Dial M by Starflyer 59

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

dial-mSTARFLYER 59

2008 Tooth & Nail
Purchase: toothandnail.com
Review by: Matt Crosslin

This Starflyer disc has been a long time coming.  Twenty songs were originally recorded by Jason Martin and company and released on ten seven inch vinyl discs as the Ghosts of the Future box set.  Ten of the best songs from that box set were chosen for this album and re-recorded.  And then a bonus track appeared on the Vinyl and mp3 version of this album on top of all that.  The result is one of the most diverse albums SF59 has put out to date.

I listened to SF59’s debut disc the other day for comparison.  While I love Silver, it is still a very dense disc sound-wise (probably the reason I like it so much).  Compared to Silver, Dial M is full of space and life.  Jason Martin’s songwriting has expanded with every album, and this one is no different.

While this won’t become my favorite SF59 disc, it is quality and it rocks.  There are some good rhythms on this disc, like in “Concentrate,” “Minor Keys,” “Taxi,” and “Automatic.”  But there are also some really beautiful songs like “The Brightest of the Head” and “Mr. Martin.”  If you like the direction that SF59 has been taking over the last few albums, this disc is right up your alley.

Darn Floor, Big Bite Re-issue by Daniel Amos

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0


2008 Arena Rock Recording Co.
Purchase: danielamos.com
Review by: Steve Ruff

The end of 2008 saw the re-release of D.A.’s classic album Darn Floor, Big Bite. This is Daniel Amos at their finest. Their website says, “Coming November 25, 2008! The classic album that remains the favorite among many DA fans is finally returning to CD! This Deluxe 2 disc Edition includes new artwork & packaging, 20 pages of liner notes and photos, a brand new interview with Terry Taylor, remastered audio and never-before-heard bonus material!” Obviously, there is a lot of stuff here. This original release had 10 tracks that ran the gamut of D.A.’s unclassifiable style. The line up here consisted of Terry Taylor, Ed McTaggart, Tim Chandler and Greg Flesch. This is a truly alternative album, and perhaps more consistent musically than many other D.A. releases. This was originally released in 1987 on Frontline Records, and one of my favorite things about this album is the choir that sings on the song, “The Shape Of Air,” which closes out the record. The choir consisted of Gene Eugene, Riki Michele, Mike Stand, Ric Alba and Jeff Crandall, as well as others. This was also the first time that Gene and Terry had done studio work together, which makes it even more special. I don’t know if there are ’stand out’ tracks here, because really the entire album is amazing. If you have never listened to D.A., this is a great introduction. If you already have the original release, pick up the re-master and give it a spin.

The Now and the Not Yet by Motonaut

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0


2008 Independent
Purchase: www.motonaut.info
Review by: Steve Ruff

I first heard about these guys when they sent Down The Line a friend request on MySpace. If I remember correctly they were Michael Knott fans and said something to that effect on their request. I checked out their MySpace page and thought they were pretty cool. Then Matt sent me the CD that they have. This is a short offering, but I really, really like this disc. This release is entitled The Now and The Not Yet, and contains 4 tracks that are described on their site as minimalist, thoughtful, experimental and electro pop. When I first saw ‘electro pop’ I thought of Joy Electric. I’m not knocking Ronnie Martin either, but I can only listen to so much Joy Electric before it all starts sounding the same. Motonaut is different. The singing is upfront and the music does not overpower at all. The music adds a nice, dreamy background and gives a chance for the vocals to stand out. The mix of his (Mike Indest) and her (Jesse Maizlish) vocals together are complimentary and relaxing. The harmonies are precise, and the lyrics are thought provoking and meaningful. Definitely check this disc out, hopefully they will be releasing a full length sometime in the near future.

Umbra by The Sound Gallery

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

sound-galleryTHE SOUND GALLERY

2008 Independent
Purchase: MySpace
Review by: Steve Ruff

The Sound Gallery is unique. This is Herb Grimaud Jr.’s band, and he is the sole member. I remembered Herb from when he played with The Violet Burning several years ago. I didn‘t know what to expect from the music, but the stuff I heard on MySpace was so different from anything else that is out there. I bought all three albums and chose to review this one because it was the latest. All three are good, but Umbra might be my favorite. Umbra means “a region of complete shadow resulting from total obstruction of light”. The music reflects this in that it is sonically dark, sparse and sounds like something that you would hear recorded from the depths of underwater, or maybe even outer space. I say that it’s dark, but it is also quiet, ethereal, lush and full sounding. It is instrumental and quite honestly it’s also very hard to describe. According to Herb’s MySpace page he says, “I like turning knobs and pushing buttons to see what kind of sounds they will make.” He describes his band as “ambient, experimental, noisy and sometimes beautifully out of tune.” Whatever you call it, however you classify it, pick it up and listen to it. It really is that good. You could expect something this unique from someone whose influences include Martin Luther, John Calvin and Tom Savini.

Overflow by Windy Lyre

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

windy-lyreWINDY LYRE

2008 Independent CD-R
Purchase: MySpace
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 by Jerry Oliver

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

jerry-oliverJERRY OLIVER

2008 Odd Records
Purchase: www.jerryoliver.com
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.

Red Road by Glenn Rowlands

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0


2008 Independent
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.

XV by King’s X

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0

kingsx-xvKING’S X

2008 InsideOut Music
Purchase: kingsxrocks.com
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.

Ancestral Echo/Wunderzeit! by Writ on Water

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0


2008 Cyrus Shade Recordings
Purchase: writonwater.com
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.

Audible Sign by The Vigilantes of Love

posted in: January 2009, Music Review | 0


1999 True Tunes
Purchase: billmallonee.net
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.