2008 Independent CD-R
Review by: Steve Ruff
This is Windy Lyre’s second album. Her first was on Blonde Vinyl back in 1991, and this is a beautiful follow up. Windy’s vocals are ethereal and remind me of the Cocteau Twins, maybe even Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs. She has an incredible voice and the music covers acoustic to pop, with nice overlays and arrangements. Michael Knott and Rick McDonough play all the instruments on here, as well as producing and mixing the album. Instruments include guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and the lap steel. This is definitely a ‘Christian’ release with lyrics that are introspective, as well as thankful and sincere, but always Christ centered and focused. This second release was a long time in the making, but definitely worth the wait. Hopefully she will continue to make records, but for now this is a solid, fully packaged release. Another cool thing that I liked was when the CD came it also came with a cool autographed photo. I’m a sucker for music memorabilia and merchandise. You can read her bio and order her CD through her MySpace page.
DEATH OF THE AVANTE-GARDE
2008 Odd Records
Review by: Matt Crosslin
Jerry Oliver was the leader of band called Peculiar Red that made a splash in the Midwest in the mid-90’s. Jerry has been busy releasing solo CDs since then. Death of the Avant-Garde has been garnering so positive reviews since its release in 2008, and those reviews are well deserved. There are several styles here, from the dark rock of Hot Coals to several Terry Taylor-ish numbers to even a polka tune! But only one Polka tune, so Polka haters relax.
The sitars used “Hot Coals” sold me from the first listen. Readers of this magazine might not remember a band called Bang Tango, a hard rock band that had some minor hits in the early 90s but got unfairly lumped in with the hair metal bands. To me, Jerry’s voice sounds like a mixture of Joe Lesté of Bang Tango and Terry Taylor. Tim Chandler makes a guest appearance on several tracks, adding to the DA influence.
The best way I can describe the sound of this album is alternative. I would have like a little more guitar snarl here and there, but that is because I am a recovering metal head. The music is very eclectic, with an Americana influence here and there, electronica sounding drums on occasion, and many other influences. An interesting combination from an album that is claiming to be killing avant-garde, to be sure. But a recommended combination to check out for sure.
Review by: Matt Crosslin
The common reaction that I get when I mention this new Glenn Rowlands disc to people is: “that name sounds familiar – but I can’t remember where.” Glenn was an underground name back in the late 80s and early 90s. He was in the thrash/hardcore/rapcore band Wickeds End. He started an independent label called Floppy Fish, put out some solo CDs, had some songs on some compilations, and then disappeared. Somewhere in there you might have heard his name.
Glenn had a bit of hard luck, which you can read about on his MySpace page or one of the sites linked from there. What have the years done to him musically? “Are You The Light” rips open Red Road and answers that question with an exclamation mark. Glenn can still rock and seems to have gotten some better equipment to record with since 1995! What I always liked about Glenn was that he listed some great classic rock bands as influences. The strange thing was that back in 1995 he was listing the same bands that most grunge bands were. But Glenn got those influences right where so many grunge bands got them wrong.
Glenn tells you right away that these songs were written while he was living through his hard times of homelessness, drug addictions, and even mental instability. So they explore some dark topics from time to time, but I find that what makes them even more interesting. These songs are a pretty good mix of his earlier solo CDs for Floppy Fish. And for $3, this has to be the best value CD of the year.
2008 InsideOut Music
Review by: Matt Crosslin
You probably already know whether you are going to get this album or not. You have either stuck with King’s X through all of the Black Maniac Bulbous weirdness and will still get this, or bailed when they got weird and have no idea what you are now missing. For those of you that bailed, listen up: King’s X came back big time with Ogre Tones, and continue to prove they are back with XV.
I don’t like that they did, but I also understand why King’s X experimented. They started experimenting with their signature sound with my favorite KX album, Dogman. But many complained and so they went back. The resulting album, Ear Candy, sounded a little stale. And they lost their contract to boot. Tape Head was an improvement, but I think they just wanted to prove they could go somewhere without sounding stale. So they went all crazy for a few albums. That didn’t sit well with everyone (even though, as my friend Bird puts it – each album had some really cool songs on it)… so what do they do? They decided to stick with their sound but make sure it had some umph and not go stale. The last two King’s X albums have proven that.
Bono is famous for saying something like the most interesting music in written by people that are running away from God or running towards him. So which way is King’s X running? Well, they aren’t intentionally trying to piss off their CCM audience that they gained with Faith, Hope, and Love as much as they were in their weird period. I would add to Bono’s list those that are questioning why they should believe anything. That is what you have here – a lot of questions, but some growing comfort with the fact that it is okay to not have all of the answers. And some killer music on top of that. The first track “Pray” is classic King’s X with a little freshness added in (and pretty much also shows how they are questioning God and okay with those who are sure about Him all at once). This album doesn’t top their first 5 classic albums, but is a welcome addition to the vast King’s X catalog.
WRIT ON WATER
2008 Cyrus Shade Recordings
Review by: Matt Crosslin
This single disc is a collection of two EPs combined on to one disc. Both EPs contain some songs that were considered for A Wingless King, but didn’t quite fit. For lack of a better description, songs were grouped in to an “electric” EP and an “acoustic” EP – even though those are just general ideas and not strict rules.
Left over EPs are strange beasts. Usually, when a band says that songs were “considered for our album, but didn’t quite fit,” what they really mean is “these songs aren’t that good, but we spent money on them, so now we want our fans to help us recover those funds.” Not so with these songs.
Ancestral Echo starts off the disc with a nice groove that lets you know right away why these songs deserved to see the light of the day. The intro groove of “This Kingdom of Tin” gives way in to a spoken word styled vocal delivery that works nice. Then the background chanting kicks in. This song builds and builds, layer upon layer of sound.
Ever wondered where that little intro sound bite on their website comes from? The answer lies on this CD. The rest of the EP gives you what you have come to expect from Writ on Water. Then 12 seconds of… somebody opening something… and then the next EP.
The second half is Wunderzeit! – an EP of acoustic flavored songs and two remixes. “Wondertime” actual appears twice on this part of the CD – once as a remix and once as an acoustic demo. Both versions are very different from the one you originally heard on A Wingless King, so don’t start thinking “filler.” The acoustic demo really does fit in with the other acoustic-styled songs on the EP. The remixes are electronic-flavored, but placed as book ends on the acoustic songs. The stand out cut on the Wunderzeit! EP is hard to pick, but I would go for “Santa Cruz,” a rollicking instrumental that is almost over too soon.
On further listens, the remixes are very well executed (I need to check out this Travelogue outfit), but still a tad bit out of place. That’s not a big deal to me, but Writ fans that aren’t in to techno might scratch their heads a bit. Overall, another quality entry in to the Writ on Water catalogue.
VIGILANTES OF LOVE
1999 True Tunes
Review by: Steve Ruff
I will forever profess my admiration for Bill Mallonee’s music. His music is a gift, and simply amazing for several reasons. Nobody else in the music industry turns out this much material that is this good. Mallonee has well over 1000 songs to his credit, and I can honestly attest to the fact that I have never heard Bill stick any kind of filler on his records. I say that sincerely. He has lived his life in a van with a relentless touring schedule of 180+ dates a year for 20 something years. His songs are snapshots full of history, struggle, and heart-on-your-sleeve honesty with influences ranging from the writings of Flannery O’ Connery, Jack Kerouac and Frederick Buechner. The musical influences are diverse as well, Joy Division, The Clash and Neil Young are but a few. I have said more than once, “Give me Mallonee over Dylan any day.” You might think that’s a crazy thing to say, but the music is that good.
Paste Music Magazine named Bill as #65 amongst the best 100 living songwriters. Vigilantes of Love were a band that received much critical acclaim, but somehow that never transferred into album sales. I have never understood how music that is this good, and this well reviewed by so many, never translated into commercial success. This record, Audible Sigh, was called “compelling and insightful” by Rolling Stone. Billboard said of Mallonee, “Dylan-tinged vocal and introspective lyrics that spin out big-picture stories imbued with chilling small details.” Buddy Miller, who has worked with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams (to name a few), produced this album and is quoted as saying, “The poetry and intelligence of Bill Mallonee’s songs rival Dylan’s.” The people who contributed on this record attest to the quality of Bill’s work. Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Julie Miller and Phil Maderia contribute, completed by the Vigilantes who were at the time, Bill, Jacob Bradley and Kevin Heuer.
This is a great record that should have seen the top of the charts. Some of my favorite tracks include “Nothing Like A Train”, “Black Cloud O’er Me”, “Resplendent” and “Could Be A Lot Worse”. If you haven’t listened to Bill and Co. in awhile you should check them out. Bill disbanded the Vigilantes sometime back in 2002 and carried on as a solo artist, typically accompanied by his guitar, harmonica and his wife Muriah Rose who plays piano. At the end of last year though, the Vigilantes reformed and now we get the best of both worlds, Bill solo and Bill backed by a band of amazing musicians. I am grateful for Bill’s music, it is definitely something that has helped me tremendously in my life, and something that has always given me hope. It’s music for the ‘everyday’ person. As Bill has said himself, “I tend to be a heart on the sleeve fella. I figure it’ll resonate with someone somewhere…we’re all made outta similar stuff, I think.”
Check out Bill’s website www.billmallonee.net where you can purchase this record, and most all of his other work, solo and otherwise. The cool thing is that on the website Bill has excellent prices. Most album downloads are around $7.99. Audible Sigh is $12.99, but comes with a bonus 5 songs that bring the total tracks to 19 !!! Check it out, you can’t beat it.
BILL MALLONEE AND MURIAH ROSE
EDDIE’S ATTIC DECATUR, GA
This was the third time this year that I have seen Bill and Muriah play, and they never disappoint. I am a huge fan of Bill’s music, and I actually believe that his music has improved since he disbanded the Vigilantes of Love. Not that the music has just improved, but the output has tripled and definitely grown lyrically and well as musically. Bill is one of those guys that could play for fifteen minutes to two people, and he would play as though it was a two hour set to a packed house. His heart is in the music and his music is on his sleeve. His wife, Muriah Rose, accompanies Bill with piano and vocals and it wouldn’t surprise me if Muriah came out with her own album at some point, she backs Bill up beautifully. My favorite song of the evening was “Nothing Like A Train”, that song just gets to me every time that I hear it. Bill is the heart and soul of a folk singer, and for me, it doesn’t get much better than this!
This show was Bill opening, but due to the headliner being late, Bill played for a solid hour. The bonus here was that Dave Claussen, who played on Bill’s solo albums Dear Life and Friendly Fire, came up and played fiddle with Bill and Muriah for three songs. When the three of them started jamming it sounded almost bluegrass, it was amazing. The venue was great as well, Eddie’s Attic is a local favorite here in Decatur, GA and has great acoustics and good food. The concert was surprisingly fresh and full of energy considering that they had just come off of a seven week tour across the entire country. Bill will be playing at the same place again this week, and I’ll be there for sure, but another note worthy thing here is that the Vigilantes of Love are back and will be performing next month (November) in Athens, GA. If you haven’t seen Bill play live, you need to go. You can purchase all of his albums digitally through www.billmallonee.net, as well as a brand new E.P. that just released last week.
– Steve Ruff
THE SEVENTY SEVENS
3 BEARS CAFÉ MARIETTA, GA
I was super excited to see this show. If you have ever seen the 77’s live you know that they put on a great performance. This was the first stop on their brand new Holy Ghost Building Tour, and it was also the release date of the new record. To top it all off I was recording the show as well, which is a cool thing that the 77’s and their management allow fans to do, it certainly keeps the trading circles buzzing. This was the first time that I have seen Roe & Co. live since 1999. It has been almost 10 years.
The Seventy Sevens came out swinging, and it was the classic line up of Michael Roe, Mark Harmon, David Leonhardt and Bruce Spencer. The played several new tunes from the brand new album including “I’m Working On A Building”, “Stranger Won’t You Change Your Sinful Ways” and “Keep Your Lamps, Trimmed And Burning”, as well as some classic songs like “Self Made Trap”, “I Can’t Get Over It” and always the favorite “The Lust, The Flesh The Eyes and The Pride Of Life.” One of the best points in the show came when they covered The Doors classic “Riders Of The Storm.” Michael sounds eerily like Jim Morrison and the band nailed the music note for note.
I would have loved a longer set, but they did play for a good hour and a half, maybe just a bit more, and hearing “Someone New” and “BaBaBaBa” for the encore was simply amazing. After almost three decades of great music, I enjoy more now the direction the band is heading in with their sound and with covering some great gospel and almost country/folksy tunes. If you don’t have Holy Ghost Building, you can purchase it through their website found at www.the77s.com
– Steve Ruff
BEYOND HELL’S GATE
2005 Retroactive Records
Purchase: Try eBay
Review by: Matt Crosslin
Classic metal album that has already seen a few re-issues. So why review it here? Isn’t the last re-issue already kind of old? Well, yes – and hard to find. Word is that Retroactive Records is going to re-issue it again, with an added twist: the programmed drums will be replaced by live pounding by Robert Sweet himself. If you don’t know who that is, you probably wouldn’t be interested in this album in the first place. But if you like good, classic, bone crunching metal – this is the release to get. Even if the re-issue doesn’t pan out, find a copy on Ebay or someplace – it is worth it.
Bill Menchen is a total shredder. You will bang your head to this. Originally recorded as basically a demo in 1989, it was pretty obscure until re-released on vinyl in 2004 by Steel Legacy. It was then remixed, re-mastered, re-everythinged in 2005 and released on Retroactive Records. And then it went out of print again – because it is that good (if you are in to metal).
So this review is here to just prep you for the eventual re-re-re-issue. Don’t miss it this time. Also look out for the follow-up album, Axe of the Apostles. Pretty cheesy, I know – but cheese is the cornerstone of metal that makes it so cool!
CITY OF GOD
Review by: Matt Crosslin
Yes, Chris was the guitarist for G.S. Megaphone. That might be cool with you, but there are some that grew really tired of the whole nu-metal/Creed clone/pseudo-grunge sound that GSM and a hundred other bands cranked out in late 90s. The interesting thing about GSM was their second album – where did that noticeable Eastern influence come from? That was different.
That cool influence came from Chris Freeman learning how to play the sitar and becoming interested in world music. When GSM was over, Chris decided to take what he knew best (guitar), and mix it with something new (sitar). The result was some of the crunchiest world fusion music albums this side of Rudra.
The one thing I really liked about Nu-metal (or probably the only thing) was the heavy guitars. I love heavy guitars. Chris brings the crunch to his solo music, minus the trappings of trend following. World music abounds on his latest album – City of God – with as many sitar solos as guitar solos. Of course, not all is crunch and shred. There are also some nice reflective acoustic songs as well as nice mid paced songs like one of my favorites “Psalm 91 (My New War).”
Chris has also been exploring monasticism lately, and this is reflected in some song titles and the overall mood of the album. This is instrumental music, so there are no lyrics to tell you what he has found on his explorations. However, the songs themselves speak volumes if you listen.