Tom Freund "Collapsible Plans" (Surf Road/Continental Song City)
"Having been on the scene for a couple of decades and having toured and recorded with the great and the good, it’s with this, his fourth solo venture, that Tom Freund seems to have painted his masterpiece. Produced by good friend Ben Harper who also contributes musically throughout (along with some guest appearances from Jackson Browne), there’s a rare and natural magic at work here.
Freund mines a consistently rich vein of thoughtful, considered and intelligent songwriting, complimented by some wonderful upright bass sounds, slide guitars, ukuleles and Wurlitzer organs, culminating in a rich, typically atmospheric, classic Americana mood.
With a voice that sometimes suggests Jeff Tweedy’s fractured & resigned emotive qualities and also a strong melodic sensibility, but with a warm tone all his own, Freund is a believable, witty and magnetic narrator. All drawing you into these wonderfully realised songs that all hang together expertly.
Without even a weak moment, never mind a weak song, through its blissfully enjoyable 40 minutes, "Collapsible Plans" often sails pretty close to whatever perfection might be like."
- Americana UK / December 2008 -
Stormin' Norman & Friends
"Asbury Park - Then & Now" (Ivory)
"The Story of Norman Seldin is truly the one of an Entrepreneur! As a young guy, not even old enough to drive or sign a check, he relied to his mother to drive him weekly to shows and concerts he promoted for adults and teenagers. Later on he had his own labels, production companies and much more all in favour of (mostly) black artists he promoted. Besides all that, Norman was also a musician not only was he the youngest American ever to join The American Federation of Musicians (at the age of 13) but he was always busy with his own bands as well. The list of people he worked with or had a musical connection with is extensive, to much to even start naming some of them! Amongst his tutors was even Tito Puente, who had a very busy schedule but somehow managed to get some free time to learn the young Norman the tricks!
Now for the very first time in history a spark of this genius is gathered on this new double CD 'Asbury Park - Then & Now' including 8 tracks that he recorded in 1980 (but never officially released) with Clarence Clemmons, Southside Johnny, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg and some others. As a matter of fact Clarence Clemmons was originally in Norman’s band but left early on to join Bruce Springsteen when both Springsteen & Seldin met each other in a battle of the bands (this was at the time of Castiles, the first band of Bruce Springsteen). But of course there is much more! Tracks from the Jaywalkers, tunes recorded with Tony Maples, the Soulset, the Uniques and many other local bands are featured here on this quite excellent album!
From early blues, over New Orleans Piano to R&B and Pure Rock and Roll 'Asbury Park - Then & Now' is a fine collection of all kinds of music, from the scene in New Jersey, and especially around Asbury Park. As must for music lovers in general!"
- BillyBop / November 2008 -
Jackson Browne "Time The Conqueror" (Inside Recordings)
"Jackson Browne is one of my biggest heroes, a daily companion for over 40 years. With songs like 'Take It Easy' he was one of those who shaped the West Coast-rock in the beginning of the 70's. And he's faithful to his ideals, both in form and content. Political strikes towards Bush (read Iraq and Katrina), is mixed with insightful philosphic reflections from everyday life. He and the band are sure of what they're doing, there's not one single note too many. When the music is swaying softly, the raspy voice and the pretty melodies, is at its very best."
- Corren / October 2008 -
Elliott Murphy "Notes From The Underground" (MuDi/Naxos)
"30 albums, maybe more. And still with something to say. Elliott Murphy could have chosen the path of replaying long ago. Tour after tour and a couple of CD's with new recordings of old favorites or concert albums. But oh no, the formula of content formed with the debut 'Aquashow' in the year of 1973 is still on. Modernized, renewed, reappraised, sure. But still, tales from a shadow underworld is exactly what it is, which gives the title of his new album the importance close to final accounts. However, the symbolism is most likely by chance, because 'Notes From The Underground' is definitely no final account. It's a very ordinary Elliott Murphy album, a couple of amazing tracks, a few even more amazing, some oddities, some experimental and a few so-so. But always with a good flow of words far from vanities.
Elliott Murphy has never been a 'born-to-run'-artist, his story-telling is more, I don't know what else, if not Central European. A bit of cabaret, a bit of avant-garde, a bit of 'Berlin in the 20's', united with rock, both the big city-heavy astride and the more blues-wrapped. This mix makes his albums into diversities, us listeners are thrown between different worlds and we easily fill up our notebooks with influences and origin. Sometimes trap doors open up in these variations, but if you sort it out a bit – a. k. a. skips the tracks that makes you yawn – his albums are treasures for anyone who enjoys literary word cascades. That's exactly what 'Notes From The Underground' is like."
- HiFi & Musik Magazine / September 2008 -
Fred Eaglesmith "Tinderbox" (Sonic Rendezvous)
"Since his previous album, 'Milly's Café', 2006, The veteran troubadour sounds like he's been mainlining Tom Waits' 'Mule Variations'. 'Tinderbox' is a compelling collection of gritty clapboard gospel ('I Pray Now'), noirish work songs ('Killing Me') and heartwrenchingly sentimental songs ('Light Brigade') about America gone to hell in a handcart, sung in a resonant, ragged-edged voice."
- Mojo Magazine / August 2008 -
Kristin Mooney "Hydroplane" (kristinmooney.com)
"Kristin Mooney is a talented singer-songwriter. Much more than that, she is a unique talent, a writer who gets right to the heart and soul of everyday lives, and with a distinctive voice makes each and avery vignette come alive for the listener. This is her third album - ('Living Alone' 1998 and 'Kristin Mooney' 2004) - shows that she's not exactly prolific. With this lady, quality comes before quantity - And she most certainly delivers the goods here. This is an album that criss-crosses country, Americana, folk, pop and so much more without owing allegiance to any. Highly recommended!"
- Maverick Magazine / July 2008 -
I See Hawks In L.A. "Hallowed Ground" (Big Book Records)
A superb ensemble with a serious pedigree in California's roots-rock scene - the band has links to Dave Alvin, Dwight Yoakam and Dillard & Clark - I See Hawks' work is a timely update of Blasters/Beat Farmers heart-on-sleeve populism. On 'Hallowed Ground' singer-songwriter Rob Waller has a great feel for a kind of burned-out, post-apocalypse American landscape evidenced by the sparkling , world-weary ballad 'Highway Down', and the percolating 'Ever Since The Grid Went Down' ('I killed a man for batteries', he sings). 'Yolo County Airport', a scorching Chuck Berryesque tale, highlights a very strong effort!"
- Uncut Magazine / June 2008 -
The Los Dos Bros "Songs For Feeling Strong" (Adventure Pop)
"The Los Dos Bros is already somewhat of a hype in the US. On the West Coast, they're already playing arenas as large as The Fillmore in San Fransisco.
Over here, the single ”Wide Open” has just begun being played by radio, and this Californian duo's slightly naivistic pop, with elements of orchestral instruments as well as big choirs, truly deserves the attention. One part Velvet Underground, and a whole lot of modern indie.
As a matter of fact, the sound could be compared to our own Swedish band, Ingenting.
Quite careless, but captivating, and, at times, quite genius!"
- Red Hot Rock Magazine / May 2008 -
Joel Rafael, Release Party, Thousand Oaks, 25.04.08
"Last week's Joel Rafael CD Release Party in Thousand Oaks, California was a great show, highlighted by a guest appearance by Graham Nash on vocals and harmonica. Joel had an exceptionally talented band backing him including Radoslav Lorkovic (Jimmy LaFave's band) on an incredible sounding baby grand piano, Mark Shark (John Trudell's band) on guitar, and Jamaica Rafael on harmony vocals for several songs. Lots of great artists in the audience too, including Kenny Edwards and Severin Browne.
Joel can sing anything and make it sound warm and soulful, but it doesn't hurt that he's a master songwriter and writes some truly great material. All of the songs from the evening - except the first one - were from his new CD, which has been getting constant play in our home over the past few weeks. Here's the set list:
1. Ballad of Bellingham
2. Ball & Chain
3. Rich Man's War (the Steve Earle song)
4. I Ought To Know (the Jack Hardy song)
5. Dancing To The Drum
6. Open Up Your Heart
7. Wild Honey
8. This Is My Country (with Graham Nash)
9. Song Of Sacrates
10. Time Stands Still
11. Promised Land
Jamaica Rafael opened the evening with a short set of her own songs. I've seen her perform with her father many times over the years, but had never seen her do a set of her own music before. Jamaica played guitar and piano, but did not bring out her violin. (She's working on her own CD for possible release later this year.) That's one talented family...
Graham Nash's appearance was a huge surprise for the audience. He and David Crosby sing on "This Is My Country" on the CD and you could tell he was really into the song - even mouthing the lyrics he wasn't singing. He definitely injected some energy and spirit into the set with his harmonica, singing harmony on the chorus and lead vocals for one verse.
Overall, a very good concert. Everyone I talked with had a great time and really enjoyed the music. CD sales were brisk. (Joel Rafael's new CD is called 'THIRTEEN STORIES HIGH' and was released on Inside Recordings, which is Jackson Browne's label. Jackson wasn't there because he was in the studio working on his own new CD, which he hopes to have out this fall.)
Do be sure to check out Joel Rafael's video for 'This Is My Country' which can be found in the Top 100 on Neil Young's 'Living With War' website:
"Very, very powerful stuff."
- JRP Graphics / April 2008 -
Ted Russell Kamp "Divisadero" (Pomo Records)
"Kamp musters all his forces to produce a sumptuous blend of americana, country-rock and inspired song-smithery on his new album. A thoroughly consisent collection of songs that wouldn't sound out of place in the Steve Earle-songbook, Kamp has a real knack for composing believable story songs, so much so that it's difficult to choose the choice cuts.
The autobiographical 'Music Is My Mistress'. the engrossing heartbreak tale 'Gypsy's Tune', the plaintive pedal-steel colored 'Looking For Someone', the strutting funky country sass of 'Better Before You Were Big Time', and the gloriously compelling stripped-back mandolin and voice of closer 'The Road Keeps Getting Longer' are all serious contenders for contemporary classic status.
One word; Discover!"
- Rock'N'Reel Magazine / March 2008 -
Rachael Sage "The Blistering Sun" (MPress Records)
"As a woman in tutu, bangles and other fancy stuff, who sits at a piano singing high, bright and agile, Rachael Sage attracts easy Kate Bush/Tori Amos comparisions, but 'The Blistering Sun' deliver a warm intelligent voice of her own. Inspired by notably non-girlish Elvis Costello, and backed by brilliant East Village friends of Rufus, Antony and such, Sage hits somewhere between the bedsit, and the cellarful of noise and it does you really good!"
- Mojo Magazine / February 2008 -
Jewly Hight "Darlin' Understand" (Me & My Chauffeur)
"Jewly Hight's day job is being a music writer, but don't let that put you off, as on the transference of talent scale she's much nearer Neil Tennant than, say, Will Hodgikinson. In fact, one of the most surprising things about her debut album is that it's released independently, as it's a lot better than much of the music put out by any number of record labels.
Hight's music is as Southern as it comes, whether it's the slow brooding of 'White Knuckles' or the title track, both of which display the heavy influence of Lucinda Williams, as indeed does much of the album. 'Junebug' is a nice slice of Tennessee country with a lolloping, lilting chorus, and 'Knockin's' urgent driving beat gets the feet tapping and the body shaking.
To (mis)coin an old phrase; Do give up the day job, we need more of this music!"
- Maverick Magazine / January 2008 -
The Red Button "She's About To Cross My Mind" (Grimble)
"I knew the first time I heard this disc that it would top my list of the year. Like anyone who manages to live as long as I have, the 60's were a magical time. Not just because of the Beatles and their contemporaries, but because a generation was given the chance to sink or swim on its own. Turns out a life preserver was a handy thing to have more often than not, but we made it to shore. Before we even thought about food or shelter, though, we searched for a place to plug in our music. That decade turned out more classic music than any before or since.
But like anything we get in great supply and devour we still want more. This one off album is that one more album from the sixties that we have craved since the decade finally ended in 1973 with the release of "Dark Side Of The Moon." It's an intentional valentine to the era, most specifically the British Invasion aspect. It soars where it should have crashed and endures where it should have been forgotten after a couple of listens. The reason is simple: the affection for the music comes through not as a tribute, but as an extension of its origins. The lyrics and the melodies drift from the speakers like songs you already know but just forgot about. They never once wink at the crowd, roll their eyes or step off the high wire. This past year contained over half a million minutes (if my calculations are correct or even close). This single disc was responsible for the best thirty three I heard. Now it's your turn."
- Village Records / December 2007 -