Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Carly Jamison’s New Album Happened for a Reason

Carly Jamison is tough and fearless and funny as hell sometimes too. What a breath of fresh air – in a world of wussy waifs and wannabe Jersey Shore skanks, she’s a rare individual voice making smart, accessible, kick-ass Americana-flavored rock. Whether she’s pissed off, or daring you to do something, or cracking a joke, she sings low and confident, casual and conversational. The conversation might go something like this: “Don’t fuck with me.” Her new album Everything Happens for a Reason has to be one of the best driving albums of recent years – it’ll keep you awake on the way to work, and bring you back to life on the way home. It sounds like a vinyl record, like one of those great Georgia Satellites records from the 80s – that fat backbeat, that whiplash snare drum sound, the way the bass rises as the chorus kicks in and all that kick-ass Stonesy guitar. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Dan Baird of the Satellites (and the Yayhoos) plays guitar here, and he might be even better now than he was then.

The opening track, Bring It On sets the stage nonchalantly with scorching layers of guitar, Jamison coyly sliding up to her notes. As is the case throughout this album, the little touches mean a lot – the drum break just before the end, a slide up on the bass and some tremolo-picking from Baird in the distance as it fades. Doubt – as in “there ain’t no doubt” – works a John Fogerty swamp-blues hook and neat layers of acoustic and electric guitars, the first of several kiss-off anthems. “What doesn’t kill us makes me stronger, and I’ve been through many worse things than this,” Jamison asserts knowingly. The classic, a song that needed to be written, is Ask Me If I Give a Shit, the kiss-off song to end all kiss-off songs. “I’ll look into your eyes and tell you where to go,” Jamison sings practically in a murmur, and it just gets better and better from there. A string section with a woozy phaser effect kicks off The One with You, which might be a cheating song, or it could just be a regret song, Baird again putting the rubber to the road with those big, simple, turbocharged riffs.

The mostly acoustic Hills of Jericho chronicles teenage lust triumphing over conformity, with nice high harmonies by Joslyn Ford-Keel: “I once believed in all their stories, I once believed in all their lies,” Jamison admits, but she doesn’t anymore. Self-Consumed is another go-to-hell number, this one for a selfcentered jerk, anchored by some wry baritone guitar. A Stonesy stomp, Look Where It’s Coming From is a dis aimed at a big bullshitter; No Control Anymore starts out tense and acoustic, threatening to fly off the hinges at any second, and when the electric guitars kick in on the chorus it’s soooo satisfying.

After the reverb-drenched honkytonk blues This Big Old Bottle, the album ends with what should be the single, Dreaming, an Orbisonesque noir tremolo-pop song with some tasty violin textures as it builds. It’s simple enough to fool the programmers, real enough to sink its hooks into you and not let go. Maybe this can be Jamison’s sneak attack on country radio – country radio is rock now after all, and it’s overdue for an antidote to all those Shania Twain wannabes. A self-taught musician and songwriter based in New York, Jamison seems more of a creature of the studio than a live performer; here’s hoping this album gets her songs the exposure they deserve.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Patricia Vonne’s New Album Is Worth It and Then Some

Proof that sometimes good things happen to good songwriters. Here in most of the US, Patricia Vonne is ironically best known as an actress who’s made frequent appearances in her brother Roberto Rodriguez’s films. But in Europe and her native Texas, she’s a bonafide star. Her latest and fourth cd Worth It should help spread the word to those not already in the know. Her unaffectedly throaty wail soars intensely and passionately over rich, lushly interwoven layers of guitars that often evoke great Australian art-rockers the Church, but with a disquieting, often hallucinatory southwestern edge. This album is a showcase not only for Vonne’s voice but for Robert LaRoche’s terrifically anthemic, vibrant rhythm and lead guitar- he’s sort of a border-rock version of Keith Richards – along with Rick Del Castillo on guitars, Scott Garber on bass, Dony Wynn on drums and cameos from Rosie Flores, Joe Ely and songwriter Darin Murphy.

The title track opens the album, an edgy, swinging backbeat janglerock anthem that lends a sympathetic ear to the tormented visions of a homeless drug addict. It’s something akin to what the early Pretenders might have sounded like if Chrissie Hynde had grown up in Austin rather than Akron. The no-nonsense, blues-tinged Cut from the Same Cloth is a co-write with Flores, a similarly-minded, edgy Tejana. A gothic flamenco rock en Español shuffle, Fuente Vaqueros evokes the region in Grenada, Spain where Frederico Garcia Lorca famously first saw the light of day.

Vonne maintains the drama and suspense with Castle Walls, muting the flamenco intensity a little by turning  it over to the drums, and then to an incisively bluesy Joe Reyes guitar solo. A new spin on an old myth, El Marinero y La Sirena has Del Castillo’s pointillistic nylon-string guitar mingling hypnotically and eerily with Carl Thiel’s insistent piano. The big concert favorite Love Is a Bounty hitches a swaying country beat and lonesome, bucolic Murphy harmonica to biting, bluesy rock; La Lomita de Santa Cruz, just Vonne’s voice and LaRoche’s reverb-drenched guitar, is a bitter tale of drought and doom.

There’s also a couple of big, terse, tension-driven janglerock anthems along with Cowskulls and Ghosttowns, a blazing Georgia Satellites-style musclecar rocker gone goth, and the wry, cynically amusing backbeat rock anthem Gin and Platonic with her old New York band featuring Kirk Brewster on lead guitar, Scott Yoder on bass and Eddie Zweiback on drums. Yet another great album by one of this era’s finest and most original songwriters in Americana and rock en Español.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 6/14/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Sunday’s song is #409:

The Sloe Guns – Guardian Angel

One of the most beautifully savage kiss-off anthems ever written, by these fiery two-guitar New York Americana rockers, from their 2004 cd Last Will & Testament, still a staple of their reliably bracing live show. “You’d never stab me in the back, unless you thought that I deserved it.” They’re playing Arlene’s on 6/27 at 10 PM.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 10/9/08

…counting them down from #666, one a day, just like vitamins, til we get to #1. Today’s song: #656.

The Blend – The Prize

An uncharacteristically gripping southern rock epic from 1979 by the only New Hampshire band not named Aerosmith ever signed to a major label. Ominous psychedelic intro, ostentatiously bluesy guitar throughout and a long, sizzling twin guitar solo out that beats anything Molly Hatchet ever dreamed of. As it turns out, when the hunter finally tracks down the bear, he doesn’t shoot! “What a lovely creature! How could you kill him, my friend?” The only available files appear to be on youtube, including a good live take from the band’s final show (possibly the last song they ever played together). Originally on the Blend’s second and final MCA album Anytime Delight: check the dollar bins at your used vinyl place. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the lp also contains also the brief, catchy, sarcastic anti-nuclear power anthem For Crying Out Loud.  

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Sloe Guns – The Sun Sessions

Absolute hubris, right down to the cd packaging. Luckily the songs on this potently twangy NYC band’s third release have the muscle to stake a claim to a place in the Americana rock pantheon. The Sloe Guns’ new cd opens auspiciously with the slowly unwinding anthem Wild Sun, a majestically climactic number that bears some resemblance to the Wallflowers’ classic Sixth Avenue Heartache. Driven by lead player Mick Izzo’s searing slide guitar and anchored by Hammond organ, it’s a beautifully troubled song. The band has thoroughly thrashed the cd’s next tune, Try, in live shows for over a year and it’s evolved into a catchy number that evokes early Wilco, with an unexpected modulation toward the end. Nice barrelhouse piano from studio keyboardist Patience Clements. The ep concludes with Into the Sun (Sun Sessions – now you get it, right?), a stomping R&B-inflected number that sounds like something off of Aftermath by the Stones, but produced with care on fat-sounding two-inch tape. The Sloe Guns are a dynamite live band: when frontman Eric Alter trades off licks on his Telecaster against Izzo’s Les Paul riffage, it’s nothing short of exhilarating. See them if you’re into this kind of stuff. CD’s are extremely inexpensive, available online and at shows. The Sloe Guns play the Mean Fiddler at 10 PM on Sat May 5.

May 3, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment