Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blue Lunch. Above the Fold

Blue Lunch. Above the Fold.
Rip Cat Records, 2014.  Blue Lunch:  http://www.bluelunch.com/

Blue Lunch is a Cleveland based octet of skilled musicians well into their third decade as a band. If the reader has not heard of them, the most likely reason is a result of being pigeonholed in the quagmire known as “genre”. In the case of Blue Lunch, you’ll find them listed under “Blues”. Ignore them at your own risk. Blue Lunch expertly delivers the blues. However, Above the Fold takes the listener on a serpentine ride across borders that often surprise and mostly succeed. Though Blue Lunch may be classified as a "blues band", they are equally adept at jazz, funk, gospel, and swing. And they may jump from one category to the next and the back on the same track.

Bob Frank is credited as the composer on seven of the 15 songs on this CD. He is one of those guitarists blessed with the ability to front the band when called upon, and the generosity to step back and support the ensemble. His playing versatility is likely his strongest suit. As an example, on his composition The Long Game, an up-tempo blues serves as bookends for a shift mid song into funk and back again. If Mr. Frank has one weakness it is his erratic vocals. On “Woman I Bleed,” and the others written by Frank, there are hints Frank has the ability to vocalize. However, he tends to vacillate between spoken word and singing. It starts to leave one wondering if that is the band’s greatest limitation. However, that suspicion is dispelled the final track, “Good News.” This traditional gospel piece is sung acapella by a quartet of the band’s members and proves back-up vocalists are there for the taking.

“One Fine Day” is a very fine instrumental composed and arranged by saxophonist Chris Burge. Add Mike Rubin on trumpet and Bob Michael on trombone and this brass section will take you back to the days of Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. They are just that good. Throw in some well-played harp fills by Peter London and Blue Lunch owns this piece.
The band is grounded by its rhythm section of Scott Flowers on drums and Ray Deforest on upright and electric bass. Some slight adjustments on the EQ helps bring their talents as well as keyboard man Mike Sands. Tweak that EQ a tad more and guest Sammy DeLeone’s congas pop into the mix.

There is such a thing as a small-big band. Above the Fold provides ample opportunity for every member to solo. It is the entirety of Blue Lunch’s repertoire that should push Northeastern Ohioans to seek them out.

Performers: Bob Frank (guitar, vocals), Peter London (vocals, harmonica),Chris Burge  (saxophones, harmony vocals), Mike Rubin (trumpet), Bob Michael (trombone, harmony vocals), Mike Sands (piano), Ray DeForest (bass violin, bass guitar, bass vocals), Scott Flowers (drums). Guests: Evelyn Wright (vocals on Track 8), Tim Longfellow (Hammond organ on Tracks 5 & 8), Sammy DeLeone (congas on Tracks 2 & 8).
Tracks: Ain’t Trying to Kill Nobody, One Fine Day, The Long Game, Everybody’s On the Phone, Woman I Bleed, No Time Like the Present, Seven Times, Where Do You Think It’s Going, Lake Erie Highball, Venita, Love No More, All I Needed, Tossin’ and Turnin’ and Burnin’ All Up Inside, Katt’n Around with Moe, Good News.

Eric Ess

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hingetown Hoedown Festival

Website:  http://www.hingetownhoedown.com/  

CLEVELAND, August 23, 2016 -- Grab your boots, friends and family and get ready to stomp at the second annual Hingetown Hoedown -- Cleveland’s first and only free folk and bluegrass music festival to be held
September 10 in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood at the intersection of West 29th Street and Detroit Ave.
The Hingetown Hoedown fills a void in Cleveland’s music scene by hosting a dozen bands with distinct bluegrass, folk, Americana, roots and string band sounds. The first Hingetown Hoedown last October was called a roaring success with more than 1,200 attendees braving the pouring rain to enjoy the show. This year’s event will be held from 1-10 .p.m., and will again be complemented by food trucks, vendors, craft beer from Great Lakes Brewery, and family-friendly activities. Admission is free and open to the public with street parking available nearby.
“Cleveland’s bluegrass scene continues to grow and Hingetown is the perfect city neighborhood for us to gather the community and introduce new listeners to the music of the mountains,” said Adam Reifsnyder who helps organize the event and is in the band Honeybucket who plays the Main Stage at 8 p.m. “We’ve seen Honeybucket’s music grow in local popularity thanks to CIFF and other Cleveland-area shows, so it only makes sense to play here with other great Ohio string bands -- it’s going to be a banjo-pickin’, boot-stompin’ good time!”
Hingetown’s main stage will feature a slew of Ohio’s finest musicians. Among the many scheduled to perform are:
● Hailing from Southeast, Ohio, The Wayfarers are sure to play a high-energy set of traditional American roots music.
● Known for their rock n’ roll inspired live performances, The Hocking River String Band will bring their powerful lyrics and bluegrass sounds up from Hocking County, Ohio.
To kick off the day, Vision Yoga & Wellness will lead a free, 60-minute, all levels Vinyasa yoga class onsite beginning at 1:00 pm. Once again the Hoedown is a family friendly event and welcomes all ages. There will be children’s activities including sidewalk chalk, Hoedown-themed photo ops, and jumbo games. The Music
Settlement’s Bob Stop is generously providing a “Musical Petting Zoo”, showcasing instruments for children to try out, hoping to spark an interest in music and the community!
For more information please visit hingetownhoedown.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ernie Krivda. Requiem for a Jazz Lady

Ernie Krivda. Requiem for a Jazz Lady.
Capri Records, 2015.  Ernie Krivda: http://www.erniekrivda.com/

Whether with his quartet or with the Fat Tuesday Big Band, Ernie Krivda is ubiquitous. He plays all around the region, from festivals to clubs to summer bandstand concerts, with an event in the area just about every week. He’s also prolific, having put out a new recording pretty much every year since the early 1990s. Try to keep up. This time out, the saxophonist works with a group of Detroit musicians with whom he’s had a long-term relationship.

The backstory of this album is fascinating. In the early 1960s, Krivda worked the jazz clubs of the region, one of a number of white musicians who played with black artists in a landscape that was racially complex. During that time, a young woman from his town of Garfield Heights was murdered, and he was recently contacted for information about her. This brought back a flood of memories for him and set him on the direction of this album, one that he calls “reflective.” I’d call the music noir, as it reminds me (as does the murder) of films from the postwar era in that black-and-white genre, but he might disagree. In any case, the style of music fits nicely in the bop milieu of the early 1960s, with elements of swing and R&B as well, forming what Krivda calls a “gumbo” that reflects all the various influences of music in the Rustbelt cities of the time.

Ernie in the 60s
He describes in the booklet both his life at the time and the songs he’s written or chosen for this album. Each has its own tempo, mood, and presence, but they all fit nicely together as a portrait of time and place. From the exuberance of “Questions” with its funky beat to the insistent push and strong melody of “The Remarkable Mr. Black” (dedicated to a Detroit pianist, with excellent solo by Lafayette Carthon), to the haunting ballad of the title track, it may be a gumbo but it’s all of a single tapestry. And a beautiful tapestry it is. The level of musicianship is consistently remarkable, and Krivda’s thick sax sound drapes over the whole affair like syrup. I love the sound, and have played this album numerous times at this point. It doesn’t fade in subsequent turns. I highly recommend this one for its evocation of the Cleveland jazz scene of earlier times, and for its all-around excellent playing.

Personnel: Ernie Krivda (tenor saxophone), Lafayette Carthon (piano), Marion Hayden (bass), Renell Gonsalves (drums).
Tracks: The Remarkable Mr. Black, I’ll Close My Eyes, Questions, Emerald, Great Lakes Gumbo, Little Face, Requiem for a Jazz Lady.

Jeff Wanser

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Red Sun Rising. Polyester Zeal.

Red Sun Rising.  Polyester Zeal.
Razor & Tie, 2015.  Red Sun Rising: http://redsunrisingmusic.com/

This alternative hard rock band from Akron has been around for about ten years and this is their third release (plus an EP), but the first on a big label, so Yay for them. As a band on their way up, they are rapidly developing a fan base, some 47,000 strong on Facebook, and have even created their own Twitter hashtag, #WeAreThread, which is supposed to describe their music. I can’t vouch for that, since I haven’t a clue about what “Thread” is (Shred in a thong?), nor a clue about hashtags frankly. But their sound seems to be a contemporary combination of postgrunge, arena rock, and 80s metal, which is certainly a fine thing if one does it right. I’d say that they’re pretty much doing it right on this album.

Soaring vocals, slight echo added, nice hooks, lots of guitar, solidly structured songs, and use of several chords are all clues. They have both skill and variety going for them. Songs are tight, and nothing overstays its welcome, although perhaps one song should have had some extended soloing, since like I said above, skill. “Push” is a great opener, a speedy, edgy song with lots of energy that displays their instrumental abilities. “Amnesia” moves the band to mid-tempo, and showcases their vocal chops. Arena rock influence shows itself well in “Unnatural,” with its anthemic atmosphere, while the metal sound makes an appearance in “Awake,” a nicely jagged hard-rocking tune with a couple of soft edges. Every album needs its ballad, and “Bliss” takes care of that, with appropriate rev-up in the middle.

Personally, I like the fast tunes, and “Imitation” fills the bill, a great closer. It seems to be about how being like everyone else is a sure path to destruction. I don’t think these guys need to worry too much. They’ve got a sound that is very different from the current pack of bands, and should carry them along well. They are touring the Midwest this month, and their next appearance in Ohio is at the Ohio State Reformatory (!), or you might want to wait until late August when they hit Akron.

Personnel:  Mike Protich (vocals, guitar), Ryan Williams (guitar), Tyler Valendza (guitar), Ricky Miller (bass, vocals), Pat Gerasia (drums).
Tracks:  Push, Amnesia, The Otherside, My Muse, Emotionless, Blister, Worlds Away, Unnatural, Awake, Bliss, Imitation.

Jeff Wanser

Monday, May 30, 2016

Scarlet & the Harlots. We Can't Seem to Get Enough.

Scarlet & the Harlots. We Can’t Seem to Get Enough.
Self-produced, 2014.  Scarlet & the Harlots: http://scarletandtheharlots.squarespace.com/

This album is a bit old for review, but since the band hasn’t put out a new one yet we can still call it their fresh debut. I’m too old to know where the boundary line between nerd and hipster is these days (it shifts year by year), but this band from the Kent area lies somewhere in that territory, and that is intended to be a compliment. The cover suggests a parody of an old Leon Russell & the Shelter People album--a curious assortment of gender-bending  and overdressed characters indulging themselves with food, drink, and drugs. A carnival is in town and they’ve taken over an Italian restaurant. One might think they’re trying too hard to impress with their decadence.

No batch of amateurs though, these folks know their stuff, with real horn charts backing the strong, bluesy vocals of their lead singer, Scarlet (no last names, please). The mix of rock, jazz, and blues is sophisticated, with some really great singing and playing. The sound is a bit retro, once again bringing to mind Russell and his crowd, as some of the music has a distinct and eclectic early 70s flavor. The songs are uniformly enjoyable, yet in no way uniform. Each takes a different approach. For example, “Moonshine Ghost” featuring Scarlet’s vocals upfront, a great mix of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Bramlett, with a blistering guitar solo that’s hard to beat. “There Once Was a Girl” takes a jazzier approach, with some cool vocal runs (and clever lyrics) recalling Manhattan Transfer, and sweet sax breaks. The title track gets a bit funky, but combines that with some boogie. “We Are in Control” lets the drummer out, and the sound gets more Blood, Sweat & Tears (or even Ten Wheel Drive, for the obscure sophisticate), with the horns vying for domination with the percussion. The band gets heavier with “What to Do,” with a monster beat and all the musicians driving forward hard. This one’s my favorite, a real headbanger. They close with a slower tune, but hardly a wistful ballad, with an insistent, familiar refrain that I can’t quite place.

This is a fine start for a fine band. They have plenty of talent and skill, and a style that will appeal to several generations of rock fans. Their next appearance will be at Beachland on June 4th for the Prince Tribute Night. No telling what they might cover, but it ought to be quite a show.

Personnel:  Scarlet (vocals), Trevor (guitar, alto saxophone), Ryan (guitar), Toussaint (bass, vocals), Chris (trombone, vocals), Tim (tenor saxophone), Dylan (drums).
Tracks:  Moonshine Ghost, There Once Was a Girl, We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, We Are in Control, What to Do, Follow.

Jeff Wanser

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Steve Hauschildt. Where All Is Fled.

Steve Hauschildt.  Where All Is Fled.

I came home last week after a hard day/hard month, and sorted through the pile of CDs that needed to be reviewed for Buzzard Tracks. I was looking for something that was different, and something that would give me a break from everything I didn’t want to think about. I chose this, not randomly, but not really deliberately either. When I put it on, I was transported, no joke. The music is joyous, quiet but exhilarating, and damned near left me weeping because it was what I needed to hear at that moment.

This is Hauschildt’s third solo release, if you don’t count his compilation, S/H. We’ve reviewed three of his four albums here at Buzzard Tracks, and would be happy to review everything he puts out, forever. Not to say he can’t make a mistake or release a turkey, but I haven’t heard one yet. This album may be his most accomplished so far, a combination of many different kinds of sound, from synth washes to orchestral instrumentation to natural sounds blended into soundscapes that are simultaneously surreal and very real. The sound is quite different from his previous album, Sequitur (2012), with a darker tone, an emphasis on pulse rather than beat, and a move toward a richer, more symphonic sound. The fourteen tracks are quite varied, as if one is moving from dream to dream, each a delight in its own way.

The opening track, “Eyelids Gently Dreaming,” is a great example of this move towards a different sound. The music progresses in a drifting manner, shifting from one plane to another smoothly before fading. “Arpeggiare” makes a different statement, with rapid pulsing featured over a piano melody. “A Reflecting Pool” is what got to me, with its evocation of water dripping and rippling. By the time of “Edgewater Prelude,” the shortest track, I was completely lost in the sounds Hauschildt was producing. I found “In Spite of Time’s Disguise” delightful, a synthesizer melody drifting and morphing through a tangle of washes and pulses. Several later tracks such as “Caduceus” and “Sundialed” take a more insistent approach with strong, rapid beats. The title track is near the middle of the album, and sets provides a soft piano melody against a variety of background sounds.

As one might tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this excursion into ambient electronic music that Steve Hauschildt does so well. You can partake of this as music alone, or with accompanying visuals on YouTube--they are stunning creations.

Personnel:  Steve Hauschildt (electronics and other stuff).
Tracks:  Eyelids Gently Dreaming, Arpeggiare, A Reflecting Pool, Anesthesia, Vicinities, Edgewater Prelude, In Spite of Time’s Disguise, Where All Is Fled, The World Is too Much With Us, Aequus, Caduceus, Sundialed, Lifelike, Centrifuge.

Jeff Wanser

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Ohio Weather Band. Crooked Light.

The Ohio Weather Band.  Crooked Light.
Self-released, 2016.  The Ohio Weather Band:  https://ohioweatherband.com/

The Ohio Weather Band continues the success of their first album with this new effort. We reviewed their first album in 2014, and found it to be quite enjoyable. Sophomore slumps are legendary, but they don’t seem to have succumbed to the ailment. A little more ballad-heavy than the first album, songwriter Corey King is getting more deeply into his lyrics with good results, occasionally heading for Bob Dylan territory, and not being uncomfortable there. This album in a way is a showcase for King the singer-songwriter. Musically, lots of other comparisons are more appropriate, ranging from Mr. Gnome to Stealer’s Wheel, which just shows how eclectic they are.

I tend to gravitate toward uptempo songs, and so will concentrate on those, but the ballads are also very good, and here is where King shines lyrically. They range from the desolate (“Ohio Weather”) to the quasi-religious (“Fate is a Man”), to the obscure (“Sunburn”), with none in the land of the joyful, although that may just be my interpretation. Tunes are generally simple, but sweetly played, and they've grown on me with repeated listenings. Most slower songs clock in at more than four minutes, while the faster tunes are over in a heartbeat.

And those faster tunes are where the band comes in strong. The opening track, “Boardwalk Act,” is a tuneful, rambling song that sticks in the ear. “Messenger Bird” effectively uses echo and interesting chord changes to evoke mystery, reminding me of an old tune, “Spooky,” by the Classics IV (although the song is about something else entirely). “Zeros” moves towards an insistent, bluesy rock, with some nice guitar work and good harmonies. “Advice” recalls Dylan sensibilities combined with Stealer’s Wheel quirkiness in a curious amalgam that I find very satisfying.

I enjoyed listening to this album and look forward to the group’s continuing evolution. The band is in town right now, having just toured key cities in the south, and at the end of the month they’ll be headed for New York. Catch them when you can.

Personnel:  Corey King (guitar, vocals), Derek Strata (bass, vocals), Ray Lumpp (keys, vocals, accordion, percussion), Pete Childerson (drums, percussion).
Tracks:  Boardwalk Act, Messenger Bird, Ohio Weather, Barflies, Zeros, Waitin’ Like a Canine, Advice, Purple Polished Nails, Sunburn, Fate is a Man, Ohio Weather (reprise).

Jeff Wanser

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Maura Rogers and the Bellows. In Light.

Maura Rogers and the Bellows.  In Light.
Self-released, 2015.  Maura Rogers and the Bellows: http://www.maurarogers.com/

We have been remiss in reviewing this in a timely fashion, and so we are getting to it just before the band’s new EP is released next week. I guess that’s timely in its own way. This is the band’s third release (we reviewed their previous album, A Good Heart Will Break, back in 2014), and so they seem to be on schedule, even if we’re not.  

Americana, alt.folk, and other terms are thrown around to describe Maura Rogers’ music. They are all accurate as far as they go, but fuzzy words are inadequate to tell you how her songs sound and feel (she wrote them all). Musically, the band is dominated by Rogers’ strong and expressive vocals and Meredith Pangrace’s accordion--they are the most out front to this ear. But in listening behind them, one can easily find some fine guitar work by Istvan Medgyesi and others. This is particularly evident on the opening bars of most tracks (such as “Georgia” and “Blooming”), where a guitar leads in. The opening track, “Battle Cry,” is a deeply emotional song that Rogers simply slays with her anthemic vocals. The mood changes quickly with “The Chance,” a country waltz, framed as a real cry-in-your-beer weeper. As I listened to this song and the next, “Georgia,” I noticed that the lyrics are not specific with regard to gender, or even place. Georgia could refer to the state, but it could also be a person. This sort of ambiguity  continues throughout the album. Fascinating choices, and good songwriting.

“Blooming” is a heartbreaker, and one of my favorites, a song that contrasts roses in bloom with rejected love and/or fear of relationships. The atmospheric music created by the accordion and guitar in combination creates a sense of desolation. “Thank You” is a catchy, if spare, tune, and is certainly one of the more upbeat songs on the album. The most controversial song is “Damn Angels,” about a lover who leaves in the wake of religious fervor, from the perspective of the one left. Powerful stuff.

Seriously good songwriting.  The music and the lyrics work as one to transport the listener through various stages of heartache, hope, anger, and moroseness. After nine songs, I feel like I’ve been through an emotional washing machine. This is a richly rewarding album, and I urge you to check out the band’s music. They will be having an EP release party on March 19th at the Beachland Ballroom, which I suspect will be quite an evening.

Personnel:  Maura Rogers (vocals, acoustic guitar), Meredith Pangrace (accordion, vocals), Istvan Medgyesi (electric, slide, and acoustic guitar), Brent Stow (bass), Shelby Sangdahl (cello), Jeff Babinski (drums, track 5), Nick Perry (drums), Ariel Karaƛ (violin, tracks 6 & 7), Al Moses (acoustic guitar, tracks 3 & 7).
Tracks:  Battle Cry, The Chance, Georgia, Lion, Blooming, Good Lover, Thank You, Damn Angels, Hold On.

Jeff Wanser