I've read about people lamenting the fading away of regional accents because of Network TV, especially the News. No matter what part of the country you're from we all watch the same shows and for the most part all the people on those shows speak more or less the same. This goes along with franchised restaurants diluting local palettes so everywhere is beginning to taste the same as well. However, our musical tastes still retain some regional flavor although not necessarily the one you'd expect.
Case in point is the new 15 song CD by Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist and producer Jay Regan. Although there are a few Big Band arrangements complete with horn sections such as The March Of The Romans and Right Between The Eyes (allegedly inspired by the TV series The Walking Dead), for the most part this CD is a catchy, bouncy excursion into Southern Rock, Country Rock (somewhat like early Eagles) and modern Pop Rock. On some of the tunes such as Can't Let Go the only difference between it and some of the new Modern Rock hits currently on the radio is it's lacking the disco beat drum track which apparently has been making a big comeback.
Because of the sound effects used, the light hearted lyrics and the excursions into unfamiliar musical styles such as reggae, a couple of the songs (Whiskey and Little Fish) might come off somewhat novelty tuneish, which isn't a bad thing, it just shows Jay's sense of humor but are a little off track from the rest of the CD.
For a self produced piece of work that gives Jay the only musician credits according to his press kit, it has a nice, real band feel, full, textured arrangements and professional sounding production. Jay has a good Modern Rock / Country Pop vocal style. Also according to his press kit: Jay Regan is the former lead singer/guitarist for the 90's bands April Fool, Dezire and Today We Live. He started playing original music as a soloist in 2014 and released his first independent CD "Dreams & Nightmares". The last few years he has spent time recording his latest CD "Wash Me" and performing live in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas.
And now, once again, for the bad news: Although his press kit says he performs live in the Philadelphia area, from everything I could see his live shows are as a solo acoustic act (see above). There's absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would think with his tunes, his pleasing voice and journeyman guitar playing, his live shows could be very worthwhile. But come on, this CD rocks and if I went out for the evening to spend my hard earned money I'd want to see the band I'd been listening to, not just one guy.
I just listened to the Jay Clark Band's new single, The River (featuring Adam Cunningham) from their new CD Cocked & Loaded which I assume is a play on words from the expression "locked and loaded" and not some sort of gay slang (although it might be). The River is more of a moody ballad with an acoustic guitars intro before the heavy Seventies style electrics kick in which is how the rest of the CD rocks. Overall C&L is a roadhouse rocker in the style of Southern rockers such as 38 Special (or for you kids: The Black Crowes or Kid Rock) with the clear but heavy guitars playing tightly in sync and the growly macho vocals you've come to expect from this genre. This sounds like the kind of band that would make you turn off the TV, put away your Miller High Life or Ham's and head down to the local bar to actually pay for a beer because you want to hear these guys, live.
And now, like so many of the other artists I hear these days, comes the bad news; The Jay Clark Band isn't really a band at all and you can't go hear them play. You see, Jay made a bet with his two brothers, after some drinking which is how most bets come into being, that during the next year they would each pursue their dream. I don't know how old the Clark brothers are but young guys usually don't make these kind of bets. It's only after a few years have slipped away that you start to feel you need to pursue that dream NOW, or you never will, and a bet is as good an incentive as any.
Interestingly, within a month his youngest brother quit his job, made a short film, and started working in Hollywood.This inspired Jay, who probably forgot all about the bet once he sobered up, to start writing songs. He made a few videos he then uploaded to Facebook and got enough positive feedback to continue to produce a five song EP called Never Too Late. Uploading your work to Facebook is a much better idea than uploading to Youtube as the people who will be seeing your videos are your Facebook "friends" who will be, or should be, supportive. The public at large and the trolls who will leave comments on Youtube love to stomp dreams into the ground. It gives them an actual visceral thrill.
At first he tried to get a local band together to play his new material. I don't know what happened but I know how hard it is to get an original band together these days. Most guys who want to play for the fun of playing don't want to work at learning all new material when they can just go out and play the same oldies they've been playing forever. The "older" musicians also have given up the dream of "making it" and are just happy to play when they can so Jay took the Producer route and went to Nashville and hired the best session musicians in town to record his demos. That's how he recorded Never Too Late.
Going to Nashville showed a lot of determination since Jay's from Cincinnati, Ohio, not exactly a hotbed for Southern Rock. Down there he put together a lineup of experienced session players including Tommy Harden on drums, Eli Beaird and Mike Brignardello playing bass, Jeff King on the electric guitars and John Willis and Larry Beaird on the acoustic guitars, Steve Nathan on piano, vocals by Adam Cunningham and Tania Hancheroff with engineering by Jim DeBlanc at Beaird Music Studio and mastering at Yesmasterstudios in Nashville.
Jay eventually returned to record five more songs at Beaird Music Studio in early 2017, added them to his rerecorded demos, mixed and mastered them and now is releasing them as his debut 10 song LP, Cocked & Loaded.
He is now working on getting a touring band together to support the new LP and plans to play small venues and festivals in summer and fall 2017. Contact him HERE if you want to go on the road.
Just a personal suggestion; if I was managing the Jay Clark Band I would send the song Won't Be Pushed Around as a single to every club, bar, roadhouse and honky tonk in the South that had a jukebox (first I'd research and see what format jukeboxes take these days, 45s? MP3s?) since that tune has a potential to become a theme song for rowdy bar patrons the way Steppenwolf's hit Born To Be Wild did for bikers. But that's just me.
One of my long time interests is Metaphysics and the new three song EP release, Revolutions, from the duo "Mystery Loves Company" has opened up quite a deep rabbit hole. But first I'll tell you about their music. They call themselves Chamber Folk Rock and consist of newlyweds Carlos, a guitarist / song writer originally from Venezuela, and Madeline (Maddy), a conservatory trained cellist. Their acoustic instrumentation along with the thoughtful lyrics and ethereal vocals from Maddy along with somewhat less ethereal vocals from Carlos, gives Mystery Loves Company a very dreamlike sound, except for the title track, Revolutions, which is more nightmarish than dreamlike but still otherworldly.
The song, Aliens, is more fun sounding than the other two tracks while still touching on the overall theme that transcends normal love/dance/party songs but it's the lead off single, If Heaven, that is the center of this conversation.
Mystery Loves Company’s press kit claims the 3-song EP, Revolutions, is an extension of their socially conscious work and the material has been quick to spark political and spiritual conversation amongst their diverse fan base. “People from vastly different religious and non-religious backgrounds have told us we are capturing ‘exactly how they feel” Carlos notes, reflecting on the reaction lead-off single “If Heaven” has received when played live. “We are living in a time where human emotion is being mobilized and we are responding to this movement through song.”
Okay, I don't know what, exactly, Carlos means by that except in political terms but in "religious' terms "If Heaven" does seem to reflect a growing Post New Age attitude. Its lyrics illustrate the same problem I had as a child when taught the Christian concept of Heaven. "A wonderful place" where there are no problems (challenges), no dangers (thrills), no dirt (not an appealing concept to a young boy) and because my mother was a Jew and my father an excommunicated Catholic (probably because of marrying my mother), no parents either (at least for me). But what really bother me the most was that my pet bunny rabbit (all pets, animals in general) were not allowed entry to Heaven. How is that anybody's concept of Heaven?
"If Heaven" explores this same general dilemma but from a slightly more grown up perspective.
In the decade since San Gabriel Christian School first tried, and utterly failed, to indoctrinate me (why would a Jew and a Catholic send their kid to a Christian school?), I have studied many philosophies, from Buddism, to New Age to Quantum Physics. I eventually developed a philosophy that was unique enough that I named it myself; Nealism. However, I recently learned there is a movement that is close enough for me to adopt, forsaking Nealism, and it's called Biocentrism.
The concept of Nealism was that, essentially, we are all like characters in a video game (pre-dating and slightly different from Elon Musk's Sim City Heaven). Science seeks to explain the How, What, Why, Where and Who of our game world but can't think outside the box (the Idiot Box) because it, of course, cannot perceive anything beyond our video game world. The video game scientists can't imagine the people playing the game (Gods?), the creators of the game (programmers, monitor and computer manufacturers, game designers, etc.), the power source of All That Is in their world (electricity) and where, when, how and why all of those things came to be.
Biocentrism is a lot more "scientific" than Nealism's simplistic (but at least understandable, I hope) concept and basically states that consciousness creates reality, not the other way around which is what we've all been taught. Except if you remember one of the first lessons they ever taught you in Kindergarten where they, as do "Mystery Loves Company", used music to teach lessons; "... merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream".
Rounding out the sound on the EP along with Carlos A. Machado on guitar, vocals and the band's lyricist, and Madeline Herdeman on cello and vocals are Jeremy Dudman on bass, Danny Patterson on drums and Alauna Rubin playing clarinet. The choir vocals are credited to Cathy Herdeman, Kali Schiska and Christine Gerbode with recording, mixing and mastering by Jeremy Dudman who co-produced the EP with Carlos.Good job to all, Revolutions is an excellent sounding work, just too short, which is a complement.
Oh, one last thing about the ethereal, cosmic Chamber Rock duo Mystery Loves Company, they're from Houston, Texas (?!)
In keeping with our highlighting note worthy new music here's a sweet romantic ballad called "The Things That Make You Beautiful" by the second president of the United States, John Adams.
Wait, I'm sorry, it's a different guy named John Adams. Who would have thought there'd be two guys with the same name (there are actually two U.S. presidents with that name). I wonder if this one is any relation?
This is a beautiful piano song with heartfelt vocals that relays the message of undying love in yet another and unique way which is the trick in writing a new love song. How many ways can a man suck up to a woman that hasn't already been done? In this case he's telling her that although time make take away her physical beauty, it cannot diminish the aspects of her being that truly make her beautiful.
"The Things That Make You Beautiful" is President Adams (sorry if I'm running a bad joke into the ground. It's my way.) new single but if it tweaks your interest and you want to hear more of him or if you're curious to see John himself, here's a previous video. It's basically in the same style but will help give you a better idea of who this guy is. "Dandelion Wishes" is more of a bigger production with acoustic guitar and strings rather than piano but his vocal style is the same.
"Dandelion Wishes" video.
I really don't have much information on John. His producer is Lee House, the guy who shot his "The Things That Make You Beautiful" video is Rhys Davies, the dancer he videoed is Georgia Jones, the co-writers (I assume of the tune) are Andy Morgan and Ron Rogers with Andy Morgan also being the pianist. The string players are Nerys Clark and Christiana Mavron, the venue is The Official Craig y Nos Castle and the video funding was provided by BBC Radio Wales and Horizons / Gorwelion. But where he's from, if he has a live band or upcoming shows, what his sign is, if he's married or single and what kind of a tree he'd be if he was a tree, I haven't the foggiest idea.
Since I don't have a good press kit on John Adams and no samples of the other tracks on his new CD to which I can listen, I'm going to tell you about another song from a bygone era that I always liked and of which "The Things That Make You Beautiful" reminds me. It's another beautiful piano song with achingly beautiful melody and vocals from a guy named Tim Moore. It's called "Second Avenue" and if my links work you can hear it here.
Hear the similarities? I'm not saying John Adams copied Tim Moore, I doubt he's ever heard this song before, but the two songs are similar in their beauty, sincerity and literary prowess. I hope John has a longer and more successful career than Tim as I never heard of him after "Second Avenue". Singer songwriter types are essentially tragic romantic characters in the great novel of love songs. I'm a bit of a poet myself, aren't I?
I received a link to the new music from the Canadian act The Big East. They're from the Lake and Cottage area of North Toronto but to my Southern Californian ears they sound a whole lot more farther South. On the track "What Dreams May Come" they even have a line that refers to "California sunshine and Mississippi mud", not to mention the pedal steel backup and decidedly Country accented lead vocals. In fact, I'd say that if you're hankerin' for a new Don Henley solo album, Hungry Ghosts might fit the bill very well. The lead vocalist could easily front a Don Henley or an Eagles tribute band. He has the same smoky, Countryish quality. If you're looking for something to give you an Eagles fix you're out of luck since although this act seems to have some fine Country-Rock pickers, they're strictly background players.
They sound like a real band with real musicians as opposed to a duo consisting of James Jones and Kip Daynard being produced by Andre Wahl but those three are the only ones given credit in the press kit for The Big East's eleven song sophomore LP, Hungry Ghosts. LP? Does that mean it's on vinyl? Who are the other very fine musicians? On the video below they appear to have a live band.
The Big East - "The Wild Life" live.
Above is The Big East's video on Youtube for their song "The Wild Life". Notice that not only is there a live and very competent band but there is a guitar solo with not one but TWO lead guitarists. When listening to the recorded version I heard these guys jamming under the vocals and waited for the solo but it never came. I've noticed, and complained about, this a lot on the new releases I've heard. Is it a matter of airtime? I assumed it was a matter of musicianship but these guys can play and you can hear them playing great but mixed way down and under the lead vocals. Except for "Love Monkey" which does have a short but smokin' lead solo in the middle and some jamming out on the end of "Muskoka Time" but that's two out of eleven tracks. Someone please use the COMMENTS section at the bottom to explain this to me.
Hungry Ghosts is a play on the Buddhist saying which refers to human beings who are driven by emotional needs in an animalistic way. “We applied this concept to our intense need to create music” Jones asserts.I don't know how ZEN this CD comes across since I would classify it as soft Country-Pop. The instrumentation, playing style, and especially vocal style says Southern California Country Rock/Pop rather than Indie Pop which is what they claim. To me Indie is a term that means not a major label release and is typified by acts such as Beck, quirky and different. The Big East is familiar and comfortable and I'm not saying that to be insulting as I've already complemented the guitar work and saying a singer has the vocal quality of Don Henley is not an insult. Keeping our Eagles comparison going I would also say the production and sound quality is top notch and the songs that do have synth backing rather than guitars such as the title tune and "Across The Water" are moody and richly atmospheric.
I have been very impressed with the quality of releases I've been sent this past year and The Big East's Hungry Ghosts continues that winning streak. Lucky me.
There's this guy named Guy and he's a one man band in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you've never heard of him it isn't for his lack of trying. Guy Grogan's new CD, "Glitter In The Gears", is his tenth self produced and self released album. Oh, that's why you've never heard of him; he's self produced and self-released. In other words he's an unsigned artist or what is sometimes referred to as an "Indie" artist.
It used to be an Indie label was a privately owned record company that had distribution through one of the several "Independent" record distribution companies. These companies got records into record stores while the major labels had their own distribution companies. Getting Indie distribution was tricky because you first had to proof you were getting promotion which in the old days meant radio airplay. To get radio airplay as an Independent you would have to pay an Indie Radio Promo Man The majors also had their own in-house radio promo departments but also utilized Indie promo guys until another payola scandal would close that up temporarily. Once you got on the charts or even some substantial airplay on "Indie" stations (the major market radio stations wouldn't play your record until you charted on the minor markets which included College Radio, specialty shows and under 50,000 watt stations), the Indie distribution companies would then agree to ship your records to the stores in the areas where you were getting heard. The trick is that unless your song became a big breakout hit it only stayed in rotation at these small stations a couple of weeks, sometimes not long enough for the distribution companies to get it in front of the buyers while still fresh.
But these aren't the Good Old Days (in a lot of ways) and "radio" can now mean iHeart Radio, Sirius XM Radio, Internet Radio, Youtube, Facebook and dozens of other ways for your music to reach ears. Now people like me can be exposed to people like Guy Grogan who has won songwriting awards from Indie International, The American Song-writing Awards and the UKSC and whose 2016 release "Dynamite Bouquet" received heavy rotation on College Radio.
Now comes 2017's "Glitter In The Gears" with Guy playing all the instruments but having Santa Fe musician and producer Dennis Jasso at Fw Studios mix and master the CD. If you're curious exactly what kind of music Guy makes, asking him won't help: "Knowing what you sound like is kind of like looking into the mirror," says Grogan. "You see yourself but you don't have a real sense of what you look like to the rest of the world." That's very true and theoretically people like me are the ones to tell you what he sounds like. The problem with that is that even as Guy sees Guy through a filter of his own, I'm going to hear him through filters of my own.
So keeping in mind my Classic Rock sensibilities let's take a listen to "Glitter In The Gears"...
Okay, Power Pop pops up first, New New Wave style The Romantics, Foo Fighters, I guess "Indie Rock" is the term. Bouncy, catchy, heavily layered guitars as opposed to heavy guitars, fast but not frantic drums and clear, non strained vocals with power but no anger. If you like The Smithereens or Fountains Of Wayne you'll probably like Guy Grogan.
His softer side is more power ballad than folksy and his harder side is still melodic vocals over a little meaner guitar riffs. Good stereo separation (a thing for me) and a clean and textured mix even on the "louder" tracks makes this a pleasant listening experience without being a wimpy one. There are even some guitar solos (another thing for me). I like this CD.
Now for the bad news, from what I can tell from his press kit there is no live act behind this CD so what sounds very much like a real Power Pop band only exists in my stereo speakers (or headphones, my preferred listening mode). Once again I'm left wondering how deserving acts like Guy Grogan ever get noticed. Without major label money to pay for radio plays the traditional promotion method was touring. If I saw an ad for a Guy Grogan show what would I get? Would it be Guy and his acoustic guitar doing a singer-songwriter thing which would be nice but if I'm used to his CD and wanted to rock out, or dance (I never want to dance) I might be pretty disappointed. I guess I can always watch his performances on his Youtube videos. Whoops, I just checked, no Youtube videos. If you're going to use the technology of today to be a "one man band" Guy, use ALL the technology and have some videos too.
Apparently there is, or was, a Southern Californian Psych/Surf band called Particle Wave and now its frontman, Greg Maeching, has recorded a six song EP titled Answer To Influence under the band name Greg And The Granules. I don't know if this is a side project or if he's moved on and his old band is history. This new EP was recorded in New Monkey Studios in Van Nuys with the help of Tyler Shields on the board and Maeching, who plays guitar and sings, and guitarist-keyboardist Nick Luca sharing the production duties. Joe Westerfield rounds out the band on drums and they give a credit to Amanda Brauer for design (CD cover?). I don't really understand the designer credit since their press kit was particularly void of design.
These guys are local to me if they're anywhere near Van Nuys, a suburb of Los Angeles, and where I used to go to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard on Wednesday nights back in High School and where I'll still go to get a Tommy's Burger if I'm anywhere in the neighborhood. My point is that I would like to have been informed if Greg And The Granules are going to be performing live in town any time soon.
Their press kit states: "Answer To Influence floats with ease through myriad layers of resonating expression to create a transporting experience of calmness and comfort for the listener." Somnolent is another term that might apply. Laid back also fits with the soft and vibrato vocals and overall vibe reminding me of early Barry Gibb. Vaguely Countryish guitar work with some Flyod Cramer piano gives this CD an ALT-Country sound and the in your face vocal mix but very soft, whispery vocals ala Elliot Smith, never really let loose but are atmospheric.
Although recorded in stereo it has a very restricted range of depth that almost approaches mono and even though the vocals are upfront and clear I completely mix the “concept EP” element since I have a very difficult time understanding the lyrics. To be fair I have a hard time understanding sung lyrics in general and would have liked to have had access to a lyrics sheet.
The songs are all pretty similar until you get half way through then there is a “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” feel that brings back some of the sounds of the Psychedelic era of the 1960s, but for only one minute and forty-three seconds. The remaining two numbers pick it up a bit and the feel gets more rock.
According to Greg And The Granules; "The album brings forth an elegantly emotional concept EP centered on exploring the nature of reality. Through a lens of incredulous optimism, Answer to Influence offers a personal story of transition from the burdensome yoke of cynicism to the freedom of unwavering gratitude." They say it a lot better than I'd say, mostly because I wouldn't say it. Again, it may be my fault I couldn't follow their song lyrics since the vocal mix is a bit on the low end, EQ wise, and I may have lost some of those frequencies in my hearing over time (I did play guitar in a Hard Rock band for decades).
Overall the EP is a mellow, soothing, atmospheric sonic massage of the ears that if you can follow the story of the lyrics might actually take you somewhere other than Dreamland. Which, if that's where it does take you, is a pleasant way to go.
Last night I got in bed, put on my headphones and listened to the new CD from Marty McKay called "New York City Dreams". It was very nice. "Nice" almost sounds like damning with faint praise but it was soothing without being dulling, textured without being complex and dreamy without being sleepy. It was a good CD to listen to in bed with headphones because along with its layers of synths came some hard metal guitars.
I tried to think of a good comparison for the lead vocals which were clean, clear and although double tracked and with some background vocals were definitely that of the male frontman as opposed to a multi-vocalist harmony group. A rich and masculine baritone fronting what might be called a Metal band with power drums and crashing power cords over staccato repeating riffs but, as is common these days, without any substantial lead guitar solos. Marty's voice (I assume he's the vocalist since the only other credit I can find is for his co-producer Alberto Pistolera), reminds me of shades of Peter Gabriel and with a slight texture of Elvis Costello but maybe closer to the vocals of the band Toy Matinee. Intimate on the soft sections and soaring rather than screaming on the powerful parts. According to Marty himself (according to his press kit) he is actually most similar to Linkin Park (from my old neighborhood), Incubus and 3 Doors Down, so there's that too.
What kills me is that there are songs on the New York City Dreams CD that if released in a bygone era would have been Top Forty Radio hits (like Linkin Park, Incubus and 3 Doors Down) but now are gems left to be dug up from the mine of the Internet which is one gigantic hole in the ground. Music like this was once believed to eventually rise above the noise and gain the attraction of the masses by constant live shows and touring. Playing these songs to people standing in front of you, looking at you and forming a personal bond with you as you share a special moment in both of your lives. However, although Marty McKay played with Vanilla Ice in Berlin in front of a crowd of sixty thousand, there is no mention of an upcoming tour schedule, booked local shows or even any indication that there is an actual performing band behind these songs.
Maybe what we have today is an evolution of music that is in fact in sync with technology in that the "solo" artist that records on his laptop in his bedroom is creating music specifically for a "crowd" that exists one by one, also sitting alone in their rooms with a laptop, on the Internet. A fan base floating disembodied in Cyber-Space, communicating perhaps even more closely with their idols then the fans of past decades, through Facebook or the Comments section of Youtube.
This "International" aspect ("Inter dimensional" really) of Cyber-Space may also be the reason why so many of modern music's musicians claim to come, physically, from all over the world. Case in fact; Marty McKay, although sounding either English or American since so many American acts try to sound English and ever since The Beatles it has been traditional for English Rock bands to sing with American accents, claims that he's from, or is at least now based, in Zurich Switzerland. I don't think he's Swiss, although I probably wouldn't recognize a Swiss accent, but if he is I am disappointed he wrote a CD called "New York City Dreams". As an American New York City is not exactly exotic and I'd rather his music take me to some Alpine village than NYC. Maybe it's another case of being a big fish in a small pond that is making American and English musicians relocate to other, less musically competitive parts of the world.
Marty, if you happen to read this please tell us your own story in the Comments Section below.