Further Observations From
A Jangly Music Fan
I've had the good fortune to attend some
terrific shows recently - Stephen Stills at the Birchmere,
the Gin Blossoms at the State Theater, Garnet Rogers at Jammin'
Java, Raul Malo at the Birchmere (with Last Train Home front
man Eric Brace as the opening act) and local musician Bill
Kaffenberger at an area coffeehouse. June looks to be just
as promising a month for live music, with Marshall Crenshaw
performing at Jammin' Java and Pure Prairie League and Poco
sharing the bill at the Birchmere. When I'm not attending
concerts at these favorite small, smoke-free venues, I have
enjoyed a plethora of new releases. New discs and songs that
are worthy of mention include:
Swimming In The Make Believe - Jeff Larson.
A Top Ten disc for 2006 - no ifs, ands or buts about it! In
another universe, Jeff Larson would be swimming in AM radio
hits. Jeff's "sound" is derived from the pop of
the 60s (Beach Boys and Byrds) and the "California soft
rock" of the 70s (America, Eagles). Guest artists include
Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley of America
Jeffrey Foskett and Randell Kirsch. From start to finish,
Swimming In The Make Believe is a testament to Jeff's talent
as a singer, songwriter and musician. For those who are already
familiar with Jeff Larson, this is his finest effort yet!
For those who are unfamiliar with Jeff, snap this disc up
and seek out his previous releases. Jangle enthusiasts will
dig "Southaways," but pop music fans will delight
in all of the tracks that collectively wisk the listener to
a California state of mind. Note to the members of Bryndle
(Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman, Kenny Edwards): when you do
decide to fill the gap left by Andrew Gold, I encourage you
to recruit Jeff Larson. I can't think of a better compliment
than that. Long may you run, Sir Jeff!
There's A Chance - Sceptre. Several times
a year, I find a true "nugget" on the CDBaby website.
There's A Chance is one such nugget! The disc features 14
original tunes, all clocking in at 2:48 or less, and plenty
of jangly guitars. In addition to the obvious mid-60s Beatles/Byrds
references, this band will remind pop listeners of Shane Faubert,
the Cheepskates, Velvet Crush, the Wonders (the fictional
band featured in the movie That Thing You Do!) and the Sprague
Brothers. "Shot Through The Heart" also reminds
me of Dwight Twilley; "Bye Bye Baby" sounds like
a lost Cascades tune; and another track could pass for a Paul
Peterson song. Set the Wayback Machine for 1965 - every song
on the disc would merit AM airplay in that year. Better yet,
add this disc to your play list and enjoy Sceptre's timeless
Don't Hurt To Dream - Last Man Standing.
Another terrific find on the CDBaby website. This is some
of the finest country/pop/rock you haven't heard! Fans of
Rascal Flatts, Blackhawk, Restless Heart and the Nitty Gritty
Dirt Band should dig this album. The eleven songs on this
album feature tight, crisp harmonies and excellent melodies
with plenty of hooks. This is genre-crossing music that should
appeal to a broad audience of music fans!
Ladies Lookout - by Andrew LeDrew. Andrew
was mentioned in my last column as one-half of the brother
combo Brothers In Stereo. Andrew's solo disc (an overlooked
gem from 2005) is every bit as good as the combo disc. Guitars
jangle, chime and ring throughout the twelve tracks, and "Shotgun
Wedding" will certainly appeal to jangleholics. Comparisons
to Tom Petty and Michael Carpenter are warranted, and "Spotlight"
sounds eerily like George Harrison. Please, Andrew, may we
have some more!
I mentioned local pal Bill Kaffenberger
in my opening paragraph. Bill can jangle with the best of
them - he brings an acoustic guitar with him to his coffeehouse
gigs, but he also likes to plug in his Rickenbacker 12-string
at these shows and pleases his audience with some nice Byrds
cover songs mixed in with his original material. Bill was
kind enough to give me a CDR sampler of some of the tracks
that will be on his next album, Jingle Jangle Morning, which
he hopes to release later this year. Aside from the obvious
Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty references, Bill's music reminds
me of Herb Eimerman. Jingle Jangle Morning will feature more
original tunes (including a cool rap/raga song and an instrumental)
and a cover of Gene Clark's haunting ballad "With Tomorrow."
If you haven't already acquired Bill's first disc, This World
Is Bound To Fall, I encourage you to do so!
I Get Stupid - Charlotte Kendrick. Okay,
so this album doesn't jangle
but it is one terrific
contemporary folk-pop album that ought to remind listeners
of Lucy Kaplansky, Nanci Griffith and Norah Jones. Want to
combine your Sunday newspaper and leisure reading with a great
voice and a strong selection of songs? Look no further than
I Get Stupid. This is a re-release on the cool Sona Blast!
Label; thanks, guys, for sending me this disc on an unsolicited
basis! I'll definitely be in attendance the next time Charlotte
appears in the Washington, D.C. area! Check this album out
at www.charlottekendrick.com or www.sonablast.com
The Face Down Records label has just released two strong new
discs - The Successful Failures by the band of the same name
and What Is All This Sweet Work Worth? by Milton and Devils
Party. Face Down has a well-established track record of signing
very worthy indie bands, and these two groups are no exception.
The Successful Failures features Face Down Records honcho
and Dipsomaniac frontman, Mick Chorba, along with Rob Martin
and Ron Bechamps. The band has a crunchy rock/pop sound that
carries over from their original material to the bonus track,
Simon & Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock." Put the top
down, crank up the speakers and enjoy the ride! Milton and
the Devils Party follow a more mainstream power pop formula
(Smart Brown Handbag comes to mind), and jangle enthusiasts
will definitely enjoy "The Hero Of My Life."
Speaking of New Jersey-based indie record
labels, Kool Kat Musik has just released a five-song CD-EP
by the Fire Apes. The quartet continues to give a fresh spin
to their brand of pseudo-60s pop. My favorite track: "If
Things Don't Look So Good Today."
Shell Collection - by Dom Mariani. Australia's
Get Hip label has released a 14-song compilation of rarities
by Aussie Pop All Star Mariani. Dom's treatment of the Beach
Boys' "Caroline, No" is worth the price of admission!
Under The Covers Volume 1 - by Matthew Sweet
and Susanna Hoffs. Fifteen cover songs by two of pop's "royalty."
From my perspective, it doesn't get much better than this!
"Sid and Susie" shine on every track, but they jangle
exceptionally on "And Your Bird Can Sing." It's
nice to know that further collaborative efforts are planned!
The Sails - by the Sails. I felt teased
when Rainbow Quartz included two tracks by this group on the
label's 2006 Sampler. Now I feel quite gratified that the
label has released the group's full-length debut disc. "See
Myself" opens the disc with a magnificent chiming Byrdsian
tune; a succession of psych-pop tunes follow, and "She
Is All That Matters" is a delightful helping of classic
orchestral Beach Boys pop. The Sails sound most like the Grip
who are also Rainbow Quartz artists. This self-titled
disc is a solid contender for Top Ten honors in 2006.
Standout jangly tunes this month include
"Jangle #1" by Semion (featured on their new disc,
Help Me I Work In An Office) and "Star of Desire"
by the Wooldridge Brothers (from their Star of Desire CD).
Until next month, enjoy the longer days of summer
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