VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “About A Revolution”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of Argentine-born and now Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite bands like Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, his music is a rousing blend of classic and Southern rock, folk, blues and grunge. Both his guitar playing and vocals sound like he’s from Nashville or Austin, rather than Argentina.

Juan’s had a love of music since his childhood growing up in Argentina, where he began learning to play guitar at the age of ten. In 2016, he left his business career behind and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a musician and study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Using songs he’d previously written about his experiences of feeling lost during the transition from his past life to his move to L.A., as well as some new compositions, he released his debut album The Darkest Light in 2017, an ambitious and impressive work featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. After a three-year hiatus, he returned in August 2020 with a darkly beautiful Southern rock single “The Moon is Dancing”, then followed three months later with the powerful bluesy rocker “Something Goin’ On”. (You can read my reviews of both singles by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post.)

Now Vicious Rooster returns with a new single “About A Revolution“, which he describes as “a cosmic introspective ride that encourages listeners to reinvent themselves and gather the strength to achieve their dreams.” He further elaborates: “Just like for many people, the pandemic allowed me to reconnect with songs and emotions that had remained dormant. There were no excuses for not paying attention to them and the time has come to give them the shine they deserve. ‘About A Revolution’ was part of a group of songs that I recorded in 2015 that had never seen the light until now.”

The song is a rousing Southern Rock banger, and once again, Vicious Rooster lives up to his moniker, delivering an electrifying barrage of scorching bluesy riffs guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. He’s an amazing guitarist, coaxing an intricate array of lush and powerful sounds from his six-string that are truly mind-blowing. Also worth noting are the wonderful organ at the beginning of the song, as well as the outstanding percussion throughout. Juan’s colorful, emotive vocals are great too, rising and falling in perfect sync with the intensity of the instrumentals.

The lyrics essentially describe his own personal life-changing decision to leave his past life in Argentina behind and pursue his music dreams in L.A.:

Break your chains and start again
You know how hard it can be
When you feel nothing is real
Find a way to keep you strong
Your constant effort will pay off
It'll take some time to see
But in the end you'll get where you want to be

You've moved on, you're leaving your past behind
Don't look back, there's nothing there worth to find
Just focus on the way you want to go
And stay away from things that hurt your soul
Keep reaching for the dream you're fighting for

“About A Revolution” is a great song, and another superb single that further establishes Vicious Rooster as a rock star on the rise.

Follow Vicious Rooster on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

PAUL RENNA – Single Review: “Fire”

Paul Renna is a singer, songwriter and guitarist based in Dallas, Texas who’s been writing, recording and performing music, first with bands and later as a solo artist, for more than 25 years. His signature music style draws from folk, Southern rock and Americana, with his songs resting comfortably among all three genres. He released his first solo album Portrait in 2003, then after a quiet period lasting seven years, Paul returned in 2010 with his second album Freedom. In the years since, the prolific artist dropped two more full-length albums and three EPs, and in 2019, he released two singles, “Bound to Love” and “All My Life”, both of which I featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now he returns with his latest single “Fire“, a blues-soaked gem that sees Paul delving deeper into Southern roots rock.

Paul actually wrote “Fire” a number of years ago, and originally featured an acoustic version of the song on his 2013 album Unplugged. For the single release, he teamed up with producer Paul Soroski in the creation of an edgier, more hard-rocking vibe befitting the song’s title. The two Pauls get right down to business, as the song opens strong with jarring guitar chords and wailing organ. Things quickly settle into an almost funky groove, as Paul lays down some bluesy guitars, accompanied by that terrific meandering organ and just the right amount of drums. As the song progresses, he layers more aggressive guitars, giving the song a heavier rock feel.

Paul has a commanding and emotive singing voice, with a slightly raspy quality that works especially well on this song, leaving us little doubt as to his lusty intentions: “I don’t need to be adored, up against the wall, down on the floor. We can set this place on fire.” It’s a wonderful bluesy rocker.

With the lifting of Covid restrictions in Texas, Paul is back performing live at venues throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Check out his Facebook and Twitter pages for dates and locations of upcoming shows.

Connect with Paul on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp

New Song of the Week – Matlen Starsley Band: “Makin’ Good Time”

Hailing from beautiful Vancouver, Canada, the Matlen Starsley Band are a five-member collective of seasoned and accomplished musicians who came together in mid-life to recapture some of the energy and passion that got them into the music business to begin with, and in the process create some great music. Comprised of Dennis Matechuk (lead vocals), Kevin Star (guitar & vocals), Don Lennox (bass & vocals), Jim Wesley (drums) and Darryl Hebert (keyboards, guitar, accordion & vocals), all are either former or current members of the Bryan Adams Band, The Ray Roper Project, Bad Moon Riders, Touchdown, Fandango, and Bad Allen and the Muscle Cats. Collectively, they’ve played thousands of shows in venues ranging from intimate clubs to major festivals in front of 20,000 fans, and bring a wealth of experience to the creation of their engaging style of music drawn from country, blues, roots and Southern rock.

In July 2019, they released their terrific debut album Rollin’ Again, which I later reviewed. Unable to tour or play live during most of 2020, the guys spent time writing and recording songs for their second album, due out later this year. The first single from the new album is “Makin’ Good Time“, which I’ve named my New Song of the Week. The song is a rousing Southern rocker, with feel-good lyrics about going out on the open road, experiencing freedom from responsibilities, and feeling the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. “Wind on our backs, nothing but blue sky. Ain’t got no destination. No time or place we got to be. Makin’ good time, just gettin’ away.

Musically, the song features the band’s reliably awesome mix of bluesy and slide guitars and jaunty honky-tonk piano, enhanced by a spirited horn section that really dials up the energy level. Dennis’ warm, earnest vocals are backed by the delightful Chandra Russell, whose soulful croons add some nice texture to the track. I love the many little touches the guys employ in their songs, like Kevin’s slide guitar mimicking a rolling train when Dennis sings the lyric “We’ll go down to the station tonight, we’ll hop on up when that train rolls by.” It’s a fine song that makes for a good time indeed!

Follow them on: FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampiTunes / Website

VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “Something Goin’ On”

This past September, I featured Argentine-born and now Los Angeles-based artist Vicious Rooster on this blog when I reviewed his darkly beautiful single “The Moon is Dancing”. The music project of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella, Vicious Rooster draws inspiration from some of his favorite bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains to create his own unique style that’s a wonderful melding of classic and Southern rock, folk and grunge. Both his guitar playing style and vocals sound like he’s from Nashville or Austin, rather than Argentina. On November 25th, he released his follow-up single “Something Goin’ On“, delivering three raucous minutes of bluesy Southern rock goodness for our listening pleasure. The song was mixed by Mikal Reid, who’s worked with renowned artists such as Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper, Ben Harper, and Kenny Wayne Sheperd.

“Something Goin’ On” has a harder rock edge than “The Moon is Dancing” and I like it! Abella is a fine guitarist, and he lets er rip, slicing through the airwaves with an onslaught of layered gritty and bluesy guitars, punctuated by tasty little flourishes of distortion and highlighted by a scorching solo in the bridge. A throbbing bass line and explosive percussion keep the driving rhythm firmly on track. His fervent vocals keep pace with the intensity of the instrumentals as he exclaims to his love interest of the powerful effect she’s having on him: “Let me tell you baby, you’re breaking me in two. But there’s something goin’ on between me and you.”

If Vicious Rooster keeps putting out excellent records like these two singles and his previous album The Darkest Light, I’m confident he’ll have a long and successful career.

To learn more about Vicious Rooster, check out his website

Follow him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

THE METAL BYRDS – EP Review: “Life in 20”

Like Tough On Fridays, who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, The Metal Byrds are a female-fronted rock band from Texas. Based in the music city of Austin, the band formed in 2018 after a chance meeting between London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie and guitarist Sly Rye Dovey. Both were in other bands at the time, and one night, at the urging of a mutual friend, Suzanne sat in on Sly Rye’s rehearsal with his band. He asked Suzanne to sing any song she wanted and she began singing “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. That was all it took, and she soon joined his band and began performing with them. His band was having internal issues however, which ultimately led he and Suzanne to create their own project together as The Metal Byrds. They were later joined by bassist Kevin Kurts and drummer Alex Romanov to complete their lineup.

The Metal Byrds play a dynamic style of rock infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality. They released their debut EP The Song Byrd in April 2019, then quickly followed two months later with a second EP Byrds on a Wyre. On October 2nd, they dropped their latest EP Life in 20, and listening to all three works, it’s clear that their songwriting and musicianship have gotten stronger with each release.

As the title would suggest, the opening track “The Ganges” starts off with Suzanne singing what sounds like an Indian chant, accompanied by jangly Indian instruments lasting around 15 seconds. Suddenly, the song blasts open with a juggernaut of Metallica-esque riffs, gnarly bass and pummeling drums that takes the song deep into hard rock territory. Sly Rye’s guitar work is truly impressive as he shreds the hell out of his six-string, laying waste to the airwaves with rapid-fire noodling and wailing distortion. Suzanne’s aggressively fervent vocals demand our full attention as she sings of feeling overwhelmed as if drowning, while making references to maharajas, brahmins and ghats.

Dreamin’” is a full-on rock’n’roll banger, with furious riffs and explosive rhythms that really showcase what The Metal Byrds are all about. Suzanne emphatically implores a love interest to give her a little consideration: “Can’t you see I’m standing right here in front of you / But you don’t even notice.” Keeping with that theme, “Tell Me” is about coming to terms with the fact that, no matter how hard you’ve tried, the person you pinned all your hopes on just doesn’t feel the same toward you. Suzanne’s emotion-filled vocals convey the sad resignation expressed in the lyrics “Tell me I’m wrong, you’re not the one. I don’t need convincing.” Musically, the song starts off as a folk ballad but gradually transitions into a terrific Southern rocker, with lots of great twangy and distorted guitars. It’s my favorite track on the EP.

The rousing title track “Life in 20” has a Pat Benatar vibe, with a frantic driving beat and more of Sly Rye’s fantastic riffing. In fact, the song reminds me a bit of Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”. In their notes, the band states the song “is a generalization of what the year 2020 has been like. A diary of events and feelings, of sorts. The guitars wail, along with lead singer, Suzanne Birdie’s voice, to evoke feelings of struggle and inequities that we have experienced during the past year.” Suzanne mournfully laments “Everything could end, you don’t know. One step from letting go.”

Impossible” is another excellent hard-rocking tune, with the kind of powerful driving beat that I love. Kevin and Alex deliver aggressive thumping rhythms guaranteed to get your blood pumping and hips moving, and Sly Rye layers a lively mix of staccato riffs and screaming distortion that would satisfy even the hardest metal head. Suzanne gives her lover an emphatic kiss-off: “I’m leaving tonight to get on this flight like a thief in the dark to protect my own heart / You’re impossible to love, and still too blind to see.”

Life in 20 is a great little EP that gets better with each listen. The Metal Byrds sure know how to rock, and I think this is their finest work yet. As I noted earlier, the quality of their songwriting, production and musicianship have gotten stronger on each release, and I’m confident they’ll continue on this upward trajectory.

Note: The version of the EP on Bandcamp features five tracks, however, the one on Spotify and Apple Music also includes a sixth track, a radio edit of “The Ganges” without the 15 seconds of Indian chanting at the beginning.

Follow The Metal Byrds: FacebookTwitter 

Stream/purchase their music:  SpotifyApple Music / BandcampAmazon 

VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “The Moon is Dancing”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Born and raised in Argentina, Juan began learning to play guitar at the age of ten, and played in bands and wrote songs while in high school. In college, he juggled his business studies with guitar lessons and playing in bands, then after graduation he temporarily set aside his music dreams to focus on his business career and long-term relationship. After the relationship ended, and experiencing stress over some family issues, he made the decision to quit his job and pursue his dream of becoming a musician. He adopted the moniker Vicious Rooster, and relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 to study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Drawing inspiration from such bands as The Beatles, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, among others, Vicious Rooster melds elements of classic rock with Southern rock, folk and a bit of grunge to create his own unique style. He writes, sings and produces his songs, and plays guitar and harmonica. Using songs he’d previously written as well as new compositions, he released his excellent debut album The Darkest Light in 2017. It’s an ambitious and impressive work, featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. Nine of the songs are more than five minutes long! Many of the song lyrics address moments where he felt lost during the transition from his past life and what became his present one.

After a three year long hiatus, he returned in August with his latest single “The Moon is Dancing“, a dark and powerful song with roots firmly planted in Southern rock. The song opens with a melancholy harmonica riff accompanied by a gently strummed guitar, evoking images of the Old West. As the song progresses, Vicious Rooster adds layers of chiming, gnarly and wobbly distorted guitars, along with heavier percussion, all of which build to a thrilling crescendo. He has an arresting and resonant singing voice, and his heartfelt vocals rise along with the intensifying music to impassioned screams that bring goosebumps.

The lyrics speak to feeling overwhelmed by worries, anxiety and loneliness: “The tension’s rising / My mind is going insane / And my defenses slowly crumble down / The moon is dancing / My thoughts are rolling to nowhere bound“; and searching for peace of mind and a sense of purpose in life: “I hope to find some peace along the way / I’m gonna rest my soul / I’m gonna keep on living life like there is somewhere I belong.” It’s a fantastic song.

To learn more about Vicious Rooster, check out his website

Follow him on FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampAmazonGoogle Play

MATLEN STARSLEY BAND – Album Review: “Rollin’ Again”

Matlen Starsley album art

As someone who passed 50 longer ago than I care to admit, acts like the Matlen Starsley Band (MSB) are an inspiration for me. Unlike a lot of musicians and bands of their vintage who are either resting on their laurels or touring with legacy shows, MSB was formed as a brand new project with the sole aim of writing, recording and releasing an album of entirely original music. As they explain on their website: “We just wanted to get a group of accomplished players together to create some great music and recapture some of the energy and passion that got us into the music business in the first place. No musical boundaries, We are letting the songs take us wherever they may lead and just letting the music speak for itself.” Last July (2019) they dropped their appropriately-titled first album Rollin’ Again, which I’m pleased to introduce to my readers.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, MSB consists of Dennis “Dollar” Matechuk (lead vocals), Kevin “Bubba” Star (guitar & vocals), Don Lennox (bass & vocals), Jim Wesley (drums) and Darryl Hebert (keyboards, guitar, accordion & vocals). All seasoned musicians, they’re either former or current members of the Bryan Adams Band, The Ray Roper Project, Bad Moon Riders, Touchdown, Fandango, and Bad Allen and the Muscle Cats. Collectively, they’ve played thousands of shows in venues ranging from intimate clubs to major festivals in front of 20,000 fans, and bring a wealth of experience in creating their lively and eclectic mix of country, blues, Southern rock and roots music. Their years of living and all its attendant facets of love, joy and pain are reflected in their honest and relatable lyrics too.

Curious that none of the band members are named ‘Matlen’ or ‘Starsley’, I asked them about the origin of their name. Not sure what to call their band, they eventually decided to take parts of each of the four founding members last names and fit them together: Matlen is from Matechuk and Lennox, and Starsley is from Star and Wesley, which I think is pretty damn clever. (Hebert joined the band later.)

Rollin’ Again kicks off with “Short Ride on a Long Haul“, a rousing song about a hookup while on the road that’s left the singer besotted by a woman’s charms, and wanting more: “When I woke up in the morning, you were gone. Now the radio’s playing a sad road song. It was a short ride on a long haul. Babe I wanna see you again. It was a blue moon on a red hot night. I’m in town, baby do it again.” Against a backdrop of driving rhythms and rolling guitars, Hebert’s spirited organ riffs are a highlight.

On “It Hasn’t Hit Me Yet“, the band delves into the blues, both musically and lyrically. The bluesy guitars are terrific, and I really like Matechuk’s clear, earnest vocals as he sings of his sadness and frustration over a love that’s slipped away, acknowledging that he’s partly to blame: “Now I ain’t ever been one to settle down. The truth is your good love couldn’t keep me ’round. But i’m here at your door, want you back, but you won’t love me no more.

Keeping with a similar theme, the bittersweet “I Cried Today” speaks to that twinge of regret many of us have felt when seeing an old flame, wondering what could have been had things turned out differently: “I heard today you found someone who makes you happy. A good man, the true love that you’ve been searching for. I cried today. Were the tears for you, tears for me, or for the years that lie between what we had and could have been? I cried today. I got a good life, got a good love. You’re happy too, that should be enough. I’m still selfish in that way, so I cried today.” The guitars and organ work are sublime, and Matechuck’s vocals nicely convey the poignant emotions described in the lyrics. It’s a beautiful song, and one of my favorites on the album.

A Life Worth Living” is another highlight on the album for me. Once again, the guitars and organ are great, and Lennox and Wesley do their part to keep the rhythm on a solid footing. “A Matter of Time” is a lively rockabilly tune about picking oneself up after a failed love affair, and getting back into the game: “I got what you need, if you give me half a chance / You got to come out swingin’, and learn to love again.”  The wonderful honky tonk-style piano takes center stage here.

The band returns to the blues in a big way on “We Don’t Love No More“, a sorrowful song about a relationship that’s broken beyond repair. Bubba’s bluesy guitar work and Hebert’s mournful organ work are fantastic, making this my favorite track on the album. Matechuk’s heartfelt vocals beautifully express the abject sadness contained in the painful lyrics: “I got this feeling this time we’ve gone too far. All those years have worn us down. And all those things we held so close, are the things that hurt the most. Find the words that hurt and scar. Gonna burn this to the ground, cause you and I we don’t love no more.”

MSB seem to pay tribute to Tom Petty on the title track “Rollin’ Again“, with twangy guitar riffs and a melody influenced by the Southern Rock legend’s signature sound. The song is about moving on from a relationship that was doomed from the start: “I ain’t one for laying blame. I’ll leave that to you. Now you say you want something more, and that’s something I can’t give./ All the things that were keeping me down. I’m rollin’, rollin’ again.” “Trail Went Cold” is a bouncy Country tune, with twangy guitars and harmonica, while “Sweet Touch” has a harder rock’n’roll feel, with heavier guitars and more aggressive drums, though Hebert’s organ is prominent here too.

The guys close out the album with the wonderful kiss-off “Your Love Ain’t Special“. As always, they deliver the music goods, laying down some mighty tasty bluesy riffs and marvelous organ work. All in all, Rollin’ Again is a terrific album, and a fine debut effort by this talented collective of musicians. With songs ranging from Southern rock and blues to Country and rockabilly, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on this record.

To learn more about the Matlen Starsley Band, check out their Website

Follow them on: FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  BandcampiTunes / Website