Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Additions to the Collection

July Additions to the Northeast Ohio Music Collection at the Hiram College Library

We didn’t add anything in June, but got started back up in mid-summer (academically speaking) in preparation for the onslaught of students in the fall.  Here is a list of some of the new older music that we have cataloged.

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.  Creepin’ on ah Come Up.  (From way back in 1994)
Anne E. DeChant.  Effort of the Spin.  (Singer-songwriter’s release from 1997)
Tony DiBenedetto.  Change of Heart.  (Contemporary Christian pop music from North Olmsted)
Filmstrip.  Everything Can Change.  (Punk from 2010)
Jumpin’ Joe Masco.  From Country to Broadway.  (Masco is a Geauga County crooner)
Whiskey Daredevils.  The Whiskey Daredevils.  (Their 2011 release was a bit too old for us to review--we’ll catch the next one)

Ken Peplowski.  Last Swing of the Century.  (A 1999 tribute to Benny Goodman)

Highlights from the Cleveland International Piano Competition, 2003. (1st through 4th place contestants)

Other Stuff
Karl L. King.  Tradition: Legacy of the March.  (This other March King was born in Painesville.  
Performed by the Texas A&M University Bands)

The Mighty Wurlitzer Radio Hour.  It Happens Ev’ry Spring.  (2008 radio show from WCLV)


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jeff Powers. Guitar Player with Styles

Jeff Powers.  Jeff Powers.
2012.  Whiskey Island Records.  Jeff Powers:

The cover of Jeff Powers’ CD shows an older, bespectacled, bearded gentleman (a bit like myself, but handsomer) with a Woodstock t-shirt, playing a 3-string cigar box guitar (a trademark of sorts).  Powers is indeed a guitarist of some renown, and a damned fine one, whichever one he picks up.  I first heard his work without realizing it as a member of Dead Guy Blues, whose music I recommend highly.  Here he’s not exactly solo, but does nearly all the vocal and guitar work, with some help on keyboards, drums and bass from a group informally referred to as Los Blancos.  This album was recorded in 2011 and released last year.

Powers continues to draw on the blues for this album, but also on the singer-songwriter tradition in this baker’s dozen of original songs.  His most obvious influences are Neil Young and Bob Dylan, but I hear other things too, less immediately identifiable.  The tunes are a mix of bluesy numbers, introspective ballads, “odes,” and a few topical songs.  For me, his work shines on the faster and bluesier tunes, such as “Wild Child (the Ballad of Brian Power),” and “Hitchhike in the Rain.”  They suit his voice, a tenor that works well in the blues idiom, but tends to wobble a bit on slower ballads (not always a bad thing, since it lends emotion to a song).  He also tends to switch styles of playing when he moves from electric (fantastic) to acoustic (still good, but not as riveting to me).  The ballads focus less on his playing and more on his lyrics, which he delivers with considerable ability, and they take on a variety of moods.  “I’m in a Bad Mood” and Gypsy Girl (Ode to Ani DiFranco)” contain some well-placed humor, while others cast a spell of gloom, particularly “Standing in the Rain” and “Ray of Hope,” that can be quite moving.  

The songs I enjoyed least are probably the ones Powers feels most strongly about, “13 Seconds and 67 Shots (Kent State Massacre)” and “Tall Buildings (9/11).”  Yes, they are heartfelt and well-played, and I understand and even agree with the sentiments expressed.  But I burned out on protest music a long time ago, and generally avoid it now.  It’s my problem, not his, and maybe not yours either.  

Jeff Powers is a fine musician and a good performer.  I caught him at the Blue Rock CafĂ© a while back, and he was a trooper, working through his sets despite a miniscule audience.  He deserves a wider hearing.  Check him out the next time he’s playing.

Personnel:  Jeff Powers (vocals, guitars (acoustic, electric, slide, baritone), harmonica, hand percussion, back vocals), Steven T. Winston (bass), Mark Tiffault (drums), Mark Nanni (B3 Hammond, Rhodes, accordion, piano), other assisting musicians.
Tracks:  Longest Train (Long Gone), 13 Seconds and 67 Shots (Kent State Massacre, Down in New Orleans, I’m in a Bad Mood, Gypsy Girl (Ode to Ani DiFranco), Let’s Take a Ride, Wild Child (the Ballad of Brian Power), Standing in the Rain, Waitin’ for the Axe to Fall, Just Because He’s Wrong, Ray of Hope, Hitchhike in the Rain, Tall Buildings (9/11).

The Wonderful Wizard of Wans

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Said So: Leggo Your Ego

The Said So.  Leggo Your Ego.
Canton Records, 2013.  The Said So:
There’s something to be said for contemporary punk/garage music, although I’m hard pressed to figure out what it is.  It’s out of date, lacking in sophistication, self-consciously low-end.  Oh, and it sounds great when it’s done right, and The Said So do that.  This is their second release, and a third one is due out now.  I’ll have to get ahold of it.
I like this Canton band.  They’re very straightforward, as such groups are supposed to be, unburdened by artifice or the need to impress with technique or virtuosity.  In fact, they seem proud of it, as they sort of state in “Keeping It Canton.”  I’m sure it’s a local favorite.  They seem to have started off as more of a blues band, but personnel changes brought in the punk, and they’ve stuck with it.  There’s quite a bit of Ramones and Social Distortion influence peeking through, although they have their own sound.  These kinds of songs have been played in area bars by other bands for decades, but they make them seem fresher than most.  Noisy, sweaty, and a little out of tune (apparently they don’t care to practice), they chug along with mostly mid-to-uptempo songs with occasional time changes to keep your attention.  
Lead singer Ricky Mendall won’t win any vocal awards, but that’s never been a hallmark of the style anyway.  Rob Allman plays a mean guitar, and sounds as if he knows more chords than he uses.  He’s hiding something (maybe classical training?).  I enjoy his soloing, which he does frequently throughout.  Tom and Bill form a bludgeoning rhythm section, rather blocky, which works just fine.
Times on the songs are generally short, mostly in the 2:30-3:30 range, with a few shorter, and only two clocking in at four minutes.  Nine songs are listed on the jewel case, but there are seventeen tracks in all, and the extras were not named when I put the CD in my laptop.  Hey, Canton Records, add some metadata to your CDs!  Much of the album was recorded in a few hours, at Atta Boy Studio (I assume the one in New Philadelphia, not New York).
I suspect that these guys are more fun in a bar than on a recording, so go see them live.  But here it is.  If you like the style, The Said So will not disappoint.  This is great music for cruising down the road, but if you’re under 25, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t annoy your parents.  They might even steal your CD.
Personnel:  Ricky Mendall (vocals), Rob Allman (guitar), Tom Amatangelo (bass), Bill Locke (drums).
Tracks:  Penny Dreadful, Maleficent, Set it on Fire, Keeping it Canton, Rock n Roll Queen, Song 13, Hotshot, Steve, Violet Drizzle, 8 untitled tracks.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Gershwins' Lady Be Good. Ohio Light Opera

George & Ira Gershwin.  Lady Be Good.
Performed by the Ohio Light Opera, July 14, 2013.  
Ohio Light Opera:

Lady Be Good, George and Ira Gershwin’s 1924 smash Broadway production, is a fascinating mish mosh of great music, low comedy, singing, dancing, ethnic stereotypes, silly complex plotting, and a happy ending.  The Ohio Light Opera does a fine job on this period musical.  Their production, sets, costumes, and choreography are all first rate, and one of the many reasons for going is to see their creative sets, scene changes, and delightful ensemble costumes.  Of course, the main reason is the music.  I saw the third performance of the musical on July 14th at the Freedlander Theatre on the campus of the College of Wooster.  It’s a great venue, with fine seating and an intimate setting.
The plot is, as with most musicals of the period, ridiculous, but that’s not why one goes to see it.  Dick and Susie are brother and sister.  Dick is in love with Shirley, and she returns the affection, but since the siblings are poor and on the street, they each come up with a plan to get some money through trickery.  Josephine, who is rich, loves Dick, and so he plans to marry her to get Susie off the street.  Meanwhile, Susie falls for a hobo (secretly the rich Jack Robinson), who is reputed to have died, and she and a lawyer, Watty, hatch a plot to get his estate by having her pose as his Mexican widow.  Let’s just stop there, because it will take two more paragraphs to sort it all out.  The story is preposterous, but in the end, four couples are happily united.  In the meantime, they sing and dance their way through the plot, and that’s where we will concentrate our efforts.  
First of all, the orchestra, led by Steven Byess is, as usual, very enjoyable.  Every year they have a mix of new and veteran musicians, but every year Byess whips them into a crack musical ensemble.  They play Gershwin’s music in fine form.  The ensemble singer/dancers were beautifully costumed in the various scenes, and their singing and dancing were very good, although in the opening number, there were a couple of folks out of synch, and the sopranos tended not to enunciate very well.  They sounded pretty though.  
The stars shone.  Or perhaps they shined.  In either case, the main characters were excellent singers, and in some cases pretty good actors.  While all of them were strong, I want to make special mention of two, Natalie Ballenger and Christopher Nelson.  Ballenger, as Susie Trevor, is just delightful.  A veteran of the OLO, her singing is gorgeous, strong, and clear.  She is also a very good actress and extremely funny in her role, although she is unfortunately saddled with two ethnic parts, the Mexican widow and the Swiss Miss, that are difficult to swallow in the contemporary world (although in 1924 nobody thought much of it, I suppose).  At least the widow has something to do with the plot.  The whole Swiss Miss business has nothing to do with the rest of the musical, and seems like a throw-in by the Gershwins to have an extra song.  It’s really dumb, bordering on embarrassing.  Ballenger rescues both characters to the extent that she can.  

A different production, but a cool picture

Christopher Nelson is new to the OLO and a fantastic addition to the cast.  He has the kind of strong, clear tenor a leading man needs to have in this kind of musical.  Although a bit stiff as an actor, his singing is just wonderful, and he and Ballenger make a great pair on the stage.  The other main characters are also fine singers.  Nathan Brian as Dick is very good, and delivers his lines well too.  Elise Kennedy also does a fine job as Dick’s heartthrob, and plays the innocent well as a foil for the more sophisticated women characters in the cast.  
As a period piece, Lady Be Good is a fine musical.  However, it’s only the music that survives, especially the two major standards that came out of it, “Oh Lady Be Good” and the incredible “Fascinating Rhythm.”  They were beautifully performed here and they are the reason the musical is still with us.  The Ohio Light Opera’s effort to bring this material to appreciative audiences is to be applauded.
Cast:  Nathan Brian (Dick Trevor), Natalie Ballenger (Susie Trevor/Mexican widow/Swiss Miss), Elise Kennedy (Shirley Vernon), Tara Sperry (Josephine Vanderwater), Christopher Nelson (Jack Robinson/Hobo), Michael Lucas (Buck Benson), Andrew Maughan (Sammy Cooper), Ezra Bershatsky (Watty Watkins), Alexander Turpin (Estrada), Mark Snyder (Mr. Parke), Alexander Brickel (Jess), Gregory LaMontagne (Bertie Bassett), Stefan Gordon (Sheriff’s Assistant), Sarah Best (Daisy), Garrett Obrycki (Policeman), other unnamed persons, and Ensemble.  Steven Byess (Conductor), Ted Christopher (Stage Director), Carol Hageman (Choreography), Charlene Gross (Costume Design), C. Murdock Lucas (Scenic Design), Michael Banks (Lighting Design).
Music:  Overture, When You are Tiring of the Life, We’re Here Because, Hang on to Me, A Wonderful Party, End of a String, Fascinating Rhythm, So Am I, Oh Lady Be Good, Finale, Linger in the Lobby, I’d Rather Charleston, The Half of It, Dearie, Blues, Juanita, So Am I (reprise), Carnival Time, Swiss Miss, Oh Lady Be Good (reprise), Finale Ultimo.
Jeff Wanser

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Steve Hauschildt: Sequitur

Steve Hauschildt.  Sequitur.
What do you listen for when you listen to electronic music?  Dancefloor trance?  Ambient stasis?  Experimental noise?  Not being a dancer, I’m not looking for a heavy beat, and I don’t care much for the chaotic noise end of the spectrum, but I also don’t want it to sound like a cheap video game.  I like melody, harmony, and something approaching a coherent structure.  Being somewhere between ambient and dance, but neither one, Steve Hauschildt’s Sequitur intrigues me, which is why I am reviewing it instead of passing it off to someone else more experienced in the genre.
Hauschildt is part of the Cleveland trio Emeralds, and is apparently the most introspective of the three, if you believe the press.  Each of the guys works on his own projects as well.  This album was recorded in Vancouver and Cleveland during 2011-2012.  Rather than give you a list of musicians at the bottom (he’s it), I’m providing the array of analog and digital devices and instruments he used.  It’s impressive.
Each track give Hauschildt an opportunity to create a new soundscape, but the pieces are related to each other in an overall conceptual framework (Am I making this up?  I don’t think so.).  The eight pieces fit together in my mind as a series of atmospheres in a specific order, which the artist expresses as a set of repetitive motifs that move through cycles or evolve.  Some tracks are closer to dance pop, others to orchestral movements, depending on structure, mood, and instruments.  My favorite track is “Kept,” near the end of the album, which displays a slowly shifting melody over more cyclical or static sounds.  There’s little beat, but a sense of forward motion provided by the melody that I find very pleasing.  “Steep Decline” does something similar in structure, but has a different feel, and develops a slow steady beat as the piece unfolds.  The effect is a series of washes cycling back to its origins.
It’s rather jarring to go back to the beginning from there, hearing the popcorn beats of “Interconnected,” and the rather more dance-oriented “Accelerated Yearning.”   It seems like Hauschildt really did have a reason for organizing his tracks in this order.  “Constant Reminders” is the only piece with vocals, and while it fits in some ways, it seems out of place somehow among the others.  The title track forms a bridge of sorts between the first set of pieces and the latter part--a mid-tempo rhythm with a dreamlike quality that unfolds a melody as it evolves.  “Mixed Messages” has a march-like beat, adding overlays as it trods along, becoming more complex in atmosphere.  
How do you listen to electronic music?  Intently, with the idea of discerning the internal structures and textures?  As background music while reading?  Hauschildt’s music could be used for either purpose.  That’s up to the listener.  Either way, I found it to be an enjoyable musical experience, and I look forward to hearing more from him.
Tracks:  Interconnected, Accelerated Yearning, Constant Reminders, Sequitur, Mixed Messages, Vegas Mode, Kept, Steep Decline.
Instruments:  Crumar Orchestrator 2, Dave Smith Instruments Prophet ‘08, EDP Wasp, EDP Spider, Electro-Harmonix EH-0300 Vocoder, Farfisa Combo Compact Organ, Farfisa Syntorchestra, Kawai SX-240, Korg Lambda, Korg PS-3300, Linndrum LM-2, Moog Modular V., Oberheim OB-5X, Roland JD-990, Roland TR-808, Roland VP-330, Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, Voice.
The Wizard of Wans

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The David Mayfield Parade: Good Man Down

The David Mayfield Parade.  Good Man Down.
Beautywood Records, 2013.  David Mayfield Parade:
David Mayfield compares his albums to the Indiana Jones films.  This one is supposed to be Temple of Doom, compared to the band’s first, which was Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I’m not sure how far the analogy follows, although this album is a bit darker than the first, sort of like the Indiana Jones movies.  And clearly Harrison Ford and David Mayfield are both manly hunks.  But Temple of Doom cost $28 million, while Good Man Down was put together with money from the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.  You can decide for yourself which is the better product.
David Mayfield grew up partly in Kent, Ohio, and partly on the road and in Nashville with his family’s bluegrass band, One Way Rider.  Returning to Kent, he left again for the bright lights of the country music capital, where he worked as a sideman, and joined the bluegrass group Cadillac Sky, later working with sister Jessica Lea Mayfield, the Avett Brothers, and other folks.  He’s certainly well-thought of in Americana music circles.  
The opening track, “Love Will Only Break Your Heart,” is a fine introduction, a bluegrass dish with all the fixin’s and probably my favorite song on the album.  Vocals and harmonies by Mayfield and Seth Avett are really sweet, and Jim Vancleve plays a fine fiddle.  The two instrumental pieces, both short and labelled “superfluous” are hardly that.  The first is a dark atmospheric piece, while the second is more high octane bluegrass with some rock guitar thrown in.  I found both very enjoyable and quite well-played, and each segues into the track following, with similar attitude.  “From a Dream” is more Americana than bluegrass, and Mayfield’s songs tend to move back and forth among various styles, emphasizing one over the other, but he’s not a purist, and seems happy blending to suit his musical vision.  “Another Year” brings us guests Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver with a host of other musicians and an echo chamber (?).  It’s a strong tune, with gospel harmonies and the graveyard theme of the lyrics give it a dark and lonely feel.  Actually, most of the lyrics in the songs are dark and lonely, but don’t let that dissuade you.
Mayfield goes a bit alt country with “The Willow and the Babe,” and a tune in a similar style, “Tempted,” with guest Dierks Bentley.  The tunes are comparatively sprightlier with a rather cheerful sound until the lyrics pull the listener down again.  They remind me (only in spirit) of some old British Invasion tunes like “World without Love,” with a cheery tune but lyrics that don’t match.  “Was It Only Me” and “Little Blue Car” take us even further into bleakness, but the tunes are beautifully played and finely sung.  “Trapped Under the Ice” is more of a rocker, but very effective, with an insistent beat and some electronics for effect.  Mayfield’s vocals take on a touch of rockabilly, and he sounds great, as does the guitar solo.  He ends the album on a ballad, soft, sweet, and sad.
The cartoon accompaniment in the booklet shows the struggle between two super-powered folks, one good, one evil, both of whom look like Mayfield.  There seems to be some struggle in the songs he gives as well, with the dark side clearly winning this round.  There’s barely a hint of the clowning David Mayfield one sees on YouTube videos and in concert.  A fine album in nearly all aspects (the booklet has the songs out of order, and which musicians are members of the Parade, I can only guess), I would recommend this to anyone who likes roots/Americana music.
Personnel:  David Mayfield (guitars, bass, programming, mandolin, mellotron, vocals), Wes Langlois (electric guitar), Jim Vancleve (violins), Joe Giotta (drum kit, percussion), Rebekah Jean (vocals, piano, celeste); Shelby Means (upright bass), Seth Avett (vocals), Jen Maurer (accordion), Kristin Weber (violin), Josh Swift (resonator guitar), Anderson East (electric guitar, electro-mechanical piano), Steve Gulley (vocal), Dierks Bentley (vocals), John Michael Gentile (marimba), Paul Kovak (acoustic guitar), Bob Cesare (timpani), Dave Huddleston (guitars), Mike Lenz (electric guitar), Jason Edwards (drum kit), Ryan Cavanaugh (5-string banjo), Christina Schreiber (trumpet), Sarah Clanton Schaffer (cello), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (bluegrass vocals).
Tracks:  Love Will Only Break Your Heart, Superfluous Instrumental, From a Dream, Another Year, Human Cannonball, The Willow and the Babe, Tempted, Was It Only Me, Little Blue Car, Superfluous Instrumental Reprise, Trapped Under the Ice, Goodbye Farewell So Long.
Jeff Wanser