Saturday
Aug302014

Reviews by Paul McGee

Saturday
Aug302014

Walter Salas-Humara 'Curve and Shake' - Sonic Pyramid

Back in the 1980’s a band appeared from the growing alternative Country scene to lay down a marker to many acts that would follow. The Silos owed much to the creative vision of Walter Salas-Humara; musician, songwriter and visual artist. With official releases that tip into double figures, the Silos made challenging and vibrant music that energised the roots rock genre and led to some renown for the band over the years.

Jumping to 2014, we find a stripped-down solo recording from Walter which is a stark contrast to the last Silos recording, the great Florizona, released in 2011. Only Jason Victor on guitar survives from that Silos band, and Walter uses a new group of musicians to bring different colours and textures to the Silos’ energy of the past. The ten songs here, clocking in just over the 40 minute mark, show that quality and intensity remain a part of Walter’s music, at once familiar and on repeated listening, revealing hidden depths.

With song titles such as Counting on You; What We Can Bring; Satellite and Uncomplicated, we get the impression of an artist reaching out across the void in our collective lives to touch some common bond and emotion. The need for understanding and taking joy in simple pleasures is covered in Hoping for a Comeback,  and the song Way Too Heavy to Float seems to hint at a gentle faith in accepting things in life as they unfold.

The song arrangements are very subtle and include some dreamy keyboard and synth melodies from Ryan Williams. There is still room for a few wonderful guitar breaks and the vocal delivery has never held such raw and restrained sorrow.

This is a vibrant and worthy artist and Curve and Shake deserves a place in any music collection.

Saturday
Aug302014

The Cousin John Band 'Broken Heart Tattoo' - Self Release

Founded in 1999, none of this four-piece are actually cousins, but they play like a family that has been together for a long time. Lead vocalist John Mobley has a very expressive and soulful voice which is perfectly complemented by the lead guitar playing of Joe Goltz. The rhythm section, David O’Brien on drums and Tim Howe on bass, is very solid and fills out the sound with seasoned playing and a restrained approach to the arrangements.

They have a bluesy, rootsy, soulful sound that is not a far step from a John Hiatt or Allman Brothers groove (She’s Got Angels and 110 Years). The songs roll by at an easy pace with Foolin’ and Down to You showing the different sides of the band. The arrangement on Mary’s in the Bathtub is more traditional country and Dreams Are Yours to Keep displays a simple folk influence to what is an engaging collection and one that is laced with pleasant surprises

Saturday
Aug302014

Justin Moore 'Off the Beaten Path' - The Valory Music Co

This is the third release from contemporary artist Justin Moore. Born in Arkansas in the 1980’s and moving to Nashville in 2009 to team up with writer/producer Jeremy Stover, you could say that Justin Moore believed in the American dream. His ‘no apologies,  down-home country’ style is perfectly illustrated on this beast of a release – sixteen songs that clock in at just short of an hour.

We get the usual topics of clean country living, working hard and respecting your parents. However, we also get the other side of this coin with a song tribute to beer, living large, morning-after headaches, chasing women and loving the flag. In other words, a little of everything and if one track doesn’t quite tick all the boxes, just wait around for the next one.

This artist has everything to take the vacated space of Garth Brooks and is certainly in the running to be dubbed the ‘new’ Tim McGraw. Stetson hat apart, the boy can sing and the song arrangements are excellent, jumping out with a powerful production. Charlie Daniels guests on For Some Ol’ Redneck Reason and on the softer side we have Miranda Lambert singing on Old Habits. The songs Dirt Road Kid and This Kind of Town  illustrate the style of writing on display and the audience that is being targeted. The pure country celebration of it all is never more apparent than on Country Radio on which  Moore sings “Baby, it’s just us and the lightning bugs, and country radio”. This is an impressive release and definitely an artist on his way to the top.

Saturday
Aug302014

Jason Tyler Burton 'Headwaters' - Self Release

Burton is Kentucky born but now living in Utah. He is fine songwriter who has released a record that makes quite a statement.

In 2007, Jason Tyler Burton and his wife moved west from Kentucky to the Utah wilderness, leaving behind the security of a career in higher education, with a desire “to take some risks and live a better story,” The songs on Headwaters come from the stories Burton encountered while living a nomadic life in the heart of the American West; stories about the search for meaning and belonging. That search for the source of things has driven him throughout his life, now culminating in the release of the aptly-named Headwaters, Burton’s second original full-length album.

The playing, across this ensemble of six musicians, is beautifully understated and sensitive to the gentle song-writing talent of Jason Tyler Burton. Cello and violin mix seamlessly with banjo, dobro, lap steel, mandolin, harmonica and various guitars. The percussion is light and subtle with the lovely support vocals of Katy Taylor adding some real texture to the melody and song arrangements.

These are songs of compassion and understanding that reflect on our relationships, insecurities and our need for self-expression. A Fine Line sings of “sometimes you take what you are given; sometimes you can’t afford your dreams”.  The Waltz and Headwaters speak of the need to keep growing and moving despite our faults and being the best that we can be.

There is not a weak track here and the vocal delivery reminds me of a country David Gray, full of expression and passion. Headwaters  is one of the best releases of 2014 so far.