Jimmy D. Lane, "Long Gone"-National Public Radio
No, really, National Public Radio. Listening to the weekly Saturday night blues program on the local NPR station has resulted in a regular diet of legendary blues artists. After one song faded into to the crackles and pops of the old vinyl that still kept its music alive, on came a raunchy guitar and a low gravelly voice not unlike Billy Gibbons. No crackles, no pops, just a guitar telling the world in no uncertain terms, "I am Fender hear me wail." After hearing an incredible cover of Hendrix's "Hear My Train A Comin'", followed by a song called "Whiskey", I was on the phone to the radio station. What I was hearing was Jimmy D. Lane's new CD Long Gone.
Backed by a rhythm section of Freddie Crawford on bass and Jim Keltner on drums, Jimmy D. Lane is able to showcase his guitar and keep it at the forefront of the music throughout the album. Seven of the thirteen tracks are originals, with covers including, John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom", and Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released". On every song the trio creates a nice groove without leaving anything hanging out where it shouldn't be. You could say they kept the precision without losing the feel. (Or would you rather say that they've thoroughly gelled, but can still wiggle just the right amount?)
Now, here comes the inevitable comparison with another blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Whereas Stevie Ray Vaughan often seems to attack his instrument, squeezing the notes out of it with a great deal of emotion, they just seem to flow from Jimmy D. Lane's guitar as natural as you or I walk down the street. Once his fingers start walking, the strings start talking, as if the connection from the heart to the guitar has developed into something clearer and more direct than with most players.
If you're a fan of blues, I highly recommend the charismatic, hook-laden guitar playing of Jimmy D. Lane.
Original Soul Project, "Down"-
I first saw this band on a lark two years ago, playing in a local bar. It seemed to be the perfect setting - beneath a restaurant in the heart of downtown, walk down the narrow concrete steps, through the heavy wooden door, and into the dim light and cigarette smoke. There's no stage, just a band crammed into the opposite end of the room with a couple of tables removed to make a dance floor. The whole affair could just about fit into my apartment. The last band I saw in this same bar was a thorough disappointment, so I was prepared to just have one beer and split. After I heard OSP play their first set, I stayed 'til closing to hear all three.
Based in State College, PA, Original Soul Project takes a mix of rock, blues, R&B, funk, and of course, soul, and creates some of the best music I've heard in the past decade. Their sound is very reminiscent (not retro! P'tooey!) of the soul and R&B I remember from way back when. With their second independent release, Down, the band serves up an offering of all original music that makes it hard to sit still while it's playing. With a solid rhythm section provided by Dalton Ford on drums (who has since left and been replaced) and John Kennedy on bass, Jason Zarecky's guitar and Mark Daubert's keyboard move in and out of the spotlight, while at times, dueling for the same. On top of it all is Kim Asbury, whose voice and lyrics are the heart of the soul.
The band have added horns on a number of tracks which add to the songs very well, though I think they sound a bit too bright and trebly at times. Most every one of the eleven tracks make for great dance tunes, with my favorite being Let It Go, which closes out the disc as well as their shows. No matter how the rest of the night has been, the crowd on the dance floor hits critical mass when this song starts. The CD also includes a reggae version of Foolish Pride, which translates exceptionally well across the two musical styles. I would have liked to see them include one of their instrumentals, since they do some great jamming that never becomes self-indulgent. The consolation, however, is that I can still hear them live on a regular basis.
Original Soul Project is truly a diamond in the rough, but it's that rough edge that is often part of a band's appeal, and I'll take a good groove over polish any day. What started by chance two years ago has become a habit, and it's a habit I highly recommend. Get Down and turn it up!
Beastie Boys, "The In Sound From Way Out"-
Though this CD was released in 1996, I only heard it for the first time several months ago playing over the sound system in a bar. Kinda rock, kinda jazzy, kinda trippy in places too. Not much else past the basic rhythm section doing some jamming, but it caught my ear. Thirteen tunes, most of which you'd swear could have been used as soundtrack material for one of those Quinn-Martin TV series from the 70's. Anyone looking for a theme for a retro TV show in that vein, track number four's got your name on it. If not, then try track six, either one rocks.
The first six tunes stand out as the most interesting to listen to - I really dig them. (Did I just say…."dig"?) The guitar gets run through the wah pedal a bit much, but it seems to fit in with the overall sound of the album. I did like the stand up bass on the second track. It sounds great, and really gives the right feel to the music. Plenty of guitar and keyboards on all the tracks, with the drums and percussion filling out the sound nicely. It's a 38 minute and 28 second jam session. Anyone in a band might find some of these really fun to use to jam on, actually. I'll put it on when I need to get some work done, or want to listen to something cool and groovy.("Groovy"?…huh?)
If you always wanted to be on "The Mod Squad" or "Streets of San Francisco" and still use words like "dig", or "groovy" with conviction, or if you just enjoy a dose of jazz/rock every now and then, this CD is sure to please.
Tiamat, "Skeleton Skeletron"-
A band described as being death metal would usually make me pass it by, but in this case the song file would be a quick download off the web site, and if I didn't like it, I'd lose nothing but a few minutes of time. Most "death metal" I end up hearing is nothing more than, as someone once coined the phrase, "Maximum effort, minimum talent." Re-hashing old metal licks and singers that sound like they've got a mouth full of gravel. I'll bet one or two actually belch the lyrics, and they laugh like crazy later on because it is kind of funny in an Animal House sort of way, and the fans still don't seem to have caught on.
While I'm not a fan of death metal, hearing the song Brighter Than The Sun got me interested enough to give Tiamat a further look. It's been said that the band has left the death metal image behind, though I disagree. While Tiamat's style has been compared to Pink Floyd, I don't hear it on this album. When I first heard their music I thought, "This band would probably be popular in Germany." Well, turns out they're from Sweden…and based in Germany. The band takes their name from the Babylonian goddess of "the salt waters and chaos", and uses a great deal of imagery from "goth" as well as Sumerian mythology. Explains a lot I guess. The sound is something a little like a slicker and heavier version of Killing Joke suffering a severe bout of depression, but this being their ninth album, a very polished sound should be no surprise. The vocals are deep, and more like Iggy Pop does musical version of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, than someone trying to sing while gargling with Bisquick. Not to break the consistency, the lyrics are also thoroughly morose. It all adds up to an album that makes even the Joy Division sound kind of cheerful.
The real strength of Skeleton Skeletron is the song Brighter Than The Sun, and the real strength of that song has to be the female backing vocals in the chorus. Their intensity in contrast to the deep vocals make this a really good song! There's a video for it on the Internet, which is one of the better ones I've seen in many years. The only other great moment on the album was the song Best Friend Money Can Buy. The lyrics are an interesting, if melancholy, poem. They also do a version of Sympathy For The Devil which would have gone well, perhaps, were it included in the film Interview With a Vampire. Without being sarcastic, I'll say this band could do exceptionally well providing soundtrack material for Steven King and Wes Craven films.