Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Riverrock Midwest Man Hannah Records 1980

Riverrock Midwest Man Hannah Records 1980 CAT#HR2101

So, all over the US, there are these pockets of country/bluegrass scenes that exist in retaliation to the continued destruction of Country music in Nashville.  This started happening heavily in the 1970's and continues to this day.  Sure, there was the Outlaw scene that was prominent in the 70's and 80's as well as the buzz of Alt. Country in the 90's and 00's, but there has always been a steady stream of regional country music that has nothing to do with the pappy-crap put out by the Nashville machine.  These regional scenes are worth looking into, they're rooted in tradition and continue to follow in the footsteps of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Flatt & Scruggs.  They don't follow the rules of Nashville and could care less about the current Country charts.

Riverrock used to be one of those bands in the late 70's in the Kansas City area, then they did this.  They traveled to Nashville and did this album at a studio called, "The Sound Shop."  I assume in an attempt to reach commercial success.  They did obtain some marginal local radio play according to their website with this LP, but at what price?  This is terrible.  It's uber-slick and polished, it has everything to do with Kenny Rogers and nothing to do with Hank Williams.  I mean seriously, it was recorded at a place called "The Sound Shop."  Like you could just go in, grab a number, wait in line and come out with something that sounds like every other half-hearted piece of crap that was coming out of Nashville (and still is).

The band seems to pride themselves on this release, they even did a special 30 year reunion CD some a while back.  I don't know, the slickness of it all just turns me off, you can't seriously call it Country's Country-influenced Pop music.  Just would have thought with the obvious Bluegrass roots found on Riverrock's previous albums, Texas, would have been the place to find a producer...but, in Nashville there's plenty of people willing to take your money and give you watered down production.  Props for giving it a go, though, I just can't enjoy the results.

The Only Children Change of Living Art of the Underground 2004 (2007)

The Only Children Change of Living Art of the Underground 2004 (2007) AOTU #044

Been trying to get into this album recently.  I really enjoy Josh Berwanger's new LP, thought I should give this another try as it represents his work immediately following the breakup of the Anniversary.  Unfortunately, I didn't miss any power pop gems on this LP, it's still a failed attempt at Country Rock.

The vinyl release of this came on a putrid brown and yellow swirl combo and was limited to 500 copies.  It also came out 3 years after the album was released on CD.  I haven't dug it out in such a long time that I kind of forgot I had it.  The band features the previously mentioned Berwanger, Christian Jankowski on drums, and James David on bass from the Anniversary.  Also features Heidi-Lynne Gluck, who is Canadian and was part of the group Some Girls.  Kansas Citian, T.K. Webb rounds out the lineup on guitar.  The best part about the album is that it features T.K. Webb on guitar.  He's the only one who's able to sound genuine throughout the album and that's really due to his talent as a guitar player, I don't think he's all that Southern-fried or anything, he's more blues based on his work.

I don't know though, despite Webb, I can't get into this.  It's just drenched in Southern rock cliches, too the point that it sounds disingenuous.  The thing about good Southern rock is that it bleeds into things like funk, jazz, and country.  You can make fun of yelling, "Freebird" all you want, but that first Skynard album is diverse.  This sounds like some dudes that discovered the Allman Brothers and went with that and nothing else, maybe the Band, because they're accepted universally as "cool".  There are moments the band starts to sound like ZZ Top and I don't think that was their intent.  It feels like they envisioned this dramatic Americana, roots album.  Instead, it comes across as poser-Southern Rock with too many splashes of country and not enough soul.

The album does have some decent moments though, I actually like the ZZ Top riffing of the title track and the song "West Virginia."  The flip side has some soft spoken ballads that aren't half bad as well...there's some 7"s available I might start searching out, you know, see if they didn't figure it out prior to the band disbanding.

Change of Living

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Soft Reeds Blank City The Record Machine 2013

Soft Reeds Blank City The Record Machine 2013 CAT# TRM044

Is Kansas City and the surrounding area becoming a "post-rock" scene?  A bunch of Eno obsessed hipsters in a game of one up-man-ship?  It's starting to seem that way...all these bands kick it pretty mellow and wave around the Bowie/Eno flag.  Not as cool as our emo/post-hardcore days, or Lawrence's surprisingly fertile 80's punk scene, but better than nothing.

If you go by reviews, the Soft Reeds are leading the way and Blank City is the reason why.  The albums has shades of Eno produced Talking Heads and a lot of disco funk thrown on top (by the way, "disco" is no longer a bad word, get over it).  Sounds fancy and all, but goodnight, everybody sounds like Eno now-a-days.  It's all becoming a bit too trendy.  Sharp angular guitars, layers of keyboards, and a dance-able backbeat, it's formulaic and obvious.  It's to the point that the dance-rock is in the realm of fashion rock, I mean, there's only so many ways you can wear a collared shirt and there's only so many ways to show Eno devotion.

The Soft Reeds consist of some Chicago natives, an Autin, TX native, and two Kansas Citians that have called KC their home.  They've played South by Southwest, done the Middle of the Map and have gained notable pub in town.  They are great musicians, there is no denying that by this's not easy to be an Eno obsessed hipster-takes skills.

The hang up is that this is being done, by lots of people and dates back to the 70's.  At this point, it sounds like a sound the band is trying to emulate rather than a product of organic creativity.  The hard dance beats are cool, the choppy guitars are cool, it just sounds forced.

Funky Friends Breath, OK?

The Vitreous Humor Self Titled E.P. crank! 1995

The Vitreous Humor Self Titled E.P. crank! 1995 CAT# crc003

Man, this came out so long ago.  In fact, nearly 20 years ago.  I wasn't even done with high school at that point.  I love this EP, everything about it.  Been listening to it since I first heard on 105.9 The Lazer nearly 20 years ago.  I know every song by heart, so much so, that if a tune pops up on my iPod it feels strange when the next track doesn't follow.

Not going to front though, the vinyl sounds like crap.  Pretty sure crank! just took CD master and put on vinyl; the high ends distort and it sounds muddy.  CD is superior, but that's usually the case with 90's vinyl.  Kind of hoping there's some sort of 20 year anniversary remaster edition in the works.  However, if you go to the band's Facebook page, it appears the band is trying to regain their masters and do something to that effect, but are having a difficult time doing so.  Apparently, crank! is reluctant to give up the rights.  I would be too, but c'mon, there's not a huge market here, let the band do something with their songs.  Or, if you're so confident the masters are worth bags of money, put something out...the band and the label both benefit.  If it ever happens, I'd really like some sort of retrospective like the Posthumous release, but done up on vinyl.

About this release and band, years ago, when I was working at a grocery store in Lawrence, KS, my co-workers and I were assigned to check out the Community Mercantile.  Oddly, the co-workers I went with were both really into music (actually, they were part of a band called the Ample Branches) and I spotted Danny Pound doing work.  Jokingly, but half-serious, I told my co-workers that "grocery bagging guitar player" (Regrets reference which went over their heads) is the best musician in Lawrence.  They questioned it, but sure enough, I had a copy of this CD in my car to prove it.  Played some tunes for them, obvious choices, "She Eats Her Esses" and "Looper".  Sadly the first response was not jaw-dropping in awe, but was, "Sounds a lot like Archers of Loaf, but better than I thought."

This incident happened approximately 5 years ago.  And, DAMN if my co-worker wasn't right about the Archers sound.  I love Archers of Loaf, but I'd never put into the context of Vitreous Humor.  For me, Vitreous Humor came first.  Groups like Vitreous Humor, Boys Life, Kill Creek, and Shiner being played locally on the radio were a gateway to your Superchunks, Archers of Loafs, and Sunny Day Real Estates of the world.  I had literally spent most my adult life thinking Vitreous Humor was the most original thing to come out of Topeka and Lawrence, Kansas...ever.  I thought the world of this band and everything Danny Pound did later.  But, in one statement I began to question it.

About a day later I came to the conclusion (senses) that despite the obvious North Carolina influence, no one squawks like Danny Pound.  Archers weren't this unabashed and out of tune, they weren't as random, and never as emo as Vitreous Humor.  Vitreous Humor is amazing and I'm holding to it.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Rev Gusto S/T Single Too Much Rock 2014

Rev Gusto S/T Single Too Much Rock 2014 CAT#002

Sid Sowder's absolutely selfless Too Much Rock singles series continues!  This edition features Kansas City's Rev Gusto.  I just got a copy of this and wanted to share the news...It will be available tomorrow (4/19/2014) for purchase at Vinyl Renaissance, Mills Records and Love Garden as part of the Record Store Day celebration.  After that, you'll probably be able to find it for a little while depending on what the band does with their singles.  Just saying, if you're out at any of those stores, pick up a copy, support local, it's rad.  Actual blog post to follow.
Again, I'd like to express how truly selfless and awesome this singles series is.  Too Much Rock selects an artist to release a single, the first side is the band's and the flip side is a cover selected by Too Much Rock for the band to do.  Too Much Rock then puts the single together and without making back a dime gives the release to the band.  The local scene wins because a local band gets a release and some cash, fans of vinyl win because they get a rare disc and something by a great band.  The only one that losses is Sid Sowder of Too Much Rock...Selfless.  This release will be sold at three area record stores on Record Store Day, I imagine to get the word out on the series locally (this is only #2, #1 was this), but I'm going to bet all proceeds from Record Store Day are going right back to Rev Gusto.  I mean I even tried to pay Sid for this release and got no response.  Then, when he said he'd send a copy for review to a few local music sites, I even asked to pay shipping (I mean, who in their right mind is willing to take such a big hit, I'm all about helping, y'know?) and again was met with no response, just a package in the mail containing the single.

As for the music, this is Rev Gusto's first physical release.  They will likely hold onto many of their copies for sale at shows, so after RSD, may have to pay cover to find a copy.  My understanding is that 500 copies of the 7" are put out, so it's pretty rare.  The band formed in high school and most them are fresh out, not yet old enough to partake in alcohol served at the bars they perform at.  They're being labeled somewhere between power-pop and garage rock, truthfully, they're a bit too proficient to be garage rockers, but their sound is pretty raw.  They've been performing a lot locally, did a show for Middle of the Map Fest and even did a big-timer show at South by Southwest.  Overall, the kids seem to like the band's lazy power-pop.

The band's song on this release, "Still There," is drenched in feedback and choppy guitars.  The vocals strain and come off a bit forced at time, just trying to sound a little cooler than they need to.  You definitely hear where the power pop tag is coming from, but again, the tune is so drenched in guitar and distortion, it's hard for me to make that kind of leap.  

For the B-side the song "Local Girls" by Graham Parker was selected for the band.  What they did
with it is fucking brilliant.  I used to host a power-pop show on KJHK and spun both US acts and the British pub rock.  Fans of the pub rock scene swear by Parker's "Squeezing out Sparks" album, but outside the song "Local Girls," I found the album pretty boring (the rest of his catalog even more so) and even before I'd spin this track, I'd opt for Costello, Nick Lowe, Squeeze or even Joe Jackson.  It's not as if the band does anything radical to Parker's tune, in fact, it's true to form and they're able to keep the jitters and nervous energy.  The thing I like about Rev Gusto's version is that the attributes of the song fit a bunch of 19 year old kids better than they did Parker.  I always felt Parker was kind of a hack, just an old talented dude copping on the new sound.  Rev Gusto put their fuzz on top of the track and the lazy power pop sound they've developed as a band and it works; solid cover.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Ararats Do You Rember? The Big Band Sound Centennial Records 1975(?)

The Ararats Do You Rember?  The Big Band Sound Centennial Records 1975(?) CAT#1778

I'm not sure how many Ararats records were put out, but I think there's more than a few...or at least a lot of Shriner jazz available at local thrift shops.  I see this record (or ones that look very similar) all the time at thrift.  I never buy them, I'm not a Freemason or Shriner so no connection there.  Furthermore, I don't have time for amateur hour white guy jazz, especially by guys who drive around in tiny cars at parades.  I happened upon this LP because it was in a bulk purchase I made, kept it because it's local.

Besides being an all white jazz act, the other thing that I don't like about the release is that the dude's were Freemasons and Shriners.  I'm not against their organization or anything, sounds like a cool club.  I met a Shriner once, he told me all about his boy's club, how you have to be a Freemason first and get to some degree of Freemasonry before you get to be a Shriner, but, the thing that caught my attention was he told me at the KC Shriner facility they have a bar that serves $2 beers...all the time.  That's pretty cool, I'd be down with that club...granted, you'd be drinking with old fat bellies (no girls allowed in the all boy's club), but great deal all the same.  But, yeah, the other thing that bothers me is that they are Freemasons and I can't find any hidden symbols on the sleeve or the record.  No prophecies of end times, plots, or maps to hidden treasure...nothing.  I mean, I thought this organization had a hidden agenda to control the world.  Yet, the cover shows some old dudes playing restaurant-style big band jazz.  Sure enough, that's all they do, standards of big band dance tunes, toned down not to swing too much...there's some vocal numbers, too.  Lame.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Anniversary Cassandra L. '76-'77 EP Good Guys & Bad Buddies Records 2000

The Anniversary Cassandra L. '76-'77 EP Good Guys & Bad Buddies Records 2000 CAT# 001

This is a little 7" The Anniversary put out to sell on their 2000 tour.  The first track, "All Right For Now" was the tune on the Paper Brigade split they did with Proudentall.  The other two tracks, "Hold Me Tonight" and "Low Tide and Hospital Bed" were recorded along with with "All Right" in Chicago in 1997.  The band printed up (like, copy machine printed up) 5 different cover variations and noted to fans, "collect all five."  Truthfully, I think the EP is actually self-titled, but my cover reads Cassandra L '76-'77, so I'm going with that. The run on these had to be limited, this copy is stamped #0380, so likely a batch limited to a 1000.  Not sure why they wanted to release stuff they did in 1997 for a 2000 tour, but it may have been a quick release because they were without copies of the album Designing a Nervous Breakdown at the beginning of the tour.

It's a cool little EP that offers a good insight into the band in their early days.  The song, "All Right for Now" is great and has been discussed on the Proudentall split.  The B Side is sophomoric but endearing, "Hold Me Tight," is a bit schizophrenic with it's slow jam vibe and Moog-tacular intro before ripping into some jock-tastic guitar rock.  "Low Tide and Hospital Bed" has some string effects and gets a bit muddy with everything it's trying to do, but it's held together by Adrianne Verhoeven, because she always the best part of the early version of this band.

Hold Me Tonight

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Riverrock Still Live & Pickin' Rockin' W Records 1977

Riverrock Still Live & Pickin' Rockin' W Records 1977 RW4503

This is a live LP recorded live at Putsch's Strawberry Patch in 1977.  I'm not too clear what type of venue the Strawberry Patch was, but it appears in the late-70's there was somewhat of a country/bluegrass scene centered around this venue.  I'd like to know more, the name was trademarked and there's references to a restaurant called Mr. Putsch's that artists appeared at along with the Strawberry Patch which appears to be a proper venue.

The band plays through most of the tunes at break-neck speed, obviously feeding off some sort of energy from the crowd.  However, it couldn't have been that rowdy at the Strawberry Patch, this is still Kansas City, so even their attempt at speeding up Hank Willaims' "I Saw the Light" can't touch anything you'd call honky-tonk or rockabilly.  

Overall, Riverrock stays true to bluegrass.  When they go straight country, they do so by ruining Willie Nelson's "Gotta Get Drunk," but, props for digging deep on an early Nelson track.  The live recording doesn't make them any better or more exciting as a band.  Compared to their debut LP, it's a bit of let down.  The first time I heard the debut I was pleasantly surprised.  The first time listening to Still Live & Pickin' is a shrug of the shoulders, it's what you'd expect from a regional country/bluegrass LP.  Lots of covers, some goofy originals, nothing amazing.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Your Friend Jekyll/Hyde Domino 2014

Your Friend Jekyll/Hyde Domino 2014 CAT# RUG583T

I should title this post, Best Lunch Hour Ever, but I'll get back to that..  Recently, I've been hearing Your Friend on a public radio station and been really impressed.  Atmospheric, drawn out, and spacious tunes...really, interesting, and really good.  Previously, a friend had tipped me off about this Lawrence, KS girl being signed to Domino Records and seeing how Domino Records is kind of a big deal, I started reading up on Your Friend.  She put out a self-released cassette locally, I'm sure she's played some shows and such, but not much available to purchase (yeah, I'm not buying a cassette to listen to music, sorry).  So yeah, if you're getting signed to Domino on the strength of your cassette, it must be pretty good.

I listened to a few things on-line, I'm not much for getting into music online through crappy computer speakers, but thought everything sounded promising.  When they started playing her on The Bridge 90.9 locally, though, that's when I started to get excited (and, I'm sure I would have gotten equally as excited if I heard her on KJHK, but I can't pick that station up in Overland Park, KS).  Looked at the Domino website to check the news and saw they're going to release a version of the cassette on vinyl April 19th.  Figured that's great, I would order that shit.

Then I thought, why should I order the record?  I live in KC, I'll just shop local.  Plan was in place, but to my surprise Lawernce's Love Garden Sounds started posting photos of the LP.  I asked today (not shitting you, today) if they had the record for purchase, their response was affirmative.

So, I got a lunch hour, why not, right?  I mean, who wants to wait 11 days?  So, I drove to Lawrence. Got there and while walking to the shop I saw a Get Up Kid, Ryan Pope.  Said hi, haven't seen you in a long time, all that, then I explained I was just in Lawrence for 10 minutes to buy the Your Friend record.  Ryan responded he was headed the same direction to purchase the same record.  He explained Taryn Miller who  is Your Friend is a super sweet, super great girl, and an amazing songwriter.  That got me more excited about the record, Ryan has always provided me with great recommendations (introduced me to Elliott Smith, Built To Spill, Richard Swift, all good stuff).  So my friend had nothing but good things to say about Your Friend.

When I got to the Love Garden, I grabbed the record and knew lunch was over in about 10 minutes, but I now had the, "Oh man, sorry I'm late, I bumped into an old friend," excuse.  I started flipping through the new arrivals bin.  I wasn't planning on purchasing anything further (on a budget), just kind of glancing.  I switched over to a new row and this dude just lunges at me from the other side of the rack.  I backed off and he grabs a Grateful Dead album and in a panicked voice states, "I had pulled that one out!"  I said, "Oh, it's cool," and held my tongue from asking him if he just wanted to save some money, give me $10 instead of the $20 for that album and I could get Ryan to play a 20 minute drum solo while he smokes pot and talks to me about Jimmy Buffet or whoever else he is into.  Then Mr. Middle Age says to me, "I looked through those stacks, got all the good stuff, see any J.J. Cale on this side?"  Well, at least he's not a parrot-head like I thought, but I replied, "I don't know, wasn't looking to buy any Cale, or anything."  Seriously, though?  What the fuck?  The dude pulled a Grateful Dead album and told me he "got everything good."  Really?  I don't hate the Dead or anything, I kind of like Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, but did this guy think everybody was in the store to buy what he likes?  Did he grab the album and think to himself, 'Well, everybody else should just go home now.'  Strange, he must have been from Topeka.

Anyway, I purchased the record.  Taryn Miller works at Love Garden (probably the reason they got the LP so early) and I was hoping she could ring up her own album for me and I could take a photo to put it on Instagram and show off to the 5 people that read my blog, but that didn't happen.  I parted ways with Ryan and drove back to KC for work.  Total time spent away from work, 1 hour 45 minutes, and no one gave a shit, but you know, can't make that type of thing a habit, there's work to be done, blah blah blah.

Now I'm home, listened to the 6 songs featured here about 3 times.  It's really good.  I kind of wish I had the desire to seek out rare cassette tapes, because the tracks here are remastered/reworked versions of the songs on the tape.  I'd like to compare this to her homespun versions.  Everything is top quality, mastered by Bob Weston if that tells you anything.  Can't help but think the early versions would sound a bit more honest and not as epic.  These songs do sound big.  Taryn Miller stretches her vocals over the top of things, you can't really understand what she's singing at times, but the effect is nice.  There's other times when she's able to make her voice sound so fragile that it almost cracks.  It adds moments of vulnerability to the songs, the big epic soundscapes calm down for a moment and you remember you're listening to a female that just kicked your ass.

Part of me can't help thinking what Pitchfork is going to say...I'm guessing they'll give it a 6.5 and say it's a promising debut from a genuine talent, however, the songs meander and lose focus.  They'd be wrong; space in music is the new loud and Pitchfork just isn't as hip as they think they are.

Tame One
Live on KJHK 90.7

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Riverrock Self-Titled Private 1975

Riverrock Self-Titled Private 1975 CAT# SRK-585

I spotted this at a Salvation Army and the awful cover photo just screamed private press.  An old-timey, sepia-toned, portrait shot that looks like it was done at Worlds of Fun (for those of you not familiar to KC, Worlds of Fun is an amusement park owned by the Hunt family, it's kind of hokey, but fun).  Picked it up and discovered these bad-asses are from Overland Park, KS, so I took it home.

When I first put it on the turntable, I expected country, I just didn't expect to be all that enjoyable.  I figured guys from the suburb of Overland Park would be highly influenced by the Nashville country-pop sound, y'know, loads of sentimental, hard-luck, ballads.  A bunch of shitty studio effects and a bunch of filler.  Instead, it's a roots driven and weighted in traditional country.

To be sure, there are the hokey and hillbilly moments, the instrumental "Buffalo Chips" comes to mind for using a kazoo.  Overall though, traditional instruments and no pretension.  It's a very homespun LP and while it contains some hoe-down moments better suited for live shows, solid harmonies and songwriting.  In addition, there's a cover of the Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends," and an even better cover of Dylan's, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," simlar to the version that showed up on the Byrd's Sweetheart LP.

It's a surprisingly good album.  These were guys weren't rebelling against the Nashville sound, but they weren't following it rules, either (didn't have to in Kansas).  It's not an "outlaw" or "rebel" album, but it's certainly rooted in traditional country, coming close to the 'Newgrass' scene that was growing throughout the 70's.  Later, the band would make an 8 hour drive to Nashville to record an album that disregards everything enjoyable about this album, but I'll get to that at another time.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Steve, Bob, & Rich Balls Bat 1984

Steve, Bob, & Rich Balls Bat 1984 CAT #SBR-42484

Man, glad I finally found this.  It's been on top of the list for some time.  I know of a copy down the street from me for $50, but when this showed up for $30 I happily took advantage.  It's the Rainmakers before the addition of drummer, Pat Tomek.  At this time in the band's career, they were gaining a substantial following in the area and front man Bob Walkenhurst was doing so from behind the drums.  It's a private release the band put out to sell at shows and obviously act as a demo prior to signing with a major label.  They called their label, "Bat," but it's clearly privately done.  The catalog numbers is the initials for Steve, Bob & Rich, and the label address simultaneously acts as the address to write the band.

Since discovering that the album existed, I've been building up this LP up in my mind.  I really like the ideas Walkenhurst put down on the Rainmakers LPs, just have a tough time dealing with the uber-slick 80's production.  I figured this LP would be a very young and raw edition of the band.  Stripped down roots rock like it should be.

After listening, it wasn't the album I had envisioned.  Overall, it's still pretty slick, wetback drums galore and some really polished guitar riffs.  However, there are real bar bands moments and the music sounds more live than their later major label output.  There's also some repetition, the Rainmakers debut features re-recorded versions of "Let My People Go-Go," Nobody Knows," "Big Fat Blonde," and "Information" that first appeared on this Steve, Bob, & Rich album.

Overall, it's a fun album to have.  Some of the moments showcase the band doing their early 'bring down the house' numbers.  For big fans of the band, it's got be essential, the quality is here even at the early onset of the band.  While I wouldn't find any of the tracks not included on the debut Rainmakers to be amazing, they still showcase Walkenhurst's literate lyrics and the band's charm.  There's also some moments without Walkenhurst taking lead vocals, which is nice change of pace and something they could have easily done more of later in their career.

Steve, Bob & Rich-Let My People Go-Go

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Missouri Woodland Signing Our Lives Away Private 1978

Missouri Woodland Signing Our Lives Away Private 1978 NO CAT#

Missouri Woodland was the duo of Royal Scanlon and Gary Paredes who formed in Kansas City.  Royal Scanlon states on the band's Facebook page, he left KC in the 70's to be a Chicago folkie, upon his return to KC he met Paul Martinson and the duo was born.

The tunes featured on their sole album aren't half bad.  People throw the LP up on eBay as "rural folk", but it's a bit too pop oriented for that.  It certainly has a folk appeal and doesn't lack a country twang, but it's pretty pop orientated.  If you start thinking Brewer & Shipley, you wouldn't be far off.

The two are talented players and the album is extremely polished and well down.  They attempt some Doobie-esque laid back white-boy funk on the tune "Chi-Tune Blues."  Also features a solid country tear jerker in the tune, "Faded Love."  But, most the album is filled with sentimental ballads with great harmonies, some nifty finger playing, and 12 string guitar.  Also nifty, this LP is completely private press.  The band didn't even attempt a label front, just threw it out there and hoped for the best.

Researching the band, apparently the duo still get together and do sets...and not just your standard open mic night at a bar and grill, they play around town at legitimate venues.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Clawhammer I Think I Heard a Sound b/w Hell Wee Rock Records 2012

Clawhammer I Think I Heard a Sound b/w Hell Wee Rock Records 2012 CAT# WRR 86

Well, this isn't really local, but I purchased it by error.  I'm not really that mad about it, it's decent. The band is from Springfield, MO which is closer to St. Louis than it is Kansas City.  The town has always had a substantial music scene centered around roots, country and bluegrass.  Much of the bluegrass coming out of Springfield is damaged by the tourist driven, Branson, Missouri.  Hillbilly garbage in which the band leaders are named "Uncle" and they sing about fishing and make cheesy family orientated jokes in between sets.  Like Hee-Haw, but even dumber.  That's a lot of what comes out of Springfield, MO.  Not all of it, there are some solid band and artists, but there is a ton of crap to sift through.

Anyway, I had traded in some stuff at a local record store and had about $3 or $5 left in credit.  I went to the local 45s to even out my order.  This struck me for a couple of reason, first, it was in my budget.  Second, a clawhammer is a type of banjo, I love bluegrass so I figured why not?  Well, I got it home and realized this wasn't as local as I thought it was when I discovered it was from Springfield.

However, I put it on and was cool with it; it's a keeper.  It's not bluegrass.  It's got elements and does feature a banjo and traditional bluegrass instruments, but they're borrowing from the genre.  If you research Clawhammer they've dubbed themselves something moronic like alternative, dub, influenced, bluegrass.  That's absurd.  But, they have a unique sound, the banjo plucks away and these young hipsters drop fuzz and experimentation all around it.  The female vocals fit perfectly, she's kind of gruff, certainly not too sweet.  It's a clever post-modern mixture, no one is pushing bluegrass but they should be...I mean, hipsters would totally be into artists like John Hartford if they'd get off the fucking Hall & Oates kick.

Facebook link to some Clawhammer jams

Friday, April 4, 2014

Kansas Masque Kirshner 1975

Kansas Masque Kirshner 1975 CAT# PZ 33806

Man, I've listened to more Kansas than I thought possible.  I've grown to like them...a little.  Once you get what they're doing, they're a lot easier to swallow.

This Masque album was the band's second release in 1975, following A Song for America from what I understand.  By this point, they've established who they were as a band; a little prog a little boogie and incapable of any sort of one up-man-ship on their British counterparts.  They have a flair for dramatic and love romantic melodies as much as they love bloated studio production.  In less than year, the band had went from the over-reaching of A Song for America to a sound they could excel in, that's impressive.

The sound found here would be perfected on the next two albums, Leftoverture and Point of No Return, by the far the pinnacle of the band's career.  There are some hard rocking moments on this LP, but no masterpieces.  It's a decent album, but only essential to fans of the band and prog rock enthusiasts.

Child of Innocence

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Josh Berwanger Strange Stains Good Land Records 2013

Josh Berwanger Strange Stains Good Land Records 2013 CAT# GLR013-1

Quick introduction to the album, Josh Berwanger, was one of the main songwriters for the now defunct Anniversary.  He plays around town and elsewhere as the Josh Berwanger Band, but the LP is credited to him as a solo artist.  For the most part, Berwanger is the only consistent player on tracks and the group is pieced together.  One stand out, the first track, "Bullets of Change," features Kansas City native T.K. Webb on guitar.

After the split of the Anniversary in 2004, Berwanger and members of Anniversary formed the Only Children which took the stoner-rock vibe of the Your Majesty to the country-rock side of the fence.  So instead of big groove retro-rock, they went rural, Southern boogie.  That all ended in 2007.  Since then, hadn't heard much from any Anniversary alums other than Justin Roelfs' White Flight recordings and videos.

Apparently, Berwanger was busy penning power-pop gems.  Granted, still retro-rock, but there are some legitimate hits on this LP.  Kansas City recently got a new adult alternative station, it's a former NPR station out of Central Missouri State (maybe?) going by the Bridge FM.  They're trying incredibly hard to align themselves with the local scene and are spinning the crap out of Berwanger's tunes.  And for good reason, there are some great songs.  The station currently seems to favor, "Time Traveler", which is kind of funny because the word "shit" is stated clearly and I don't think they've caught on.

While the album has some lulls, which isn't any different than any of the Anniversary albums, the first side and moments on the flip side are incredible.  My main problem with Berwanger has always been this forced persona.  Like he's always trying hard (like his former band mate, Justin Roelfs) to be this strangely, engaging, oddball.  What's wrong with being a normal dude who plays guitar, you know?  You're from the burbs, embrace it.  Despite all that, he's never sounded more genuine than he does here.  Power pop suits this dude, his backwards hats and vintage attire are well placed.  His breathy vocals and T-Rex-ish cosmic lyrics make sense.  Unfortunately, he's hitting on some pretty well worn territory.  I mean, even when chiming guitars and big Beatles chorus' were a thing in the late-70s, people quickly looked elsewhere (how many hits did the Knack have, again?).  Regardless, I'm hoping this album finds a devoted following.  The songs deserve it.

Baby Loses Her Mind
Time Traveler

The Boos Brothers Not Since I Found You Quantum Records 1976

The Boos Brothers Not Since I Found You Quantum Records 1976 CAT #LRS05002A

This is pretty awful.  The Boos Brothers are four Kansas City brothers and "their superb drummer, Paul Walter," (the blond kid on the cover).  It's amateur hour and when they take on a Don Boos original; oh, fuck!  Talk about some sappy, teenage, crap.  Judging by the cover, Don Boos is the oldest of the brothers and he had to be penning these tunes to get laid in high school.  I mean this is 1976 and he's crooning in an off key voice like a lounge version of Paul Anka (they cover his tune, "My Way").  It's like the kid only had his parents easy listening albums to draw inspiration from (I mean they do a "Glenn Miller Medley", really, what teenager was into Glenn Miller, ever?).  Either way, I hope his sad bastard music got him the girl, maybe they got married, the album would totally be worth it if that were the case.

When the Boos take on some covers, there are some inspired, but terribly off-key moments.  I can only

assume the reason for the amateur style of play is because the kids were doing it themselves.  The cover would make you think vocal act, but the backing musicians are so terrible, the only explanation is that the organ, guitar, and bass are being played by the Boos (and their superb drummer, Paul Walter).  The first song, a cover of "I Can Sing/I Can Dance," has this moment when they kick the keyboard setting from organ to space age laser sounds and it just goes off.  There's no way any hired hand, wedding band player, came up with that moment of pure insanity, that's just a kid thinking he struck gold (and in a way, he did, it's the best moment of the album).

Blog Post featuring another take and some tracks, read the blog, it's great.