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May & June 2014 Short Takes

Brandon Izaak "Here on Earth," 2013 Listening to "Here on Earth" by Canadian swing and blues aficionado Brandon Isaak I get the distinct sensation that I am riding a steam-fired locomotive at full throttle rattling across the country without a care in the world. Isaak's music and voice are imbued with a rare charisma that reminds me of an acoustic blues version of Lowell George. Issak is an absolute original, creating music infused with so much fervor, intensity and pure spirit that listening without being moved physically and spiritually is an impossibility. This man has a command of voice and guitar that is astounding and totally satisfying. Slides, harps, upright bass, cornet, kazoo, fiddle, jug . . . you name it . . . this CD is busting at the seams like a big-top full of acoustic swinging blues! "Dead Ass Fool", "Gamble on Love" and "Meet Me There" will literally burn through your brain like a steam fired locomotive! "Here on Earth" is hands down the best CD I have heard all year! © James Filkins

Ernesto Schnack "Worldbuilding," 2013 Ernesto Schnack does not just write songs, he constructs dramatic vignettes with one acoustic guitar. The vignettes are solemn and lush anthems which seem to hold a mirror to the cosmos and all their mystery. There is an unrequited tension in all of his music, whether it seeks an introspective or cinematic path. Schnack understands the importance of silence and restraint, and it all succeeds as a hold-your-breath experience for the receptive listener. © Alan Fark

Nate Jones Band "EP," 2013 Mr. Jones, you should have titled this EP "Soul of a Man" Eric Burdon (who first used that title first in 2005) would agree! With a croon somewhat evocative of David Gray, Nate Jones and his remarkable ensemble make records (or down-loads) the old school way: by recording songs in the same room and shortly after they were road tested. This self-titled collection of five extraordinary tracks falls somewhere between traditional singer-songwriter and classic rock as rendered by Stephen Stills, Nils Lofgren, Dave Matthews and the like. Jones' fluid lead and rhythm guitars anchor the proceedings, followed by Seth Bain's growling bass, Chris Hanna's Hammond organ wizardry, and Stu Laven's swinging drums. Jones paid his dues on the New Orleans club scene which is where he likely conjured his band's brilliant interpretation of The Band's little-known gem "Ophelia" with a rhythm and blues flavor. I would kill to be in this band! © Tom Semioli

Philip Hemmo "Guitar Recital," 2013 The title "Guitar Recital," though unceremoniously descriptive of Philip Hemmo's newest CD, doesn't do justice to the variety of the repertoire nor the panache of the performances. A talented classical guitarist on the faculty of the University of Illinois Springfield, Hemmo here has taken ownership of some beautiful but more well-worn fare from a mainstream of composers whose pieces are adapted to guitar by Weiss, Tarrega, Barrios and Turina. But the most pleasant surprises arrive to our ear via a lesser known piece by Polish contemporary Gerard Drozd and the World Premiere of two pieces by William Campbell. © Alan Fark

Lance Allen "Us Together," 2014 As a member of the Thumb-pickers Hall of Fame, Lance Allen stands alongside Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Doc Watson and Pat Kirtley. Very impressive shoulders to rub against. On first listen to Allen's new release, "Us Together," it becomes clear that the honor was bestowed appropriately. The pristine sound of fingers cascading (thumb included) the length and breadth of the fret board demonstrate the elegance and grace of a consummate player with chops and a sense of composition that borrows from the for mentioned Emmanuel and Atkins yet evolves into a distinct style all his own. The soundscape seems to build in energy throughout, beginning with the title track, a delightfully and charming melody, and finishing with the dark and pulsating "Dead Weather." Thumbs up all the way around for Allen's third CD release "Us Together." © James Filkins

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Raymond Gonzalez - One Bright Light
Matthew Hough - Music from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach
David White - Long Roots
Chanson du Soir - The Thirst that from the Soul doth Rise
Eric Loy - Ligatures
Jim & Lynda McLennan - Dancing on Air
Chris Wolf - The Wolfman

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