All it takes is 3 chords and a dream!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Heather Fay - Cherish The Broken

Heather Fay – Cherish The Broken
2013, Heather Fay (The Scrape Knee’d Girl)

Heather Fay writes from the heart and the mind, blending the two into a coherent read on humanity and her life experiences.  Fay’s distinctive storytelling mien integrates factual and emotional styles akin to artists such as Tom Waits, Carole King and Fiona Apple.  Fay is a regular in Connecticut and New York City (The Living Room, Rockwood Hall), but also performs regularly online via Google Hangout.  Fay’s latest album, Cherish The Broken, is a dynamic collection of songs spanning the genres of folk, pop, country, bluegrass and Americana.  Fay’s style is unadorned and straight from the heart, but shows real intellect and understanding of the world.

Cherish The Broken features stripped down arrangements that allow Fay’s songwriting and voice to shine.  Leading with “Drive You Out Of My Mind”, Fay begins a cycle of emotional breakdowns and breakthroughs.  Here she is trying to move on after a heart break.  She keeps things simple here with a stripped down arrangement and a sweet, unaffected voice.  “Autumns Chill” is lovely still life in song, carved from the bedrock of folk tradition.  “Breaking My Heart” moves back to a country sound with an ironic monologue to the man who is breaking her heart telling him just how good he is at it.  “Scrape Knee’d Girl” is a holdover from Fay’s first album.  It’s offered here in a gorgeous, stripped down arrangement.  A song of insecurity that grows into strength, this is one of Fay’s finest songs.  The autobiographical number is a gorgeous, plain-spoken piece of poetry about being yourself no matter what, told in the parallel story of a mother who set on making life better for her daughter than she had herself.

“I Would For You” is a speculative, questing love song.  The organic arrangement is decorated by the occasional flourish, highlighting the simple and elegant beauty of the songwriting.  It’s easy to imagine this song covered in a fuller arrangement and turning into a radio hit.  “Stay” is a mellow love song with outstanding instrumentation including strings, guitar and mandolin.  The song is utterly gorgeous; lush in spite of its simplicity.  “I’ve Been Known” is a song full of resignation, delivered in a counterintuitive snappy rock arrangement.  The song is extremely catchy yet understated, building into a solid chorus with a memorable melody.

“Life Is Beautiful” finds just Fay and guitar waxing eloquent on the important things in life.  This is the artist at her most heartfelt and real, and sounds like it was cut live in the studio in a single take.  “Where We’ll Meet Again” is sad yet hopeful, a sweet remembrance with hope for reuniting one day.  The song is pretty, simple and sweet.  Fay closes with a surprising cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, a unique folk/country ballad.  It works better than you might expect, due in large part to Fay’s unpretentious approach.

Heather Fay turns in an incredibly nuanced and artful performance with Cherish The Broken.  With simple adornment and an utter lack of calculation, Fay’s songwriting and earthy voice carry the day. Fay uses modern technology to continue to create music and delivery live performances while keeping family as the center of her life.  It’s a laudable approach.  It’s also easy to see how Fay could be a huge star one day.  Fay is one of the leaders of the new model for delivering music to the masses.  She’s successful because she’s real, honest, true and talented.  Cherish The Broken is brilliant.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

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New single alert: Katie Buchanan - Casting Waves

This is an intriguing new single from Katie Buchanan entitled "Casting Waves".  Buchanan is a blues singer/songwriter who appears to be taking a gritty roots/pop turn.  Her voice is full of unusual timbres, and the song is a great listen.  Check it out below!

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video: Rob Cantor - All I Need Is You

Tally Hall's Rob Cantor takes an amazing song, "All I Need Is You", and develops a thoroughly artful and brilliant video to go with it.  Check it out below!

"All I Need Is You" is from Rob Cantor's new album, Not A Trampoline, which drops of April 14, 2014.  Learn more at

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Corduroy Suit - Revisions

The Corduroy Suit – Revisions
2014, The Corduroy Suit

The Corduroy Suit is a band basking in personal anonymity, playing loud music even when no one is listening.  They are like the new kid in school: They stick out like a sore thumb, but no one knows much about them.  Rather than start at the beginning, the walk up to you with their latest EP in hand, Revisions, and… no, never mind.  The Corduroy Suit is too cool for that.

Revisions opens with "May Day, Son", an upbeat rocker that won't sit still (and neither will you). The vocal lead swings some heavy charisma behind the mic, demanding attention with his voice and style. The Corduroy Suit eschews standard song structure for a seemingly free/form arrangement that's very much more planned than it might, at first sound. "Left to Survive" is a post-apocalyptic anthem that underscores humanity as its own individual and collective worst enemy. All of this is highlighted by the concept of unrequited love and the survival of the species. There's a dry wit running through the whole affair, holding hands with a sense of the truly bizarre. "Giant Neptune" is a spacey and spaced out rocker full of angst and isolation. Think Bowie gone pop and you're in the right ballpark. 

"Pushing Me Around" is oddly inaccessible, using punctuated rhythms to drive a confused and obfuscated personal narrative. The arrangement is clean and radio ready, but the lyrical constructs simply do not fly. The Corduroy Suit closes with "To Be Shaken" continues the sociopathic storytelling style noted above. The band sells it like they’ve lived it, but the sound is increasingly inaccessible.
The Corduroy Suit live on a musical edge that is hard to come by and harder still to tune into.  There’s no doubt some significant talent in the band, but they spend so much time in the spacey end of the spectrum without any real sense of constructs that make this exploration interesting.  Even with that in mind, Revisions offers some serious glimpses of the band’s ability and potential.  Don’t be surprised if, an album or two down the road, you have an ‘a-ha’ moment about the band.  There’s something real afoot here.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Gena Perala - Exactly Nowhere

Gena Perala – Exactly Nowhere
2013, Gena Perala

Gena Perala is a modern renaissance woman.  Raised on the carnival circuit, she developed a keen insight into the human condition, and the artful storytelling style of a life-long performer.  Perala broke into music by way of her award winning poetry.  She has published three books to date and released two albums of original music.  Her debut album, This Ain’t Pretty, won Perala rave reviews. Her follow-up, Exactly Nowhere, finds Perala taking things to the next level.

Perala opens with “Living Proof”, bringing elements of classic 1960’s girl pop.  There’s a rock-a-bye feel to this tune, and while Perala is a bit verbose, the vocals are exceedingly easy on the ear.  “Fine” is an interesting take on a relationship where her partner makes her feel good about herself while spiraling downward himself.  There’s a sort of helpless fatalism here that’s palpable, and the song is gorgeous in its sadness.  “Hip Hop Cartoons” is rife irony.  The seeming anthem of living life on one’s own terms has a distinctive slacker element that’s more about simple existence than living or learning. 

“La Fin” is a dark waltz that is sung primarily in French with English interjections.  Perala is in her element here with a compelling mix of raw animus and madness.  It’s a moment that will haunt you into listening again and again.  “Exactly Nowhere” is theatrical in approach, sung seemingly in post-relationship shock.  Perala’s composition is masterful, right down to the string accents.  The lyrical caricature is as artful as the music, and in case you didn’t know it already, Perala is showing off some serious songwriting chops here.  “Superstar Nova” finds Perala in a more straight-forward pop approach, completed with elemental synth and a dance beat.  This is too busy as a relationship song and a bit too self-focused.  “Fat World” is a catchy garage/punk number that may be stuck in your noggin for days for its musical proclivities and for Perala’s enthralling voice.

"Hoopla" finds Perala lampooning women who fulfill themselves by digging for gold and living off the success if others. The campy atmosphere of the song, which alternates between reverb soaked simplicity and alt-rock excess, is reminiscent of Meryn Cadell. "On Second Thought" is a memorable piece of musical theater that tracks the internal ups and downs of a fickle minded suitor. Her writing is brilliant, incisive and funny yet somehow utterly mortal. The transitions from navel gazing pastiche to manic hope are perfectly conceived and executed.  "My Match" focuses on a repeat hookup offender who laments not finding permanence. It's a humorous and sad caricature that will likely remind you of someone.

"Life Is Hard" is a gorgeous, string-laced monologue from a character who is her own worst enemy. This worldview is dark and full of pessimism and yet utterly familiar from someone you know. Perala's light touch makes this more accessible and believable. "Tell It To The Stars" is an upbeat dialectic on seeking external guidance from the stars. Perala is eminently likeable here as she speaks from the heart in an upbeat, country flavored arrangement that will have you tapping your toes.

"See Myself" is a gently rolling piano ballad that's deftly orchestrated to build the emotive strength of the song while keeping Perala's superb vocals front and center. There's something of a secular sermon feel to this at times, with a distinctly inward focus built of insecurity as the concomitant strength it breeds. "Every Man" starts out in Perala's signature confessional style, but struggles to escape its own weight. She recovers nicely, closing with the brief, yet hopeful "Neverland".

Gena Perala’s musical and lyrical brilliance shines through on Exactly Nowhere.  There’s a theme of disaffection based on a mistrust of human intentions that runs through the album, but Perala also has a sense of humor.  In essence, Exactly Nowhere is something of a catalog of musical defense mechanisms that lead to the album’s title.  Perala deconstructs, perhaps, her own defenses with humor and grace and a fantastic sense of musical theater.  She takes tremendous risks and even when things don’t quite work out they’re certainly interesting.  Exactly Nowhere finds Gena Perala distinctly somewhere wonderful.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Blast From The Past: Denise Culhane - Love And Understating

Denise Culhane – Love and Understating
2000, Denise Culhane

There are classic Indie albums that everyone has heard of, and then there are the ones that never got on many people’s radar.  These usually happen because a really talented artist in a small local scene never gets the right breaks, or life circumstances gets in the way of taking things to the next level, or any one of another hundred possible reasons.  Today, as part of a new monthly series spotlighting classic Indie albums, I would like to introduce you to Denise Culhane. 

Culhane was part of a burgeoning music scene in the Albany, New York area in the late ‘90’s and early-aughts, along with folks like Mother Judge, Marcus Ruggiero, Matt Smith, Rosanne Raneri, The Figgs, Sirsy and seminal children’s act The Zucchini Brothers.  Culhane came to prominence on a locally produced television series Sounding Board, featuring live local music circa 1999 on television station WRGB.  Culhane was then promoting her debut album, Love and Understating.

Love and Understating was a low-fi affair cut on a shoestring budget.  Culhane herself acknowledges that there is more she would have done with the songs if the money had been there, but the sound is part of the charm of the album.  Love and Understating is an intimate affair, like a house concert among good friends.  The album begins with “Garden Party”, an intentionally cliché-filled song of partially unrequited love.  Culhane engages in wordplay both brilliant and mundane to capture the ambivalence of a relationship where only one party is invested.  The muted pop/rock arrangement fits the lyrics, and Culhane’s voice is a perfect match – invoking emotion and pure craft for an imperfectly perfect performance.  “Conflict of Interest” is driven by a powerful pop/rock arrangement and may well be the epilogue to “Garden Party”.  Culhane is getting ready to take flight here, and is beating him to the punch in the process.  This low-key, lo-fi effort is a very effective and emotive piece of song craft.  “Fly” takes a more introspective route, ruminating on love, loss, indecision and first steps.  It’s one of the deeper bits of songwriting on the album, and is a quiet gem.

Culhane is just getting warmed up, however.  The next three tunes are among some of the finest songwriting you’ll find in Indie rock from that era.  “Mirror Mirror” could be the anthem for every Indie artist of any era, a self-portrait of an artist trying to make it and dealing with her own self-doubt.  The upbeat pop arrangement will get stuck in your head and stay there.  “Torpid Heart” wins the award for best use of the word ‘torpid’ in a pop song ever.  That aside, this is a brilliant piece of songwriting about trying to pick your way through the minefields of love.  The lyrical constructs here are a bit awkward at times, but it is an honest awkwardness born of the uncertainty of love, and serves to make the song all the more genuine and charming.  The highlight of the album is “Just Hold My Hand”, which might possibly be the best pop song released in the mid-1990’s.  It’s a simple appeal for love and affection that is universal in its appeal and the song is an absolute piece of ear candy. 

“Rain Falls” is another universally themed number dealing with the inherent tendency for things to go wrong in relationships.  It’s well written, and Culhane’s voice is in top form here.  “Awry” is an utterly gorgeous vocal performance, with Culhane showing off the breadth and range of her sound.  “Outcast” is an energetic rocker that could use a bit more fleshing out but is well written.  The concept of relationships as a minefield recurs.  Culhane closes things out with “Run Away”, a solid closer that’s a bit on the downside, but aurally appealing nonetheless.

Denise Culhane’s Love And Understating is a brilliant effort from a then young songwriter trying to understand the ins and outs of relationships.  The songwriting is intelligent with a rough hewn but full of a distinctive melodic pop sensibility.  With the right budget and the right producer, this album would have launched Culhane into the stratosphere of popular music.  As it is, Love And Understating is an overlooked gem.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ten Ton Man - Chunk of Change

Ten Ton Man - Chunk Of Change
2014, Ten Ton Man

Ten Ton Man is Paul Livornese (vocals/guitar); Paul Dugan (bass); and Paul Triff (drums).  The trio stirs a unique blend of rock, blues and soul with dark lyrical pretexts and from the gut stories of death, decay and redemption. 

Ten Ton Man opens with "Chunk Of Change", a blues waltz that sounds like Johnny Cash interpreted by The Smiths. Lyrically, the song never really makes a connection with listeners, playing like an internal dialogue offered entirely out of context. "Fine Line" is an acoustic blues number with a droning feel. Ten Ton Man crafts an intriguing sound here, but the lassitude of the vocal line confounds the sound. The energy improves some on "What To Do", and the stumbling feel of the vocal line is almost an artistic parallel for the lyrical constructs used. 

Ten Ton Man has an anachronistic voice that's almost conversational in tone. That sound works in the rough hewn songs on Chunk Of Change, but the energy will need to improve to carry listeners much further than a 3 song EP. This is, however, an interesting start. 
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
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