Saturday, February 22, 2014

Honeybucket. Honeybucket EP

Honeybucket.  Honeybucket.
Bucket O’ Honey Records, 2013.  Honeybucket:

The opening guitar line of the first track hits home that this is not traditional bluegrass.  It has a Gypsy or Latin flavor that continues through the entire song.  The rhythm is in a similar vein, and when the young gentlemen of Honeybucket launch into the vocals “Ohio,” they leave further evidence that bluegrass is only part of the story.  The vocal harmonies are more-or-less traditional, but the general feel of the song is quite a stew.  Honeybucket is a relatively new group (this is their second studio release, and third EP), although they claim on Facebook to have formed in 1898.  Definitely in the Newgrass (progressive bluegrass) category, they include elements of honky-tonk country and pop music, with some rock sensibilities behind it all.  I like them.  They have a fresh sound and high energy, and we could all use more of that around here. And mustaches.

Of the six songs here, three also appeared on their live EP recorded at the Beachland Tavern, and two showed up on their first recording, “The Ohio EP.”  It’s confusing.  But let’s discuss what we have here.  “Mayor’s Daughter” takes what sounds like an old folk ballad (although is seems to be an original) done in bluegrass overdrive.  The guitarist, Adam Reifsnyder, and mandolinist, Brendan O’Malley take some nice solos.  “Honey for My Baby” is a really catchy tune, also taken at fast tempo, and here the vocal harmonies shine nicely, although they remind me more of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s style more than Ralph Stanley’s.  They get to a ballad on “First Winter,” a sweet tune with pop influences, sort of 70s country-rock in tone.  The guys get to show off their playing on “Summer Shandy” in longer stretches of soloing (I hear a bit of Celtic influence?), and save the most traditional bluegrass for the last tune, “Old High Road,” a strong closer.  

This is a fine outing, and I enjoyed listening to their excellent vocals, high-calibre musicianship, and eclectic style.  I look forward to a full-length album at some point.  

Personnel:  Adam Reifsnyder (guitar, vocals), Abe Klein-Stefanchik (bass, vocals), Brendan O’Malley (mandolin, vocals).
Tracks:  Ohio, Mayor’s Daughter, Honey for My Baby, First Winter, Summer Shandy, Old High Road.

Check them out on iTunes

The Grand Wazoo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Oldboy. Covered in Sound

Oldboy.  Covered in Sound.
Oldboy, 2012.  Oldboy:

Thats it. pretty much one word review right their. Thats pretty much all you need to know.
Ok well goodnight everyone, Imma go sit on my lawnmower, drink a beer and strum my acoustic guitar to some odd time signatures. Thanks for reading.
Oh, alright. Despite my previous hypothetical scenario, Oldboy’s Covered in Sound is as indie as they come, and fits in perfectly with the fictional setting I described.  Yes, in a world where Mumford and Sons made mainstream folk boring and obnoxious, its up to lesser known artist to carry the proverbial torch. As someone who was raised on folk music, I can appreciate the simplicities offered by the first release of Cleveland born rock/folkers known as Oldboy (Their website specifically says it is not pronounced “Old boy”), writing dust-covered anthems for the common man with simple yet effective tones.
The first track (appropriately called “Prelude/My Dear”) lays out pretty much everything you need to know. The intro sounds like it was recorded in someones garage, which just so happens to fit with the indie tones this band emits. We are then subjected to a rather twangy over-dubbed guitar, banjo, and drums. The rest of the title track is upbeat and pleasant, if a little ho hum and generic. To be honest, it reminded me of a strange mixture of Rusted Root meets the Zac Brown Band.
Then, almost instantly, Oldboy slams on the brakes and starts in with the slow tempo moody ballad about having to break it off with a female  who he had affection for. Yawn. Okay, to be fair, the song actually ramps up near the end, and turns out to be one of the most interesting songs on the album. It comes off very sincere, and thats one of the aspects I love about folk music. Problem: DON’T MAKE THAT THE SECOND TRACK!  Following an upbeat cheerful song about making propositions to members of the XX gender, with a mopey slow paced song shows range, I guess, but it gives this album a very strange pace. The rest of the album runs at somewhat of a smooth gait, but its undeniable charm and unmistakable style, more than saves it from its semi-rocky start. songs like “Covered in Sound” and “Daylight Savings” are undeniably enjoyable.
And I just want to say, at first, I did not care for the singer’s voice. I mean, it wasn't bad, it was just a little too, eh, rustic. But the more I listened, The more I actually dug his voice. I also noticed how his voice changed according to the song, kinda like Modest Mouse, and sometimes like Counting Crows. Its really quite impressive, especially, his vocal range. The rest of the instruments... perform. The guitar sounds nice, and the drums don't really do anything to steal the show. The instrumentation is just, according to the band’s website, their bass player plays a bass with only two strings, and thats... different....
Look, I like this album, Its a deep fried, chicken fried piece of northern Ohio gold. Covered in Sound won’t light your world on fire, but it is very good. The song “Gone” is a fun Southern-inspired, guitar centered, alt rock piece that I more than recommend checking out.  I’m serious, this song would probably be the most-played song on any adult alternative station in the early 2000s. Even tunes like “Orchard Thieves” and “Stars have some great rhythms and solid harmonics. “Run” was a soft   Almost every song is sprinkled with lyrics that contain subtle layers and metaphors. telling stories through the radio and comparing a relationship to driving the wrong way down a highway, are lyrical themes modern folk/country artists wish their producers could write for them.
One of my bigger concerns is that some of the instrumentation on this album feel a tad too country for my likings. Especially since Covered in Sound is for the most part an alternative folk act.  Widdling banjo riffs I can take, but the lonesome steel guitar sounds feel a tad honky tonk and out of place. To me at least. This feels like an album that is trying to do too much, and believe me, I commend them for that. Some elements just felt out of place. But the songs that nail it, Nail it. There are seriously song great scenic, rustic folk jams on this album that are fantastic.
Just like a cold local brew, Oldboy is smooth, flavorful, with a distinct vintage taste. as classic as a black and white film, and as refined as a classic love song. A classic indie alt rock group who add some well deserved freshness to an otherwise stale genre. I cannot wait to hear more from them. Check ‘em out.

Personnel: Shawn Brewster (Vocals), Michael Kinsella (Bass), Greg Hyland (Drums).
Tracks:  Prelude (My dear), In/Out, Drive, Covered in Sound, Run, Daylight Savings, Gone, Orchard Thieves, Bullet, Rhythm and Timing, Stars, Heart of Man.
Alistair “Crowly” Dickinson
Lsten to “Gone” here:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February Additions to the Collection

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

Here’s yet another batch of older CDs we’ve added to the collection, in our eternal quest to have every piece of music ever created in this corner of the state.  Well, perhaps we’re not THAT obsessive.  But close.

Avant.  My Thoughts.  (Cleveland-born R&B artist’s debut from 2000)
Elias and the Error.  Americans.  (2012 EP from this Alliance band)
Gary Grimes.  Starhand Visions.  (Beatles tribute band leader made his own album)

Hillbilly Idol.  Hillbilly Idol.  (Their 2nd album)
The KingBees.  The KingBees.  (Jump blues band)
John Lapinski.  Like Father, Like Son.  (Polka music from Boardman)
Rebekah Jean.  Ribbons and Pearls.  (Country music EP from 2010)
Frankie Yankovic.  Frankie Yankovic with the Great Johnny Pecon.  (Early stuff)

Choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cleveland, Ohio.  Ecce Agnus Dei: Music of the Paschal Triduum.  (From the late 1990s)
Eliesha Nelson.  Russian Viola Sonatas.  (Violist with the Cleveland Orchestra)


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Inhale Exhale. Movement.

Inhale Exhale.  Movement.
Red Cord Records, 2012.  Inhale Exhale:  

With their fourth and final album released, Cleveland-born Inhale Exhale departs the music world, leaving behind their goodbye gift to fans and foes alike with Movement, a ten track LP that is very much what you would expect from this crew in terms of total length and subject matter if you know their history. As for my impression, I found it to be one that proved to be an enjoyable enough release, one that grows on your over time. But would I tell a friend to go out and buy it if they were looking for something to play on a road trip or on loop while they hit the gym? Sure, since Movement definitely has its merits.

It's a decent album but is also, to be truthful, my least favorite of any that Inhale Exhale ever put out, feeling kind of thin when compared to the others, with notable departures in terms of structural decisions and overall polish. I guess what I've noticed with some artists is that they have a tendency to sound more produced as they progress, which can be a pitfall, but with Movement the problem isn't that so much as the lack of mystique that made up the earlier material. There was a kind of biting energy in their second album I Swear... that I couldn't find with some of these songs and for a group that I knew had it in them to bring those kind of sensations out of their souls and into your ears it was surprising to be so underwhelmed at times.

By far what I noticed to be most different from previous creations were these sudden shifts that happened at the end of certain songs that really mellowed out so much that I thought the track was over and a new one was getting started. I don't think I was going through some sort of grandpa-like psychosis when perceiving this transition since it was there each time I listened. Definitely don't remember this happening on the albums The Lost. The Sick. The Sacred, or Bury Me Alive (both of which were terrific releases) but it occurs several times on this album, feeling like a little island of the song was left over and just kind of floating there at the end, as though you swim to it and get an earful of what's left of the piece. "Ain't No Trip To Cleveland" uses this to good effect and treats you to the best guitar work of the whole album, in my opinion, a cool way to end a good song so emphasized by its isolated finish, comparable to something you might hear from the band Thrice.

There's plurality in the lyrics that, while a tad trite, make them pliable to ponder, with verses like "Face now the value of your heart (x2), Awakening is in the eyes of the beholder" followed by my favorite guitar riff of the album, and having the potential to work with different veins of interpretation, be they secular or sectarian. The influence of faith is active in select places among the words and imagery, such as when singer Ryland Raus sings in the track "Mirage in the Middle of Summer" and through his shredded slash of a yell exclaims "Let light be your guide" to the listener. It's a kind of a reference that's fairly easy to place, eh? Not all rock acts are capable of interweaving their spiritual beliefs and their musical aspirations together without coming off as hokey or artificially preachy (if Pat Robertson started a metalcore band it would probably be that way), but Inhale Exhale managed to do so as seamlessly and tactfully as Underoath and Norma Jean.

If you only have money to purchase one album from the departed band known as "Inhale Exhale" getting one of the earlier three would be a better investment since I found them to be more enjoyable than Movement as a whole. Metalcore as a genre has its detractors and snobs but when it comes down to it the guttural screams and contrasting elegant vocals played off one another deserve respect, either variety of singing not being easy to pull off. While it's a shame Inhale Exhale didn't hold together to put out more content what they've left behind is worth giving a listen and perhaps even playing during a late night drive to Sheetz.  

Personnel: Ryland Raus (Vocals), John LaRussa (Guitars), Tony Saffell (Drums), and Greg Smith (Bass).
Tracks: Aesthetics, Party Drama, A Poise for Poison, Mirage in the Middle of Summer, The Collectors, Low, Carpe Diem, Ain't No Trip to Cleveland, See You Later, Under the Sheets Stained in Blood.

Robert Gojo