On Top Of Old Smoky: New-Old Time Smoky Mountain Music By Various Artists

December 27, 2016

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Sometimes a creative idea works and such is the case for the third release by The Great Smoky Mountains Association. While they continue their exploration of music originating in the Great Smoky Mountain area of the United States, this time they gather modern day artists to presents a legacy of the area.

The 23 tracks by various artists presents traditional folk music and bluegrass tunes from the Smoky Mountains area. This is a raw and stripped down release and unless you are a fan of this brand of music; many of the artists will not be recognizable. The one every recognizable performer is Dolly Parton who re-visits “Little Rosewood Casket” from her trio days with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. She gives a haunting rendition that carries you back about a century.

The songs can be considered classic folk songs that are indigenous to the area. They represent the cultural heritage of the people who used to populate the area before much of it became a national park. Many of the songs were originally preserved as field recordings by Joseph Sargent Hall in 1939, who was seeking to save the heritage of the region. Now modern technology allows these songs to come to life in a way unimagined at their creation.

“On Top Of Old Smokey” is the first track and is sung a cappella by Carol Elizabeth Jones. It focus’ on the lyrics in a way not usually associated with this old tune and is representative of the album’s approach of preserving the heritage of this old material.

“Black Mountain Rag” with fiddle player Trevor Stuart, banjo player Travis Stuart, and guitarist Jeff Keith and “Bonaparte’s Retreat” by fiddler Bruce Greene are examples of the origins of what was to become bluegrass music. “I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home” by singer/guitarist Bryan Sutton is a poignant song of longing for home that was probably sung around the camp fire on a journey.

The enclosed booklet provides a history of the area, plus a review of all 23 songs, the artists, and includes the lyrics as well.

On Top Of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music is a trip back in time for anyone interested in the musical heritage of an area of the United States. A labor of love that works.


Tim Hockenberry By Tim Hockenberry

December 27, 2016

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Tim Hockenberry is now over two decades into his career. He has performed in countless clubs and bars over the last two decades singing cover songs and practicing his craft.

His career changed during 2012 when he was a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent, which exposed him to a wide audience. During 2014 he acquired new management and began writing his own material. Now he has released a self-titled album of original compositions.

His gruff and gritty voice, think Tom Waits or Joe Cocker, has a laid-back quality that is perfect for his incisive lyrics and memorable melodies. Songs such as “Me And You,” “”Come On Let’s Dance,” “If The Sky Was To Fall,” and “Little Angel” are thoughtful songs that will stay in your mind long after the music ends.

Hockenberry has released an album that re-invents his career. An excellent album with hopefully more to come.


Violin Fantasy By Jerry Goodman

December 27, 2016

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The musical journey of violinist Jerry Goodman began in the late 1960’s with a rock band named The Flock. Their sound was similar to Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago except for one important ingredient. That component was the rock violin of Goodman, which made the band very different from their contemporaries. After two albums he left and joined the first incarnation of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. For the past four decades he has disappeared, reappeared in a number of fusion groups, and released several solo albums.

His latest release, Violin Fantasy, is an eclectic album of odds and ends from his career. His violin always makes the music interesting but as an album of milestones, both new and old, it lacks cohesiveness and only provides a number of glimpses into his talent and vision.

He is at his best when he has a strong presence to play off of. “Random Acts Of Science” with Rick Wakeman and “The Laws Of Nature” with Tony Levin and Billy Sherwood are good example of his ability to amplify the talent of others.

There are a number of well know songs that he enhances and makes very interesting through the sound of his violin which always borders on being out of control. “Dream Weaver,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Eye Of The Tiger,” all take interesting twists and turns courtesy of Mr. Goodman.

Tracks that he dominates such as “Violin Fantasy,” “In The Air Tonight,” and “The Final Countdown” show his technique and virtuosity, which are unique in the expression of rock and roll.

Violin Fantasy only offers a taste of what Goodwin has to offer. Each song has something to offer but hopefully it will push the listener to seek out some of his more focused and structured material.


Blues Harp Women By Various Artists

December 27, 2016

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If you are a fan of the blues and especially the blues harp, then this release may be an album for you.

The harp has been an important component of the blues since its beginnings. While the harp has mostly been associated with male performers, there is an increasing number of very proficient female blues artists.

Blues Harp Women is a 31 track two disc compilation of songs featuring female harp players. The music expands from the territory established by blues legend Big Mama Thornton who is represented here by “Down Home Shakedown.”

Many of the artists such as Rhonda Rucker, Kat Baloun, Jan Gillman, and Paula Rangall may not be household names but they have one thing in common; they can all play the blues harp. While the album revolves around the harp; it is never boring and avoids repetition and a sameness by mixing up the tempos and instruments.

Blues Harp Women is a fine introduction to an area of the blues that is rarely explored in one place. Give it a spin and hang on.


Add To Favourites By Cutting Crew

December 27, 2016

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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Nick Van Eade is the only remaining original member of the band Cutting Crewe and for the second time in the last decade, he has released an album under the Cutting Crew moniker.

They are best remembered for their 1986 album Broadcast and 1989’s The Scattering, which produced the top hit “I’ve Been In Love Before” and the number one world wide hit “(I Just) Died In Your Arms.” Both albums contained smooth pop harmonies and memorable melodies.

Add To Favourites is more of a Van Eade solo album than a group effort.  The songs are more serious and the overall feel not as polished. While it may appeal to some hard core fans of the band, it is far from the Cutting Crew albums of the past.


Dusty Road By Brothers Brown

December 27, 2016

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Guitarist/singer Paul Brown and keyboardist producer Paul Brown are not the same person. They are both member of the Brothers Brown band but they are not brothers. What they and bassist David Santos and drummer Peter Young are, is a solid rock and blues band who remind me of a mellow Allman Brothers.

Their sound is an easy and laid back light blues. They may not have elongated improvisations; rather they improvise within a tighter or shorter context and structure.

The best tracks from their Dusty Road release are “Hurricane” with some nice slide guitar work by guest Paul Barrere of Little Feat, The slow groove of “Love Sake” and the nice bluesy jam style of “Cup Of Tea.”

The Brothers Brown have produced a relaxing album, so put your feet up and give it a listen or two.


The Traveling Wilburys (2 CD + DVD) By The Traveling Wilburys

December 27, 2016

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The sons of Charles Truscott Wilbury were a true super group. Lucky (Bob Dylan), Nelson (George Harrison, Otis (Jeff Lynne), Lefty (Roy Orbison), and Charlie Wilbury Jr. (Tom Petty) came together as an accident, released two albums; one after Orbison’s death in December of 1988, and disbanded.

Harrison, producer Lynne, along with Orbison and Petty gathered in the studio to record a B side to Harrison’s single “This Is Love.” The resultant song “Handle With Care” was so good that it was decided to release it on its own under the Traveling Wilburys moniker complete with fictitious names. Dylan later joined to make the group a quintet. Jim Keltner as Buster Sidebury was the drummer.

The result of all the tongue-in-cheek shenanigans was some of the best pure rock/pop of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Their entire catalogue has now been released as a two CD + 1 DVD Box Set titled The Traveling Wilburys Collection.

From pieces of pop heaven such as “Handle With Care,” “End Of The Line,” and “She’s My Baby” to the quirky “Wilbury Twist” and “Tweeter And The Monkey Man;” it is a journey through the best pop music has to offer. Their first album with Orbison’s soaring voice finds them at their best but everything is above the norm.

Jeff Lynne is a master producer and their sound was always clear and crisp and remains so on this release. The accompanying booklet is extensive. The DVD presents a history of the band and takes one back a quarter of a century to where everyone looks a lot younger and in the case of Orbison and Harrison are still alive.

The Traveling Wilburys were a short term project by five superstars. In some ways I can’t help but think the other four wanted to play with Orbison as the band only carried on for one more album following his death. They left behind a stunning collection of well-crafted music that represented a unique and creative career stop for the musicians involved. High recommended for any fan of American rock and roll.


These Boots Are Made For Walking By Nancy Sinatra

December 20, 2016

It didn’t hurt that you were the daughter of Frank Sinatra. And it really didn’t hurt that your father owned a record label.

Nancy Sinatra managed to create a career for herself that wasn’t dependent on her father, despite the advantages that it brought with it.

She managed to grab the brass ring twice during her career. The first was with “These Boots Are Made For Walking, which was one the early tough girl songs; “one day these boots are going to walk all over you.” For a week, beginning February 6, 1966, it topped the American music world.


Shake Your Faith By The Steepwater Band

December 15, 2016

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The Steepwater Band can now be considered a veteran outfit as they have just released their sixth studio album. Shake Your Faith represents their first foray into the studio as a four member, instead of three, band with new and added guitarist Eric Saylors taking part as a full member.

Singer/guitarist Jeff Massey leads the group through an album of original material. Songs such as “Mama Got To Ramble,” “Bring On The Love,” “Last Second Chance,” and the title track have hooks and a beat that will keep you humming long after the music has ended.

The Steepwater band fuses a number of styles into their music. Blues, rock, roots, and pop all blend together into a nice mix that provides an upbeat listening experience. A good way to spend a hour of your time.


The World Moves On By The Hitman Blues Band

December 15, 2016

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The Hitman Blues Band, featuring Russell “Hitman” Alexander (guitar/vocals), Kevin Bents (keyboards), Mike Porter (bass), Guy La Fontaine (drums), and sax players Mickey Vitale and Nick Clifford, have released a new album of hard hitting, modern day, electric blues.

The 13 tracks contain seven new originals, one cover, and five re-imagined previously released songs. My only criticism is the five previously released tracks were not re-recorded but rather had a horn section added to spice them up. If you are going to go to the trouble of adding a brass section, just record everything again to give it a  new feel.

Songs such as “Bad Bad Man,” “”Two Minute Warning,” and “The World Moves On” all blast from the speakers. The tracks are all long enough for the band to build their sound and allow Alexander to provide some guitar improvisation along the way.

The World Moves On finds a veteran band hitting their stride. It is a release that should appeal to any fan of the modern-day blues.