Texas Never Whispers and Johnny Stanec

Texas Never Whispers

Texas Never Whispers “Texas Never Whispers”

Local Austin TX musical veterans like vocalist Tim Regan (Oh No! Oh My!), Dave Quanbury (Twilight Hotel) and bassist Daniel Wilcox (The Ugly Beats) deliver a mature take on Texas-spun indie rock that compares well with Wilco and Old 97s.  Although the band’s name comes from an old Pavement song, the sound is pure melodic alt. country. The album concept is a reminiscence of a past relationship through several songs.

“Record Shop” is an understated opener that leads to the piano blues on “Be Your Man.” It’s all a slow but still compelling on “Midnight Companion” and the ballad “Nashville.” The tempo picks up with the single “Always Drunk” about a sweetie that’s drunk on “poetry or wine,” and then ups the twang on the melodic “Tennessee Memories,” about the “faded echoes” of the protagonist’s romance. A hint of John Lennon’s piano peeks out from “Generous Gambler” and the wonderful melody on “Friends” is another winner. A really fine album that deserves to be heard.

Amazon

Johnny Stanec

Johnny Stanec “No Horizon”

Johnny Stanec (First in Space) returns with a confessional, mainly acoustic album that stands in direct contrast to his rock n’ roll band. The easy strum of “Let it Slip Away” grows into a repeatable chorus, and the solid “The Trouble With Spies” recall the late ’90s Toad The Wet Sprocket in spots. This album relies more on Johnny’s confident vocals to carry things, and the production is more stripped down than previous solo efforts.

“Until The Dawn” is one of his better ballads, and the poppiest effort here is the upbeat “Love, Life and The Chances We Missed.” Stanec certainly proves he’s versatile with the poignant “Winter’s Song” and “End of Days.” Give it a try.

Amazon

Read More

Rediscover: The Knack

The Knack

When it comes to power pop in the 1980’s your starting points are usually The Plimsouls, The Beat and The Knack. Guitarist and singer Doug Fieger teamed up with drummer Bruce Gary, bassist Prescott Niles and guitarist Berton Averre to form The Knack in 1977. They played clubs all year and built up a huge following, including famous fans like Tom Petty, Stephen Stills and Bruce Springsteen. When the record companies came calling it was only a matter of time before “My Sharona” became the biggest single of 1979 and The Knack put on top so fast, Get The Knack spent 5 weeks at #1 and is one of the most successful debut albums in history. But the backlash was almost as swift. But after the death of John Lennon, the band felt it had more to say, and The Knack had a comeback of sorts in 1989. Thanks to the folks at Omnivore Records these final album have been remastered and expanded for 2015.

“Zoom”

Reuniting with drummer Terry Bozzio, Fieger and Averre were re-energized on Zoom. The songwriting was the tightest since Get The Knack, and “My Sharona” charted again thanks to the film Reality Bites. Starting with “Pop Is Dead,” it dramatically tells how the band’s fame “burst your bubble.” “Can I Borrow A Kiss” and “Smilin’” are shimmering examples of power pop, “Ambition” stands out as a single that’s as good as their debut, and even when the band moves into more mature pop like “Everything I Do” its the brilliant songwriting that makes this entire album a keeper.
Amazon

“Normal As The Next Guy”

While not as consistent as Zoom, the bands last studio album still has some gems; “Disillusion Town” is pretty much the emotions of a band that knows it’s not bound to “top of the charts” again.  The sense of resignation on some songs is apparent, but the ballads are what stand out like “Girl I Never Lied To You” and “Reason To Live.” A very touching Beach Boys homage “The Man On The Beach” (written by guitarist Berton Averre) is another big standout. Normal as the Next Guy shows us a glimpse of what a mature Knack sounded like.
Amazon

“Live from the Rock ‘N Roll Fun House”

This clean sounding concert documents just how important the Knack were in the evolution of millennial guitar pop music. The singing and playing are perfectly done, sounding as fresh as it did when Get The Knack first rolled out.. It features a treasure trove of songs from the bands earlier albums and sets great example of a band going out “on top.”
Amazon

Read More

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil and The Webstirs

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil

Steve Robinson & Ed Woltil “Cycle”

Steve Robinson, a transplanted Englishman (ex-Roger McGuinn, and the folk band The Headlights) teamed up with Ed Woltil of The Ditchflowers for the soulful Cycle. Add Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks and guitarist Dave Gregory (XTC) amongst the guests here and you’ve got the makings of a stellar album. The catchy “Love Somebody” is an optimistic gem with violin accents added to the combination of electric guitars and acoustic strumming.

You hear some of Gregory’s influence in the pastoral “Wake Up Dreaming” and “Boy From Down The Hill.” The smart composition “Elastic Man” is a lush bit of psyche-pop, and “Godspeed” follows the joyful lyric “the sun will rise, you’ll open your eyes.” There is enough of a folk flavoring injected the songs to keep them grounded, and not too polished. “Wintersleeping” is an especially good mix of melodic chords and poetic lyrics. Woltil’s “Who You Are” and Robinson’s “Butterflies” both slow the tempo to acoustic lullabies. No filler to be found here, overall its like a musical shot of happiness with the overall theme “Seize The Day”. Simply beautiful and very highly recommended.


Amazon | CD Baby


The Webstirs

The Webstirs “Now You’ve Really Done It”

Chicago’s Webstirs have returned after a long pause, and again they still hit all the right notes. Preston Pisellini (guitars/vocals) and Mark Winkler (keyboards/vocals) are joined by longtime collaborator Matt Allison (Alkaline Trio).

Still catchy and upbeat, the songs have a darker edge than previous albums. “Saving The World” is a heroic theme about weekend warriors (armed with Mexican guns) saving the world. “Farther You Can Fall” is another terrific arrangement with a call and response chorus. “Answers” is a dramatic gem that layers guitars across the piano melody. The sobering “Easier By Now” fits into the theme of “live for today” being cold advice to ease life’s pain and its the centerpiece of the album, with a blistering guitar break between the main chorus.

“Ghosts” is a lushly produced piano-guitar combo that sounds like a mix of Billy Joel and The Barenaked Ladies. The band also addresses local history with “Haymarket Riot.” Finally “Chasing the Sound” is a grand tribute to the band’s longtime engineer Gary Rogers, who passed away in 2009. Overall a great album that deserves to be heard and proof that The Webstirs talent continues to thrive. Highly Recommended.

Amazon

Read More

The Connection and The Wellgreen

The Connection

The Connection “Labor Of Love”

The Connection are back and better than ever. Actually, Geoff Palmer and Brad Marino are remarkably consistent with the hit sound that powered their last LP Let It Rock. Once again we get fast tempos, hook-filled melodies and Rickenbacker guitars starting with the title track that pays tribute to Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and the spirit of pub rockers everywhere.

The band has a knack for taking a classic ’60s mod rock sound and updating it for modern listeners. There is not much else to say other than there are plenty of highlights:  “So Easy” and “Pathetic Kind of Man” are catchy hit singles, The Rolling Stones sounds like an stronger influence on “Circles” and “You Ain’t Special.” There even is a bit of honky tonk twang on “Let The Jukebox Take Me” and take-no-prisoners punk pop on “Red, White & Blue.”

No filler to be found here, and kudos from both Little Steven Van Zandt and former Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham make this another easy addition to your potential top ten for 2015. Long live The Connection!

Amazon

The Connection

The Wellgreen “Summer Rain”

The Wellgreen are a wonderful Glasglow band that have a piano based sound very similar to The Left Banke. Their last album release Grin and Bear It was put out by another label, and this album has a few repeated songs from earlier releases, but for this review I’m sticking with the digital release Summer Rain. Maybe this is a Wellgreen greatest hits?

I’ll put up with a little confusion because this is simply great pop. “Summer Rain” is a very ’60s styled single, but the building melody of “Maybe It’s The Pressure Of The City Life That’s Tearing Us Apart” is truly great with impeccable harmonies. “Jennifer” once again dazzles with its yearning melody. “Sunday” and “Remember” are Beatles styled songs that will charm you for sure. “Grin and Bear It” has a Beach Boys party atmosphere, and a “Impossible Love” has a James Taylor vibe. While not everything hits the mark, enough does to make it a highly recommended album.

Grin and Bear It | Summer Rain

Read More

Chris Squire: One of rock’s greatest bass players

Chris Squire was an English musician, songwriter and singer, best known as the bassist and backing vocalist for the progressive rock band Yes. He was the only member to appear on each of their 21 studio albums, released from 1969 to 2014.

Chris lost his battle with acute erythroid leukemia (a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow) in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. Fellow band members of Yes say he was a part of their family as well as their friend. Rest in peace, Chris.

Read More