Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Field Report (7/12/08): The Musical Adventures of Racer and Pope JTE


When we set out on this trek, Racer and I had no intention of including it as a Field Report. After some discussion over piping hot Venti latte’s from that big green and white caffeinated teat, we decided, ‘Hey, this adventure is a music related, Ripple Effect sponsored expedition. Let’s share with the Waveriders. Originally, the Field Report was supposed to be for capturing a live performance or two, but there’s nothing stating in our by-laws that the forum can’t be tweaked a bit. So, here you have it . . . a day in the life of Racer and Pope getting together and embracing all that is music.

Knowing that I had a good hour to hour and a half before Racer landed at John Wayne airport in Orange County, I figured that this would be a good time to assess one of the discs that’s been staring laser beams into my skull for the better part of a month. I threw in the debut disc from a San Diego outfit called Wasting June.

Funny little story about this one . . . Mrs. Pope and I went to dinner one fateful Friday night at the Stone Brewery, located a hop, skip, and jump from our residence, and this disc (Mortadella) from Wasting June was stacked in the gift shop. Seeing a CD is pretty much a sure fired way to get me asking questions, so naturally, I asked dude-at-the-register what the CD was all about. He told me that it was a band that featured one of the wait staff, and it was kinda’ metal, kinda’ cool. That wasn’t a lot to go off of. When someone says “kinda’ metal,” that could mean a lot of different things. Was it thrash metal? Was it extreme metal? Was it pop metal? Was it metal at all? So, like a good adventurer, I grabbed my Indiana Jones hat, bull whip, and leather jacket, reached deep into my ever so deep pockets, and withdrew a crumpled ten dollar bill. I figured, at worst, this was my contribution to supporting the arts.

As I made my way up I-5, Mortadella began its second spin, and I found it a worthy travel companion. Wasting June are a poppy, punky, rock outfit that incorporate a bunch of sounds, both modern and retro. I hear a great deal of Police influence, especially in the first track”Pretty Little Poison Vial of Death.” It’s up beat tempo was good for the no man’s stretch through Camp Pendleton and the pass through San Onofre. By the time the second full spin came and went, I had decided that this disc will take up permanent residence with the rest of my children. Check them out for yourselves. Their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/wastingjune) has five of the seven tracks to listen to. Oh . . . and they are so far from being metal that it’s silly. I may have to go back to the gift shop with a pile of metal CD’s and show dude-at-the-register what metal is so that he can never confuse patrons again.

Once I picked up Racer from the airport rendezvous point, we trucked our way through minor Saturday traffic towards the planet known as Hollywood. Our first stop was to be at The Grove in Hollywood, a sprawling shopping Mecca built on the grounds of an old farmers market. Tucked between a Barnes & Noble and a movie theater, Richard Barone was set to perform excerpts from his book, fittingly titled, “Frontman.” When we got there, we didn’t really know what we were in for, but we did know that former Three’s Company actress, Joyce DeWitt, was somehow involved. Strange bed fellows? Sure. But, it turns out that Richard Barone and Joyce DeWitt are old chums, and Richard enlisted her help to read some passages from the book while he strummed the ole acoustic six string. Richard’s voice was in great form as he dove into some classics from his Bongos and solo career, and Joyce was the bubbly personality that I grew up watching in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. After the twenty minute performance, Racer and I went up to introduce ourselves, and found two of the most gracious people one could ever hope to meet. The highlight of the afternoon, other than finally beating a nasty headache into submission, was when Joyce squeezed my bicep. Doesn’t get too much closer to heaven, folks. www.myspace.com/richardbarone

Once the pleasantries were over, we grabbed a quick bite at a fairly pricey coffee bistro, and made our way deeper into the heart of Hollywood. Earlier in the day, I had written down a couple of addresses for record stores, and having a fairly good navigation system taking up residence in my skull, I was able to get us from point A to point B with relative ease. As made our way eastward on Melrose, Racer and I found ourselves in awe of our surroundings. Sure, we’d been to Hollywood before, but it had been some time, and unless one lives that life day in and day out . . . well, it just becomes a mind fuck once it’s revisited.


We found the first store nestled in with a bunch of other store fronts, and it was the littered pile of fliers for rock concerts that told us that we had found the right place. That and the big sign that said Headline Records. Now . . . this is one of the coolest record stores that I’ve happened upon in many years. As we walked in, we were assailed with a wave of heat, almost as if the store had been closed up so that there was no cross ventilation. Lack of cross ventilation wasn’t really the factor here, it was just bloody hot! The ceiling was covered with t-shirts from all the bands that you’d expect to see in any self respecting record store that specializes in punk rock and underground sounds. Posters in the windows, CD’s neatly organized from one dark side to the dingy other, vinyl 12” and 7” records filled up the other vacancies. We were blown away by the shear amount of material before us. But, what really made Headline Records special was the amount of punk rock knowledge and stunning personality of John and Ken. We didn’t get a chance to pick John’s brain too much, but Ken pulled names and dates out of seemingly nowhere to answer our questions. Ken is a punk rock super computer . . . and a hell of a nice guy, at that. Racer walked out with some Stiff Little Fingers (the band, not the appendages) and Dead Kennedy’s, while I finally satisfied the need to have Suicidal’s first album on CD. When you’re in the L.A. area, stop in and say hi to the guys . . . Headline Records, 7706 Melrose Ave. http://www.headlinerecords.com/


Smiling, but far from satisfied with our haul, we took off towards a store that we knew from past experience would give us our fill. We made our way to Amoeba Records (http://www.amoebarecords.com) on Sunset Blvd. Next to Rasputin’s in the Bay Area, Amoeba is the place that The Ripple Effect runs to refill the barren stock room. If you’ve never been to a store like this, the thing that you’ll need to remember is, bring nourishment and relieve yourself prior to flipping through miles and miles of miscellaneous CD’s. And, whoever is out there saying that people don’t buy CD’s anymore is a big, fat, propagandist working in cahoots with the digital media. The sound of plastic CD covers clicking upon one another drowned out the sound of the alt-retro-electronica that was blaring over the store’s P.A. system. We had to muscle our way down the aisles just to see what the store had to offer. It was fuckin’ great! Four hours later, Racer and I had thirty albums apiece in our baskets. Some we knew, some we didn’t, but the important thing here was that we had fun talking about music and getting excited about stuff that we knew little to nothing about. Was the next great Ripple find in one of our baskets? Only time will tell. But, one thing was glaringly apparent. I had forgotten one of my own rules. After four hours of digging through piles and piles of randomly assorted CD’s, well . . . I had to piss to the point that I was afraid there was gonna’ be a clean up on aisle four. Fear not, Waveriders. Fluid was not spilled in areas where fluids shouldn’t have been.

By the time we exited Amoeba, Racer was beginning to look a bit ashen. It appears he forgot one of the rules, too! Since we were supposed to meet up with one of the Ripple mainstays in Heavy Water Experiments (www.myspace.com/heavywaterexperiments), we decided that we better stop and grab a bite to eat before driving another half hour east. We found a little funky Mexican joint on Sunset and had a nice meal. Too nice, apparently. By the time we paid our bill and made it back to the ole Pope mobile, it was inching past nine o’clock. With time working against us, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and made the call to David with HWE. He was disappointed that we couldn’t make it out to see them, but understood our predicament. We vowed that we would do it right next time and be able to spend some quality time hangin’ out, listening to music, jammin’ on tunes, pickin’ their brains on how they created such an awesome album. You know . . . just doing it right.

The journey home was a hodge podge of samplings from various items that Racer randomly picked out of plastic shopping bags. Bands we heard for the first leg of the journey included Brain Police (UK), A.J. Croce, Priestess, and the holy-crap-what-is-this- Dub Trio. These guys actually blew me away and I can’t wait for Racer to give that one a few more spins. The second leg of the midnight run was supposed to be a metal freak-out, just so that we could keep our eyes open (there’s just something unsafe about driving with one’s eyes closed.) What we found as we shot through the darkened freeways of Orange County was that Byzantine was the most phenomenal metal band that graced God’s green earth. I had picked up their first album, The Fundamental Component, and we marveled at the technical musicianship from start to finish. At one point, we replayed the intro to one of the songs three times just to get a better grasp of the time signature. We still have no idea what time the tune was in, and all we can really do is sit back and smile about it. Eventually, and I’m not sure how this happened, Racer fell asleep through the heavy metal barrage and awoke immediately as the last note spilled from the speakers.

We pulled into the homestead, exhausted, and found Mrs. Pope waiting patiently for us. She ensured that our beds were made all nice and neat, and tucked us in with a gentle pat on the heads. That night, err . . . morning, we slept with dreams of CD’s clicking in our heads and the intros to 60 reviews racing through our vocabulary. All was right with the world. - Pope JTE

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Proto-metal Report - Poobah - Underground

Long one of the world’s great cult treasures, Poobah, led by its fearless fret-meister Jim Gustafson, has been brandishing its unique blend of acid, psych rock for greater than 30 years now. Hailed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the "world’s most collectible psych rock band," Poobah’s early LP’s, like their 1972 debut, sell for upwards of $1000 if you’re one of the lucky few who can find them. Go ahead, check ebay. It ain't there. And despite having performed at the above Hall of Fame a record 12 times, played private parties for the Who and toured with the likes of ZZ Top, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper and the James Gang, you’d still hard pressed to find a handful of people in one room familiar with the unholy pounding metallic psych madness that is Poobah.

So, today we’re here to change all that.


Earlier, we here at the Ripple already professed our love for the psych/blues freakouts of the JPT Scare Band, and our dear friends Poobah would be the perfect band to promote on the same bill for an evening of extended acid guitar Ripple madness. Formed in the early 1970’s, Poobah crafted a proto-metal, heavy pysch hybrid, highlighted by searing guitar leads, that lasered through three albums in the 1970’s. Combinations of band lineup changes and management issues kept the boys from breaking out of the cult status and getting the recognition they deserved, but fueled by Gustafson's unfailing guitar obsession, they remained active, pounding out over 1000 shows and this molten slab of effect-laden guitar wizardry in 2005. Coming in at over 80 minutes spread across 16 songs, most clocking in at over 4 minutes, this is a throwback to the days when artists headed into the studio with a boatload of songs, a bucket of effects pedals and a driving lust to push the boundaries. Oh yeah, and some funny little mushrooms.


Recorded as essentially a two-piece with multi-instrumentalist Woody Hupp on bass and drums, Underground is a heavy psych lover’s dream; extended warped guitar notes flashing by in a flurry of acrid smoke and blacklight posters. “Underground,” sets the tone, riding it’s spaced-out riff, guitar lines warping in and out like fluid bubbling inside a twenty-first century lava lamp. Gustafson’s voice is in fine form, layering over the bass, as warped as those distorted notes from his guitar. And when the solo fires in, dancing through the mix like comets streaking through the psychedelic cosmos, you know you’ve found a home. How Gustafson hasn’t been given the accolades he deserves as a master of the fret, hammering on like Van Halen, distorting through walls of feedback like Hendrix, is as big a mystery as the existence of Big Foot.


"Secret," is a fuzzed out beast of a song, riffing over the Morley effect pedals before tearing into that solo. "Strange," comes at you with the fury of a mean acid trip, while "Seed," simply tears the tweeters from the speakers, blasting off in a feedback drenched volley of riffs and fiery leads.

At times thick and heavy with the edge of modern metal, (Psychic Malfunction), rooted in 12-bar blues (On the Out) or simply lost in space (Venus Patrol) Gustafson keeps the quality high, the guitars incendiary and the effects on full display. Like a blast of magic incense filtering through a night of madness, Underground is a dense explosion of guitar mastery from one of rock's great unheralded survivors. My fingers get blistered just listening to it all.


A quality recording from an enduring legend and a must for fans of heavy psych. Everyone, everywhere, all hail the Grand Poobah.


--Racer

www.poobahband.com




Friday, July 25, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace, Episode 6


Greetings, friends! I’m finding myself a bit astounded that it’s been a whole month since Episode 5, but the calendar doesn’t lie and the time is upon us once again to check in with the world of Myspace. As we’ve touched on in past episodes, Myspace is just brimming with intriguing music and musical happenings, and that’s the reason we do this feature. As we’ve surfed through the site and stopped in to see what’s going on out there, we absorb so interesting morsels of information, and we then forward that info onto you.


Way back in Episode 2, I mentioned that the Indianapolis Metal Fest II was scheduled for September 26th and 27th and hosted by the one and only, Mistress Juliya. Nothing’s changed there, but what has changed is that the line up for this event is now public knowledge and I want all of the headbangin’, mosh happy Waveriders to take note that this will be the metal event of 2008. There are a ton of outstanding acts performing at this festival, and the ones that have peaked my interest are Dew Scented, Divine Heresy, Ekotren, and Skeletonwitch. To get the full who’s who performing, go to www.myspace.com/indymetalfest and see for yourselves. You don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to miss it. So, if you see some bald curmudgeonly guy standing on the road with a cardboard sign with “Indy Metal Fest” scrawled upon it, be a pal . . . pull over and give him a lift.


Speaking of Skeletonwitch (did I mention I love these guys?) they’re going to be a part of Danzing’s Blackest of the Black Tour, which features, uh, . . . Danzig, Dimmu Borgir, Moonspell, and a cast of thousands. And, if you haven’t picked up Beyond the Permafrost yet, get a leg up on your friends and swing by Prosthetic Records, http://www.prostheticrecords.com,and/ get yourself a copy. If you didn’t read the Prosthetic Aesthetic, Episode 1, Skeltonwitch incorporate high tempo death metal soundings with the dual guitar harmonies of early Iron Maiden. Envision the soundtrack to Viking pillaging and Beyond the Permafrost is it. www.myspace.com/skeletonwitch


Our chums in Echovalve have passed out the word that the remainder of their tour through the Midwest had to be cancelled due to financial issues. The band deeply regrets having to cut the tour short, but the boys have gotta’ eat! They are planning on getting back into the studio to record the follow up to the Ripple favorite, helloagaingoodbye, with the hopes a larger label will pick them up. If that happens, keep your children off the sidewalks coz’ these guys are gonna’ be all over the place. They also mentioned, “Its time to turn the ripples into crashing waves,” and we couldn’t agree more, but we’re not gonna’ change our name to The Wave Effect. Just doesn’t sound as cool. www.myspace.com/echovalve



In the Holy Crap category, I just got word that Corey Glover will be on the touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar. That, in and of itself, isn't enough for the Holy Crap award (though it does seem fitting.) Due to his committment to the Superstar performance, Corey won't be able to hit the road with Living Colour. Bummer, right? How about this for his replacement . . . Doug Pinnick of King's X. Yeah . . . you read that right. Wanna' read it for yourself? Go to Corey's blog. www.myspace.com/coreyglover. I think my bowels just turned to water. It's not as uncomfortable as one might think.


Dream Aria have a new album that’s available called Transcend. The sample tracks on their page sound even more epic and uplifting than that of In The Wake, if that’s even possible. My eyes rolled back into my head when I heard the guitar work with it’s middle eastern themes on the title track. Are we excited? Does a bear shit in the woods? Well . . . I guess a polar bear doesn’t, but you get the idea. We're excited . . . you should be too! Stop by and drop them a line. www.myspace.com/dreamariacanada



Speaking of new tracks, apb have four new songs posted and available for free download. These tracks have never been made available in CD/digital format before, so don't miss out on your chance to claim them as your own. If you know little to nothing about these guys, swing by and feel some of the groovenist bass lines on the face of the planet. Yes . . . I said feel, not listen. Put it on and you’ll see where I’m coming from. www.myspace.com/apbtheband


My main man, Eric Hamilton, has four new tracks posted on his page. My understanding of the situation is that he tooled on down to The Big Easy, and over the course of a few days recorded ten tunes for a new album. Eric was nice enough to forward me the tunes, and I haven’t wanted to go back to the Crescent City more than when those tunes are playing. I’ve said it time and time again, this guys brings a soulfullness to his music that can’t be touched. His lyrics are as real as his life. The dude’s as real as they get. www.myspace.com/erichamiltonband


I had a dream last night. It went something like this . . . I hopped in my Popemobile and drove to Norway. Yep. Drove to Norway . . . from California. I think there was something about moving the Ripple offices to Norway, but then I remembered that we were moving our offices to Sweden. Man, was I confused. So, I parked the Popemobile and went to a Domino’s Pizza joint, (Apparently driving from California to Norway in six hours works up a hearty appetite) but I was turned away because it was nearing 6:00 p.m. It was a dream . . . it doesn’t have to make sense. Well, since I’m yammering on about Norway, I might as well tell you the news of Norwegian thrash metallers, Susperia. They are in pre-production for the follow up of 2007’s, Cut From Stone. They’re taking a bit of break from recording in August to play the XV Revoltallo Festival is Spain and Metal Rock Festival in Norway. So, keep your eyes and ears open for that one. Ah hell, just keep it tuned here. We’ll tell ya’ what’s up. www.myspace.com/susperiafans



Everyone's favorite alt country/indie artists, Calexico, are due to release their new albums, Carried to Dust, and are making a sneak peak available of their newest track. Give it a spin and lose yourself in a strange and beautiful land. In their music, you'll find strains of folk, rock, jazz, flamenco, Mexican folk and the softness of the desert sands at night, all wrapped up in one irresistible burrito of sound. You'll be hard pressed to ever find another band that sounds like these guys. Check them out at: www.myspace.com/casadecalexico and find the new track just waiting for your hungry ears at the link below. http://www.touchandgorecords.com/calexicostream/Two_Silver_Trees.mp3



Coming this September, living legend David Gilmour will be releasing Live in Gdansk. You, the fan, have the option of picking up the standard 2 disc set, or the deluxe 3 disc set with a few extras. Or, the 4 disc set with a bunch of extras. Or . . . the 5 disc set with even more extras. Phew! Them are a lot of extras! If you're a real hardcore fan, there's even a vinyl edition. Swing by the web site http://blog.davidgilmour.com/2008/06/live-in-gdask-f.html and read up on the significance of this recording. It ranges from the formation of trade unions to the first performace of Gilmour in Poland. Interesting stuff. Also interesting is that the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Symphony accompanies Gilmour as he rattles off the standard fair of Pink Floyd classics and a bunch of stuff from his critically acclaimed album, On An Island. www.myspace.com/davidgilmour


To wrap things up this month, we have some news from our own front. No . . . we’re not truly moving to Sweden . . . yet. The Ripple Effect is all about the music, right? Well, reading about it one thing, and it’s fun to sit here and write our thoughts and feelings on the music that we’re experiencing. But, music is the art of sound. So, what better way to share the music that we love than by putting over the airwaves for you to hear. On July 16th, The Ripple Effect went live on the air with The Ripple Effect Radio Show. Racer and I had the opportunity to play some of our favorite tracks from the bands that we’ve reviewed over the past eight months or so. Originally slated as a one hour show, we quickly realized, that’s just not enough time to get the music out there . . . so we’ve already boosted the show up to a two hour gig. We’ll be broadcasting again in early August, and of course, we’ll keep all of you Waveriders abreast of the times and places. So, with that being said, we need to get back into our cache of songs and begin compiling the next show. Until next month, keep digging . . . you never know what you’ll unearth. - Pope JTE

Catch the best music your not listening to on the Ripple Effect. Now monthly on internet radio.


Listen to The Ripple Effect on internet talk radio

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

UFO - Strangers in the Night - Original Version


From the very first moments, you know you're in for something big. You can sense it in the anticipation of the crowd, you can hear it in the announcer's voice as he bellows, "Hello, Chicago. Would you please welcome from England, U.F.O.!" And then it starts. Initially, just a single guitar belting out a classic riff, then the bass and drums kick in, and we're off and running. Recorded in Chicago and Louisville while the band was touring their classic Obsessions, album, Strangers in the Night, captures one of the great, unheralded metal bands at their absolute peak. Boasting the classic line-up with Michael Schenker on guitar, this is the definitive recorded performance of a vastly under-appreciated band, and, along with Thin Lizzy's "Live and Dangerous," and Kiss's "Alive," one of the best live rock albums of the seventies.

As an opener, "Natural Thing," the band's ode to a groupie with VD, is a charger. A near throw-away cut from the No Heavy Petting, album, here, played live, the song is completely transformed, brimming with energy and muscle, the track blasts out of the speakers with conviction. This is powerhouse 70's metal, with a deep bottom end supplied by the ever flamboyant Pete Way and the most straight-ahead riff Schenker ever wrote. Phil Mogg's voice is in especially fine form, a deeper huskier tone than most 70's metallers, here there's an extra layer of texture to his throat, a gruffer hint of the blues hiding under his wailing.

And we're just beginning. After a killer drum breakdown by original skin-banger Andy Parker, the song transforms effortlessly into the intensely melodic "Out in The Streets," Paul Raymond' delicate piano notes the glue holding the song together while the boys fly in and out of ballad-esque passages and searing metal. This is the other side of UFO, rarely credited to the band. As one of the first to truly fuse orchestration and metal, they almost single-handedly created the euro-metal sound and what has become known as the power ballad. Just listen to that guitar solo mid-way through "Out in the Street." Whether plowing through riffs or playing it soft, UFO fused each of their compositions with intensity.

This is a breathless, heart-pounding performance, one track blasting right into the next. Whether tearing through the driving "Doctor, Doctor," or the charging "Light's Out," this is a band brimming with confidence, tight and sure in the power of their music and every move they make. Never is this confidence seen more than in the band's devastating performances of their minor songs like "Mother Mary," or "This Kids." Mere filler on the studio albums, here they are raging slabs of metal, Schenker's guitar histrionics near spellbinding as he blows through ferocious leads and lead fills, his fingers flying faster than any human being should be capable of. Don't forget, despite his rather unbalanced status of late, Schenker was revered as a guitar hero for a reason. Probably the most dynamic guitarist to come from the '70's until Eddie Van Halen, no one can solo like him. Plowing through scales and massive sheets of notes on his trademark Flying V he never loses tone, melody or clarity.

Without overstating it, the entire disc is a "raise your lighter," moment, arms swaying in undying praise to the staggeringly powerful performances, but if there were highlights that had to be chosen, the first would be the insanely beautiful rendition of "Love to Love." Forget Poison or Motely Crue, this is the original power-ballad, a grand, sweeping, orchestrated composition, piano trickling underneath Schenker's powerchords and incredible solo. Mogg diggs as deep as he ever has into his emotive vocal range, the sound of tears nearly choking in his throat as he sings the chorus. The second defining moment is undoubtedly Schenker's guitar freak-out signature song, "Rock Bottom." Don't expect standard three-chord riffing here. When Schenker creates a riff, most guitarists can't handle it. Here, his playing is literally out of his skull. With the band roaring behind him, he tears through the verses of the song in a mind-boggling frenzy until he hits the God of all live guitar solos. Nearly 8 minutes long, my mouth drops open in awe each time I hear the intense speed, his fingers charged with electricity. I've never understood how this song isn't regularly nominated for best guitar solo of all time.

Unfortunately, Schenker walked out on the band mid-way through this tour, derailing what rightfully should have been a future that made UFO a household name. While the band continued to produce some fine albums, it took all the way until their most recent formation with Vinnie Moore on guitar for the band to once again rise to glory. But from the old days, we have this album, a recorded legacy of what was and what could have been. Intense. Powerful. Melodic. Everything metal is supposed to be.

Misty Green and Blue forever

--Racer

Buy here: Strangers in the Night

UFO official website



Monday, July 21, 2008

Battleroar – To Death and Beyond



As the eastern sun rises above the horizon, it illuminates a congregation of man, beast, and machine. Two armies as far as the eye can see, converge on a grassy plain. The anticipation of the coming battle weighs heavy on the hearts of the armored men. Fear permeates from the throng of bodies. Banners snap in the momentary gusts of wind as it sweeps across the fields of doom. Horns announce the approach of further garrisons, and sweat begins to bead on the brow. The multitudes suddenly part for their heroes as they prepare to lead their troops to oblivion. And then, for one brief moment . . . quiet, and peace.

Then, the two armies hurl themselves across the grasslands. Galloping towards a mirror image of itself, the first wave of attackers trample the brush and kick up dust, until the two forces ultimately collide. Before long, a tangled mass of humanity writhes in violence upon itself and blood soaks into the earth.

That’s the image I got from the first two minutes of Battleroar’s To Death and Beyond . . . epic power metal in the vein of Iron Maiden that just played tricks with my imagination. Though the lyrical content of the first track, “The Wrathforge,” doesn’t necessarily have to do with the ancient warfare of the Bronze Age, it does still have to do with the valor of battle. The feeling is conveyed well through the soaring vocals of Marco Concoreggi and the searing guitar work Kostas Tzortzis and Manolis Karazeris. The arrangement of the lead tune is complex and held together by the tight rhythm team of bassist Gus Macricostas and drummer Nick Papadopoulos. This quintet are the special forces team enlisted by one of the armies to the left, or right, of my minds eye. You know, those bad ass guys you call when the regular forces just aren’t gonna’ cut it.

The bands epic musical approach continues on “Finis Mundi” as it opens with the orchestral strain of string arrangements and lilting vocals. The acoustic guitar that kicks off the intro riff shows that Battleroar don’t rely on simple force to get their message across. There’s a finesse to their movements . . . to their multi-note attack. Once the band enters the fray, it’s a full on metal fest. The main guitar riff is text book traditional metal and carries the band through the melee on the grasslands with nary a scratch. Check out the instrumental break in the middle of the tune, as the band returns to the intro orchestrations. Nice change of pace to keep things continually interesting and Concoreggi’s voice continues to radiate as the band comes back in to cut a swath through the enemies ranks.

More bodies fall before the band of brothers as the pummeling bass lines of “Hyrkanian Blades” announces it’s arrival. The double bass drums propel the band forward, and me thinks that at this pace, Battleroar should take the oppositions stronghold by nightfall. Great tempo shift in the middle of this one and a sweet, melodic guitar solo to follow. “Warlord of Mars” and “Death Before Disgrace” close the album and find the band wreaking utter havoc in the enemy encampment. Up tempo numbers that only slow down so that the band can pause long enough to gather their surroundings before they tear shit up again. I especially liked the bass work in “Warlord of Mars,” which also features a well arranged instrumental passage that would make Maiden blush. Also, listen for the instrumental tension builder in “Death Before Disgrace.” That, my friends, is good metal!

Don’t think that the band is all about death, destruction, and warfare. When their not spilling the blood of infidels, they’re letting their hair down and singing the praises of the early days of heavy metal in “Born in the ‘70’s.” Actually, this is a great bonfire song to celebrate Battleroar’s inevitable conquest of a lesser opponent. It’s an anthemic tune and highly infectious. Go ahead and try to not hum along with it. I won’t tell the band, but somehow . . . I think they’ll know if you’re not. And after reading what they just did to an army of thousands, do you really want to test fate? Nah . . . me either.


All kidding aside, To Death and Beyond is a killer traditional metal album that just gets the imagination going. It reminds me of my formidable years of listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Dio. Straight up, ass kicking metal that’s just different enough to keep my attention through all of the nifty mood and time changes. It always comes back to dynamics. Yeah, maybe some of this has been done before and there are production flaws, but who cares? This is a fun listen and one can instantly tell that the members of Battleroar are enjoying their work. Fictional and literal. - Pope JTE

Buy here: To Death and Beyond...




Friday, July 18, 2008

Space Probe Taurus - Space Probe Taurus


I don’t know about you, but it’s always pissed me off that Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” album sounded nothing like the album art. I mean, here we got this freakin’ amazing Richard Corben painting of a muscular long-haired Adonis biker rocketing out of the confines of Hell aboard his skull-faced, quadruple exhausted hog from Hades, and inside we get. . . “Paradise by the Dashboard Light?” Not to be knocking the Meatster (ok, maybe a little) but Jim Steinman’s quasi-operatic bombasts about love and teenage angst hardly warrant a cover that vicious. I mean, how much of a disconnect can you have?


But don’t worry, oh waverider, I’ve found the real album that cover was meant for. Blasting out of their own version of an acid-drenched Hell, Space Probe Taurus is a full on assault of methed up, fuzzed out, biker garage rock, brimming with enough muscle and punk energy to be deemed worthy of Corben’s masterpiece.


Coming from our favorite musical Mecca of Sweden, and signed to Buzzville Records, the SPT boys ask one simple question, how much fuzz can you take in your rock? Ramrodding their beastly songs right down your throat, SPT are some ungodly mix of Stooges energy, MC5 attitude, Mudhoney riffs and enough fuzz pedals to fill a fleet of 18 wheelers, this is Steppenwolf for the new millennium, maxed out, fuzzed out garage rock for the open highways.


Quality songs like “Dig the Lizard,” “Molten Lava,” and “Psi-burn,” come at you like some freakishly distorted Fu Manchu/Blue Cheer hybrid, having ditched the Fu boys skateboards and surfer vans for quadruple exhausted hogs from the river Styx. Heavily influenced by the heavy psych scene as it evolved into proto-metal, this is biker rock on acid, Harley riders from Hell. Meaty and muscular, methed and maxed out rock and roll.


Bursts of fuzzed-out stoner metal like "Levitation," rock as hard as anything you'd ever want blaring in your ears. "Electric Exploson," is just that, a freaking explosion tempered through rows of Sjoberg's and Eronen's effects pedals. Through the walls of fuzzed riffs, drummer Sundler keeps time like some demented Keith Moon. Pounding with all eight arms and legs, he keeps pace more with his massive fills and dropped beats than any standard 4/4 drum lesson. Meanwhile, bassist Enberg must amputate a couple of digits with each song.


While the boys experiment with dynamics, a few slow passages to break the assault, this is essentially a full-open throttle blast of garage fuzz. That means that at times, the songs get a bit repetitive, but don't worry, they never lose their bite. It's just pure, balls out rawk and roll fun.


Do yourself a favor and give this beast a ride and flip Meatloaf off as you pass him by.


--Racer

www.spaceprobetaurus.com

www.myspace.com/spaceprobetaurus


The boys don't have a video, but their music is used in this horror film movie trailer, just scroll in about half way to hear what SPT sounds like.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Crumbsuckers - Life of Dreams

The time: Freshman year of high school. The place: Uh . . . high school.

So, there I was. I remember it as clear as ten minutes ago. Sitting in the back of my Spanish class, minding my own business. You know, doing the usual classroom stuff . . . fantasizing about being a rock star or getting the hot Spanish teacher to do one of those naughty Van Halen video things. My reverie was suddenly ripped asunder as one of my mates literally threw himself on my desk. Eyes wide and panting, he uttered words that seemed to make no sense. “Crumbsuckers” was the only word that came from his mouth as he swiftly lifted himself from my desk, planted a wet one on my forehead, and ran out of the classroom.

After class, I tracked this dude down, slapped him over the head for bringing unwanted attention to my corner of the classroom, and asked, “What gives?” He simply smiled and handed me a copy of Life of Dreams from Crumbsuckers.

At the time, I was a kid who loved all things metal, who had just started dabbling in punk and hardcore. I was still wet behind the ears to most of the stuff. So, along come Crumbsuckers, and I get the ultimate amalgam of the New York Hardcore sound and the frenzied riffiness of Bay Area Metal. Life of Dreams played an important role in my musical development. Along with Suicidal Tendencies first album and Excel’s Split Image, Life of Dreams led me to a very special world and there was no going back.

“Just Sit There” opens with what appears on the surface as a standard metal riff, but 19 seconds in, the guitar disappears and the menacing bass line kicks in with accompaniment of vocals that could peel the stucco from my house. Then it’s a speedy, meaty moshfest that lasts for a hair over a minute. No muss, no fuss. Next song. “Trapped” kicks in and we’re pulled into the pit once again. Beautiful mixture of hardcore and metal on this one. Fast and aggressive to start things off, then it drops to a mid tempo groove before featuring . . . gasp! . . . a guitar solo. Life of Dreams is rich with treatments such as these. I could break down every tune, but then things would get redundant so I’ll just point you in the direction of some of my favorite moments. Turn your ears over to “The Longest War,” Brainwashed,” and “Face of Death” and hear how each tune features some outstanding metal moments with equal parts hardcore sensibility . . . and vice versa.

As I’ve revisited this album, I’ve noticed the musicality behind it more so than when I was a mosh happy teenager. Matured ears? Probably. But, check out the clean arpeggio’s at the intro to “Mr. Hyde” and listen to how they build the tune before it explodes into a hardcore flurry of aggression. The tune twists and turns with a ton of riff and tempo changes, creating a manic, schizophrenic beast of a song. Heady for it’s time.

Life of Dreams covers a bevy of topics, and considering that this was in the height of Reagan’s reign over the U.S., there was a ton of lyrical fodder to be had out there. Most of the songs deal with the seaming hopelessness of carving out a life in this society, and the emotions are conveyed in a fairly eloquent fashion in tunes such as “Shits Creek”, “Trapped”, and “Return To The Womb.” Denouncing the president, our governments foreign policies, religious fanaticism, and human stupidity cover some more of the topics throughout the disc. And then, of course, you have “Hubrun” where it’s listed as “Words: Insignificant.”

Crumbsuckers only released on more album after Life of Dreams before disbanding, but they left a lasting impression on those who heard them. Many of the so called hardcore bands or metal core bands of today have the Crumbs to thank for shoving their sound down our throats. Along with Excel, D.R.I., Cryptic Slaughter, and a host of other trailblazers, they created a scene and a sound. And, on top of that, Life of Dreams has held up surprisingly well. There’s nothing worse than playing an album that you loved as a kid to find either the music, or you, didn’t age well. Life of Dreams sounds just as poignant today as it did in ’86, and what I’ve found most frightening is that things within our world haven’t changed all that much. We still have the same war mongering personalities running the country. We still have religious fanaticism and a church of followers asking for our money. We still have drug addiction, a materialistic society, and homelessness. Hatred, poverty, sickness. Yet, some still live a life of dreams. Remember to get out there and vote this November . . . for what good it’ll do ya’. - Pope JTE

Buy Crumbsuckers here: Life of Dreams


Monday, July 14, 2008

It's a Small Stone World (after all)-Episode 1

For the uninitiated, Detroit's Small Stone Records is one of the world's greatest purveyors of top-quality, stoner, retro-seventies riff monster, kick-ass rock and roll. Amassing a stable of some of the genre's most respected artists, Small Stone cover all bases, from bluesy stoner blowouts to monolithically heavy cosmic masterpieces. With artists coming from places as far away as Iceland and Sweden to the good ol' local boys of Detroit, there's something for every one here, as long as they like their music, loud and fuzzed and about as subtle as a kick in the nuts. And around the Ripple office, we do (the music part, not so much the kick in the nuts).

So, what we're gonna do today, oh fearless waverider, is launch through a quick rundown of some of finest from the latest batch of Small Stone's releases.


Iota - Tales

Blasting off like a runaway herd of raving mastodons launched into space at warp 9, Iota's new release Tales is an epic undertaking of stoner rock. Pushing the boundaries of the genre through the space/time continuum, the boys unleash a ravenous alien beast of an album, so punishing in its heaviness you'll need to hide away in a nuclear bunker not to be caught in its blast.

Fusing cosmically fuzzed guitars on top of their massively distorted riffs, Tales is an epic sci-fi journey, a concept album the likes of which haven't been seen since Sleep's masterpiece of droner metal. Riding high on Sabbath riffs, pounded through with the occasional backbeat of thrash, Iota take us blasting through the galaxies, meeting the "New Mantis," confronting the alien race, "We are the Yithians" and soaring into uncharted star systems, "Dimensional Orbiter." The vocal work, roughly similar to early-era James Hetfield, is slightly buried in the mix behind the attacking roar of the guitar, so I can't tell if the album tells a single story, but my impression is that this is the stoner rock equivalent of an old 50's sci-fi pulp novel, revealing separate tales of cosmic wonder with each pulverizing song. Pummeling in its intensity, grand in its scope. These guys are not lacking in ambition. Definitely worth checking out for those who like their stoner rock deeply fuzzed and very heavy. Buy here: Tales



Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned - South Side of the World

Coming from a different side of the riff-mad world of stoner rock, Gideon Smith takes charge of a disc like none other. Brandishing a gothic/rockabilly vocal attack not heard since the Cramps, and fusing that wild vibe to balls out stoner wail, Gideon knows how to make an impression. Not so much straight stoner rock but some wildly bizarre hybrid that I hereby dub, "massively blues-inflected, biker stoner-billy." We'll call it stonerbilly for short. Imagine if you will, a full-out head on collision between a gang of Harley bikers and a fleet of monster trucks on Halloween at midnight smack dab in the middle of a Mississippi bayou. What crawls out of the mud is Gideon Smith in all his flaming glory.

Recorded in Detroit and North Carolina, impossibly fuzzed songs like "Indian Larry," "Black Light Wizard Poster," and "Save a Dollar for the Dead," sound unlike anything else I've ever heard in the stoner world. "Black Cat Road," sounds like it should be the theme song to some horror remake of Deliverance, digging deep in a gothic southern vibe. "Devil's Ride," is as big and haunting as you'll find in the genre. This is full-on mad stoner riffing mixed with a hefty dose of good-old-fashioned psychdelia. Big riffs, big vocals, lots of inhalable plant material. What else do you need to have a good time? Buy here: South Side of the Moon



A Thousand Knives of Fire - The Last Train to Scornsville

For their Small Stone debut disc, A Thousand Knives of Fire actually released two albums on the same disc. Titled side one and side two, The Last Train to Scornsville finds a band exploring two sides of their kick ass muse. Side One, a ten stick of dynamite blast of roaring seventies metal riffs, wrapped up in some serious stoner grove. "One Eyed Jack," is about as instantly catchy as the Bubonic plague, with an intro riff guaranteed to blister your brain. "Hey, Buddy," has got to be a lost track by some forgotten '70's master, the riff is that crushing. I need to go buy a '79 Camero just so I can cruise Mainstreet with this beast blaring from my Jensen Tri-axels. The chicks will love me (won't they?).

Side Two, switches brain hemispheres. After the loosely structured "Last Train to Scornsville," the rest of the side finds the boys chasing the marijuna smoke through a whole series of extended bottom heavy jams, roughly broken up into separate song titles. The riffs are heavy, the exploration is deep, the smoke is thick. This is a mindtrip of stoner metal. Lava lamp not included. Buy here: The Last Train to Scornsville



Shame Club - Come On

Playing an amped up, fired-up brand of southern-inflected classic seventies rock, Shame Club start off their new disc like a racehorse chomping on the bit, kicking at the starting gate, just waiting for it's chance to stretch it's legs and run. "Transamerica," rumbles out of the speakers, all stuttering, rolling riffs and circling bass. You've heard this song before, not really, but you've always wanted to. Somewhere in the back of your brain, if you knew how to write music, you'd want to write this song. And damn, you'd love to play it live.

"I Just Want You to be Free," follows, emphasizing one of the many things that separates Shame Club from their contemporaries. This isn't stoner rock, it's a fresh take on the classic vibes of the seventies. Heavy and thundering, yet melodic and sweeping, this is Lenny Kravitz with extra muscle. Aerosmith before the movie soundtracks and insipid ballads, beefed up and roughed up with a modern touch. It's seventies rock dropping down into the south on a touch of speed, filtered through a six-pack of Red Bull. It's surprisingly melodic and soulful vocals, harmonizing over riffs the size of Mt. Rushmore. It's actually lots of things, and they're all good. Buy here: Come On


Puny Human - Universal Freak Out

The court jesters of stoner rock, Puny Human have parlayed their no-frills chunky riff-mastery into a great catalog of fuzzed out tractor pull rock and roll. These guys riff with the precision of a gem cutter, stopping on a dime, dropping in a monsterous bass line, a scorching lead, then popping right back into the riff as if time had stood still. Featuring such songs as "Every Brain Cell is Immense,""Can't Clap with a Drink in Your Hand,""and, "The Bus Will Eventually Crash," the boys haven't lost their sense of humor on this, their third album, but don't dare think of them as a joke. These guys rock as hard as Clutch and they definitely know their Sabbath. Just check out the bass line and riffblasting the skin off your cheekbones to start "The Real Johnny Charm." Big and meaty, yet smooth as a tequila shot on a hot summer day. Fierce and drunk, just the way we like it. Buy here: Universal Freak Out


Find all this and more at: www.myspace.com/smallstonerecords
www.smallstone.com

Gideon Smith "Whiskey Devil"



Puny Human "Jesus Has My Leg"

Friday, July 11, 2008

Heavy Water Experiments - Heavy Water Experiments


As some of you may know, I’ve sat in anticipation for this disc for the better part of six months. I loved Imogene’s last album and when I heard samples of the new stuff floating around cyberspace, I knew something magical was about to happen. After changing their name from Imogene to the more apt Heavy Water Experiments, the boys released a self titled album, chockfull of music that invokes memories of those days in the ‘70’s when you’d have a group of friends over for some fondue frivolity. It’s similar to the Imogene stuff, but miles of musical growth by the creative tandem of multi-instrumentalist, David Melbye, and drummer/percussionist, Roberto Salguero, have been traveled between albums. The band’s sound has matured as they’ve brought a sense of patience to the songwriting. The songs seem to have grown more organically as there’s more space between the droning bass notes, which allows the shimmering acoustic guitars, ambient keyboard passages, and conscious drum work to come to life. Heavy Water Experiments is a beautifully layered slab of bubbling emotion that, in contrast to Imogene, breathes.

Heavy Water Experiments get things started by kicking “Goldenthroat” off with a bit of an acoustic guitar melody before slapping the listener in the face with a wave of distorted bass. Melbye’s vocals sooth through the verse as Salguero plods along, and as we arrive to the chorus, the vocals melt us with it’s melody. Being that there’s no traditional guitarist in the band, Melbye approaches the role by utilizing a flurry of bass tones and notes to achieve the same end. Initially, I thought the solos being performed were that of a fuzzed out six string, and it wasn’t until I closed my eyes and followed the bass lines through the song that I realized what was going on. Note Salguero’s approach, as he adds the perfect amount of texture with the drums, in that, he doesn’t overplay anything and adds accents to tastefully enhance the song.

Getting away from the heavy drone of sound, Heavy Water Experiments employ acoustic guitars for a more uplifting feel. The acoustics are the driving force behind tracks like “Anodyne” and “Dementia,” enriching the textures and melodies of the tunes. These tracks are damn near peppy in comparison to the rest of the album, and add a wonderful contrast of lightness. I don’t see why either one of these songs couldn’t be on the radio. They’re filled with remarkable melody, they’re soothing, not overbearing, and quite memorable. Hell, I’ve been humming “Dementia” for the past day. Racer . . . how are the plans for the radio station coming? (If he tells me that we have a fully operational battle station . . . I’m gonna’ have to hurt him.) Anyway, once we have the radio station up and running, these tracks will be in heavy rotation, that’s all there is to it.

“Clairvoyance” features a distorted bass attack to open the tune, then drops into a dreamy verse before exploding again at the chorus. Great dynamics throughout the album, but especially on this tune. David Melbye flirts with disaster, but pulls off some outstanding musical acrobatics within the confines and structure of the song. Check out the solo on this one and get blown away. Then hang around for the flurry of notes as the song begins it’s outro . . . and get blown away again. One of the things that’s always frustrated me with “progressive” music is that, far too often, the musicians feel the need to play a million notes in a measure just because they have the God given ability to do so. This barrage of sound, or “noodling,” rarely, if ever, enhances a song. Generally, it sounds like a child screaming for my attention, then throwing their toys at my head if I choose to ignore them. In the case of “Clairvoyance,” the screaming child is replaced with an articulate adolescent with something relevant to say. That, my friends, is refreshing.

HWE take us to the middle east with the instrumental, “Octavian.” Hop aboard your flying carpet and soar through the open air bazaars of ancient Baghdad. Dig how this one starts off with the acoustic guitars working with the polyrhythmic drumming, and then just opens up from there, taking the listener to foreign lands and cultures. “Conflagration Song” opens with a fuzzed out bass groove that, in conjunction with the straight forward drumming, creates a mesmerizing ditty. Once we get to the break and Melbye breaks into another fabulous solo, listen to the textures that he’s playing over. It’s these moments that make me happy I have ears. This tune also features guest vocalist, Erinn Williamson, who’s seductive voice adds one more layer to an already multi-layered opus. “Book Colored Blue” is a tripped out night in a opium den. Musical notes dance through the air like smoke from a hookah pipe. Swirling all around us as we listen to the minstrels find their groove and never let go. The polyrhythmic drums touch our more primal being, as the vocals play tricks with our minds.

Heavy Water Experiments is the most musically daring disc to come from the Melbye/Salguero collective. Full of heavy, psychedelic groove, infectious melodies, and extended stoner jams, this is the kind of music that you can’t listen to just once. Through all of these musical styles, they’ve still made the music accessible to the masses. By that, I don’t mean that you’ll be hearing this on your local radio station or in the grocery store, but you should. They’ve been able to neatly mix all of these musical elements into a core group of songs that will have you floating through a dream one minute, on your feet and dancing the next. Heavy Water Experiments was one of my eagerly anticipated albums for 2008, and I can honestly say that it’s lived to my own built up hype. Hell, it surpassed it. - Pope JTE

www.myspace.com/heavywaterexperiments

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sounds of Summer - The Ripple Listening Guide to Summer Fun

Summer time is upon us, oh loyal waverider, and you know what that means? Backyard bar-b-Q's, splashing around the pool, drinks with little umbrellas, and mosquitoes the size of invading space aliens. Ain't it great? Well, maybe not the alien mosquito bit, but gosh darn, doesn't the rest of it sound like good summer fun?

Another thing that summer conjures up is it's own special type of music. This ain't the season for death metal and hyperblast freakouts. When you've got your friends all assembled in the backyard or hanging out at the beach, chomping down your wieners, digging into your mom's potato salad, or wolfing down some jalapeño cornbread, what you need is some special music to bring on that happy, easy summer feeling. Something with a rock and roll heart, but perhaps a touch of shimmering pop or down home country laid back cool. Something to ease your mind as you're swaying in the porch swing, throwing back your fifth Mint Julep, staring at the fireflies and wondering if they're stars. And if so, why they're moving so damn much.

So, with that peaceful, easy summer feeling in mind, today we're going to present our first annual Sounds of the Season Listening Guide to Summer Fun, our picks for the musical accompaniment to your backyard, houseboat, front porch or beach side activities. Don't worry, we have listening guides in the works for Fall, Winter and Spring also. The Ripple will be there all year long for you, but with the temperature outside the Ripple office topping out at 100 degrees today and the waves splashing in the distance, let's dig right into that summer fun, shall we?


Starting off this summer guide then is the perfectly titled new album by sunshine pop artist extraordinarie, Dave Dill and his capture of warm sunny days on a disc, Follow the Summer. On this, Dave's fifth solo album, he's perfected his shimmering blend of easy, seventies AM radio inspired indie pop. Playing all the instruments himself, as well as writing, producing and recording this summer classic, Dave brings in the heart and soul of all the great summer artists of the past. With a voice reminiscent of McCartney, melodies as beautiful as Brian Wilson and the gentle rocking backbone of Badfinger, Follow the Summer is like a mini-excursion through every summer of your youth.

You know you're in for something retro special during the very first second, when the CD starts amongst the sound of a needle being placed on a vinyl LP and that first few seconds of fantastic record static, the hiss of anticipation that accompanied your first playing of every LP you ever bought. Then, as "Today" leaks out of the speakers, jubilant and buoyant, riding high across the organ, bouncing bass, and Beatles-esque melody it's as if we're back in the glory days of McCartney. And Dave doesn't let up there. "Miss America," is an apple pie sized slice of pop perfection, "Happily Ever After," brings on some rock muscle a la Todd Rundgren with a crunching guitar, biting solo and throbbing bassline. "Don't Remember," runs with the melodicsm of Jackson Browne, "Don't Believe it," sounds like a lost America classic and "Perfect There," hints at shades of the classic summer songs of Seals and Crofts. That's how sweet this disc is, like cotton candy melting on your palette at the county fair.

But what makes this disc stand out is that Follow the Summer isn't just the sum of its influences, it transcends them. Dave Dill crafts pristine moments of exquisite pop. Pure pop confections. Adding his own indie verve and sparkling musicianship, he captures all that we love about our 60's and 70's summer pop favorites as if he bottled the light reflecting in a billion rainbows shimmering off the facets of a prism. Summer in a bottle, or more appropriately, on a CD. What more could you ask for? Pick up Dave Dill here: Buy the CD



Although it's hard to call a band under-rated that has sold more than 2 million albums world-wide and been acclaimed as some of the greatest American songwriters of the last decade, it still seems to me that Sister Hazel never quite got all the props they deserved. Hopefully, with the release of this gorgeous album, Before the Amplifiers. Live Acoustic that will all change. Performed, as the title suggests, stripped down live and acoustic in front of a privileged group of hooting and hollering devoted fans (known as Hazelnuts) Sister Hazel work through 16 of their greatest hits and fan favorites. Performed in this intimate setting, the band has nowhere to hide, they just allow their amazing musicianship and exceptional songwriting to do the work. And the results are extraordinary. Ken Block's emotive vocals are richly deep in soul, and the harmonizing vocals are sublime. Throughout, the boys give an impassioned performance, clearly delighted with the intimate format. Never is this more clear than on the perfect rendition of their biggest hit, " All For You."

This album is a must for all Sister Hazel fans, but also for any of you who want that perfect acoustic vibe to bring on the summer night as the marshmallows are toasting over the fire pit. Perhaps there's no greater praise I can give this disc than to say that the moment I popped it into the Ripplemobile CD player on our back from the beach, Mrs Racer (who usually barely tolerates my musical selections) immediately sat at full attention and proclaimed. "Wow! Now this is good!" Yes, folks, the Mrs has spoken. Buy Sister Hazel here: Before the Amplifiers-Live Acoustic


Now, don't go callin' me a fan of new country music (thems fighting words around here) but I do appreciate a well done southern ditty particularly if it's shored up with the boogie of the Stones, and plays like the good old days of the Band, Little Feat, or even The Eagles, back in their country beginnings. And having lived in Houston and coming from the fine City of San Antonio, I know there ain't too much that'd sound better late on a summer's night, sitting on a deck as the air is finally starting to cool, drinking down a cold one or a tall lemonade, than some particularly fine bluesy country rock. And on all accounts, The Band of Heathens are here, deliverin' the goods. Having won the 2007 Best New Band at the Austin Music Awards, these boys got a swirling brew of acoustic strumming, electric muscle and a swaggering beat, all blended together in their Texan stew of roots country rock and roll. "Don't Call Me," is an instant classic, "Heart on My Sleeve," rocks with the muscle of the south, and "Unsleeping Eye," is slice of bluesy jam band heaven. Pour yourself a cold one, kick your shoes up and give these boys a try. Get your copy here: The Band of Heathens


Having spent my fair share of time in the South, I can tell you, summer ain't summer without a big ol' country cookout, and no true summer cookout is complete without a heaping bucket of crawdads, mudbugs or whatever you want to call them. A delicacy from the muddy Delta waterways, all you gotta do is pinch the tail, suck the head, chase it down with a Blackened Voodoo beer and you're in southern heaven. To make your feast complete, we recommend only the finest, most authentic musical accompaniment, and on those lines, Country Fried are the band for you. I saw these guys play last November, at an in store appearance at the finest independent music store in the Big Easy, the Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street. To say they got my mouth watering with their rootsy blend of outlaw country is an understatement, as their CD Saint of New Orleans hasn't left my cd player since then. Strumming, picking and singing away as if they were hanging out on your back porch, this is full on swamp bluegrass, or swamp grass as I like to call it. "Boxcars," is a masterpiece in hobo musical literature and the title track, with its chorus of "You'd be a drunk in Salt Lake City, but you're a saint for New Orleans," is a classic in waiting. With solid deep southern vocals, perfect harmonies, and a laid back easy feelin', Country Fried should put the perfect cap on your summer bar-b-q. Pick up your very own copy of New Orleans swamp grass here: Buy the CD

--Racer


Dave Dill



Sister Hazel



The Band of Heathens



Country Fried

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