Advance copy: Here come the bands
March means loads of concerts throughout the valley. And concerts means musicians pushing their latest recorded efforts.Following are reviews of recent CDs by acts coming through in the weeks ahead.Tishamingo, “Wear n’ Tear”produced by David Barbe and Tishamingo (Magnatude Records)Southern rock is a deep, deep well, still yielding powerful, and sometimes even original, sounds. On their second CD, Georgia’s Tishamingo – featuring former Aspenite Cameron Williams on vocals and guitar – shows plenty of power, and a few flashes of originality. The twin-guitar attack, with liberal use of the slide, pounding rhythms and blues-soaked themes, are instantly reminiscent of the Southern rock greats.Tishamingo has the formula down pat on “Hillbilly Wine.” There are echoes of Widespread Panic in the vocal tone, the guitar arrangements suggest the Marshall Tucker Band, and the jazz-touched instrumental break comes out of the Allman Brothers’ book. Not until the fourth track, “Magic,” does the band discover territory all its own, a slow and spacy blues-jazz groove, and they explore further on “Billy,” with its distinctive use of harmony vocals.Tishamingo plays Sunday, March 13, at the Belly Up, with Clarence Bucaro opening.
The Mammals, “Rock That Babe”produced by Max Feldman and the Mammals (Signature Sounds)The Mammals have “historical artifact” written all over them. The five-piece group is based in Woodstock, N.Y. Its leader singer/string-player Tao Rodriguez also goes by the name Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, and his grandfather is old folkie Pete Seeger. The band here covers Pete’s slooow but hopeful “Quite Early Morning,” and also sets an Allan Ginsberg poem, “Lay Down Yr Mountain,” to music. And the Mammals specialize in acoustic string music, a style that tends to be well-rooted in the past.For all that, “Rock That Babe” is noticeably fresh-sounding. Like a good folk-leaning band, the Mammals get political here. But they’re politics don’t reach back to the old Bull Moose party or the labor movement of the 1920s. On the very funny, even rocking “The Bush Boys,” the band pokes George W. – and by association, al the wealthy and well-connected – in the eye with a sharp stick. “Hush little baby don’t you cry,” they sing, in language that harks back a few decades, “Daddy’s gonna buy you an alibi / If that alibi don’t work, daddy’s gonna bribe the county clerk / If that county clerk don’t budge, daddy’s got Congress on his side.”The Mammals have fondness for the ancient on the medley “Reel du Bébé Gâté / Hellgate,” with crack fiddler Ruth Ungar making sure the sound is sharp, not moldy. But they show their versatility with a spellbinding take on Compay Segundo’s “Chan Chan,” which some might recognize as the opening tune on the popular “Buena Vista Social Club” CD.The Mammals play Saturday, March 12, at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School barn, in a show presented by KDNK.The Prodigals, “Beachland Bootleg”produced by Howie Beno (Grab)On “Beachland Bootleg,” recorded live at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom, the Irish-bred, New York-based Prodigals add the ferocity of punk to Celtic rock. The rhythm section of drummer Eamon Ellams and bassist Andrew Harkin pounds the beats while singer-accordionist Gregory Grene stamps an Irish accent all over songs like “Quart of Gin” and “Chelsea 3am.” When the band moves into a slower mode, as on “One Great Love,” it’s hard to avoid the temptation to fast forward to the next rocker. Subtlety isn’t the band’s strength. But then, that’s not a quality that will be in high demand when the Prodigals make their Aspen debut on St. Patrick’s Day.The Prodigals play in the Aspen Skiing Company’s Hi-fi Concert series Thursday, March 17, on Snowmass Mountain.
Better Than Ezra”Live at House of Blues, New Orleans”(Sanctuary)Unlike many instant-success rock acts, Louisiana trio Better Than Ezra survived the quick popularity that came with their 1995 debut “Deluxe.” The threesome, led by singer-guitarist Kevin Griffin, revisits the two hits – “Good” and “Rosealia” – that propelled them to brief stardom. But there’s plenty more on this live album, recorded in their hometown. “Rolling” and “Get You In,” both from the 2001 CD “Closer,” are catchy pop-rockers that add keyboards to Better Than Ezra’s typical guitar-bass-drums sound. “King of New Orleans,” from their second album, “Friction, Baby,” shows a harder-edged side, all hard-hit power chords, and it’s not bad. “Rosealia,” which gets extended play, remains a fine example of rock ‘n’ roll.”Live at the House of Blues” closes with a glimpse of the future, and proof that Better Than Ezra’s run will extend into a second decade. The album features a pair of bonus studio tracks – one of which, “Stall,” demonstrates a possible more modern direction – that are to be included on the band’s next CD, “Before the Robots,” set for release April 26. And a greatest hits album is due out this week.Better Than Ezra plays at the Belly Up March 22.
Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers, “Corvidae”produced by Myshkin and Sugar Shortwave (DoubleSalt Records)Myshkin, the lead singer and guitarist of Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers, sings in an style that evokes the great female torch singers of the past, yet is all her own. Touched by an alt-country sensibility, Myshkin brings a dark intimacy to the 11 affecting original songs on “Corvidae.” The Ruby Warblers, led by multi-instrumentalist Sailor Banks and featuring occasional string-section flourishes, provide an arty backing that crosses from blues to gypsy. But it is Myshkin’s poetic, insistent voice that compels listening to “Cordivae.” Fans of Patricia Barber, Ani DiFranco and Madeleine Peyroux should pay attention; those who favor the sunnier outlook of Norah Jones might want to keep their distance.Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers are at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale on April 22.The Beatles, “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1″(Apple/Capitol)The closest I’ll come to seeing the Beatles is standing in the checkout line at Clark’s Market with Ringo Starr – which actually happened a few weeks ago. Before he had the privilege of being thoroughly accosted, he had moved over a few lanes to checkout with his wife. But “1964 … The Tribute,” a reenactment of an early-era Beatles show, returns to the Wheeler Opera House this weekend.Matching that mood is “The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1.” The box set includes the lads’ first four U.S. albums: “Meet the Beatles!” “The Beatles’ Second Album,” “Something New” and “Beatles ’65.” Each CD features the original albums in both stereo and mono versions. The reproduction, from the original masters, is excellent. The music, while it hasn’t endured quite the way the later masterpieces have, manages to convey its groundbreaking essence: John screaming on “Slow Down,” the somberness of Paul’s “Things We Said Today,” the memorable guitar melody of “And I Love Her,” the postmodern introspection of “I’m a Loser,” the gorgeous, earnest harmonies of “If I Fell.”The packaging is a mixed bag. The cover looks like something you’d find on late-night TV. The mechanics of the package itself are impossibly clumsy; the CDs inevitably spill out. The booklet is full of vintage photos, and a lesser collection of band quotes from the period. The text briefly explains why all four of the albums were released in the U.S. in 1964; EMI was hesitant to introduce the band stateside because, pre-Beatles, there was virtually no American market for British music. The best part of the package is the reproduction of the original album covers on each CD jacket.1964 … The Tribute is at the Wheeler Opera House Saturday and Sunday, March 12-13.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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