Friday, October 21, 2011

The Graphic

Reviewing albums you never heard of, by musicians you may not know about. 
Buy New Mexico Music, 2.2 million New Mexicans can't be wrong

CD Baby has a very cool feature that allows you to browse artists by location. There are over 1,300 cd's listed in CD Baby's catalog by artists with New Mexico connections. Pure Volume has a similar feature, while LastFM allows limited sorting by location.

All albums reviewed are available at CD Baby (single tracks too!) CD Baby like Amazon and a few other online music outlets, offers a 30 second sample of each track (sometimes they go longer)
Rhapsody is another good source for local music, they limit you to 30 second samples if you're not a subscriber. 

Is 30 seconds enough time to judge whether you like a song or not?  Not really, 45 seconds would be far better, although it does cover most intros & interludes for what that's worth.  The albums are rated at +1(very good) 1 (good) -1 (bad)   For anything below -1, as PANick! would say "Why even bother"

Ryan McGarvey- Forward in Reverse
2007  self released

Ryan McGarvey is frequently compared (favorably I might add) to any number of blues rock guitarists. Therein lies the problem, too often it's hard to distinguish the true Ryan McGarvey from his influences. Contemporary southern blues rock follows a rigid format. The standard was first set by Buddy Guy, tweaked by Mike Bloomfield, perfected by Johnny Winter, revolutionized by Jimi Hendrix, and then in the 1980's re-introduced to the masses by Stevie Ray Vaughn. In my opinion everyone that came after SRV is simply lifting licks from the masters.

 "Forward in Reverse" is as American as the Rio Grande mud. McGarvey serves notice that he's an undeniably talented guitarist and vocalist. Ryan's influences range from Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray and everyone in between, including the full gamut of British blues rockers from the 1970's. Ryan was just 22 when he recorded this album, so he has the rare combination of time and talent to develop his own style. The music has an instantly likable quality, but Ryan McGarvey's original compositions, though well done, certainly lack the purpose of their inspiration. 

"Right in all the Wrong Ways" recycles familiar riffs as Ryan channels early ZZ Top.  "Joyride" mimics Midnight Rider era Gregg Allman, persuasive but not spectacular.  "Texas Special" is worth the price of admission, a hell-bent, brawling roadhouse rocker. "Someone Like You" breaks away from the formula, it's more Soundgarden than Stevie Ray. "Second Time Around" is a slow blues carried by soulful vocals and smooth guitar licks. "Watch Yourself", "Cryin' Over You" and "Blue Eyed Angel Blues" are Texas blues spiked with a heavy dose of SRV.
rate it: +1

Country Blues Revue- Blues for Too Long
2011   Mark and Mike label

Country Blues Revue, doesn't rock, but it does roll and shuffle along just fine. Country Blues Revue is a country blues duo made up of Michael Handler and Marc Malin. Handler plays blues harmonica and Malin strums guitar, both are more than capable vocalist.  On this recent self released album they're joined by a bevy of Santa Fe musicians. Vin Kelly- mandolin & fiddle, Cozy Ralston- drums, Larry Diaz- bass, plus vocalist Stephanie Hatfield and her husband Bill Palmer of Santa Fe's Frogville Records. 

"Blues for too Long" is engaging and uptempo. Handler & Malin draw inspiration from the easy side of the street. This relaxed nature makes for easy listening, it's multi-layered country blues, rich in the nuances common to this style. Marc Malin's finger picked guitar is the perfect accompaniment to Michael Handler's harmonica, reinforcing the joyous nature of each song. The production and music is very contemporary, it's not the least bit "old timey" which makes it just right for country hippies and other shaggy folks up around Santa Fe.  

"Gamblin' Wheels" comes from Malin's other band The Rattlerz, it conjures up San Francisco and carefree days spent just getting by. "Hey Baby"  stays just below the boiling point (I know you used to like my love... make you scream & shout) it covers a common theme, the break-up. On the other hand "Love Flows Around my Heart" a jaunty shuffle, is an affirmation of love.  "Love is Blind"(I used to be a king), "Earthquake Blues" (on the fault line darling, can't tell if it's yours or mine) and "Funny Feeling" (I saw my baby in the driveway and she had that leaving trunk) all ponder the question of what comes after the thrill is gone. 
rate it: +1

Jennifer Robin- The Bird and The Beatles
2011  Risky Robin Records

Sometimes you stumble upon something so idiosyncratic, that you're immediately drawn in. "The Bird and The Beatles" grew out of Jennifer Robin's stage show.  Jennifer would perform her version of Beatle favorites interspersed with spoken interludes recalling the effect Beatlemania had on two young girls growing up in Taos. Jennifer further explains: "The cover images were taken in Taos in front of the house where my family lived in 1968." These images show Ms. Robin decked out in retro mod gear looking quite fab. 

I know what you're thinking... it's 2011, does the world need another album of Beatles' cover songs? Jennifer Robin irrespective of trends and commercial success says it does.   "The Bird and 
The Beatles offers no tether to the past, Jennifer reworks these overly familiar tunes with steadfast and uncompromising vision. It helps that she's backed by a group of inventive instrumentalists, this includes Jennifer on vocals & steel guitar, Riner Scivally- guitar, Warren Giancaterino -upright & electric bass, Frank Marsico- harmonica & marimba, plus saxophonist Jasper Dutz.

Over the minimal soundscape of "You Won't see Me" Jennifer adds subtle vocals to sparse latin percussion. Jennifer's cool vocals, beautifully matched with the marimba & harmonica of Frank Marsico turn "Fixing a Hole" into a signature tune.  A couple of tracks drag or misfire, most notably "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" which has a verse that's reminiscent of  Deborah Harry's awkward attempts at rap. Nonetheless, Jennifer redeems herself on "It's Only Love" and "Nowhere Man." 

The album's most captivating moments are when the instrumentation is at its sparsest and Jennifer's vocals at their most fragile. Where the Beatles wrote these love songs to please millions, Jennifer seems to aim them directly at someone special.  
Rate it: +1