JOHN PAGANO BAND – Album Review: “One More Round”

One More Round Cover

Though I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the requests I get from artists and bands wanting me to review or feature their music on this blog, it’s always a treat discovering loads of great new music. Such was the case when I was contacted by Tony Hossri, bassist for The John Pagano Band, about their new album One More Round. The album dropped August 1, and I love it! Every single track is fantastic, and I’ve had it on replay the last several days.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, The John Pagano Band consists of front man John Pagano on guitar and lead vocals, Tony Hossri on bass and backing vocals, and Shiloh Bloodworth on drums. All are accomplished musicians who excel at playing an exciting blues-infused style of rock that’s soulful, seductive and addictive.

First a bit of background on the band. Pagano, originally from New York, formed a band JPBlues in 2008 while still in his teens, along with bassist John Young and drummer Pat Adkins. They recorded two albums Die Happy and I Will Not Go Quietly. In 2011, John left New York for Georgia, where he met Bloodworth, and in 2013 they were hired to back Australian artist Anni Piper on her first US tour. They reformed JPBlues, and set out to record their first album Make Room at the Table, but had problems finding a compatible bassist until Hossri came to the rescue. He proved to be a perfect fit for the band, and their lineup was now complete. They finished the album, and set out on a tour of the East Coast. In 2015, they released Live at Darwin’s.

More recently, wanting to expand their sound, they changed their name from JPBlues to The John Pagano Band. In an interview with Making a Scene!, which you can read here, Pagano said the new band name “better reflects our music and direction, and does not restrict us to a single genre fan base.” One More Round represents that new direction, which retains their signature blues roots while incorporating more rock’n’roll, pop and even a bit of funk into the mix.

John Pagano Band performing
Photo by Michael Valentine

OK, let’s dive into One More Round and see what’s so great about it. The guys get right down to business with the rousing “Bottoms Up,” an infectious country-rock song about just saying ‘fuck it all’ to your problems and going out, getting drunk and having fun with friends who have your back.

Been a long day. Keep my mind awake
But I’m going out now, gonna lose this frown
I’m gonna get drunk somehow
Gonna visit my friends, call them Jack and Jim
Well they listen real good when I’m in a bad mood
And make me forget what I knew
And bottoms up, I ain’t hit the floor
Fill ‘er up, I want more, more, more

The official video they made for “Bottoms Up” is great, and a lot of fun to watch. I always like seeing a band play their songs, and this video of a terrific Balcony TV live performance of the same song in Atlanta really captures the guys’ energy and charisma. Pagano deftly works his slide guitar, while Hossri – curly hair flying – is a wildman on bass, and Bloodworth drives the powerful beat home with a muscular attack of his drums. How can you not love these guys after seeing this performance?

They turn up the blues on the next several tracks, where their incredible musicianship is on full display. The soulful “Lost In You” features some terrific riffs, and “Trouble in Heels” is pure bliss. This sexy rock’n’roll track aims straight for the hips, leaving you no choice but to get up and dance. Pagano seduces with his lusty vocals, and his guitar solo in the bridge is so damn good. The sultry “Ain’t Mine” is wonderful too. Pagano pleads for relief from a woman he can’t have who’s cast a spell over him: “Baby please, baby please got a hold on me. I said oh no, oh no here comes trouble. Let’s go. You ain’t mine, no no.”

Rise Up” has a bit of a gospel quality, with gritty, bluesy guitars and humming bass. Speaking of which, Hossri injects some funk into his bass on the superb “Ain’t Gonna Lose You,” the first single and one of my favorites from One More Round. With his soulful vocals, Pagano sings about having to leave town, but promising to return to his woman and take her away. “Gonna take you one day away from here. I ain’t gonna lose you yet.” Great guitar work, great vocals, great song.

The guys keep delivering the blues with “99 Problems,” a reworking of an older song from the JPBlues repertoire that was featured on Live at Darwin’s. It’s one of their most popular songs, and it’s clear why because it’s freaking awesome. Nearly six minutes of bluesy rock heaven set to a captivating beat. Pagano’s jaw-dropping guitar work, Hossri’s buzzing bass, and Bloodworth’s nimble percussion are all perfection.

They show their tender side on “On My Mind,” a lovely but bittersweet song about missing someone after a break-up and hoping they’re thinking about you too. The track starts off like a gentle ballad, then gradually builds in emotional intensity, and really showcases Pagano’s incredible vocal abilities.

But don’t get too relaxed, ’cause the guys dial it all the way up with the sexy “Make You Shout.” It’s an exuberant, bluesy foot-stomping gem, with a powerful driving beat that not only makes you shout, it also forces you to get moving. It’s another one of my favorites, and I’d love to see them play this on stage. They keep the high energy flowing with the hard-hitting rock’n’roll tracks “Bad Habit” and “Catch That Train.” The guitar riffs are killer, and the bass and percussion on-point. And, as always, Pagano’s powerful vocals are phenomenal.

The John Pagano Band have created an outstanding, perfectly-crafted album that’s one of the best I’ve heard this year. As I stated at the beginning, every track is superb, with no filler or throw-away songs, making for a really pleasurable listening experience.

Connect with the John Pagano Band: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / SoundcloudReverbnation

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

FOLLOW NO ONE – EP Review: “5”

5 album

The rock band Follow No One is the brainchild of two highly accomplished musicians – singer/songwriter and pianist Rich Hall from Nashville, Tennessee & guitar virtuoso Pedro Murino Almeida, originally 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. Together their music is influenced by such rock 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 – on September 1, delivering five hard-hitting tracks about relationships and the joy, pain and regret they bring. Each song is meticulously crafted, with passionate lyrics, intricate melodies and stellar guitar work – immediately evident in the opening track “Reflection.” Our ears are blessed with four minutes of blazing guitar riffs and thunderous drums galloping across a heavy bass-driven beat. It’s the perfect hard rock song.

Hall’s knack for writing catchy, yet compelling melodies shines on “Guardian Angel.” The track starts off with a jazzy little riff, then layers of heavier guitars are added as the song builds to a crescendo of shredded, wailing and distorted riffs so good they bring goose bumps.

The Greatest Sin” is probably my favorite track, with a gorgeous haunting melody and powerful lyrics about trying to salvage a relationship that’s crumbling due to neglect, and regain the love and passion that existed in the beginning:

Not so very long ago, I was caught up in the web
When lust and love draw the line
Pictures of the days gone by keep running through my head
But babe I guess that I was blind, so blind
It starts out so easy, your will is so strong
Then one day you wake up and your dream is gone
The greatest sin is when we’re not together
The greatest sin is when we’re apart

Musically, the song features jaw-dropping guitar work that runs the gamut from gentle chiming riffs to bombastic wails, and everything in between. And, as with all their songs, the supporting bass, percussion and synths are all in fine form. Hall made a video that does a terrific job of bringing the song’s lyrics to life. Take a look:

Follow No One tugs at the heartstrings on “No Regrets,” a lovely but sorrowful track about being filled with remorse for past mistakes, and wondering if you even have the strength or will to keep on living. Hall’s tender, heartfelt vocals rise with emotion as the song progresses from a gentle ballad to stirring rock anthem. Almeida makes his guitar practically weep in the bridge.

Every night I pray for the same thing
That tomorrow never comes unless there’s changes
I been holding on to a dream that I don’t want to
And I pray to god I don’t have that much time left
Hands won’t stop trembling, cause my eyes can’t see the ending
But it seems so far away, so for now I’ll stay

Last but certainly not least is the title track “5,” a hard-driving beast with more incredible guitar work. I love the opening riff and – oh hell, I love all their riffs! Hall and Almeida are phenomenal musicians, and their debut EP is a work they should both be proud of. I expect – and hope – we’ll be hearing more great music from them.

Connect with Follow No One:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SoundcloudSpotify / Tidal / Google Play /YouTube

Purchase:  iTunesAmazon

Album Review: MUDD – “Look What I Found in Your Mom’s Top Drawer”

MUDD is a young pop-punk rock band from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And by ‘young’ I mean young! The three band members are all just 16 years old and still in high school. They are:  Seth Hunt on lead vocals & guitar, Reilly Clark on bass & backing vocals, and Devin Pierce on drums & backing vocals. And even at their young ages, the guys already have a long history with music. According to their bio, Seth has been playing guitar since he was seven, Reilly started playing bass at the age of ten, and Devin has hit the drums since the age of seven. They formed as the band MUDD in 2014, and released their first full-length self-produced album on Bandcamp this past February.

MUDD

They recently approached me about reviewing their album and, upon seeing its title – Look What I Found In Your Mom’s Top Drawer – I had to say yes! Besides, I was impressed by their earnest belief in themselves, plus the fact they produced their own album and put themselves out there. The album features nine zany tracks that incorporate elements of punk, pop and garage rock into a wild stew of fun and crazy tunes about girls, sex and teenage angst that one would expect from 16-year-olds. The tracks are unmastered, so have a raw, unfinished quality that makes them sound essentially like live recordings, and it’s clear the guys had a blast recording them.

On tracks like “Twitch,” “SOB,” the electronic “Interlude (Not Today TM),” “Going Nowhere Fast” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the guys show off their skills on their respective instruments. Lots of shredded guitars and frantic drumming are on display, making for some real head bangers guaranteed to get the party started and keep the energy flowing at high speed. Their vocals are a bit weak, but I think that’s mostly due to their young age. Their voices haven’t yet fully developed, and will likely improve as they grow, both in age and experience.

Some of their lyrics are hilarious. On “Interlude (Not Today TM),” Seth sings “This unicorn fell upon me, as it raced toward me with its horn, driving it towards my anus. I clenched my anus as I blocked the horn and I said ‘Not today.’ And then, I took out my sword of Avalon once again…” On “Japananoque,” the guys seem to just be fooling around, laying down some frenetic riffs as they sing “The women are fine, the women are fine, the women are fine everywhere.  They are not greasy, they’re very pretty. Japananoque. Suck on my cockque.

The guys can get serious too. “Where Are You” speaks to missing a lost love after a broken relationship. “I toss and turn, thinking about you sleeping in my bed. Old memories return and pictures they burn, except for the evidence of you in my bed. Where are you, and why can’t I see clearly now?”

Track listing:

  1. Twitch
  2. No Looking Back
  3. Where Are You?
  4. SOB
  5. Interlude (Not Today TM)
  6. Punk Rock Chick
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  9. Japananoque

https://mudd3.bandcamp.com/album/look-what-i-found-in-your-moms-top-drawer

MUDD’s songs are only available on Bandcamp at this time, and they don’t yet have any YouTube videos.  They’re currently in the process of recording a new EP with the provocative title No Peeing In The Pool. It should be another head banger! Connect with MUDD on Facebook and stream or download their EP on Bandcamp.

Song Review: RAVENSCROFT – “The Chase”

Orange County, California band Ravenscroft have been thrilling fans for quite some time with their incredibly dynamic hard-hitting rock. Drawing upon influences from some of their favorite rock bands, including Godsmack, Iron Maiden, Shinedown, Metallica, Guns’n’Roses, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Pearl Jam, Audioslave and Deep Purple, among others, Ravenscroft melds 60’s psychedelic/acid rock, 70’s and 80’s metal, and 90’s grunge to create their own melodic alternative metal/hard rock sound. Making all this heavy noise are Ralph Buso (Vocals), Brett ‘Octane’ Gorke (Guitars), Devin Baker (Bass) and Pat Magrath (Drums).

Ravenscroft

The guys just released a fantastic new single “The Chase” and it’s a three and half minute long full-frontal assault of heavy metal power. Gorke lives up to his nickname ‘Octane’, setting fire with blistering, metallic guitar riffs that shred, snarl and distort from start to finish. This man can play guitar! Baker’s thunderous bass adds incredible heft to the track, while Magrath pounds the hell out of his drum kit, the two of them conspiring to blow out the speakers.

With his gritty, impassioned vocals, Buso practically screams the lyrics that speak to not wasting precious time chasing hopeless causes and living a dishonest existence, instead focusing on what’s real and attainable:

Don’t waste your time, fighting life, chasing love. Don’t waste your tears, on the fears, up above./ Don’t Waste your life, telling lies, acting up. Word to the wise, in due time, it catches up.”

The lyric “Look to the light of the rising sun” may be a metaphor, symbolized by the Shogun warrior battle scenes artfully depicted in the fascinating video.

To learn more about Ravenscroft, check out their Website, and connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube /  Pandora /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  iTunes / Amazon

Artist Spotlight: THE ELEGANT DEVILS

Elegant Devils

I’ve been featuring quite a few artists and bands from Canada recently, and The Elegant Devils are the latest. The talented four-piece rock band hails from Ottawa, Ontario and, like many bands, has experienced some personnel changes over time. Their current line-up includes Drew James (lead vocals, guitar), Rob Frank (drums/vocals), Josh West (guitar), & Josh Barkley (bass/vocals). They’re all seasoned musicians with divergent backgrounds, and each of them embrace their unique individual styles while coming together to create some really fine rock music that’s intelligent, powerful and often fun.

The Elegant Devils recorded their debut EP Guilty Pleasure in 2015, followed a year later by a five-track EP Live at Zaphod’s that contained some tracks from Guilty Pleasure along with a few new ones.  Their songs range from hard-driving rock to poignant ballads, and always with deeply compelling lyrics that speak to the complexities of life, love and relationships. These guys write from their own experiences and, as a result, their songs come off all the more personal and heartfelt. In addition, their arrangements, instrumentation and production values are all first-rate.

Their strong musicianship is vividly apparent on all their songs, but especially shines when they really get rocking. On their harder rock tracks “Lie With Me,” “Divebomb” and “Loaded Gun,” they coax some amazingly intricate and formidable riffs from their guitars, while Josh Barkley lays down some heavy thumping bass lines and Rob keeps the pace with his assertive drums and crashing cymbals. Drew’s powerful vocals are always delivered with raw emotion, whether he’s expressing anger, pain or loving devotion.

“Divebomb” in particular is a real head-banger and one of my favorites. The thunderous shredded guitars are scorching hot, and when combined with powerful buzzing bass and pounding drums, nearly succeed in blowing out the speakers. “Loaded Gun” – a rock bombardment packed into a mere two minutes that fully lives up to its title – is also pretty awesome, but then, so are all their songs!

The band shows its softer, more romantic side with the gorgeous love ballad “Amaranthine,” about which the band states “We cracked open the heart of a devil and found a love song – a song written as a message to the person you love most in the world.

In an interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio, Drew explained the origin for Amaranthine:  “[It] is as pure a love song as you can get. It was written as a wedding gift for one of my very best friends. He asked me to perform it at the wedding itself, and they had their first dance to the song. It was written at a time when I had almost given up finding a happy ending for myself. I had just been through a really bad break-up and while I was going through it, I was so happy to see that my friend and his wife were able to find something so…solid. So inspiring. I wrote Amaranthine to tell them how proud I was of them finding love, how scary it must have been for them to commit completely to another person, and to say thank you to them for giving me a reason to still believe in love when I had given up on it myself. Thankfully, the hope they gave me tided me over until I found my own Amaranthine. And so now, every time I sing it, I sing that song as much for her as I do for them.

Take a listen to this beautiful track:

The Elegant Devils are in the process of writing and recording more songs for what will be a full-length album to be released later this year. In the meantime, check out their website, connect with them on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel where you can watch their weekly sessions. Stream their music on Soundcloud,  Reverbnation or  Spotify, and purchase it on iTunes.

EP Review: SHIELDS – “Shields”

Readers of this blog know that I love Rock in all its forms – classic, alternative, old-school rock’n’roll, folk, hard, heavy metal, death metal, etc. And when great rock music (or any genre for that matter) is delivered with a sizable dose of humor, it can make for an especially enjoyable listen. Such is the case with the young rock band Shields. They play high-energy hard rock with strong rock’n’roll overtones, sometimes accompanied by humorous lyrics guaranteed to have you laughing out loud.

All natives of New England but now based in Austin, Texas, the four-piece formed as a band in the Spring of 2016, and consists of the Shields brothers Christian (lead vocals, guitar) and N.V. (drums, vocals), “The Event” (bass, vocals) and Mitch Silva (guitar, vocals). They dropped their self-titled debut EP Shields in late 2016, and it features seven top-notch tracks that run the gamut from upbeat party rock to more serious guitar-heavy tunes and slower, poignant ballads. They’ve been touring and playing lots of gigs since then to promote the EP, and their fun, highly entertaining live performances are attracting a growing base of devoted fans. A fellow blogger, Hope Romine of LIVELIFETHRUMUSIC, saw them live and wrote about how much fun and energetic they are on stage (you can read her post here.)

Shields

The EP kicks off with the head-banger “Hard Up,” a hilarious song about being a loser stuck in a dead-end job paying shit wages, unable to score with the ladies. The music’s great on this track, with some awesome guitar work, but it’s the racy, in-your-face lyrics that really make it:

I’m hard up. I’m broke, no cash means no sex. Who’s gonna bounce on me for a bounced check? Hard up, my friends call me iron man. All tube socks, left hand right hand.

The clever, comical video the guys made for the song is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in a long while. Their sense of humor and playfulness is a joy to watch, and it’s evident they had a lot of fun making it. They’d sure be fun to party with!

The band rocks out with the hard-driving tracks “Same Old Show” and “Classic and Clean,” giving ample proof of their strong musicianship. Christian and Mitch kill it on their guitars, while The Event’s heavy bass and N.V.’s aggressive drums add power and depth to the songs. The lyrics of “Classic and Clean” are a double entendre, giving the impression he’s singing about a girl until you realize it’s his Corvette.

The band shows their more serious, introspective side with the lovely power ballad “Behind a Smile.” The mix of beautifully complex rhythm and electric guitars, weighty bass and crashing cymbals all working in harmony create a deeply compelling tune. The poignant lyrics speak to hiding one’s pain and heartache behind a fake smile. Christian’s vocals are vulnerable and heartfelt as he sings:

Pain in smiles, little white lies, pretending everything’s all right. Close the door, lock the world away. Shutting out the day today. Behind a smile hides a frown./ Behind this smile I’m going insane.

Twisted humor and party vibes come roaring back on “Girlfriend” – “Me and your girlfriend have better sex than you do. He’s doesn’t know that his girlfriend’s a freak. Yes she is! He doesn’t know that she’s kissing me. Yes she is!” and “The Party Song” – “Better not fall asleep at this party, we’ve got Super Glue, we got Sharpies. Better not fall asleep at this party, the things we’ll do to you, we got Super Glue.” But don’t let the crazy lyrics fool you; these guys mean business as they produce some awesome sounds on their respective instruments.

Closing out the EP is the excellent track “Every Time.” The song’s darker than the others, both musically and lyrically. The track begins with a gentle, mysterious guitar riff, soft soaring chorus and an eerie sound like something evil opening up – a Pandora’s box perhaps? – before shredded guitars, heavy buzzing bass and pounding drums take over. With an ominous feel to his vocals, Christian fervently sings: “What’s real and what’s fantasy? Collide while I try to sleep. At night I lie awake, praying for my escape. These shadows dance through my mind, every time I close my eyes.”

This is a well-crafted EP and a very respectable debut from a hard-working and talented young band that I feel have a promising future. To learn more about Shields, check out their website, and follow them on Facebook,  Twitter  and  Instagram.  Their EP is available for purchase on iTunes or Google Play.

Song Review: AGONY IN THE GARDEN – “Falling in Reverse”

Last September, I reviewed the fantastic song “Obsolete” by Dayton, Ohio-based rock metal band Agony In The Garden (which you can read here).  Today – March 10, 2017 – they dropped their wonderful new single “Falling in Reverse.” It’s their first single released under their new label Spectra Music Group. To recap, Agony in the Garden is comprised of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mack Perry, drummer Bobby Milton and guitarist Michael Greer.

agony-in-the-garden

“Falling in Reverse” is a slight departure from the hard-driving rock feel of “Obsolete,” though it still contains a lot of the raw power that is part of the band’s signature music style. A mournful but beautiful strummed guitar riff introduces the track, then light percussion enters the picture, along with Perry’s emotional vocals. The intensity of the instrumentals and Perry’s vocals ramp up 45 seconds in, giving the track a decidedly harder edge before calming down 20 seconds later, only to ramp back up at 1:35. The shredded guitars and heavy, buzzing bass are impressive, giving the track a gritty, yet highly melodic sound. It’s a great single.

As with other Agony songs, this track’s lyrics are deeply compelling. “Falling in Reverse” seems – to me at least – to be about feeling helpless and adrift, searching for truth and meaning in one’s life but not ever quite getting there. “Now we’ve seen this game before and I wonder what it’s for?/This thing called life/Always searching, in reverse.

Connect with Agony in the Garden by checking out their website, and following them on  Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram. Stream their music on Spotify and Google play, and purchase on itunes, Amazon and other online music sites.

Song Review: ADELITAS WAY – “Tell Me”

I have a great respect and fondness for artists and bands who appreciate their fans and make a genuine effort to acknowledge them, even when those bands become famous. One such band is the Las Vegas hard rock collective Adelitas Way. They formed in 2006 and released their debut self-titled album in 2009. Like many bands, they’ve gone through some personnel changes over the years, and the current line-up includes Rick DeJesus, Trevor Stafford, Robert Zakaryan and Andrew Cushing.

adelitas-way

Following on the massive success of their excellent fourth studio album Getaway – which included the awesome hit song “Bad Reputation” (which ranked #69 on my Top 100 Songs of 2016) – the band is now recording their fifth album, planned for release this Spring. They’ve dropped two singles thus far, the topically relevant “Ready For War (Pray For Peace)” and their latest, the beautiful rock anthem”Tell Me.”

The song immediately hooks you in with a pulsating synth beat, accentuated by hard-driving percussion and crunchy guitar riffs. With his signature power vocals, DeJesus emotionally pleads: “Tell me what you love, is it sunlight? Tell me what you feel, is it all right? / Tell me what you want out of this life. Tell me what you say, when the moon’s right.” The soaring backing choruses are so gorgeous they give me chills. Listen up:

Adelitas Way is currently touring on the West Coast in advance of their tentative album release, and I will be seeing them tonight! Show Adelitas Way support by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on Spotify or purchase on iTunes and other sites offering music for purchase or download.

Song Review: (IAM) WARFACE – “Say My Name”

When I first heard the epic new single “Say My Name” from the UK alternative/electronic rock band (IAM)WARFACE, I was hit by an atomic blast of music greatness. The kind that instantly blows you away, leaving you speechless and covered with goosebumps. I LOVE THIS SONG!

The exhilarating track begins with a snarling guitar riff, then explodes into an inferno of speaker-blowing drums, big synth chords, bombastic bass and thunderous shredded guitars.  Band front man Matt Warneford practically shrieks the opening lyrics, backing himself up with distorted, soaring choruses. He then alternates those high-pitched vocals with smoother but urgent, impassioned phrasing.

The song is four and a half minutes long, yet seems over in an instant – always a sign of an incredible song.  Take a listen, and turn the volume all the way up!

(IAM)WARFACE started out as a solo act by Matt Warface, who wrote and performed all the music, but he realized he needed a back-up band to perform live.  Those band members are Louis Matthews (who plays a guitar/bass hybrid), Matt Whitehead (backing track coordinator and keyboards) and Alex Whibley (drums and percussion). The band name is a metaphor for their style of bombastic high-energy music, and their influences include Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Keys and MGMT.

Follow (IAM)WARFACE on Twitter, like them on Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Their awesome music is available for purchase on itunes or streaming on Soundcloud or Spotify.