Saturday, August 29, 2009

The BRIAN TINGLE Interview! A Bluesman Speaks!

I’ve been hit by a real case of the blues lately at The Realm and, friends, that’s a very good thing. Seems a nice selection of blues records has rolled thru the doors and into my famed listening emporium. Happy to say, they’ve all been good but one has stood out as the real keeper and that’s been the 2004 effort by BRIAN TINGLE & BLUE THUNDER entitled “Tryin’ To Make A Livin.’” After hearing this super-cool statement of musical intent, I felt compelled to get in touch with BRIAN and sit down with him to pick his brain about his band, album, current activities and much, much more. You’ll find in the extensive interview below that Mr. TINGLE is a man who’s paid his dues, been around and knows a helluva lot about not only the local blues scene but music in general. He shares his thoughts as honestly and forthrightly as anyone I’ve ever talked to. Read on, my friends. (BRIAN TINGLE seated in front in pic.)

RAY – The beginning is always a good place to start. Where was your’s, musically? How did you avoid being the guy who’s idea of “music” is turning on the radio on the way to work and becoming a player instead?

BRIAN - I’m not exactly sure how everything started for me. I mean, did I show interest first or did I get an instrument first? I don’t know. I started on piano actually, taking lessons at a very young age. I discovered drums next, so my parents got me a drum and this little “one man band” kit which had a tambourine, a harmonica, a slide whistle and last but not least, a “triangle.” I had no idea what to do with it except maybe to call everyone to a chuck wagon.

When I was 13 I got my first real drum set, a “Lido Supreme” 4 piece kit. I became fluent, jamming to records and playing with friends, then when I was about14 or 15 a school friend taught me a chord on the guitar during music class. H taught me the chords to “Norwegian Wood” and played the melody over top of it. I thought this was the coolest thing I had heard and started teaching myself to play by listening to records over and over again.

I picked up a bass guitar because my neighbors basement band needed somebody. They had a guitar player, so I played bass because I really wanted to play. Later on and for years to come I played all these instruments professionally.

RAY – Who influenced your playing? Who inspires you now?

BRIAN – Early on it was a variety I guess. I liked The Beatles’ guitar stuff. Aerosmith, Brad and Joe. Kerry Livgren from Kansas. I’d have to say that Ace Frehley from Kiss was my favorite as well as Paul Stanley. Jimmy Page is probably the greatest all round guitar player I’ve studied. However, I did not start really listening to him and the other British guys until around 17 or so.

The people who inspire me now are the same. Sometimes you “rediscover” people because you change. I’m really into Cream now as well as C.C. Deville from Poison. He is absolutely amazing on guitar. I like Tony Iommi and of course, “Uncle” Ted Nugent! As far as blues goes, I like Otis Rush, Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Vaughn and B.B. King. I’ve played with guys like Rick Chapman, Automatic Slim, David Earl, Ron Zebron and Pete Kanaras from the Night Hawks. I played with the Night Hawks, it was a memorable experience. Nobody can build a solo like Pete, nobody. He has always inspired me and countless others.

RAY – If you had to define “blues,” how would you do it?

BRIAN – For me, “blues” is defined in a few ways. One – blues is honesty. It’s a release of yor personality, your feelings and your message. Blues has been also defined as “nothin’ but a good man feelin’ bad.” Therefore, blues is upbeat! People that don’t know any better think it’s either boring or glum. Paradoxically it’s the opposite. People are drawn to it. They dance, laugh and enjoy the “non phony-ness” of the experience. Thousands of people who didn’t know what to expect ended up loving it, telling their friends about it.

Playing blues is great because basic parts are rehearsed but the soloing can go on and on. You can do a verse again if you want and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s honest. You can’t bullshit your way through a blues gig, it won’t work. You have to respect it, and you have to have lived it to some degree. Blues is the most intricate form of music there is. A lot of great jazz and rock players can’t do it, some find out the hard way. The guitar work in blues is far more elaborate than jazz or rock. You either get it or you don’t.

RAY – Something that seems especially true of blues to me as a listener (and a strictly amateur guitarist) is that it’s a form of music that’s been “handed down” from generation to generation. The innovators, the “big boys” let’s say then, are the ones who can extrapolate from that and make it their own. Zeppelin on their first 2 records comes to mind. Any commentary?

BRIAN – In blues, songs get passed on to others in the present as well as handed down generations. For example, “When The Levee Breaks” was written in the 1930’s by God knows who. But you can hear it by Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and countless others. “Hoochie Coochie Man” is another example. Muddy Waters picked it up somewhere. After him, Cream did it, then Clapton alone, Allman Brothers, myself and so on. Back then nothing was copyrighted and nobody was suing anybody over lyrics and music. That started when the radio and music business started airing material and people were making money. But when you play live you can play what you want.

There’s a lot more to it than “originals and covers.” There are 2 sides to a coin but don’t forget the edge. What I mean is, in blues, songs are passed around and handed down as we know. But there’s no rules as far as groove, tempo, key, exact lyrics. One of my songs could last 8 minutes roughly. Then the next night I decide to grab another guitar solo at the end ‘cause it’s feeling great, so now it’s a 12 minute song, but it works. Sometimes I change the key or modulate during the song so the saxophone takes a different tone, then we come back. My band knows how to follow this because of my body language or by signals we use. In blues you have to follow the leader. This comes with experience.

You mentioned Led Zeppelin covering blues material. If you notice the second printings of Zep I and II, you will see Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson got co-writing credits for “Whole Lotta Love,” “I Can’t Quit You,” “You Shook Me” and “Traveling Riverside Blues” (III, I think). These were uncopyrighted songs. However, Willie Dixon stood a good chance in a law suit. Out of legalities and Jimmy Page’s respect, Willie Dixon was paid one million dollars to drop the suit and get co-writing credits from then on. At the time, there was no disrespect to the old bluesmen, the British guitar players were fascinated with what was going on in American blues, which had died off. They put it on the airwaves and gave the world something that will never die. These songs can have stuff added to the recipes for years to come. It never gets old!

RAY – What makes a great blues song?

BRIAN – A great blues song has an honest message. It could be intricate studio work that took days for one song. It could be a basic demo recording that someone got a hold of and passed around. It’s really up to the listener. If you want to take this to another level, I don’t think that people sit around and ponder whether they like it or not. They know right away.

Of course, some players are on a higher level. But when you put together a blues song, you come up with the parts, practice it and it comes out. You want the players to be as good as possible based on the nature of the project, but being honest and doing your best will satisfy you if nobody else.

RAY – You get a day to jam with one of the following players. Who and why? Leslie West, Jimmy Page, Joe Bonamassa or Billy Gibbons?

BRIAN – Obviously I would meet and play with Jimmy Page. I think he’s the greatest ever! He plays a loose style when he plays the blues. None of their live material was ever done the same way twice. You can also hear a little open string buzzing, a bad note or a bass flub. This happens with all bands live if you listen very carefully. It’s also never noticed at big arenas because the crowd is so into it. Page pushed himself live always trying to do better. Led Zeppelin obviously came from the blues before their other varieties of stuff was written. Page is also a great studio player and was a master producer by age 18. He also played guitar on all of Tom Jones’ stuff. He was a session player all during his teens. He is also an artist who was ready to go back to art school and give up music. A few weeks later, he met John Paul Jones and the rest is history.

RAY – Is “Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” your only CD thusfar? Tell me something about how you came to record it, the song selection, all that. It’s quite varied. I could see people into anything from B.B. King to George Thorogood digging it.

BRIAN – No, I also have a live CD and DVD. Both were done on the same night. They were both called “Live At The Shamrock,” recorded Feb 2009.

“Tryin’” came about in early 2003 when I went into the studio to record a few demos. I wanted a few of these songs on the shelf, for no particular reason. A friend and myself laid down some blues without vocals and I agreed something was going on, so I put lyrics to one of the songs. Then I began writing and producing till we started recording. I knew in my head what I wanted and how it was gonna sound, and we accomplished just that. I wrote a variety of songs. There’s a funky tune called “Rockin’ The Boat” which I am proud to say that myself and John Thomakos nailed it on the first shot. I played bass on everything, guitar on everything, drums on 4 tracks, vocals on everything. Ron Zebron played the solo on tracks # 1, #4 and shared solos in #2.

I asked Ron to come in and play the slide solo on “Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” (#1). On that day, I just finished “Days Gone By” (#4). I played everything, finished vocals but the guitar solo wasn’t done yet. He liked it, played along with it, so he did the solo while he was there, why not?! He played electric throughout the song doing fills and the solo. Listen to his chords when the solo goes into the chorus, it’s great! Such dynamics! We worked in his basement studio, me on bass, recording stuff that Never Never (awesome local band) thought about releasing but never did. It was fun none the less, that’s where I got my authentic Jimmy Page licks. Anyway, I had one more song to go, “Whatcha Want Me To Do” (#2). Ron came back to the studio and he and I recorded solos as well as did Mark Cornniachonne, my sax player. (I’ll brag about him in a while!). After that, the mixing, mastering and production came. The graphic arts, credits, lyrics and bio were all printed. Two weeks later, “Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” was done and 1000 copies were in our possession. They sold well at shows, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Record And Tape Traders, The Soundgarden, my site and CD (great online store!). It was sold for I-tunes, digital downloading sales and Tower Records. I did well.

You asked about the variance of songs. “Tryin…” was actually a demo one year earlier. It was about the stinkin’ rotten music business and piece of shit bar owners who do not take care of musicians. Like it says in the chorus… “I’ll never give up, I’ll never give in.” “Rockin’ The Boat” was about 2 people in love, for real, who just have a hard time with it, accepting it and making it work. The chorus and ending were inspired by Zeppelin from “Presence.” I could not stand “The Maze,” I think it sucks! But Mark busted his ass getting the riff at the end (which is impossible for most sax players because of the quick change of notes). If you listen, the ending is a mixture of something I wrote, then turns into the riff from Zep’s “Royal Orleans” from “Presence.” “Days Gone By” (#4) is the only song I did not write. It was written and originally recorded by R.C. Yetter (whom I played bass for), the best SRV tribute on the east coast. The fact that my version is a lot slower was an accident, but it sounded great so we kept it.

“Come On Down” (#9) is a polished up instrumental I heard these guys do at a blues jam years earlier. I called it “Come On Down” because during the sax solo we modulate from “C” to “D.” Speaking of which, listen to the saxophone during the solo when the modulation takes place. Awesome! This could never be duplicated by anyone, no way! Mark leaves people stunned and speechless everywhere he plays. As far as the guitar solos, Kurt had me run through 1 or 2 each song and leave it like that. It’s blues, play it like it’s live and leave it. It turned out to sound better than I thought. When you’re playing live, you can’t “do it over.” We stuck to this and it worked.

The CD shows what I do with traditional blues and how I felt it. However, when I play live I do classic rock and blues very aggressive and loud. We play 2 hour sets, sometimes with 10 to 15 minute songs. We go ALL OUT! The live CD and DVD shows it.

RAY – As in the best blues material, you seem to pour your emotions out in the album’s lyrics. Any comments on this, and are any of the songs more special in that regard than others?

BRIAN – Yeah, the lyrics speak of a long relationship I had. “Rockin’ The Boat” was about her and I having a lot of love but maybe not knowing how to deal with it. Love can be nice, but scary to some. Lyrics can seem negative but that doesn’t mean “bad.” You just put down on paper the struggle you have. There was a lot of nice too. “Ain’t No Substitute” means nobody could ever hit my heart of life like her, ever. But “Runnin’ From The Truth” is running from love again, needing to find oneself. Having love but running or resisting might sound hypocritical, but it’s not. It’s quite common but some people aren’t as wonderful as they act. Everybody is scared. “Slow Movin’ Blues” is a Chicago style shuffle which I took the lyrics from a half-written song from years earlier based on an Elmore James song called “Dust My Broom.” The songs have meaning like a lot of blues songs, standard stuff.

RAY – There is a very nice interplay between you and Ron Zebron on the album. Do you prefer working with another guitarist? What are the differences between that scenario and a “power trio” format?

BRIAN – Thank you. Ron and I worked well together. We’re both experienced at studio work and live play. He simply gets right down to it. He listened to the stuff and played with it. Then he recorded it, simple as that. He focuses on his job and is very professional too. He was not in my live band because we are a one guitar band. I tried to get him as a guest but he was always pretty busy. He would be the only guitarist I would have sit in probably. No! I do not work with any guitar player. I tried it but it did not work. I did it in the old days in the blues scence, but with Mark on sax it sounds much better as a second soloist. From time to time, Tom Alonso plays keys and Greg Thompkins sits in on sax. No guitar players and absolutely no fucking harmonica players…stay away!

RAY – Is the line-up that was on “Tryin’…” still intact?

BRIAN – Mark is the only person with me through the studio until now. John was such a busy drummer and teacher, he was hard to get. I played bass on the CD and just about everything else, so I put a rhythm section together once Mark and I picked the date for the CD release party (May 24, 2004). It turned out that Mark and I had a mutual friend in Howard Zizzi. We called him and he’s been playing with us for 5 years. Howard was the drummer for Bootcamp, a big regional band from Baltimore in the 1980’s. They had 2 videos on MTV out of the first 10 they aired. He played in Tiffany for years and worked and works with the Slim Man Jazz Band. Slim Man is also Tim Camp from Bootcamp. Howard is a great drummer, and a great friend, I’m not giving out his number!

Bill Ellinger has been playing bass since 2004. Bill’s a good bass player and also a hard working professional. I called him because he’s the kind of guy who will stick with you and not bail out cause there’s a gig paying $5 more. His bass style is different than mine. He does some great stuff that I never thought of. He and Howard have been playing with me for a long time. We don’t gig a lot these days because the money just isn’t there. We also agreed not to “wear it out,” meaning do so much we get tired of it. It worked, it’s 5 years later and we are still fresh. We all made a good living at one time, but the clubs and bars aren’t paying. We prefer to play in 2 to 3 rooms and do some festivals and bigger stuff in the summer.

Mark Cornniachone is the best sax player ever! He’s played with everybody. Him and I have been playing off each other for years. He helped me get strong and says I helped him do the same. We push each other.

BJ Weigman from Face Dancer and Phoenix Rising plays bass sometimes because Bill plays in an acoustic band also. BJ is a kick ass bassist and great guy. Nice to have him in the family.

RAY – For the gearheads: What kind of guitars/amps/effects did you use on “Tryin…?” How, if at all, does that differ with your live set-up?

BRIAN – I play a Gibson SG & Les Paul. I have a Galveston semi hollow body and the same Mexican Strat I’ve had for 15 years. I play through a Marshall ½ tube, ½ solid state. I don’t know the name of it and don’t care. I used to play whatever amp I could buy or borrow. In the studio, the engineer put me through a few different amps. A “Buddha,” A Fender somethin’ or another. I used to use a TS-9 tube screamer till the guy wanted it back. Pedals are for pussies. Gearheads are annoying. As you can tell, I don’t care what I play through. I don’t hide behind equipment. I played in the blues scene and was dirt poor and lived it. I played through whatever I had. Guys borrowed a lot from each other in those days. We played for peanuts, slept in vans, on pool tables, ate sandwiches, whatever it took. I learned how to play and not hide like a gearhead pussy. I don’t know what kind of pick-ups I have and don’t care. The bottom line is money and broads. It’s all about money. Gearheads, if you come to a show, please do not talk to me.

RAY – Speaking of gear and broads (ha ha): You’re offered A) a vintage Strat signed by Stevie Ray V or B) an all-night date with Angelina Jolie. Which do you choose and why?

BRIAN – You’ve got to be joking! I’d take a vintage SRV-signed Strat any day of the week over Angelina Jolie! She’s funny-looking and has a big head. She also looks like her father, that’s scary! There’s plenty of chicks with big lips in town if that’s your thing.

RAY – Do women prefer blues or rock guitarists?

BRIAN – Smart women like both.

RAY – I noticed you thank Never Never on the CD. Great band! Have you jammed with them in the past? Do you still?

BRIAN – I’ve sat in from time to time. I learned a bunch of material because I wanted to play bass for them when Angelo quit. The position was filled quickly. We have talked to Spike about doing a blues gig with us every 6 or 7 weeks as a side project. He would like to, it’s just a matter of scheduling. It’s going to be called “Brian Tingle’s All Star Blues Band, featuring ‘whoever.’” I really want this to happen. Ron was fun to work with as well as John Thomakos. Great guys.

RAY – How has “Tryin’…” sold, have you gotten a lot of copies out there?

BRIAN – It sold well. It sold in stores ok. Where it really sold was on CD Baby. It’s an online record store that sells everything from A to Z. It was a great deal because it cost me $ 35. My album will be in stock forever, no more fees. People from all over the world bought it. Belgium, London, Australia, Holland, Germany, etc. It was interesting to get emails from someone on the other side of the Atlantic.

RAY – With that in mind, what do you think of the current internet marketing of music…that is to say, artists beginning to not actually release a physical album but just having people download the music online? Are you old-school on this and prefer actually “holding an album in your hand” or do you figure, whatever it takes to get the music out there?

BRIAN – Interesting question. First of all, no choice but to operate in this business according to the way it has become. Downloading quickly off the internet is convenient. It is easy to obtain anything you want for the most part. With that aside, I think the music business has gone down the toilet. Downloading has ruined the business completely. I know that people are legitimately making money but the integrity is gone. I’m definitely old-school when it comes to recording and marketing.

Years ago, we hand-made our own fliers, put them up in clubs and colleges. We saved dimes to make demos and copies of them. We earned money to buy strings and equipment and we had to fix it ourselves if it broke. We played in barns and promoted it for weeks. We would camp out the Hecht Co. for Kiss tickets that went on sale the next morning. I remember the “Destroyer” album coming out in December of 1976 and having to wait until Christmas morning to open it. (That was me with “Zep IV” a few years earlier. R.D.). We looked forward to these things and worked hard to get them. It was an event to go to the store for the latest Led Zeppelin album…get it home and put it on the record player! Back then we really had to work hard to learn these songs because there were no remotes or no way to slow the record down to catch the notes. Basically, kids worked harder to obtain instruments, learned how to play them. We also had to work harder to do things like book reports, other school stuff. I remember having to walk every night in the snow to the library to finish a book report. Now, all you have to do is pull up info on the internet and you are done. So whether you are talking about learning how to play and respect music or living life, kids today are just stupid for the most part and don’t stand a chance in life.

I understand that karaoke is fun for people who don’t get a chance to let it out in public, or just have fun. It’s also there for amateurs to have fun. It’s kind of fun to watch, cause drunks get up there and make total fools of themselves. Meanwhile, the guy who owns the machine is making $ 2 a song. Money, bottom line. It did cut into live music because it’s easier to deal with one guy than a band and cheaper. Guitar Hero, on the other hand, is really cool….for the people who made it and the band cashing in on it. But it’s just another way parents spend money on their kids to help them become more stupid, staring at another screen. Some of them think they are actually playing. Amazing. It takes away from reality when it comes to learning a craft like playing an instrument. This game is fun for some, I’m sure. Not all have the ability to play for real, but learning how to play at all levels is a joy. All this fantasy stuff is killing the music business like we once knew it.

I hear some new artists from time to time. Some of it is ok but very boring and repetitive. You can tell there isn’t much collaboration. The day of the great guitarist is over. There will never be another Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton. I really don’t know where rock & roll is going. Rap and hip hop is garbage, there’s no talent in running your mouth and wearing gold like you just walked out of a jail yard. I can’t wait till that shit is dry. I pray for the music business.

RAY – What kind of blues scene is there in the Baltimore (and Maryland) area? How much do you gig? How far outside the local area have you played?

BRIAN – As for the local blues/music scene I would have to say that Baltimore is one of the most unfriendly scenes anywhere. Bands don’t get paid shit. Some have fun, have their friends out but don’t get what they deserve. When you’re young it’s ok. But it gets old. I came in when things were ok. Club owners paid you what they agreed to. Bands could get a few drinks and food, sometimes, for free. After all, you are keeping people in the room, keeping them drinking, which is the bottom line. It’s only about money. Bands are respected. Nowadays, you can’t get paid much. Half the time they try to cheat you at the end of the night. “It wasn’t as good a night as I thought” (standard bullshit line). Whatever you accept is all you will ever get! Owners and bar managers want to turn down, play a variety, start early, end late, want you to pay for your drinks, get cheated at the end of the night. I know there’s still nice places to play but this is happening more and more. Music is supposed to be played LOUD, by the way. If you want to talk while we are playing, go to Starbucks or learn how to read lips!

I don’t gig much these days. It isn’t paying a band much money. We all have to work other jobs. We have about 2 rooms to play regularly and special occasions like outdoor stuff and joint projects like some double and triple bills, like I have in the works with Face Dancer, The Ravyns and Kix (awesome band…R.D.) (Not definite yet, waiting for details).

I have played in more clubs and events that I can remember, honest. Whether it was my band or as bassist with R.C. Yetter, or some blues band. I have played all over Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Allentown, York, Red Lion, Dallastown, Reading, Harrisburg, Lewistown, Mifflintown, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, New Bloomfield, Dillsburg, Hanover, Gettysburg, Pottsville). All over New Jersey, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Orlando, Key West, Miami, Sarasota, Tampa, Alabama and back up the coast. I’ve played for a couple at the Full Moon Saloon, a thousand at the old Hammerjacks, 14,000 at the Orlando Civic Arena and 40,000 people at Tampa Stadium. I played a few hundred clubs, festivals, up to 250 nights in a year. I’m tired.

All you find playing in a lot of places now are goofs who call themselves “artists.” That’s just another word for “bum.” They think their material has integrity and meaning, what a laugh. Club owners like them because they don’t get paid. I’m not an artist, I’m an entertainer and have the history to back it up. I don’t hang around with musicians or “artists” (aka bums). I like to play, have fun, etc. But to all club owners who are screwing musicians: Fuck you! Artists, leave me alone.

RAY – What are your future plans for your music? Any new recordings in the pipeline? Live shows I should know about?

BRIAN – I have a few things in the works with other bands and prospects. I’ve been approached by a promoter to do some stuff at Merriweather, Pier Six and Nissan Pavillion next year as an opener. All this, I’d love to do, of course. I want to play gigs once a month and a private party once in awhile. Other than that, I lay low. There’s no money, for the most part. I might retire to the Eastern Shore in a few years. I might go back to playing a few nights a week in the Delaware, Dewey, Fenwick and Ocean City area clubs that deserveth me. Yes, I will be recording. What, I don’t know. I’m doing a special birthday gig/party at The Shamrock Inn on Harford Road (Baltimore) September 18.

RAY – In your history as a musician, tell us some story from either the studio, live scene, etc. that is either uproariously funny, wildly obscene or just plain ridiculous. Anything goes.

BRIAN – The first one I can think of was when I was drumming for R.C. Yetter. We were in Harrisburg, playing at the huge biker commune owned by Abate. There were people all over the place. We were playing on this big porch. Anyway, there were people all around us. I look up and saw this huge guy, about 6 foot 5. He had this small head with a mullet haircut, long in the back. His shoulders drooped way down low and he had no neck. His shoulders were narrow, he had a big stomach. Below his waist tapered down to his feet. His shoes were small. HE LOOKED JUST LIKE FOGHORN LEGHORN!!! I’m sorry, but I lost it. I signaled our bass player, Dave. I point it out (subtly), I couldn’t stop laughing, thinking about the cartoon. All I could hear was “I said, I said, I said…” I was waiting for the weasel to come around to the side. I mean, I was laughing so hard I almost threw up. Plus I was afraid he’d see me. This guy could have crushed me. I know it wasn’t real nice but I don’t care, you gotta find something to do while you’re on the road. I don’t know why the “Foghorn” story came to mind, but it did. I’ve seen all kinds of stuff though. Too much to write.

RAY – Any final comments?

BRIAN – Thank you very much for thinking of me. Good luck with your website.

It’s great to do an interview, especially with an artist who has such a history in the local scene as BRIAN TINGLE and then to have him speak at length with such candor as he does here. I can only highly recommend his discs and urge you, as I plan on doing, to check him out live as soon as possible.

NOTE: BRIAN also has a live CD and DVD available, recorded earlier in 2009 and he’s got the following cool deals on ‘em all:
“Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” CD $ 15.00 + $ 2.00 shipping & handling
“Live At Shamrock” CD $ 10.00 + $ 2.00 s&h
“Live At Shamrock” DVD $ 10.00 + $ 2.00 s&h
“Live At Shamrock” CD & DVD $15.00 + $ 2.00 s&h
Call Alex (producer) 443-743-0329
Or Brian 443-983-5920

Friday, August 21, 2009

Criminal Intent

CRIMES OF PASSION – “Crimes Of Passion” CD ’08 (Vigilante, Eng) – The man is hot. I’m on fire. Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you. Seriously, I’ve been on a pretty damn good run of unearthing some bad-assed gems. Talent? I dunno, probably dumb luck knowing me, but I’ll take it, baby. See, two Saturdays ago I’m down at The Soundgarden in Fells Point, MD. I had a few loose bucks so I snagged the new Accused, Giant Squid and a Ripple Effect recommendation, The Ugly Suit. I’m then doing my “Various A-B-C…” scan when…hmmm…what’s this? Kinda hard to read… “Grimes…no…oh, CRIMES OF PASSION.” 2008 release, neat-looking comic book-style cover art, tombstones, etc. 4-piece band & the guitarist is listed as “lead guitar.” You have to understand that the “lead” part tells you something. It strongly implies “solos.” (You don’t see the dude in Staind listed as “lead guitar” too often, eh?) And, of course the sticker on the front says “Import - $ 23.99.” Ouch. I’m already at my quota with the other 3 discs & this one is nothin’ but a hunch. With that, James Hetfield starts growling “That was just your life!” and I realize it’s my cell phone…my wife calling. “I’ll be home soon, how ‘bout you?” “Yep, ‘bout a half hour.” “Can you pick up some milk?” “Sure, will I kill us if I spend an extra $ 24? I found something cool.” “Sure, that’s fine.” Manna from heaven. I’m on fire, just ask my wife.

Still, all the way home in my CD-player-less van, I’m thinking about what bill the $ 25.44 (incl. tax) could’ve gone toward. Got home, things to do and the disc sat in the bag with the others till late that night when the house quieted down & I had some Realm time. CRIMES OF PASSION slid into the player and I sat back, holding my breath. A wash of acoustic guitar comes in and when the melodic leads start, I could be listening to a Gary Moore intro circa. “Corridors Of Power.” Then…BANG! Aggressive riffing flows into a super-cool stop-start verse. Before I even have time to think, I’m pinned to my seat by a chorus laced with hooks so deep I already have it burned into my brain. “The Me I Lost” then empties into the melodic intro to “God Made Me Your Angel” and even now, I know I’ve got something here. Once the mid-paced riff-storm of “Unbreakable” begins, I’ve got my air guitar on “kill” and a smile a mile wide across my face. Imagine a cross between A7X, Queensryche around “Empire,” Riot during “Innishmore” and a touch of early GNR. Then inject it with a motherfucking kick-ass production worthy of a name like, oh, maybe Chris Tsangrides. And, so it goes…for 7 more songs. All different, all great as shit, nary a let-up. Dale Radcliffe’s vocals are mid-to-upper range and tuneful as hell, like a more rock & roll Bruce Dickinson. The rhythm section of Kev Tonge (drums) and Kris Hudson-Lee (bass) is solid as a damn oak tree and my, oh my, what a find is guitarist Andy Lindsay! This dude comes across like a razor-sharp mutation of the late Criss Oliva, Chris DeGarmo & a little Slash (in the “Appetite...” days). With both a rhythm sound nasty enough to put treads on your face and a lead tone as sweet as SRV, I think we’ve got a new Realm star, people.

Naming highlights on an album like this would be useless because there isn’t a weak spot and that’s what puts this, COP’s debut (!!!) full-lengther over-the-top. Every song here, while hard as nails, is still as melodic as hell and filled with enough hooks to create a nightmare for the biggest shark in the ocean. Some things still stand out as the crème de la crème, though. The chorus in “Pretty In Blood” may be one of the most infectious ever. Really. The solo in “Die Alone” would have people like Mark Reale shaking his head and the funk-laden coda of “Exit Wound” is as cool and surprising as it is testicle-smashing. Never had your balls kicked in so memorably, eh?

There is very little else I can say about CRIMES OF PASSION except to make a very true statement. Their debut album is an absolute Raysrealm Classic and any one into hard rock and melodic metal needs to buy it now. The man is hot. I’m on fire. Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you. Murder One

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blues With A Feeling III

BRIAN TINGLE AND BLUE THUNDER – “Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” CD ’04 (Private, US) – Seems there’s been this little blues influx here at The Realm lately, and as you can read below, we’ve come up with a couple good ‘uns. Still, all that said, it’s ironic that the one I’ve probably fallen for the hardest is this disc. It’s right from my own neck of the woods and somehow never crossed my path for 5 years. But that’s ok, as it’s here now and I’m jamming on it big time. BRIAN TINGLE is a musician with a lot of respect and history in the Maryland music scene and this CD is only a part of it. I’ve learned a lot about that and him during the extensive interview I did with the man recently. That fascinating conversation will air on The Realm soon but for now, let’s look at his debut disc.

One thing that’s very clear to me whenever I hit “play” on “Tryin’ To Make A Livin’”… and lately that’s been often…is that it’s very varied. Ok, that was awkwardly worded. What I mean is that, yes, it’s blues but that old soul is represented with a lot of different faces. The other thing I love about the disc is that TINGLE is not only a fine vocalist & a smoking guitarist, he’s also a songwriter who lets his passions for his craft flow freely. Everywhere you look there’s a gem. Start right at the beginning with the title cut. The raucous Thorogood-styled rhythm bouys BRIAN’s tough vocals like a flatbed truck and Ron Zebron’s slide solo is a snarling beast. We get our first taste of TINGLE’s own lead prowess on the shuffle of “Whatcha Want Me To Do.” Here, not only is his solo mean & cutting but his fills are at once lyrical and incisive. When Mark Comachionne’s sax joins the fray, it’s a sound to behold. “Rockin’ The Boat” sees BLUE THUNDER (completed by John Thomakos – drums; BRIAN plays bass, drums & percussion as well) shift gears into an ass-shakin’ funky git-down. The guitar solo here, like so many on this album is ridiculously good. If TINGLE’s calves weren’t hurting after this one, then Carlos Santana is a liar (ask me to explain that one sometime!). Elsewhere, there’s tons more coolness to be found: the slow burn of “Ain’t No Substitute” & the whole band just cooking like a house afire in the instrumental “Come On Down,” with it’s awesome modulation from C to D at around the 3-minute mark. In the upcoming interview, BRIAN points out to me the amazing sax work Comachionne supplies in this one, and he’s right. Even the only non-TINGLE-original here, “Days Gone By” is killer. This laid-back tune by Y.C. Yetter (great East Coast SRV aficionado) reminds me a lot of one of The Allman’s old ballads. BRIAN’s vocals really call to mind Brother Gregg, in their introspective delivery and rich timbre. Ron Zebron takes the lead guitar in this one and paints a sweet tone throughout.

It’s a pleasure to find a past year’s CD like “Tryin’ To Make A Livin.’” It also really ups the ante to learn that it’s author is not only a local guy but one who’s still going strong. The fact that he’s also a really cool and musically savvy dude is just the icing on the cake. Stay tuned for the interview but, in the meantime, get this disc now. A Blue Tornado

NOTE: BRIAN also has a live CD and DVD available, recorded earlier in 2009 and he’s got the following cool deals on ‘em all:
“Tryin’ To Make A Livin’” CD $ 15.00 + $ 2.00 shipping & handling
“Live At Shamrock” CD $ 10.00 + $ 2.00 s&h
“Live At Shamrock” DVD $ 10.00 + $ 2.00 s&h
“Live At Shamrock” CD & DVD $15.00 + $ 2.00 s&h

Call Alex (producer) 443-743-0329
Or Brian 443-983-5920

Blues With A Feeling II

AZ KENNY TSAK & 56 DELUXE – “Like I Do” CD ’09 (Private, US) – All you have to do is take a look at the cover of “Like I Do” to see that bluesman KENNY TSAK (Tsakanikas) likes to have a good time. Here’s a guy, decked out in cool shades & a shirt that might give Elvis pause. Besides that, he’s draped with a couple hotties who look like they’d be happy at the Hef’s place and they also look pretty pleased at handling KENNY’s…axes. But don’t think Mr. TSAK’s talent takes a back seat to any visuals on this CD. This guy can flat-out play. All you’ve gotta do to know that is get swept up in the roadhouse groove of the opening title cut. KENNY’s gruff vocals deliver a swaggering confidence & Frank Perez’s sax solo lays down the business. It’s when TSAK ignites his Firebird solo that you know this boy can burn. Yes, there are a few slow blues seethers, like the evocative “Full Time Lover” & “Blues Attitude” where AZ KENNY dials back his incendiary fretsmanship to simmer. Still, “Like I Do” looks like a damn good come-hither time and it plays like one too…repeatedly, around here. Hot, Blue & Righteous

Blues With A Feeling I

FORREST MCDONALD BAND – “Colorblind” CD ’04 (World Talent, US) When you’re flipping through a used CD section, there are certain standards that you must set for yourself. One of these is that if you pull out a disc that has picture of a Gibson Flying V plastered across the front of it, you buy it. You don’t worry about genre and you don’t give a rat’s ass if you’ve never heard of the artist. That makes it even better, actually. You just buy it. That’s what put “Colorblind” in my hands and the $ 6.99 that went into the record store’s till will not be missed by your’s truly. Gotta say, I was a little confused at first. After getting home & taking a harder look at this one, the word “Blues” was jumping out all over the place. Funny thing was, when I hit “play,” an almost-dance electronic rhythm came bee-bopping out of the headphones and I’m thinking I got the wrong disc. Then, as the first cut “Big John” unfolded, Billy Gibbons-like vocals join the fray as well as some pretty tasty Strat licks. Yeah, blues can take many forms. And they do here. “I Wasn’t Looking For Trouble” picks up a classic Allman’s ballad feel. “Oh Happy Day” is short and sweet, with it’s brush cymbals, jaunty feel and acoustic pickin.’ After an introspective opening, 7+ minute “Thru These Days” takes on a decidedly Santana-esque vibe and “Blues In The Basement” sounds like 2:00 AM in a smoky old Chicago club. Through it all, Andrew Black's throaty voice and FORREST's sweet tone are a perfect foil for the crystal clear, modern-style production job. MCDONALD’s playing is smooth, cool and lyrical, sounding very much like the seasoned veteran who calls this the 8th album of his career. If you want to hear how it’s done from a totally classy pro, let the Flying V point you in this direction. The Color Blue

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The CROSSWIND interview! On Their Stompin' Ground!

As you’ll remember from June’s blog (Grand Halls 26), I unearthed a major discovery while on a trip down to Williams burg, VA. On a trawl through the “local” section at a CD store there, I came face to face with an interesting looking disc by North Carolina band CROSSWIND, entitled “Stompin’ Ground.” This innocent-looking circular piece of plastic ended up being a complete hard rock classic that, despite it’s ’98 imprint, holds it’s own with a lot of the big boys from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. Not willing to let a sleeping band lie, I dove into the ‘net and began a search for these guys (and a girl), intent on finding out more about the CROSSWIND story. That search led me to crossing (ouch!) paths with guitarist Scottie Jordan and drummer Dan Ross, as well as finding a copy of the ‘WIND’s rippin’ debut disc “Can You Feel It” in my player as well. I lobbed some questions in the direction of Mr. Jordan and he was more than willing to field ‘em. Here we go!

RAY - I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about CROSSWIND (some people may imply I don’t know a whole lot about anything, but that’s another story!) So, that in mind, how about we start at the beginning and take things from your perspective. How did you come to take an interest in music (was your family musical?) and how did that grow from simply listening to playing to being in bands, etc. Give us the history, man!

SCOTTIE - My mother and her mother were both piano players and my father and his brother could play guitar and my Uncle was a big Beatles fan at the time so I have been around music all my life, I originally wanted to be a drummer and when my dad left home he left behind this really cheap guitar and the rest is rock n roll history. I also realized I could get closer to the girls with a guitar in my hands than sitting behind a set of drums LOL.

RAY - How did everything finally lead to the formation of the band CROSSWIND?

SCOTTIE - I started playing in bands around 12. You know the neighborhood band thing and I was terrible LOL but, my passion for the instrument kept me practicing like crazy. The Crosswind story is really interesting on how it happened. Dana and I were in a band called Lady Luck at the time and I left the group because I didn’t like the direction it was heading in so I called my good buddy Dan Ross (Crosswind’s drummer) to see if he would like to play some music with me and we formed a little trio that played every Tuesday night at a Pub called Omalley’s where our good friend Rich Barefoot would come out and join us on stage. We realized that we sounded pretty damn good together so we decided to get more serious and we wanted a good singer slash front person and Dana was the only name that we wanted in this project. She was just better than any singer in town male or female so it was never a gender thing with her it was just a good thing with her and we played several shows before we had our first rehearsal LOL. We were able to stay together as Crosswind for 9 years because everyone was a natural fit together.

RAY - Who are your influences as a player? What guitarists (if anybody) impress you these days? It seems as though, as things moved into the 00’s, guitarists lost their desire to really “play,” you know solo, and you sound like the kind of guy who just loves to break loose.

SCOTTIIE - Well I’m from the old school where solos to me were a very important piece of the songs in rock music. The players that impressed me the most were Hendrix, Page, May, Townsend and a whole host of others that would take me a while to list LOL. The newer players seem to have lost the art of the solo in music which is very disappointing to me. Either they aren’t good enough to do it or just don’t put the time in on the instrument to be able to do it. I love to solo and cut loose because to me that is what rock guitar is all about but, the solo has to say something in the song. When I solo I try to play something that will make the drums bass and vocals stand out. I think if you approach guitar like that good things will happen in the song.

RAY - Can you tell us a little about the history of Dana Hall as a singer? Was CROSSWIND her first band or did she do much before that? I have to say that she has impressed me, on the 2 albums, as one of the very best female rock vocalists I’ve ever heard. This is especially true on “Stompin’ Ground,” which was recorded basically “live.” When you first heard her, was your instant reaction “Jesus Christ, I have got to play in a band with somebody who can sing like that?”

SCOTTIE - Believe it or not she didn’t have a whole lot of experience in being in a band until she played with me in Lady Luck and believe me when I heard her voice and feel when she sang, I felt like I struck gold because she was better than any male or female singer I had ever played with before. Not only that but, she wrote to my music so well and we became a really good song writing team much like Plant and Page in my eyes. She knew how to write to my crazy music and she loved writing originals and that was a huge plus to me. She was enthused about what I was writing so I was free to create the music I wanted with the singer I always dreamed of having. She loved to perform live and really knew how to take the bull by the horns on stage and get the crowd pumped up to a fever pitch. A very beautiful thing to watch I must say.

RAY - As a raging guitar god in the heart of the North Carolina rock scene, do you think the presence of a woman in the band encouraged or inhibited the female audience’s interest in the male members? (Male members?! Odd choice of words, Ray) Be as creative as you can without getting yourself in trouble!

SCOTTIE - Well our style of rock was very hard and you have to remember that hard rock is mainly I male dominated business so I always felt we had a unique edge with a female singer who could belt it out better than the males in our town so I was quite proud of that. She would just put them to shame, you know set them up and Dana will knock them down kind of thing LOL. In that respect I felt I owed it to her and the band to try and be the best Scottie Jordan (whatever that means LOL) that I could be. Because all my band mates laid it on the line each and every show I felt I didn’t need to hold back. If you’re good at something people will notice it no matter what but, my main focus has always been to be a good band mate first and a rockin’ guitar player second.

RAY - I’m glad you were able to send me a copy of the first disc “Can You Feel It.” It’s pretty surprising for a debut, in the strength and maturity of the songwriting. Still, I think you guys really opened up the jets and let loose with “Stompin’ Ground.” Before I ask about any of the songs, I just wanted to touch on the story behind the album itself. It is your 2nd album of new material and yet it was recorded live. That’s different. What led to your decision to make a record of new songs in front of an audience and, in fact, in a church that had been converted to a recording studio?

SCOTTIE - Great question Ray. Well people would listen to our first effort and tell us that we were just great live and the energy was different with us live as would be with any band. Dan came up with the brilliant idea of our second record to be live. At first we didn’t know about that suggestion but, the more we thought about it we said why the hell not. Let’s get a venue, drag the amps out, crank them up until your ears bleed and let it all hang out full throttle. TAKE NO PRISONERS. When we played live it was our philosophy that if you were in the room with us, there was no talking to chicks or conversation, if you were in the room with us all you got was us, see volume is a powerful tool in rock LOL. So our engineer for the first record worked at Reflection Studio, which by the way has produced some grammy winner in the past, told us that the studio was taking an abandon church and making it a recording facility. Now when we did Stompin’ Ground construction hadn’t ever started yet so here was the empty shell with all the pews taken out and I stage about the size of a normal theater stage. They took their moble unit much like what the Stones loaned Zeppelin for recording at Hedly Grange, parked it out back and set up the gear and we invited our fans and friends to come be apart of this record. When we started hearing the play backs from those performances we knew we had made the right choice. We now had the powerful sound of Crosswind on tape.

RAY - “Stompin’ Ground” shows a band who are definitely right on their…er…stompin’ ground. (Ouch!) One thing that impresses me a lot is the variety of the material. You’ve got something like the title cut that has a G&R sort of swagger, you’ve got several kinda multi-layered epics like “End Of The World” and “Remains” and then you’ve got cuts like “Money Talks” where Dana and you just completely let rip on vocals & guitar respectively. How important is variety in hard rock songwriting & why?

SCOTTIE - Well we never put ourselves in a corner musically, what I mean to say is our philosophy was that if it sounded good to us then play it. Hell if we wrote a good polka it probably would have ended up on Stompin’ Ground LOL. We collectively as a band liked bands that had many musical layers to them. Like a Queen or a Zeppelin where one minute their rocking it out and the next they are tearing it up acoustically and everything in between. One sound throughout an album to us just got boring. So we liked to try any and everything musically we could and we felt we had the musical muscle to pull it off with the line up we had in Crosswind. Every one was very open minded to different music maybe too much at times LOL.

RAY - I think I’m right in that the record was recorded over 2 nights. Was that done for the reason that you’d have at least one alternate take of each song so you had some room for choosin’, shall we say?

SCOTTIE - Absolutely correct. We wanted to make double sure, pardon the pun, that we had the best tracks available for our fans. They deserved the best we could give them and on a footnote it snowed both nights of recording and the fans made the trip anyway so again I say they the fans deserved the best of the best.

RAY - What was Surf Records all about and what was their role in the release of the record? Did they finance it, did they help you do any touring to support it? What kind of touring did CROSSWIND do overall, what is the farthest you got away from home base?

SCOTTIE - Well we signed a distribution deal with Surf. They would put it out but, we had total creative control of our band period. We wouldn’t have it any other way. About the 4th year into this band we started opening for a lot of national acts and as we started playing to bigger crowds we realized that there were more places to explore. I remember my our first trip to NYC, for a country boy like me it was like landing on mars and taught me a valuable lesson in the since that what it felt like to be a tiny fish in a big ocean LOL. We traveled a lot and to a lot of different places and that made us a much better band by far. Because when you play a town where no one knows you that is when you find out just what your band is made of and we found out we were pretty damn good at this LOL. We preferred to play out of town because each time we did it made us a better band and when we would come back and play our hometown the audience could see and here the difference and maturity we gained from that. Surf was great about getting our music to different stations in different markets and that also helped when we would go to a place we had never been before about creating a buzz for us.

RAY - Give me a gear run-down for what you were running guitar/amp/effects-wise on “Stompin….” You have a real nasty-ass tone on that record!

SCOTTIE - 2 100 watt Marshall halfstacks, Gibson Les Paul, and the truth. That’s it. I am a firm believer that a guitar players sound is in his or her hands period. The less you have in the signal chain the better and more in your face tone you will get. I threw away all my effects a long time ago and when I played straight into the amp it was like playing naked. I could hear all the bad habits I had and was able to correct my playing. It was a huge adjustment for me but, well worth it in the end when it came to my sound. I remember opening for .38 Special and Don Barns looked at my rig after our set and was blown away by what I didn’t have LOL. He said, “your tone is massive and huge how do you achieve it?” I just held up both my hands and said, “I get it from here LOL.”

RAY - You’re offered one of the following: 1) A Strat signed by Jimi Hendrix 2) A courtside season seat for Duke NCAA basketball 3) A chance to give Angelina Jolie a week of private guitar lessons. Which do you choose & why?

SCOTTIE - First of all I am a Tarheel all the way LOL. To answer your question I would definitely take the Hendrix Strat hands down. He had a huge impact on me at a young age and I think A Band of Gypsies is a must listen for anybody wanting to play rock guitar period. Simply a talent lost WAY to early.

RAY - I think I’m right in that “Stompin’ Ground” was CROSSWIND’s last recording. What happened, why, etc.?

SCOTTIE - Well it was and we had about 17 songs we were planning on for future recordings, that being said, we were together 9 years. Dana had been away from her home Mississippi all this time and wanted to go be with her family. We still remain in touch with each other to this day, we forged very strong friendships in the time we spent in Crosswind and had been through so much together. They are my best friends. We were fortunate to not have an ugly break up, we were just tired and needed to get back to our families for a while especially Dana whose people were so far away. I like to say this and I hope you quote me on this LOL. We are all good enough to go and play with other players but, when we are all in the same room together, whether we are playing or not, we are Crosswind. Much like McCartney and Ringo, they have different projects but, when they are gathered in the same room, their the fuckin’ Beatles LOL.

RAY - What have the members of the band gone on to do since CROSSWINDS’ passing?

SCOTTIE - Dana is raising a family in Mississippi, Dan is in a really good band Swill, and Rich is playing in a band called the Newz. I have been teaching guitar since Crosswind’s split and I play with a friend of mine around town in an acoustic act. I am really digging making the acoustic a rock instrument LOL.

RAY - Could you ever imagine the members of CROSSWIND taking the stage again, even just once and dusting off any of the old gems?

SCOTTIE - We are planning to get together sometime in the near future to do some more writing. I have learned one thing in this world and that is you never say never. Who knows we might look at each other during these jam sessions and say, “we still got it, lets go and flaunt it LOL.”

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: If a Carolina Panther is divided by the cubed root of the number of “z’s” in Coach K’s name, what is the radius of a 1:3 scale model of the Charlotte Motor Speedway?

SCOTTIE - That’s easy, the answer is, a half past a monkey’s ass and a quarter to his balls.

RAY - What is the music scene like in your area in particular and the whole of North Carolina these days? Is there a place for a band doing hard rock the style of what CROSSWIND was doing?

SCOTTIE - Let me put it this way, if you don’t know funky music white boy or brickhouse you don’t work in this town and it’s a shame because this used to be a really great town for original music.

RAY - Here’s the one we’re all waiting for. Tell us a story or anecdote about something that happened in the past of CROSSWIND (live, studio, on the road, at home, whatever) that was crazy, weird, odd or just plain disgusting and vile. Be as honest as you care to or as your reputation can handle.

SCOTTIE - WOW this is probably going to bore you but, we were so busy and going from town to town that we didn’t really have time to stop and experience the weird stuff. I think the most exciting part of being on the road for us was sneaking in us and all our roadies in a hotel and only paying for 2 occupants. I hope I didn’t blow your entire image of us with that answer LOL. That is not to say we didn’t have fun because we had a blast and if I had it to do all over again I would in a milla second.

RAY - Any final comments?

SCOTTIE - I just want to say thanks to you and for what you do for bands that are trying to make it out there. Your work is crucial to our survival and our music. I appreciate you taking time to experience Crosswind and our hard work. Thank you Ray we and all other bands you write about owe you big time.

CROSSWIND is awesome, as both their albums prove. They are a major proof of my contention that any music lover worth their salt will never meet a “local,” “used” or “budget” section they won’t love enough to scour from one end to the other. To top it all off, they are a great bunch of people and you can contact ‘em via drummer Dan Ross at:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The 2009 MATT EBERT Interview Experience!

You know something’s up when you’re interviewed twice on The Realm. Maybe you should take that as your warning to run in the opposite direction. I mean, if Ray likes you enough to sit you down and put you through the paces more than once, you have done something to interest this dazed, confused and gnarly twisted middle-aged man. MATT EBERT, the man from Georgia with the endless grooves, has just found himself in such a position and, to be perfectly frank (even though his name is MATT, not Frank) has acquitted himself famously. Read the results below and, of course, delve even further back into August’s blog to find a review of his latest masterpiece “Snakes And Tornadoes.” Groove on!

RAY - Seems like it was just yesterday that we sat down to talk before. Now you’ve just put a new CD out, “Snakes & Torpedoes.” Is that anything like Rush’s “Snakes & Ladders?” Can MATT EBERT’s concept album, “2113” be far behind? Just kidding…I think.

MATT - Yeah, I came up with the title from a reoccurring dream I kept have about snakes and tornadoes. Some nights I would dream of snakes and some nights I would dream of tornadoes…either way it was unsettling and went on for years. I read that dreams of snakes represented evil and tornadoes represented destructive, uncontrollable forces in your life, which I had plenty of. So I decided that would be a great title for the CD. Then I saw Rush came out with “snakes and arrows” and I said fuck it, I already decided on that title before that record came out…I aint nothing like Rush anyways. But I did worry about that for a minute.

RAY - I just passed thru your home state of Georgia taking the family down to Florida from where we are in Maryland. It was the only state we hit a traffic back-up on I-95 in 922 miles. Can you explain this?

MATT - I don’t think people know how to drive around here. They like to text, read a book , put on their make up or just drive like shit for no reason …..Not real important to get where you’re going. Laid back around here I guess, nobodies in a hurry. I’m on medication because of it.

RAY - Ok, we can go rushing madly headlong into “Snakes….” As usual, your buddy Allan Ray plays a major role in co-writing, co-producing & playing. You guys seem to work well together. Commentary?

MATT - Well, we’ve played together since the 10th grade, (we’re both 29 now). We’ve been a bunch of bands together over the years. We started recording with a reel to reel back in the day. Then we advanced to a 4 track tape recorder. And now we use the computer BUT try to maintain that analogue sound. Mostly accomplished with vintage instruments and less than perfect equipment. Usually when I write a song, I’ll do the drums, bass, and vocals and then tell Allan what I had in mind for a guitar part or what have ya and he does his thing. Sometimes its not what I expected but I almost always dig what he comes up with. Recently, Allan moved in with me, so I look forward to getting a lot more music recorded and playing around with his thousands of instruments.

RAY - Some people do covers & my reaction is “Fucking why, man, why?!?!” They try to re-create a classic original and of course, should realize that the karaoke bar is down the street. The covers you pick are not only unexpected but are then given a full EBERT interpretation. Why do a cover version of a song and what makes a good one?

MATT - Well, I enjoy doing covers. Its allot of fun for some reason. And its good filler if you’re trying to have a full CD. The covers I did for snakes, I felt worked well with the overall theme of the CD and I had already wanted to do some Mary J Blidge and Tina Turner because im such a big fan of both. But in the future I’m gonna get away from doing more than one on a CD, just to present more of my songs and not waste recording time on doing a cover.

RAY - Have any of the artists you’ve covered ever offered a commentary after the fact?

MATT - No, because im so underground im almost to China. I doubt any of the artists have heard my versions but I’m sure they got my royalty checks. I would be very interested to hear their comments though.

RAY - Somehow, the cover versions on “Snakes & Tornadoes” serve to embellish your originals which are just fantastic this time around. Pick 3 of your originals on “Snakes…” and give us the full MATT EBERT commentary, thoughts, etc.

MATT - Ok, the opening track on the cd “time(don’t waste mine)” was written about my ex getting me involved in a love triangle with the dope man. I was working in Jacksonville, Fla at the time and I was so upset and miserable in my motel, I wrote the lyrics in a night and came up with the music at work and hummed it out on my cell phone. In the same month I wrote “Junky woman”, “Make a name for yourself” and “Buns of steel heart of stone”.

The 2nd track “Im hip” me and my roommate at the time, wrote it about all the hipsters around Athens and Atlanta that we hate. He’s in a punk band in ATL, so that’s why its got that sort of sound.

The 9th track, “Kill me” was actually the 1st song I wrote for the CD. I kicked it around for about a year before I finally felt it was complete. I had the 1st verse written for a while before I wrote the 2nd. One day I was at the doctor’s office and I read an article about Hank Williams Sr. When he died they found a piece of paper that he had been writing on. It read “tonight we both are all alone and here’s all I can say, I love you still and always will but that’s the price we have to pay”. I thought it was perfect and would be kind of a tribute to Sr., so I included those lines in the 2nd verse.

RAY - When you write a song, do you ever feel like “Goddamn, this is really something! I nailed this one!”

MATT - Yeah, I usually dig everything I do but after a while I start to pick it apart and don’t wanna even hear them anymore. But I really enjoy listening to “snakes….”

RAY - How on earth do you write something with a groove like “Time (Don’t Waste Mine)?” Did you live a previous life in Motown?

MATT - That’s cool you say that because that kinda the sound im going for. A Motown meets nirvana. I’m a HUGE Motown fan and really a fan of older music from around that era. I try to have an older sounding sound. I hate how perfect and clean new music sounds. Sounds over produced to me and soulless.

RAY - In Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Cry For The Badman,” the late Ronnie Van Zant, at one point, improvises “Way down in Georgia!” between lines. When you hear this, are you proud to be a GA resident or do you ask yourself, “What the hell is he talking about, they were from Florida?” Of course, the same man also wrote a song extolling Alabama, so he possibly was geographically challenged.

MATT - Yeah, I’m very proud to be from Ga. There have been a lot of great musicians from here. Next time you come through, you should check out the Georgia music hall of fame in Macon. It’s pretty interesting. Myself, I don’t see me leaving the south. I’m moving to Atlanta next year and that’s where I’ll probably stay. Unless I get run off or something.

RAY - You’ll give away copies of “Snakes…” and your previous disc to people who ask for them. Why?

MATT - Because I don’t care about making any money off my CD. I just want to be heard. I think if people see that its free, they would be more inclined to check it out. Hell, I like free stuff. As long as I’m still working, the CD will be free. But I’m starting to worry about that lately the way the construction biz is lately.

RAY - What do you make of the whole downloading of music thing? Are you the kind of guy who likes to hold a physical piece of material in your hand (CD, vinyl) or is it mainly getting the tunes out there, however that may be accomplished?

MATT - I personally do not download music. Some of my favorite art is from album covers. I have the Miles Davis “bitches brew”album cover tattooed on my leg. I made it a point to have a lot of groovy art on my cd. I got permission from a couple of really good artist to let me use their work on my cd. I think that helps the overall presentation of the music. If you download the music you don’t get that. And you could miss out on the good deep cuts on a record cause all you wanted was on particular song.

RAY - What’s next for MATT EBERT? Shows, recordings, etc.?

MATT - I would love to do some shows, but it’s a huge pain in the ass to get a bunch of flaky musicians together for no money. Maybe my move to ATL will help. I’m already recording for my next cd. I guess it’s gonna have a similar sound to “snakes…” But I am also working on a jazz album using UFO’s in the bible as a concept. I want to get back more to my jazz influences. The goal is to release something around this time next year.
And play the band deal by ear.

RAY - What is the best piece of advice you could give to a fledgling songwriter musician in 2009?

MATT - HARD WORK. Don’t waste time . Try to get the most out of each day in regards to writing and keeping focused on a project and avoid distractions like getting wasted every night. It only took me a year to put together “snakes..” that’s also working construction 60 + hours a week and mostly out of town. I just stayed on it and made it my main goal. Oh, and find a crazy woman or man to get involved with. You’ll have endless inspiration.

RAY - Any final comments?

MATT - Just, want to let your readers know the CD is free and I feel its my best release so far. It’s a honest record and from the point of view from a depressed construction worker…..salt of the Earth folks.

Folks, I’m not sure what else I can say about a contemporary musical artist whom I simply consider one of the most honest, compelling and just simply damn best around. Trust me, his CD’s are free (that’s right, FREE!) but so damn good that I wouldn’t mind paying full price. And, I’m cheap as hell. But really man, I mean this. So go, won’t you, straight to:

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Molson and A Jack

MIRIODOR – “Avanti!” CD ’09 (Cuneiform, Can) – I’m not going to do it this time…I swear to God, I’m not. I’m not going to start this review off with the words “Ages ago….” I know, I know, I love telling stories and everybody digs a good yarn but…well, I’ll tell a short one anyway but I just won’t start it off “Ages ago….” How ‘bout I roll with “Some years back?” That work? Ok, then. Some years back, my good ol’ prog rock CD dealer buddy Chris Lamka put on a couple shows at Towson University in Baltimore. My oh my, they were wonderful affairs! And I’m not talking about some dream of hooking up with the milf next door, I mean they were great gatherings of all things cutting edge musically. Within just 20 minutes drive time from my house, I saw a blistering succession of such bands as Anekdoten, Mastermind, Braindance, Discipline, Eclat, etc. One of the groups that trod the boards at the 1996 version of Progscape was Canada’s MIRIODOR. Now, I’m the kinda guy who’s always tried to be open-minded but, you see, those 13 years in the past (I didn’t say “Ages ago!”) I was just worming my way into things that were truly progressive and, unfortunately, MIRIODOR were a little too much for me. Their full-on instrumental RIO (rock in opposition) style, combining a brain-stretching stew of jazz, chamber music and progressive rock with math-like rhythm changes was simply more than my feeble brain could handle at the time. It was a few years later, however, that I sat in the basement of a drummer friend, drinking beer and listening to Belgian RIO band Present that it came into focus for me. Later, I saw MIRIODOR’s “Mekano” disc at a local store, picked it up and got completely immersed. So, the ol’ Ray-man was wracked with the ecstasy of delight (what the hell?!?) when he ambled into a store not long ago and found this new 2009 release, “Avanti!” waiting in the “M” section.

Simply put, “Avanti!” is easily MIRIODOR’s best album to date and you know I’m going to tell you why, don’t you? I always do when I’m all excited about something, so here’s the nuts of it. Still present in great part are all the things that make this band what they’ve been on their previous 5 albums: the twists, the turn-on-a-dime rhythms, the absolutely impossible musicianship, the quirky arrangements. Throughout the course of this 60+ minute journey MIRIODOR (Bernard Falaise – guitar, Pascal Globensky – keyboards, Remi Leclerc – drums, Nicolas Masino – bass & keys) lay down a clinic on not only how to take their instruments apart down to their very DNA but to somehow then fuse together into a unit tighter than just about any woman you've ever...well, you get the idea. Embellishing this all with some guest appearances by horn players they can take music you may have heard by people like Mr. Bungle and make it sound like one of the sloppier rehearsal nights by your Uncle Vinnie’s wedding band. But where MIRIODOR have upped the ante so much this time around is to kick up the groove factor pretty fucking serious. Grab an auditory hold on opener “Envoutement” (Bewitchment). The syncopated rhythm combined with the flowing, pulsing groove has me simultaneously picking my jaw up off the floor and throwing my back out. Shit, this album is dangerous to the health! Then, within the same 9 minutes, Falaise lays down a jarring distorted wall of guitar before the band lapses into a smoky jazz interlude. And it goes on like this through 6 more songs, each in the 8-10 minute range but none getting a spot boring. The interesting thing is this. These guys have probably, oh, 10x more musical chops than the people in Dream Theater and yet while the latter and their ilk bore me to absolute tears with their techno-weenie pablum, I could play “Avanti!” every day. The difference? MIRIODOR not only can play, they haven’t forgotten that ‘dey got rhythm! Oh Canada!

EVANSCAPPS – “Last Time” CD ’09 (Rock Ridge, US) – Here’s one for you. What looks like it should sound like Rush, has a pedigree that implies a “Free Bird” clone could be present, yet sounds like a heavier Three Doors Down crossed with RATM? Give up yet? The answer is “Last Time,” the new disc featuring Bobby Capps (38 Special – vocals, keys) & Ean Evans (Lynyrd Skynyrd – guitar, bass). Sure, the cover may appear to be a lost alternative for “Signals” and my description might sound a bit ungainly but there’s also a further irony that makes this a bittersweet affair. See, not long before it’s release, Ean Evans sadly died of cancer, so aside from the pure loss for his family and friends, “Last Time” will stand as EVANSCAPPS’ lone output and legacy. Fortunately, it’s a good one. I always kinda liked Three Doors Down’s songs but had a problem with their light-weight feel and lack of good guitar work. One of EVANSCAPPS’ strong suits is taking those same kinds of catchy riffs and melodies, tuning down, jacking up the power and having Ean Evans lash some snarling leads to the proceedings. Moreover, Bobby Capps’ vocals retain their Southern feel through the bulk of the album except when he lays on the treatment and comes off like a Dixie Zack De La Rocha.. While that sounds bizarre, it actually works because it adds some crank-it-up aggression and it’s not crammed into every song just for the sake of it. “Last Time” may, unfortunately, be an apt title for this disc but that won’t stop it from spinning at The Realm for awhile. Southern Comfort

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Several months back, you may remember me talking, effusing, rambling on and basically frothing at the mouth about a band I’d seen at Orion Studios in Baltimore. This band was France’s MORGLBL and what they presented me with that night, as well as on their new disc “Jazz For The Deaf” was a massive hybrid crush of jazz fusion, pulverizing distorted metal guitar, musicianship that could make any so-called “prog” band take extreme pause and a wicked sense of humor. It was via that show and repeated listening to that album, as well as MORGLBL’s previous 3 discs that Christophe Godin was very quickly raised to the level of one of my very favourite guitar players of any style. So, imagine my delight when the man himself agreed to sit down and field some questions from this scribe’s humble pen. And so it went…

RAY - You guys come from a lot of different musical directions: jazz, metal, prog, etc. You must have had pretty extensive records / CD collections, am I correct? Some Pantera discs in there along with the Holdsworth, right?

CHRISTOPHE -I have all Pantera cds as well as all Holdsworth's too ;) I have been raised as the youngest child of a family and both my brother and sister were listening to a lot of different things. Plus, my mother was a classical musician. I guess the mix in between all those influences built up my tastes. I like to describe the stuff we play as humorous jazz metal for deaf people.

RAY - Were your parents or families into music?

CHRISTOPHE - My mom played the mandolina at a high level, and she has a very large culture in classical music.

RAY - I was in France about 15 years ago in La Ciotat & Lyon. I ate a lot of lamb there, is that common or do you think the people I was staying with had some sort of sheep fetish? Is France a place where men are men and sheep are frightened?

CHRISTOPHE - Well, that is quite a deep question, and I read quite a lot of books about sheep history, and about the history of France, and seemingly, there are some intriguing things that might take me to share your opinion. Anyway, I will keep on searching and probably release a documentary about this topic very soon...

RAY - Ok, I give up! What the hell does MORGLBL mean? The “M” and the “O” (with the umlaut) look kinda “metal.”

CHRISTOPHE - No umlaut on the M sir !!!!!! Anyway, it has really no meaning. It's just the first group of letters that came to my mind when I was asked for a band's name. The strange ways of our brains...

RAY - If you were given the chance to play through anybody’s guitars / equipment, other than your own, who’s would it be?

CHRISTOPHE - Well, I'd love to have Jeff Beck's hands and brain for a few days...

RAY - Ok, the dreaded “tech” question! For the musicians in the readership, what kinds of gear do you all use?

CHRISTOPHE - I plug a Vigier Excalibur Supra guitar into a Laney amp (mostly a GH50L, a Laney VH100R or a VC50 combo), using a Rocktron Wha pedal and a small Zoom delay unit and that's it !!! I'm definitely into very simple things, and my guitar rig is not very exciting for equipment ;) When I play acoustic, I'm using Godin guitars.

RAY - Even though your stuff is instrumental, the songs seem to take on a real distinct “character” and feel. A lot of instrumental bands can’t do that and all the shit runs together. How are you able to avoid this? Are you just that good? For instance, the old one “Le Fantome De Savoie,” it just sounds like the whole mountain/spirit ;)

CHRISTOPHE - We really try to tell a story with each song, and I sometimes even write some lyrics to have an overall mood, and the song becomes the soundtrack to those words. I think one other important point is that we all compose. Most of the time, there's one leader who gives the band his direction. In the end, it sounds a little monotonous, and very few skilled composers can avoid this like Frank Zappa for example. In Mörglbl, everyone brings his own universe into the band's music, and accept the fact that his ideas are going to be interpreted in a different way by the others. I think that's an interesting way to build up a strong musical statement, and to create your very own sound.

RAY - I heard that Hendrix, Noel Redding & Mitch Mitchell used to try to actually out-play each other & make each other screw up for fun. Do you guys ever do that or are you more polite to each other?

CHRISTOPHE - We are very polite and respectful to each other. We are very well educated persons... Well...

RAY - Are there any MORGLBL groupies? Do a lot of women like your stuff or is it more of a guy “gear / player” type thing?

CHRISTOPHE - Honestly, there are not that many women, but surprisingly, we probably have more women in the audience than most other fusion rock bands, because our drummer is gorgeous and sexy!

RAY - What gave you the idea to take classic rock songs and MORGLBL-ize them? When I saw you at Orion, for instance, you did a jazzy version of “Highway To Hell.”

CHRISTOPHE - I used to play in a cover band a long time ago when we would take a lot of rock standards and play them in a Motörhead way. It was really funny, as well as a good method to reinvent songs. Plus it was refreshing to hear new versions for the audience. You can never top the originals, so that's a cool way to pay tribute to the masters without taking the risk of comparison.

RAY - You’re over here in the USA for the 2nd time, is that right? Are you getting a good response? I hadn’t even heard of you until a friend of mine told me to go to the Orion show & I ended up being so blown away that I bought all your discs that night.

CHRISTOPHE - I played many times in the US for Laney, and Mörglbl tours for the third time thanks to Blue Mouth Promotions. We are back in August for the fourth time. What I like about the US audience is that people are open minded, and ready to listen to a lot of different genres if the quality is good. The barriers between styles are not as strong as they are in Europe. For us, it is both surprising and emulating !!!

RAY - How about France, do you gig a lot there? Europe? What about Japan, they love hot guitar stuff over there? And, of course, Oriental women are foxy!

CHRISTOPHE - We have quite a good following in France, and around Europe. UK is in the plans for next year. We toured Russia a couple of time. Asia is quite far and at the moment, we have nothing planned there with Mörglbl. I tour a lot in Asia for Laney, and in a way, I do some promo for the band at the same time.

RAY - What’s next for MORGLBL, a new album in 2010 maybe? How about your other projects, Christophe, can you give us a summary of them and what is going on with them?

CHRISTOPHE - We will release a live DVD in 2010, and I will record an acoustic guitar album with another guitarist named Olivier roman Garcia. I also reactivated my metal band, Gnô, and we will definitely work on some new material for a second album. I have my solo project, Metal Kartoon, that I am still working on. But I can do it all at the same time, so I pick up one or two projects per year, but Mörglbl is my main thing !!!

RAY - Tell us the craziest MORGLBL story ever! The wildest thing that’s ever happened to you guys, either on tour, in the studio, etc.

CHRISTOPHE - Well, we played in Georgia for person !!!!!! We did a full length show (about two hours and a half), had fun, and shared a huge amount of pints of beer with him !!!! In the end, that's a real cool thing to remember ! He came to us and told us he had the best band in the world (he was really drunk...) playing for him and hugged us forever !!!!!!!!

RAY - Any final comments?

CHRISTOPHE - Well I thank you a thousand times for your interest. Thanks to people like you, we get a chance to exist and build up a fanbase. We need exposure as we have no support from the regular commercial networks, and we owe people like you quite a lot.

I would strongly advise anyone reading this site who is into purely kick ass music revolving around killer musicianship, ass-busting riffs and destructive lead guitar work to check out MORGLBL now. “Jazz For The Deaf” is right up their with the best of 2009 so far and anything with the words “Christophe Godin – guitar” inscribed on it should be considered mandatory.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Her Star Is Rising

BETT PADGETT – “My Shooting Star” CD ’09 (Ceilidhe, US) – I’ve got to say, right from the beginning, that it takes some serious gusto to open a CD of otherwise original music with a cover of an iconic piece like “Zip Ah Dee Do Dah.” Yes, that one. The 1945 classic from Disney’s “Song Of The South.” Here are some of the people who recorded versions of this song previously: Connie Francis, Doris Day, The Hollies, Louis Armstrong, The Dave Clark Five, The Jackson 5, …. You get the idea. That all being said, it’s without the least bit of hesitation that I find this 2009 version by North Carolina’s BETT PADGETT to be one of the most vibrant & infectious readings I’ve ever heard. When she gets to the “ev’rything is satisfactual” part, only a dead man would not be singing along. And yet, I’m not surprised one bit. Having been a huge fan of BETT’s folk music over a course of several albums before this one, I’m here to tell you something: this lady is confidence, honesty and pure emotion personified. And we’re not even talking about the fact that she plays a mean acoustic guitar, has a riveting voice and can spin a helluva yarn all the while. You don’t have to go far into this disc to hear what I’m talking about. Right on the heels of “Zip…” is “When The Sky Comes Out” and we’re talking about a vocal presence that’s right up there with Joni Mitchell on “Blue.” But “My Shooting Star” is hardly front-loaded…it’s purely LOADED, from pillar to post, with one fantastic songsmith nugget after another. It’s stripped-down music, no doubt, again mostly just vocals and guitar, sometimes accompanied by Dave Groening’s percussion and the honesty is palpable and vibrant. I love the emotional detail in numbers like “The Mailbox On Bird Island,” the rich storytelling in of “The Pirates Came To Bald Head” and the lush romanticism of “The Memory Of Your Love (Song For Isabella).” Still, nothing quite nails me to the wall like the 1 ½ minutes of acapella piece “Listen.” Such a voice, such feeling, such power. Stunning stuff. A Super Nova

BULLFROG – “Beggars & Losers” CD ’09 (Andromeda Relix, Ita) – Is it fair for me to review albums like this? I mean, maybe to give proper perspective I should get my dad to do it. Then again, what would his review sound like…hmm…not sure exactly, but I can most assuredly promise you it would include the phrases “bunch of longhairs,” “all hopped-up on dope” and “they were banging my ears for an hour.” No, I’ll go ahead and do it even though all you have to do is mention the words “70’s hard rock” and I’m there, salivating like Pavlov’s Dog on the day The Bell Store had a big sale. Right from the git-go, I like the looks of this puppy. Talk about an eye-catching cover! Jesus Christ, you’d have to be a colour-blind man in a black & white TV factory not to be wowed by the artwork here. And tell you what, a gigantic frog with devil horns comes my way clutching a Les Paul & a bass, I’m gonna take notice. Open the gorgeous digipak, slide in the disc and baby, you’re in hard rawk heaven. Apparently BULLFROG’s 3rd full lengther, they really let it be the charm as there’s nary a bummer to be found among the 11 cuts here. Opening with “Over Again,” this trio (Silvano Zago – guitars; Francesco Dalla Riva – bass, vox; Michele Dalla Riva – drums) sounds like Humble Pie crossed with maybe some killer obscure southern hard rock dudes like Two Guns (especially in the vocal dept.) These boys aren’t afraid to dollop on the dynamics. Check out the way Zago comes charging out of the mellow interlude in this cut, right into a paint peeling solo. Yeah man. Lotsa barn-burning riffers to choose from here, but my faves have gotta be the smoking “On Through The Night” (not Def Leppard!), the HPie/Doobies hybrid of “Keep Me Smile” or the true Suddern guitar blowout of “Poor Man Cry.” This is good stuff and the CD even looks like a record. No Losers Here

DOOMRAISER – “Erasing The Remembrance” CD ’09 (Blood Rock, Ita) – When this disc came tumbling out of the envelope I received awhile back from Italy’s Black Widow Records, I have to admit, it was my first time crossing paths with DOOMRAISER. That being said, I did a little research and found that, at least at one point, the band was considered to be on the “humor” side of doom, with a penchant for lyrics and image that celebrated massive alcohol consumption over a lot of other things. It seems that between then & now, this 5-piece bunch has decided to take their craft a lot more seriously as this is good straight-ahead doom metal. Besides a healthy dose of allegiance to the likes of luminaries like, natch, The Sabs, Vitus, Candlemass, etc. there is also an added nod to Swiss pummelers Celtic Frost. Grab an earhold on the death grunts & sledgehammer rhythms in “The Raven” to see what I mean. Elsewhere, these guys are not ones to rush thru anything with 3 of the 7 tracks topping the ten minute mark. The quality of the tunes does, for the most part, justify their length and anyone into solid doom metal, especially of the Maryland variety (go Terps!?) will dig this. A Nice Italian Job

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Magic Kingdom Misfits

VAGABOND – “Land Of Misfit Toys” CD ’07 (Private, US) – I do dumb things on family vacations. Ok, let me explain. It’s not like I wander down to the hotel bar, find a blonde vixen who needs somebody to buy her a drink and then accompany her back to her suite for a night of wild sex while my family plays Trivial Pursuit 3 floors down. First off, I’m not sure which blonde vixen at a hotel bar would even give this 51 year old the time of day. Secondly, I…um…go to record stores…by myself. I know, I know. It’s pathetic. But let me explain….or at least try.

Whenever I go out of town, I make it my business to find a local record store, comb the…wait for it… “Local” section and emerge with an interesting looking obscure release from the area. I even do this on family trips, I’ll admit, justifying it with the rationalization that “it’s only for an hour or so.” So far, the wife & kids put up with this habit & I’m not in divorce court…that’s a plus I s’pose, so here’s the latest chapter in my escapades….

It’s about 2 weeks ago and we’re in Kissimmee, Florida. After a 2 day, 922 mile drive from B-More, we’re staked out at our hotel and it’s 7:00 on Monday night. Tomorrow is The Magic Kingdom and everyone is mellowing out, ready to catch some early zzz’s for a big day ahead. Myself, I’m on the laptop and discover a place called Park Avenue CD’s. A couple keystrokes into trusty (!!!) Mapquest tells me it’s in Orlando, 20+ miles away. So, with the resoluteness of Job, I grab the keys, jump in the rented Honda Odyssey and trundle onto I-4 North. The directions I have scrawled on the folded-back inside of a Motrin box have me exit from the interstate onto state toll road 408 and then take another exit onto Bumby Street. I’m supposed to follow that until I get to Corrine Drive. And, that’s where I make my mistake. After a few blocks, I figure Mapquest is wrong. It can’t possibly be this far. I’m now 30 minutes on from the hotel, it’s dark and I’m back into a residential area. I must have gone right past it in the little shopping district I went thru a while back. So, I turn around, head back. Up & down, no such thing as Corrine Drive. It’s now after 8:00…I’m tired, it’s dark as shit and I know I’ve got another half hour to get back to the place if I start now. I’ve got part of a cold and I’m going to be walking around Disney tomorrow with 5 kids in the 95 degree heat. So, I do the sensible thing. I turn around again and continue even further away down Bumby Street, into the residential area again and just keep going…and going…and going. And, just when even I am thinking I have lost my mind, a sign materializes on a street corner… “Corrine Drive.”

To make a long story short, 2 minutes later I’m inside a cool little place called Park Avenue CD’s. I grab some music anticipating the drive home from Florida (Kiss, AC/DC, Black Crowes) and begin thumbing through that sometimes-treasure-trove, “Local Artists.” I’m through the B’s, then the M’s, then the S’s. A small defeatist sigh begins to spread across my grim countenance. I’m not seeing anything that’s piquing my interest. A folk thing here, a roots-rock disc there…but nothing that grabs me…now I’m past the T’s and I’m about to resign this to fuck-it territory when I stop…VAGABOND – “Land Of Misfit Toys.” I stop. Man, this looks interesting…weird, cartoonish cover art…some bizarre song titles like “Autumn Lady,” “Echo,” “Right Lane Ends.” Hmm…eleven bucks, what the hell. Did I tell you that it was 9:00 by then, that I got on 408 the wrong way when I left, got lost in downtown Orlando and didn’t get back to the hotel till after 10:00 PM? Did I tell you that I don’t care? Because this CD kicks ass?!

The first good sign was that my wife wasn’t even pissed when I got back. She & the kids had watched a movie & turned in, so I laid back shoved this baby in and hit “play.” The first thing that hit me was a song called “Lucifer’s Lincoln,” opening by pummeling me with heavy, down-tuned riffage, mid-range vocals with a dash of effex and a solo at the end that was snarling enough to clean my clock! Ok, VAGABOND, you’ve got my attention! And, it keeps going. Next was “Shoot The Glass,” with an interestingly mellow feel in the verse and a guitar solo by Ryan-Christopher that reminds me for all the world of Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction. When the 3rd track, “Autumn Lady” hits, I’m really feeling something special creeping in here. Opening with an eerie guitar intro laced with plaintive picking, the heavy riffs then pile in out of nowhere, vocalist Joe mirroring the pillaging with the statement “Here’s where the walls start caving in!” Ryan-Christopher lays some very cool circular guitar figures atop the main riff here as well as adding a ripping lead fill and main solo that sounds like a honking hybrid of Schenker & Billy Duffy. Keeping with that Cult theme, Joe’s vox have a bit of Astbury vibe as well.

And, I begin to smile because I’m starting to realize that my adventure in the Magic Kingdom land has paid off with a killer find. “Guns & VCR’s” is a pile-driving mid-paced number that reminds me of the first Living Colour album, right down to some avant-garde Reid-ish soloing from Christopher and “Echo” shimmers like a gothic Floyd, complete with a mellow & gorgeous Strat-toned solo. “A-01” delivers an early Alice In Chains feel, “Right Land Ends” might have the heaviest, most bad-assed groove-riff on the album and “Chainsaw Logic” is another piledriver. Still, VAGABOND may save the very best for last with “No Purchase Necessary.” Featuring a chorus catchy enough that it should’ve been an FM hit everywhere, it also sports a verse comprised of an echo-filled axe line, overlain with Bowie-ish vox. Add to that the fact that the guitar solo here is fucking God. Ryan-Christopher saves the best for last as he completely rips your face off with a lead that is, yes short but sweet and deadly as a new stiletto.

Let me tell you, when I pulled my headphones off some 30+ minutes after hitting that play button, I was a mighty happy camper, as I have been the…oh…umpteen times I’ve listened to “Land Of Misfit Toys” since that night. Orlando’s VAGABOND made an album in 2007 that, if the world was a fair place, would have put them on top of the heap, stomping all over bands like Shinedown and introducing the talent of a dangerous young guitarist/songwriter by the name of Ryan-Christopher. The great thing is, these guys are not just some obscurity trapped like an insect in the amber of the past. They’re still going and need your support, so you know what to do. This CD is only $ 5 from the band, so how can you lose?! Like A Kid On Christmas Morning

NOTE: Coming soon on the Realm will be an interview with guitarist Ryan-Christopher.