The Departed – “ADVENTUS” Album Review

The Departed – “ADVENTUS”

“Canada and co. dig deep and emerge with an album and a sound that transcends classification.”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

The Departed have arrived.  No time to waste discussing the past, no more obligatory paragraphs about Ragweed, no back story about the formation of the band, if you need to play catch up, use Google or YouTube.  After almost two full years of touring, writing, recording, and more touring…”Adventus” is here, and we finally get to properly hear what The Departed are truly about.

I feel obligated to say this, and I’ll do so now…this record isn’t for everyone.   And unless you are already a fan, I doubt you’ll be exposed to it very often cause country radio ain’t touching this with a ten foot pole.  I’m not even convinced that Rock radio will get it either.  For every person that listens and gets hooked, there will be 2 that are just left confused as hell.  No room for sugar-coating here people…this is the type of record that draws a very bold line in the sand.  If you are a fan of country radio, this record will most likely not appeal to you.  This is an album made by people who believe in music as art, not product.  Unless something drastic has changed since the last time I tuned into a “Nashville” themed station, I can only assume that the majority of songs in the Top 20 are still a combination of pop fluff, faux ‘rock’ riff drivel, and lyrical content akin to a beer commercial.    I’m not trying to be snobby or hateful, if the extent of your musical taste begins and ends with songs about back roads, cold beer, trucks and half-naked hick-town hookers…more power to you.  However, this album is for the people who want to be moved by music on a deeper level.  It would be easier to just come out and say that The Departed are a rock band, but even that could be mis-construed.  Let’s face it, rock radio isn’t exactly a great choice if you’re looking to hear actual rock music.

It would even be a safe bet to say some of the Red Dirt/Texas Country scenesters aren’t going to be able to process “Adventus” right off the bat, because one listen front to back amply demonstrated to me the glaring fact that Cody Canada and Co. have clearly outgrown the genre.  No, “Adventus” is, to be brutally honest…too good for radio.  This is real rock music played with passion and conviction, something most music fans aren’t even aware still exists.  But that’s not to say there’s not great music being made in this day and age, you just have to dig a little harder to find it.  Those who dig and come across “Adventus” are in for one hell of a treat.

“Adventus” consists of 14 tracks, with the lead vocal duties pretty evenly split (Canada sings 6, James sings 6, Plato sings one, and one instrumental).  The Departed’s sound is as varied as it is infectious.  Canada’s signature twangy snarl meshes beautifully with James powerful bluesy voice and Plato’s harmony vocals blend well with both of them.  Steve Littleton’s keys and organ work adds depth and character throughout, giving the mellower songs a rich, 3D quality, and some extra muscle to the more rocking tunes.  Throughout the album’s 14 tracks, The Departed effortlessly blend between countless styles, seemingly taking the best elements of rock, r&b, soul, blues, funk and country and meshing them together into a totally new and fresh sound.  But perhaps their most impressive aspect is the ability to do this without it sounding forced, each track flows into the next organically, making for a very interesting and fun listening experience.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m almost at a loss for words with how to best describe The Departed’s sound.  Yes, it indeed harkens back to the glory days of the 70’s, yet doesn’t come across as a throwback or nostalgia act.  It most certainly “rocks”, but in varying degrees, ranging from a ZZ Top/Gov’t Mule like stomp to early 90’s alternative crossed with barn burning blues rock.  There’s still a strong singer-songwriter/Americana vibe throughout and if that’s not enough, it’s all topped off and slathered in deep funky grooves that recall seminal acts like Booker T & the MG’s and The Meters.  Most importantly, it all comes across as authentic.  Even the most bitter, die-hard Ragweed fans who still feel obligated to pine for their return will be hard pressed not to realize the undeniable chemistry and sheer musical force The Departed offer.  Strap in folks, here’s a track by track rundown.

“Worth The Fight” –  Kicking off the disk is this stomping rocker, featuring an uptempo ACDC-ish beat flanked by meaty riffs, dual guitar solos, snarling vocals courtesy of Canada, and an outro riff that sounds like it came straight off a Sabbath record.  Pure rock fury at it’s finest.

“Burden” –  Sang by James, “Burden” crosses an almost Allman Brothers type feel in the verse with a cool call and response vocal in the chorus and a fuzz and wah wah soaked guitar solo.   James’ vocal presence is undeniable, his voice booms with power yet retains a nice character that lends itself to harmonies provided by Plato and even Canada on occasion.

“Prayer For The Lonely” – A strong early standout with an R&B groove straight out of Motown’s early catalog featuring another excellent vocal performance by James and some wicked organ work from Littleton.  There’s literally no one out there writing music like this currently and it is as refreshing as it is shocking coming from 5 white boys from the OK/TX region.

“Blackhorse Mary” – A delightfully unique song that features prominent vocal parts from all 3 vocalists all wrapped up into a sound caught somewhere between Robin Trower and STP.  Melodic and moody, dynamic yet defined, it’s the type of track that takes risks and pays off big time.

“Hard To Find” – Uplifting and funky, this track is southern-fried soul music at it’s finest, garnished with thick guitar tones and deep grooves.  James takes the lead once again backed by Plato in the chorus while Littleton lays down some absolutely infectious clav lines further adding to the funk.

“Hobo” – Here we’re treated to a lead vocal courtesy of Jeremy Plato and he delivers in spades.  The track has a distinct country flavor, from the arrangement down to the lyrical content and is a welcome departure early in the sequence, keeping things fresh and unpredictable.

“Flagpole” – Canada’s vocals are absolutely seething with attitude on this fireball of a rocker.  Pounding drums and driving guitars are juxtaposed with snaking counter melodies and an almost anthemic chorus.  This track will more than appease fans of Ragweed’s earlier slabs of rock goodness.

“Cold Hard Fact” – The Americana factor is in full force on this one.  Acoustic guitars, harmonica and organ swells cross with sparse electric guitar, letting Canada’s vocal and the lyric shine through.  But just when you think  Littleton’s organ is gonna have the last ride out, Canada and James chime in with a glorious lead section brimming with feel and soul.

“Demons” – James serves up a unique hybrid of Honky Tonk Funk on this stellar cut.  The lyrics may be dark, but the groove is downright infectious.  Plato adds some killer harmonies in the chorus before James unleashes a furious fuzz soaked solo.

“Set It Free” – Canada reclaims the mic on this bar-room blues by way of Funkytown.  Beginning with a chromatic funk riff, the arrangement constantly builds upon this foundation adding bluesy fills, an ass shaking bass groove and another strong chorus before seguing into a 2 minute instrumental outro filled with bursts of blues rock heaven.

“Better Get Right” – Seth James takes us to church with this outstanding piece of New Orleans gospel grooveness.  Wah soaked clav, throbbing bass and more fuzzy guitar, this one will be a live favorite for sure.

“250,000 Things” – This is what Cody Canada does best, pour his heart out with complete sincerity, just him and an acoustic guitar.  On an album filled with big, powerful songs with insane musicianship…it takes a song like this to remind you why you ever fell in love with this guy in the first place.  Dig it people.

“Mark It Wrong” – A four-minute instrumental of epic proportions.  One minute it’s as if you’re listening to a classic Stax Record, the next you’re hit with 60’s psychedelic soul, all wrapped up in pulsing rock blasts.  An unexpected treat for sure.

“Sweet Lord” – Closing the record is this breathtakingly beautiful ballad sang gorgeously by James.  Not much else to say about it other than you have to hear it to feel it.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the house if this one is ever performed live.

There you have it folks, a modern classic.  Make no mistake about it, these 14 tracks are simply head and shoulders above 95% of the music being made today.  If “Adventus” is any indication of the future, The Departed have a more than solid chance to reach that upper echelon of legendary acts that seem to cross all musical boundaries and transcend into something you just can’t put your finger on.  And as far as my backhanded comments toward radio and the mainstream music consuming public go…I hope I’m wrong.  No matter how small and petty a thing like this sounds, but with music like this floating through the majority of the airwaves every day…I can guaran-damn-tee you the world would be a better place.  So in closing, if you were a Ragweed fan…this will both surprise and satisfy you.  If music means something to you you really can’t explain…I mean, really inspires you in a way different from just making you want a 6 pack or sing along to some asenine phrase repeatedly…this is something you need to look into.  And lastly, if you long for the days when rock was rock, and good music was just good music, this is what you’ve been looking for.  The Departed have arrived, let’s look to the heavens and pray they never leave.

10/10 stars

https://www.thedepartedmusic.com

https://www.ragschwag.com

https://www.facebook.com/Codycanadaandthedeparted

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Call Me No One – “Last Parade” Album Review

Call Me No One – “Last Parade”

“Sevendust’s Clint Lowery branches out with a new project that is both strikingly different and refreshingly unique.”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Clint Lowery is a rare breed of artist.  Jaded yet optimistic, cynical yet humble, in short…not your typical rock star.  This is probably Lowery’s most enduring quality…he’s NOT a rock star.  He’s a musician who treats his craft as art, not product.  Between his work with Sevendust and Dark New Day, (along with his acoustic offerings under the moniker “Hello Demons, Meet Skeletons”) Lowery has forged a signature sound that is unmistakably his own.  Which brings us to Call Me No One, the latest chapter of his musical legacy.  While all the key elements of Lowery’s style are here and accounted for, “Last Parade” is unlike anything we’ve heard from him before.  For those of you looking to hear Sevendust mkII, you will come away disappointed.  But if you dig deeper, and listen with an open mind, you will be treated to an album that (in this writer’s humble opinion) is one of the most refreshingly original slabs of hard rock released in the past 10 years.

“Last Parade” begins with a whisper on the aptly titled “Intro”.  A lone acoustic guitar arpeggiates sparse chords that are both beautiful and dissonant as Lowery softly repeats “The whole world is dead…the world is dead”,  which quickly segues into the lyric’s namesake track “The World is Dead”.  Uptempo and heavy, yet not overly metallic, the track serves as a good starting point and does a good job at introducing the listener to the CMNO sound.  The arrangement breathes and lets Lowery’s voice shine as the vocals morph from his usual timbre into a more aggressive tone when called for.  The track also features a lyrical yet quirky guitar solo (one of many throughout the disc) that should delight fans that have been clamouring for more of Clint’s lead work.

Next up is “Thunderbird”, a track that wouldn’t sound too out-of-place on a Foo Fighters record albeit slightly heavier.  With hooky melodies, effects-laden guitars, and a bombastic chorus…it’s easy to see why it was chosen as the album’s second single.  While it’s definitely a radio worthy track, Lowery’s outside-the-box melodies coupled with an odd chord progression give it a fresh sound that is sure to stand out amongst rock radio’s standard drivel.  Skipping ahead a bit, we’re treated to the country/punk/metal hybrid of “Hillbilly”.  After the banjo intro (yep…banjo) lures you into a false sense of security, the song’s fast paced, octave-treated riff hits you in the chest, followed by a punkish beat and a fun, tongue-in-cheek lyric.  Also of note is the very cool bluegrass-thrash lead break (I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever used that term).

The pace slows and the mood darkens on “All’s Well”, a very somber yet dynamic song that features one of the album’s standout vocal performances alongside what very well may be Lowery’s finest guitar solo to date.  The track’s instrumentation more than serves it’s purpose, helping convey the emotion of the lyric with harmonized clean electrics and sparse piano in the verses balanced with big, distorted chords in the chorus.  Thing’s pick back up with “Biggest Fan” (the album’s first single).  One of the more uptempo tracks found on the disc, it’s filled with hellish drums, killer grooves and a downright shredding lead.  I do want to take this opportunity to point out the outstanding drum performance given by Mr. Morgan Rose.  Widely considered to be one of the finest drummers in the metal genre (or any genre for that matter), his immaculate sense of timing and dynamics along with his acrobatic fills are as impressive as ever, and while his vocals are a bit more downplayed than on Sevendust’s material, when called upon they add just the right amount of vibe needed.

“Pleased to Meet You” is unlike any other track on “Last Parade” and is guaranteed to stick in your head for days.  With an irresistable groove, call and response vocals, and some extremely cool riffs, it’s a standout for sure.  One of the things that makes “Last Parade” such a fun and entertaining listen is that the tracks seem to ebb and flow with each other with a nice balance of tempos and styles.  Even the songs that are stylistically similar are far enough apart from each other in the sequence to keep the listener interested throughout the entire disc.  There’s also a nice array of guitar tones and textures found throughout and Lowery’s use of effects help make even the simplest lines and parts stand out (giving the album a listen with headphones will reveal all sorts of ear candy one might miss if listening on a huge system or in a car).  This is very much apparent on the next track “Broken Record”.  Beautiful chords drenched in pulsing modulation are flanked in the mix by light acoustic strums and keys, giving an almost hypnotic, trance-like feel.

“You Surprise Me” might just be my personal favorite and features one of the strongest choruses I’ve heard in quite sometime.  The melodies are exceptionally strong and Clint’s vocals are beyond impressive, even more so when you take into consideration that this is the first “full band” project that he’s been the “lead singer”.  While his vocals were, and still are a huge part of Sevendust’s sound, he has really come into his own as a vocalist here.  His ability to transition from a pristine croon into an aggressive rasp, coupled with his unique sense of melody and dynamics make him one of the most expressive and versatile singers on the scene.  The album closes with the epic title track “Last Parade”.  It’s a fitting closer in that it encompasses everything the record represents and more.  Lowery digs deep in this one as you can literally ‘feel’ the emotion in his voice as he belts out the final refrain.

“Last Parade” is a bold statement that Call Me No One is here to stay.   While Sevendust remains Lowery and Rose’s main squeeze (and rightfully so), they have successfully created a band that can stand on its own with a sound that doesn’t resemble anything or anyone else in rock today.   I can’t stress enough how refreshing it is to hear an album that seems utterly genuine in its message and on top of that, be as musically unique and diverse as this.  Lowery has more than proved his worth as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist on “Last Parade”,  but honestly, anyone who’s followed him on his musical journey so far knows that he has nothing to prove.  It’s well documented that at various points in his career, he’s had some personal issues and has experienced his fair share of tragedys…but through it all, he has survived and came through the other side a stronger man and artist.  While I’m sure he wouldn’t mind being recognized for his talent on a mainstream level, I think it’s safe to say that whether or not that ever happens, Clint Lowery is going to make music.  It’s in his blood, and like most of the all time greats, he does it for the right reasons.

With Sevendust currently putting the finishing touches on their upcoming 9th studio album, it may be a while before we see a follow-up, but rest assured, Lowery has stated numerous times in the press that CMNO is no mere side project, and will return with more material when their schedule permits.  In the meantime, you can keep up with updates, as well as tour dates through their twitter and facebook pages.  If you’re looking for something a bit different in the hard rock world….”Last Parade” is an essential listen.

https://www.facebook.com/callmenoone

9/10 stars

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Intro

2 – The World is Dead

3 – Thunderbird

4 – Soapbox

5 – Hillbilly

6 – All’s Well

7 – Biggest Fan

8 – Pleased to Meet You

9 – Broken Record

10- You Surprise Me

11- War Song

12- Last Parade

Projected – “Human” Album Review

Projected – “Human”

“Debut album from Hard Rock ‘Super-group’ delivers a perfect blend of muscle and melody”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

It’s been done before.  A couple of guys from some band join up with a couple of guys from another band, get tagged as a ‘supergroup’ and release an album that pales in comparison to their respective bands back catalogs.  No matter how promising some of these projects look on paper, they rarely deliver the goods.  So needless to say, when word got out about Projected, I tried my best to keep my expectations low, no matter how alluring the lineup seemed to be.

For those of you unfamiliar, Projected’s lineup consists of John Connolly (Sevendust) on lead vocals and guitar, Scott Phillips (Alter Bridge/Creed) on drums, Vinnie Hornsby (Sevendust) on bass, and Eric Friedman (Submersed/Creed/Tremonti Project) on guitar and backing vocals.  While Connolly has provided backing vocals in Sevendust throughout their career, this is his first attempt at being a lead vocalist, again, further adding to my skepticism.

Luckily for me (and all fans of hard rock for that matter), Projected prove to be one of the rare cases where everything just clicks.  The music, the vocals, the songwriting, and the individual performances of each member all come together seamlessly to create one of 2012’s standout releases.  Not bad for a side project.

“Human” begins with the serene instrumental “Into”.  Bell-like harmonics float on top of a lightly phased clean toned electric, luring the listener into a false sense of security before segueing into “HELLo”.  Right off the bat, “HELLo” sets the bar very high and serves as the perfect introduction to what Projected’s sound is all about.  Pulverizing riffs and a driving rhythm section meld together with strong melodies and irresistable vocal harmonies.  While there are countless acts on the scene melding heavy riffs with melodic vocals, few if any do so with such stellar results.  Connolly’s guitar style has always been rooted in rhythm and there’s not a guitar player on the scene that can match the sheer chest rattling power of his riffs.  While most metal players opt to clutter their riffs with as many notes as possible, or simply dish out standard Euro-metal pedal point lines, Connolly’s focus is the almighty groove, and being a drummer-turned-guitarist gives his riffs a unique staccato feel, providing the songs with crushing weight but allowing them to breathe and be accentuated with melodic fills and textures.  His vocals are equally impressive and perfectly complemented by Friedman’s harmonies giving Projected a defined, yet familiar sound.

To be honest, the majority of the material on “Human” stays in this vein and rarely stray from it, but the songs are so well constructed, it never feels like the band is just spinning their wheels, there’s not a bad track to be found amongst the albums 11 cuts.   “Watch it Burn” and “So Low” follow suit with jagged riffs melded with infectious hooks while “Bring You Back” features the first of two guest appearances by Sevendust’s own Lajon Witherspoon.  Hearing John trade vocals with Lajon in the verses make it clear that this should be something they pursue more on the next ‘Dust record.  “12804” is a deeply touching tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell, a close friend of Connolly’s and serves to be the lyrical highlight of the album.  Eric (E Rock) Friedman does a fantastic job of adding an extra sparkle to the band’s sound with well placed fills and countermelodies.  And the way his vocals meld with John’s prove to be the key element that separates Projected from sounding like a carbon copy of the members other bands.   Another highlight for me is Scott Phillips performance throughout.  On tracks like “The Crown” and “Closure”, Phillips beats his drums with jackhammer-like authority.  While Alter Bridge have their fair share of aggressive tracks, this is hands down the heaviest material I’ve heard him play on and he delivers in spades.  Speaking of aggression, the albums closing track “Breaking Me” finds Connolly’s vocals sounding exceptionally brutal, making his frontman debut all the more impressive.

With “Human”, Connolly and co. have crafted a sound that will appeal to their respective fan bases and beyond.  With more melodic integrity than your standard metal fare, and more muscle than most mainstream rock, Projected prove to be the best of both worlds.  Not to downplay the contributions of the other members but I feel that it’s worth noting that this release should more than help bring John Connolly’s name into the upper-echelon of Hard-Rock and Metal musicians of his generation.  Since 1997, Sevendust has been one of the most original, consistent, and under appreciated bands in music (regardless of genre).  And while their writing process is truly a collaborative effort, the songs on “Human” show just how big a part of Sevendust’s sound John’s writing and guitar style is.  While not as technically advanced or ‘shreddy’ as a Dimebag Darrell or Eddie Van Halen, he possesses a unique and unorthodox style flanked by a firm disregard of the rulebook and a strong commitment to creating “music” rather than hot licks.

It’s a shame that the members individual schedules will prevent them from taking Projected out on the road for any extended period of time as these songs will undoubtedly slay in a live context.  But Connolly has assured fans that they will be playing shows once everyone’s schedule is more set in stone.  Until then, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “Human” on September 18th, or you can pre-order it online at www.projectedband.com – take my word, you don’t want to miss this one.

9/10 stars

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Into
2 – HELLo
3 – Watch It Burn
4 – So Low
5 – Bring You Back
6 – 12804
7 – Alive
8 – The Crown
9 – Stella
10-Closure
11-Breaking Me

Ryan McGarvey – “Redefined” Album Review

Ryan McGarvey – “Redefined”

“McGarvey shows limitless potential and stunning growth on sophomore release”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Back in 2007, a young teenager out of Albuquerque, New Mexico officially began his professional recording career with “Forward in Reverse”, a strong collection of songs that showed remarkable promise and maturity for an artist not yet in his twenties.  While the album aptly displayed Ryan’s well-rounded guitar prowess and ‘beyond-his-years’ songwriting, it didn’t exactly catch the music world on fire.  However, just three short years later, McGarvey got his first big break when he was chosen by Eric Clapton himself to perform at his 2010 Crossroads Festival.  Since then, he has relentlessly hit the road across the US, (as well as 3 successful European tours) building a loyal following the old-fashioned way, all the while honing his craft and molding his own signature sound.

Which brings us to his much-anticipated follow-up release “Redefined”.  Whether a conscious decision or not, the album’s 11 tracks give the impression that McGarvey is uninterested in following in anyone’s footsteps, nor will he bend to appease blues purists.  No clichéd I-IV-V progressions, no cover tunes, pretty much nothing you’d expect to find on a post-SRV blues rock artists album.  While there are plenty of stellar artists currently populating the blues rock genre, there’s also an over-abundance of acts whose sole purpose seems to be throwing together uninspired songs as a vehicle to showcase how many licks they can cram into a 12 bar solo.  While McGarvey has astounding technique and chops to spare, his playing never comes across as over indulgent, nor do the songs feel like platforms for six string wankery.  The fact that Ryan is just 25 years old makes this trait all the more remarkable.

“Redefined” opens with the stellar “All The Little Things”, a brooding rocker with a slow grinding pace.  Ryan’s vocals have matured considerably in the years since his debut and have a strong Ian Moore/Charlie Sexton feel to them on this particular track.  The song’s strong melodies and tasteful playing set the overall mood of the album right off the bat.  Next up is the uptempo “Never Seem to Learn”, a track that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on rock radio.  Starting out with a standard two chord riff, the song quickly transforms into a moody, hook-laden beast with a driving rhythm and soaring lead section.  Also of note is the album’s stellar production.  Everything is full and rich with each instrument sitting perfectly in the audio spectrum.  “My Sweet Angel” is a dynamic gem of a song that makes good use of light and shade before launching into another exquisite solo.  McGarvey’s solos tend to be short and to the point, never over staying their welcome and emphasize substance over flash.

With its ethereal, majestic intro and Eric Johnson-ish lead, “Starry Night” brings to mind one of Ryan’s close friends and influences Mr. Joe Bonamassa, a player that he has been compared to in the past.  While you can hear hints of Bonamassa’s vocals and tone here, McGarvey’s compositional skills and restrained approach give him the advantage of appealing to a broader audience and not just guitar geeks.  “Blues Knockin’ At My Door” recalls Warren Hayne’s Gov’t Mule at their crunchiest and gives a taste of Ryan’s sweet, melodic slidework over a well oiled groove.

Halfway in, I feel compelled to point out a few things that impress me the most about Ryan.  First off, age not withstanding, Ryan has an unparralleled knack for letting his song’s arrangements breathe, never over cluttering them with his playing and letting his rhythm section carry them where they need to go, his guitar work always being the ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak.  Speaking of his playing, the other thing that stands out is his guitar sound.  It has to be one of the most pleasing tones I’ve heard in ages and his sparse use of effects further add to its appeal.  Both of these traits are showcased thoroughly on the next track “Prove Myself”.  Bluesy and funky, with subtle wah wah flourishes that float over an irresistible bass and drum groove. The leadwork being particularly noteworthy, transitioning effortlessly from pentatonic flurries to double stops and scalar runs.

The next two tracks proved to be the most standout tracks overall in my opinion.  “Blue Morning Night” paints a vivid picture of heartbreak and sorrow with passionate vocals and an absolutely breathtakingly catchy chorus followed by what I feel is the album’s most glorious solo, coming across as an immaculate composition in its own right (the pulsing build ups in the outro are exceptionally cool as well).  “So Close To Heaven” follows suit with poetic lyrics and hooks galore.  Gold-spun guitar fills and another standout solo simply add to the overall feel of the song, every note striving to pierce the listener’s soul.  Clocking in at a compact two minutes and thirty-six seconds, “Downright Insane”  is riff rock at it’s finest.  Arena-sized riffs play call and response with vibe-soaked lines before you’re hit in the face with a searing wah workout.  In stark contrast, “Pennies” serves up a more laid back, dynamic approach with more hints of Bonamassa-isms while still remaining unmistakably McGarvey.  Closing out the record is the acoustic instrumental “Four Graces”, showing yet another side of McGarvey’s playing and versatility.

Overall, “Redefined” lives up to its title and aptly demonstrates McGarvey’s almost overwhelming level of talent.  I can’t begin to put into words how refreshing this release was to hear.  Ryan’s signature sound is not defined by his guitar licks nor his technique, but by his dedication to creating music and writing songs where the sum is greater than the parts.  In a perfect world, a number of the tracks featured here would be populating rock radio’s airwaves (Lord knows it would do the poor genre some good).  With a laundry list of acts from Rock’s Golden Age either withering away or releasing sub-par material, along with the confusing state of the Blues-Rock genre’s oversaturation of clones and gunslingers, “Redefined” has set the bar high for the future.  With the current state of the music industry still in transition, its hard to tell what the future will hold for young artists like McGarvey.  But with this kind of talent, a strong work ethic, and a little perseverance and tenacity, his future is not just bright…it’s blinding.

For more info on Ryan, and online availability of “Redefined”, please visit www.ryanmcgarvey.com

9/10 stars

TRACK LISTING:

1 – All The Little Things
2 – Never Seem To Learn
3 – My Sweet Angel
4 – Starry Night
5 – Blues Knockin’ At My Door
6 – Prove Myself
7 – Blue Morning Night
8 – So Close To Heaven
9 – Downright Insane
10- Pennies
11- Four Graces

Indigenous – “Featuring Mato Nanji” – Album Review

Indigenous – “Featuring Mato Nanji”

“Nanji delivers an absolute gem of an album that’s sure to please fans old and new”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Albums like this don’t come along very often these days.  For the past 15 years Mato Nanji and Indigenous have steadily built a very large and extremely diverse fan base and I for one can’t imagine any fan not absolutely loving this record.  Throughout the band’s career, which includes 5 studio albums, 2 EP’s, a live album and an all-acoustic disc, Nanji has consistently worked on honing his craft, not just as a guitar player, but as a vocalist and a songwriter as well.  The band’s last studio album (2008’s “Broken Lands”) and it’s all-acoustic follow up (2010’s “Acoustic Sessions”) saw Mato in a more mellow mood, focusing more on well crafted songs and melodies and less on guitar pyrotechnics.  However, “Featuring Mato Nanji” puts Nanji’s guitar up front and center on a collection of songs that instantly stick in your head and cover the entire spectrum of styles and sounds that fans have come to expect from the band along with some new ones as well.

Right out of the gate, we’re treated to a match made in heaven as Jonny Lang lends his voice and guitar to the album’s opener “Free Yourself, Free Your Mind”.  Lang and Nanji trade vocals and solos over a deep funky groove and the two couldn’t complement each other more.  Nanji’s new rhythm section (flanked by Mato’s cousin Horse on percussion) make their presence known immediately and continue to do so throughout the album’s 13 tracks.  Next up is “Everywhere I Go” which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 2006’s stellar “Chasing the Sun”.  Tasty lead lines, strong melodies and a great sing-a-long chorus are followed by more extended fretwork giving fans a familiar yet fresh sound, but surprises are just around the corner.

Next up is the downright shocking one-two-punch of “Jealousy” and “Someone Like You”.  Never before has Mato attempted such a hard rocking/high octane sound but the results here are spectacular.  Driving, up tempo and filled with snaking bass fills, rhythmic syncopations and hot-shit lead breaks, “Jealousy” delivers the goods across the board while never seeming overly repetitive and redundant.  “Someone Like You” has ‘single’ written all over it yet sounds nothing like anything the band has cut in the past.  The vocals are hooky and infectious with an almost Billy Gibbons like quality while the music balances a monster riff drenched in a thick and creamy fuzz with a pounding, war-drum-like beat.  Radio should be all over this one.

As soon as your brain catches up to the audio onslaught of the previous 2 tracks, Nanji switches gears and delivers one of his most soulful and haunting tracks in “I Was Wrong To Leave You”.  Sweet, Uni-Vibe drenched chords intertwine with subtle organ fills as Nanji’s vocals shine bright over top.  Dripping with soul, Mato’s voice is soothing yet powerful and his lead work throughout the track’s 6 minutes and 37 seconds is outstanding.  You can literally feel the emotions being wrenched from his Strat.  Next up is “No Matter What it Takes”, another brisk rocker in the vein of their earlier material.  It’s also worth noting that even on the more familiar sounding tracks, Mato’s vocals have improved so much over the years that while still instantly recognizable, they at times sound like a completely different singer then the Mato from say 98’s “Things We Do”.

Next up is “Storm”, the album’s sole instrumental track.  Nowhere on the album will you find a better example of just how impressive this band is on their individual instruments.  Centered around a standard blues rock riff, the guys do everything in their power to see how far they can stretch the groove without coming across as self-indulgent (the bass and percussion solos being exceptionally badass).  Next we come to “Find My Way” which is one of the best songs Nanji has ever penned.  Tribal yet melodic and brimming with soul, the song is a testament to Nanji’s ability of weaving his influences into something totally his own, taking the listener on a journey from beginning to end.

“All Those Lies” is a standard Texas shuffle that allows Nanji to stretch his blues muscles while adding perfectly placed vocal harmonies in between tasteful lead fills and licks.  “The Way I Feel” mixes a Junior Kimbrough style riff with Hendrix-ish lead phrasing while “Wake Up” recalls the softer side of Indigenous balancing an almost gospel-like feel with a 2 minute outro solo filled with soulful bends and vocal-like phrases – 2 hallmarks of Mato’s style.

Rounding out the disc are 2 less-rock, more-blues tracks: “By My Side” and “When Tomorrow Comes”.  These final 2 tracks serve as a reminder of what made Mato one of the leading guitar-stylists of his generation.    While many of his contemporaries attempt to cram as many licks as they can in a single 12 bar solo, Mato’s style focuses more on what needs to be there as opposed to what can be.  Never one to self-indulge a song with flash, Nanji’s signature vibrato and powerful bends are always placed right where they need to be.  His guitar tones on “Featuring Mato Nanji” are some of the best he’s ever laid to tape.  Thick and rich fuzz tones supplemented with Vibe and Leslie effects abound throughout and his lead tones are fat and juicy, never harsh or thin.

Overall, “Featuring Mato Nanji” is an absolute win-win release.  Die hards and casual fans alike will be pleased with most of the material while listeners who have pined for more in your face guitar will be delighted by the extended solos and more pronounced rock edge.  If you’re an Indigenous fan, this disc is an absolute must-have.  If you’re just getting around to checking them out, “Featuring Mato Nanji” serves as the perfect starting point.  Blues Rock fans rejoice!  This is one album that most definantly gives plenty bang for your buck.  Visit www.indigenousrocks.com for 2012 tour dates and I strongly suggest catching the band live and witnessing these songs in person.  You won’t regret it.

9/10

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Free Yourself, Free Your Mind

2 – Everywhere I Go

3 – Jealousy

4 – Someone Like You

5 – I Was Wrong To Leave You

6 – No Matter What It Takes

7 – Storm

8 – Find My Way

9 – All Those Lies

10- The Way I Feel

11- Wake Up

12- By My Side

13- When Tomorrow Comes

 

 

Alter Bridge – “Live At Wembley” 3 Disc Set (2 DVD/1 CD) Album Review

Alter Bridge – “Live At Wembley”

“Criminally underrated rockers prepare their biggest release to date, proving that in       today’s industry…a little perseverance goes a long way.”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Some bands are simply unclassifiable.

In the eyes of record label execs and other industry big-wigs, this is by no means a positive thing.  A label has to know how and where to market it’s acts, so when a label is faced with the task of classifying an artist that simply does not fit into any specific genre, the results can be a bit underwhelming to say the least.  However, in the case of modern rockers Alter Bridge, unclassifiable would be a massive understatement.  Since forming in 2004, Alter Bridge have defied all logic in terms of how a band’s success is measured in today’s wacky music industry.  With almost every one of the band’s releases being subsequently sabotaged by lackluster promotion, release date delays, and other label issues, Alter Bridge have soldiered forward with the help of their extremely devoted fan base, a rabid die-hard following that in the past 5 years has grown exponentially in the UK.

Live at Wembley is the ultimate representation of what makes Alter Bridge the dark horse favorite of today’s rock scene and is guaranteed to please every single one of their loyal fans.  While being an extremely well shot documentation of the band’s biggest and most gloriously executed live performance to date, Live at Wembley doubles as a Greatest Hits of sorts.  The included performance DVD features a nice balance of songs from each of the band’s 3 studio albums: 5 tracks off of their 2004 debut “ONE DAY REMAINS”, 9 tracks from 2007’s “BLACKBIRD” and 7 tracks from their most recent release 2010’s “ABIII” for a total of 21 songs (14 of which are included on a bonus CD).  You also get an additional DVD consisting of an hour long documentary and expansive photo gallery, making this the most comprehensive collection the band has released yet.

As far as the uninitiated are concerned, this collection is guaranteed to win over just about every breed of rock music fan under the sun.  The live performance included is  absolutely breathtaking to witness.  Musically speaking, Alter Bridge are simply overloaded with firepower.  Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips are as solid a rhythm section as any, possessing a combined mastery of dynamics and power that result in the driving force behind the band’s unique sound.  Guitarist Mark Tremonti’s unimitatable guitar style continues to show incredible growth since music fans were first exposed to his signature sound in the late 90’s.  Balancing a penchant for crushing metal riffs with serene fingerpicked passages along with his constantly improving lead work and fondness for altered tunings, Tremonti has emerged as one of the premier guitar stylists of his generation.  Vocally, the band is in a league of their own thanks to the limitless vocal ability of frontman Myles Kennedy.  From soft falsetto croons,  to stratospheric screams, Kennedy’s vocal range is capable of reaching both extremes and all points in between.  And on top of that, he has proven to be one of the finest guitar players on the scene as well, perfectly complementing Tremonti’s style thus resulting in an absolutely dazzling twin axe attack unheard of in this day and age.

The set list performed at Wembley showcases the band’s versatility and touches on all aspects of the band’s diverse attack.   Metalheads will thoroughly embrace the band’s more metallic leanings in tracks such as “METALINGUS” and “TIES THAT BIND” while Kennedy’s solo acoustic performances of “WONDERFUL LIFE” and “WATCH OVER YOU” will appeal to those that prefer the softer side of rock.  All of the band’s biggest singles are here as well, from their first (the anthemic “OPEN YOUR EYES”) to their most recent (the progressively infectious “GHOSTS OF DAYS GONE BY”) giving a perfectly balanced representation for fans and newcomers alike.  The 60 minute documentary “ROAD TO WEMBLEY” details the band’s 2011 European tour extensively with live footage and band interviews as well as commentary by fans and crew members alike.  The film gracefully captures the unbreakable connection between the band and their fans while showing in grand detail the hard work and dedication of the band’s crew as well as the film staff’s preparation in capturing both the band’s performance and the 10’000+ fans reaction.

Needless to say without all the extra goodies and such, the live concert is alone worth the price of admission.  The band is clearly firing on all cylinders with Kennedy’s vocal performance being exceptionally impressive.  The songs are replicated as perfectly live as they were on album albeit with the added intensity that comes with performing to a sold out arena crowd.   Kennedy and Tremonti pack one hell of a one-two punch both vocally and musically, with Tremonti’s vocals adding extra depth while Kennedy’s playing provides endless textures, moods, and other ear candy…helping elevate the band’s material to a level unmatched by their contemporaries.  It’s small things like these as well as the members individual talents that make Alter Bridge universally accepted by rock fans of all ages and demographics.  The band has never relied on hit singles or massive amounts of radio play, instead they’ve garnered critical acclaim by releasing 3 stellar albums, each a natural progression from the previous one balancing a sound as progressive as it is melodic, as heavy as it is hooky and subsequently following each release with a live show you now get to witness in all it’s glory.

With close to 4 hours of total content, Live at Wembley is an extraordinary release from an extraordinary group of musicians.  Whether you’re already a fan of the band or just now checking them out, this is an absolute must-have for rockers everywhere.  While this will be the only release by the band collectively in 2012, fans can check out Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips during Creed’s summer tour (rumored to be followed by a new album) while Kennedy will be spending his time touring in support of Slash’s upcoming release “Apocalyptic Love”.  Tremonti fans will also be treated to the guitarist’s first ever solo project titled “ALL I WAS” due later this year.  Until then, Live at Wembley has more than enough music to hold fans over until 2013, when the band is scheduled to reconvene for their 4th studio album.

Only time will tell what the future holds for Alter Bridge.  Whatever their next move may be, Live at Wembley sets the standard exceptionally high, and with a scheduled 3D theatrical release coming soon, it is poised to be one of the biggest music releases of the year.  Be prepared to be converted.

9/10 stars

TRACK LISTING:

DVD 1 –

1 – SLIP TO THE VOID
2 – FIND THE REAL
3 – GHOSTS OF DAYS GONE BY
4 – BEFORE TOMORROW COMES
5 – COME TO LIFE
6 – ALL HOPE IS GONE
7 – WHITE KNUCKLES
8 – BRAND NEW START
9 – METALINGUS
10- BROKEN WINGS
11- I KNOW IT HURTS
12- ONE DAY REMAINS
13- COUR D’ALENE
14- BURIED ALIVE
15- BLACKBIRD
16- WONDERFUL LIFE
17- WATCH OVER YOU
18- TIES THAT BIND
19- ISOLATION
20- OPEN YOUR EYES
21- RISE TODAY

DVD 2 –

* “Road to Wembley” documentary
*  Photo Gallery

CD –

1 – SLIP TO THE VOID
2 – FIND THE REAL
3 – GHOSTS OF DAYS GONE BY
4 – COME TO LIFE
5 – ALL HOPE IS GONE
6 – METALINGUS
7 – I KNOW IT HURTS
8 – COUR D’ALENE
9 – BLACKBIRD
10- WONDERFUL LIFE
11- WATCH OVER YOU
12- TIES THAT BIND
13- ISOLATION
14- RISE TODAY

Eric Gales – “Transformation” – Album Review

Eric Gales – “Transformation”

Gales continues on his long journey back to prominence with “Transformation”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

Time has not been kind to Eric Gales.  Throughout his now 20+ year professional career, Gales has had to travel a long and bumpy road filled with more twists, turns, triumphs and tragedys than any musician should have to endure.  Some self-inflicted, some not, nonetheless all contributing to his constant uphill battle to get where he’s going.  To understand where that is, one must look back and start at the very beginning, the year the Eric Gales Band released their self-titled debut album when Gales was just 17 years old.

1991 was a year of transition in music.  In the rock world, Glam metal was out as Grunge occupied the throne while Metallica and Guns N Roses began their respective climbs to superstardom.  Meanwhile, Garth Brooks was taking country music into the mainstream flanked by Brooks and Dunn’s debut release, and Contemporary Christian Music began it’s ascension into the pop music world.  Add in debut albums from Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill and 2Pac along with monster records from Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen and U2 and you have one seriously eclectic mix of culture.

However, one genre of music stood alone in mourning, left hopelessly searching for a savior.  In October of 1990, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the man who in the 1980’s became the torch-bearer for the blues, bringing it screaming back into the mainstream spotlight after years of turmoil…had passed away, leaving fans searching high and low for someone who could fill his shoes (a search that still continues to this day).  Not that there was any shortage of fine players on the scene, as 1990 also brought Eric Johnson’s landmark release “Ah Via Musicom”, and Robert Cray was still very much-present in the public eye, however, people were clamoring for a new, fresh young talent to come along and set the scene on fire.

Enter The Eric Gales Band.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a young, all black power-trio with a teenage guitar prodigy that visually and sonically conjured images of Hendrix exploded into the Top 10 with their debut single “Sign of the Storm”.  Remember, this is close to 5 years before Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang and Chris Duarte and almost a decade before Joe Bonamassa, Lance Lopez, and others began their careers.  With Eric’s older brother Eugene on bass/lead vocals and Hubert “H-Bomb” Crawford on drums, The Eric Gales Band’s sound was riff based rock with deep grooves and gospel-tinged vocal harmonies.  Two years later the band followed up their debut with 1993’s eclectic “Picture of a Thousand Faces”, which proved to be an even more diverse and focused LP than it’s predecessor.

Alas, the band’s album sales did not show the same growth.  To put it bluntly, it seemed the band’s sound was a bit too ahead of it’s time for mainstream audiences to fully embrace.  Nonetheless, Gales’ stayed in the public eye, performing with Carlos Santana during his Woodstock set in 94′ and reuniting with brothers Eugene and Manuel (aka Little Jimmy King) for 1996’s outstanding “Left Hand Brand” under the moniker The Gales Brothers.

Then, 5 long years of silence.

Gales eventually resurfaced in 2001, this time on MCA Records with “That’s What I Am” , an inspired if somewhat uneven collection of songs that seemed to be aimed at no specific demographic what-so-ever.  At times brilliant, other times confusing, the album was a commercial flop.

Then, 5 more years of silence.

While he would pop up sporadically on various tribute albums and compilations throughout this period, it wasn’t until 2006 that he released another full album of material, this time on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel label.  This is where the current chapter of Gales’ career begins.  Since releasing “Crystal Vision” in 2006, the Gales/Varney partnership has produced an album every year since, seemingly making up for lost time.  While Gales’ playing has continued to evolve and flourish, much of the material on these releases has felt stale and uninspired, almost as if Gales’ well-documented personal problems and bad habits have left him spinning his wheels, constantly re-treading the same sounds and styles repeatedly on each subsequent release.  Not that the albums have been bad per-se, (as each have had some flashes of brilliance on par with his earlier material) it just seemed fairly odd that a player of Gales’ caliber would be content on releasing what seemed like the same album every year.  But, if it ain’t broken, why fix it?  Besides, Gales’ guitar style is so refreshingly unique that it’s just a pleasure to listen to him burn through any material, be it killer or filler.  In short, it has been nice not having to wait 5 years in between records.

Which brings us to his newest release “Transformation”.  While not quite living up to it’s title, “Transformation” finds Gales in fine form and willing to step out of his comfort zone.  The material here is varied and well executed.  Even the more familiar sounding tracks, which stay within the confines of the tried-and-true muscled-up Blues Rock formula have a certain spark to them while other tracks allow Gales’ versatility to shine through, only this time, unlike 2001’s “That’s What I Am”, Gales seems more comfortable and focused.  His playing has always been a mixture of numerous different influences and styles but here his approach seems less focused on peeling off countless licks and riffs in each song and more on finding what works best for each individual track, making for quite possibly his best release in recent memory.

One of the standout moments early on is the uptempo romp “DOUBLE DIPPIN”, which balances sweet, tasty lead lines with some seriously hip jazz voicings that at times resemble both George Benson and Brian Setzer.  “I PITY THE FOOL” harkens back to Gales’ “That’s What I Am” era with it’s King’s X meets ZZ Top vibe, while the songs 2 guitar solos offer a glimpse of Eric’s more concise yet still unpredictable phrasing and note selection, proving that while staying in his comfort zone song-wise, his soloing is as impressive as ever, constantly evolving yet un-mistakably Eric Gales.  “SOMETIMES WRONG FEELS RIGHT” is the closest thing to a straight-forward slow blues here, but Gales again stretches the boundaries of his material with unorthodox chord voicings and rhythmic delay repeats.  Eric also seems to be stretching out tonally as well by letting his hands and amp do most of the heavy lifting.  Digital delay and hints of fuzz are still apparent as Wah-Wah abuse is kept to a minimum, while the Hendrix approved combo of Octavio and Uni-Vibe is missing entirely.

Some of the real highlights come in around the album’s halfway point, starting with the surprisingly dynamic “ALTERED DESTINY”.  Harmonically sophisticated in its arrangement, the track gets downright furious during the solo section as Gales delivers one of his best leads in years over a crushing riff reminiscent of Pantera covering a James Gang tune.  Wow.  Next up is “TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE” a delightfully refreshing song with powerful dynamics and a great hooky chorus.  Also worth pointing out is the uber-cool intertwining guitar lines in the verses that succeed at mimicing the sound of a ticking clock (not to mention another outstanding solo section).  THIS is the type of material I’ve been waiting for from Gales, as it bears no resemblence to anything else in his back catalog.  The title track “TRANSFORMATION” follows suit with another melodic chorus bookended by prog-rock inspired verses and a middle section that slowly builds into a stratospheric climax.  Also of note is the impressive interplay of the album’s rhythm section, Steve Evans (bass) and Aaron Haggerty (drums), who seem to have no trouble following Gales whatsoever, in fact, one almost gets the impression that on tracks like the breakneck funk showcase “SEA OF BAD BLOOD”, Evans and Haggerty’s explosive chops are actually inviting Gales to stretch out his rollercoaster like runs and phrases.

As we get into the final tracks, Eric treats us to another unique gem, the R&B tinged “TOO LATE TO CRY”.  While Gales has never been accused of being a great vocalist, his voice is nicely suited for tracks like this.  Dreamy arpeggios, melodic fills, and a psychedelic interlude that sounds like Ty Tabor dueting with Joe Satriani.  “TOO LATE” is a fine example of Gales’ potential when he’s thinking outside the box.  My only complaint is that there aren’t more tracks similar to these.  Cliched, run-of-the-mill tracks like the album opener “RAILROADED” and lyrically inept closer “I WOULDN’T TREAT A  DOG THAT WAY” could have easily been dropped from the LP while more standard fare such as “TORTURED MIND” and “CATCHING UP WITH THE PAST” serve as harmless filler.  Again, these are small complaints as there’s more than enough fireworks throughout the disc to keep old-school fans satisfied while showing just enough growth and progress to keep nit-picky people like me happy.

Overall, while “Transformation” may not be the giant leap forward that it’s title suggests, it is surely a bold step in the right direction.  In the months following it’s release, Gales has done some session work with Raphael Saadiq that has surfaced in a few major motion picture soundtracks, he’s toured with R&B star Lauryn Hill and is currently on the road with the Experience Hendrix 2012 Tour.  All this, along with rumors of Varney & Co. releasing a companion Transformation Live DVD in the near future, lead many to believe that 2012 will be the most productive year of Eric Gales’ career since his early 90’s heyday.

While Eric Gales’ long and storied battle with demons, addictions, and bad decisions has over time diminished his role in the music industry, “Transformation” makes it painstakingly clear that his past has left absolutely NO signs of wear and tear on his abilities.  Sheer raw talent can only get you so far, and Gales’ possesses more of it than most, if he can stay in the public eye and out of trouble while at the same time continuing on the path set by this release, the skys the limit.

7.5 / 10

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Railroaded
2 – Double Dippin’
3 – Tortured Mind
4 – I Pity the Fool
5 – Altered Destiny
6 – Time Waits For No One
7 – Catching Up With the Past
8 – Transformation
9 – Sometimes Wrong Feels Right
10- Sea of Bad Blood
11- Too Late to Cry
12- I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog That Way