KING WILKIE’s “Presents the Wilkie Family Singers”

September 30th, 2009, 3:38 pm by Greg

KingWilkie(Casa Nueva, 2009):

I don’t think this is bluegrass anymore, Toto.

King Wilkie started off as a young, six-piece traditional bluegrass band in Charlottesville, Virginia back in 2003, and they garnered the coveted International Bluegrass Music Association award as Best Emerging Artist in 2004. They were playing all of the big bluegrass festivals and even the Grand Ole Opry.

But with their sophomore album, “Low Country Suite,” the music began to mutate, and now with their third album, the bluegrass has nearly been completely jettisoned. Heck, “Videotape” sounds like the Beach Boys, and “Dr. Art” features a wicked, jazzy clarinet solo.

That’s not a bad thing, mind you.

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MICHAEL JERLING’s “Music Here Tonight: Live at Caffe Lena”

September 25th, 2009, 9:27 am by Greg

MichaelJerling(Fool’s Hill Music, 2009):

Saratoga Springs singer-songwriter Michael Jerling has been making records for nearly 30 years, which means that those early albums were honest-to-goodness vinyl records.

It also means that he’s been making music for long enough that it’s time for him to take a look back and survey his repertoire. So, yes, you could call this album a career retrospective, except that Jerling certainly isn’t ready to sit back and rest on his laurels.

Rather than taking the easy way out and slapping together old tracks for a greatest-hits or best-of compilation, Jerling decided to revisit some of his favorite tunes and record them anew in one of his favorite settings – that cozy little second-floor coffeehouse on Phila Street, Caffe Lena.

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CHANDLER TRAVIS PHILHARMONIC’s “Tarnation & Alastair Sim” and CHANDLER TRAVIS’ “After She Left”

September 23rd, 2009, 4:28 pm by Greg

kittyLike some cosmic collision between NRBQ, Marcel Duchamp, Pee Wee Herman, Captain Beefheart, the Ringling Brothers and Spike Jones, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic is utterly charming and totally unpredictable.

Since making their recorded debut as the Philharmonic a dozen years ago, the band has released 20 – yeah, count ’em, 20 – albums, sporting such intriguing titles as “Let’s Have a Pancake,” “Y’ Gotta Have the Mental,” Let’s Music,” “The Dog Ate My Album,” “The Sound of Food,” “Monkeys of Nothing” and “Le Spectacle de la Lizarde!!!”

Their latest album is “Tarnation & Alastair Sim” (Sonic Trout, 2007), although things are a bit confusing as the CD cover simply says “Kitty” and the CD itself is printed with the word “Al.”

Anyway, here’s a list of eight things that you’ll find on “Tarnation & Alastair Sim,” the latest album from the deliciously demented Chandler Travis Philharmonic:

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September 15th, 2009, 12:19 pm by Greg

MaiaSharp(Crooked Crown, 2009): In my book, Sharp is one of the most under-rated singer-songwriters on the scene today, and that opinion is only underscored by this new album featuring a dozen songs that she wrote or co-wrote.

Although still better known as a songwriter whose tunes have been recorded by everyone from Cher to Kim Richey to Shivaree, Sharp released her debut recording a dozen years ago.

The problem, perhaps, is that she works within the pop tradition, rather than embracing folk or alt-country territory. She’s smart and sexy, and if I was forced to make a direct comparison, Sharp probably most reminds me of Karla Bonoff’s debut album.

While her music flows within the pop tradition, she definitely thinks (and writes) outside the box. This album, for example, opens with the simple declaration, “I will never be a part of your polite society.”

Producer Don Was brings the requisite radio sheen to the mix, along with veteran studio pros like drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Mark Goldenberg. Bonnie Raitt drops by for a feature spot on “Death by Perfection,” too.

Maia Sharp: Echo

SUPER 400’s “Sweet Fist”

September 10th, 2009, 4:32 pm by Greg

SweetFirst(Response Records/Rock Ridge Music, 2009):

Remember the glory days of the power trio? When Cream rose to the top, and we all rejoiced as we went Mountain climbing?

Sure you do.

And so does Super 400. But they’re not wallowing in some misty-eyed nostalgia for The Great Rock Days of the Past. Heck, this tireless threesome plays power-trio rock like they invented it.

Troy trio Super 400 have been blasting the message for some time now, and that message comes through loud and clear on “Sweet Fist,” by far the best album yet from these most dedicated, never-say-die rockers.

Recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, the album kicks off with the pummeling “Needle Down” and doesn’t look back. Kenny Hohman is just a monster guitarslinger – dig his filigree-riffing intro to “FFMN” – but it’s his wailing soul-soaked vocals that bring this album home.

Anchored by drummer Joe Daley and bass mistress Lori Friday, “Sweet Fist” isn’t heavy metal. It’s just plain old heavy.

Not that this is monochromatic, monolithic sludge-stompin rock from start to finish. Friday wrestles the microphone from Hohman for the sensual, hook-filled “Flashlight,” and Hohman unplugs for some acoustic ballad finger-picking on “Devil Song.” There’s even a straight-up rockin’ re-invention of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”

These dozen tunes put the “super” in Super 400, and there’s just no denying the depth, the dynamics and the unbridled desire that these three musicians bring to the table this time around.

“Sweet Fist” won’t be officially released until Tuesday, September 15. But trust us, you don’t want to have to wait til then. So enter to win an autographed copy of the new album from your pals at Just go here for details.

And don’t forget: Super 400 celebrates the release of their new CD, “Sweet Fist,” with a sneak preview hometown party at Revolution Hall in Troy on Friday, September 11.

Super 400: Sweet Fist

LUNIC’s “Lovethief”

September 4th, 2009, 10:22 am by Greg

lunic3(Sellaband, 2009):

Led by Latham violinist-vocalist Kaitee Page, Lunic released their latest album in mid-May, and by July, they’d racked up airplay on a batch of local radio stations including the Edge, the Channel and WEQX.

But it really wasn’t until mid-August that Lunic cracked things wide open – when they had the opportunity to perform at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center as the opening act for Creed.

Lunic has got the goods. The album features ten original tunes by Page, and each one of ’em is radio-ready – hook-filled enough to earn mainstream pop airplay with just enough of an edge to most of ’em to warrant spinnage on hard-rock as well as alt-rock radio.

Painting the songs with a rich sonic pallette, Page’s evocative vocals recall the Cranberries’ keening Dolores O’Riordan, Kate Nash and Evanescence’s Amy Lee, while her violin playing adds a distinctive edge that separates the band from the rest of the regular rock pack. The rest of the band is quite versatile as well, easily shifts gears from dense and pummeling rhythms to wide-open, more atmospheric backing.

“Lovethief” is ready to put Lunic on the map and take the band to the next level, so catch ’em around town while you still can.

Lunic performs at Jason’s Upstairs Bar in Hudson on Saturday, September 5 and at Savannah’s in Albany on Tuesday, September 8.

LIVE: Balthrop, Alabama @ MASS MoCA, 8/29/09

August 31st, 2009, 12:56 pm by Greg

It’s not a geographic location. Balthrop, Alabama is actually a band. And a small fictional town. And a state of mind.

Helmed by siblings, primary vocalists and songwriters Pascal and Lauren Balthrop (who actually go by the names Jemison Thorsby and Georgiana Starlington), the rag-tag collection of musicians boasts a somewhat fluid line-up.

balthrop01When I first heard them on WAMC-FM’s “Performance Place,” they were just a duo. When they were back on “Performance Place” again last week bolstered by a pair of sax players, they had grown to a quartet.

Onstage at MASS MoCA‘s Club B-10 on Saturday night, they had expanded once again, this time to a nine-piece ensemble with drums, bass, accordion, electric guitar and banjo as well.

Well, actually, only eight of them were on stage.

Sitting at a table just to the right of the stage was the band’s ninth member – artist Michael Arthur (whose Balthrop, Alabama name is Toxey Goodwater). He was armed with just one clean sheet of paper, a variety of pens, some small toy cars and plastic characters and a full glass of red wine.

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August 27th, 2009, 3:32 pm by Greg

christineSantelli(VizzTone, 2009):

Do you remember the excitement and the sheer electricity of those early shows by Joan Osborne at the Metro? Yes, the pre-“One of Us” hit-bound Joan Osborne. She was deeply rooted in the blues, and yet her musical style was expansive enough to stretch into the realms of rock, Motown and even Captain Beefheart (definitely a realm unto himself).

That’s what Christine Santelli reminds me of on her new album. That special blend of maturity, musical prowess and magic. It just doesn’t come around very often, but she’s got it. She’s got it good.

Santelli was born and raised in Clifton Park, but she doesn’t get back to these parts very often anymore, so this weekend is a real treat, as she makes stops at the Van Dyck in Schenectady on Friday (August 28) and Alchemy in Woodstock on Saturday (August 29).

She’s living in Jersey City these days with husband/drummer Matt Mousseau, and while she hasn’t complete left the blues behind, it’s clear that she’s branching out on her new album.

First of all, she wrote all 13 songs on the album, and between them she displays quite a stylistic stretch. “Down in the Valley,” for example, could be defined as soul-folk. “Butterfly” has that fabulous Brill Building street strut that resonates with the power of Ronnie Spector or Willie DeVille. “Calgary” is a narrative folk song with some fine fingerpicking. “Brown Haired Girl” is jaunty, almost childlike and deceptively simple. “On the Farm” swings into hoedown mode, and then there’s “For You,” an off-kilter, creepy carnival songs that’s the biggest stretch on the album. And it works just fine.

Now 41 years old and armed with a seductive, sultry growl, Santelli has got something to say, and there’s no question that this album is her most personal statement to date.

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