Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

CD Review – Demos Papadimas – “Waiting”


demos-waitingLike many Midwest rust-belt former manufacturing hubs, the city of Warren, Ohio, doesn’t have much to hang it’s hat on these days, but it still is the home of the W.D. Packard Museum is also home to one of the most unique voices in music, Demos Papadimas, who’s unique take on Americana music is catching ears and making people pay attention.

His latest release and second full-length album “Waiting” is available for purchase on iTunes, and streaming on Spotify, as well as in physical form at The Record Connection in Niles, or his website; and it’s well worth your listen if you’re a fan of Americana and a man who knows his way around the bouzouki. This album has some great Greek-tinged Indie Rock with lots of harmonica, steel guitar, violin and solid drumming provided by violinist Sandi Quotson, Ralph Rich on drums, Nils Johnson on bass and pedal steel guitarist Al Moss, the 12 songs spanning 40 minutes leaves you wanting more and pressing the repeat button, much like his first release, “Wandering Through the Wilderness” did, which is why he was named one of Cleveland Scene Magazine’s 13 Bands to Watch in 2013.

“Waiting,” which was released on Record Store Day 2016, kicks off with “Just a Stranger,” followed by some slick pedal steel work by Moss on the tune “Second Street” which is one of my favorite songs on the album, along with “Little Sadie” and the closer “Who Would’ve Thought” that features some great finger-picking on the bouzouki. “Waiting,” the title track, features a lot of great finger=picking from Papadimas along with solid work from Quotson on violin. It’s a sound that’s hard to describe, or define, but it works.

“Restless Time” is the first single off the CD, and it has an video produced by Radio Lark‘s Chris Rutushin and Khaled Tabbara from The Zou.

Demos and the Band are playing in Youngstown on Saturday, Nov 5, 2016, at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts Downtown with Hayden Brooke, Watching for Foxes and Joshua Powell & The Great Train Robbery; The Elbo Room in Chicago on Nov 9 & 10; Rambling House Soda with Hedbo in Columbus on Nov. 12, and has a series of dates in Kent, Youngstown & Pittsburgh to close out the year. Do yourself a favor and give Demos a listen, live or on record. You’ll thank me later!


CD Review: JD Eicher – “The Middle Distance”



Yes, JD Eicher still has a band, and yes, they’re still top-notch, but with his forth solo album, “The Middle Distance,” released in May, the songs are so personal, so real, so individually focused, having it be a ‘band’ album wouldn’t have worked. At all.

This is an album about fear and failure; hope and belief; focus and finding what matters; and making it work.

The opening 53 instrumental seconds that start off the album build up to opening line, “There’s a song that’s still unsaid,” drawing you in to the world of someone who’s lost. Confused. Looking for the right path. It’s all internalized. These are issues we all have, conversations we’ve all had in our heads about romance, family, work, life. As the CD rolls on, the realization, the confrontations, the issues, and the reasons we’re on this journey all come clear (“Be Well” and “Lines In The Sky”).  So does taking time to focus on core beliefs (“The Middle Distance” & “Man of Faith”), finding what focus that energy on (in JD’s case, family, faith and his wife Cathi), realize it’s time to fight (“Not Everybody Runs”), pull it all together and realize what you have, and getting rid of those fears (“What We’re Not,” “This Love Is A Light” and “Not Afraid.”)

The album was recorded in JD’s home, using simple mixes, a great mix of falsetto vocals, layering and non-traditional song structures and it’s a solid ten-track, 40-minute album.  Favorite songs include “Be Well,” “Not Everybody Runs,” “What We’re Not” and “Not Afraid,” but the line of the album, for me, comes from “Man of Faith:”

“What if God were not one being doing good things
What if God were every good thing being done?”

I think it took me a good five or six listens to the entire CD to understand the concept of it, and when it all fell into place, for lack of a better term, it really blew me away how simple this CD was, how great a listen it is and how I think I could have written most album of this during many sleepless nights. Taken individually, the songs are very listenable, but in the album’s order, it’s a journey. And a pleasant one. If you’re looking for a new summer CD, JD Eicher’s “The Middle Distance” is my suggestion.

(“The Middle Distance” is available on iTunes or Amazon music, or from JD himself while he’s touring!)

Ryan Smith – Primary Numbers CD Review


Columbus, Ohio’s Ryan Smith is an amazing lyricist. Soon after moving to Columbus, he was one of the first artists I first saw at Andyman’s Treehouse when he opened for somebody I liked. “Swimming” caught me. “Girls With Glasses” hooked me. His 2006 release “Neil Avenue” was among my  most listened to CDs of that year. I said his 2008 release “I Just Want To Feel That Way” “… could be the best six Paul Westerberg songs that Paul Westerberg neither wrote nor recorded.” (You can read that here.)

After taking some time off to get a rip-roaring DJ business started (and he’s awesome, too, so if you’re in Central Ohio, hire him), I was excited to get an email from him when “Waiting” was released in 2012, and it was rich in layering and some great studio work, and quickly added to the playlist, and became my third favorite EP released last year. In fact, I said in my year-end review (here), that it is “interesting electropop, taking generous use of looping, layering and a bevy of sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, especially when listening with earphones, or in the car. It’s like a sonic treat for your brain.”

So I was excited to get an email from him with a link to his new album, “Primary Numbers,” before it’s released on April 23, 2013.  To be honest, Ryan’s always hooked me up with his stuff before it’s released, and I’m always glad to get new music. This was no different, i dove in, saw it was 11 tracks, so we’re talking full album, hit the download link, and started listening to it. The first track, “An Introduction of Sorts,” starts of with some interesting synthesized piano, which is in nice change from the guitars he usually uses. And as I sat there listening, I realized … uh … okay … must be an instrumental. With nice layering. Okay. That’s cool. Then “Just Enough To Make It Not Awkward” started playing. More of the same. Instrumental. Synthesized piano. Layering. Loops. For 11 songs. Yep.  Turns out the whole CD is completely instrumental. Which is cool, just not what I was expecting.

I love to see artists I enjoy grow, and evolve and stretch the envelope of their ability, challenge themselves and become more skilled at what they do, and I guess, since his lyrical prowess is already at a level with some of my favorite songwriters, this is a natural progression.

It’s a good album as far as instrumentals go, I’m just not really a fan of instrumentals. I like lyrics way too much, and Ryan writes great lyrics. Anyway, all that being said, here’s a link to the first single, “Simple Things” … you can give it a listen and form your own opinion of it. I’m hoping it grows on me.  “Simple Things” is available for a free download, as most of his music is.  I just feel that many Ryan Smith fans are going to feel the same way I do: Waiting to go back to Neil Avenue because I Just Want To Feel That Way I used to listening to Ryan Smith sing some words.  Now where’s my copy of “Girls With Glasses” at?

Right-Click to download “Simple Things” as an MP3.
(Courtesy of Ryan Smith. Probably until he reads this review.)

Jeremy Porter & The Tucos – Partner In Crime – CD Review / Tour



One of the cool things about JACOMB is hearing from artists who are putting out music that I might not find … the latest being Jeremy Porter & The Tucos. Hailing from That State Up North (but we don’t hold that against them), JP has been rocking and rolling the heartland in bands like The Regulars, SlugBug, The OffRamps, and Fidrych, as well as playing solo. He’s played Columbus before, sharing the stage with bands like Watershed and rocking out at Stache’s and the like … and now he’s back, with a new album, “Partner In Crime” and a mini Rust Belt tour that visits Ohio, twice: Thursday, April 4th, at the Tree Bar in Columbus; and Friday, April 5th at Happy Dog in Cleveland; and playing Rock Room in Pittsburgh on Saturday, April 6th.

The new CD, “Partner In Crime,” was released on New Fortune Records in March, and is a great piece of Americana. The 12 songs flow across 46 minutes of heartbreak, heartache, tales of falling for the pizza girl and lamenting about the one who got away. While those sound like pretty much every indie rock album, the music behind the songs, and Porter’s delivery, make them unique. From the rollicking “Pizza Girl” to sad-bastard “Barely All The Time” to the sadder-bastard “Wedding Day” this is a great collection of music, and I’m glad Jeremy brought it to my attention, and hope I can bring it to yours.  I know I’ll be at the Cleveland show … Come on out and support live music and hit the Rust Belt Tour!

Rust Belt Tour:

Thu Apr 4 • Columbus, OH • Tree Bar
Fri Apr 5 • Cleveland, OH • Happy Dog
Sat Apr 6 • Pittsburgh, PA • Rock Room
Fri Apr 19 • Mt. Pleasant, MI • Rubble´s
Sat May 11 • Detroit, MI • Lager House
Sat May 18 • Saginaw, MI • Hamilton Street Pub

JACOMB’s Best CDs of 2012


My Top 20 Albums for 2012

Well, it’s that time of year again, and it’s been a good one for music, at least in my world. This year I’ve seen Watershed five times, Red Wanting Blue five times, the Clarks, and a host of other really great (and some not-so-great) supporting acts, new acts at Comfest and some bands from right here in Youngstown.  While my annual list isn’t as Columbus-centric as past lists have been, there are still some kick-ass Ohio bands that made the list.

So, with that in mind … here are the rules:

• Must have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 (As listed on Amazon)
• Must be available for purchase via Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, CDBaby, Bandcamp or band’s website. Can’t pimp a CD that you can’t buy or download legally
• Must be longer than 30 minutes, or it goes into the EP category
• Must not be a live album
• Must not be a greatest hits package
• Must not be a box set or a collection of previously released material

My list, my rules. Don’t like it, make your own list,

1. Red Wanting Blue – From The Vanishing Point

I never really expected this album to be as good as it is, start to finish, and shame on me for that. I kind felt like a bad fan because it sat on my desk unopened for about three months. Why? Well, I had a digital download of five or six songs I got when I bought it in the pre-sale, and figured those were the best songs from the CD. I was wrong. I’ve played this CD so much if it was vinyl I’d be on my second or third copy. And their live shows … constantly improving, both with old songs and the new tracks. Seriously, if you’re a fan of Americana, you can’t go wrong with “From The Vanishing Point” and the best song, I think, is the ghost track, “My Name Is Death.”

Favorites:  Audition, Walking Shoes, Dinosaur, Ballad of Nobodies, My Name Is Death

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

2. Watershed – Brick and Mortar

I was excited to get a new Watershed album, and even more for the tour, but I didn’t expect the album to be as good as it is. It was a real tossup between “Brick and Mortar” and “From The Vanishing Point” … and I might flip-flop them, ya never know. But there’s nothing worse than a tie, so I had to move this to second place. There’s not a bad song on the album, in fact, “Manifesto (What I Like To Do)” might be my new favorite Watershed song, and “On A Broken Radio” and “Little Mistakes” are top 10, for sure. Joe Peppercon brings a host of talent to this band, and having Joe Oestreich’s chronicle of the band, “Hitless Wonder” (buy on Amazon) as summer reading made me realize how screwed up the music industry is when a band this good can’t catch on with the masses.

Favorites: Manifesto, Little Mistakes, On A Broken Radio, Words We Say

Buy on iTunes • Buy on AmazonBand Website

3. The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter

Aaron Tasjan turned me onto these guys sometime in 2008 and they just floored me. This album is easily the best thing they’ve ever done. My girlfriend says it’s her favorite of 2012 … and while it’s one of my favs, I just couldn’t move either of the two above it down, but I originally had it at #7 before listening to it again and realizing I’ve played it more than anything but the top two, so it got the year-end jump. I can’t find anything about this I don’t like … the banjo is absolutely amazing on “Live And Die” and the lyrics, start to finish, are spectacular.

Favorites: The Once and Future Carpenter, Live and Die, Pretty Girl From Michigan, Winter In My Heart, February Seven … really, the whole album.

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

4. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur

There’s nothing I’ve ever heard from Kathleen Edwards that I’ve not immediately liked. This is her fourth studio release, and she just keeps getting better, every time out. The lyrics, the music, the layering, everything about this album shows her growth and desire to make the next one better, not just make it. “A Soft Place To Land” might be my favorite song of the year.

Favorites: A Soft Place To Land, Chameleon / Comedian, Pink Champagne

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

5. Dar Williams – In The Time Of Gods

I think my biggest regret of the summer was not seeing Dar Williams at The Kent Stage. This album is so good, it’s hard to believe she’s had eight other studio albums. How she finds the ability to pull out new songs, ideas, stories and song structures shows the amazing talent she is. The opening song is a crazy parental look around the world, and it just gets better from there. I think Dar Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter are the two greatest female Americana singers in this generation.

Favorites: “I Am The One Who Will Remember You, Write This Number Down, You Will Ride With Me Tonight, I Have Been Around The World

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

6. Steven Wright-Mark – My Plastic World

Steven Wright-MarkI reviewed this album on the blog. That’s here. This is from it:
If you’re a fan of the sweet lyrical hooks of power pop powered by amazing guitar riffs and changes you don’t see coming, “My Plastic World” will score well in your real world. It’s ready, and able, to be on your turntable. It may not go straight to number one, but Steven Wright-Mark’s “My Plastic World” would be a welcome addition to anyone’s playlist.

I wrote that in August. It still holds true today. This is a great album.

Favorites: My Friends Are Trash, Almost Summer, Imaginary Friends

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

7. Enemies! – Desolation Dream

Desolation Dream - smallIn addition to putting out two EP’s and touring all over the country, Aaron Lee Tasjan managed to get a full-length album out, too, with this Madison Square Gardeners side project with Rich Hinman, Mark Stepro, and John Kengla. Twelve songs of music that rocks you out of your seat, or gives you a beat to relax to when they slow the tempo down, including the album’s opener “Apathy Junkie,” which is going to be featured in “The Way, Way Back,” a movie starring Steve Carrell and Amanda Peet. That’s pretty sweet, if you ask me. Always happy when good things happen to good bands!

Favorites: Weird Ohio, Apathy Junkie, Summer of Legs, Fighting For The Rock ‘n’ Roll

Buy on Bandcamp • Enemies! Facebook Page

8. Two Gallants – The Bloom and The Blight

An aptly named album if there ever was one … this is all sorts of sonic noise and amazingly soft quiet tunes with a flow that just made this an album you listen to, not a collection of songs. Not a concept album, but expertly tracked. As gruff and chaotic as it is at times, it’s just as surprisingly slow and sweet at others. I liked this a whole lot more than I thought I would based on what I’d heard from others about it. Hope they tour out on this side of the country.

Favorites: Willie, Sunday Souvenirs, My Love Won’t Wait

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

9. Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?

Yes, she’s still making music. And yes, it’s still really good. This is her ninth studio album and her voice is still just as sharp and identifiable as ever, and her lyrics are just as haunting. “Queen of Denmark” might be my favorite song she’s ever done, and that’s taking the crown from “Jackie,” from her debut album, so that’s saying a lot. While this is a whole lot less angry on the surface that some would expect, she’s still simmering, just presents it better.

Favorites: Old Lady, Back Where You Belong, The Wolf Is Getting Married, Queen of Denmark

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

10. Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives

Someone gave me a Postal Service CD at a show in Columbus in 2005. “Listen to this. I think you’ll like it.” That was my introduction to Benjamin Gibbard. I hadn’t heard anything from Death Cab For Cutie, simply because the name sounded like something I’d not like at all. Granted, that changed after I listened, and when I heard he was putting out an album of songs that have been stuck in his back pocket for years, I was pretty exited. Like Greg Joseph’s “American Diary,” sometimes when you’re in a band, you have songs you write for yourself. This is like that. Said Gibbard, “‘These songs span eight years, three relationships, living in two different places, drinking then not drinking. ‘They’re a side story, not a new chapter.” What’s funny is the first single, “Teardrop Windows,” is like my third favorite song on the album. “Bigger Than Love” and “I’m Building A Fire” are better, in my opinion.

Favorites: Teardrop Windows, Dream Song, Bigger Than Love, I’m Building A Fire

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

The rest of the Top 20

… in list form, because this is late and I’m lazy.

11. Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables

Favorites: In The Beginning, New York Banker, Digger Dave’s Crazy Women Blues

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

12. Harper Blynn – Busy Hands

Favorites: In Another Life, Knife, Summer in Exile

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

13. Bob Mould – Silver Age

Favorites: Star Machine, Round The City Square, First Time Joy

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

14. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

Favorites: Hold On, You Ain’t Alone,  On Your Way

Buy on iTunes  • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

15. The Whiles – Somber Honey

Favorites: So Sweet, Mouth of the Wolf, Seem So Long Ago, Somber Honey, Leaving

Buy on Bandcamp

16. The Lumineers – The Lumineers

Favorites: Dead Sea, Ho Hey, Stubborn Love, Morning Song

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

17. Alberta Cross – Songs of Patience

Favorites: Magnolia, Ophelia On My Mind, I Believe In Everything

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

18. Keane – Strangeland

Favorites: Disconnected, Silenced By The Night, Sovereign Light Cafe, It’s Not True

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

19. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten

Favorites: Handwritten, Too Much Blood, Biloxi Parish, Mae, National Anthem

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

20. Green Day – Uno, Dos, Tre (combined)

Favorites: UNO: Kill The DJ, Oh Love, Angel Blue;  DOS: Baby Eyes, Amy, Makeout Party; TRE: 8th Avenue Serenade; Amanda, Walk Away

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon (Uno, Dos, Tres) • Band Website

Bonus: Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

Favorites: Land of Hope and Dreams, Death To My Hometown, Rocky Ground

Buy on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • Band Website

Agree? Disagree? Leave me comments about what you think I missed.

The Best EPs released in 2012


Every year I try to release my Best of list of the best music I’ve found in 2012, and every year the list gets bigger. This year I’m breaking it up into two lists:  EPs (which I consider to be less than 30 minutes) and full albums. This is the list of EPs. Here are the rules:

• Must have been released between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 (As listed on Amazon)
• Must be available for purchase via Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, CDBaby, Bandcamp or band’s website. Can’t pimp a CD that you can’t buy or download legally
• Must be less than 30 minutes, or it goes into the full-length category
• Must not be a live album
• Must not be a greatest hits package
• Must not be a box set or a collection of previously released material

Those are my rules. Disagree? Make your own list! With that in mind, here’s my favorite EPs released in 2012:

1. Aaron Tasjan – August Moon & The Thinking Man’s Filth

Aaron Tasjan - August Moon

No, having “August Moon” on this list doesn’t go against my rule of previously-released material, as these are new recordings, and great ones at that. Keys by Bryn Roberts, strings by Eleanor Whitmore. Drums and percussion by Mark Stepro. Guitars by Aaron and and Chris Masterson. Background vocals by Mark Stepro, Eleanor Whitmore and Aaron bring new life to classics like “Life Is A Movie,” this might be the best version of this song I’ve ever heard. “The Thinking Man’s Filth” is more rocking than “August Moon,” especially the blistering guitars on “Hole In The Wall” and “Dirty Angel.” And like “August Moon” … this rerecording of “My Camera” might be my favorite version of that song.

Favorites: Fake Tattoo, Life Is A Movie (August Moon); Dirty Angel, My Camera (The Thinking Man’s Filth)

Both EPs are available on his Bandcamp site

2. Phantods – Music Is Dead

Phantods - Music Is Dead

It’s hard to include this on my list as the band has gone on hiatus, but damn, for three and a half albums, they were amazing. This short, three-song release was in conjunction with a final show in Columbus, and a screening of a documentary called “Meet The Phantods.” As creative as the band’s members are, they will show up down the road in another Columbus band, but it was a joy to see them on stage and I still smile whenever a Phantods song hits my iTunes playlist.

Favorites:  All three songs are great.

Buy it at Bandcamp for a $1. Yep. One dollar.

3. Ryan Smith – The Waiting

Ryan Smith - WaitingAnother Columbus artist here who makes some interesting electropop, taking generous use of looping, layering and a bevy of sounds that seem to come from everywhere and nowhere, especially when listening with earphones, or in the car. It’s like a sonic treat for your brain. And wallet, because he’s posted it for free on his Bandcamp site. And the only thing better than free music, is good free music.

Favorites: Four Letter Word, Give Me A Sign

Download it for free from his Bandcamp site.

4. David Ford – Austerity Measures & Ford 4.2

David Ford - Ford 4.2

As long as David Ford keeps releasing music — either full albums or EPs, he will find a spot on my favorites. “Austerity Measures” starts off rocking and remains true for all five songs, whereas “Ford 4.2” starts off with a short instrumental called “Overture” before getting into Ford’s typical singer/songwriter stuff, but “Ford 4.2” is much softer and piano-oriented than his usual guitar and layering stuff. Shows great growth and belief in letting the words rise versus the layering and sequencing he’s done in the past. “Austerity Measures,” on the other hand, rocks.

Favorites: “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Credit Card” and “Life Is Good” from “Austerity Measures” and “What’s Not To Love” and “Philadelphia Boy” from “Ford 4.2”

Buy both on iTunes • Buy on Amazon • David Ford’s Website

5. We Are Public Radio – We Are Public Radio

A great band from Akron that opened for The Clarks at Musica. At the time I didn’t recognize Andy Dolson (formerly of Dolson, a band I’ve seen open for Red Wanting Blue twice, I think. Regardless, this collaboration with Patrick Boyle resulted in a great six-song EP and some airplay on The Summit. The keys and guitars make a great mix. My only wish was this was longer than 23 minutes.

Favorites: Hurricane, Lonely September, Could Be You

Buy it on their Big Cartel site • We Are Public Radio’s website

6. Amos Lee – As The Crow Flies

Amos Lee - As The Crow FliesEverything this guy does winds up on my list, every year. He’s just amazing. From the lyrics, to the delivery, to musicians he has in the studio with him (last year’s ‘backing band’ for his “Mission Bell” album was Calexico). This EP is some of the songs that were recorded for that CD but never released, and feature Joey Burns and John Convertino from Calexico, so if you liked “Mission Bell” you’ll probably like this as well.

Favorites: Simple Things, Say Goodbye, May I Remind You

Buy it on iTunes • Buy it on Amazon • Amos Lee’s website

Think I missed something? Let me know and I’ll give it a listen.

CD Review: “My Plastic World” ~ Steven Wright-Mark


Steven Wright-MarkI have a funny story to tell you about music piracy: Sure, it’s wrong, and in some way we’ve all done it … whether it’s mix tapes and CDs to Napster to any P2P or torrent site you know of; trading with friends, etc. And we’ve all heard about how it’s taking money from artists in the giant-trickle-down of the business of making and making money from albums, but sometimes, piracy has just the opposite affect … it creates fans. This is how I discovered, became a fan of Steven Wright-Mark. A guy who I can say I’d probably never have heard of if not for piracy.

After downloading his first CD — quite by accident, thinking it was the comedian Steven Wright — I gave it a listen and was completely blown away the first song, “Pawn Shop Crystal Ball.” Completely hooked me, and by the end of “Pop Motel” I became a fan. In the five years since then, that song has entered my Top 50, ever. It’s a well done power pop song with super catchy lyrics and hooks.

Since then, I’ve actually purchased both of his first two albums; and started following him on Facebook, Reverb Nation and Twitter … and was surprised when he not only followed me, but was active and engaging in conversations, debates, shared dislike of several bands I won’t name, and was surprised to get a direct message offering to send me the new CD, which I received a couple of weeks ago and have been listening to repeatedly.

“My Plastic World,” was released August 28th on Amplifrier Music Co, and is available digitally via iTunes. or Amazon if you want a physical copy, or if you’re a Spotify fan, you can stream it there, too. It quickly found a regular spot in my playlist, and easily one of the top three CDs I’ve heard in 2012. The lyrics are nicely woven little gems of power pop hooks, but what sets this album apart from his previous two are the guitar riffs. Flying out of nowhere and taking the songs a different — and better — direction musically. I mentioned that in a tweet, Steven replied, “Yeah, been getting into heavier guitars since playing more live. It’s simply fun to do!”

The 11-song album gets rolling with a 43-second distortion-microphoned intro and then the guitars kick in on “I Wanna” … which also features great vocal layering. That’s gonna be a fun one to see live, for sure.

“On Your Turntable” and “Almost Summer” show off the lyrics, including this gem from “Almost Summer”

“She hides intentions like her toes beneath the sand
One wiggle and it’s there to see”  ~ Almost Summer

A sad-bastard girlfriend-made-good song, “That Star” follows, then things get rocking. “My Friends Are Trash,” “The End Of Another Year,” “Imaginary Friends” and “Your Name” are four of the last six on the CD and the best four songs on the CD, in my opinion. Makes me remember the days when albums (and cassettes) had the A-Side and B-Side … and how one was always so much better than the other. For me, the B-Side of “My Plastic World” is far superior.  In all honesty, the entire 11-song, 41-minute CD is a home run, I just prefer the second half to the first half.

If you’re a fan of the sweet lyrical hooks of power pop powered by amazing guitar riffs and changes you don’t see coming, “My Plastic World” will score well in your real world. It’s ready, and able, to be on your turntable. It may not go straight to number one, but Steven Wright-Mark’s “My Plastic World” would be a welcome addition to anyone’s playlist.

And if you do check it out, toss down the money. Trust me. As I guy who discovered him through piracy, I have no problem dropping a Hamilton for a great CD.

My Top 21 Albums of 2010


#1 without a doubt and no, it wasn’t even close … my favorite album of 2010:

Two Cow Garage – Sweet Saint Me

Once again, this band blows me away by constantly and consistently upgrading the quality of their music.  2010 was a HUGE year for this band from Columbus, Ohio … from bassist Shane Sweeney discovering the joys of fatherhood to Micah Schnabel releasing a solo album (see “When The Stage Lights Go Out” below for more on that) to blowing up SXSW and leading an impromptu parade through Comfest and two tours that crossed the country, these boys were never home.  Now that the line-up is complete and they’ve been playing together for two complete albums now, Cody Smith (drums) and Andy Schell (keyboards) round out the amazing sound of the fifth full-length release from the best band you’ve probably never heard of.

Highlights: Jackson, Don’t You Worry; Sweet Saint Me; What Dying Is For; Brothers In Arms

#2 .. only because #1 was so great:

The Madison Square Gardeners – Taste The Thunder & Tune It Up, Dime It Out

Released as two separate EP’s in 2010, the six-track “Taste The Thunder” and the five-song “Tune It Up, Dime It Out” make a terrific 43-minute trek through the greatness of this band. Aaron Tasjan’s lyrics continue to grow and I’d listen to Rich Hinman play me anything on that slide lap steel guitar he has.  They’re spending December recording new tunes and playing a residency at Rockwood 2 in New York City; and I can’t wait to hear what goodness comes out of these sessions.

Highlights: Blessing; Shoe Gaze Band; Everybody’s Girl; Cross The Line; Love’s The Only Way

The rest of the Top 10 … in no particular order:

David Ford – Let The Hard Times Roll

My favorite troubadour is back again with thirteen more tunes that have been in heavy rotation in my iTunes/iPod since earlier this summer.  He’s had some problems with his record companies seemingly closing up shop overnight, but continues to putting on shows, working his way across America and his native UK.  The lyrics keep getting better, starting with the CD’s first song, “Making Up For Last Time” and “Nothing At All” … introspective, outlandish and socially commentary all at the same time.  It’s nice to see him continue to evolve and keep his fires burning.

Highlights: To Hell With The World; Making Up For Lost Time; Nothing At All; Hurricane

Semi-Precious Weapons – You Love You

I was hesitant to put this on here because it contains four previously released songs from their two independent releases, but they’re still opening for Lady Gaga, they’re still delivering the glam and the glitz and showbiz to people who either love them or hate them.  The new material is good, I really love “Leave Your Pretty To Me” … in the words of frontman Justin Tranter, “The Midwest loves a fucking power ballad.”  Same with “Look At Me” … but “Sticky With CHampagne” and “Statues of Ourselves” are just kick-ass fun tunes about living a rock-n-roll lifestyle on the glamour side of the tracks.  Subtlety is not his strength, so listener beware!

Highlights: Look At Me; Statues of Ourselves, Put A Diamond In It; Her Hair Is On Fire (2010)

Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Age of Miracles

I’ve been an MCC fan going on 20 years now (thanks, neighbor who turned me on to her) and am glad she continues to make great American music that’s no longer classified as ‘country’ … it’s more folk, alt-countrish … what we now call Americana.  This 13-song collection features a lot of stripped down acoustic tracks that let her voice, and her lyrics, shine.

Highlights: I Have A Need For Solitude; We Traveled So Far; The Way I Feel; Zephyr

Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

It’s not as great as their first release, “The ’59 Sound” … but it still has been rocking my world. They’re so throwback to when all you needed was three verses, a bridge, a catchy chorus and a great hook and riff. This album brings all that.  From the title track to “The Queen of Lower CHelsea” to “Old Haunts” …. there are tracks here that will stay with me my whole life.  “I called for my father but my my father had died. And you told me fortunes in American slang.”  … fucking genius.

Highlights: American Slang; We Did it When We Were Young; Queen of Lower Chelsea; Boxer

Chumbawamba – ABCDEFG

Say what you will about how tired you got of “Tubthumping” … you still sing it.  That was really NOTHING like the band is about (as the disappointing album sales to folks who love/loved that song show). I’ve played songs of this CD for people and they all say the same thing … “I like this, who is it?” followed by “Really? I never would have guessed that.”  They’re really rather mellow and fun to listen to. This album includes such fun songs as “Torturing James Hetfield” by forcing him to listen to their greatest hits album (to which Hetfield sings along); “Dance, Idiot Dance” and “The Same So-So Tune” … none of which have any resemblance to “Tubthumping” …

Highlights: Torturing James Hetfield; Dance, Idiot, Dance; Singing Out The Days; Missed

Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

I had no real desire to listen to this CD … a friend asked me if it was on my pirate sites … so I broke all sorts of international copyright laws and downloaded it for her.  After I delivered said pirate CD she asked if I had listened to it .. I said “No, I’m not a fan of Gnarls Barkley.”  She gave me the STFU look and said, “You really need to listen to this.”    So I did.

And then I decided that Cee Lo Green was the love child from an orgy of The Temptations, Gladys Night, Aretha Franklin, all the original members of Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and several members of the Pips.  It’s all sorts of 70’s soul and the Motown sound mashed up with all that’s good about today’s rap/R&B that doesn’t involve autotune.

Yeah, I was floored.

Highlights: Fuck You; Satisfied; I want You; Fool For You; Wildflower

Victoria Vox – Exact Change

Step by step, left right left, this CD just hooked me with the multitude of hooks in songs, choruses, bridges and verses in a way that no other album did in 2010.  Victoria’s approach to songs, songwriting, singing and performance blew me away when I saw her in Columbus. She’s a blast to watch live for both the ukulele and mouth trumpet.  She love you. And she sings songs in French.  Without surrendering to invading German armies.

Highlights: Oh I Wonder; Technicolor Way; Make  A Mess; Shake It Up; Shake It Up

Patrick Park – Come What Will

I don’t know how or where this CD came into my collection … all I know is it really blasted me out of some unhappy mindframes to some happy mindframes.  That’s what I love about music .. that ability to transform my mood from shitty to perfect with just a guitar and some words.  “You Were Always The One” is my song of the year for 2010 … because … well … yeah … it so fits my life and makes me smile. Because I found my one. And lost her. And found her again. So yeah … when he sings this, I get it:

“Now mistakes it’s true I’ve made more than a few
and I’m goin to make many others
And it’s hard to see why we go through this sometimes
All the things that we do to each other
And I don’t understand while I play these games and I trade the truth for lies
Cuz you’re always the one I was looking for babe, it just took time to realize”

Highlights: You Were Always The One; You’ll Get Over; Silence and Storm; Starry Night

Bonus CD:  Emma Pollock – The Law of Large Numbers.

She’s Scottish. She writes killer lyrics. She sings like she’s chasing Satan back to hell to take over. She doesn’t give a shit what you think.  I wanna have her babies. That’s why she gets the Bonus CD

Highlights: I Could Be A Saint; Letters To Strangers; House On The Hill; Hug The Piano

The Next Ten:

Doug Keith – The Lucky Ones

Dar Williams – Many Great Companions

Bookmobile – The New Patriot

British India – Avalanche

Ed Kowalczyk – Alive

Steven Page – Page One

Spoon – Transference

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

Doug Keith’s on Tour … check him out


So I’m sitting today at work listening to a guy named Doug Keith (website / myspace).  I’ll admit, I never heard of him before his publicist tossed me an email with an MP3  a couple of weeks ago and asked for my take.  And … well … after getting the whole CD, I have to say I really like it.

Doug was a member of The Gods Hate Kansas … which I tried to research but couldn’t find … so I don’t know what kind of punk music they played, but Doug Keith’s solo album “The Lucky Ones” … which comes out in March,  is a great collection of Americana. Nice use of strings, acoustic and electric guitar and both simple and complex arrangements.  I’m particularly digging “We Left Everything” which just builds throughout the entire song both musically and lyrically and is perhaps the best song on the CD to lead the album.  Other favorites are “Arms Heavy” and “The Lowest Low.”

Feel free to download (for FREE)  “The Lucky Ones” in MP3 format (right-click / save as) and give Doug Keith a listen … and then decide if you’re ready to get out of the snow and into some hot indie rock, you can check him out Wednesday in Pittsburgh at Howler’s Coyote Cafe, 4509 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh; or Thursday at the Treehouse, 887 Chambers Road in Columbus.

Complete Tour Dates:

02/10: Pittsburgh, PA @ Howler’s Coyote Cafe
02/11: Columbus, OH @ The Treehouse
02/13: Ann Arbor, MI @ Hathaway’s Hideaway
02/15: Chicago, IL @ Quenchers
02/16: Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
02/17: Champaign, IL @ Aroma Cafe
02/18: Indianapolis, IN @ Lazy Daze Coffeehouse
02/19: Lexington, KY @ Common Grounds
02/20: Louisville, KY @ Sunergos Coffee
02/22: Winston-Salem @ Wake Forest Radio in studio session
02/22: Winston-Salem @ The Garage with Della Mae
02/26: Greensboro, NC @ The Green Bean with North Elementary
02/27: Chapel Hill, NC @ The Cave with North Elementary

Eric’s Top 25 Albums in 2009


As always, you are free to agree or disagree. This is the stuff I like that was released in 2009. I based the list on what I’ve listened to the most and what I’ve enjoyed listening to … if I pick it and play it that means more than random shuffles.

(For the record, I’ve listed in them alphabetical order by artist first name. Because I’m weird like that. You are free to format your list any way you want it.  A lot of this stuff I found on eMusic … send me an email and I’ll hook you up with 50 free DRM-free MP3 downloads just to try it out. And, yes, eMusic has changed their policy … most single albums with 12 or more songs are now 12 credits and they’ve added bands like REM and Springsteen and lots of mainstream stuff.)

Anyway … here’s my list. And if you read carefully, you’ll find I did pick one favorite, despite not wanting to rank albums this year. It was *that* good I couldn’t resist.

Angel Taylor – Love Travels

iTunes eMusic Amazon

This popped up as a suggestion from an eMusic friend based on some things in my list. I’ll admit when I was listening to the previews it really hit me as a “wow can this girl sing”  … then when I got into the album it was like “WOW … this girl CAN sing!”  Although it is mostly mainstream pop, the lyrics are great and it’s fun to listen when you’re in the mood for love songs and straight out pop music. She’s in the Brandi Carlile /Cobie Caillat genre of young, talented female singer songwriters …this album is is a lot about getting over lost love and looking for new love.

Favorite Songs: Too Good For Words, Lightning Strikes

Austin Lucas – Somebody Loves You


I saw Austin Lucas on the Suburban Home tour with Two Cow Garage and Jon Snodgrass. There’s a lot of twang and bluegrass in his sound, he’s soft, he’s loud, he says a lot with a little. I like it. A lot. The songwriting is very free-form, not stuck in the traditional verse, chorus, bridge structure. It’s way to indie to be country, but there’s a lot of country influences here.  Give him a listen … if he’s friends with the boys from Two Cow Garage and toured with Chuck Regan, that’s good enough for me!

Favorite Songs: Somebody Loves You, Precious Little Heart

The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You

iTunes Amazon

It’s not often someone says, “Hey, you should check out” … random band name and I do. I’m a music elitist. I’ll admit it.  But a friend said, “Check out The Avett Brothers. You’ll like them.”  And wow, was she right. The harmony, the melody, the guitar work … this album is outstanding from top to bottom and one of my favorites for the year … well beyond Top 25.  I can (and have) listened to this for hours on end.  And their show at the Beachland Ballroom was outstanding, too.  This one is not to be missed if you’re a fan of Americana.

Favorite Songs: I And Love And You, Ten Thousand Words

Bob Mould – Life and Times


Bob Mould became a favorite of mine when Andy Gray invited me to see Sugar.  I was a Husker Du fan in high school (wasn’t everyone? No? Just me. And Dan, probably), but wasn’t aware of Bob’s solo records. I immediately picked them both up (Black Sheets of Rain and Workbook).  I’ve seen Bob solo four or five times now, including one of my favorite shows ever at Little Brothers where he did a half-acoustic, half-electric two-hour show then hung out after talking to people, signing anything you purchased and taking photos with damn near the whole crowd.  This album was a long time coming, and worth the wait.

Favorite Songs: I’m Sorry Baby, But You Can’t Stand In My Light Anymore, City Lights (Days Go By)

Chantal Kreviazuk Plain Jane


Another long-time favorite of mine just keeps putting out another collection of great songs. This album is a bit different, she’s branching out into some jazzy riffs (“Plain Jane”) and piano-heavy ballads (“5000 Days,” “Say The Word”), but my favorite is the simple acoustic stylings of “Halfway Around The World.”  The CD ends with perhaps her strangest stretch … “Na Miso” … which is in both English and Swahili … regardless, it’s a keeper.  Chantal just keeps getting better with each album.

Favorite Songs: Halfway Around The World, Invincible

The Clarks – Restless Days


For 20+ years The Clarks have just kept putting out music that helps define Americana … Scott Blasey’s voice, Greg Joseph’s lyrics, Rob James on the guitars and Dave Minarik on drums. It kills me how a band can put out such consistent music and still not get noticed anywhere outside of 100 mile radius of Pittsburgh.  After both Greg and Scott released solo albums, the Clarks come back with another collection of solid rock songs that will be rocking bars and small stages for years to come.

Favorite Songs: Inside, Midnight Rose, True Believer

Cracker – Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey


David Lowery is one of those guys that could sing the ABC Song and people would either trash or praise it.  Every time you think Cracker is dead, he whips up a bunch of classic Lowery tunes, turns up the amps and lets it rip. This album is your typical 11-track with all eleven of them showing up on favorite lists of Crumbs all over the planet. Quirky lyrics, sweet guitar riffs and hooks for days.  Yep, that’s Lowery, in a nutshell.  And that’s why we love him.

Favorite Songs: Show Me How This Thing Works, Turn On Tune In Drop Out With

Craig Lyons – On Reflection


“Dude. Walk with me. I have something you have GOT to hear.” This is how Mark Nye introduced me to the new Craig Lyons CD. Well, two songs, as it wasn’t officially released yet. The first was Craig’s incredible cover of the Beatles “Across The Universe” … which has some amazing strings and “If It Helps You Sleep” … I was hooked. The album has two distinct feels to it, which works when listening straight through, and the songs stand out enough on their own for a shuffle. The writing is top notch, and the production of this is amazing. If I was ranking, this would be up in my top 10, easily.

Favorite Songs: Moonburn, Across The Universe

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

iTunes Amazon

The Decemberists have such a distinct sound you instantly know who you’re listening to as soon as Colin Meloy starts singing.  “The Hazards Of Love” is a great conceptual album that shows the growth of their songwriting and delivery and musicianship … and how it’s possible for an indie rock band to still make indie rock despite being on a major label. And anytime you have a line like “The prettiest whistles won’t wrestle the thistles undone” I’m hooked.

Favorite Songs: The Hazards Of Love #I, Annen Water

Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane and Sugarcane


Every couple of years you hear there’s a new Elvis Costello album coming out and you wonder …  what’s left?  The 70’s and 80’s were angry, and mellow, and questioning. The 90’s were all over the place and I was starting to wonder if his sun was setting.  Then he hooks up with T-Bone Burnett for this collection of acoustic, bluegrass, Americana and some country stylings that made me realize that yes, Elvis Costello’s still got it.

Favorite Songs: She Was No Good, Sulphur To Sugarcane

Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown


The first three times I listened to this CD I wasn’t impressed.  I was confused to see how it all fit together.  Then … I got it. This album is just the opposite.  Covertly political, even more ideological than direct … more about how we got here than where we are.  Billie Joe Armstrong has described the album as a “snapshot of the era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us, whether it be the government, religion, media or frankly any form of authority.”  That’s about as good as it gets. I listened to this CD more than any other in 2009. It just resonates with me.

Favorite Songs: East Jesus Nowhere, Last of the American Girls

Gomez – A New Tide


They drift from acoustic to psychedelic to melodic, but they don’t drift far from their format: Hooky indie rock that benefits from having three different vocalists in the band.  We have horns, upright bass, lots of great lyrics and songs that could be on any of their previous releases … staying the course is good when you’re one of the pioneers.  The only thing I didn’t like about this album was it checks in just under 44 minutes … Gomez has always been a bit of a jam band … but they don’t jam much here, at all … not a song over five minutes on the CD.

Favorite Songs: Natural Reaction, If I Ask You Nicely

Heartless Bastards – The Mountain


Once of two bands from Cincinnati I can spend hours listening to is Heartless Bastards (Over The Rhine is the other).  Sometimes softly acoustic, sometimes driving, this album shows off the growth of Erika Wennerstrom, the only member of the band from start to finish.  The album was produced by Spoon producer Mike McCarthy and shows off some of the more broader elements of Wennerstrom’s lyrics by simplifying the music behind them.

Favorite Songs: Early In The Morning, Wide Awake

Madeline – White Flag


Madeline Adams has one of those unique voices that you just don’t confuse with anyone else.  Her tales of heartbreak and happiness mixed with a folksy blend of music behind them highlight her Athens roots but allow her to branch out into the bluegrass, folk and country styles … I love when a song from this CD comes up in shuffle mode.  Simple music, great lyrics, smooth delivery … she’s grown significantly since her 2007 release “The Slow Bang.”

Favorite Songs: You Can’t Break My Heart, Rain, Fire and Brimstone, Shotgun Wedding

Madison Square Gardeners – Don’t Name The Pig


How could I NOT have this in any top album list I ever make?  Aaron Lee Tasjan and Ramblin’ Rob Heath and John Kengla and Mark Stepro and Rich Hinman and Bryn Roberts? That’s six helpings of musical genius all on one CD.   Lyrics by Tasjan, tunes by those boys? Hell, they’ve backed some of the biggest names in Americana … I’ve driven probably thousands of miles to see them in various arrangements with or without each other … so yeah, in my world, this is all good.  (BTW, did you see Tasjan on Letterman with Findlay Brown? Sweet). Rumor has it the follow-up is even better.  I’m just sayin’ …

Favorite Songs: My Ex-Girlfriend Is A Bad Lesbian On Drugs, Lightnin’ Don’t Strike Twice, Lean On Into Me

Marykate O’Neil – Underground


I first heard the name Marykate O’Neil when talking to Kate York in Pittsburgh when Kate was opening for Katheleen Edwards.  I went home and grabbed her self-titled debut.  I’ve been a fan ever since. Underground is recorded with, as she calls them, the usual suspects, including Ken Maiuri (Pedro The Lion) and Mickey Grimm (Over The Rhine) and is really a great piece of work.  Her voice is kind of Aimee Mann-like in a couple of places, but she’s far from being a clone of anyone.  This is a great collection of wonderful songs.

Favorite Songs: So Long, One Thousand Times A Day

Matt Hoover – Talking To Ghosts


I’ve seen Matt Hoover solo and with two bands (The SuperSaints and The Peachbones).  He’s always delivered good music and great lyrics. But on his solo debut, he really hits both right out of the park. “Talking To Ghosts” is amazing from start to finish. It’s great songwriting, but the arrangements and choice of instruments and how they’re played show Hoover’s ability to create good music, not just play it. Still, that being said, for me, the lyrics and voice are what make this CD so amazing.  Matt’s vocal delivery is top notch.  I know I said I wasn’t ranking albums this year, but from the open notes of “Nothing’s Fair” to the final fade of “Pass You By” … “Talking To Ghosts” is far and away my favorite of 2009.  Oh, and it’s my mom’s favorite, too. She asked for a copy!

Favorite Songs: Talking To Ghosts, The Whiskey, Pass You By

Razorbliss – American Gomorrah


If you want my attention … reach out through the speakers and grab me from the opening note. And don’t let go.  If you’re going to rock me, rock me from the opening note. And don’t stop.  This album does both of those.  From the crashing intro of the title track until the end of “The Mark You Leave” I can’t think of a better three songs to entice you into an album that that.  Add in “A Brand New Creature” and “Year of the Dead Celebrity” and you’ve got a total keeper of a rock and roll CD. The grown on this album in both words and music from “A Comedy of Errors” is readily apparent and exponential. Well done, boys!

Favorite Songs: Arsenic Angel, A Brand New Creature, A Brand New Creature

The Receiver – Length Of Arms


It’s hard for me to write about this album because it’s so good it just frustrates me that people don’t get what Casey and Jessie Cooper are trying to show. Music can be complex, yet simple. Astonishing and subtle. Loud and soft. And all at the same time. The way these two have changed up everything they did on their debut “Decades” yet left it all the same for “Length of Arms” shows their amazing grasp of the music they’re making.

Favorite Songs: Strength In Numbers, Castles In The Air

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles – The Stars Are Out


It’s no wonder that Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles captured the Americana Act of the Year for 2009 from the Boston Music Spotlight. “The Stars Are Out” is an outstanding piece of rock and roll like nobody else is making. Interludes in songs with soft vocals mixed with straight out rock and roll … it’s tough to call this anything but American music. Sarah Borges reminds me of Jennifer Trynin NOT in the shadow of Alanis Morrissette.

Favorite Songs: No One Will Ever Love You, Better At The End Of The Day

Son Volt – American Central Dust


“The truth is not free and everyone must pay the price,” sings Jay Farrar on “Dynamite” … the opening song. Someday, when the truth is free, I hope people look back at the great American voices of this generation and give Jay Farrar his due.  There’s not a single song on this CD I skip past. From the simple and complex arrangements to Farrar’s lyrics and voice, this CD needs to be heard.  Outstanding isn’t good enough to describe it. If this isn’t in your CD collection you’re missing a great piece of work.

Favorite Songs: All of them. Every.Single.One  (Especially Dynamite and Dust of Daylight and No Turning Back)

Stephen Lynch – 3 Balloons


Comedy is hard work. Musical comedy is harder. A man like Stephen Lynch makes it look easy. From the whorific “Waiting” to the album-ending tribute to 36D breasts “Hallelujah” Lynch tackles a lot of humor in short tracks, reflections of his career as a teacher, reflections of diary entries of famous people and the Ballad of Scarface … but the topper is America: “Our human rights record is something of note / We freed all our slaves and gave women the vote / Everyone’s equal forever always / Unless you’re one of them gays” … some of the most biting sarcasm you’ll find!  Lynch is amazing in his ability to point out the obvious in a unique song.  And his take on the Peanuts Gang is as outrageously funny as it is offensive.  Which makes it priceless!

Favorite Songs: America, Crazy Peanuts, You (Prettier Than), Halleluhah

Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Twice Born Men


For a short album (8 songs / 41 minutes) this collection of songs from London-based Sweet Billy Pilgrim is the sonic equivalent of a slam dunk. Every single sound is just perfect.  From the distortion microphone intro of “Here It Begins” to the end of “There Will It End” this is a total treat to the ears.  It’s no wonder it’s received the awards it has (5 stars/CD of the Week by the London Times and 4 stars from Mojo and Uncut).

Favorite Songs: Here It Begins, Longshore Drift, Future Perfect Tense

Todd Snider – The Excitement Plan


I could spend days talking about how Todd Snider is the Jack Kerouac of my generation, but armed with a six-string and a sharp sense of what’s going on … but I won’t.  From his debut in 1994 (Songs From The Daily Planet) nobody has captured the past 15 years in song and mood like Todd Snider. Paycheck aside, he’d rather play for 10 people who dig him than to 5,000 who may or may not. He’s toured everywhere  you can play with a guitar, from redneck hole-in-the-wall bars to small arenas to folk festivals to farmhouses.  And his songs and on-stage banter show that off. This CD continues in the tradition of wonderfully entertaining lyrics, great stories, good fun and a great mix of serious and silly.

Favorite Songs: Unorganized Crime, Slim Chance

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)


It’s kind of normal to name an album after yourself.  But a song, too? Then again, it is Wilco. And I feel the same about this album as I did Sky Blue Sky … it’s a great collection of songs that you can assemble in any random order and enjoy … There’s your typical experimental stuff, the steady-on Tweedy tunes and the quirky two or three tunes you can always count on from America’s Radiohead, as they’re called.  I think they’re well beyond Radiohead, but that’s just my opinion.

Favorite Songs: You Never Know, I’ll Fight