SKINNY WIZARD – Single Review: “Phantom Pain”

Skinny Wizard builds houses by day, but come nightfall his musician alter-ego takes over. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Skinny Wizard – whose given name is Bill Cherry – is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began playing guitar at the age of six.  As he tells in his bio “I took it seriously during my high school years, but then I moved away from home and life took over. I didn’t really understand how the music industry worked and it was easier to make money building houses to make someone else rich.” It’s a sentiment I’m sure a lot of musicians can attest to.

Now that he and his wife are empty-nesters, Skinny has taken up his six-string again, and gotten back to expressing himself through his music. He plays mostly folk and blues-rock, genres he seems most comfortable with as a solo artist. He’s just released a new single “Phantom Pain,” a moving song he felt he had to write to honor the death of a friend from suicide.

The track starts out with sounds like being in a thunderstorm or possibly a subway train, then he begins strumming his acoustic guitar and singing the honest, heartfelt lyrics expressing bittersweet feelings of pain over the loss of a good friend:

I woke last night and I thought I heard you talking
But that’s absurd ’cause you’ve been gone over a year
And I remember all the good things we done together
A new definition for a thing called Phantom Pain
And that’s the way it goes sometimes you don’t know what life brings
You just keep pressing on in spite of all the odds
I hope to see you again someday

He has a casual, pleasing style of guitar playing, and though not overly strong, his vocals are well-suited for a gentle folk ballad like “Phantom Pain.” Check it out:

Connect with Skinny Wizard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase “Phantom Pain” on cdbaby

ANDY K LELAND – EP Review: “Happy Daze”

Happy Daze

Andy K Leland is an Italian folk singer/songwriter who sounds British, and has a wicked sense of humor. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self, and the two selves fear each other.” That dichotomy is evident in his songs, in which rather negative, biting lyrics contrast sharply with his simple, catchy melodies and pleasing acoustic guitar. In September, Andy dropped his debut EP Happy Daze, a collection of six tracks including two that I previously reviewed – “The Kingdom” and “Home Grown Muck”.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Andy’s sound is his quirky, off-kilter vocal style, in which he clips his words, sometimes dropping a letter or two. It all sounds charming in an off-beat sort of way, and perfectly suited to his lo-fi sound. Despite his cynical, often dark lyrics about life and relationships, as the EP’s title suggests he may be telling us to not take them so seriously after all, or at least resign oneself to their inevitability. Because his music is fairly straightforward, I’ll emphasize Andy’s lyrics instead.

Andy Leland2

The Kingdom” seems to be speaking from the perspective of someone who is dying or already dead, and now describing their observations of the afterlife with a blithe sense of irony:

Got up one day in the kingdom surrounded by some strange folks
They held in hand their relics and really dug my antics
So we danced together took some rest however
They were all plugged and wet so they got electrocuted

Well outside it’s dawning la-la-la-la
I won’t see the morning la-la-la-la
I’ll be dead or dazzled by our own black nature

To a gentle, pleasing acoustic guitar riff, “Home Grown Muck” addresses the feelings of isolation and disillusionment increasingly prevalent in society today:

Once I was clever now I’m more than numb
But I’m just trying to oh… I’m trying nothing at all
There’s a lack of sharing however we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re the scum of the world
Oh, lord please bring me something warm just like opium
But don’t dare to keep the change

A failing relationship seems to be the subject of “Bistro Nights,” a short track only 1:51 minutes long. Andy sings the melancholy lyrics about giving up:

I’m wasting my time spending the night
Counting the days that I’m leaving that I’m trading
For you to be thinking I’ll be ok
And I’m tired sick of it all, all
Please don’t tell me to get on the track
Or wave my goodbyes I can’t cross the line

On “Half Dead Dog” he sings of his broken spirit to a rather somber acoustic guitar:

I mend a a few bits of my poor brain
You’re wrong when you think that I’m strong
I’ve been worn out for so long

Mr. Panic” has an upbeat vibe, with a nicely strummed guitar, but the lyrics confuse me a bit. Though I may be way off, Mr. Panic seems to represent death, who’s come for the singer:

So you’re great, you’re grand, you’re smart you’re “Hey!”
But ask your body and ask your brain as you often don’t recall my name
Well it’s P.A.N.I.C.
What? Oh… I’m fine thanks 
‘cause I’m wildish and stylish a bit childish don’t you know?

Now pack your bags and just follow me I swear you won’t regret… oh no

Farewell” is the most melancholy track of the bunch. Andy sings from the perspective of someone who has come to terms with the fact no one likes him, including his girlfriend who left him, because of his own failings. Consequently, he’s decided to end his life. Pretty depressing stuff here:

My friends pretend they have a job
They all pretend they’re having fun
Miss my dog, will miss my time with tomorrow’s morning light
My life is dreary and my girl
My girl adores me but she left ‘cause I’m weird but I am glad
Glad to know she’s doing well
There’s a truth I can’t avoid
Nobody likes me I’m a boy who hates you all, that’s so mean
No one to blame but me

Those of you in Italy can catch Andy performing at these upcoming shows:

November 11: WAVE – Misano Adriatico (Rn), w/Egle Sommacal
November 12: Circolo Arci Artigiana Fano – Fano (Pu), w/Haley Heynderickx
November 18: Circolo LaSerra Arci Recanati – Recanati (Mc), w/Massimo Scoposki

Follow Andy:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp

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

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

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Home Grown Muck”

Andy K Leland is an Italian singer/songwriter with a wicked sense of humor. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self,” adding that “the two selves fear each other.” Andy released his debut single “The Kingdom” in February, which I previously reviewed, and has now dropped his follow-up single “Home Grown Muck.” Like “The Kingdom,” “Home Grown Muck” offers up rather negative, biting lyrics that sharply contrast with Andy’s pleasing, upbeat acoustic guitar and quirky vocals. It seems he may be telling us to not take life so seriously after all.

Andy K Leland

About “Home Grown Muck,” Andy explains: “Can’t tell much about the song since it came out itself. And that’s cool. The only thing I remember is how dark was all around me. As for the meaning, guess it’s about me, interaction, disillusionment, sort of…Also, I do think we all need a real, actual “share button.”

Once I was clever
Now I’m the same
But I’m just frying and it’s not a blast anymore

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re just home grown muck

Once I was clever
Now I’m more than numb
But I’m just trying to oh…
I’m trying nothing at all

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re the scum of the world

Oh, lord please bring me something warm just like opium
But don’t dare to keep the change

Oh oh uh-oh-oh oh

Show Andy some love by following him on: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music on  Soundcloud or purchase on Bandcamp

Single Review: SORICAH – “Waiting”

I had the pleasure of connecting with the talented young singer/songwriter Soricah when she reached out to me about her music. Now living in Dublin, Ireland, Soricah is of Irish/Mauritian ancestry and spent various times of her childhood and early adulthood living in Ireland, Africa, Mauritius and London. Those rich experiences give her music a unique sound that’s not tied to any one genre, in her words “taking the melodies of Ireland and the Soul of Africa to produce some truly original and captivating music.” She provided the following bio info that gives a good snapshot of her music background:

“Soricah has gigged on the London circuit as a solo artist, and is a former member of the band Rebekah Met Sarah. She has supported musical acts such as The Palma Violet and renowned celloist Jo Quail, and has been a frequent collaborator with members of The Artist Community of Studio 180 and the rich artistic warehouse scene of East London. She has also been featured on a wide variety of different artistic projects and her collaborations have been aired on Freakfm, BBC Radio One and a variety of Irish and international radio stations.”

Soricah

She recently completed recording of her debut EP Let Me Know, planned for release later this year. Her first single from the EP, “Waiting,” was just released on May 11. It’s a beautiful song, with a soothing, languid melody that conjures up images of a beach bathed by tropical breezes, at least to my mind. A distinctive element of the track is the gorgeous cello, played by Gary Molloy, which gives the track a haunting, dreamlike sound. Soricah’s strummed acoustic guitar and smooth, sensuous vocals are complemented by gentle percussion and bass, courtesy of Daniel Doherty.

Both musically and vocally, the song reminds me of Lana Del Ray. The song lyrics speak of intense passion and longing for someone. In her captivating voice, Soricah seductively croons “Come a little closer. Feel my body move. My heart is beating faster, waiting for you. / You take me away into the stars. This is where I’ll stay waiting for you, waiting for you.”

Follow Soricah on Facebook.  Stream “Waiting” on  Spotify or Soundcloud, and purchase on  Bandcamp,  iTunes  or  Amazon.

Song Review: ANDY K LELAND – “The Kingdom”

Andy K Leland

Although he sounds like he’s from the northern reaches of the UK, indie singer/songwriter Andy K Leland is Italian. Born Andrea Marcellini, Andy plays a quirky but charming style of acoustic folk music. Formerly a founding member and bassist of alternative rock band My Cruel Goro, who split up a year ago, Andy is now a solo artist, and in February he released his first single “The Kingdom.” He plans to release his debut EP Happy Daze later this year.

“The Kingdom” is a delightfully pleasing tune, with gentle strumming acoustic guitar, accompanied by sounds from a toy keyboard organ. Andy’s off-kilter vocals that seem to skip letters or even whole words are infectiously beguiling, and perfectly suited to the catchy folk vibe. I must admit that when I first listened to the song, my initial reaction to his vocal style was ‘what the hell?’ but after a couple more listens I was hooked. Andy’s music is certainly unique and he sounds like no one else, which can be a very good thing in the massively overcrowded music scene.

I don’t often include the entire lyrics from a song, but these are so compelling and slightly humorous that I cannot resist. I may be off-base, but they seem to be from the perspective of someone who is dying or already dead, and now describing their observations of the afterlife:

Well the world has capsized
Turned my guts inside out
(They) got unplugged but FB
Keeps alive their ID’s
Save the day for sleeping
And the night for choking
In a bed of concrete
Next to walls that haunt me

Well outside it’s dawning la-la-la-la
I won’t see the morning la-la-la-la
I’ll be dead or dazzled by our own black nature

Got up one day in the kingdom
Surrounded by some strange folks
They held in hand their relics
And really dug my antics
So we danced together
Took some rest however
They were all plugged and wet so
They got electrocuted

Well outside it’s dawning la-la-la-la
I won’t see the morning la-la-la-la
I’ll be dead or dazzled by our own black nature

Yeah we are all guilty la-la-la-la
That makes me feel so filthy la-la-la-la
I won’t see the morning la-la-la-la
I’ll be dead or dazzled

Connect with Andy on Twitter and Facebook, and stream his music on Soundcloud