The Crossroads Band play blues-tinged roots rock that is ‘easy to love’

Reviewed by Kyrby Raine

The Crossroads Band/Crossroads

The degree of affection I have for the Crossroads Band is something that is difficult to rate. This is a group that is easy to love, writing and producing blues-tinted roots rockers that not only display prime musicianship but stellar lyricism and friendly, heartfelt vocals. This is the kind of band that you’d see at summer festivals, jamming beneath the heat of the sun for whatever the size of the crowd. Vocalist Tony Merando is almost like a chameleon, shifting tone and style depending on the genre and primary emotion of the tune. On “I’m So Glad,” Merando echoes the crystalline blue-eyed soul of Paul Carrack while his group generates a sizzling Southern-rock groove that Lynyrd Skynyrd would’ve saluted them for.

Guitars are at the heart of the Crossroads Band. They boil to a fiery rhythm on “Free Man,” starting with a gently rocking pulse that gradually increases steam. Man, this group can honestly smoke! “Stranded” is pleasantly engaging Americana in the jangly Wilco vein. Even the relatively mellow numbers like “Oh Mama” and “Time Slips Away” show a band that never sleeps at the wheel.

Published in: on October 9, 2008 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tasteful and bittersweet guitar playing make Steven Palmer’s ‘Morning Road’ glow

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Steven Palmer/Morning Road

The title is apt because, if you’re traveling for an extended period of time, Steven Palmer’s Morning Road is what you want playing in your car. There are miles in Palmer’s voice; you can almost see the scenery that his mind has captured through the decades of his life. I love how the title track recalls Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” at one point. Is it intentional? Perhaps or maybe unconsciously. Nevertheless, it fits the mood and meaning of the song.

Palmer is no hotshot acoustic gunslinger; this is a man that, if he had started recording albums such as this early in his life, we might be looking at him differently, such as an icon in his autumn years. Palmer’s songwriting and guitar playing are tasteful and bittersweet; each cut is crafted with feeling and poetic flair. The tropical “A Simple Man Needs a Simple Plan” invigorates with a summer glow while Palmer’s cover of Charles Johnson’s “The Dill Pickled Rag” has some stunningly beautiful crystalline riffs. Lovely.

Orchestral touches power Laura Pursell’s new album

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Laura Pursell/Somewhere in this Room

Singer/songwriter Laura Pursell has never been on my radar before but she certainly will be after hearing Somewhere in this Room. Unlike most solo projects, this seems to be more of a collaboration between her and her producer Andrew Bonime, who arranged and co-wrote these lovely songs. In other words, this is no mere folk or acoustic confessional, stripped down to its basic ingredients. Bonime has gifted Pursell as massive lens in which to shoot with. This isn’t just a record a with a girl and a guitar but a girl with the power of an orchestra behind her. Violins, cellos, violas, French horns, saxophones, oboes, and organs complement the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up. Actually, complement is an understatement; they elevate these songs to another level.

Those who prefer the less-is-more standard of today’s pop craftsmanship might be puzzled by all the added instrumentation here, but Pursell and Bonime are reaching for the artistic heights set by the jazz and soul artists of the past when having a Big Band behind you was considered cool. It certainly is a breath of fresh air, and not everything on Somewhere in this Room climbs to such mountainous extremes. The softly melodic “It Might As Well Be Magic” bridges together folk and smooth jazz with subtlety and technical precision while “Skywriting Neon Lights” is reminiscent of Heart’s vintage mellow-yellow dreaminess. The rainy-afternoon melancholy of “My Heart Knows You Were Here” plumbs the depths of Pursell’s heartbroken emotional state after a friend’s suicide. It’ll leave you knocked to the ground.

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  

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  

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