The late George Harrison recalled on latest French Possession EP

Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

French Possession/Triple A

If French Possession weren’t British, their music would be labeled Americana; well, at least the first two tracks on Triple A. French Possession specialize in twee pop with a noticeable crush on country and folk music; this is quite evident on “The Courtneys of Ballantry,” which seems to fuse together American country and English folk in the similarly wistful way that the Lilac Time do. Probably the most striking aspect of French Possession, and one that separates them from their peers, is lead singer Steve Jones’ resemblance to the late George Harrison is undeniable. Heck, with its sweet jangling guitars and warm harmonies, “Nothing Else Applies” could’ve been a Traveling Wilburys single, and “The Courtneys of Ballantry” has enough beautifully harmonic vocals to fill a couple of Beatles records.

“Ginny,” though, shifts the direction completely. It’s a delicious female-male duet with a trip-hop drum pattern. Lovely.

Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 7:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bluesman John Garr sizzles on ‘331’


Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

John Garr/331

John Garr probably rocks harder than your kids. This is not meant to be a putdown of your offspring, but a hat’s-off applause to an excellent singer/songwriter that has yet to penetrate the mainstream radar. Of course, in the youth-obsessed music industry, is there room for a potent blues rumbler like Garr? Considering the billions of fortysomethings and fiftysomethings out there who are looking for new music that recalls their own Golden Ages of rock, definitely.

However, I hesitate on calling Garr a “retro” act. Yes, his music does draw upon the blues and classic rock, but I find it timeless; this kind of invigorating, straightforward rock never loses its flavor or punch, especially when it’s delivered with as much affection and enthusiasm as Garr does here. “Leave Me Alone Blues” hammers an honest message with piercing sax and chilled-out piano. “Failure to Communicate” rides with a charging beat powered by pummeling drums. On “I Get It From You,” Garr lets it rip on his axe, leaving us breathless – or longing for a cigarette.

Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  

‘Arrow Creek’ is cinematic, powerful

Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

What an odd coincidence to receive singer/songwriter Steve Madewell’s Arrow Creek shortly after hearing the news about Dan Fogelberg’s death. While I’m not exactly sure how much influence Fogelberg had on Madewell, they certainly share the same spirit. Madewell’s music is story-driven unplugged soft rock, but unlike many young male artists today his guitar playing actually evokes specific moods and colors the images of his lyrics. In other words, this isn’t some bland strumming; I am moved as much by Madewell’s flair with the strings as I am by his lyrics.

Madewell has written some fairly powerful tunes on here. “Is This What We Have Become” is either a personal confession of regret or the sad transition of the baby-boomer generation from idealists to capitalists. Madewell’s reflective, rain-soaked acoustic guitars add poignancy to what is already a hauntingly plaintive song. The dramatic tension in Madewell’s guitar playing is palpable, especially on “Miami Wind” and “Meet Me in Saint Louis.” On “Climb,” Madewell strikes for an atmospheric, cinematic vibe and nails it perfectly. Musically and lyrically, there is much to savor on Arrow Creek.

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 3:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Country artist Dave Dykins mixes new and classic sounds on ‘All Hung Over U’

Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

Dave Dykins/All Hung Over U

Dave Dykins is one of the more commercial artists that you’ll find here in Twang Town; however, at the same time Dykins symbolizes what this site is most affectionate about. Swinging back and forth from classic to young country (whether he is conscious about that, we don’t know), Dykins gives us plenty to cheer about on All Hung Over U. This is an unpretentious, fun record; even when he sings about his woe, you can sense Dykins’ love for the material in every word that pours from his lips.

The witty “Temporary Insanity” jumps from the gate with a ’50s country shuffle. Dykins offers a lively, rowdy performance that will definitely get people on their feet. In live performance, this track must be a firecracker. On “Love Is Blind,” Dykins opts for more of an Americana feel, delivering a midtempo, romantic number with pleasant jangling guitars. “Between Here and Las Vegas” is Dykins’ home run. His deep, dramatic singing in front of the mix, he showcases himself as a country artist that can be held up to today’s Top-40 hitmakers.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 5:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg passes away at age 56



NEW YORK – Dan Fogelberg, the singer and songwriter whose hits “Leader of the Band” and “Same Old Lang Syne” helped define the soft-rock era, died Sunday at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.

His death was announced in a statement released by his family through the firm Scoop Marketing, and it was also posted on the singer’s Web site.

“Dan left us this morning at 6:00 a.m. He fought a brave battle with cancer and died peacefully at home in Maine with his wife Jean at his side,” it read. “His strength, dignity and grace in the face of the daunting challenges of this disease were an inspiration to all who knew him.”

Fogelberg discovered he had advanced prostate cancer in 2004. In a statement then, he thanked fans for their support.

“It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years,” he said.

Fogelberg’s music was in the vein of fellow sensitive singer-songwriters James Taylor and Jackson Browne, and was powerful in its simplicity.

He didn’t rely on the volume of his voice to convey his emotions; instead, they came through in the soft, tender delivery and his poignant lyrics. Songs like “Same Old Lang Syne” — in which a man reminisces after meeting an old girlfriend by chance during the holidays — became classics not only because of his performance, but for the engaging story line, as well.

Fogelberg’s heyday was in the 1970s and early 80s, when he scored several platinum and multiplatinum records, fueled by such hits as “The Power of Gold” and “Leader of the Band,” a touching tribute he wrote to his father, a bandleader. Fogelberg put out his first album in 1972.

Among his more popular albums were “Nether Lands,” which included the song “Dancing Shoes,” and “Phoenix,” which had one of his biggest hits, “Longer,” a song about enduring love.

Fogelberg’s songs tended to have a weighty tone, reflecting on emotional issues in a serious way. But in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1997, he said it did not represent his personality.

“That came from my singles in the early ’80s,” he reflects. “I think it probably really started on the radio. I’m not a dour person in the least. I’m actually kind of a happy person. Music doesn’t really reflect the whole person.

“One of my dearest friends is Jimmy Buffett. From his music, people have this perception that he’s up all the time, and, of course, he’s not. Jimmy has a serious side, too.”

Later in his career, he wrote material that focused on the state of the environment, an issue close to his heart. His last album was 2003’s “Full Circle,” his first album of original material in a decade.

A year later he would receive his cancer diagnosis, forcing him to forgo a planned fall tour. After his diagnosis, he urged others to get tested.

Survivors include his wife, Jean.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 3:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Ben Dalby haunted by the spirit of Nick Drake on poetic new CD

Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

Ben Dalby/Symphony of Silence

Englishman Ben Dalby must get numerous comparisons to the late British folk icon Nick Drake; he should be prepared for another. Like Drake, Dalby’s unplugged soft rock has the intimacy of a bedroom kiss; it is warm and quiet, songs sung from what seems to be a gentle soul. This is cozy coffeehouse folk with a distinctly English sensibility. Dalby’s British accent adds flavor and color to the no-frills arrangements; you spend as much time listening to his phrasing as well as to his lyrics, which can be charming, witty, and utterly poetic as these lines from “Pictures on a Monday” will show: “The wind blew low, like the sigh of a widow/Cheeks were wet, like dew on a wooden lid.”

It all may seem too precious to some, but I found myself moved by these tunes. The slow yet uplifting “Don’t Give In” probably reminded me of Drake the most, mainly the fragile, breathy qualities in Dalby’s singing. Not everything is naked and soothing. “Never Broke My Heart” rides on a shuffling locomotive beat a la classic country and “No Need to Fear the Shadows” has ethereal riffs that the Postal Service would’ve winked at.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 3:53 am  Comments (1)