Vinny St. Marten sees what many of us are blind to on heartfelt EP

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Vinny St. Marten/Blindness Is a State of Mind

At a time when America just might elect its first black president this year, “Think About It (Roy’s Song)” couldn’t have been released at a better time. Racism is unfortunately a disease that still lingers in the bloodstream of America albeit, given the rising number of minorities in this country, not as openly placed as before, especially during the period that Vinny St. Marten is singing about here.

As I write this, I see TV commentators discussing the photo of Barack Obama in African garb, which just so happens to resemble Muslim wardrobe. In other words, people are connecting being a Muslim to terrorism. Will it ever end? I’ve heard many stories about racial prejudice but hardly any that knocks me on the head as much as “Think About It (Roy’s Song).” I found myself in tears, actually, because as a young girl I had a close friend who was black in an all-white school. I can only imagine what she went through, but her strength inspired me to seek greatness and, with that, I am forever in her debt. Marten’s lesson is that, when you physically cannot see a fellow human being’s skin color, you will realize that we are all the same inside.

At a time when music has become so detached and artificial comes along this blind gentleman with a big, beating heart, sharing his love for the good things in life, especially loyal friendships. The easy-listening ballad “Please Let Me Be Your Eyes” and the homesick “16 Grove Street” have the softness and warmth of a home-cooked meal.

Published in: on February 27, 2008 at 4:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Blake Ian album should appeal to fans of Starsailor, Jeff Buckley

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Blake Ian/Alchemist

With his quivering, fragile voice and folk-rooted compositions, Blake Ian immediately calls Starsailor to mind. I’m not sure if Ian is familiar with that English group, but Starsailor fans wanting a fix, especially somebody with songs as moving and emotionally explosive as theirs, should delve into Alchemist with no hesitation. Ian is a post-alternative singer/songwriter, drawing upon the rough edges of grunge whenever his electric guitars rise up and in his moody vocal delivery, too. When Ian isn’t echoing Starsailor or their idol, the late Jeff Buckley, he recalls the deep, wounded soulfulness of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, especially on “Poison” and “Car Radio.” “Poison” is the more mellow of the two, a rainy-day piece with some fairly dreamy riffs.

Ian can rock out as well as he can doing the quieter stuff, sometimes in the same track. For example, “In the Fires” opens acoustically and then the fuzzy electric guitars and pounding drums kick in. “A Little More” has a bit of killer wah-wah in its intro while “Being There” is crisp alternative rock from the Pearl Jam school of hard knocks. None of it is too loud, though, giving Alchemist the ability to appeal to a larger and most deserving audience.

Published in: on February 26, 2008 at 5:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dutch group Vast Countenance gives ’60s rock a breathtaking makeover

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Vast Countenance/As We Please

The Dutch band Vast Countenance are true disciples of the ’60s. On As We Please, you will hear various influences from the time period but given a post-alternative edge that makes the band closer in spirit to garage revivalists such as the Strokes yet minus the hipper-than-thou attitude. The rollicking keyboards of “As I Please” gives the song an Americana vibe; the vocals recall John Fogerty in his youthful prime. It is catchy, toe-tapping classic rock that hints at the rest of the retro goodies to be mined inside.  

The scruffy, high-speed guitar work of “This Year’s Fall” echo not just ’60s rockers but the ’80s indie-pop acts that were similarly inspired by such work including the New Zealand post-punks on the Flying Nun label and even the Wedding Present, especially when the tempo goes into overdrive. Breathtakingly energetic stuff. “Trumpet Slide” has a long instrumental build-up that is definitely a nod to the Velvet Underground with its mesmerizing, downbeat guitars and Nico-ish haunted singing. For those searching for straightforward rock & roll, jump to the last three cuts wherein Vast Countenance capture the bar-band grit and amp fuzz of the Rolling Stones and the Who in their rebellious heydays.

Published in: on February 19, 2008 at 10:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Green Mountain Rebels take on Americana with a bluesy grit

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

The Green Mountain Rebels/If It Don’t Shine

The Green Mountain Rebels hail from Wisconsin which, to my knowledge, hasn’t actually been a wellspring for Americana. Or even rock and roll. (What’s in Wisconsin anyway?) Being outside the hip indie supermarkets of the U.S. has enabled the Green Mountain Rebels to do their thang, tossing together various past and present outlaw musical styles without a pinch of hesitation. The Rebels are certainly rebellious, faithfully rooted in classic country and roots music yet unafraid to toss their blues and punk aspirations into the mix.

The title cut and “Sunrise (East Winds Gonna Blow)” have the guilty fingerprints of listening to the Doors too much. And it actually makes for a pretty exciting development because I’ve never heard the Doors with a Southern rock edge before. The wonderfully titled “Shotglass on the Dashboard” is lusty and intoxicating while female vocalist Elizabeth Christianson on “Sweet Salvation” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Son” adds sexiness and longing to this cowboy ranch.

Thanks to the Green Mountain Rebels, if anybody asks me about Wisconsin, I can think of something besides the Packers.

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Matthew Chase echoes U2 shimmer and Duncan Sheik crooning on ‘Everything’

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Matthew Chase/Everything

Matthew Chase is a singer/songwriter in the mold of, not John Mayer nor Jack Johnson, but Duncan Sheik. That is, if Sheik aimed for the arena-ready big guitars of U2, Snow Patrol, and Coldplay. Like Sheik, Chase has a moody, pretty croon that seems to be nursing a few romantic wounds. On this six-track EP, Chase packs nearly every track with enough guitar shimmer to make the Edge proud. For a solo act, he’s certainly not striving for a small sound.

The slick mix of incandescent riffs and classic-rock bass and drums on “Within Your Eyes” suggest a collision between U2 and Collective Soul. The pulsating “Inside” features probably his best vocal performance on the record; it has a yearning, heartbreaking quality that really touches you. While “Feel You Near” and “Fall” continue in the widescreen guitar style set by “Within You Eyes,” Chase mellows out on “Believe” and “All You Gave,” recalling Coldplay’s more intimate moments. Everything is a sweet disc that sparkles with the glow of a bright new talent.

Published in: on February 3, 2008 at 4:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Southside Cindy & the Slip-Tones are ‘rock-solid blues’


Reviewed by Jessica Shearer

Southside Cindy & the Slip-Tones/Mighty Mighty

There are times when Southside Cindy reminds me of Melissa Etheridge, as on the opening cut, “Sail Right Through,” which gradually picks up tempo as Cindy unleashes a raspy growl. But I don’t think Etheridge has a voice as big as Cindy’s. Cindy’s singing is definitely rooted in the blues, packing every word with longing and angst. However, there’s a whole lotta soul in those lungs as well. If you take Etheridge’s two-fisted punch and combine it with the emotional depth and speaker-filling power of Aretha Franklin, you’ll get an idea of what Cindy sounds like.

But a strong vocal isn’t enough to make a record successful. Thankfully, Cindy and her Slip-Tones have given us a body of rock-solid blues numbers that never become old even upon seriously repeated spins. The wounded “Leftover Love” and the meaty “He’s Got My Love” are prime bar-band blues. Although Cindy’s scorching singing provides most of the highlights, the playing of her group is intoxicating and airtight.

Published in: on February 2, 2008 at 4:22 am  Leave a Comment