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Around Hear: December 2011

| December 1, 2011 | 1 Comment

Downers Grove-based Rollo Time, brainchild of singer/songwriter Jon Raleigh, carry on a tradition of smart Chicago power-pop blueprinted by bands like Material Issue and Green. Rollo Time occasionally tosses in more interesting elements of harder-rocking, obscure Brit-pop bands like The Boo Radleys and Thurman on Victims Of The Crown, their sophomore effort, recorded at Chicago’s Gravity Studios. As true connoisseurs of this genre, the band sound better when they stay away from Raspberries-style sugary pop overdoses. Harder-edged tracks like “Travel The World,” and “On The Ground” show Rollo Time at their power-pop best. (
– David Gedge

Opening with a tape loop of a letter to “daddy” read by one of his Highlife band members, Jason Ajemian‘s Riding The Light Into The Birds Eye quickly freefalls into ensemble playing sounding like an orchestra tuning up. It then vaults into an R&B shuffle that mashes into a soulful call response, whereupon “daddy” makes a return appearance before venturing into four more cuts of freeform improvisation. Your guess is as good as mine as to what to make of it all. (
– David C. Eldredge

The Cash Box Kings play old-time blues with an infectious twang. Its roots – sewn into the band’s Blind Pig release, Holler And Stomp – combine the energy and spirit of the 1940s and ’50s Chicago blues and the ’20s and ’30s Mississippi Delta. The songs include covers of Ray Sharpe, Hank Williams Sr., and Muddy Waters, as well as solid originals that crisscross the blues with country music. Carrying on the tradition of Chicago bluesmen such as the Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Rogers, and Waters, The Cash Box Kings inject their own youthful exuberance into the scene. (
– Kelley Simms

It’s fitting that singer/songwriter Paul Coady thanks the “pals who have hoisted a drink or two at shows” on the jacket of Driftin’ Years. He recorded the 11 straightforward rock songs with the idea of recreating the atmosphere of a live performance in a club. Coady’s at his best channeling The Stones or Bob Seger on the workingman’s lament, “Nothin’ For Free,” and on the opening track, “Show You How.” (
– Terrence Flamm

Having lost 100 pounds on Season Five of “The Biggest Loser,” Frankfort native Dan Evans took his re-found self-esteem and long weight-deferred dream of being a country music star to Nashville, hired/worked with some of the best local music heavyweights he could find, and – no surprises here – came away with a slickly produced, signature Nashville MOR country platter Goin’ All Out. While there’s no denying Evans’ musical talent and not inconsiderable writing gifts on the originals included here, there’s not a lot that distinguishes him from others out of the Music City assembly line. (
– David C. Eldredge

Sam Fazio has quite a résumé: after graduating from DePaul’s School Of Music, touring the country, becoming a regular in Vegas, and finally returning to Chicago in 2009 to become a staple at The Drake Hotel (among other locales), Fazio also found time to record his debut. The Songs We Love, as the title implies, collects classic covers done in Fazio’s smooth, jazzinfused, easy-listening style. Some of the classics lose their appeal when Fazio gets his hands on them, but covers like “Time After Time,” “It Had To Be You,” and “Georgia On My Mind” showcase his extensive vocal talents. (
– Carter Moss

Jackson Bailey‘s five-song debut EP, Theories, is a slice of Americana pop with country music flavor. The band’s collection of songs include singer PJ Anderson’s strong crooning, thoughtful lyrics, and a musical depth that goes far beyond the traditional folk/pop/country genre. Drums and production duties were handled by Steven Gillis (ex-Filter), who helps bring out the acoustic-tinged songs’ bouncy and lively flavor. Emotional crossroads are met on “Too Little, Too Late,” and “Throwing Stones” is a life-goes-on reflective piece. (
– Kelley Simms

Back when we reviewed Darkness And Light, The JLDJ sprang up and reported that he’d also released three other albums simultaneously. Of Fight Against Pain and Dearfriendsasyouknowallisenergy, the former falls in his wheelhouse of offbeat indie rock and pop chastened by haunting voice processing and chilling industrial overtones, while the latter boasts semi-acoustic folk-pop with heavily miked vocals. The most interesting set, however, is Noise, which might have a self-effacing title but could actually provide a young filmmaker with a consistent score. Much of the elliptical guitar work would be suited for a science documentary, as JLDJ squeezes a lot of intrigue out of a few, simple themes. (nrrecco [at]
– Steve Forstneger

To the obvious comparisons to Leon Redbone, Randy Newman, and Nick Cave, permit this scribe to add Tom Lehrer. They’re all brought to mind by the collection of piano-centric originals Daniel Knox‘s smooth baritone delivers on Evryman For Himself, in part owing to his dark if not outright curmudgeonly menacing lyrics. Excellent and judiciously arranged side support (with kudos to the two kazoo solos and was it a saw solo, too?) mitigates a certain sameness of Knox’s chording, making the Dixieland-ish vaudevillian mix an ideal absinthe-lounge booking. (
– David C. Eldredge

Singer/guitarist Mark Doherty recruited an army of musicians to help record the latest effort from his band, Light Silver Automatic. There’s a variety of approaches on Reelsounds and a few of them result in generic, easy-going rock. But Doherty connects with the edgier “Ghosts” as well as with the quirky fun of “Hello My Fellow Insomniac.” The sparse but engaging “Terrace Drive” shows sometimes you don’t need loads of help to create a good song. (
–Terrence Flamm

Dave Lombardi & The Guilty Souls inject the country-folk idiom on Cherry Wine with twangy, quirky personality. Chunky doses of Americana spliced with some freeform jazzy elements kickstart “Syrupy Night.” The laid-back saunter of “Bad Habit” is spiced with peppery harmonica and Lombard’s delightfully crooked croon, and “Turn Around” is a lilting, pretty pop ballad. Lombardi and his crew pack a lot of detailed sound into these loose arrangements, and there’s a fresh spontaneity to much of the album that provides much of its charm. (
– Patrick Conlan

Brightly illuminated with delicate ballads and folk-inspired dream-pop, We Don’t Belong is an achingly gorgeous, accomplished debut album from Sara Masterson. Softly nestled in Luna/Cowboy Junkies territory, “Comes Of Love” rings with waves of chiming guitar and glinting keyboards, echoing the passionate yearning in her angelic voice. “I Write Your Story” floats on gently cresting keyboards sandwiched between glimmering guitars and softly pounding drums. Masterson’s control of those sorts of contrasts makes We Don’t Belong mesmerizing. (
– Patrick Conlan

Bobby Midnight & The Big Ordeals energizes its bluesy, classic rock on Knights Of The Octagon with a healthy dollop of NWOBHM, and irreverent joy. “Drop The Guns” has a hard-hitting rhythmic crunch and blazing leads reminiscent of Judas Priest’s heyday. “Stupid Love” hooks with a sugary melody and splashy drumming, and there’s a playful, fun-lovin’ mojo permeating the upbeat party blasters, “Gun- A-Do” and “Split Personality.” (
– Patrick Conlan

Born and raised in Chicago, Michael J. Miles is always looking to pioneer territory with his banjo. His fifth release, the instrumental LP Collage, finds him doing just that. Miles employs more instruments than ever, including flugelhorn, vibes, string quartet, and hand percussion. In addition to his seven new original compositions, Miles tackles the works of Dave Brubeck, Little Feat, Robert Johnson, and more. The highlight is “Crossroads,” a beautifully moving cover composed of simple banjo and horn (and one of the few tracks with vocals). (
– Carter Moss

Everything from alt-country to folk, jazz, reggae, and Latin flavors pop up across Modern Conversation‘s EP About Time, but the foursome paints a bit too broadly. The band is best off in rootsy settings, which is when a plethora of classicsongwriter influences shine through. The band should resist the randomness of incorporating too many other genres. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Bryce Aubrey and Kevin Corcoran are changing the status of their relationship from “high-school buddies” to “bandmates.” Though one lives in New York and the other in Chicago, the two decided to put their collective musical skills together to record under the moniker Oy Vey. The duo’s debut, Botanical Curiosity, is an eclectic electric mix of prog-rock and electropop that has shades of Arcade Fire and Owl City. Memorable tracks like “Astronauta” and “The Verge” prove this pair could evolve to make a real mark on the electronic scene. (
– Carter Moss

“Lonesome Sound” cracks the lid on the Paper Arrows‘ latest, In The Morning, with a sunny melody and fluid piano spilling through the shimmering guitars. It’s a positive portend of what follows. Suffused with a laid-back vibe and Joe Goodkin’s vocal style, “Fading Days” instantly recalls The Counting Crows, while “Dry” shuffles along paced by a comfortable, country saunter. Sweeping, piano-driven ballad “Near” brings thoughtful resolution to the album after nine tracks of bubbly, adultoriented pop. (
– Patrick Conlan

Although he looks like he’s ready to tear into some serious shredding, and the title implies nothing more than an irreverent plea, Michael Anthony Putignano‘s I Need Acoustic is actually wittily ironic; the album is flush with swelling, jangly anthems, emotional ballads of regret and loss, and sparkling, crisp pop tunes – all played on an acoustic guitar. “Kiss Me Before You Go” is a weepy ballad augmented with piano and sweeping melodramatic flourish – imagine the soaring catharsis of Snow Patrol unplugged. (
– Patrick Conlan

Hard rock/metal band Rhino 39 was formed in 1993 from two former Chicagoland bands: Vicious Circle and Threat. After releasing several demos, their full-length debut is a compilation of their stronger demos. On Quarantine, the band conjure up great melodies, calculated vocal harmonies, and fiery guitar riffs. Similarities to Godsmack and Drowning Pool are noticeable, although not as polished or punctual. Quarantine serves up some raw angst with the right amount of melody to satisfying results. (
– Kelley Simms

The one-man band known as 610 (comprising a mononymous singer/songwriter named Anthony) is becoming a regular on the coffeehouse circuit and also logged some performance time with Ronald McDonald House Charities. Blending acoustic and electric guitars gives him variety beyond the typical guy with a guitar, though his voice seems more primed for a ’90s grunge band than the role of a pensive troubadour. (
– Andy Argyrakis

Just as “Mad Men” brings back the ’60s in all its black-and-white, grey-flanneled glory, the mastermind duo Charlie Newman and Jonathon Dexler behind Zootsuitbeatnick conjure the smoky coffeeshops populated by bearded/beret’d/bongoed hipsters of the same era via their mostly brief, sub-twominute spoken-word/free-jazz riffs that draw inspiration from sources as disparate as Beefheart and Rogers & Hammerstein (plus one 18-minute homage to Robert Fripp ) that puts the listener into a revelry similar to that from reading Samuel Beckett. (
– David C. Eldredge

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Category: Around Hear, Columns, Monthly

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  1. Jon R. says:

    Nice picture : )

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