (16)
16. HERE WE GO – Ben Priory and Charlie Pereira (17)
17. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (18)
18. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (19)
19. HELP ME STRANGER – The Raconteurs (20)
20. GO – The Black Keys (25)
21. DARK PLACES – The Frontier (14) 21st week on chart
22. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (24)
23. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score (26)
24. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (27)
25. BOOM – X Ambassadors (28)
26. BLOW – Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars (29)
27. BROTHERS – Harroland (30)
28. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (N)
29. FEAR THE FUTURE – IAMWARFACE (21) 21st week on chart
30. STILL FEEL. – half alive (22)