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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Bob Petrocelli melts hearts, makes feet tap with original blues

Written by Sabrina Tinsay

Bob Petrocelli has it all. It is true that at first glance his twangy, subtle blues style makes a pair of feet tap to the beat and a heart melt with his lyrics. Bob Petrocelli has sheer honesty embedded in his songs. Shanghai Shuffle shows Petrocelli’s experience with blues music. Although “Gulf Coast Blues” may be one of his bluesy songs, Petrocelli brings you back to the roots in “Road Kill.” His musical experiences are apparent in his songs with different styles: In “Shellena’s Rose Tattoo” and “Hey Shellena,” one can differentiate his music style from roots to blues. Petrocelli’s current album takes one into a journey of past companionships,
forgotten memories, and new ways of living.

Sabrina Tinsay: You have chosen Shanghai Shuffle as your album title. How did you come up with this conclusion?

Bob Petrocelli: The title was up in the air until pretty late in the process.  Since there is so much traditional influence in this collection I ultimately decided to try to bring that out.  The title track is done in the style of a lot of blues/R&B/rock instrumental records from the late ’50s/early ’60s period.  I [was] thinking of things like Bill Doggett, Bill Black’s Combo, and a lot of others – just basic shuffle rhythms on a 12-bar progression.

Tinsay: In “Get a Grip (Part 1),” we can feel a sense of rawness to your music; what propelled you to believe you will be making a Part 2 with the same guitar riff?

Petrocelli: We recorded that as one long groove in the studio. I think it came out to about 11 minutes and the rhythm section just played the same pattern but kind of evolved it over the time it was played.  The lead lines, solos, and vocals were overdubbed later on.  Again I went back to the ’50s/’60s for inspiration.  In those days a lot of 45 RPM singles were released with a part 1 and then with part 2 on the flip side.  Also, Tower of Power did something similar on the Back to Oakland album.  They put segments of a piece called “The Oakland Stroke” as the first and last tracks on that album.  I’m glad you pointed out the rawness on the song.  I think a lot of the credit for that goes to Larry Steiner who played clavinet and Dave Clive on drums.  What they played kind of swirled around the constant riff I was playing throughout. 

Tinsay: I like that you are honest in your songs, but one stands out to me the most is “Threw My Love Away.” Who reminds you of that track?

Petrocelli: “Threw My Love Away” is probably the most personal song on the CD.  It’s written about my failed marriage of over 20 years and my feelings of anger towards my ex-wife, who has passed away since the song was written.  A lot of issues were left unresolved and this was my way of purging the anger I had been holding onto for a long time.

Tinsay: How would you define yourself as an artist?

Petrocelli: How would I define myself is a very good question which I really haven’t thought about until now.  I call myself a singer/songwriter/guitarist but I think that’s just the functional description.  I’d like to think of myself as someone who can entertain people and somehow also bring them something of value, a new insight or whatever.  At least that’s the goal.

Tinsay: When did you first start writing your own songs?

Petrocelli: I’ve been writing on and off for many years dating back to the late 60’s but really got serious about two years ago while working on the Three Leg Dogs and Old Skool Cats CD with singer Robert Charels.  I submitted a number of songs for the CD and only “Hey Shellena” made the cut.  I decided I wanted to have my music heard and developed the discipline to write on a regular basis.  That resulted in the Shanghai Shuffle project and that’s where we are today.  I’m currently working on material for the next CD while promoting this one.

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 4:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dianna Cristaldi’s voice is ‘sometimes husky, haunting, sensitive’ on new CD

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Dianna Cristaldi/Dianna Cristaldi

You won’t find that many modern country albums with the kind of compellingly personal songwriting and evocative, beautifully crafted music that is on Dianna Cristaldi’s self-titled latest effort. Cristaldi unites folk, roots rock, and the blues into seamless slices of life. Her voice – sometimes husky, haunting, sensitive – doesn’t stay in one gear; it shifts with the varying tones of the song, the up and down emotions of the lyrics. On “I’ve Got Nothing Left,” Cristaldi sounds as if she’s been through the most serious heartache possible and is as drained as the tune admits. “From the hollow, I look up in pain/I am not strong enough/There’s nothing left to gain,” she sings with moving passion.

Many of the tracks here are slow and take repeated spins to grow on you; however, the finest LPs are the ones that reward with multiple spins. “Bye and Bye” is a heartbreaking meditation on dying and acceptance with Cristaldi trading verses with Bethany Cristaldi Wurster. Part Gospel, part country duet, it is the highlight of the whole CD, and like the rest of the record, it will stick with you long after you’ve stopped playing it.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Compelling storylines illuminate Chad Kichula’s new EP

Reviewed by Carson James

Chad Kichula/World Shaker

Chad Kichula arrives from Canada with a major fixation on Bruce Springsteen, at least on the title song of this three-cut EP. With a voice as heavy and deep as the Boss himself, Kichula narrates a tale of outlaw adventure and individual freedom taken from the Paul Newman classic Cool Hand Luke. Kichula’s bluesy singing gives the track an even more compelling storyline, one that can be appreciated even without the context of the film.

“Gotta Hold on Me” is probably less personal but it is still a catchy B-side even though its lyrics aren’t as substantial as the single’s. “Another Love” is laid back and lush, Suzanne Parovsky’s strings illuminating the hushed atmosphere of Kichula’s romantic longing. Having not heard Kichula’s work before, I don’t know if this EP is a creative evolution from his earlier material or simply a continuation of it. One thing is clear: I will definitely survey his future.

Published in: on September 22, 2008 at 8:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Side F/X spices pop/rock grooves with helpings from the blues, country, and funk

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Side F/X/Contradictions

Major-label tastemakers would probably have a headache of a time trying to pigeonhole Side F/X. Here we have a fairly straightforward pop/rock group that spices their grooves with helpings from the blues, country, funk, jazz, reggae, and even New Wave. A decade ago, when musicians were still expected to find a single unifying sound and stick to it, Side F/X would’ve gotten the same three-letter grade and question mark: WTF? However, times have changed, and the creation of the iPod is making the record industry, whether they like it or not, realize that most people do not restrict themselves to one form of music.

Side F/X take the plunge, liberating themselves from any stylistic shackles, even in the same track. On “My Hero,” Side F/X stitch together light funk, reggae, and ’70s Adult Contemporary; in “Her Escape,” Side F/X marry jazz and blues, letting sweaty sax glide across sizzling Robert Cray licks; the slow, emotionally evocative “Come a Little Closer” contrasts AOR riffs with moving piano. On paper, it reads like a car crash, but when you listen to it all, it is smooth sailing. There isn’t a wasted moment here; the nine cuts that populate Contradictions express real feeling with ambitious musicianship, blending together with ease and excitement.

Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Young blues group Automatic Heat finds inspiration in Johnny Winter, Son House

A New Kid In Town: Josh Lamkin & Automatic Heat

Written by Brooke Curtis

Bluesman Josh Lamkin is way beyond his years.

When the term “bluesman” is used, it’s usually describe someone older, often a well-dressed gentleman in his 40s or 50s, singing of his life’s regrets and heartaches. The Florida-based Automatic Heat, on the other hand, is fronted by handsome lad who may or may not be old enough to perform at a bar. Kids these days, right? Well, I’m impressed. I don’t usually hear blues guitarists with Lamkin’s rock & roll fire, especially at his age. What’s exciting is that this is only the beginning. Lamkin, if he plays his cards right, still has decades of musical evolution to offer us. In the meantime, Lamkin spoke to Twang Town about his youthful plunge into the blues.

Brooke Curtis: I don’t see too many bluesmen at your age. What was your attraction to that style of music and how did it come about?

Josh Lamkin: It was the slide guitar that really sparked my interest in the blues. After hearing a lot of Johnny Winter and early Delta blues songs that had a lot of bottleneck slide in them, I was addicted to the sound of it. All through school most of my friends were into punk rock, grunge, and metal. But for me, it has always been the blues. With the slide, you can’t just pick it up and play it because you know some licks. You have to feel it. It’s all in the way you touch the strings and make it talk. The licks just came easy for me.

Curtis: Is Automatic Heat really a band or are they simply your session men?

Lamkin: We really are a band. We have a three-piece arrangement with guitar, bass, and drums. I play guitar and sing while Evan Chiovitti plays bass. Evan has been with me since day one. We met in a guitar club at school.  Evan switched over to bass, and that made our jam sessions more interesting. Over the years we have learned to read each other musically. Most times, Evan knows where I’m headed even before I do. We have several different drummers we can call on to play live shows with us, depending upon their schedules. But our friend, Dave Reinhardt, does all of our studio work. When we started out, we called ourselves “The Vintage Blues Band.” We played kicked up blues songs. We played local gigs and some school functions. One of the tunes we played in our show was “No Money Down” by Chuck Berry. A friend of ours started calling us “Automatic Heat” after one of the lines in that song. After awhile, other people started calling us that, too. So we became “Automatic Heat.” The name found us.

Curtis: What goes into your songwriting, your inspirations? Do you draw from real-life experiences?

Lamkin: Songwriting, for me, starts with the music. Once you let the music unfold, the feel of the song sort of lends itself to writing the lyrics. And yeah, sometimes real-life experiences can make their way into a song. A lot of people think the blues are just hot-licks played to a 12-bar pattern. I think Son House said it best, “There ain’t but one kind of blues. And that consists of the troubles between a man and a woman who are in love, and sometimes about being broken.” So I try to focus all of my writing around that perspective. I also have and uncle who has had terrible luck with women. Observing some of his problems has given me some great material. On the other hand, I believe I’ve already met the love of my life, and that makes for some great material, too.

Curtis: How long have you been performing the blues?
Lamkin: We’ve been playing together for about six years now and we love it. It’s great to be able to make music with your friends.There’s not a feeling in the world that compares to the rush you get on stage. Playing the music that you love, and seeing the people react, especially people who are skeptical towards the blues in the first place. I love winning them over with my music.

Curtis: Have you gotten any advice from older blues musicians? If so, what did they tell you?

Lamkin: Absolutely! I get advice all the time! There’s a blues club in south Tampa that we go to pretty often that holds an open jam. You never know who is walking through the door. A lot of heavy hitters come through there from out of town, and I’ve had the privilege of talking to and playing with some of the best. I remember Dean Germain telling me that when you’re playing the blues, it’s not what you play; it’s what you don’t play. Leave your ego at home, and always be humble and respectful in regards to your music. Be yourself. That’s pretty good advice.

Curtis: Have you had a difficult time earning credibility and respect because of your age?

Lamkin: Not that I’ve noticed, everyone that has heard us play have always been very supportive. I’ve been fortunate to meet other musicians who don’t mind giving us a chance to show what we can do. We’ve always tried to carry ourselves as professionals and as adults. And when we walk on stage, we feel very fortunate to be there. And the music speaks for itself.

Published in: on April 22, 2008 at 4:22 am  Comments (2)  
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Joy Adler’s ‘Postcards’ crackles with passion

Reviewed by Brooke Curtis

Joy Adler/Postcards

There’s certainly no shortage of female singer/songwriters out there, and the number has certainly grown since the mammoth success of Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones. Alas, there are many women who arrive with a catchy guitar riff and a poetic pen but have no voice, either one that is stylistically distinct or technically impressive. Joy Adler is among the few with all of those qualities intact.

Although the songs on Postcards are easily accessible, they seem more personal to me than radio-ready attempts to achieve commercial success. You instantly get the feeling that Adler recorded this CD mainly to express herself and not just to acquire a quick pop hit, which has sadly become harder without a million-dollar record label behind you. Avoiding the bland slickness of Adult Contemporary radio, Adler looks to Americana, blues, and jazz for inspiration. Even the Cult’s Goth-metal landmark “She Sells Sanctuary” is given a bluesy makeover, quite unlike anything you’d hear on alternative-rock stations either during the mid-’80s or today.

Of Adler’s original material, many of them sparkle, some way more than others. I’m partial to the pretty piano compositions like “Our Rapture” and “Your Love Is Everything,” wherein Adler is reminiscent of Tori Amos but with definitely more soul. It’s the passion that Adler equips these tunes with that make them crackle, give them added intimacy.

‘A Meeting of Angels’ is a ‘naked, honest’ mix of folk, blues, and jazz


Reviewed by Carson James

Little Blue Planet/A Meeting of Angels

About halfway through A Meeting of Angels, Little Blue Planet had me weeping with them. The song, “This Hurt Is Too Deep for Tears,” is among the most heartbreaking songs about a broken relationship that I’ve heard in decades. The profound agony in Corry Suter’s singing is nearly impossible to bear; her voice is nearly cracking with pain and loss. It’s a shame such a devastatingly sad vocal performance will go unheard by millions of real music fans simply because Little Blue Planet do not have the push of a major label behind them. Then again, record companies have no room for naked, honest songs like this anymore.

Consisting of Suter, guitarist Blue Ray Luxemburg (love that name), and harmonica player Shakey Reay Suter, Little Blue Planet are a Canadian folk trio that also delve into the blues and jazz. However, on “This Hurt Is Too Deep for Tears,” they actually approach the harrowing despair of the late Nico. Each member has an important role in shaping the sound of the album. Luxemburg’s acoustic riffs shift styles to fit each track, either laying down rainy-day atmospherics in “The Great Stretch” or aiming for brittleness as on “This Hurt Is Too Deep for Tears.” Shakey’s harmonica can be wonderfully bluesy at times; check out his scorching work on “A Good One” and “Song for C.” Suter is a wonder to behold. Her voice will haunt you when you sleep.

Published in: on March 29, 2008 at 5:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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