MOROSITY – Album Review: “Low Tide”

Low Tide Album Art

Unusual. Exotic. Captivating. Haunting. Stunning. Those are all words that come to mind when I listen to the album Low Tide by Morosity, a genre-bending band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Formed in 2001 by childhood friends Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocalist/Guitarist) and Dave Rowan (Guitarist) as a two-man acoustic group, they spent their early years developing a sound uniquely their own, and playing local gigs and opening for national bands. Wanting to expand their sound and musical reach, they added bassist Sean Bachinski in 2007, and two years later, Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin) and Nick Johnson (Drums) joined the band to complete their lineup.

Morosity released an ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and nearly six years later, in February 2017, they released their second album Low Tide, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. While retaining many elements of their signature sound – complex song structures and melodies, richly layered guitars, crisp percussion, and generous use of the violin – with Low Tide the band takes a more eclectic and decidedly darker approach. Melding rock with tribal, psychedelia, folk and Middle Eastern influenced music through use of the mandolin and hammered dulcimer, they’ve created a powerful work of extraordinary beauty and depth. The album was produced by Albrecht, who records, mixes, and masters in his home studio Evensong Studios.

Morosity

The album starts off with “Mind Over Matter,” a brief but mesmerizing track dominated by a gorgeous dulcimer riff. The song elicits several images and feelings for me, but I mostly think of a beautiful belly dancer moving to the captivating Middle Eastern music. The song immediately transitions to the mysterious “The Answer.” One of my favorite tracks on the album, the song features haunting guitar work that’s so incredible it gives me goosebumps. Furthermore, Albrecht’s vocals are amazing; he seductively croons the lyrics about questioning one’s belief system: “My eyes tell me that the truth’s not being told. What if all I see is just a lie?” He finally concludes that it’s all a sham as he wails “You’re all wrong” to a hard-driving guitar riff at the song’s end.

Without skipping a beat, we segue to “Ouroboros,” another mesmerizing (there’s that word again, but it’s just so fitting) track with a Middle Eastern vibe. The instrumentals on this track are rich and varied, and Albrecht’s smoky vocals have a chant-like quality. “Moon” has more of a traditional folk-rock sound, with some tasty layered guitars floating over Bachinski’s solid bass line.

The album plays like a rock symphony, with each track a string of movements, one flowing into the next. “Moon” transitions directly into “Smoke & Mirrors,” a powerful five-and-a-half minute long tour-de-force of a track about self deception. The guitar work is outstanding, and Albrecht’s raw vocals, which remind me a bit of the late Chris Cornell on this track, perfectly convey the biting lyrics:

Is all your smiling make-believe?
Who is it that you are trying to deceive?
What is it that you plan to gain?
A life of misery, false heightened sense of fame. It all goes away…

The most powerful, and dark, track on the album is “Death Grip,” which speaks to the epidemic of gun violence that’s become so pervasive in America today. The folk-rock song is chilling, yet has an interlude containing whistling that comes off as almost carefree, in sharp contrast to the subject matter. A similar treatment was used by Foster the People on their hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” The disturbing lyrics are from the twisted perspective of a mass shooter:

Lately I just wanna kill someone
You can hide away the ammo Lock up all the guns
But if I really wanna have some fun
There ain’t nothing gonna stop me til’ the job is done
I wanna kill someone
In a crowded theater
In the church of nuns
In a school for children
In front of everyone
You think that you can stop me
You say you’re good with guns
If you try to kill me I’m gonna blow up everyone

The video shows serene images of the countryside and a cemetery, interspersed with a shadowy figure walking, driving, and at a shooting range. At the end, people are shown having fun riding bikes, bowling, and at a demolition derby, presumably oblivious to any potential danger.

Limbo” features Wolfe’s sublime mandolin work, accompanied by lovely violin and subtle guitars. Albrecht’s urgent vocals are marvelous, as are the backing chorus. The violin and acoustic guitar take center stage on the melancholy title track “Low Tide.” The gloomy lyrics speak to feelings of being worn down, and that life is slipping away, but you’re not yet ready to give up:

From stone to sand, I feel it all sifting through my hands.
Worn to bone, nothing left just a skeleton.
Bottoms up and cut me down to size.
Drag me out and wash me in the tide.
Give me life now no I don’t wanna die.
Low tide

But by song’s end, the feelings of hopelessness, regret and despair have become too great to bear, thus death would be a welcome relief:

Can not maintain the pain the rain is welling in your eyes.
Pleasure came back down the drain swallowing the light.
Playing blame insane it’s you that’s done this to your life.
Missing sane tired and drained thoughts of the other side.
Pick me up and bathe me in the light.
Drive it down and bleed me dry.
Take my life I’m ready to die.
Washed away in the low tide.

The band keeps with an oceanic theme on the funereal album closer “Adrift.” The languid track is moody, yet peaceful, with the sound of waves drifting in and out as a somber guitar plays. Like the music, Albrecht’s low, echoed vocals are dirge-like, yet somehow comforting. The music and vocals end at 3:30, and we’re left with sounds of the surf for another 20 seconds, followed by birds singing in a gentle breeze, as if to signify the gradual and peaceful passing away of a life. Morbid, but beautiful at the same time, which fairly well sums up the album.

Morosity is currently working on a third album, and I eagerly look forward to hearing more songs from these exceptionally talented and creative musicians.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store

GUY PAUL THIBAULT – Album Review: “It’s About Time”

It's About Time Album

Listening to the music of Guy Paul Thibault, it would be easy to assume he’s from somewhere like Nashville, Tennessee. In reality the singer/songwriter/guitarist – who plays tremendously satisfying folk music with strong country and rock influences – hails from beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada. An accomplished musician, Guy Paul has written, recorded and produced six albums on his own. He’s also played acoustic, electric, bass and slide guitar, and sang vocals for original acts and cover bands. In June he released a new album It’s About Time, an appropriate title given the span of 17 years since his last solo album.

I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, and It’s About Time is loaded with them. Let me state right here that Guy Paul is an incredible wordsmith. Through poetic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous lyrics, his songs address the oft-covered subjects of life, love and heartbreak, but in ways that reveal the contradictory facets of good and evil inherent in each of us. Furthermore, these colorful stories are delivered with his sublime vocals and accompanied by some pretty nifty acoustic and electric guitar. I usually like to highlight a few song lyrics in my reviews, but in this case I’ll be featuring quite a lot of them.

Guy Paul Thibault

Here She Comes” kicks off the album with a pleasing country-rock rhythm. Guy Paul instantly hooks us in with his laid back vocal delivery and nimble acoustic guitar. Gentle percussion sets the beat and the sweet violin in the bridge is a nice touch.

One of the best ‘story’ tracks is “Misdemeanor,” a catchy, guitar-driven and wry tune about an older woman who’s still got it, and always out looking for a good time:

Takes the complications with a delicate smile
Avoids one night affairs, well she has for a while
That’s what she says
Well, hello boys is her natural style
Moves on her prey like a cat in the wild

With a closer look, well she’s showing her age
But she’s still got her wit and she’s still got those legs
Ahh those legs

Guy Paul turns serious with “Hills,” a compelling song about people living a hardscrabble existence in rural America who’ve endured more than their fair share of military service and the consequential casualties, PTSD and societal breakdown:

You can hide a body forever in these hills
A thousand square miles and a hundred little stills
They took us from our homes and taught us how to fight
Now justice comes in the middle of the night
Now terror comes in the middle of the night

He strums his guitar with a forcefulness to match the searing lyrics, backed by an assertive military drumbeat and mournful harmonica. The generous use of electric guitar and bass also lend greater impact to the track.

The poignant “Tallest Man on Earth” addresses the realization that the father you once idolized, thinking you wanted to be like him, wasn’t so high in stature after all:

When I was just a young man, trying not to fall
The only thing that seemed to matter was growing up and being tall
Growing tall brings great things, like seeing past the trees
You can’t hear the whispers, your head up in the breeze
He seemed the tallest man on earth

His heart died alone they say, running against the wall
He never could comprehend life wasn’t about being tall
He seemed the tallest man on earth
The smallest man on earth

Another powerful and standout track is “We Just Don’t Care,” a hard-hitting country-rock anthem that speaks to the apathy and sense of futility caused by feelings of betrayal by society and our government. Those sentiments are expressed by an attitude of entitlement – ‘I want what’s owed to me, and to hell with everyone else’:

Sacrifice is such a lonely word
There’s not much left in this world
We’re all trying the best we can
Can’t see the beach for the grains of sand
Belief is just a long-lost dream
Slowly fades from what I’ve seen
Lack faith in our fellow man
Lost in time a simple slight of hand
This is how we are now
And we just don’t care

Guy Paul shows us his rocker side on “Saving Grace,” a rousing song with a driving beat and lots of terrific electric and rhythm guitar riffs. One of my favorite tracks is “Saturday Night,” a catchy and breezy country song about hooking up with strangers to avoid being lonely. The lyrics are rather bittersweet until he lightens things up at the end:

It’s alright, I still got my friends
That’s what I’m talkin’ about
Hey wait a minute, is that another bottle over there?
Same time next week?

Stay (For Riley)” is a lovely but wistful ballad about saying goodbye to a loved one – or a pet perhaps? “You were my best friend, chased all of my fears. Now you live in every tear. Stay.”  Guy Paul serves up jangly guitar riffs on “If I Had,” a really nice folk tune about dreaming of enjoying life by hitting the road in his car with a girl and guitar. Wrapping up the album is the sorrowful “How Far Could I Fall.” The country song speaks of hitting bottom after his girl left him and he sought comfort with booze and drugs.

It’s About Time is well worth the wait of 17 years, as it’s superb on every level. In addition to Guy Paul’s impressive songwriting and musicianship, he was assisted on the album by the musical talents of David Bradshaw and Shawn Cherry.

Connect with Guy:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Google Play

Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

NOREiKA – EP Review: “BoXaRoX”

NOREiKA is Peter Noreika, a singer/songwriter from rural western New York state, near Buffalo. He started out his music career as a guitarist for a few heavy metal bands, but eventually quit the business to become gainfully employed, get married and start a family. As is often the case, however, Noreika never lost the music bug, and after his young son one day asked him why he couldn’t stay home and play with him, he decided to make a change and get back to doing what he loved, which was writing songs and playing music. And though he still had a fondness for metal rock, his sensibilities now leaned more toward acoustic and folk rock.

Peter Noreika

Noreika released his debut EP METACOUSTiFOLK in 2015, and followed up a year later with Throw the Switch to Begin, which I reviewed almost exactly one year ago – and you can read here.  Now he returns with his third EP BoXaRoXwhich dropped today, August 25. Departing from the fuller sound of his previous EPs, he strips down the music to the bare essentials of just guitar and vocals. When I asked about the unusual EP title BoXaRoX, Noreika explained that it was a possible band name he’d once considered years ago. When trying to come up with a name for the new EP, he remembered BoXaRoX and decided it was the perfect name for his mascot – a “beer-drinking, guitar-playing pterodactyl” – that he was using for his EP cover art. I think the cover art and title are both perfect!

a3652527527_16

The first thing that strikes you about Noreika’s music is the fullness of the sound, given that it consists of only an acoustic guitar and his urgent vocals. This is immediately apparent with the opening track “Who’s Right.” He strums his guitar with an assertiveness that matches his powerful vocal delivery of lyrics about finding truth through honest communication:

I’m right, you’re right, Everybody come along 
Talk it on over and we’ll find out who is wrong 
I’m wrong, you’re wrong, Everybody sing this song 
Talk it on over and we’ll find out who is right.

What Makes You Smile” is a positive, uplifting track about recognizing the little things that can bring joy and make life worth living – like a box of puppies and kittens.

Find your reason to give. You will see its the way to live 
There is a brighter side. Keep it up and you’ll hit your stride 
Think of things that warm your soul 
Puts a smile on your face and makes you whole 
Like a box, a box of puppies and kittens. 

Noreika makes an emotional plea for love and acceptance on the hard-hitting “Notice Me.” His fervent vocals are pretty intense on this track, as is his guitar playing.

Why don’t you notice me. Am I so hard to see 
Why don’t you notice me. I fade to black and disappear 
I’ve got so much to say to you. Believe me when I tell you that its all true 
Look in my eyes read between my lines. All of my love is for you.

The catchy “Shwoop Dibby Dibby” is a lighthearted ode to a loved one, in which he employs crazy words to describe the depths of his feelings for her:

Love comes round that’s more than real.
When I can’t define, or think of the line, I speak from the heart.
The silly words that I say, mean the world to me in every way 

Shwoop dibby dibby whoop baloo, Shmluega Magluega means I love you.

The nimble guitar riff on this track is terrific. In fact, Noreika’s guitar work on every track is outstanding, making his music a real pleasure to hear. So give this EP a listen and see for yourself!

Connect with Peter:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

TONI SIDGWICK – EP Review: “Lions”

Toni Sidgwick is an indie singer-songwriter based in County Durham in northeast England. She was born and raised in the remote Shetland Islands northeast of the Scottish mainland, and began her musical journey by busking on the streets of Edinburgh. Her unique style of folk/pop draws from influences by artists such as Ben Howard, London Grammar and Bruce Springsteen. And like those artists, her lyrics are often deeply personal and introspective, speaking to the complexities of life, relationships and her place in this world.

Toni released her debut EP Lions in June, having worked with the brilliant young producer, Lauren Deakin-Davies, and I have the pleasure of reviewing it. Delicate strums of her acoustic guitar introduce the first track “Carry My Heart,” a gentle, lovely ballad in which Toni acknowledges her independence, but also desire for a romantic connection: “I can carry my life, I’ve been doing it for some time. I can carry my life, will you carry my heart. Her vocals are understated and soft, yet reveal a quiet intensity that makes the lyrics feel all the more powerful.

Toni ramps things up a notch on “Only One Way,” a lively track about being honest and true to your feelings toward another. Toni’s vocals are clear and confident as she emphatically sings: “And I gotta stay true to me. And I gotta stay true to you. There’s only one way, only one way, only one way…that I can be.” I love the fast-paced jangly guitars and toe-tapping percussion. Just like the lyric “it makes me happy,” this song makes me happy and is my favorite on the EP.

Dance” is a beautiful, tender ballad with acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and a beguiling harmonica riff. With heartfelt emotion, Toni sings “Oh dance with me. Don’t you dare stop moving our two left feet. Slow dance, dance. We’ll go higher and higher than we dare to chance.” The title track “Lions” is a peppy little number with plucky guitars, crisp snare drum and just a hint of bass. Toni sings of drawing on one’s inner strength to make it through this crazy world: “We are lions, we gotta roar.

The folk-rock song “Be Anything” speaks to holding on to another’s love and support that enable you to be a better person: “You pull me closer. And in your heart, I can be anything.” A combination of strummed acoustic guitar, a sturdy bass line, and light percussion make for an intensely satisfying track. In fact, all five songs on Lions are intensely satisfying, and it’s clear that Toni poured her heart and soul into its creation. It’s a debut effort she can be proud of.

Connect with Toni:  WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes

YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – Album Review: “As We Watch the Years Go…”

Cleveland, Ohio band You’re Among Friends wants their fans – and everyone else for that matter – to feel welcome and comfortable when hearing their music or watching them perform. Comprised of Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and Chris Szuch (drums), You’re Among Friends play a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good while being entertained.

You're Among Friends

You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when Anthony and Kevin, who’d both played in another band, rechristened it with the new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire, all of which had been written by Anthony. When I asked him about how they came up with their band name, he explained:

Kevin was the one who first suggested ‘You’re Among Friends’ while we were kicking around some ideas for a band name.  Around the time we started playing together, Kevin had a roommate who played guitar in a band called ‘Wisconsin.’  At one point, [the state of] Wisconsin was using ‘You’re Among Friends’ as a tourism slogan on their bumper stickers and stuff.  So I guess Kevin’s initial idea for our band name was meant to be a subtle nod to his roommate’s band, but I think it was us wanting to be welcoming to listeners and fans that ultimately won me over.

The band’s had five drummers over the past ten years, and Anthony and Kevin have been through many life changes during that time period as well.  Anthony described the bonds that have kept them together as a band:

“Kevin and I have been through a lot together over the years.  We’ve watched each other get married, start careers, buy houses, have children, etc.  Sadly, we also both had younger brothers who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  Over the decade that this band has been around, Kevin and I have gone from being carefree kids in our early twenties to being in our thirties with all sorts of adult concerns, regrets and responsibilities.  Oddly enough, we seem more committed than ever to our friendship and making this band work.

Our outlook on playing in this band has changed drastically over the years.  We used to take a lot of things very seriously and get all bent out of shape when things didn’t work out exactly the way we planned it.  We’ve learned to take it easy and go with the flow, especially when the situation at hand is out of our control.  We appreciate all of the opportunities that come our way to be able to share our music with people.  We also just thoroughly enjoy playing together.  Some groups of guys go bowling or go to ball games together. We go out, drink a few beers and play our songs for people.  This isn’t a bad way to hang out with your friends if you can pull it off.  Sometimes we even get paid for it!”

Based on the kindness and gratitude Anthony has shown me in our conversations by email, I would definitely like to hang out with him and the band over a few beers.

You’re Among Friends released their debut self-titled album in 2007, a solid effort featuring 11 songs. They followed a year later with a six-track EP In Due Time, then dropped a double-sided single Enjoy Life & Half a Thought in 2010.  You can check out these earlier releases on Spotify or Bandcamp.  The band took a hiatus in the early 2010s and didn’t play for four years. As Doran explained to Scene Magazine: “There wasn’t a falling out; it just happened. We started to have kids and had a lot going on at that time.”

Kevin & Anthony

Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on a new album As We Watch the Years Go…  Seven of the ten songs on the album had previously been written by Anthony and three – “A Way to Get Away,” “Calling Anyone” and “Dreaming of the Past” – were co-written by Anthony and Kevin. As evidenced by its title, the album explores life and the passage of time, and how it’s affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Anthony stated that “being able to record those songs for this album in 2016 seemed like we were finally wrapping up unfinished business.” The album’s cover – a photo of a baseball field – is a tribute to their brothers, who both liked the sport, and the album is dedicated to them.

As We Watch the Years Go… was released at the end of July 2016. The band’s previous drummer Adrian Higgins played drums on all the album tracks. Chris Szuch joined the band as the new drummer in July 2016, just in time to play his first show at the band’s CD release party.  The band’s music features nimble guitar riffs, anchored by sturdy bass lines and just the right amount of percussion to keep everything moving along smoothly. I hear touches of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and The Grateful Dead in their sound, and Anthony’s vocals really channel Randy Newman at times.

The album kicks off with “Years Go,” which serves as the title track and really sets the tone for the album. Lively guitar riffs, accompanied by a bluesy bass line and gentle percussion, make for a mellow rock and roll song. The lyrics are upbeat yet nostalgic, addressing the inevitable passage of time that seems to move ever faster as we age:  “Remember when we were younger, and the summer seemed to last for years. Now the years are passing, summer moves so fast now. All those days disappear. June turns into July, July turns into August. Soon there is the fall, as pumpkins go to harvest. Then comes the snow, where did the year go? Now I’m an age I never thought I would be. It’s not so bad growing older, because you’re here with me.

Kevin’s funky bass has a starring role on “Any Day Now,” a song about staying optimistic in the face of life’s adversities, both big and small. Anthony lays down some tasty riffs on this track. Being an irresponsible, immature screw-up is the theme of “Building Bridges to Burn,” while “Dumb Complaints” is an honest admission of a chronic whiner (a song I can identify with, being a whiny-ass complainer myself). Anthony plaintively sings: “I can hear you loud and clear babe, you’re sick of all my complaints./ I complain no matter what’s going on. Reach for the moment, and it’s gone. ‘Cause I wasted it on dumb complaints.

One of my favorite tracks is the funky “A Way to Get Away,” an ode to the preference for personal freedom rather than romantic entanglements. “Sneak attack, you’re trying to back me against the wall. You got me under siege, but you’ll never get to watch me fall./ I need a way to get away. I’m looking for a way to get away.’ The terrific distorted guitar solo at the end of the song is pure ear candy.

The guys play the blues on “Sour Grapes,” with some nifty Southern blues-rock guitar riffs over Kevin’s buzzing bass line. And the intricate, layered guitar work on “Calling Anyone” is awesome.

Another of my favorite tracks is “Dreaming of the Past,” a melodic ballad that’s a bit of a departure in sound for the guys. The song begins with lovely synth chords that continue throughout the song, overlain by Anthony’s skillful handling of his guitar, proving without a doubt that he’s quite the axeman.

The album closer “Rope” speaks to ridding your life of toxic people who’ve used you and brought you down.  “Give them enough rope, maybe they’ll hang themselves. You won’t have to blame yourself anymore. Don’t make another excuse for the way you’ve been used, by all of your so-called friends.” I really like the jangly strummed guitars on this track. But then, I love the guitar and bass on all their songs!

As We Watch the Years Go… is a fun and mellow album that makes you think a little bit about life in all its craziness as you’re enjoying the music.

Follow You’re Among Friends: Website/Blog /  Facebook /  Twitter

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Napster /  Google Play /  YouTube

Purhase it:   Bandcamp /  iTunes /  Amazon

Featured Song: JODY WHITESIDES – “Rise Up”

Jody Whitesides is a seasoned singer/songwriter who’s been making music for 20 years. We’ve followed one another on Twitter for quite some time, but I somehow missed that he’d released a powerful new protest song “Rise Up” on January 20, 2017 – the day Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States. Being a music blogger, I rarely make my political opinions known on this platform, however, I continue to be horrified on a daily basis that a cruel, narcissistic sociopath is our President, so Jody’s song resonated strongly with me. Plus, it’s a pretty good pop-rock tune from a musical standpoint.

Jody Whitesides

On his website, Jody eloquently explains his inspiration for “Rise Up”:

You might ask yourself why did I release it on Inauguration Day? Its a great question that has a real live answer.  I felt it my duty to call out the fact that the country has elected the wrong person. A person who claims to be for the “little” guy, but in reality is solely out for himself and his family. If there is one thing that I hope to achieve, it is to have people Rise Up against going backwards in this country. My desire is to see people gather and protest. To demonstrate. To call out the elected leaders to start doing their jobs rather than creating chaos.

Regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Tea party, whomever – you can put this song to use. In fact, I’d love to see you putting it into action. Share your photos and videos, of your using it for protest, with me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be happy to RT or share the love. Go forth and make use of your freedom, before you lose more of it. Enjoy it, sing it, share it!”

Song Lyrics:

Things took a turn ’bout an hour ago
We lost another freedom don’t you know
Is this what you meant – ignore evidence
Now we watch truth lay down to arrogance

No one will admit our elected leadership
Went an’ made everything such a mess
Has the land of the free
Forgot the home of the brave
And become scared to

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Take a look around what do you see
A snipe hunt being led by Wall Street Freaks
We know what you heard – all of the applause
That circus came to sell off all our laws

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Deregulation bad legislation
Corporations shouldn’t be diplomatic engines
Lightning rods for maneuvering fraud
Paint their path to heaven then act like gods
Moral turpitude conflicting attitudes
Clandestine video shows us who is lewd
Our education ain’t evil invention
Its a key to learning a needed lesson

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Jody W performing

Here’s a bit of background on Jody’s extensive music career:

Born and raised in New York, Jody initially studied at Boston’s Berklee College, then went on to the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. He now calls Park City, Utah home. He humorously refers to his sound as “A Funky Audio Lap Dance For Your Ears.” His considerable music output has been extremely eclectic, which is especially appealing for me, the EclecticMusicLover! At various points in his long career he’s recorded rock, folk, pop, psychedelic, funk and dance songs, handling all those genres quite well, actually.

His first album release was with his band AMALGAM in 1998, then he released a terrific rock/psychedelic/funk-infused solo album E.nergy A.udio R.evolution in 2000, followed by the folk rock-oriented Is This Considered Naked (love that title!) I recommend my readers take the time to check them out, as well as his later albums Initial Spank, A Natural Leap Forward and Practical Insanity. In 2010, he recorded a sports anthem “Do You Want to Play,” along with remixes of the song for every NFL, MLB, NHL and WNBA team! More recently, prior to recording “Rise Up,” Jody recorded the fun psychedelia/hip hop-tinged dance single “Touch” in 2015, and the soulful dance-pop single “Thump Thump Thump” in 2016.

To learn more about Jody, check out his website.
Connect with him:  Facebook / Twitter /  Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

Interview & Album Review: THE PUSS PUSS BAND – “Echoes Across the Cruel Sea”

Although I call myself “Eclectic Music Lover”, frequent readers of my blog know I’m particularly fond of alternative and hard rock. That being said, I truly appreciate great music in any genre or form, and every now and then an artist or band comes along whose music deeply touches me. Such is the feeling I get when listening to The Puss Puss Band. Their jazz and folk-infused pop rock sound envelops me like a warm blanket, transporting me to a place where all is good with the world – and wouldn’t that be a nice place to land! As I stated in a review of their self-titled EP last November on this blog (which you can read here), “their easy-going instrumentals and smooth vocals make for an incredibly pleasing listening experience – sort of a Style Council meets England Dan & John Ford Coley with just a touch of Dan Fogelberg.”

Hailing from Wales, The Puss Puss Band consists of multi instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh. Both have worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and the Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals. Now, with significant contribution from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys have produced their first full-length album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, which dropped on April 10. It’s a collection of 12 gorgeous tracks that range from dreamy ballads to catchy, upbeat songs.

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Before launching into my review of the Echoes Across the Cruel Sea, I asked the band some questions about how they came to be, as well as their inspiration for the album. Lee graciously provided these responses:

1.  First off, how and when did you both meet and decide to collaborate?

We met studying sound engineering & production about thirteen years ago, and have worked together ever since with our own bands and as session musicians.

2.  What’s the origin of your name “The Puss Puss Band”?

When we first started planning this album it was purely intended as a studio project. We’d meet a few times a week at Asa’s to run through ideas and songs, and his cat would sit on a stool and just watch us play. It dawned on us after a few months of this that we were essentially a ‘house band’….for an audience of one cat. Her nickname was Puss Puss.

3.  Do you both share songwriting duties on both lyrics and music?

Yes. We share lyric/song duties and bounce them between us. Sometimes the lyrics come from one of us fully formed, but often we’ll fettle those a little between us, then trial a quick scratch demo to work through the arrangement, and once we’re happy we fire up the mic’s and amps and start passing instruments back and forth. We’ll often capture an essentially live stripped down performance, then we build up from there. “Thinking Of You” is a good example of that. We recorded the acoustic guitar, piano and vocal live in one or two takes, and then the rest of the track was completed with a few over dubbed guitars.

4.  Is there a back story regarding the album title Echoes Across the Cruel Sea? It’s a lovely album, and most of the songs on the album are really pleasing, Are they meant to stand in contrast with the word “cruel” in the album title, almost like an antidote to cruelty in the world?

The album is intended as an upfront honest journal of the last ten years of our personal lives. There’s no artistic license being used in the lyrics…we set out to be fearless and honest in that regard. It’s essentially a sneaky concept album although we resisted the urge to make the songs flow too obviously from one to the next. The “cruel sea” represents life, love and all it’s uncertainty and the songs themselves are the echoes of our thoughts, feelings and reflections over that period of our lives.

We set out to be as transparent and laid bare as we could make it, lyrically, musically and production wise….no studio trickery, no bullshit, no ego talk, just an honest account of our lives which we hope we’ve managed to present in a somewhat universal manner which anyone hopefully can relate to in some capacity?

5.  How did John Rabbit Bundrick come to collaborate with you on the album? Were you specifically looking for someone else to provide music input?

Asa is a massive The Who fan and heard that Rabbit was back doing session work after finishing with The Who a few years ago. We sent “Feline Fine” over to see if he’d be interested. Rabbit said he loved the track and was more than happy to play in it…and without fee which was incredibly generous given his insanely huge CV and standing in the industry. We mixed it and sent it over to him, and he asked to hear some other tracks from the album. He said he was really digging what we were doing so his joining us for the rest of the album just took off from there.

We were adamant after years of working with others and all the creative compromise that comes with that, that this album was only going to be the two of us so we could maintain and hopefully achieve our shared vision of what this album would be. But the chance to work with a session musician of Rabbit’s calibre made it a no-brainer obviously.  His piano work is beautiful and his mastery of the Hammond organ is pretty much unparalleled by anyone else. Rabbit contributed something very special that we couldn’t provide ourselves and is so humble, professional and generous that it wasn’t just a thrill but a pleasure and privilege throughout.

6.  Do you guys have plans to do more live performances or even tour a bit?

Yes, hopefully we’ll start putting together a hand-picked session backline later this year from our contacts, and look at taking the album out. This was intended purely as a studio album, but the response we’ve had the last few months kind of makes it inevitable that we will once again take to the road in the very near future.

7.  If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be? 

Lee: David Bowie/Burt Bacharach
Asa: Brian Wilson/Roger Waters

Rabbit has already played with almost everyone already! If you haven’t seen his discography you should check it out…it is mind blowing how much he has contributed to music in the last 40 odd years!!

8.  Perhaps a bit premature to ask, given you’ve just released a new album, but any plans for more music in the future?

Not premature at all 🙂 We’ve already started writing the second album and Rabbit is on board to join us again. Don’t want to give too much away too soon but the theme for that album and it’s content are already taking shape. All we’ll say is the first album was more introverted and personal. In the next one we’d like to reach out a bit more to touch on the state of the world we all find ourselves in right now, and the growing distance between us all as we try to make sense of the world we are struggling to maintain our roles in it, and try to hold a mirror up to that rather than just preach about it.

9. Anything additional you’d like people to know about Puss Puss Band. or things I neglected to touch on?

We are just two fiercely and proudly independent musicians. We’ve pretty much now achieved our goal of becoming creatively self sufficient. We write, arrange, perform, engineer, produce, mix, master everything ourselves from our very very modest and basic studio. We’ve thrown the rule book out production-wise, and harked back to the old fashioned recording approach to create ‘our sound.’ I guess we just hope that people respond to that and hopefully hear something in it that you don’t get from modern production, with all it’s close, dry, sterile mic’ing, separation and heavy compression throughout. But above all else I guess we just hope that people find something in our music they can relate to and enjoy because that means more to us than anything else.

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OK, so let’s dig into the album. First off, as I alluded to earlier, Echoes Across the Sea is gorgeous, overflowing with lush soundscapes of multi-textured instrumentation and smooth harmonizing vocals. The songs deal mostly with the vagaries of love and relationships. The terrific “Bucko’s Lullaby” kicks things off, setting the tone for the entire album. We’re greeted by gentle xylophone before layers of guitar, percussion, organ and beautiful strings enter the proceedings. With a hint of sadness in his seductive voice, Lee sings to a loved one who’s slipping away emotionally: “Something in that smile says you’ve changed. Those big brown eyes look further away. What happens when love goes lame? You screw it all up and start over again. You box it all up and you throw it away.

Next up is “Alone,” an upbeat track which was originally featured on their previous EP, but gets revisited on this album. As I’d mentioned on the EP review, this song has a discernible Style Council vibe. It’s a great song, with some really fine guitar and piano. Things turn mellow on the lovely “Fall Back Down.” Lee’s vocals are so seductive on this track (and many others) they could lure a turtle out of its shell! The guys rock out a bit on “Cliff Song,” which features some tasty guitar riffage.

The remainder of the album stays on the mellower side, starting with the moving track “Inwake.” To a gentle guitar riff, Lee sings: “Can we help it, this changing season, or are you just like me? The things that we feel seem less than real, like faded memories. The twilight hours keep you safe and warm as I creep out of the room. In the blink of an eye to you and to I, every wave between you and me, the change we feel, just echoes across the cruel sea.”

The beguiling “Beeswax” is a standout track, with marvelous instrumentals featuring chiming synths, Rabbit’s lovely piano and organ, and the guys’ deft guitar work. Lee’s vocals are utterly sublime, as they also are on the enchanting tracks “Say it First,” “Thinking of You” and “Feline Fine” – the latter of which is probably my favorite of all their songs. It was also included on their debut EP, but this new version features beautiful piano work by Rabbit, which makes the already great tune sound even better. And no pun intended – well, just a little – Lee purrs “You got me working double time, you got me clocking overtime, you got me feline fine. And I know I can’t show you the things that I see, but sometimes I wish I could. Because you got something that makes me feel glad at night. And you got everything because you know you’re right.”

The tracks “End of June” and “Perfect World” have a pleasant folk-rock feel with lovely strummed guitar, set to a languid beat, though “End of June” has the added bonus of some spiffy electric guitar. The album ends on a bittersweet note with “Not Just You,” a compelling ballad that speaks to the despair of living in a depressed industrial town, with little hope of things getting better. “No one talks, your mom’s depressed, your dad went empty in his chest. There’s nothing left. And everybody wants to be anywhere else it seems. Not just you.

Echoes Across the Cruel Sea is a well-crafted album, with outstanding production values. The Puss Puss Band’s lyrics, music and vocals are all stellar, making this an album I can listen to on repeat – which I have done!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band: Facebook /  Twitter

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify

Purchase it:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

Featured Song and Video: Don DiLego – “Idiot Heart”

Listening to the music of singer/songwriter Don DiLego, one would never guess he is based in New York City. He plays an arresting style of Alt-Country music that combines his favorite aspects of the country music of old with 80’s indie-pop influences, giving him a sound that seems more rooted in Nashville or Oklahoma. Though he was born and raised in rural Western Massachusetts and spent his early adulthood in Boston, DiLego ended up settling in the Big Apple, where he established his Velvet Elk Studio in the East Village.

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He released his first album The Lonestar Hitchhiker in 2001 and subsequently recorded three more albums at his Velvet Elk Studio, plus the soundtrack for the film Ranchero in 2012. His albums are self-produced, and recorded with musicians that have formed the core of his band The Touristas over the last couple records. He dropped his appropriately-named album Magnificent Ram A in July 2016, a collection of 10 excellent tracks that really showcase his songwriting and musical talents. In December, he released the beguiling single “Idiot Heart.”

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The song is a gentle but melancholy ballad about falling for someone and wanting to do right by them, but knowing it won’t be easy given past transgressions. DiLego’s beautiful vocals convey a heartfelt sincerity, making the lyrics all the more compelling. Musically, the song features a somber piano riff and delicate percussion, backed by smooth synths and ambient guitars that give the song a somewhat haunting, ethereal vibe.

I’ve been waiting for some time
For the sidewalks to come alive
I’ve had good days and sleepless nights
Cause you and me got lost in time

I was praying for a sign
For the tides to begin to unwind
I was splayed out among the pines
When you and me got lost in time

I’ve been trying to change my life
I’ve been trying to do what’s right
But my idiot heart won’t oblige
But I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try

Oh wake me up
Lay me down

The gorgeous video for the song shows a young woman in a contemplative mood before joining her boyfriend for the day, having lunch together, then walking through the forest alone wearing his raincoat, and ending up lying face up in a snowy meadow.

Here’s a great video worth watching of DiLego and his musicians performing songs for Magnificent Ram A at Velvet Elk Studio.

Learn more about Don by checking out his website.  Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his YouTube channel.  Stream his music and follow him on Spotify, and purchase his music on iTunesBandcamp and other sites offering music for purchase.

Single Review: BEN WRIGHT – “Starry Nights”

Ben Wright is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Manchester, UK (a city with a vibrant music scene, from which have come a few bands I’ve previously featured on this blog). In his bio, Ben states that he writes acoustic folk/pop music that’s influenced by blues, reggae and rock. He released a wonderful debut single “Starry Nights” in October, along with a beautifully-filmed video. He said he was inspired to write the song “whilst travelling and sleeping in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.”

The poetic lyrics describe the simple beauty of a starry night in the rural countryside, unblemished by the artificiality or pretense of urban life. “Looking down from high above, they’re flickering til the day is born. No artificial beams can reach the sky. No piercing sounds will break the night. Starry nights relive your innocence. There’s no delusions and no hollow men.”

Musically, the song has a lovely melody, with a pleasing acoustic rhythm guitar riff overlying gentle percussion and bass.  Ben’s soothing vocals perfectly fit the music, conveying a tranquil sense that everything’s alright with the world – a feeling that’s sorely needed at the moment. The gorgeous video, which shows Ben walking and/or performing the song by a lake, nicely complements the track.

Support Ben by following him on Twitter and Facebook. Ben also teaches guitar lessons on his YouTube channel, which you can check out here.  Stream the song on Spotify, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.

EP Review: HAIL TAXI – “Apart For So Long”

A recent submission to my email inbox introduced me to a new EP release by a singer/songwriter from Alberta, Canada who goes by the unusual artistic name Hail Taxi. Intrigued, I checked out the artist and his music and was pleasantly surprised. Born Nathaniel Sutton, Hail Taxi plays indie folk-rock with touches of alt-country and pop, and occasionally meanders into electronica, giving his music a unique sound and style that sets him apart.

Sutton recorded a debut album Dramatic Scene in 2005, as well as a follow-up self-titled album, for Engineer Records under his given name. Both albums were worthy efforts with some pretty good songs (I especially like “Zombies Are Everywhere” and “Worldwide Catastrophe”) . After a five-year-long hiatus, Sutton decided to resume his solo music career under a totally new moniker Hail Taxi. He told me he “chose the name because it is intriguing on how it can be taken a couple different ways: 1. Hail Taxi – when people flag down a taxi for a ride. 2. Hail Taxi – all hail the taxi, salute the taxi!  I’ll leave it to the listener to decide on how the name should be interpreted.

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It makes perfect sense, then, that he would name his new EP Apart For So Long. The 5-track offering sounds more polished than his previous work, while still retaining his honest, straightforward folk-rock style. The first track is “Crystal Clear,” a catchy song about overcoming a painful break-up. The song has a wonderful acoustic guitar riff that contrasts with the darker lyrics: “I see you in my dreams, I see you in my mirror. I see you crystal clear, I see you in my pictures. I don’t know why but it’s so hard to move on.” Sutton sings the song in almost a monotone, at times whispering the lyrics, giving the song a haunting, ethereal vibe that perfectly fits the subject. The clever video uses some great footage from silent films, and the song on the video version starts off sounding like an old 78 being played on a Victrola.

Sutton’s signature plucky acoustic guitar and light percussion are nicely employed on the tracks “Northbound” and “We are Not Doomed…Yet.”  On “Northbound,” the gentle riff is accented by some scraping sound effects in the middle of the song, perhaps to convey the sense of traveling, and smooth electric guitar is introduced halfway through, adding complexity to the track. Sutton’s pleasing vocals reveal a vulnerability as he sings about telling his love interest how he feels: “Shaky hands, keep ’em steady. With a rose I’m standing. Come on hands, stop shaking. / You’re always in my thoughts, now I’ve been love shy. I like you a lot. / I’m glad we’ve got each other.

The poetic lyrics on “We Are Not Doomed…Yet” speak to reconnecting with a lost love that he’d hurt, and now wanting to start over and give it another go: “And I looked into your eyes, and you looked into mine. That’s when I knew we are not doomed…yet.  And now that you are on my side, I never want to say goodbye. We were apart for so long.

The EP contains two beautiful instrumental tracks. “Mount Robson” consists primarily of acoustic guitar, gentle drum and violin. The song is basically a simple repeating melody, but the haunting guitar riff is so compelling that the song feels more intense. The gorgeous, synth-heavy “An Untitled Ending,” has a very different sound from the other songs on the EP. I’m a sucker for lush synthesized sounds, and this song has them in spades. Some really excellent guitar work adds a dramatic flourish to the atmospheric track.

All in all, Apart For So Long is a well-crafted EP that makes for a pleasant listening experience. If you like what you hear, support Hail Taxi by following him on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribing to his YouTube channel. The EP, which drops today, November 4, can be purchased on iTunes, Bandcamp or other sites offering music for sale. You can also stream Sutton’s earlier music on Spotify here.