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Around Hear: June 2013

Brighton, MA

Oddly named quintet Brighton, MA fill Oh Lost with jaunty, rollicking rock streaked with an ambitious flair, but without the blatantly offensive bombast. “Wake The Dead” is a redemptive anthem that swells from a faint trickle to a sunny crescendo of major-chord catharsis. Despite stacked vocal harmonies and triumphant keyboards, it’s still composed and sincere. “White Flag” reaches for the heavens with an arena-sized chorus and rising harmonic interplay. (brightonma.net)
– Patrick Conlan

The funny thing about the title of Common Shiner‘s 12-track album – Before They Sold Out Part 2 – is that the band actually has the talent to perhaps one day sell out. “Sharks!” is an explosive opener with organ, piano, and full-tilt vocals: The type of earnest rock (with a mix of soul, not unlike the Afghan Whigs) that plays well at Pitchfork. “We Own This” and “Cup Runneth Sober” are two gems in a row. Here’s hoping the band doesn’t go the way of its album name, instead, remaining true to its sound.
(commonshiner.com)
– Jason Scales

Hard to believe after listening to her third live, “unplugged” recording, Wildfire, that Kate Diaz (aka K8 DS) is all of 15 years old and still in high school. Then again, she’s been regularly gigging at her local suburban Potbelly sandwich shop since the 5th grade and debuted at House of Blues and Metro at 12 and 13, respectively. But as this latest collection of originals captured at Hard Rock Café attests, she is a songwriter wise beyond her years, an accomplished acoustic guitar player (not lost on manufacturers who’ve endorsed her with freebies) with a voice (though clearly still maturing) that does her music justice. Fingers crossed she finally saves up enough to make that studio recording.
(katediazmusic.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Guitarist Joe Gajan keeps his foot on the accelerator as he maneuvers through hard-rocking instrumentals on his latest release, Supermatic. He electrifies a vintage rock sound on “Cliffracer” and evokes Robin Trower on the atmospheric “Paradigm Puzzle.” Gajan adds nuances to his playing, whether it’s on the heavy metal stomp of “Rally Fingers” or the Southern boogie of “Kikin’ Chit.” Bassist Dave Moran and drummer Jimmy Erhardt are also essential to Gajan’s relentless approach. (joegajan.com)
– Terrence Flamm

Joe Marcinek wrote all the material on the Joe Marcinek Band‘s debut, Both Sides, but there’s plenty of room in the spotlight for the other five musicians to share with the guitarist. Marcinek’s ability to explore various moods on these long-form jazz instrumentals is particularly augmented by violinist Stephan Cook on the energetic “Happy Lettuce.” “Set You Free” features Marcinek’s seductive guitar playing and some fluid keyboard work from the singularly-named Waz. (reverbnation.com/joemarcinekband)
– Terrence Flamm

While the gritty, raspy, howling, and often solipsistic vocals of keyboardist and chief songwriter Mike Maimone lead the charge on Object Permanence – the latest from Chicago trio Mutts – one can’t overlook the solid swing guitarist/bassist Bob Buckstaff and drummer Chris Pagnani bring to this un-amped paean to booze-fueled late nights in dungy, smoke-filled bars. But just when it seems the band’s Kurt Weill-by-way-of-Tom Waits canon has been pushed to the limit, the trio pulls ballad “Prizefighter” from out of seemingly nowhere, its hauntingly bittersweet beauty sucker-punching the listener into final submission. (op.wearemutts.com)
– David C. Eldredge

Milwaukee-based Semi-Twang‘s third full-length studio album, The Why And The What For, is an engaging concoction combining Southern rock with Memphis boogie-twang. Influenced by disciples of American roots rock like The Band, the release’s 12 tracks are decorated with infectious slide guitar, honky-tonk piano, and doo-wop backing vocals. Two-step across the dance floor with “The More She Gets The More She Wants”; stomp your heels to the Lynyrd Skynyrd-flavored “Contents Under Pressure”; and groove to the shuffle of “Foghorn,” complete with a bodacious horn section and a tasty guitar solo.
(semi-twang.com)
– Kelley Simms

Mark Hendryx’s latest project, The Stages, delivers a genteel mix of acoustic folk on its debut EP, Comfort Zone. The title track, with its country-inflected twang and grassy folk musings, stands in stark contrast to the driving classic rock of “Freedom Flies.” “Promise Land” is a signature classic rock ballad, with a guitar arpeggio that’s strongly reminiscent of “House Of The Rising Sun.” (facebook.com/TheStages)
– Patrick Conlan

Rory Sullivan And The Second Season‘s self-titled debut is a slice of Americana pie with touches of modern pop, alt-country, and folk flavors. Singer-songwriter Sullivan possesses small-town roots with a unique musical flair and a natural storytelling prowess with James Taylor and John Mayer as obvious influences. The 10 tracks are personable and reflective, decorated with acoustic and steel guitars, fiddles, and sweet melodies boosted by layered vocal harmonies. (rorysullivanmusic.com)
– Kelley Simms

Singer-songwriter Mark Taylor epitomizes confessional rock on “I Can Say I’m Sorry,” just one of 11 tracks on No Closer To Home. His warm vocals are the focus of each blues-based arrangement, using acoustic guitar, a little percussion, occasional organ (as on the title track), and electric and pedal steel guitar leads. It’s intimate stuff in a down-on-my-luck way, but honestly expressed. (facebook.com/marktaylorchicago)
– Jason Scales

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