Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Craig Chesler’s New One

Craig Chesler’s main gig is rhythm guitarist in Tom Clark & the High Action Boys, one of the best roots-rock bands anywhere. He’s also been a fixture on the New York oldtimey scene for awhile. This cd gives him the chance to show off not only his clever, often tongue-in-cheek grasp of several Americana styles along with several richly evocative takes on 1960s British psychedelic pop: fans of second-generation bands like XTC, Love Camp 7 and Brian Jonestown Massacre ought to get the references. It reminds somewhat of a recent album by another A-list NYC sideman, Homeboy Steve Antonakis’ solo effort. In a way, this is sort of an audition reel that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this guy knows a whole bunch of different genres inside out and plays them with taste and a good sense of humor.

The best song on the album is the brisk Nothing Out of Something, sounding like an early 70s Ray Davies country song. Likewise, the wistful This Should Be My Summertime wouldn’t have been out of place on the Kinks’ Village Green. The one cover here is an aptly rapt version of Beautiful Night by Amy Allison. The rest of the cd includes – are you ready? – a shuffle like Wilco in an especially poppy mood; an oldtimey crooner song with ukelele and a string section; a similar one with more of a hillbilly feel; some shuffling 60s Britpop like the early Move; a stagy glampop song that could have been a radio hit for Queen; a bizarre, swinging piano pop song with a long break for solo ukelele; more proto-glampop; more oldtimey crooner stuff;and the rueful ballad with harmonies straight out of ELO that closes the album on a lushly pretty note.

Chesler plays the cd release show for this one at Banjo Jim’s on Jan 23 with Amy Allison opening the show at 8; seemingly half of the good musicians in town are on the bill with Chesler afterward. Memo to the musician re: the album title – dude, what were you thinking?

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January 17, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tom Shaner Live at Lakeside, NYC 1/18/08

Tom Shaner has been playing weekends at Lakeside a lot lately, which is a great place for him. He writes subtle, catchy, generally upbeat and very smart Americana-inflected janglerock, sounding something like the Jayhawks without the melancholy or Steve Wynn in a breezy moment. With his old band Industrial Tepee he ventured into a lot of Southerwestern gothic, and there’s still plenty of that in his writing. His more upbeat songs generally have more focus than his slower, meandering stuff. He sings in a casual, conversational voice and gets great press: he needs this review like a hole in the head. But you should get to know him. Shaner was one of the many great mysteries in this city this evening, when hordes of people were willing to drop thirty bucks to see the latest poser du jour at the Gramercy or Webster Hall, while Shaner played to a midsize crowd, for free, in the back room at Lakeside. Some things just don’t make sense.

He and his backing trio opened with the bouncy Sister Satellite, dating from his Industrial Tepee days, lead guitarist Tom Clark taking a gorgeously clanging, tremolo-filled solo that was an omen of even better things to come. Shaner then did a couple of newer numbers set to a reggae beat. The drummer seemed unrehearsed, and obviously the one-drop is not his thing, but he was game, building to a tasty Jim White-style eighth-note crescendo, running all the way around the kit on the first of the two songs.

Gathered away from the stage were a gaggle of ex-sorority types, their lacrosse muscles gone to fat, eyeing Shaner like cats in a butcher shop. “You can’t be louder than the band, that’s rule number one,” Shaner gently admonished the crowd, but the posse of trendoids around the Ms. Pacman machine were oblivious as the band launched into the quietly swaying, countryish Industrial Tepee lament Rosalie. A lot of New York artists lately have been writing some pretty excoriating anti-trendoid songs, and the new one Shaner and band played tonight – perhaps titled She’s an Everyday Hipster – was subtler than most, quietly railing against the “parade of drama queens” surrounding some nameless indie rock diva.

On the fast, driving Waiting for You, Clark took the first of two blistering, spectacularly fast solos, the most potently adrenalizing display of musicianship we’ve seen all year. The band closed with Industrial Tepee’s big crowd-pleaser, Groove Queen, a ridiculously catchy, bluesy number that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Wallflowers’ first album (i.e. their really good one). That this guy isn’t a household name testifies to the sad state of the music business, not to mention what’s happened to the music scene here in recent years. At least the guys at Lakeside get it.

January 19, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment