Review: Bellamy puts the blues in R&B
By Jeffrey Sisk
Published: Friday, May 17, 2013, 6:37 p.m.
‘In My Lane'
Candace Bellamy (self-released)
Austin, Texas-based newcomer Candace Bellamy puts the “blues” in rhythm & blues on stellar debut “In My Lane.” After singing in her high school and college choirs, Bellamy put music on hold to study medicine. She operated a successful practice for several years, but music kept calling her back. So she moved to Austin and set about forging a new career path. This nine-track collection is a terrific first step, as Bellamy puts her powerful pipes to good use on standouts “Put Down the Foot,” “Like Honey,” “Johnny,” “Skies Are Grey” and “Sweet Sweet Soul.” I've got no idea what kind of doctor she was, but Bellamy has a bright future in the music business.
The Blank Tapes (Antenna Farm)
As the driving creative force behind indie outfit the Blank Tapes, SoCal native Matt Adams has been writing and recording songs on his home eight-track for a decade and released a handful of DIY albums. Now expanded to a trio, the Blank Tapes look to build their fan base with catchy new full-length “Vacation.” Drawing inspiration from the like of Ray Davies, Lou Reed, Buddy Holly and the Beatles, Adams and his mates have crafted a delightful 11-track platter. Infectious opener “Uh-Oh” lures you right in and the Tapes keep rolling on “Coast to Coast,” “Pearl,” “Brazilia,” the title track and “Holy Roller.” Highly recommended.
Eluvium (Temporary Residence)
Matthew Cooper, better known in music circles as Eluvium, has spent a decade establishing himself as one of electronic music's top experimental ambient performers. Sixth full-length “Nightmare Ending,” the long-awaited follow-up to 2010's masterful “Similes,” finds Cooper up to his old tricks on a two-disc, 14-track set. Eluvium takes its time throughout, letting the tunes unspool naturally over the course of 84 minutes, yet “Nightmare Ending” is never boring. Among the keepers are sprawling opener “Don't Get Any Closer,” “Unknown Variation,” “Rain Gently” and “Happiness.” Even if instrumental music isn't your cup of tea, Eluvium merits some attention.
‘After the Dream You Are Awake'
Dreamy indie rock outfit pacificUV is another in a long line of stellar bands to emerge from Athens, Ga., and fourth full-length “After the Dream You Are Awake” may be the album that breaks it into the mainstream. There's a lot to like about the nine-track mix of top-notch originals and a first-rate cover of Billy Idol's “Eyes Without a Face.” Lead single “24 Frames” launches the album and is pacificUV's best tune to date, and it also deliver on “Russians,” “I Think It's Coming,” “American Lovers” and “I Wanna Be You.” Good stuff.
The Del-Lords (GB Music)
Big Apple rockers the Del-Lords strutted and swaggered their way through the mid-1980s and early ‘90s before calling it quits in 1991. After more than two decades away from the public eye, however, three of the four founding members — frontman Scott Kempner, guitarist Eric Ambel and drummer Frank Funaro are joined by new bassist Michael DuClos — have gotten back together for their first album since 1990's “Lovers Who Wander.” The 12-track “Elvis Club” shows there's a place for the Del-Lords' brand of rootsy garage rock. Opener “When the Drugs Kick In” is the best of the bunch, but the lads also score with “Princess,” “Flying,” “Me and the Lord Blues” and “Silverlake.” Welcome back, guys.
‘Make It Start'
A Simple Colony (self-released)
Incorporating backgrounds in jazz and classical piano into a pop framework proves effective for indie pop newcomers A Simple Colony on its “Make It Start” debut. Michael Dodson and Lara Michell are the creative tandem behind the band, which has been performing in and around Portland, Ore. since 2010. Dodson is a member of the Portland Gay Men's Chorus and handles vocals and lyrics on the 12-track release, while the classically trained Michell composes the music. Opener “Long Division” sets the tone, and ASC also scores with “On Your Side,” “One Foot Out the Door,” “Oh Maria” and “The Hand That You Hold.”
‘A Million Stars'
Ashleigh Flynn (Home Perm)
Inspired by a watercolor painting by her young niece of a cowgirl astride her horse, singer/songwriter Ashleigh Flynn has crafted a near-perfect album in “A Million Stars.” There's a little something for everyone on the 12-track, 46-minute release as Flynn shows off her estimable gifts. Mainly a country record, there are elements of vintage jazz (“Prohibition Rose”), blues (“See That Light”), bluegrass (“Dirty Hands and Dirty Feet”) and much more. Additional keepers include “The Devil Called Your Name,” the title track, “Runnin',”Rainy Days” and “A Little Low.” And that painting? It serves as cover art. This one is an absolute delight.
‘The Bright Spots'
Randall Bramblett (New West)
First emerging on the Southern rock scene in the mid-1970s, Randall Bramblett spent 20 years as a member of jazz fusion group Sea Level and with the reunited Traffic before returning to his solo roots with 1998's “See Through Me.” Since then he can be counted on to deliver a quality record every three or four years and eighth full-length “The Bright Spots” is no exception. There's a pleasing grit in Bramblett's voice and he puts it to great use on “Every Saint,” “My Darling One,” “Whatever That Is,” “Trying to Steal a Minute” and “All Is Well.” Almost 40 years into his career, Bramblett shows no sign of slowing down.
‘Times & Places'
Andy Cato (Apollo)
Best known as half of British electronic dance duo Groove Armada, Andy Cato shows he's capable of functioning without pal Tom Findlay on “Times & Places,” an 18-song gathering of original material. Some of the songs date back almost 20 years and most were recorded on the road during Groove Armada tours. As you might expect, the collection is a little hit-or-miss. Tunes like “South of Mexico City,” “Abbey Road Jam,” “Moscow to St. Petersburg By Train,” “Lake of Stars,” “Palermo By Night” and “Rear Window” are quite compelling, while others (“Florence to Rome,” “Woodstock”) don't fare as well. At almost 72 minutes, “Times & Places” outstays it's welcome by about a half hour, but Cato is an undeniable talent.
The Phoenix Foundation (Memphis Industries)
Though the band has been together for 15 years, I was unaware of New Zealand space rockers the Phoenix Foundation until fifth full-length “Fandango” found its way to my desk. This is a good album from a solid band, but too much filler on the 78-minute slab prevents it from being an unqualified success. Kudos to the Foundation for letting its songs unfold organically, but too often it lets things linger a minute or two longer than they should. Other than 18-minute closer “Friendly Society,” a flat-out snoozefest, the rest of the album is worth some attention. Check out keepers “Black Mould,” “The Captain,” “Corale” and “Supernatural.”
‘In the Wake'
Tea Leaf Green (Greenhouse/Thirty Tigers)
Rootsy Northern California rock band Tea Leaf Green have been doing its thing since the late 1990s, but it's only been in the past couple years that I've come to appreciate its take on the jam band formula. TLG's 2011 release “Radio Tragedy!” was unexpectedly (at least for me) awesome and it continue its hot streak on the even-better “In the Wake.” Now a rock-solid five-piece, Tea Leaf Green shines on this 13-track release. Opener “Someday” may well be my favorite TLG tune to date, and the guys also score with “Penny Saved,” “All Our Love,” “One Condition's Enough,” “Don't Go” and “We Aren't Done.” Keep on keepin' on, guys.
‘Roots of My Raising'
The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band (Melody Roundup Music)
The rollicking “Roots of My Raising” is being billed as the debut album from the Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band, but the group's namesake has been a fixture on the scene for more than two decades. Gregory has a handful of solo albums to his credit — including last year's acclaimed “Too Much Ain't Enough” — and delivers another winner here with a twangy acoustic take on a dozen bluegrass and country classics, including his own “Crucifixion.” Among the highlights are the band's take on Carter Stanley's “How Mountain Girls Can Love,” Bill Browning's “Dark Hollow,” the timeless “Sittin' on Top of the World” and Earl Scruggs' “Somehow Tonight.” Enjoy, y'all.
Having cut their teeth as two-thirds of Australian indie rock trio Devastations, Conrad Standish and Tom Carlyon dabble in dub pop on their first release as Standish/Carlyon. “Deleted Scenes” is filled with electronic rhythms and atmosphere, though to be honest I like Devastations' music a whole lot more. Things get off to a tepid start with “Critics Multiply” and “Nono/Yoyo” before finding their groove on “Gucci Mountain,” “Industrial Resort” and “New People.” Unfortunately the bulk of the platter struggles to gain traction, resulting in an album that's kind of boring.
Pop Evil (eOne)
Michigan-based post-grunge rock band Pop Evil has been putting its spin on the sound of bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam for almost a decade and despite a handful of singles on the modern rock charts, remains just outside the mainstream. Fourth album “Onyx” is the follow-up to 2011's underwhelming ““War of Angels.” The 12-track release is a slight improvement, but that style of music just sounds so dated these days. Fans of the genre should dig keepers “Deal With the Devil,” “Torn to Pieces,” “Silence & Scars” and “Welcome to Reality,” but I doubt this record is going to win Pop Evil any new converts.
As someone who likes most of Polyvinyl's stable of artists, I was predisposed to enjoy the quirky indie rock/pop of newcomer Wampire. The duo of Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps has crafted an impressive debut in “Curiosity,” an enjoyable gathering of nine tunes. Things get off to a fast start with “The Hearse” and personal favorite “Orchards,” and Wampire additional scores with “Giants,” “I Can't See Why,” “Outta Money” and “Snacks.” Keep your eye out for Wampire. This young band is going places.
‘Say What You Mean'
Allison Weiss (No Sleep)
Don't be fooled by the upbeat melodies, catchy hooks and overall danceability of indie rocker Allison Weiss' latest album. Because as toe-tapping as the 10 songs that comprise “Say What You Mean Are” may be, Weiss has penned some heart-wrenching lyrics to accompany the bouncy melodies. The first words of opener “Making It Up” underscore the point as Weiss asks “Am I making It up? / Was it all in my mind// Were we ever in love?” Ouch. The contradiction between the music and lyrics works, though, with Weiss especially excellent on “One Way Love,” the title track, “How to Be Alone,” “Hole in Yr Heart” and “I'll Be Okay.” Keep on eye on this talented artist.
Futurebirds (Fat Possum)
Fans of bands like My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses — two of my current favorites, by the way — should run right out and find a copy of “Baba Yoga,” the stellar sophomore outing from Athens, Ga.-based country/psyche rock outfit Futurebirds. The fellas build on the promise of their 2010 “Hampton's Lullaby” debut and though the record is admittedly overstuffed at 66 minutes, most of the 13 songs are so darn good, you won't mind a bit. The one-two opening punch of “Virginia Slims” and “Serial Bowls” are spectacular, and Futurebirds soar high on “Tan Lines,” “Dig,” “Keith and Donna” and “St. Summercamp.”
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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