Crooked Eye Tommy
Butterflies & Snakes
Some might say that in the eyes of God, everyone is perfect — not despite whatever anomalies or “imperfections” they might be born with, but precisely because of them. The first song on Butterflies & Snakes is a swaggering testament to this notion and a perfect introduction to Crooked Eye Tommy and his band of brothers. Recorded live at Brotheryn Studios, the band’s first full-length offers an unsweetened, 100-proof taste of its Southern-soaked blues rock and a reintroduction to some of the area’s finest musicians — drummer Tony Cicero, bassist Glade Rasmussen and the brilliant multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Calire among them. Though written mostly by Tommy Marsh (the dude born with not one, but two lazy eyes), the two tracks by Paddy Marsh (Tommy’s blood brother) are standouts, especially “I Stole the Blues,” a clever homage to some of the artists who pioneered the genre. While Crooked Eye Tommy handles standard barroom blues with appropriate grit and gusto, occasionally it swerves in unexpected directions to tremendous effect on songs like the, melancholy soul-searcher “Tide Pool” with its sublime Hammond B-3 courtesy of Bill “Magic Fingers” Bilhou; “Southern Heart,” a radio-ready traditional country song that yearns for simpler times; and “Over and Over,” which showcases Calire’s mastery of the saxophone (a kiss-or-kill instrument in the rock realm), and features Becca Fuch’s transcendent vocals á la Clare Torry on Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.” Crooked Eye Tommy’s range is evident all over this record as it goes from the bedroom to the dance floor with “Mad and Disgusted,” a full-tilt boogie-woogie number from the gut. This isn’t just a great album, it’s the fulfillment of a promise Tommy made to himself long ago: “The world’s gonna see what a crooked eye can do.”
— Michel Miller
Available at www.crookedeyetommy.com.
I have had my hand in the musical pie for over 50 years as a music producer, manager, promoter and music-store proprietor. I am happy to say, I still love music and it’s a special thrill to come across current local music that captures my attention. Hot Roux has a very different vibe and feel and, in short, I really like it! Like many of us, my music listening seems to be relegated to the car. It’s how I really get acquainted with music. When I notice the CD has been in my player for several days and I still like it, well, that’s a pearl! My newest find, Hot Roux’s Stranger’s Blues, is indeed that pearl. It just happens that these are local guys — Jerry McWorter, lead singer and drummer; Brent Harding, bass; Ed Berghoff, guitar; and Franck Goldwasser, guitar, yet somehow they have imbued a Louisiana flavor that feels a lot more Southern than just Southern California. There is a simple sincerity in this swampy style of blues and rock ’n’ roll that is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes (old leather shoes, to be specific). The songwriting is clear, direct and engaging. Don’t take my word for it, though, give it a listen. But be careful, this CD might get trapped in your player for weeks..
— Jim Salzer
Stranger Blues will be a September featured record at Salzer’s Records and available to preview at one of its listening stations.
Whiskey and Waves
Medicine Hat’s first full-length is the type of record that’s hard to pigeonhole. There’s the power-pop factor present on tracks like “The Only Thing” and “Ain’t Complaining” that are reminiscent of The Lemonheads, yet alternative country in the vein of The Jayhawks reigns supreme on “Scared of You” and “107 Songs.” On the other hand, “More Than I Wanted” and “Falling Graces” are flat-out movie montage stoner rock. Even the record’s best song, “Whiskey and Waves,” sounds as if it’s a long lost Refreshments tune, which is fitting ’cause no one knew how the heck to classify The Refreshments when they were around. It may sound confusing but somehow it’s not, and Medicine Hat makes it all work together to form what could be a whole new genre: post-power-pop-alt-country-desert-stoner-rock. Chief songwriter Robert Ramirez keeps things interesting, and the overall playing is solid. It should be noted that longtime local drummer and Medicine Hat skin beater Chuck Herrera is still one of the best straightforward drummers in town. His simple in-the-pocket playing really allows the songs breathing room, a rarity these days. The recording, engineered by Earle Mankey (The Runaways, Concrete Blonde) is surprisingly lo-fi, which works well for the overall vibe, and there’s even a guest appearance from everybody’s favorite local renaissance man, Neal Casal. While post-power-pop-alt-country-desert-stoner-rock (PPPACDSR as fans like to call it) is a relatively young genre, Whiskey & Waves is its Sgt. Pepper.
— Chris Jay
Available at www.medicinehatmusic.net.
Ventucky String Band
The Band Plays On
The Ventucky String Band has been plucking away around these parts since 2010, and in the process has established itself as one of the premier acoustic acts in the area. With its latest release, The Band Plays On, there are two new facets to the group that help take things to the next level. One is Lauren Donahue, who’s joined the group on fiddle and vocals. Having a female voice in the previously all-male lineup now gives the harmonies and vocals a new, interesting layer. The second reason Ventucky String Band is reaching new heights is the songwriting. Groups that focus heavily on the playing (and with the word “string” in the name, they certainly have to) tend to let the actual song take the back seat in order to get to the ripping banjo and mandolin solos. In the case of The Band Plays On, however, Ventucky String Band puts just as much focus on the storytelling and melodies as it does on the actual performance. Standout tracks like “Honey Don’t” and “Autumn in My Mind” are simple but beautiful songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Steve Earle or John Prine record. The only real miss on the writing front is “Breathing Smoke,” a story song with the overused “shot a man for sleeping with my woman” plot line that seems a little forced and awkward. But one misfire on an eight-song album is nothing to complain about. Ventucky String Band has proved it can play on — and write on, just as well.
— Chris Jay
Available at www.ventuckystringband.com.