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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Singer Lara Hope, in her own words
Lara Hope, of New York's Hudson Valley, deservedly won Ameripolitan's 2017 Best Female Rockabilly Vocalist award. A beguiling chanteuse, Lara swirls with facility from sonorous swinging to purred intimations to powerhouse, knock-down-drag-out rock 'n' roll.  

All the while, agile and whip-cracking dynamos the Ark-Tones -- including guitarist Billy Riker, bassist Matt Goldpaugh, and drummer Dave Tetreault --  throw out appropriately rock-ribbed music certain to inflame every dancer within earshot. In dangerousness lies great fun.

Lara and the Ark-Tones just self-issued Love You To Life, their second LP. (Also sitting in was Kings of Nuthin' sax player Hayden Cummings.) That potent waxing was reviewed by me in these pages.

"We've been described as many things," the singer explained, in an email. "Neo-rockabilly, punkabilly, pan-Americana, and plain ol' rockabilly. I think we are actually somewhere in between all of that, mixed with some country, blues, jazz, maybe even a little hidden Broadway (wink wink)." 

On the new disc:

"We are calling this new album a 'Roots Rock 'n' Roll' record, as it grabs a bit from all of the different roots genres that helped create rock 'n' roll as we now know it. We really just use 'rockabilly' as a jumping off point, something to keep in the back of my mind, and then let the music go where it wants to. 

"What I do like about Rockabilly music, however, is that it's fun, it's danceable, it's upbeat, it's raw. We are going to have fun on stage, and you'll know it! We want you to have the same experience as an audience member or a listener at home."

On songwriting:

"I don't have a formula to my songwriting. I usually don't even know what theme/tempo/genre it's going to be until it's already coming out, because I'm not writing for anyone else, not for the 'scene,' not trying to fit in to any one sound or genre, and I think that has been a plus for us, something that sets us apart. 

"We don't want to write songs that have been written before, and we try to branch out from the themes that are often associated with this style of music (cars, girls, parties, etc). Of course, there is a place in our music for these things from time to time, but as a woman living in 2017, there's a lot going on and a lot to think about, outside the box."

On new CD tracks:

"Love You To Life actually does have more 'love songs' than on any other album I've ever recorded (a whopping 4 out of 11), but the rest of the tunes are inspired by the truths I am living. 

"'Fast, Cheap, or Well Done' is our take on an old saying, and is addressing the fact that things don't quite seem to be made the way they used to. Our culture seems to be a 'buy, use, throw away, buy again, rinse and repeat' kind of operation. Our grandparents bought things that lasted a generation! It would be nice to go back to a time where you got what you paid for, and things were made with dignity and craftsmanship (or craftwomanship)!

"The title track has got a bit of a spin on the traditional love song, repeating the line 'I love you more than I did yesterday, cause yesterday you kind of pissed me off.' I think most people can relate to the slumps and bumps in any relationship! It's not always all fun and games once the curtains are closed. 

"'Callin' My Name' is about the ups and downs of playing in a traveling band, and doing this for a living. While there are certainly many bumps in the road, especially as a result of doing this as a completely independent, full time project, there is truly nothing that I would rather do. 

"As stated in the chorus, it's the 'lights, the stage, the road and the night' that are 'callin' my name' and push me to continue on this very uncertain and sometimes daunting path. In this digital age, while there certainly are more opportunities to get the music out there, there is also a lot more competition. This wasn't an easy life to have chose, but, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it's what I know I was meant to do. 

"'Working Man's Tools' was inspired after hearing many stories of other musicians' vans getting broken into, and having their equipment stolen. I've seen bands break up after having this happen to them, tours cancelled, money lost, friendships ruined. We realize that while stealing in any capacity is wrong, stealing the very things that allow a person to make a living is amongst the lowest things that you could do to someone."

Lara has her eyes on a tomorrow full of promise:

"We are really looking forward to branching out worldwide this year, as we will be touring Belgium & Holland for the month of April!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Austin Torpedoes
digital 45
Big Ol' Merc b/w Stay With Me Tonight 
(Crescent Shore Music)

Leisurely, western-swing bounce and sway with ingratiating affability. But don't misapprehend; there's something steely under the smile. 

"Big Ol' Merc"

"Stay With Me Tonight"

Paul Neon
The Big Deal 
(Perfect Pitch Recording Services, Ltd)

A CDBaby note: "Whilst touring the country, performing the hits of the fifties and sixties, Paul's ambition to release his own album was always on his mind. When diagnosed with cancer in 2015, Paul was advised to rest while he began treatment, but instead he saw the opportunity to focus on his lifelong dream, this inspirational album."

Sadly, Neon Paul Loe passed in April, last. He had devoted his life to rock and roll for some fifty years, pounding out the wonderfully rollicking Rebel Sound before the common folks who pack social halls, asking only for a few hours of good-time respite from the hardships of the working world. 

It's the Paul Neons who get us all though the storms of the everyday, holding out the promise of better moments to come.

The LP into whose creation he poured his decades of love for music is a mellifluous, fun rock and roll celebration certain to seize up listeners and stir dancers with its swing-bopping, Elvis and Teddy Fury manner. 

Life well spent, man. Thanks, from us all.

Recommended "Rockin' Like the King," "Gotta Keep," "I Like the Rock," "Who Will I Fall For," "I Like What I See," "Sway and Swagger," "Save Me a Good Seat"

Live gig video

Fan page

Dragon Jive
s/t (self)

To my ears, worthwhile music of whatever bent must be imbued with the passion of a heart inflamed and a soul defiant -- whether such be cried from roof tops or implied with understatement. All of that does surge here, though with the benefit of an instrumental maturity whose self-assured precision only makes more effective any emotional promises that first enticed. 

Recommended "Jivetonic," "Elephants, "Leo," "Bluesword," "Dinosurf"

Video "Jivetonic"

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Heatseekers
Big Guns & Fast Cars (House of Sin)

Three intensely purposeful Niagara Falls psychos race headlong, their more standard rockabilly and surf nutrients urging forward the finger-popping vehemence. 

Recommended "Go Big or Go Home," "California Suede," "Bombshell Baby," "Lonewolf," "Welcome To the End"

Video "Go Big or Go Home"

The Kokomo Kings
Too Good To Stay Away From 
(Rhythm Bomb Records)

Just plain fun eschews pretensions of profundity for the earthy pleasures of wee hours-nightspots, potent liquids hefted high, gut-bust laughs, and steamy flesh interaction. All of which headed straight into these bacchanalian grooves.

Recommended "Too Good To Stay Away From," "Pillow of Gold," "Silicone Brain," "She's Stealin' Candy," "A Wasted Day Is Forever Lost"

Video "Pillow of Gold"

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Quakes
Psycho Fest single (Orrexx Records)

Having last year marked the 30th year of global barnstorming under The Quakes' battle banner, big figure Paul Roman, currently with the flick-knife abetment of Wes Hinshaw and Juan Carlos, has now perpetrated this alacritous, carbonated psychobilly tidal wave. The past was a dead-certain blast. But future madhouse moons beckon.

(This single is available exclusively as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files.)

Psycho Fest:

Lara Hope and the Ark Tones
Love You To Life (self)

As all originals are credited to Lara and the group, it's to their collective distinction that these songs be cheered as bouncing with an ebullience that grips and a novelty that intrigues. Bits of the old and beloved are employed with tart uniqueness toward common, heel-kicking cause. Reliably rocky, ingratiatingly forward rushing, and clever in a saucy manner always meriting salute.

Recommended "I'm the One," "Love You To Life," "Hotel Yorba," "Fast, Cheap, Or Well Done," "Dr. Bartender," "'Til the Well Runs Dry"

Video "I'm the One"

Hard Ticket To Gretschville (self)

Rampageous thrills a-plenty delirium blaster TroyDestroy, ex of Nekromantix, Resurex, and the Exploding Fuck Dolls, may be as bone-splinteringly and ear-meltingly thunderous a psychobilly savage as the medical science world has ever struggled to dig. 

Recommended "Soda Shop Bop," "Dawn of Destroy," "Phantasmanaut," "Old Man and the Sea," "No Future," "Bat Out of Hell"

Video "Soda Shop Bop"

Langered (self)

Belgium-situated firebrands exemplify with furibund, auto pile-up punk-chording the definitional commonality of outsider passion that runs from Sun Elvis to the Rolling Stones to the Dolls to the Sex Pistols to the flaming moment we're now in.

Recommended "3 Down," "That Was My House," "No Shame" 

Video "That Was My House"

Angus McManus
I Hope You're Well Heeled (Ghetto Palm Music)

Affectionately drawled, Americana pond-rippling of back-water human experience. Fiddle, guitars, mandolin, solid drums -- the chosen instruments of the common man, raised up in defiant joyfulness. Straddles backwoods dirt roads and bright lights, big city cement, gamboling with a poetic audacity to which every heart quickens in recognition, and all minds grasp as significant.

Recommended "Big Casino," "I Hope You're Well Heeled," "If We Never Meet Again"

Video "Big Casino"

Hurricane Kings
One More Lap Around the Sun (self) 

Strapping Utah commandos locate and shine to high sparkle intersectional rockabilly boogie and free-roaming surfside musings. Reminds at turns of Paul Galaxy and the Galactix. Of exactly that palmary calibere.

Recommended "Ain't No Good," "Let Me Go," "Ghost," "One More Lap Around the Sun,"  "I'm Your Shadow," "Waitin' Here All Alone"

Video "Ain't No Good"

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jimmy Vaughan Trio 
featuring Mike Flanigin
Live at C-Boy's (Proper Records)

It is at once exhilarating and reassuring to find that, despite its inexorable grinding, time's march has proved feckless in the presence of greatness. This is power of formidable rank, potently effective. It declares itself frankly with clear, clean directness. Not only was Jimmy paramount yesterday, but he remains that today, as well. And, one feels smilingly certain, he will still bear high that proud banner in years yet to arrive.  

Recommended "You Can't Sit Down," "Come On and Rock, Little Girl," "Saint James Infirmary," "Frame For the Blues," "Dirty Work At the Crossroads," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Hey! Baby." "Cleo Mood"

Video Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan and Rick Estrin (Instrumental, live at C-Boys, 2016 New Year's Eve)

Renovation Blues Band
Swingin' Hammers (Rbb Records)

Here, lovingly interpreted to its purest and most satisfying degree, is a corporeal, lived-aloud human blues so filled with jumped-up animation and natural joyfulness as to raise up the hearts and agitate the feet of all for miles and miles.

Recommended "Cut You Loose," "This Time I'm Out the Door," "Cold Cold Ground," "Down Boy Down," "Happy Hour," "Stovetop Stuffin'"

Video "Cut You Loose"

Jonny Barber and the Rhythm Razors
Western Riot (self)

When he rears way back, only to loose affably swaggering, eminently country-combed rockabilly straight down the reliable Cannonball track, Jonny establishes that his jitter-bop bona fides are all paid up and ever on the late night fun prowl.

Recommended "RV Hookup," "You Can't Stop the Living Deads," "Racing To a Red Light," "So Many Curves," "Blackout Snow White," "Delilah's Barber Shop," "Should, Coulda, Woulda"

Video "Delilah's Barber Shop" (Filmed at at Sun Studio)

LeRoi Brothers
Check This Action + Bonus Tracks (Jungle Records)

Song "Check This Action" dive-bombed into lucky, early-Eighties ears with both confidence to kill and enough pick-'em-up-and-put'em-down, glad-all-over thrill alacrity as to leave many-an envious colleague covered head-to-toe in also-ran dust. 

"Moon Twist," the 1981 EP that first brought that cat-seizing coolness to adulatory embrace, evidenced that fiery, shakin'-it-down cut only tipped to something special, something well meriting further impassioned digging.

Six extra songs are preserved on this indispensable reissue. The Leroi Brothers (Don Leady, Steve Doerr, Mike Buck, and select, top-drawer compatriots) locked right down with the sheer gusto of men single-mindedly devoted to The Beat. 

Long may this spin. 

Recommended "Check This Action," "Eternally Blue," "Chicken and Honey,""Ballad of a Juvenile Delinquent," "Big Time Operator," "Till It's Too Late," "Cotton Pickin'"

Video "Check This Action" (Live at the Austin Opera House, 1983)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Freedom of speech now endangered for every musician

"Amid the ongoing fallout from the violence that saw a civil rights activist killed, music subscription service Spotify began removing so-called white power music, flagged by the SPLC as racist 'hate bands.' 

"A Spotify spokesperson said: 'Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like, is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. 

"We are glad to have been alerted to this content -- and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder." ("Apple denounces neo-Nazis as Spotify bans 'white power' tracks," Guardian 8/17/2017)

This should be of concern to anyone who would write, play, and sell music without first considering the authoritarian prejudices of ideological overlords. 

It should go without saying that 'white power' music (or anything at all complementary) is both morally repugnant and inherently hostile to the American, Constitutional equality ideal we commonly cherish. 

Also, as private company, Spotify can set any participatory standards it chooses. 

But the notion of suppressing articulation based on subjective assumptions of propriety is also contrary to traditional Constitutional guarantees. A censor's red pencil can deny liberty even more effectively than an obscure Charlottesville lackwit with poison fancies and substandard grooming habits.

As witnessed with the 1980s LP-labeling craze, the movie rating system, and the comics code of the 1950s, private industry makes content decisions based on market calculations, not on high-minded, individual liberty priorities. And those dollar-conscious reckonings soon become the orthodoxy. Art is impacted.

Once a measure for speech's 'legitimacy' has been adopted, all expression is threatened. And, whether noxious sloganeering or satirical, under-the-table advocacy of sensibleness (remember Randy Newman's "Short People?"), any lyric containing officially proscribed verbiage would be automatically tossed away.

Rock and Roll itself evolved in wonderful defiance of racial mores. 

The ability to consider ideas -- positive and productive ones, as well as their negative, destructive counterparts -- is crucial to intellectual development. By hearing contrasting perspectives, and judging them side by side, listeners are able to arrive at sufficiently thought-out and dependable conclusions.

(I'm not talking about Chaplinsky's "Fighting words" standard, nor of "clear and present danger" yelling 'fire!' in some packed theater, or the health hazards demonstrable in unlabeled, improper product ingredients. Ideas can be either accepted or rejected; physical poisons have but one logical end.)

Given contemporary mania for toppling statues, ripping down plaques, renaming streets, and other ill-considered efforts at historical revisionism, do not be surprised when, in coming times, rockabilly bands 'disappear' the Confederate Stars and Bars and other southern iconography from presentations.

Such reinvention, though, may not be entirely of musicians' conception. Owners of performance venues, record labels, and radio stations, not illogically apprehensive about adverse publicity and feel-good boycott campaigns, may soon present bands with a choice: Conform or die. Accommodate ideological fascism or be denied the ability to earn a living at your chosen profession.

That used to be called McCarthyism. Today, Spotify hails it as social justice.



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Poor Fellas
Streets of Desolation (self)

Whether hot rod-percolating across broken twilit tarmac, blasting star-ward in atomic rocketship coolness, or following frantically twangin', pounded bop to whatever fractured psychological plane it might scale, the reward lies always in the daring journey. And once you've been, you'll never seek return.

Recommended: "Dream Killer," "On My Feet," "Goodbye," "Feeling Blue," "Hot Rod Ride"

Video "Dream Killer"